Seasonal Tracts: Catholicism’s Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary… In Light of Scripture

December 8, 2016

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In recent times I have been distributing tracts locally to coincide with certain occasions and events. My last local distribution of tracts concerned a tract entitled: “The Bible is Still the World’s Best Seller! Thoughts on International Day of the Bible 14th November 2016.” I distributed this particular tract just prior to International Day of the Bible, resulting in a couple of interesting conversations – and ultimately contacts.

Today is a major celebration in the Roman Catholic calendar, celebrating as it does “the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.” The following tract (which can be printed on A4 paper and folded in book fold) concerns today’s event. It has been modified from a blog which I wrote previously. Tracts are free to download, copy and distribute, providing that no part of the publication is altered and the © (copyright) sign bearing the author’s name is retained. The following is the tract: “Catholicism’s Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary… In Light of Scripture…”

I remember one morning an early Christmas card arrive through our letterbox which quoted from that well known verse in Matthew 1v23… “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Here we can see clearly from this verse in God’s Word that Mary was most certainly a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus.

We also learn from the Bible that Jesus was born without sin… “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor. 5v21)

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1v14)

God’s Word also reassures us that Mary was indeed a blessed person. In Luke 1v28 we read the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary… “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” Without a doubt Mary would have to have been a virtuous woman to have been chosen by God for such a wonderful calling. In Proverbs 31v10 we read… “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Mary was surely such a woman, and yet she too, like every other human being born into this world needed a Saviour.

On first hearing of the “Immaculate Conception” when I was very young, I immediately thought that these words referred to Jesus, because of what the Bible told me about Him. I was therefore amazed to discover that Roman Catholicism applies them to Mary.

In 1854 Rome declared the doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception,” which is celebrated on December 8th. This commonly held doctrine holds that Mary, like Jesus, was born without sin.

Yet nowhere in scripture can we read anything which supports such a view. On the contrary, there are many portions of scripture which reveal that only Jesus was born and lived without sin in this world.

In Romans 5v12 we read… “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Also Romans 3v23 declares: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

Note again, an important little word… “all.” With David, the psalmist, each individual born into this world (with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ) can say: “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51v5) So we see that because of one man, sin entered into the world – but thank God for the Person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, of whom we read that He… “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Peter 2v22-24)

The Bible makes no such claims for any other person in history.

Only the blood of the perfect Son of God “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Pet. 1v19) was (and is) able to take away sins.

Note too, that in God’s Word we are exhorted to pray to no one, but the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Tim.2v 5&6)

Here too the little word “all” is important, as is the word “one.” These verses clearly dispenses with the view that Mary is a “mediatrix,” according to a lady I spoke to on one occasion.

Jesus is the One and Only Mediator between God and men!

In 1545 Rome decreed that man’s tradition was to be equal in authority to the Bible. Please do not be deceived. Pray directly to God today, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him to show you the truth in its entirety. His will for you today is that you would repent of your sin and trust Him to save you for He is “not willing that any should perish.” (2Peter 3v9)

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8v32)

© Elizabeth Burke

For further information or discussion:

Email: readywriterpublications@gmail.com

Visit: https://readywriterpublications.wordpress.com

 

 

…”His Compassions Fail Not. They Are New Every Morning…” (Lamentations 3v22)

November 22, 2016

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November, I used to think, is a dull, uninspiring month, a month when the final leaves have fallen, the flowers are almost dead or dying… and all the world lies dull and dreary. But there is something very beautiful about November – its sunsets! In a sense the seasons of the year are like the years of a man or woman. Spring is the childhood of our years, summer is still youthful – but with growing maturity; in autumn our hair will change colour (if it’s allowed to!) and we begin to experience some aches and pains, while winter is, to be frank, approaching death. Of course this is in a normal life cycle. Unfortunately not all lives follow this pattern and sometimes life will be snuffed out in youth or even childhood…

Traditionally November has been a month to remember – we remember the fallen of two world wars and other conflicts and often we remember our loved ones more as the festive season swiftly approaches. Those cold dark evenings are certainly a time for reflection and reminiscing.

As I walk in the fading light of the early evening, listening to the blackbirds in the fields behind our home, I glance towards the beauty of another sunset in the west and I thank the Lord that He has given me another day to live for Him. I thank Him for the simple ability to walk, to see… but above all to appreciate all that He has done for me. In the last few years He has been my Rock, through hospital procedures, operations and bereavements. As John Newton writes in the final verses of his hymn “Amazing Grace”….

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,

His Word my hope secures;

He will my Shield and Portion be,

As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease,

I shall possess, within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who called me here below,

Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we’d first begun.”

This is surely the Lord’s promise to all who trust in Him alone for salvation and who walk with Him towards the sunset of their lives. “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever.” (Psalm 136v1)

In this Psalm there are 26 verses – and each verse ends with “for His mercy endureth for ever!” If you have not already done so – trust Him for His mercy now, while it is day, before that night comes when your soul will be lost forever.

As I view another setting sun (or even just the darkness fall) I thank Him for the beauty of His creation, in the wonderful knowledge that each new sunrise is another gift from Him – and each sunset is another one closer to Home…

 

 

 

On Fasting, Misinterpretation of Scripture… and Dangerous Cults

November 7, 2016

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In recent years the forces of law and order in western society have been working hard to deal with scenarios that many had never even previously heard of. “Honour” crimes abound and young people flee from forced marriages which are seen as the norm in their native (mostly Islamic) countries. It is also not uncommon to have to bring justice for the victims of certain types of African ritual and religion. “A clash of civilizations” the authorities call it.

While we think that we’re living comfortably and mundanely in our ‘civilised’ little 21st century high-tech world, perhaps somewhere not too far away there is someone else who is trapped in slavery or a child who is being tortured for having an ‘evil spirit.’ It really is horrifying to think of the thousands of cults of one sort or another in this world and how confusion abounds.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14v12 & Proverbs 16v25)

These thoughts struck me just recently, as I discovered old photographs that I’d taken of the Thames River in London, in November five years ago. They reminded me of a book which I had read some years ago too… “The Boy in the River:” a shocking true story of the murder and sacrifice of a small child in the heart of London in 2001. I was horrified to discover how young children can be the sacrificial victims of certain systems of belief which operate in a very clandestine way. Unfortunately even pseudo “Christian” groups in certain African countries can believe that some very young children have “kindoki” (a kind of witchcraft or possession by an evil spirit) and as a result they are sent back to their native country to have it “dealt with.”

“Dealing with” the offending “spirit” can amount to exorcising the unfortunate child by starving him, since the pastor and his helpers (in their strange mix of traditional beliefs and so-called “Christianity”) misinterpret scripture.

In Matthew 17 we learn of a certain man who came to Jesus, to beseech Him for his son who was described as “a lunatic,” who often fell into the fire – or water.” (v15) The disciples had been unable to cure him and Jesus had rebuked them for this. However, he added… “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (v21) Here we see that the disciples needed to pray and fast in this instance… not the child. This is at variance with what happened in the case of one young boy in the book, who had been starved in order that an “evil spirit” be removed. Unfortunately, even very young children who aren’t aware of what is happening to them are treated in this way too and often it is the “church hierarchy” who have the so-called evil spirit – not the child.

In a world of widespread confusion, evil and pain, those who know the Lord can only pray for opportunities to serve Him in the places where He has led us to be. We live in a rapidly changing, uncertain world where suffering abounds – perhaps much closer to us than we even realise; the Lord would have us to be vigilant and prayerful as a result. I have discovered many ‘faith groups’ which have sprang up all over the place but Jesus said “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7v20)

Gardeners know how easily weeds spring up and anything taking seed in stony ground is especially easy to pluck up. Yet… “The Lord knoweth them that are His…” (2Timothy 2v19) We need to pray about the evil realities that exist in our communities… including human trafficking and individuals being blackmailed into working for very little or practically nothing. Most of all, we need to pray that souls will truly come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour in these last days when cults and false prophets are on the increase.

Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

October 25, 2016

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I have recently discovered the shocking truth that there are an increasing number of people who do not believe that repentance is a prerequisite for salvation. “Just believe and receive,” they say – “no need to repent.”

I listened incredulously to a preacher who maintained that “repentance is works” and we are not saved by works. It is certainly true that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9) At the same time: “faith without works is dead.” (James 2v14-26) “Bring forth therefore fruits meat for repentance:” Jesus warned the Pharisees and Sad-du-cees. (Matthew 3v8) James said: “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2v17)

Perhaps I should relate my own experience here: for many months prior to giving my heart to the Lord, He had been dealing with me and convicting me of my sin. While the world looking on would have said to me: “seriously, you’re not that bad you know,” the Lord was showing me my life as He saw it – and I knew that it was not a life ready for heaven.

“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.” (Proverbs 16v1&2) He showed me that I needed work done in my heart – work which only He could do. I learned that by giving Him free rein in my life, that only He could make me a better person – one fit for His Kingdom.

Indeed it has always been my clear conviction that, spiritually speaking, the old must die – for new life to begin. The old leaves of autumn curl up and die, in order that spring can bring new growth and fresh shiny green leaves! The night that I trusted Him, I simply walked (spiritually speaking) from the darkness of my past into the light of the future that He wanted for me. Yes indeed, I was sorry for (and turned away from) that old life lived outside of His grace. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Corinthians 5v17)

“Repentance” this preacher shouted, “cannot mean turning from sin, since God repented… didn’t He?”

My answer to this is that when God ‘repents,’ He in effect is changing the course of action He was going to take on account of the fact that people have repented of their sinful ways. In the Book of Jonah we have a good example of this: The people of Nineveh said: “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3v9&10)

Denial of the fundamental doctrine of repentance is a very serious matter and one in which the devil plays a big part. If people think that they can make some sort of ‘commitment’ and then continue to live on in their sin, this awful doctrine has the potential to drag them to lowest hell – a horrific thought. This is why they should pray and search the scriptures diligently for we cannot rely on the words of mankind, regardless of their standing in the community or their achievements in Bible College.

With regard to “just believing,” James said: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2v19)

We read of John the Baptist that “he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;” (Luke 3v3)

Later in Luke 13v3 Jesus said: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The Greek word used in this verse for “repent” is “metanoia,” a transliteration of the Greek “μετάνοια,” which can be defined as “a transformative change of heart, especially a spiritual conversion.” If we merely believed without the “transformation” (which should include an entirely different attitude to sin) what change would have been wrought in our lives? Surely only the Lord can bring about this real transformation!

The devil somehow convincing people that they don’t have to have the sin in their lives dealt with is a story which has its evil roots in the dawn of time. “Yea, hath God said…” he said to Eve in the Garden of Eden, sadly convincing her that her action would have no dire consequences for the future of mankind. (Genesis 3v1)

The fact is… God hath said: “The soul that sinneth it shall die…” (Ezekiel 18v20)

In Acts 3v19 Peter stresses the need for repentance: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;”

Abhorrence is the only attitude that the Christian should have to sin. John says in his epistle: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1John 2v1-3)

And so we see that wherever repentance is talked about in the Bible in relation to mankind, it involves the issue of sin… something which the Lord wishes to eradicate from our lives. At the same time our adversary would prefer that people argued over semantics and the meaning of the word ‘repent,’ while turning a blind eye to sin – which will have eternal implications in their own lives, if the Lord is not permitted to deal with it. No sane person would ignore a cancerous tumour that they had knowledge of. They would be dismayed by its very presence and then they would go immediately to an authority who was qualified to deal with it, to have it expertly operated on and removed, for the good of their whole body. The thought that there might be a waiting list for such an operation would fill anyone with anxiety – and of course even the most ‘non-religious’ would find themselves praying earnestly that it would never return! Praise God, there is no waiting list where the disease of sin is concerned, for He is willing and able to deal with an entire world of repentant ‘casualties’ in the ‘here and now…’

 

A Christian Bookstall in Drogheda… “The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth…”

October 10, 2016

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Just recently, having noticed that people were selling all sorts of ware in the old town of Drogheda, I set up a book table in the town centre. Included on the long folding table were plenty of free Christian literature and booklets, CDs and DVDs, second-hand books, seasonal cards, bookmarks, my own four books and free John’s gospels in the language of many who now live in Drogheda: Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, French and Spanish. It was a pleasantly dry autumn day… but unfortunately also very windy!

I encountered a range of reactions on the day – everything from sheer apathy to mild hostility. In between there were many who were interested and curious, while one lady was very kind and friendly. “Oh you must be so cold standing there,” she said in motherly tones, “let me get you a cup of tea or coffee. Now what would you like? I’ll go now and get you something. Just tell me. I love your books, by the way!” She reached for a second-hand book and also two of my books, “Singing on the Journey Home” for herself and “Ricky the Runaway” for her little grandson. She was delighted with the scripture bookmarks too and I assured her with many thanks, that honestly I didn’t need a hot drink at that particular time. As she was in a hurry, we didn’t discuss spiritual matters but that lady warmed my heart with her friendly manner and I have prayed that the Lord will meet her at the point of her need.

A young man who had watched me put out the bookstall, now perused the books with interest and then asked me sincerely: “tell me, are you a nun?” to which I answered with an amused chuckle, “No, I’m married three children.” He was very interested in the testimony of an ex-nun which I gave him. He told me that he had been a Roman Catholic but was so fed up in the last few years of hearing about the child abuse scandal that he had left the church and had started to attend the Church of Ireland. After the short conversation, he had to hurry for a bus. It was so good to have these conversations, though, which under normal circumstances would never have happened…

Another elderly man came along and, not looking at me, proceeded to swiftly leaf through a few of the books, throwing them down again. “Do you realise,” he said angrily, “that all this literature you have here quotes from the Protestant version of the Bible? The church was built upon St. Peter you know!”

He went to walk off hurriedly and I called him back. “Here’s something to read,” I said, offering him an ex-priest’s testimony tract. He shoved it in his pocket and hurried away without another word… This incident reminded me of another one some time ago. This time a middle-aged woman approached me angrily. “You’re causing dissension between people, that’s what you’re doing!” she told me.

Another young woman (of Ugandan origin), after giving me much encouragement, hurried down to her church to get me some literature of interest. There were others who took an interest and still others who kindly helped in a practical way, when a sudden gust of violent wind sent my lighter literature (especially the tracts) down the street! Looking back on the scene, after leaving for the day, I didn’t see one tract on the street. The wind indeed, “bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3v8)

It was a tiring ordeal, but praise God, my hope is built on nothing less than the real Rock on which the true Church is built – the Church not built with man’s hands or devised by man’s schemes. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1Corinthians 10v1-4) Praise the Lord, once again I lean on this His faithful promise: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55v11)

 

A Red Sky at Night… is a Shepherd’s Delight

September 25, 2016

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I had a peaceful walk yesterday evening at dusk in the little lane which runs behind our home. Glancing towards one of the fields, I noticed the last of the large bales of straw awaiting collection… hopefully before more rain! Looking up at the sky, I also noticed a lovely sunset towards the west… hopefully the promise of pleasant weather on the way. We are always ‘hoping’ for good weather in Ireland, sitting as we do on the edge of Europe, the most westerly outpost before America where rain batters its way in from the Atlantic.

As we strolled home we met our neighbour, a farmer, who was walking with his dog. I remarked on the lovely sunset and he said… “A red sky at night is a shepherd’s delight…” With a smile I finished the quotation… “And a red sky in the morning is a shepherd’s warning.” Later at home I thought on this old saying and remembered the words of Jesus: ”When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16v2&3)

We live in days when “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2Timothy 3v13) “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2Timothy 3v1) How well those terrible traits are described in 2Timothy 3! I later recalled a video which I had watched of a man who “had reverted to Islam,” which I found most disheartening. Islam says “reverted,” not “converted,” because it states that every baby who is born into this world is born a Muslim. They maintain that later in life those children become Jews, Christians etc. because their parents teach them to be so, or because of other influences. They also maintain that there is no such thing as original sin… but what does the Bible say?

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51v5) In John 3v3 Jesus says: “Verily verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” However, I do believe that babies and the very young who have no understanding of spiritual matters are not held accountable in the way in which adults would be… “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4v17)

Another verse which upholds the doctrine of original sin is Romans 5v12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Other cults including Mormonism and the Bahia’s also deny this doctrine of Christian faith.

I believe that we live in an age of great deception and confusion, like never before and that “evil men and seducers” are truly “waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are active with their little literature tables in our towns and cities and people, while earnestly searching for something more in the spiritual realm, are sadly embracing error. How confusion abounds in our world with so many cults and wrongful systems of belief!

Jesus said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7v13&14)

“Few there be that find it…” And yet it is the Lord’s will that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth – (1Timothy 2v4) “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5v19) The Lord Jesus Christ having “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10v12)

Denial of the doctrine of original sin is only one of many terrible heresies in these evil days. It is the sin condition that must be dealt with but sadly antinomianism is also prevalent amongst so called “Christian” churches and spiritually speaking that “red sky in the morning” is very evident. Joel 2v31&32 tell us that “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”

His invitation to look unto Him and be saved still stands in this the day of grace, to all who will hear it. Oh that all would avail of it, before, spiritually speaking, this ominous red sky (the signs of the times) are replaced by a moon of blood and a sun turned into darkness, “before the great and terrible day of the Lord.”

 

Reflections on World Suicide Prevention Day

September 10, 2016

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This is a very sensitive subject which I have touched on before, because of its prevalence in Irish society. Statistics show that some countries are more affected by it than others… but then reliable statistics are not always available in certain regimes, where admission would be deemed a failure of their “perfect society.” Today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, the World Health Organisation has reported that 800,000 people die by suicide each year, which has been calculated to be approximately one person every 40 seconds. This staggering statistic would fill most people with dismay…

Sadly, most of us know at least one person who has been affected by the death in this way, of someone they love. For the Christian it is a reminder to use opportunities to reach out to those around us. Sometimes we pass someone on the street and the face we meet may not always portray what that individual is going through. Often, perhaps daily, we meet and work with people who are harbouring despairing thoughts that we nothing about.

I read a true story some time ago, and although I cannot find that story right now for research purposes, I feel that I should quote what I remember of it here. A Christian evangelist and his wife were wearily going from door to door on a wet evening and eventually the husband said that perhaps they “should call it a night” and go home. Suddenly his wife felt compelled to visit just one more door in the drab block of flats. So they turned and rang that doorbell but there was no reply; again they rang and there was still no reply… and then a third time. At last a weary soul dragged herself to that door – a soul who had been at the very point of taking her own life. To cut a long story short that lady was shown love, compassion and understanding by the couple who were overjoyed when she came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. From loneliness and despair, she came to know a new life and a community of believers who genuinely cared for her.

We live in a world where an elderly person may lie dead for weeks on end, without their neighbours even investigating their whereabouts. But the Lord Jesus Christ “seeth every precious thing.” (Job 28v10) He looks down upon this earth with the same compassion for souls that He had when He walked upon it over 2000 years ago. There are souls in physical and mental pain today; souls who would be happy for the friendly touch of someone who deeply cares for them. It is true that even when we know the Lord we can sometimes feel despondent too and yes, those feelings can be complex – but for those who know and follow Him, we have access to a joy which cannot be found in the things of this world, none of which can lift the clouds of despair. “Peace I leave with you, my peace give I unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14v27)

It is surely His will that we share these good things sensitively with those for whom Jesus died to save. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10v28) He will lead and guide us by His Spirit, just as He guided the evangelist couple to try just one more door – the most fruitful door of the night.

 

Oh For a Deserted Beach!

August 31, 2016

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The “deserted beach” is an unusual phenomenon on Greek islands like Corfu, especially during the height of the season… but strangely enough we found a few of them this year. Not only were there deserted beaches – but also an abandoned villa and a deserted restaurant, both of which were perched precariously on the edge of cliffs. Perhaps a mix of coastal erosion, the Greek monetary crises and fewer British tourists (owing to ‘Brexit’) was taking its toll in the quiet rural location where we were staying.

In contrast we saw other beaches on our travels: the “over-crowded beaches,” all dotted with umbrellas and people, people everywhere! Usually these crowded resorts had also crowded tourist shops, restaurants and noisy nightlife all night long. How glad we were to stay in peace and quiet, with just the sound of the crickets in the night air and the gently lapping tide of the sea not so far away…

Thirty years ago someone I knew had visited a resort in the south of the island and I was curious to know what it would be like now, so that I could tell her about it. Anyway, one evening we visited it, intending to have a meal there and what a shock I got! This resort, which had once been only a quiet sandy beach with a few tourist shops, was now a crazy venue where young people got drunk (and often perhaps drugged) out of their minds. It wasn’t a big town at all but ten GP’s were kept very busy there all during the tourist season, a local explained to me. “Oh yes,” he said, “they have accidents around the place and get bad falls from hired motorbikes because of their drinking you know…”

We managed to find a relatively quiet restaurant overlooking the beach and as we sat watching the sun go down, I thought about all the young lives in this resort and a saying came to mind… “youth is wasted on the young…” It is sad to think about how a baby may be born perfectly and then nurtured and cared for by a loving mother – and later that baby grows into a young person who subjects himself to such abuse!

‘I wonder has anyone out there ever taken it upon themselves to try and reach these young people?’ I thought. We had watched them in the town, jumping up and down on tables, doing crazy feats, under the influence of who knows what…. Do Christians ever base themselves in areas like this to try and reach out to those who come for the so called ‘good’ time? I had visions of tracts trampled underfoot, but still… there would be those who would listen and those would who would be convicted, for we are promised this.

Later, back at our peaceful abode with the nightly sound of the crickets and those gentle dark waves washing in on the beach, I felt relieved; so relieved that I didn’t have to stay in that other place we had seen that night. But I also felt so burdened for the young people that we had seen there. I was once like them – not a drunkard certainly, but I needed to know the Lord and there were souls who reached out to me and prayed for me. I know that. How easy it is, as the years go by, to take the comfortable option; not to ‘get involved’ and yet I believe that often the Lord wants us to get involved; to reach out in these dark dark days.

While we were away, often with no Wi-Fi and no news, I happened to view an old English newspaper one morning… worldwide terror attacks were rampant and there had been a coup in Turkey that we hadn’t even heard about. Jesus said… “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9v4) And as sure as night follows day – that night is coming.

The Lord has given each of us very unique opportunities to reach out to those who very often may never meet another Christian – except us. None of us, as long as we are alive on this earth, are exempt from the ‘Great Commission.’ Going in His will and being led of His Spirit, there is spiritual warfare to be engaged in for the Master but that work must have already begun in our own hearts. The pre-requisite for soul winning is most certainly a clean heart….

“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” (Psalm 51v12&13)

There are times when we need the ‘desert place’ and the ‘deserted beach’ for our own quiet times, with rest and reflection – but there is also the time when our Saviour is leading us to go into the crowds, as He did all those years ago. Do we love people enough to show them that they are heading for a lost eternity? Oh, to be aware, to pray – and to reach them with the true story of His great love for them, for He is not willing that any should perish…

Visiting the Greek Island of Corfu Once Again!

August 9, 2016

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We have been there several times and this year again had the opportunity to visit Corfu because of my husband’s attendance at a work-related conference. This time, though, we spent much more time and also visited the islands of Paxos and the small island of Antipaxos. As always I took a good supply of John3v16 handcrafted gift bookmarks in the Greek language. Last Autumn I made an attempt to learn the latter at evening classes… something I discovered to be very difficult with its different lettering system! However, this summer I found myself naturally greeting locals in their own language which I think they warmed to. It was encouraging to learn that they actually understood me!

We don’t read that St. Paul ever visited Corfu, although it is said that two of his disciples, “Jason” and “Sossipatros” (or “Sosipater”), supposedly brought Christianity to Corfu in 40AD and built the first Christian church there which they dedicated to St. Stephen. Some say this is the same “Sopater” mentioned in Acts 20v4, although I am uncertain as to the truth of this history. All I know is that today on this island (as with most of the rest of Greece) there are very few Christians in the true sense; the Greek Orthodox Church holds sway here, many of its doctrines being not so far removed from Roman Catholicism.

Today there is just one church on the entire island which would claim to be “evangelical” and the need is indeed great. I found some individuals that I talked to showed an interest, especially one sincere young man who had actually looked up my website and told us this the next time we visited his restaurant. He was the one who initiated the conversation the second time and I was touched by his sincerity.

I don’t have very good “sea legs” as a rule but felt very strongly that the Lord wanted us to go to Paxos, a small island of around 2500 people, while that of Antipaxos has just 150 permanent residents. The sailing to Paxos that early morning was just a little turbulent but once there we relaxed with a cappuccino and a lovely free Greek pastry at a sunny outdoor café and then strolled in the narrow little streets where I gave out my bookmarks as the Lord led.

It was strange that day, how we managed to get to Paxos at all… and this is why. The previous evening we hadn’t booked in time for the boat trip (which only leaves on certain days and only when the weather is just right) but all that night I felt the Lord telling me that we must go. The voice was so strong and insistent all through the small hours, to the point where I knew that if I didn’t go I would be disobeying Him. I felt that if we didn’t there was some opportunity to be lost and that the Lord wanted us most definitely to catch that early morning boat. I slept badly but next morning amazingly I felt ok and on waking I said to my husband: “I think we must go to Paxos today.”

“But we haven’t booked,” he said, and then… “Well, ok, we’ll drive over to the place after breakfast then, although I doubt they’ll let us on.”

On arrival at the port we parked and hurried down to where people were boarding the boat. Everyone had a ticket except for us and when it came to our turn, the person said: “I’m sorry we are fully booked out and it is dangerous to take any more people on board. Maybe another day? But you must book in advance.”

We turned and walked away, disappointed after the drive over there in the early morning. But mostly I felt confused, in the knowledge that I was sure that the Lord wanted us to go that day. Then, just as we were walking away someone else shouted. “Hey, just a minute, we might just be able to take you. Two people have informed us that they won’t be able to make it…” After a brief moment while this person was on the phone confirming the latter, he smiled at us and welcomed us aboard, after selling us a couple of tickets.

My husband and I exchanged glances. “I knew that if the Lord wanted us on this boat He would find a way,” he said. I am still left wondering why this should be. We didn’t get into any meaningful conversations in our brief time on the small islands but I felt a great sense of peace as I gave out the bookmarks with their limited information. The Lord helped me overcome my fear of little boats on rough seas and I know that whatever the reason for us being there that day – His perfect will was accomplished. I thanked the One who walked the waves so long ago… for safety, for the beauty of His creation, including the lovely ‘blue caves’ and the opportunity to share His precious Word with the souls He loved and died for. Surely He has promised that His Word will not return unto Him void!

 

Thou Shalt Not Steal

July 1, 2016

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The lanes, hedgerows and fields of our area have a special peace and beauty all of their own at this time of year. Everywhere I go I can smell honeysuckle, wild roses and the scent of all the lovely herbs that adorn this part of the Irish countryside. The glen that lies down a narrow lane behind our home is especially peaceful – a little corner forgotten by time and modern development. However, I know full well that I cannot slip out the back door to go for a quiet walk without locking my door, because some opportunist might just walk in! These days many people have installed electric gates at the entrance to their homes; yet sometimes these are no deterrent, as we heard recently of thieves who charged through large electric gates with their reinforced vehicle. The awful reality is that theft is as common (if not more so) in rural areas as it is in villages, towns and cities.

Not so long ago someone I know (who lives in a town) was sitting having a cup of coffee with a friend outside a café when a man walked up and swiftly snatched her friend’s handbag, which was sitting under her seat. Fortunately another man in a car witnessed the incident and chased the thief (who was on foot) managing to retrieve the bag. However the person I know wasn’t that fortunate, when a short time later she was with other friends on a nearby beach and was robbed of possessions which she had left in the car. If all of that wasn’t enough, she recently got the ultimate shock, when alone in the middle of the night she heard thieves trying to break into her flat through a window. Thankfully the police were soon on the scene when she called them but this incident has left her sleepless and uneasy every night…

There are other types of theft too, such as online scams and cyber theft. People pay for a certain facility online and they discover that they were duped. Thieves will go to great lengths and ingenuity to devise new means of robbing their victims; all kinds of methods are used to discover personal details and credit card numbers. Even hidden cameras have been installed in ATM machines which the thief will collect later. Elderly people are duped out of their savings by ruthless conmen, who prey on the fact that they are vulnerable and often worry about things they think they need. A very common type of theft (which has affected me personally) is when someone in a shop tries to short-change you. Then, of course there is the person in a greengrocer who gives you less than what you paid for… “A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11v1)

Perhaps it is the theft of funds which have been donated to charity that really angers people. Certainly, people who have been bereaved may benefit greatly from certain charities which provide counselling – but when it is discovered that funds have been misappropriated, this comes as a terrible shock to individuals and groups who have generously contributed and often worked hard to support a needy cause.

When all is said and done, the violation of the eighth commandment, with its simple four words: “thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20v15) is one which has affected most people today. However, if a soul obeys this commandment… “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10v27) he will neither steal, nor murder, nor commit adultery… or indeed violate any of the lovely Ten Commandments. But it is only in the Lord that we can obey this greatest commandment which covers all commandments.

Sometimes a certain type of “world weariness” comes upon the Christian when he or she sees an abundance of crime in the world in which they live. They are tired of the sin, the wickedness, the terrible murders, the extortion and the lying in this world, to the point at which they feel almost depressed by it. They may even feel a certain longing to join old acquaintances or loved ones who have been “called Home.” “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8v22&23) Understandable indeed, but we must at all times want to be in the Lord’s will. For now, this is where the Lord has placed us, in this world of sin, sorrow, suffering… and seeking souls! There is no time to dwell on the negative or rising crime rates. Out there is a world of lost sinners to be reached; so many categories of people and indeed many who have never stolen anything in their lives – but who still need a Saviour, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23)

I love to walk in the quietness of the fields and to appreciate the loveliness of birdsong and the beauty of the wildflowers, with their vibrant colours and their gentle scent. Such abundance in nature and wildlife reminds me of the abundance of joyful life that we can have in Jesus. They also remind me that mankind in ancient creation was once innocent – but now this world lies in sin and the Lord has placed those who know Him in strategic positions, to reach others. While we may prefer a quiet lane with wild roses, sometimes He leads us down a more challenging road so that His perfect will is accomplished.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10v10) That is the Lord’s will for even the worst type of criminal, if he will but only repent of his sin and come to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith, trusting that only He can “make the vilest clean” and wash away the stains of the darkest heart.