Archive for November, 2011

Lest we Forget!

November 13, 2011

The following is a short extract from the end of one of my stories in “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year.” The story entitled: Wars, Rumours of War, Three Hostages… and the Prayers of the Saints (Matt. 21v22 & Matt. 24v6-8) tells of how a young woman, Annetta Flanagan from the small village of Richhill in Northern Ireland was taken hostage by the Taliban back in 2004. Many Christians in the Richhill area prayed fervently and I thank the Lord that Annetta and her two colleagues were released unharmed some weeks later…

“The dawn of Tuesday 23rd November 2004, brought that release of Annetta and her colleagues – almost a month after they were taken hostage on Thursday 28th October. The details of the release were vague – probably because no one wanted to jeopardise those who could be involved in possible future hostage situations. One of their captors is believed to have been shot dead, but the three victims were safe and well. Only those involved in this traumatic event knew how it was for them, and are able to tell their story. But from the moment that I heard that breaking news, I wanted to tell a story – a story of the great power of our wonderful Saviour, for whom all things are possible, and I wanted that story to have a happy ending. I thank God that it did!

With tears in my eyes, I looked at all types of newspapers on display that week, depicting the smiling face of Annetta as she headed home to be re-united with loved ones. A headline in one Dublin newspaper announced: “Town rejoices as power of prayer brings Annetta home.” (Irish Independent, Wednesday 24th November 2004).  Even the secular world was acknowledging the power of prayer!

It is interesting to note that during their time in captivity, three Afghan women offered to take the place of the three hostages! What a noble gesture – and yet on hearing of this I was immediately struck by the words of Romans 5v7… “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” No doubt the Afghan ladies saw the injustice in threatening to kill people who were merely helping with democratic elections. However, who would offer his or her life for someone whom, in his or her view, was evil and even deserved death? Nevertheless we read… “But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5v8) The righteous Son of God laid down His life for all (1Tim. 2v5&6) in the knowledge that nothing less than this enormous sacrifice could ever redeem the human race. 

Valiant soldiers through the ages gave their lives, so that democracy would overcome the tyrants of this world.  Annually we remember the dead of two World Wars, and the sacrifices that were made. How much more then, should we acknowledge and honour Jesus, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9v6) who gave His life for the billions of souls throughout the ages, to redeem them to Himself? I have no doubt that he has spoken to souls through this and other traumatic events, and that He will continue to speak to them in the days that lie ahead – so that they may trust Him for eternity, escaping a worse situation than they have been involved in, upon this earth. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55v8&9). A short time after the event, I wrote to a local newspaper wishing the released hostages a full recovery after their horrific ordeal. My letter concluded with the words of Ephesians 3v20&21, which I feel is an apt conclusion to a story that must give God the glory. Perhaps, too, it may have even more joyful implications than we would ever have dreamed possible… “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen.”

Morning, noon and night our whispered anxious prayers,

Rose in silent anguish to the throne of He who cares.

Oh blessed Lord, we thank thee now, for thou hast said: “Believe…

For if ye are my servants… ye shall indeed receive!”

Have you had a Visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses Recently?

November 5, 2011

If we, as Christians, sometimes get discouraged, how much more so must those who neither believe in (nor are led by) the Holy Spirit? They work hard, going from door to door with absolutely no reassuring presence of the ‘Comforter.’ (John 14v16-18) Given this sad fact, I have often thought that ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ in general, are very diligent in their outreach; if only Christians were this diligent! They systematically cover every square metre of our little island, visiting the remotest of dwelling places. I am certain that this is so in every other country of the world where they have a presence. I remember years ago being at an evangelical church in Athens, close to where St. Paul preached on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17v22). A man stood up in the middle of the meeting and started shouting and waving his hands. The Greek people who sat beside us explained that this person was a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ who was disputing what the preacher was saying. From research I have discovered that unfortunately most countries in the world now have a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ presence.

Once, when I was visiting a remote rural area of County Waterford, I gave an elderly lady (who lived alone) a tract. “Are you a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’?” she asked. How disappointing to discover that ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ had been in this isolated location, but this lady had never in her life been spoken to by an evangelical Christian!

“It’s not a good idea to go out ‘two-by-two.’ They’ll think we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I heard someone once say. But why should we, as Christians, decide not to do something – just because a certain well-known cult does it? Anyway, we should be guided and influenced by God’s Word and led of the Holy Spirit for it is He who speaks to souls, to guide them into all truth. It is He, also, who prepares the hearts of the individuals He wants us to speak to.  (Proverbs 16v1)

“Not interested. I have my own religion (or church),” is the response of many people to Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door. But the Christian should have a very different attitude. Essentially we need to know the scriptures, never forgetting to put the emphasis on Jesus and His finished work on the cross at Calvary. At some time, many of the people within this and other cults have sincerely reached out for truth – but in doing so they have embraced error. These individuals, like those in other cults, need a loving witness. To slam the door or to be coldly hostile or impatient is not a Christ-like reaction. Be led of the Holy Spirit, and love the person – but not his erroneous beliefs.

I thank my Lord for leading me into the marvellous light of His truth and I pray that, in His strength, I can reach out to those who have been deceived. That glow of His presence makes it all worthwhile, and I can face the burdensome tasks of the day, in the knowledge that, insignificant as I am, He can use me to reach the souls for whom He died, rose – and lives to save. Oh that many would turn from error, seek His face and find the real Jehovah; He who encompasses Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (1John 5v7&8)

How lovely are those words which refer to Jehovah in Isaiah 26v3&4… “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.”

Frances Ridley Havergal, devotional writer, poetess and hymn writer certainly found that “perfect peace,” when at the age of fourteen she trusted the Lord Jesus to save her. Miss Havergal was plagued with ill health during her short life but she was greatly used of the Lord, because she had later consecrated that life to Him. I love her hymn “Like a River Glorious,” which declares the all-sufficiency of “Jehovah” and the perfect peace and blessing that is to be found when we “trust Him wholly.” What a beautiful analogy: the sparkling peaceful river, flowing deeper and deeper as it makes its way to the sea!

Link to this hymn: