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.

Remembering My Dad Today, 15th June 2016 – On What Would Have Been His 90th Birthday!

June 15, 2016

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Today my thoughts were filled with memories of my father who was born on 15th June, 1926 and who was called home to be with the Lord on 16th February, 2011. I have lovely memories throughout life of his smiling face, his sense of humour, his generosity, his honesty… and his witness to the many souls he would come in contact with in his daily life. While Mum would sometimes worry, Dad would reassure her… “It will be o.k.” he would say, “the Lord will undertake.” Indeed they both complemented each other very well. As I have said before – theirs was a marriage made in heaven, lasting for the best part of 60 years.

I remember a youthful Dad, chasing me through the waves of the sea on a summer’s day when I was very young. I can still hear the cry of a seagull and feel the sheer happiness of the moment. In later years he would jump out from behind something to scare his many grandchildren – my children and their cousins! They loved his sense of fun and even when he was much older that didn’t change much. But most of all I remember him being a witness to the children as well; he loved them all so much and wanted them to experience the joy that he had found in serving the Lord.

Today I found his very first well-worn old Bible; the one which Mum gave him two years before they were married… “Christmas 1950,” it read, “from Ella… Best Wishes.” In very faint pencil I read something which brought a tear to my eye… “Saved 1949 by the blood of the Crucified One”… in Dad’s handwriting. In another place he had written… “There is a new name written down in glory. I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” In yet another place the writing is faint… “I’m so happy and here’s the reason why…. The writing tails off and cannot be read. But I know why he was so happy…

Since this would have been Dad’s 90th birthday had he lived, I turned to Psalm 90 today and how apt it is! “The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90v10-12)

Dad must have been around 23 years old when he trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation – a very wise decision which was to set the scene for the rest of his life. “So teach us to number our days…” These days I can hardly believe how time is flying… which they say, is a sign that you are getting quite old! Nowadays many people reach four-score and ten and indeed, to reach 100 is these days not as unusual as it used to be; I have seen many “100th birthday cards” on display. Still, even the longest life is really not so very long and “we spend our years as a tale that is told.” (Psalm 90v9)

Each of “our tales” is so very different. I can look back on a mostly very happy life, with the occasional bleak moments – but no one is immune from them, whatever their profession of faith. How wise to “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” When we repent of our sins and trust the Lord of my father for salvation, then we will have a Burden-Bearer for those bleak moments. My Dad was never famous or someone who made his mark in history but these days when I hear of the death of a famous person and I listen to all the accolade and tributes from mankind, all I wonder is… “Did that person ever trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation?” Surely nothing else in this world counts. As the little rhyme goes…  “Only one life,’ twill soon be past… only what’s done for Jesus will last.”

The last time I was ever with Dad, before he took the stroke which left him badly brain-damaged, I was sitting beside him in a little prayer meeting which he had arranged with Christian friends. This little prayer meeting was being held in the very place where he had trusted the Lord in 1949. After that I have one very special memory… One night after he had taken the stroke, I was with him in hospital and stayed with him for a very long time. There were just the two of us that night. He couldn’t speak but he held my hand tightly and the look of love in his eyes for me spoke volumes. I love Dad and I miss him but I know that he has gone to be with Jesus “which is far better.” My prayer on this beautiful June day is…. “Oh Lord, help me to number my days, that I may apply my heart unto wisdom and use the time that you have given me wisely – and to your glory, for life is futile, if it not a life well lived for the Lord. Thank you Lord for these beautiful memories and for parents who, in their young lives believed, even before I was born.”

The Erroneous Practice of the “Blessing of the Graves”

June 12, 2016

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Around this and other times of the year here in Ireland I have noticed various newspapers proclaiming an event known as “the blessing of the graves.” Relatives of the deceased are encouraged to tidy their graves in preparation for the event and although this ritual may vary in rural and urban areas throughout Ireland, in all places where it is held the priest will bless those graves and pray for all the deceased within that graveyard. May I say that I sincerely hope that no one ever prays for me when I am dead! However, whether they do or not will make absolutely no difference to my eternal destination for the Bible says: “And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27) How wonderful to have that assurance in your heart… that the very moment your soul is separated from your body, it will be in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! “Absent from the body… present with the Lord!” (2Corintians 5v8)

With regard to the afterlife, the Bible makes it very clear that there is only a choice of two destinations for the soul… heaven or hell. Roman Catholic theologians invariably refer to the book of Maccabees to support an ‘in-between’ destination which they refer to as ‘Purgatory’ but the book of Maccabees and other books of the Apocrypha were never referred to by Jesus or the apostles. In fact, these spurious books were not even accepted by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in 1546 AD. Also, these books were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, it was not written in Hebrew and furthermore teaches immoral practices which could never be conceived to be the Word of God.

As is the case with this and other ordinances of Roman Catholicism, there is usually a sum of money involved in having your graves blessed. At this point I must relate something which I witnessed quite a few years ago. I was once visiting a monastery in Northern Ireland when I stumbled upon a “blessing of the cars” ceremony. Before me was an interesting scene… I saw a priest hovering over a car with some “holy” water, while a lady was simultaneously searching her open handbag to pay him for this dubious privilege.

I often wonder how poverty stricken parishioners have felt throughout the years, when they could not afford to pay the priest for blessing the graves of loved ones and for praying that they will eventually be released from Purgatory, which is said to be a place or state of suffering where sins are reputedly cleansed, in preparation for Heaven.

The very thought that a soul may be bought a place in Heaven with filthy lucre is surely the height of blasphemy. In Psalm 49v6&7 we read… “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever).

Praise God, the great price has been paid, for “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1John 1v7)

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1Peter1v18-21)

So graves, while they may be kept tidy, cannot be “blessed” and deceased souls should not be prayed for, for the Lord Jesus Christ was “once offered to bear the sins of many” and the great sacrifice has been paid once for all, giving living souls the opportunity to repent of their sins and put their trust in His redeeming blood, so that they may have that assurance in their hearts of a home in Heaven.

“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10v11-14) Praise God that we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10v22) And praise God we can be cleansed from our sins in the ‘here and now’ in preparation for Heaven – which, unlike  the fictitious place of Purgatory is a destination of pure light, love and joy; a destination which is in God’s will for every soul who is alive today. (1John 2v2)

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 15v55-57)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3v16)

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16v31)

There is a Rest for Weary Travellers

May 20, 2016

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One morning after a tiring ordeal just recently, I wakened to find that the Lord had given me the words of the following little poem, which I quickly scribbled down…

There is a rest for weary travellers

Upon the rugged seas of life;

There is forgiveness for burdened travellers,

A refuge sweet from every strife.

So come now with thy troubled thoughts

And lay them at the mercy seat,

For Jesus walked those waves before you

And ever lives thy soul to greet.

Oh do not journey on in life

Till here in mercy’s hour you find

Sin and hell and death defeated

By the Saviour of mankind.

Elizabeth Burke

I was thinking of the waves of the sea, not so far from my home – but I was also thinking in terms of the analogy of ‘the hilly road of life,’ as our home lies at the foot of a steep hill. “Upon the rugged seas of life” could well be substituted by “Upon the hilly road of life” and “For Jesus walked those waves before you” could be substituted by “For Jesus trod those hills before you.”

Whether it is high seas, rough roads, the scorn and hostility of mankind or physical pain, sorrow and weariness… He knows what we are going through and it is His will that we “enter into His rest.”

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4v9)

“Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” (Hebrews 4v11)

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched by the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4v14, 15&16)

Praise God for that Great High Priest who walked this earth before us and Who now reigns on high – a Great High Priest who loves us and knows our every need!

On This Day Two Hundred Years Ago…

April 27, 2016

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A little girl named Mary Jane Deck was born to John Deck (a postmaster in Bury St. Edmunds) and his wife. (The Deck’s ancestors were Huguenots who had previously fled France because of persecution.) I was unable to find out her first name but it has been recorded that this little girl’s mother, Mrs Deck, was “a praying woman.” Here was a lady who held the spiritual welfare of her children in higher esteem than anything else in life and here was a lady who had the marvellous joy of seeing all of her eight children led to the Lord and their lives consecrated in His service.

Within that family, the eldest son, James George Deck (1807-1884) was a well-known hymn writer, while his much younger sister Mary Jane (1816-1878) was writing poems and hymns from a very early age. Today, 27th April 2016, on the two-hundredth anniversary of her birth I think of how this little girl was inspired to write so many beautiful poems and hymns in her life – words which would be blessing to others long after her passing.  Her hymn, “The wanderer no more will roam” is one of those lovely compositions…

“The wanderer no more will roam,

The lost one to the fold hath come,

The prodigal is welcomed home,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!”

This is just the first verse of this seven-versed hymn, expressing the experience of the prodigal returning to the Father from ‘a far country.’

Indeed, sin has the potential to lead to a ‘far country,’ in the spiritual sense. How many have had the experience of wasting their “substance with riotous living” (Luke 15v13). Poverty stricken, they feel that they are unworthy even to return to the Father. They are in a ‘far country’ because they have distanced themselves from Him – but He (unlike many an earthly father) is still there for as long as this Day of Grace remains, waiting with outstretched arms; even when the prodigal makes those first tentative steps towards the Father, He has great love for him, running with compassion towards him and as the lovely Bible story tells us “he fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Verse 20)

I love the words of Verse 24: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” These words can also apply to backsliders (and indeed others who have never trusted the Lord at any time) who come to the Father down through the ages. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2v1) Praise God, the spiritually dead can be made alive… “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2v13)

As I read the words of Mary Jane (married name “Walker”), I can see clearly that spiritual parallel she sketches, with regard to the prodigal son…

“Though clothed in rags, by sin defiled,

The Father hath embraced His child;

And I am pardoned, reconciled,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

It is the Father’s joy to bless,

His love provides for me a dress,

A robe of spotless righteousness,

O lamb of God in Thee!”

Two hundred years ago today the life of a future hymn writer began, when Mary Jane was born into an already big family! But today I think of her mother, Mrs Deck and how she fervently prayed for her eight children. It is possible that her name is not recorded anywhere, except perhaps in some genealogy records which are only of interest to those who are her descendants. But by all accounts she was one of many loving mothers through the ages who have had a tremendous burden for the salvation of their children. Not one of the Deck children was born a Christian and who knows truly what their lives consisted of prior to the time when each one in turn came to be “pardoned, reconciled, O Lamb of God, in Thee.”

From reading the background to the Deck family history, I believe that both parents of Mary Jane prayed fervently for their children and praise God – they saw the fruit of those prayers. How wonderful to meet these dear souls in heaven and share how you read their story two hundred years later! Oh that the final words of Mary Jane Walker’s hymn would be ours – and those of our loved ones…

“Yea, in the fullness of His grace,

He puts me in the children’s place,

Where I shall gaze upon His face,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

I cannot half His love express,

Yet, Lord, with joy my lips confess,

This blessed portion I possess,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

And when I in Thy likeness shine,

The glory and the praise be Thine,

That everlasting joy is mine,

O Lamb of God in Thee!”

 

 

 

“Broken Purposes but Answered Prayers”

April 17, 2016

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I discovered this old book quite by accident one morning this week. Written by an English lady with the unusual name of “Anna Boobbyer,” I feel that I am going to find a wealth of spiritual treasure in this antiquarian volume with its old cloth cover! Under the title on the cover of the book are these words:

“Make use of me, my God.

Let me not be forgot,

A broken vessel cast aside

One whom thou needest not.”

The words somehow struck a chord with me. How easy it is to feel discouraged when you are weary and perhaps not feeling as optimistic about life as you once did. Ill health (or even just the aging process!) certainly has the potential to take its toll on your enthusiasm and then when this old life throws other problematic issues your way for good measure, well…

However, my eyes scanned the title page of the book. This book was in its third edition, with over 31,000 copies having been produced! On the very first page of chapter one, I read these words by the author… “I was only two-and-twenty, and in buoyant health and spirits, when in one short day, from mountain climbing, my bodily sufferings began; and my hopes, desires, and prayers for an active life in the Master’s service were utterly crushed, and “all my purposes were broken off,” like poor Job, when those sad words were wrung from his aching heart.” She has written… “it is forty years today (1893) since I became an invalid – for life, unless my heavenly Father should interpose, and heal me in my old age, as I am now sixty-three.”

Yet, as my eyes skim this book by a lady who was “confined to two rooms,” I see a wealth of experiences which, when shared, have the potential to touch hearts and be mightily used of the Lord. I began to think of some hymn writers who also suffered from ill health or were incapacitated in some way. Frances Ridley Havergal suffered much in her short life, surviving almost fatal typhoid in 1874. She said: “Pain as to God’s own children, is truly and really only blessing in disguise. It is but His chiselling, one of His engraving tools.” Frances trusted the Lord to save her at age fourteen and some years later, in 1873, declared: “I was shown that ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,’ and then it was made plain to me that he who cleansed me had power to keep me clean; so I just utterly yielded myself to Him and utterly trusted Him to keep me.” Despite the brevity of her life (for she died at forty-three) her numerous hymns, inspired by the Holy Spirit, continue to speak on to souls over a century later.

Another hymn writer (Fanny Crosby) was blind for her entire life, from the time that she was only six weeks old. She said: “It may have been a blunder on the physician’s part, but it was no mistake of God’s. I verily believe that it was God’s intention that I should live my days in physical darkness, so as to be better prepared to sing his praise.” For me her beautiful hymns had almost a heavenly perspective. Perhaps, because she had never been able to see the vain things of this life, her spiritual sight was intensified…

“Safe in the arms of Jesus,

Safe on His gentle breast,

There by His love o’ershadowed,

Sweetly my soul shall rest.

Hark, ‘tis the voice of angels,

Borne in a song to me,

Over the fields of glory,

Over the jasper sea.”

Prolific hymn writers and those in other areas of the Lord’s service have very often been subjected to what the rest of the world only sees as ‘terrible misfortune.’ Yet the ‘broken vessel’ is the one which the Master will use for His glory. I am sure there were times when Anna Boobbyer, Frances Ridley Havergal and Fanny Crosby shed silent tears but praise God He has “wiped away all tears from their eyes.”

What an encouragement to know that today the Lord can use the broken vessel mightily; our tears, born of dark experiences and recorded in poignant words, can live on for years to come; to encourage, convict and warm the hearts of other needy souls, perhaps long after we have departed this scene of time and “‘till He come.”

 

“The Ultimate Sacrifice”

March 27, 2016

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During the past week I was immediately struck by the above headline of an article in my local newspaper. The first paragraph of this article read: “This coming Easter Sunday will see people joining together to celebrate the ultimate sacrifice that can be made by any one person or group of people, dying for a cause.” However, of course the article was about the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, prior to the formation of the Irish Free State and later the Republic of Ireland – but I could not help noticing the spiritual parallel!

The online ‘Urban Dictionary’ informs me that ‘the ultimate sacrifice’ is ‘to give everything you have to save someone or something that you hold most dear.’

In the midst of all the celebrations to mark this occasion, I wonder how many are thinking of the greatest ultimate sacrifice that this world has ever known… or will ever know? We are indeed ‘most dear;’ our souls most precious to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the extent that He left the riches of Glory, to descend into this world of sinners, to be held in derision and contempt, to be mocked – and then to suffer the most agonising death at the hands of ignorant people who hated Him “without a cause.”

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3v16) What a noble sacrifice! This sacrifice has indeed given a life changing and an eternity changing opportunity to every single member of the human race; the opportunity to be free from sin, spiritual death – and ultimately the unthinkable horrors of hell.

In return for this ultimate sacrifice, the Lord Jesus wants nothing – but our repentant hearts, our love and our obedience. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2v3) “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2v9)

Many will celebrate a ‘rising’ in the political sense this Easter… but how many will celebrate the greatest and most victorious rising that ever was or will be? “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28v6)

Oh that you, the reader, would taste and see… the love that Jesus hath for thee! Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  (John 16v33)

“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10v11/12)

“And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27&28) My prayer is that all who read would truly be found ‘looking for Him’ upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Reflections on World Book Day – and the Book that Counts

March 3, 2016

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“World Book Day,” despite the title of the event, is primarily associated with encouraging children to read. I was somehow not surprised by a comment on the site today: “Many children do not have access to books in their homes…” These days technological influences have brought about a situation where books, certainly in their traditional form, are becoming a thing of the past in some homes.

Most modern homes have a massive television and in the evening family members have either their eyes ‘glued’ to its overpowering cinema-like screen or are similarly transfixed to their smart phones etc.

My childhood, lived in a much earlier era, is full of memories of being curled up beside a flickering log fire in our old farmhouse, engrossed in some mystery or adventure book that I may well have purchased in a second-hand book store. Some of my earliest memories revolve around family visits to “Smithfield Markets,” an area of Belfast where old cobble-stone covered walkways were lined with numerous second hand bookstores. Sadly, that area of Belfast was destroyed in Northern Ireland’s recent ‘troubles,’ in the early seventies.

In those early days we would all arrive home with a car boot full of books of every description and I would dive into my armful of books, carrying them straight up to my bedroom, where they would be voraciously ‘devoured’ in the days ahead. In fact I was so fond of reading in those dreamy childhood days that I would actually look forward to having the ‘flu’ and then ‘prolong my recovery’ in order to spend time with my books!

These days, despite the introduction of electronic book-readers like Kindle and others, I have not succumbed to this new technology… even though my bookshelves are bursting! How life has changed since those early days of old books and shared stories around that flickering log fire… The art of good conversation, storytelling and even caring have become rare in this modern age. Certainly, some old stories from local history have a truly moral basis, with a spiritual significance and should never be forgotten. Good and true stories from long ago, like “ancient landmarks” (Proverbs 22v28) should not be removed and discarded.

Try as I might, it is difficult to imagine a world without books… but imagine a world without God’s Word, that massive and magnificent work, the Holy Bible. Above all the books that I have ever read in my life (and there are many) this is one Book which means much more to me than any other possession. I have some antiquarian and rare books… but none of these compare with my precious Bible. Here is a book containing many books: books of historical accounts, books of poetry, adventure, wisdom, the history of our very existence – and prophetic books about future certain happenings on our planet.  Above all it contains a love story; the story of the Lord Jesus Christ who, even if I had been the only one, He still would have died for me.

Many adventures, miracles and wonders that Jesus wrought can be read in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and yet, even these do not tell it all, for in John 21v25 we read: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”

Oh that today’s children and adults would search within and prayerfully read this most victorious of all books, which contains the answer to life’s dilemmas, comfort in life’s heartaches, the cure for sin in this life – and the key to a life of eternal joy!

 

On Irish Election Leaflets… and the Living and the Dead

February 24, 2016

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In recent times we have had a variety of postmen, who perhaps are not as well acquainted as our old postman with those who live in this rural community. I therefore often have to ‘play postwoman’ as I deliver the right post to the right houses! Just this week we have had numerous election leaflets delivered by the postal service… and then an isolated leaflet from one particular party was delivered this morning. I looked at the name and address and sorrowfully shook my head, for this person had sadly passed away some years ago. No, I wouldn’t be delivering this one as I would never be able to communicate with this person ever again… certainly not in this life anyway.

As coincidence would have it, I am presently reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes, a Book which I find unique in the Bible, much of it appearing to reveal man’s conclusions about the hopelessness and vanity of life. For example Chapter 3v19 states: “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminance above a beast: for all is vanity.” Now, those who know the Lord also know that there is much more to the existence of mankind and we cannot take this verse in isolation. Reading on in this chapter there is a question in verse 22… “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?” Praise God the answers to such questions are to be found in the final two verses of Ecclesiastes. Containing ultimate wisdom, they bring this fascinating Book to a wise conclusion… “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Chapter 12v13&14)

The incident of the mistakenly delivered election leaflet and the Book of Ecclesiastes brought many thoughts to mind. First of all I was thinking that it had been a while since we’d had a visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I also know that they don’t like to ‘do their rounds’ while political parties are out canvassing at the same time. Here is a cult which very often does quote little portions of verses in isolation and one example is this… “the dead know not anything.” (Ecclesiastes 9v5). Unfortunately these isolated few words from a verse are taken to support their view on what happens to a soul after death.

I, however, feel that we must quote from verses 4,5&6: “For to him that is joined to all living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.”

“For a living dog is better than a dead lion…” Imagine a situation where the person to whom the leaflet was addressed had been wealthy in the things of this world and also had been held in very high esteem by the local community – but where is this person now with regard to eternity? Surely there is more hope for the living poverty-stricken than the rich who have died in their sin? While there is life, there is hope – the joyous hope that souls still living in this the Day of Grace have the opportunity to get right with God.

Verses 5&6 of Ecclesiastes 9 tell us of the lot of those who have no hope beyond the grave – but Revelation 14v12&13 describe the inheritance of those who have loved and served the Lord: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

The “harvest of the world” is surely coming and “the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9v4) Precious souls are dying around us with no hope beyond the grave and so those who know the Lord must work for Him while it is yet day.

The following verses of Ecclesiastes I find good encouragement and exhortation for those servants who seek to serve the Master while it is day…

Ecclesiastes 9v10: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, no device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Surely our opportunity to serve Him by reaching souls is now – in this life?

Ecclesiastes 11v1: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” This can apply to giving to the Lord’s work and it may also apply to the words that we write or speak for the Lord through the years of our lives; kind deeds, too, can speak to souls of the love of God for them and His desire to see them saved.

Ecclesiastes 11v4-6: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” There are many hindrances thrown our way to prevent us from serving the Lord, but we must keep our eyes upon Him and not upon the dark clouds of potential trouble which we feel may thwart our efforts to do His will. “For if God be for us… who can be against us?”

Political parties may come and go and the philosophies of this world change with changing times but “the Word of the Lord endureth for ever” – and only what is accomplished for Him will last.


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