Archive for February, 2012

On Soul Winning – and my Recent Visit to “Way of Life” in Tyrone, Northern Ireland

February 27, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Farquhar family who have a wonderful stock of Christian literature, including booklets, a vast assortment of tracts, bookmarks, calendars and some books. (CDs are also available.) Many thousands of their calendars and tracts are distributed around the country, having been acquired by such organisations as the Irish Evangelistic Band which distributes tracts and calendars to remote parts of Donegal, Mayo and other locations in rural Ireland. Please note that the Farquhar family (Robert and Eleanor) may be contacted at this address:

148 Blackisland Road, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. BT 71 6NL.

Around twenty-five years ago the Farquhar family started their outreach with some black and white tracts but on my first visit to their home recently I was truly impressed by the sheer volume of Christian resources now available. I was fascinated by the many tracts and testimonies there, which include “This is my Story… A Personal Testimony by converted priest Henry Gregory Adams” and “I had never heard the true gospel, The Testimony of Peggy O’Neill, formerly Sister Aidan, RSHM.”

I have personally distributed some of the tracts (Henry Gregory Adam’s testimony) to two monasteries in the depths of rural Ireland and I hope to use the testimony of Peggy O’Neill to reach nuns in similar circumstances.

One winter’s evening, as I travelled alone by train from a meeting in Greystones, I happened to note that a priest had embarked at a station along the route. As the cold rain lashed down on the platform where he had been standing earlier, I looked at the reflection of his unhappy face in the rainy grey window. Now he was seated not so far away from me and I felt a tract in my pocket, in the knowledge that here was an opportunity, but somehow I felt hesitant about offering it to him. After a while he got up from his seat and I was sure that he was about to disembark at the next station. It was now or never… so I approached him with Henry Gregory Adam’s testimony in my hand. However, it transpired that he had got up from his seat to get a newspaper that someone had discarded! (He obviously needed some reading material.) The priest took the tract from me, muttered something that I couldn’t hear and before long he had alighted at a station before my destination. Quite probably I will never see this man again in my life and more than likely he has never been witnessed to in his life. How I thanked the Lord that I had not missed this opportunity and how I pray that somehow the tract will touch his heart.

This man is just one amongst billions who need to be reached. Christian, whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances are – as long as you live upon this earth the Lord wants you to reach the lost. Our opportunities as individuals differ and also may change over the years of course because of many factors, including health and age. Nevertheless, we all, without exception have work to do for the extension of His Kingdom and for the deepening of our own and our fellow Christian’s walk with the Lord too – and this is where that essential element prayer comes in.

My prayer is that the “soul winning” supplies generously made available by the Farquhar family of “Way of Life” and other organisations, will go out  to the glory of our Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us. “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (1Cor. 3v7)

Should we abstain from Certain Things at Lent?

February 24, 2012

One of my children once came home from school with a pamphlet containing a list of ‘recommended things to do, in our observance of Lent.’ “Is it good to give up things for Lent Mum?” she asked. It was a good idea, I explained to her, to eat healthily, at any time of the year, and this may entail giving up or reducing our intake of sweets, for example. However, the Lord has never laid down any ‘hard and fast’ rules about eating things differently at certain times and seasons of the year. In 1Cor. 10v31 we are exhorted to “do all to the glory of God,” which includes eating and drinking, but the word ‘Lent’ is nowhere to be found in the Bible. 

Indeed, the whole idea that we can improve our spiritual standing before God by self denial of one sort or another, is totally contrary to God’s Word, for we read in Titus 3v5-7:  “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Also, in 1Tim. 4v4 we read: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” It is interesting to note that thanksgiving is mentioned twice in this portion of scripture (1Tim. 4v1-5). How good (and essential) it is to give thanks for the food before us. This can be a challenge when one is dining in public – but we should never be ashamed to bow our heads and give thanks to the Lord for His provisions to us. This action in itself is a witness and testimony to those around us!

Many denominations now observe Lent as a ‘holy time of preparation,’ in the forty days prior to Easter. Preparation for what, I wonder, for surely the Great Ransom has been paid?  (Hebrews 10v10). No ordinance of man, or fasting, self-punishment or denial of certain foods and luxuries can take away the sin which separates us from God and from eternal life in His kingdom – but the blood of Jesus can! This Jesus “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. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7v27&28).

Sadly many priests today, like the priests of old, find themselves subject to ordinances and laws which can never take away sin. Christians too, are warned…  “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” (Gal. 4v8-11). 

Like the Pharisees of Bible days, many people these days live a seemingly ‘holy’ life, attending their place of worship regularly and adhering to directives from their hierarchy. Unlike the Christians of Berea, mentioned in Acts 17v10-13, they do not “search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so…” (Verse11). Surely we can only put our trust in “such an high priest… who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” (Heb. 7v26). Finally, only Jesus can forgive us, cleanse us, and make us free from the indwelling sin, which every soul has been born with!

On Legacies – and an “Inheritance Incorruptible and Undefiled”

February 15, 2012

In the past few months some of my closest neighbours have sadly died and one day just recently I started to reflect on the possessions that these people have left behind. Cars, houses, land, property, livestock… Then I began to think about what I had to leave, if I should suddenly pass away… very little indeed, in the material sense, by this world’s standards!

Nevertheless, a long time ago I remember someone say that when each one of us dies, we will each leave a legacy…. This legacy can be a litany of negative and bitter memories – but it can also be a legacy of immense value in the spiritual sense. Will I be remembered as a sincere and genuine servant of the Lord, who has laboured for Him during my short sojourn here – or will I be remembered for being someone who was constantly argumentative, impatient or even bad-tempered? Praise God for His deliverance and for His strength in our daily lives, making the former a great possibility! “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 7v25)

This week I remember my father who passed into the Lord’s Presence exactly one year ago. I remember how he encouraged us, as children, to learn Bible verses and how he was a special witness to his own loved ones, including all his eleven grandchildren.

“Grandad loved that tree,” my youngest daughter told me one afternoon as we walked in a beautiful glen close to our home, “and he sat just where you are sitting right now, telling me all about trees and how they shed their barks as the branches grow thicker… I wish he could have lived to camp in the glen sometime with us, as he once said he would like to. He was such fun and we loved him so much…”

I nodded silently, as we sat staring for a long time at the spreading oak tree, its magnificent branches still bare from the winter, but soon they would be in full leaf again… and then I remembered Psalm 1, which my father ensured that we all learned by heart many years ago.

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so; but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away, Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Knowing this psalm by heart; not only knowing it, but being encouraged to love it – is my father’s great legacy to me.

Lower down in the valley we could hear some unusual birdsong and then we watched a squirrel scurry swiftly up one of the mossy branches, climbing so high that he was no longer visible.

“Have you visited Grandad’s grave recently?” my daughter asked me and I shook my head sadly, signifying that I hadn’t. “Anyway, he’s not there,” I replied. “He’s higher than that squirrel, higher than the tree, higher than the sky…”

“I know…” was the quiet reply.

Memories of my father’s witness to his own grandchildren came flooding back to me and then I remembered the text on his farmyard wall, as pictured above. Yes, we can leave a rich and wonderful legacy of memories, even tangible memories; ones that can speak to our loved ones, neighbours and even visiting strangers, long after we have gone to possess our own incorruptible inheritance…

Love – The Greatest Gift

February 14, 2012

On 14th February many countries in the western world celebrate ‘Valentine’s Day,’ but this week I have taken the opportunity to distribute colourful handcrafted bookmarks to my local library, bearing verses about ‘the greatest love of all.’ Here are some of them…

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1Cor. 13v13)

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1John 4v10)

“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” (Proverbs 10v12)

“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love, but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends. (Proverbs 17v9)

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” (1Cor. 13 v4)

“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that ye should love one another.” (1John 3v11)

Perhaps the most well known verse telling of God’s love for the world is John 3v16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The love of God is surely second to none and the greatest gift that His followers can possess is to love Him in return and, as a result of this, to be filled with His love for others.

God, whose infinite love for us excels all loves, must be our first love; for “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10v38).  When we put Him first in our lives, then He will put a love in our hearts for even the unlovely and those who revile us. He truly wants to be our closest Friend, above all others and we can trust Him with our deepest, most painful secrets. “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” we learn in Proverbs 18v24. He wants, above all, to break the power of sin in our lives, so that we might not be “conformed to this world: … but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  (Romans 12v2).

There are many religions in our world, but how many of these portray the depths of love that is revealed in God’s love for the world, when He gave His only Son Jesus to be its Saviour? For example, the Koran tells us that: “God is great,” while the Bible tells us that “God is love.”

“Greater love hath no man than this,” said Jesus, “that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15v13). Why not trust this Friend, whose love excels all loves?  If you do so, He will want to shed His love abroad in your heart: “that perfect love which casteth out fear.” (1 John 4v18). “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1Cor. 13v12&13).

There is no greater gift than love,

Pure, undefiled, sent from above…

So ask thy Saviour to impart,

His gift of love to fill thy heart.

© Elizabeth Burke

A Most Interesting Evening in Cairde, Balbriggan!

February 2, 2012

A few days ago I set off for the “Christian Literature and Outreach Evening” in Cairde Balbriggan. Parking the car, I made my way over to the door of that old national school which my children attended years ago. After turning the key in the lock I pushed open the familiar creaking door, only to discover that the porch was in complete darkness. Now where was that box located – the one where I was supposed to key in the code before the alarm went off? Fumbling around, I was trying to find it, when suddenly the alarm did go off! I have never in my life heard anything like it and quickly exited the building before my eardrums burst. “I hope you realise Mum,” sighed my daughter, as she sat shivering in the cold car, “that the Police are going to arrive here any minute…”

Glancing up at windows I could see curtains moved aside, as many residents of that long street stared out to see what was going on. How embarrassing!

 “Oh no. Oh no!! What am I going to do?” I muttered frantically. The noise was horrendous and I felt that I just couldn’t face going into that building again. It’s no wonder that burglars dislike alarms!

Fortunately my daughter had a powerful little torch on a key ring and as I hurriedly ran over to the building again, I prayed that somehow my ears would be none the worse for the experience and that I could get that alarm off as soon as possible.

Later as I carried the boxes across, I was so thankful that the deafening noise was no more. For a while there were just the two of us and I started to wonder whether it was worth all the effort, but soon our first visitor arrived and after a while quite a few people burst through the door, to pick up some of the literature which I had chosen for the event.

I learned much from the evening; not least that there are even more fellowships in the area than I had previously realised. In many respects, the Republic of Ireland has changed dramatically since I came to live here in 1985. But perhaps the greatest change of all has been the dramatic increase in all sorts of denominations, other than Roman Catholicism (still in the majority) and the smaller numbers of established Protestant Churches.

Yes, times have changed and I believe that many souls are acknowledging that they have a hunger for something deep and lasting in their lives, in the spiritual sense – which cannot be satisfied by merely being a member of a particular denomination.

As I recall each person who crossed the threshold on Monday night, I realise that each one of these individual’s spiritual needs differ tremendously and that the Lord most certainly has a potential plan and a purpose for each life.

But His plans for our lives can only come to fruition when we give the Saviour complete control of these lives of ours.

As time moves on, I often wonder about the Lord’s return. Will it be soon? One morning not so long ago I wakened with a start, after a strange dream in which I was sure that I had heard the sound of a trumpet and many voices. Yes, the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” is surely coming, in which “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4v16&17)

Earlier I described the unbearable sound of an alarm in my ears… but how much more unbearable, in the spiritual sense, will be the sound of “the trump of God” in the ears of those who are unprepared…

And for those who know Him as Saviour, may the Lord give us the grace in these days to live our lives blamelessly to His glory and in His strength… and may we be willing to let Him to empower and equip us, as He sees best, to reach the lost for His Kingdom.