Archive for October, 2010

Reaching out with Christian Literature in Balbriggan, North County Dublin

October 24, 2010

I remember seeing this small town for the first time back in the early 1980’s when it was little more than a village with a few extra housing estates under construction. I don’t know what the population was back then, but according to the census in 2006, it had reached 15,559. Today it is estimated that more than 20,000 people live there, many of whom are of African and East European origin. Last week, armed with Christian literature and a burden for souls, I apprehensively set out to reach one estate in particular. It was a cold, dark evening as I rang the first doorbell. No one was in! I found this to be the pattern at quite a few houses, although perhaps people were reluctant to come to the door after dark – especially when they had to climb down a couple of flights of stairs, as this particular estate had narrow three-storey town houses. On these occasions, I pushed a tract into the letterbox. After a time I came to a house which was completely decked out for Halloween – although Halloween at that point was nearly three weeks away! I felt suddenly an evil presence and also very despondent and alone in my endeavours. Here I was trailing around houses where the vast majority of people probably just didn’t want to know. Recent disclosures about the clerical abuse of children in Ireland have resulted in anger, cynicism, apathy – and a reverting to old Pagan ways. Many feel justifiably hurt and furious about the horrific abuse that took place over the decades, but sometimes they look at anyone whom they would view as ‘religious’ with this same cynicism. Despite this, the human soul has a need to worship and some are turning to systems of belief other than Roman Catholicism.

This is where other cults sometimes step in. A Bible study set up by a group in this town is mysteriously unforthcoming about who is running it; I have reason to suspect that these may be ‘Cooneyites.’ My conviction is that any system of belief which has its roots in ‘salvation by works’ as opposed to faith must be termed ‘a cult.’

I thank God for His gifts of freedom and faith – something that is missing from erroneous systems of belief. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8v36) I do not have to ask permission from anyone before I embark on telling others of the wonders of His love for mankind. He sent His Son to die that people in Balbriggan, in Dublin; in every country, city, town, village, hamlet and tiny homestead in the world might have life – and life that is more abundant. And so those of us who know Him as Saviour must keep our lights burning as we witness to others until the Lord calls or comes to take us Home.

Above is a photograph of Balbriggan lighthouse which reminds me of that hymn: “Let the Lower Lights be burning!” The story behind this hymn by Philip Bliss is that many lives were lost on a ship, all because the man who was supposed to light the lower lights along the shore, failed in his duties. In this allegory, the lighthouse is that Great Light of the gospel, through the Word – while Christians are ‘the lesser lights along the shore.’

Let us never fail to serve Him on the darkest, most depressing nights; in spite of the prevailing cold winds of apathy, cynicism and the threat of ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.’ May the Lord empower all who do so with a clean heart, a bright light, courage – and a love for the souls of this world for whom He died.    

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/l/llowerlb.htm

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Praise God for the Rescue of the Miners in Chile!

October 15, 2010

Their plight struck a chord with me when I first learned of these trapped miners over two months ago. Having a tendency to suffer from claustrophobia, I immediately thought about how I would react in the same situation. But my little one-off experiences of being trapped or ‘locked in’ bear no relation at all to what those Chilean miners have been through. Surviving on minimal nutrition, in darkness, with a lack of sanitary/hygiene facilities… the entire experience doesn’t even bear thinking about. Just yesterday my husband handed me a newspaper which had for its title the cry of one of the miners, as he emerged safely… “I was with God and the devil, and I reached out for God…!”

Surely an experience like this is bound to make men think about what lies beyond their lives on this earth? Their experience led me to other horrific thoughts… what must hell be like? Most people don’t want to think about that at all, let alone think deeply about it; that awful black darkness, the smell of forever burning but above all, no Presence of God, or hope of ever having access to His Presence.

No, I could not even bear to think about being locked forever and ever into such horrific circumstances. For me, to be without the Presence of my Lord and Saviour would in itself be punishment enough but the added punishment of eternal suffering is unthinkable… One mining expert said: “No matter how long miners are trapped underground; the survivors seldom want to return to work there. I’ve seen miners who spent less time underground and rarely, if ever, they go back underground.” This led me to think along these lines… ‘If people could experience even one minute of the horrors of hell, they would do all in their power to escape going there in the next life.’

Hell lies far below all the mines that have been drilled by mankind and sadly there are souls in hell at this moment, even though it was never God’s will that even one of them should go there. Nor is it His will than any soul presently living in this world today should go there (2Peter 3v9).

I now pray that this experience will have touched the lives of those miners in such a way, that not one of them will be eternally lost. It is said that they have “emerged to celebrity status,” with the possibility of starring in movies, but I pray rather that they would know Jesus as Saviour and carry the story of what He achieved in their lives to the world. I also pray that their experience will in turn have touched the lives of friends, family and the rest of the waiting world who rejoiced at their miraculous emergence from the depths of the earth. I thank the Lord for His answer to the prayer of many Christians throughout the world who sought Him for the safety of these men. I thank Him and praise Him for His love and mercy extended to a world of lost sinners. Jesus suffered and died to save us from sin, death… and hell. Today the Lord still says… “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45v22)

Mining brings to mind the land of Wales, also renowned for its great spiritual revivals and vibrant singing voices. I recently found an old photograph (see above) that I took many years ago of Gwennap Pit, a natural amphitheatre where the great evangelist John Wesley (1707-1788) preached to the miners in 18th century Cornwall, an area which lies just below Wales. Another man who lived around that time was the famous hymn writer William Williams (1717-1791) who wrote “Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” I love to hear the singing of these words… “Strong deliverer! Strong deliverer! Be Thou still my strength and shield.”

It was the Lord who delivered these miners from the depths of the earth for without Him men would have no expertise to do anything; therefore He must have the glory! And praise God, He can deliver you and I from “Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction” and land us “safe on Canaan’s side” where “Songs of praises” we will “ever give to thee.”

Link to the hymn “Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah:” http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/u/guideme.htm

So Many Things To Do Before You Die …?

October 8, 2010

One evening I read the following in a National Newspaper… “In a tragic twist of fate, the energetic, globe trotting author of “100 Things to do Before You Die” has died at the age of 47.”

Sadly, Dave Freeman, the co-author of this best seller had died after falling and hitting his head in his own home – having completed only around half of the exciting things to do in his book. I felt dejected but thoughtful as I put the newspaper down. Here was a comparatively young man taken from this scene of time, very swiftly and very tragically. Given some of the dangerous escapades that he had recommended in his book, how ironic it was that he had died under such mundane circumstances.

After watching the second plane crash into the south tower on September 11th 2001, Dave Freeman was philosophical about the future. “Life is a short journey,” he told his readers, whilst urging them to explore before “you pack your bags for the very last time.”  The theme of the book, according to his father, was… “you should live every day like it would be your last.”

‘Life is a short journey,’ I thought. ‘It seems like only yesterday that my children were starting school… How the time flies!’ Yes, and how the circumstances of our lives vary; there are those who spend their lives in remote regions of the world, overcome by poverty and sorrow, while at the other end of the scale there are those who live in palatial circumstances, with all that money can buy.

Yet, whether you spend most of your days doing mundane things like ironing or unloading the dishwasher – or exciting things like surfing on the crest of the waves, one thing is for sure: some day will be your last day. Life most certainly is so short and in the light eternity it hardly signifies at all; yet there is a decision which we must make in this life which will determine where we spend those endless years of eternity.  

Any decision we make which will affect our lives in this life is certainly very important – but just think how much more important it is to make a decision which will affect both our lives here – and throughout eternity. Most religions in the world would agree on one thing – that our behaviour in this life will determine the circumstances of our future in eternity. However, how many of them can give their followers that assurance in their hearts, that they have a certain home in Heaven? Even the leaders of all the major world religions would admit that they cannot be sure of their own eternal welfare. So, is there anyone in history who was both certain of his own eternal destiny and those of his followers?

Jesus said to the thief who hung beside Him on the cross: “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23v43)  Here was a leader, who was not only sure of His own eternal destiny – but He was reassuring a dying mortal at His side, who had reached out to Him in faith. Somehow, I believe that the dying thief knew that Jesus was much more than just an innocent man who had been put to death unjustly. Yes, He was an innocent man – but He was also the perfect, sinless Son of God. Every person born into this world, every major religious leader and every cleric under the sun surely falls short of this description – for “all have sinned.” (Rom. 3v23) Therefore, we must conclude that the only Person in whom we can safely put our trust is the Person of the Risen Saviour – the Lord Jesus Christ.

As lives go, the Lord Jesus Christ had a very short life on this earth – but that short life was full to the brim with goodness. He healed the sick and cast out demons; He raised the dead and calmed the waves of the sea; and 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.”  (John 21v25) 

Then, after all the good, loving and miraculous things that Jesus had done, He was unjustly tried and nailed to a Roman cross. But this death was no ordinary death – for He suffered and died for your sins and for mine, so that some day, like the thief on the cross, we could reach out to Him in faith and live in His strength – and to His glory.  “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”  (1Pet. 2v24)

Life is not only a short journey but it is an unpredictable one, and really none of us know (regardless of our age or health) what today holds for us, never mind tomorrow. Have you that assurance in your heart that you are ready to meet God as Judge? What does He see when He looks at your life as it is? But it must also be remembered that even a life full of good works alone cannot get us to Heaven.  Isaiah 64v6 describes such a life: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” We are also reminded in Eph. 2v8&9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

The thief on the cross had no opportunity or time to start doing good works for his salvation. No, he reached out; firstly admitting his fear of God and the fact that he was sinful and deserving of punishment to the other criminal who hung with him and secondly he acknowledges Jesus as Lord, while trusting in Him for salvation.  “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”  (Luke 23v42)

What simple words of faith! Today that soul is rejoicing in Heaven, all because he put his trust in the only Person who was able to save him. Unlike the thief on the cross you may have many years of life ahead – but who knows? Today Jesus sits with His Father in Heaven as our Advocate. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  (1Tim 2v5)  Oh that you, the reader, would put your trust in the only Advocate between God and mankind. “But what about my own religion/church?” you may ask.  In Acts 4v12 we read… “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Knowing Jesus and being His follower is not about joining a church or being part of an organisation. It is about repentance, having my sins dealt with, a way of life, a relationship, a daily walk with Him and having that peace and assurance in my heart that some day (whether my life is long or short, exciting or mundane) I will go to be with Him. 

Yes, it is good and essential to have Christian fellowship with like-minded Christians – and once we take that step of trusting Him to save us, He will guide us into all truth and that includes the matter of fellowship. I have travelled in my life to many far-away places and how marvellous it is to meet those of all nationalities who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation! Romans 10v12&13 informs us: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Today, in this the Day of Grace, the Lord Jesus Christ still reaches out to you, the reader, whoever you are and whatever circumstances you live under. He wants to save you from sin, to a life of good works which have faith for their foundation (James 2v14-26). He wants what remains of your life to be lived to His glory and He wants to assure you of a home in Heaven. Yet, because of His great love for all of mankind and His desire to see them saved, Jesus spoke much more about Hell than about Heaven.

You may never visit this earth’s most exotic destinations – but your life lived in His service will have a joy that is not satisfied by the things of this world. And some day you are promised… “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Cor. 2v9)

If you do not have this peace in your heart, His desire is that you would pray wherever you are today… “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Saviour of my sins. Please forgive me for all the sins that I have committed and come into my life – so that the rest of my life will be lived for you and that I can have that assurance in my heart of a home in heaven.”

May the Lord bless you and lead you into all truth – for the joy that is to be found when we simply repent and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour is beyond anything that may be experienced in this world!

© Elizabeth Burke