Archive for August, 2011

The Last Faith Mission Convention in Stradbally, Co. Laois – and Memories of the Rock of Dunamase

August 23, 2011

The Stradbally area will always hold special memories for me, since it was the evocative beauty of the scenery here which inspired the covers for my first two books: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and “Singing on the Journey Home.” It was with a sense of anticipation tinged with a little sadness that we set out on our last journey to this area where the convention has been held for the last twenty-eight years.

Last weekend I recalled the bright August morning on which we first discovered the ‘Rock of Dunamase’ – ancient castle ruins dating back to AD 432, which the Stradbally area is famous for. This rock, if it could speak, would tell of many battles. In the 9th century it was plundered by the Vikings, in the 13th century it became a Norman stronghold, while in the 17th century it was destroyed by Cromwellian guns. Throughout Ireland’s turbulent history the Rock of Dunamase remained a strategic base, even through constant violent attacks. Amazingly the rock was recorded by the Greek geographer, Ptolemy, in his map of AD140!

Little did I know when I first photographed the “Rock Church” from high amongst the ruins of the Rock of Dunamase, that it would be on the cover of my first book and that a view of a lovely little Laois farmhouse would provide the cover for the second.

As we drove along the narrow country lanes, I gazed with interest at golden crops just waiting to be harvested. Yes, they were “white unto the harvest” but would there be enough help available to get those crops safely gathered in before the dark days of rain which had been forecast? There were numerous “tares amongst wheat” and regrettably some “wheat amongst the tares.”

And so I pray for the Faith Mission workers as they move to a new location; that they will stand true to the principles on which they were founded; that souls will be touched like never before and that the Lord will use this new centre in Durrow to His glory. I thank God that He gave ordinary people like me the opportunity to reach souls in the Stradbally area, while attending the convention there over the years and I pray that some day I will meet those souls in heaven.

It was good to meet with old acquaintances and to receive and give spiritual encouragement last weekend and I pray that those who attended will be met at the point of their spiritual needs, for how we need the Lord in these times.      

I thought about the spiritual condition of many who claim to follow the Lord, both in this county and others and sadly the words of Revelation 3v2 came to mind: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” Yet, recalling how I reflectively touched the ancient remains of the Rock of Dunamase years previously, I cannot but think of the words of Jesus to Peter, in Matthew 16v18… “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

That “Rock” was surely Christ, as is evidenced by the words of 1Cor. 10v4… “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”

If a great remnant of the earthly Rock of Dunamase still remains, despite the fierce battles of two hundred decades; how much more shall we withstand the gates of hell if we are strengthened and made pure by faith… in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal “Rock of Ages?” Praise His Name.

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12)

August 13, 2011

I have recently returned from a trip to County Donegal, that beautiful most north-westerly county of Ireland. Thoughts of the scenery and the friendly people we encountered in the more remote regions still lingered in my thoughts as I heard some news upon our return home… that of a forthcoming report which is expected to reveal the abuse of hundreds of children in the diocese of Raphoe by at least twenty priests.

It has been reported that in many instances the hierarchy within the Roman Catholic system has protected those who have been responsible for this horrific abuse for many years, while some of those directly responsible for it have had the audacity to think that they are immune from prosecution because of the positions they occupy.

I mostly think of how it must have been for the children involved. How confused they must have felt when they were treated in this manner by someone who was looked up to by people they respected, as a ‘spiritual leader’ and how fearful and agonising the knowledge that they had no voice to articulate the horror of what they were being subjected to. In some cases it has been revealed that not even the parents of children in those days would listen to them or believe them.

Yes, many parents did believe their children – but when they tried to report the matter, it was not even recorded and when the Gardaí (Irish police) became involved, the church was quoted as having been “uncooperative, obstructive and misleading.”

Many years ago in Ireland (and perhaps still in some places today) it would have been deemed outrageous to accuse a priest of anything untoward. These days we only hear about the crimes which have been reported but perhaps there were many more victims in bygone years who remained silent on the subject of their traumatic abuse.

But some day “we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.” (Rom.14v10)

“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12)

Most people in Ireland (whether they belong to the religious hierarchy or otherwise) abhor these crimes against children, but it is a fact that every soul needs to be “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” (1Peter 1v23)

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3v3)

This does not happen when we are baptised, confirmed – or when we join any religious organisation.

Rather, it is a spiritual awakening brought about by our repentance of all that previous life of sin and the giving of our hearts, our all, to the Living Saviour “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col.1v14)

These words speak of Jesus… “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7v26&27)

Surely… there is no other priest in whom we can put our trust, but “the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7v28)

My prayer is that the unsavoury news that they hear would urge souls throughout Ireland to question the very nature of this religious system in which they have put their trust and that a spiritual awakening and hunger for the truth would spread throughout the country.

Can those responsible for horrific abuse be forgiven? Yes… but only if they truly and humbly repent of (and turn away from) their sin, putting their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

And when they do so, they will no longer want to be part of an erroneous system of belief whose ordinances are contrary to scripture in so many ways.