Archive for May, 2014

Pilgrim’s Progress – Living for that which is to come

May 23, 2014

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Some time ago my daughter gave me a present of some second hand books from the Trinity College book sale. Perhaps the most interesting of these (priced at just €5) was a beautifully bound and embossed antiquarian copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” something which I have only started to read for the very first time in the past few weeks. Inside this very old edition was equally old handwriting showing that it had also been given as a gift to someone on 7th August 1866.

I have seen other copies of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but somehow the print was very small in these, while the larger, clearer print in this book made me just want to read it!

So far I have been reading it very slowly, taking everything in, including all the Biblical references which are marked on the side of each page and I have to say that I find this allegory of the Christian life deeply fascinating and revealing so far. Sometimes I just have to smile with recognition when I encounter the places that Christian finds himself in and the people he meets!

From time to time as I read of Christian’s adventures, I feel that I must write about these from a personal point of view.

Very early in his journey, when Christian is in the ‘interpreter’s house,’ the latter talks of Lazarus and the rich man and Christian comments: “Then I perceive it is not best to covet things that are now, but to wait for things to come.”

The interpreter agrees with Christian: “You say truth: for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.” (“2Cor. 4v18)

Interpreter goes on to say: “But though this be so, yet since things present and our fleshly appetite are such near neighbours one to another; and again, because things to come and carnal sense are such strangers one to another; therefore it is, that the first of these so suddenly fall into amity, and that distance is so continued between the second.”

In our materialistic ‘throw-away’ world “The Pilgrim’s Progress” is like an alien piece of literature or a little piece of gold in a rubbish tip. I learned that it has never gone out of print since it was first published in February 1678 and that it has been translated into more than 200 languages. It has also been regarded as one of the most significant pieces of English religious literature ever written.

From the outset of his journey I see that Christian’s is the path of the “few that find it” and I have a great sense of his loneliness at this point of the journey.

Of the Christian life I would say with ‘Christian’ – “To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it: I will go forward.”

We must go forward.

Perhaps something that made a very real impression on me this week was when I read of Christian being confronted by ‘the lions at the palace gate’ – a sight to frighten the bravest of souls.

But Watchful reassures Christian: “Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for the discovery of those that have none: keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee.”

In my life just recently I have met some ‘lions’ but I thank the Lord that they are ‘chained’

“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1Peter 3v13)

Those who know the Lord can say with the psalmist… “My times are in thy hand…” (Psalm 31v15)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8v35-39)

I look forward to joining Christian on the rest of his journey, for in his words… “but now I desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one…” (Hebrews 11v15&16)

 

“The Richest Man in the Valley”

May 18, 2014

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Distributed by “Way of Life,” 148 Blackisland Road, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland, BT71 6NL, this lovely little tract made a strong impression on me when I read it for the first time…

 

The farmer stood on the porch of his fine old home gazing out over his many acres. He had never enjoyed scenery as beautiful to him as his own land seemed that day.

However, he was not rich toward God (Luke 12v21) because he had ignored the need of his immortal soul. As he stood gloating over his land, a servant appeared with his riding horse. Jumping into the saddle he galloped away.

Up the lane a little distance old Hans, the farm hand, was working. Hans had just unpacked his lunch. He removed his hat, and with folded hands, was returning thanks to the Giver of all good gifts when he heard his employer’s voice: “Hans, how are you today?”

“Oh, is it you, sir?” responded the old man, looking up. “I didn’t hear you coming. I’ve grown somewhat deaf lately and my sight is failing too.”

“But you look very happy, Hans.”

“Happy? Yes, indeed, I am happy! I have many reasons to be. My heavenly Father gives me clothing and daily bread. I have a roof over my head, and a good bed to sleep in. That is more than my precious Saviour had while He lived down here on earth. I was just thanking God for all His mercies when you appeared.”

The landlord glanced at Hans’ meagre lunch – a few slices of bread and a piece of fried pork. “And that is the kind of food you are thanking God for! I would feel quite deprived if that were all I had for dinner.”

“Would you?” asked Hans. “But perhaps you don’t know what I have that adds sweetness to everything God gives me. It’s the inward Presence of Christ my Saviour! May I tell you a dream I had last night Sir?”

“Of course, Hans; tell your dream; I’d like to hear it.”

“As I was falling asleep my mind was taken up with the happy land above and the many mansions prepared for those who truly love the Lord. Suddenly I felt myself transferred to the heavenly gates. They were wide open, so I could look into the blessed city. Oh, sir the glory and beauty I saw no tongue could describe! Of course it was just a dream, but there was one thing I particularly wanted to tell you.”

The landlord began to look uneasy, but Hans, not noticing, continued: “I heard a voice saying… The richest man in the valley will die tonight. Then I woke up.

Sir, those solemn words were spoken so plainly; I haven’t been able to forget them since. I feel I ought to tell you. Perhaps it’s a warning.”

The landlord’s face turned pale, but he tried to hide the fears that terrified him. “Nonsense!” he cried. “You may believe in dreams, but I do not. Good-bye.”

He galloped away in great haste. Old Hans, looking after him, prayed: “O Lord, have mercy on his soul, if he is to die so soon.”

A couple of hours later the farmer arrived home. Hurrying into the parlour, he threw himself down on the sofa, feeling quite exhausted.

“What a fool I am for letting the silly talk of an ignorant, old man disturb me!

The richest man in the valley! Of course that is myself. But the idea of my dying tonight! I never have been so well in my life. At least, this morning I felt fine, but right now I do have a peculiar headache, and my heart doesn’t seem to beat normally. Perhaps I should send for the doctor.”

Toward evening the doctor came. The farmer, somewhat feverish on account of his agitation, was at a loss to explain his disability. The doctor lingered for several hours, trying to drive away the farmer’s gloomy thoughts. It was nearing ten o’clock when he decided to leave. Just then the doorbell rang.

“Who can be calling at this time of night?” the farmer inquired anxiously.

“Sorry to disturb you, sir. Just came to tell you that old Hans died suddenly this evening, and to ask if you will please make arrangements for the funeral.”

So the old man’s dream had come true! The poor servant, not his rich employer, was “the richest man in the valley.” His redeemed soul went to be with the Saviour who had loved him and shed his blood for him.

How is it with you? Are you rich toward God as Hans was? Is his Saviour yours?

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lost his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16v26)

John D. Rockefeller said: “The poorest man is one who has nothing but money.”

“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.

For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”

(John 3v16&17)

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On the 1000th Anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf… and Spiritual Warfare

May 9, 2014

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Some weeks ago on a sunny spring day, we had the opportunity to see the re-enactment of the Battle of Clontarf in the lovely location of St. Anne’s Park, Raheny in Dublin. Hundreds of ‘soldiers’ had arrived over from many parts of Scandinavia and even Russia for the event, while many of the stall holders were from all over Europe and even some from the U.S.A.

I found it a most fascinating event, showing many of the old arts and crafts, costumes and materials, ways of cooking and way of life in general from one thousand years ago, being demonstrated in the large area devoted to the occasion.

In the Battle of Clontarf, which took place on 23rd April, 1014 in Clontarf on the east coast of Ireland, Brian Boru (High King of Ireland) was fighting against a Viking-Irish alliance which consisted of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, king of Dublin, Mάel Mόrda mac Murchada, king of Leinster, and the Vikings Sigurd of Orkney and Brodir of Mann. That battle lasted from dawn to dusk; between 7000 and 10,000 men were killed and Brian Boru’s forces were victorious but unfortunately he was killed, as was his son and grandson.

As I thought about this significant battle in Irish history just recently, I also thought about the spiritual battle that the children of God face throughout life…

From the moment we take that stand, that first step of faith which declares that ‘we are on the Lord’s side’ we can be sure that we have a most deadly enemy. He knows our vulnerabilities, both physical and emotional and will viciously attack if he suspects that our defences are down. We can never over-estimate the deep hatred and deviousness that the evil one has towards the Lord’s people and how he will create misunderstandings and cause trouble, even between fellow Christians, given the right (or should I say ‘wrong’) conditions.

I believe that it is true to say that we face spiritual warfare every day (like the Battle of Clontarf – from dawn to dusk)… and yet I know that the battle has already been won for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only in His strength that we can overcome – not by using the manmade defences and words of this world.

There are many hymns devoted to this spiritual warfare: “Forward Soldiers,” “Marching On,” “A Call to Arms,” “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” “We Shall Win!” “Who Would True Valour See,” “Soldiers of Christ,” “Victory for Me,” “Stand up Stand up for Jesus,” “Overcomers,” “Onward Christian Soldiers…”

Day and night we stand accused by the evil one; is he not the accuser of the brethren? (Rev. 12v10)

Yet the words of the Lord to His people in 2Chronicles 20v15 are indeed for His people today: “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

“Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord…” (Verse 17)

We are commanded to “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Ephesians 6v10-18)

And some wonderful day for those who are victorious in Him “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21v4)

Interestingly the Battle of Clontarf was fought on Good Friday (23rd April 1014)… but surely the battle that outshadows all battles in the history of this world was won over a thousand years previously! On this glorious day the victory was won over sin and death and hell for all mankind, ‘the whosoever will,’ by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15v55-57)

Surely, if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8v31)

 

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