Archive for September, 2010

A Tale of Two Visits…A True Story

September 29, 2010

It was the very last evening in September and dusk was descending as I knocked on the front door of the little cottage. Although I knocked several times and also on the back door, no one seemed to hear me. I knew that the lady within was very elderly and her hearing had grown dull over the years. Also, she was totally engrossed in a television programme, for I could hear it and I could see the flickering screen through the net curtains. It was a pity because I had so much to give her; apples to eat and cook and I had some encouraging good news. How I wanted her to hear me knocking!

The wind shivered through the dry leaves as I stood alone, waiting. Tomorrow would be October, reminding me of those words in Jeremiah 8v20… “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Maybe if I waited for a while or for a very long time someone would hear me and open the door, for I knew that there was someone else there – probably her son. On the other hand it could be too late, for darkness descends quickly in autumn and it was quite possible that although they heard me now, they would not answer a stranger’s knock at this time. I felt as though I had been standing for a very long time indeed and yet I did not want to give up. Inside the cottage, the muffled voices and flickering screen were unremitting, even though my knocking had grown louder and louder.

To force my way in would be unthinkable, contrary to every law and although I prayed that they would open the door, there was no response. Maybe tomorrow – but tomorrow they could be gone. As the night drew on, I knew that I must leave for I could not stand all night, persistently knocking, since the people within either did not hear me, or did not want my presence. Even if they heard me and switched off what was pre-occupying their minds – would they answer the knock?  “How dare someone call at this time,” they would say. “It’s too late. Let’s close down the blinds, draw the curtains and go to sleep for darkness is descending – they’ll go away eventually.”  Total darkness did descend upon that dwelling and then, after knocking for the last time, I sadly made my way back to the car. Just then I remembered the faces of a family that I had known some years ago, and who had been on my mind recently. “I’ll call with them instead,” I whispered to myself.

Meandering narrow lonely lanes eventually brought me to their door. Their home was unusual; a converted old mill overlooking a beautiful valley where otters and foxes run by a river. ‘No street lights here,’ I thought, and glancing up at the night sky, I could clearly see ‘the plough.’ No sooner had I rang the bell, than I could hear footsteps running down the wooden staircase to the entrance. I was instantly welcomed up to the living quarters, where a warm fire glowed in the corner.  I was beckoned to sit down, make myself at home, and soon a pot of tea was before us, and we sipped as we recalled old times. How the children had grown since I last saw them! It was good to be in touch with old acquaintances.

Coming away from that home, I at once could see the spiritual parallel of the night’s proceedings. Jesus stands knocking at the door of each heart, for He wants to fill all our hearts with His presence and He has such good things to give us! “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3v20) Jesus, who died for your sins and for mine desperately wants to gain entrance into every life in this world, but often individuals are so pre-occupied with the things of the world that they cannot hear that spiritual knock at their heart’s door. Although He may continue to knock for a very long time indeed, the time will come when that knocking will cease if there is no response. “My spirit shall not always strive with man…” (Genesis 6v3) Furthermore, tomorrow (or today) our lives as individuals could end, or Jesus may return before this. Are you ready to face Him as Judge? To miss out on His offer of salvation would be disastrous, resulting in an eternity more awful than anything we could ever imagine. But praise God, there is no need for this to happen, for if you are reading this right now and want to get right with Him – He has opened the way.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Pet. 3v9) Are you concerned about your eternal welfare? Do you still hear that knocking at your heart’s door? If so, switch off from the world’s distractions just now, and listen to what He wants you to know… “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10v10/11) “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14v6) “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8v12)

I have described my visit to two homes – one door was closed, and those within were (I am sure) unaware of my presence, but having visited that second home, I knew that I must put these thoughts into words. Whatever your problems, heartaches or spiritual standing in life He knows it all. There is no one too sinful to come to the Saviour…. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I shall in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) And there is no one so “good” that they don’t need salvation… “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23) Only He can forgive us, because only He has never sinned. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1v8&9) He can wash away that sin, that guilt – and He can keep us clean. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1John 1v7)

Why not trust Him today, right now, wherever you are? You may have reached an age where you feel that you cannot change – but remember that eternity lies before you and “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12). I was alone when I trusted Him, and my prayer was a simple one, asking that He forgive me, and carry me from darkness into His light. You too may pray in your own sincere words of repentance, or something along the following lines…

Heavenly Father, I come to you now, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His precious blood for me at Calvary. Please come in to my heart today, forgiving me for all the wrong I have ever done. Cleanse me, and help me to live victoriously each future day in your presence. Open to me the great truths contained in your Word, the Bible, and help me to find fellowship with those who share my experience.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 24&25)

© Elizabeth Burke 2007

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On Pennies, Paupers – and the Pope’s Recent Visit to Glasgow

September 23, 2010

I had occasion to travel over to Glasgow in Scotland recently, to visit my daughter who will be spending a year in that city. When I discovered that my visit there was to coincide with that of the Pope’s, I immediately thought of a certain tract that I have in my possession… “This is my Story – a Personal Testimony by converted priest Henry Gregory Adams,” has been printed in tract form and used extensively in Ireland but now I felt led to bring a quantity to Scotland. This tract is taken from one of the shorter testimonies in a book of ex-priests testimonies: “Far from Rome, Near to God – the testimony of 50 converted Catholic priests.”

I feel that the change in my original plan, which would have meant flying over the previous week, was no accident, because a week later I found myself on a plane where my fellow passengers included some young nuns. The young man who sat nearest to me during the flight refused a tract and then my attention was drawn to the young nuns and somehow, one in particular. She smiled and thanked me for the tract as I made my way down the aisle to disembark at Prestwick Airport. I pray with all my heart that somehow the message of salvation would dawn on the souls of these young women.

My witness for the Lord, for the couple of days that I stayed in Glasgow was to continue in this manner. I didn’t somehow feel led to stand on the street giving out tracts, as the quantity that I had was limited anyway, but wherever possible I gave them to those I came in contact with. The airline pilot, the taxi driver, the owner of the B&B where I stayed, shopkeepers and many people on the street who kindly gave me directions all accepted one. I even left one in a Roman Catholic Church.

One incident stands out from all the rest, concerning my tract distribution. It was my last morning, bright and breezy with a warm sun glinting on some fallen leaves and I was dragging my case around to my daughter’s accommodation to spend the last day with her, when a young woman came out of a side road and smilingly said “hello, isn’t that a lovely morning?” I had been praying just then that the Lord would show me who to give that last morning’s tracts to and I felt that this young woman should get one. However, she walked briskly on, overtaking me and I felt that I really could not shout after her. “Lord,” I prayed as I vainly tried to walk faster, “please help me to reach her.” Then something unexpected happened. I saw her hesitate and stare down at the footpath, after which she bent down to pick something up. Waiting for me, she turned to me with it in her hand and cheerfully said: “Here take this. It’ll bring me good luck, if you do.” She held a copper coin out to me, a two pence piece, not worth much these days – although most people appreciate every penny in a recession! “Thank you,” I said, “but you keep it. After all it was you who found it.”

“Oh no,” she said, “if you don’t take it, I won’t have good luck.” Not wanting to make an issue of the ‘good luck’ theory, I saw my opportunity, accepted the coin and said: “Will you then, take this from me?” I held out the tract and she happily accepted it. After thanking me, she resumed her fast walk in the morning sunshine. The Lord had answered my little prayer in an instant in this city where there is often hostility towards the gospel!

The previous evening I had been thoughtful after watching a televised account of the Pope’s visit to Glasgow. I remembered words referring to Jesus that had very recently been part of my daily reading: “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords;” (1Tim. 6v15) In the Bible the term “Holy Father” (John 17v11) is only used to address Almighty God. All men (including every Pope who ever lived) “have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3v23) Why then, do men revere an unregenerate man like themselves? He is a man who has been elected by other men to the position known to men as ‘pontiff,’ but like all men he needs to come the humble way, by admitting his need of a Saviour.

What would happen if the Pope discovered that he was in error? Somehow I sincerely believe that he would be in a very dangerous position. Yes, his life would definitely be in danger but… “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16v26) On my first day in Glasgow, my daughter and I had visited a museum which displayed some artist’s impressions of the paupers of the time. Many well-known characters in Victorian Glasgow relied heavily on the mercy and generosity of passers-by, who would take pity on the fact that they were blind or crippled and so had to beg for a living. ‘It would be better to be a pauper upon this earth and know the Saviour,’ I thought, ‘than the most acclaimed person in the world who has never found the truth of salvation.’ All the applause; all the worldwide fame, riches or accolade of a lifetime can never make up for the eternal loss of my soul – or yours.

Praise God for the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ – the ultimate and final sacrifice for the ransom of all the souls of mankind. How, then, “shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Heb. 2v3) and “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul…?” (Matt. 16v26)

The Significance of Names – & a Beacon on the Hill

September 13, 2010

Very recently some members of my family in Northern Ireland decided to commemorate the 400th anniversary of their arrival in Ireland. It must be said that the Plantation of Ulster can be a divisive and sensitive subject on which to dwell and so I will not do so. However, the Lord has led me to look at it from a spiritual point of view, using the occasion to reach many with the truth of His Word. Here is a tiny bit about the history…

My surname before I was married was “Hutchinson;” John Hutchinson and his son William were the first to arrive from Staffordshire in England, in 1610, to the area of Mullaghbane, just outside the city of Armagh. William had a son called Andrew, known in later life as “old Andrew.” The latter had a son called Samuel who in turn had a son called Andrew… and so on…! Of course I realize that only those with an interest in (or a connection with) the Hutchinsons from this area of County Armagh would be interested in the entire family tree! By the way, should someone who is reading this require the information, please feel free to contact me.

The event was to be celebrated with a large bonfire on a high hill, somehow reminding me of the “warning beacons” which were lit in Elizabethan times to warn of the coming Spanish Armada. As I thought about the forthcoming glow of the great fire, all sorts of thoughts were going though my head… the preservation of family names through the ages; the handing down of land from one generation to another; old wars and disputed territory; the origin and meaning of our names; and the fascinating gene pool that makes us the individuals we are today, with all our personality traits and physical appearance. Clearly we are very much victims of circumstance, having no control over our origins.

“You’re not related to Burke (Hare’s body snatching accomplice), are you?” I have been jokingly asked, to which I vehemently deny that I have any connection. “Oh no,” I say, “I’m married to a Burke.” Then I think, ‘well, really you know, we are all related from Adam and Eve, so in the great view of the origins of mankind – then, yes, I am related to everyone, including those infamous characters in history.’ So – what is in a name? In this part of the world surnames were often derived from the trade that a person was engaged in, e.g. ‘Thatcher,’ ‘Butler,’ or ‘Farmer,’ or from the area that the family came from, e.g. Moore, Marsh or Woods, or the names of cities or towns; while ‘good’ and ‘bad’ names alike have a certain history associated with them. In the Celtic realm, ‘Mac’ and ‘O’ preceding a name means ‘son of.’ The Bible tells us that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” (Prov.22v1) A good name and reputation can take a lifetime to establish – but a good name can also be tarnished within a very short time indeed.

Names are very significant in many societies throughout the world, revealing everything from the origin of the person to his political standing and perhaps even his class or caste. In this life there are great, and often unjust, divisions between the classes in some societies but how is this all viewed in the light of eternity?

Some day we will stand before the Judge of all mankind, devoid of all the trappings of this life because God is no respecter of persons. We cannot present Him with our respectable family name and although we may have worked hard all our lives, we cannot come to Him with our diligence. We may be viewed as a “pillar of society” but this means nothing to Him, while our affluence and education (or lack of these) is also irrelevant to Him. No, when I stand before God, I will be judged on what I have done with the Name that is above every Name, (Phil. 2v9): the Name of the precious Lord Jesus Christ. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2v10&11)

For those who did not acknowledge Him as Saviour in this life, nor recognized that “here we have no continuing city” (Heb.13v14) it will be too late. The Bible speaks of those whose “inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.” (Psalm 49v11) But the day will surely come when this entire earth (and all our lands and possessions) will be no more. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65v17)

Therefore, in the light of these great truths, we must be sure that we are right with God. Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? We cannot be responsible for the decisions and lives of our forebearers – but God has given to each one of us the opportunity to get right with Him in this life. Praise God, if you do so, you will be given a new name in Heaven. (Rev. 3v12)

If you have trusted in that Name that is above every name, remember His words in Revelation 3v11: “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” When I thought about the great bonfire on the hill, I was reminded of these words: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5v14) Like the great beacons on the hills in bygone days which burned brightly to warn of the advancing danger of the Spanish Armada, the Christian’s life must burn brightly for the Lord Jesus Christ who is returning again to judge the world. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5v16)

Have you never trusted Him as Saviour? Remember that eternity lies before you. Which will it be – an eternity of intense pain and great darkness, with no comforting Presence of the Saviour – or a joyful eternity in Heaven with the Lord and all who love Him? The latter is God’s will for you, whoever you are! Repent of your sin; ask Him to forgive you for all that previous life lived outside His Presence and ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, for he has said: “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) Only trust Him now in the quietness of your heart.

Yes, “a good name is rather to be had than silver or gold,” but only God can give us a good (and a new) name that counts for eternity, when we trust in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, for salvation.

I love Charles Austin Miles’ hymn: “A New Name in Glory.” May yours be one of those names today!

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/e/newnamei.htm

Church in Chains Conference – September 11th, 2010

September 9, 2010

Lord willing I hope to attend the annual Church in Chains Conference on Saturday September, 11th next in the Athlone Springs Hotel, County Westmeath in the Republic of Ireland. The special guest speaker this year will be Pastor Manuel Arias from Chiapas in Mexico who will tell of the long struggle for justice for a group of prisoners known as “The Innocent of Acteal.”

Church in Chains, an independent charity which is based in Ireland, encourages prayer and active support for persecuted Christians throughout the world. Evangelical Christians in particular appear to be targets for terrible forms of persecution, which persists in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Mexico, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, China, North Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, and Iraq to name but a few.

As recently as July last, two Pastors (who were brothers) were shot dead outside a court in Faisalabad, Pakistan. These two young men (30 and 32) were being led in handcuffs back to the jail when the murder occurred. Their crime…? Attempting to spread the gospel, for which they were facing blasphemy charges.

How thankful I am to live in a country where I am free to worship the Saviour, to seek Him in prayer, to read His Word and to tell others of His love. But I am ever aware that the devil is active and that some day even in my own country there may arise those in high places who oppose the liberty that Christians currently enjoy.

Jesus said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10v28)

We live in dangerous days, when the evil one is igniting the fires of hatred amongst those who are actively opposing the gospel and who hate the very name of Jesus. To Christians who read: please pray for brothers and sisters all across the world who are facing isolation; who are ostracised by their families; who are imprisoned for their faith and who may be facing torture and death. You may not know them all by name but the Holy Spirit will assist your prayer… “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8v26)

I have discovered, nevertheless, that not everyone who attends this particular conference is a Christian, even though they may find it of interest and are not antagonistic. For this reason it is good to be led of the Spirit in conversations with those we meet and to look for opportunities to witness.

My books: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year, Singing on the Journey Home and the children’s book: “God Made You, God Loves You, God Saves You” will be available there, along with handcrafted scripture bookmarks – which are free with the books. With regard to the latter, my prayer as always, is that the Lord would use the words He has given me to touch hearts, whatever their spiritual needs might be.

“How Great Thou Art!”

September 7, 2010

My sister has a lovely holiday cottage in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland, in a small isolated development known as “Wuthering Heights.” A few days ago I brought my daughters there for a break before they return to college. I love this area, evocative of the sentiments described in that hymn “How Great Thou Art.” Here are some of my impressions on this visit…

The walk this morning was, as always, beautiful, with cattle and sheep all grazing peacefully in the mountain pastures; the sun shining, the birds singing and the colour of the wildflowers all contributed to my feelings of happiness about this place. Here I feel close to nature; I feel that I can breathe fresh, ethereal air and relax and unwind from the stress that would daily press upon me. I love this place and I always will. In a sense it reminds me of the simplicity and wonder of my childhood; the quiet walks that I undertook alone in the foothills of the mountains and how my imagination would be inspired by this world of forests, fields and waterfalls.

There is an inexplicable wonder about the Mourne landscape which lies silent and unchanging in this changing world. Only the sounds of nature fill the morning air; very few cars travel along this road and so we walked on, inspired by the beauty that surrounded us. We found to our delight, a sparkling mountain stream where fish were jumping. Further along up a little track towards the mountain known as “Wee Binnion” lies a tiny whitewashed cottage where I was amazed to find someone living. It was something from another era; that little homestead with its minute windows. I remember someone telling me once that there used to be a “glass tax” in the old days, which is why so many ordinary folk could not afford to have big windows. There have been some unjust taxes down the years but to tax people for the ‘luxury’ of daylight surely beats them all!

Soft clouds had formed on the mountain top, as we began our walk home to Wuthering Heights and a mist was coming in from the sea but there was still warmth in the sun. On either side of us lay tiny pockets of land, surrounded by drystone walls and filled with purple heather. As we walked along that road we picked deliciously ripe blackberries and ate them. Here and there my daughter would gather some wildflowers and when we arrived back at the cottage, she made one of the most beautiful arrangements I have ever seen!

Soon I must return to the ‘real’ world; the world of passport renewal, credit cards, college accommodation in a big city, bills, concerns about my children’s futures and work… But meanwhile I will imagine for a moment that I am a ‘mountain dweller.’ I dwell simply in the heart of the mountains, I have no mortgage on my little cottage, I eat my own home grown vegetables, I drink fresh mountain water, I make my own bread from wholemeal grain and I eat wild blackberries for desert. “Like Paradise,” you may say and yet I know that Paradise does not exist on this earth; we battle with the weeds of life whatever they consist of – a legacy from ancient Eden.

Yet, it is true that a little bit of ‘heaven on earth’ can be ours when we fully trust in Jesus as Saviour, whether we walk the mountain tracks or the busy city streets of life. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him.” (Col.1v16) The wonder of creation is surpassed only by the glory of the Redeemer’s love for all mankind. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:” (Col. 1v14&15) These verses bring to mind one of the most beautiful hymns, translated into English and many other languages.

“How Great Thou Art” was first written by Carl Boberg (1859-1940) as a poem in 1885. Inspired by his experience of being caught in a thunderstorm in his native Sweden, the young Christian wrote the original nine verse poem “O Store Gud” (“O Great God”). This original poem was translated into many languages over the years and today, in English, it has evolved into the beautiful hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The fascinating story of how the hymn developed touches Estonia, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and England; while all across the world today, souls are touched by its words in their own language. How can I not help humming its tune as I walk amongst the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in my own native Ireland?

 Link for lyrics and music to this hymn: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/h/o/w/how_great_Thou_art.htm