Archive for August, 2010

“The Harvest Truly is Great” (Luke 10v2)

August 30, 2010

Tonight I watched a great harvester making its way down the lane to the fields behind our home. This annual activity never fails to remind me of the spiritual analogy of that “Great Harvest,” spoken of by Jesus in the gospels.

Are you ready for that Great Harvest? At present the ‘tares and the wheat’ grow together in our world, but some day there will be a separation. Jesus said: “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matt. 13v30). The alternative to the ‘barn’ (or the safety of heaven) is unthinkable. John the Baptist said… “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear:  he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3v11&12).

The ‘day of the Lord’ is near in ‘the valley of decision.’ (Joel 3v14) This then is the sombre question for each soul upon the earth… ‘Will you be numbered with the wheat – or with the tares?’ Note Joshua’s exhortation in Joshua 24v15… “choose you this day whom ye will serve;” God forbid that we should hear these words… “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matt. 25v41). Indeed the lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels; it was never God’s will that members of the human race (who were made in His image and for whom the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was shed) should go there. I remember once being convicted by that verse… “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8v20). But praise God that I decided to follow Him, and am no longer numbered with the tares. Prior to my conversion, I remember also being troubled and confused by the words of someone who said that we had no control over our own destinies, and that God had pre-destined all souls into either eternal bliss in heaven – or eternal suffering in hell. For a short time I seriously thought that I may be one of those who were ‘predestined to go to hell.’ This filled me with an indescribable bleak helplessness, until the Lord opened my eyes.

God, because He is omniscient, naturally knows the path that each one of us will take – yes, even before the foundation of the world. Therefore… “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Rom. 8v29&30). Here we may see clearly that those whom He foreknew who would choose to follow Him, and endure unto the end (Matt.10v22), are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. Since His blood avails for all (1John 2v2; 1Tim. 2v6; 2Cor 5v14&15), it is His will that all should come to repentance in Him, and that none should perish (2Pet. 3v9). If people perish, it is because they have chosen the “broad road that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7v13) – not because they have been pre-destined to eternal destruction. Nowhere in God’s Word are we told that we have no control over our own destinies! Furthermore, how can His ambassadors be effective in their work and witness, when they have (at the back of their minds) a conception that the eternal destinies of all souls have been foreordained?

As I tossed, unable to sleep one night, I longed that the whole world of men and women and boys and girls, would see the goodness of the Lord who gave His only begotten Son – and not only see, but repent, and trust Him for salvation. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…” (Luke 9v56). To the Christian He says: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” (John 4v35-38). He has work for you and me to do, while it is ‘day.’ Great harvesters work steadily for long hours, so that costly sheaves of golden grain may be safely gathered into the storehouse. Oh that our lives would be burned out in His service, and that we could say with the apostle Paul… “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2Tim 4v7&8)

I saw a field of harvest gold,

Before the sun was set,

Each precious ear, a story told,

But the work is waiting yet.

O come with me, my Christian friend,

And let us work where he doth send,

For shadows grow, as night draws on,

And souls may die before the Dawn.

© Elizabeth Burke 2006

Advertisements

Today is My Birthday!

August 28, 2010

Today is my birthday; not my ‘earthly’ birthday, but the anniversary of the day on which I asked the Lord Jesus Christ to come into my life. I rejoice in this knowledge and yet this morning I felt convicted that I had initially forgotten that on this day thirty-two years ago, I made a decision which was to change the direction of my life forever. “Would I forget my ‘earthly’ birthday?” I asked myself, although I knew the answer to that question was “most probably not.” As coincidence would have it, this morning my daily reading was in Philippians 3. When I reached verse 19, the words “who mind earthly things” gave me food for thought. I am probably not the best judge on the issue of how my spiritual growth has been for the last thirty-two years and yet I know for sure, that my Lord and Saviour has been my constant companion throughout the ups and downs of life. I love Him with all my heart and my desire is to serve my risen Saviour for all the rest of my life, in the knowledge that whatever happens to me, “I must have the Saviour with me, for I dare not go alone, I must feel His presence near me, and His arm around me thrown.” These words comprise the first verse of Fanny Crosby’s hymn… “I must have the Saviour with Me” and for some reason I have been unable to get the tune out of my head all week!

Throughout the changing seasons of life; through all that I must face, I can lean on Him, my Lord, my Saviour, my Confidant, my Teacher and my Comforter. This morning I also read… “I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” (Verses 14&15) Therefore I ask Him to reveal to me those things in my life that are displeasing to Him – and I ask Him to assist me, by faith, to put matters right.

Unfortunately my mind on this morning had been pre-occupied with the cares of this life… concerns about my daughter going to college in a different country; concerns about a loved one’s health; other concerns… I was so burdened about so many things – and then He reminded me! “Did you not trust me to be your Guide all those years ago? Was I not with you through it all?” And so…“I must have the Saviour with me, in the onward march of life, thro’ the tempest and the sunshine, thro’ the battle and the strife…” No, I dare not walk alone through this wilderness of life, weighed down with a great backpack of troubles; I must always have His Presence to comfort and sustain.

Perhaps the Christian life can be best summed up in a verse which I read earlier in the week: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1v21) Yes, He has given me yet another gift on my “birthday” – the joy of knowing for certain that I can trust Him to lead me in the right paths, for He has only my best interests at heart. “Then my soul shall fear no ill, Let Him lead me where He will, I will go without a murmur, and His footsteps follow still.”

What sort of person would I be today, had I not trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour thirty-two years ago? Really, I don’t want to think about that but I feel that, had I not, I would be a more materialistic person than I am today. I am surrounded by many who have great possessions in this life, but I thank God that He can give us a heart to count the material things of this world “as dung” that we may win Christ. (Phil. 3v7&8)

My sister gave me a gift when we moved to this home, many years ago now. It was a little wooden plaque inscribed with these words: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4v19) To those who trust Him, all our needs will be provided – physically but most of all… spiritually. Surely “our sufficiency is of God.” (2Cor. 3v5) So, whatever the rest of my life holds for me in terms of “tempest or sunshine,”… “I must have the Saviour with me, and His eye the way must guide, till I reach the vale of Jordan, till I cross the rolling tide.” Praise God for the depths of His mercy and love in sending the gift of His Son, my Lord Jesus Christ – and thank you Lord for saving my soul!

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/a/v/saviorwm.htm

My Recent Visit to Albania

August 21, 2010

Albania… In the 1970’s the very mention of its name conjured up images in my mind of a forsaken, mysterious land where worship of God was forbidden. I am old enough to remember Albania as it was during that dark era when it was declared an atheist state, the first of its kind in the world. This was the era of Enver Hoxha’s regime and this was an era when tourists were not normally welcomed to Albania’s shores, perhaps because of the influence that they might have had. I remember reading about the experience of one traveller back then who somehow managed to get across the border, only to be confronted with a cold sign in a railway station which simply read: “There is no God.”

This immediately brings to mind the words of Psalm 14v1… “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God…” How marvellous that dictatorships and regimes may come and go upon this earth – “but the word of the Lord endureth forever.” (1Pet. 1v25) And His Spirit is not subject to the will and restraining influences of mankind!

This summer I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Albania for the very first time. At the first faint view of its shores across the sparkling sea, I smiled with delight. After all these years of wishing for the opportunity, at last my dream had come true! As our ferry approached the Port of Sarandё, I took in the pastel-coloured apartments and a lovely stretch of sandy beach with parasols, where Albanians were sunbathing.

Once we had boarded the coach which would take us to the archaeological centre of Butrint, however, I could see clearly that here was a country in transition. Our Albanian guide apologised for the state of the unsurfaced road… “The government said it would be finished in June,” he said, and then added jokingly… “but they didn’t say which year!” And so, after a rough sea journey, I was again feeling a little ‘on the wobbly side,’ as the coach dipped up and down through potholes and giant craters on the unsurfaced roads. At one point I noticed the strange sight of a lone bullock with a bell around its neck walking ahead of us on the terrible road. ‘Poor thing,’ I thought as I observed the bones protruding from its back. Strangely there were many half-erected dwelling places en route, which looked like the ‘leaning tower of Pisa.’ “They’ve been asked to pull those down again,” explained the guide, “they didn’t really have permission.” My fellow travellers nodded silently and raised their eyebrows.

On our arrival at the beautiful area of Butrint, I admired the nearby lake, where a lone fisherman sat in his boat. I loved the atmosphere of this historical place which reminded me, in a sense of my own native Ireland. As we descended from the coach little children ran to us with lovely handmade colourful bracelets at €1 each, while hanging from the branches of nearby trees were more handcrafted articles for sale. The archaeological area of Butrint, our guide told us, was inhabited in prehistoric times and there was once Roman colony there. As we followed him around this place where history had left its indelible mark, I thought about the Roman Empire and the Apostle Paul… Hadn’t my recent reading in Romans 15 shown how Paul had preached the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum and hadn’t I discovered that Illyricum was in ancient Albania?

We returned from the archaeological centre along the rocky road where a pleasant meal was waiting for us in a hotel in Sarandё and then we had just a short time of freedom to explore some of the nearby streets. I had so many of my free handcrafted bookmarks (with John 3v16 inserted in Albanian) to give out – and so little time to do it! It was rewarding, that particular experience, and I will never forget the gratitude (for the most part) of those who received them.

I would ask prayer for the souls of Albania, which today consists of 70% Muslim, 20% Albanian Orthodox, a small number of Roman Catholics – and an even smaller number of Evangelical Christians. May Albania’s men, women and lovely little children awake to the good news that the Lord Jesus Christ has come to give them life – and life that is more abundant! (John 10v10) 

“Something Lives in Every Hue – Christless Eyes Have Never Seen”

August 12, 2010

The first thing I realised as we meandered around hairpin bends on the edge of dangerous precipices, climbing higher into the green mountainous terrain – is that I had to commit my fears to the Lord! I soon learned too, that the way of life here was slower and less stressful. Although the journey to the other less ‘touristy’ side of Corfu was a short one, it seemed to take forever that late afternoon, but despite the dangerous roads and fiercely hot sun burning into the car as we drove, I just loved to be here again. Who wouldn’t after a cold Irish winter and a mediocre summer? “I know we’re going to have difficulty finding those apartments,” commented my husband, as he negotiated yet another ‘devil’s elbow.’ “I couldn’t even find any road leading to them on the Google map.”

Soon we were descending from the mountains again and I could see the blue sea in the distance. In time we found ourselves in the small village where the apartments were situated. But where were they? I soon learned too, that an address in these parts tells you very little. We asked some locals but no one seemed sure about the location. Eventually one lady in a bakery knew exactly where we wanted to go and gave us directions. I wondered at the time why she gave me a parting sympathetic smile. The streets were incredibly narrow – barely able to take our own small hired car, as we meandered down sheer slopes and bends towards the sea. Parking in a piece of rough ground, my husband went off to investigate, while I stayed with the luggage in the car. After a while he returned, wiping sweat from his brow. “You’re not going to believe this,” he gasped, “to get to our accommodation you’ll have to cross a field on foot and climb over a wall. There’s actually no road to the place.”

I stared at him for a moment and then sighed. “Well, we’ll make the best of it…” Yet I discovered that although the accommodation was basic, the surroundings were stunningly beautiful – and the manageress was friendly and hospitable. The price of our accommodation was good in the present economic climate – of which Greece was very much a casualty. I remembered the words of St. Paul:  “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phil. 4v11). And who, in good health, could not be content in such idyllic surroundings?

At night we would go to sleep to the crash of the waves washing in over the shore, which was just ‘a stone’s throw’ from our little balcony. Every morning I awoke to the sound of a cock crowing and the warmth of the amber sunrise. I loved the vibrant colours of the wildflowers, the bright blue sky, fluffy little white clouds and the golden beaches lapped by the sparkling azure blue waves of the sea. Behind the beach there was a backdrop of greenery in the form of pine and other trees – such sheer beauty!

I sincerely believe that the beauty of God’s creation can only really be appreciated by His children. George Wade Robinson (1838-1877) aptly portrays this in his hymn: “I am His” The hymn describes the relationship that the saved soul has with His Creator and how he experiences a deeper appreciation for the beauty of nature. Yet some day all of nature (as we now know it) will pass away to be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth which has not been tainted by the fall of mankind – a truth which can be read in Revelation, chapter 21. And for those who love Saviour, the last few lines of George Wade Robinson’s hymn eloquently describes this wondrous truth…

“Heaven and earth may fade and flee; firstborn light in gloom decline;

 But while God and I shall be, I am His and He is mine.”

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/a/iamhisah.htm

The Lovely Greek Island of Corfu

August 9, 2010

It is true that Corfu became the first Greek island to be introduced to tourism in a big way but today it is still possible to find a secluded beach, or a quiet little village unspoilt by time. “Come ye apart and rest awhile” Jesus said to His disciples and today, as then, sometimes as Christians we need to draw apart and rest awhile. Yet even in our resting moments, we are still His ambassadors, ever showing our love for the souls who briefly touch our lives. I have always enjoyed trips to Greece and its islands, having a special affinity with the Greek people and would have to say that I have been impressed, for the most part, by their honesty and integrity as a nation.

Once when I was very young and travelling alone with a rucksack on my back across mainland Greece, I became ill from sunstroke. I don’t remember how I came to be in a dark room, lying on a bed of clean cool linen sheets, or how I had came into contact with the old lady who carried me glasses of cold fresh water and looked after me. The curtains were drawn for what seemed like days; I had lost all count of time. I only recall feeling extremely sick and thirsty and having no wish to even look at the sun for a very long time. As I lay there in the darkness, she hovered around anxiously trying to communicate with me, although she spoke no English and my knowledge of Greek was practically non-existent. Eventually I recovered and I vaguely remembered thanking her and leaving her little dwelling for the journey to Athens. But I will never forget her; like others I had met on my travels, she touched my life in a very special way, that old lady.

St. Paul journeyed to many parts of Greece and its islands, although it is not recorded that he ever visited the island of Corfu. Today religion lives on in Greece but sadly Evangelical Christians are few and far between here. I entered a tiny Byzantine church on Mouse Island (aptly named because of its shape) off Corfu. There many candles had been lit by visiting tourists, but my attention was drawn to the many young people entering the church to kiss the pictures of the saints that hung on the walls. Superstition and idolatry are probably as widespread today as they were in the days when St. Paul preached on Mars Hill in Athens. (Acts 17v22-34) Added to this is the fact that many Greeks have become disenchanted with the traditional Greek Orthodox Church, embracing instead erroneous cults which deny fundamental Christian doctrines such as the trinity.

The green island of Corfu is just 583 square kilometres in area, but has a population of around 116,000. How these beautiful islands and the mainland of Greece need to be reached with gospel! From the Ionian Islands to the large island of Crete, many souls have never heard of their need of salvation. And there are tiny remote islands which have probably never even been reached at all. From the busy, bustling and cosmopolitan city of Athens to the smallest medieval village in the mountainous area of a Greek island, they need to hear the message of salvation. Yes, “the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few”… “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest…” (Matthew 9v37&38)

Who Will Reach the Nations? The Great Commission Needs Clean Vessels!

August 6, 2010

Leaving the green fields of Ireland, we headed out over the Irish Sea, eventually landing in London Gatwick. The air was warm as I clambered down the steps to the runway; London had been having a heat wave in recent weeks but it wouldn’t be as hot as our destination all the same. I thought of all the places that I was to visit in the time ahead; a world of cultures lay before me and dozens of opportunities to share the gospel with others, but I needed courage and wisdom.

From the men in the typical English pubs to the Greeks who sat outside the tavernas swinging their ‘worry’ beads; from the smooth streets and roads of the British Isles to the unsurfaced roads of Albania, I would gain many impressions; yet most of all I was to be burdened by the fresh realisation that millions of souls needed to be saved.

Christian… awake! Life is but a short breath when compared with eternity. There is no time to waste on the negative issues which vie for our attention upon this earth. The Saviour needs our every breath and gift to be used for His service. Believe me, I feel convicted by my own words when I say this. As every second brings us a little closer to the end of our own lives, time is at a premium and so we must work while it is day for “the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9v4)

The taxi drivers, the guesthouse owner, the coach driver, the cleaners, that waitress in the restaurant, the person sitting beside me on the plane, the woman or man who gives us directions on the street… the  list is endless. We must reach out to those we meet daily, with the resources that the Lord gives us, whether in spoken or written words, or in deeds of love and kindness. My very manner must portray that I am “not my own” and that “I have been bought with a price.” (1Cor. 6v19&20)

Christian – we are “the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5v13-16)

The world hurtles on down the broad road towards the terrible cliff of eternity. Will you not say a word for the Saviour today? Souls on the broad road that leads to destruction are spiritually hungry and dying. And the activities of the ‘broad road’ must have no part in the lives of those who claim to be Christians. We must love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds and we must love our neighbours as ourselves. (Matthew 22v37-40)

Remember the words of Jesus: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 12v30) Are you and I ‘gatherers’ or ‘scatterers’ today?  We cannot be both. Either we are active in the Lord’s service and living in accordance with His Word – or we are in serious danger.

When Jesus said: “Be ye ready also, for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not,” (Luke 12v40) He was speaking to His followers.

Christian – awake to danger today. Remember the parable of the talents in Matthew 25v14-30. Some would try to tell us that ‘we are all unprofitable servants,’ but the Bible draws a clear distinction between the two. It is true that some may be more profitable than others but the fact remains that the unprofitable servant is cast into outer darkness. (Verse 30)

Last week as we flew over many countries of Europe, I thought about both this eternal outer darkness and about the mansions of Heaven, far away in time and space. Looking down I saw at times vast tracts of land, ships far out to sea, sparkling rivers, or great roads winding like snakes, mountains, villages, towns and cities. Tiny dwelling places belonging to souls for whom my Lord has died, lay faintly visible through the great clouds. But who will reach the nations?

Christian – you are unique and the Lord has specific work for you to do today. He needs you – but He can only use clean vessels! It is only by faith that we can walk the narrow road and let the Lord accomplish His will in our lives. Today, if you have not already done so – consecrate your life to Him. Give Him your all and trust Him to sanctify you for His service.

Finally, “let us not be weary in well doing;” for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Gal. 6v9); never forgetting the reward of the profitable servant… “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12v3)