Archive for May, 2015

The Agnostic and the Oranges – a True Story

May 31, 2015

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In recent days my daughter has been planting many different types of fruit: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, tayberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, redcurrants… the list is quite long – and she hopes to plant apples in the autumn. Of course, for the most part, it will be next year before we see these fruit emerge – Lord willing! Many types of other fruit, though, would have a difficult (if not impossible) time growing in our Irish climate… oranges for example. I was thinking of all these different types of lovely fruit (and oranges in particular) when I remembered a true story I had read just recently in one of William A. Weir’s booklets: “Peace Perfect Peace.” (Dr. F.B. Meyer was a famous preacher at the time.) The following true story relates an elderly lady’s faith, an answer to prayer – and an astonished agnostic…

Dr. F. B. Meyer was once crossing the Atlantic. The captain asked him to preach in the saloon on Sunday morning. He spoke on “answered prayer” and gave a number of illustrations. An agnostic was present and someone said to him, “What do you think of Meyer’s sermon?”

“Oh,” he said, “I don’t believe a word of it.”

Dr. Meyer was speaking that afternoon to the passengers in the steerage (second-class) end of the ship. The agnostic picked up two oranges, put them in his pocket and walked over to the meeting.

As he threaded his way in and out amongst the steerage folk, he came across an old lady with silvery hair, her eyes closed in sleep, her head back and her hands open on her lap. He took the two oranges out of his pocket and placed them in her hands, and went on to the meeting. When he came back the old lady was eating one of the oranges. He said to her: “You seem to be enjoying your orange!”

“Yes,” she said, “my Father is very good.”

“Your what? Your father cannot be living.”

“Oh,” she said, “He is very much alive.” He asked what she meant.

“Well,” she replied, “I have been seasick for five days. This morning I longed for an orange. I knew there were some in the saloon, but I wondered how we could get them in the steerage. As I sat here I asked the Lord to send me an orange. I suppose I must have fallen off to sleep, and would you believe it, sir, when I opened my eyes, He had not only sent me one, but He sent me two!”

“Why,” he said, “is that true?”

“Absolutely true,” she said.

The bottom fell out of his agnosticism on the spot. The whole circumstances passed human explanation. God does answer prayer, and He sometimes uses infidels to carry the answer…

 

 

“Behold He cometh with Clouds” (Revelation 1v7)

May 20, 2015

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As I look out on lashing rain, view a grey sky and listen to the news, I think “Just as in the days of Noah…” The only difference is the fact that the Lord will never flood the world again! God’s Word and the fresh new rainbow emerging on the horizon confirm that for me. “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.” (Genesis 9v13-15)

Jesus said: “But as the days of No-e were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”(Matthew 24v37) Everyone perished but Noah and his family, even though the people were warned. Today there is warning too: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24v42)

Many words of warning are spoken in chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew – and I believe that these apply to Christians as well. After all, Jesus was talking to His disciples in response to their question: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24v3)

Of the servant who is prepared for the Lord’s coming, Jesus says: “Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” (Matthew 24v46)

Of the servant who is not prepared, Jesus says: “The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of. And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v50&51)

Signs of the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus Christ abound today, while evil laws are being passed by governments and acts of horrific violence and all types of sin are being perpetrated throughout this world. How apt are the words of Romans 1v24- 32!

With this in mind, there is warning again for Christians in 2Peter 3v10&11: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”

It is time for the backslider and for the one who has never trusted the Lord to get right with Him; the world is now every bit as evil (if not more so) than it was in the days of Noah. But it is also time for professing Christians to take a deep look into their own hearts. This is a time to take a stand on the controversial issues of our day and to “dare to be a Daniel.” It is also a time to love even those who despitefully use us and it is a time to be Christlike in His strength.

It is a time to pray and to reach out to others with His love for “the night cometh when no man can work.” (John 9v4)

I look out again. The sky is threatening and black and I hear a peal of thunder, as our poor cat runs to hide under a chair. Hailstones lash against the window but soon the sun is out again. There is mercy with the Lord…

In this the Day of Grace He still calls to all who will hear: “Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22v17) This is His last exhortation “to come” in the Bible. And this could be our last day…

Jesus said: “Surely I come quickly.” (Revelation 22v20)

“Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3v20&21)

It is in His strength that we overcome… “Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 24&25)   May His Words speak to all who read.

Delivering Books to Monaghan, Lisnaskea and Enniskillen through Ireland’s Border Villages

May 15, 2015

0141 Just recently our car was recalled for some software updates at a garage in the Monaghan area, so I took the opportunity to visit some of my old haunts, including Val Irvine’s ‘Oasis’ bookshop in Lisnaskea – and also to visit the I.E.B. “Real Life” Christian bookshop in Enniskillen for the very first time. (My books have been sold in both outlets since 2008.) After work was completed on the car at a place near ‘Annayalla,’ we drove on to Monaghan town where I braved the (really!) cold weather to deliver books to the Monaghan town library. I was also interested to visit, for the first time, the Christian bookshop there in Monaghan which is run by Mrs. Elsie Moynan. We both discussed the fact that there were once Christian bookshops in Drogheda and Dundalk but unfortunately these have been closed down for a long time now. En route from Monaghan to Lisnaskea, we stopped to have our packed lunch in the small village of Rosslea which is just over the border into County Fermanagh. Wikopedia tells me that Rosslea or Roslea, (from the Irish Ros Liath) meaning grey grove/wood is a small village in County Fermanagh near the border with Co. Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. In the census of 2001 it had a population of 554 people. At that time 97.5% were from a Roman Catholic background and 2% were from a Protestant background. I wondered, as I read this information, about the 0.5%! These little villages which nestle closely to the Irish border interest me, in that they have a strange air about them; you have this feeling that you are in ‘no man’s land’ and yet they do have a character all of their own. Some very negative facts emanate from ‘the troubles’ though; sadly many people were killed in these regions over those years, including members of the security forces. However, there were many more victims that had no connection at all with any organisation, legal or illegal. One of these was Douglas Deering, the last Protestant shopkeeper in Rosslea. Married with three children, he attended a Gospel hall in Clones. Thirty-eight years ago on May 12th 1977, Mr. Deering (52) was shot dead in his shop, which had already been bombed four times by the time of his murder. I felt a sad air about Rosslea as we passed through it on the return journey. The rain was now falling more persistently as I got out of the car to take a photograph of a bridge on the grey river. Somehow bridges always remind me of that allegory that Jesus is the only bridge between God and mankind. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and Men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Timothy 2v5&6) There is only one effective bridge over the troubled waters of this life… the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Stories of human tragedy abound where the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland are concerned, many individuals still suffering physically and emotionally as a result of the violence and many more lie in unmarked graves… awaiting the day. And that day is surely coming… “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are within shall be burned up.” (2Peter 3v10) “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 14v11&12) As I also took a photograph of the little Gospel hall on the edge of Rosslea, I thought about the residents of this and other villages throughout Ireland. Whether the history of these communities is peaceful or otherwise, each and every soul within them needs to repent and to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, if they have not already done so. I pray for those evangelical organisations, Christian fellowships and churches which are presently reaching out to communities in rural and urban areas throughout the island of Ireland. And I pray that individuals, like me, will be empowered to reach precious souls as the Lord leads. There are places we may never pass through again, quiet villages and little hamlets…. We need to love and reach those souls, for who knows what tomorrow holds? (Matthew 24v36) 0139

The Tragedy of the Sinking of the Lusitania

May 5, 2015

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This week marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great Cunard ocean liner, the RMS Lusitania at Queenstown (now Cobh) off the coast of east Cork. On the 7th May 1915 this once glamorous and famous ship was torpedoed by a German submarine with the loss of 1200 lives. This week the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren (and indeed great-great grandchildren) of the town will remember how their ancestors helped the injured and shocked survivors who somehow made it to the shores of their town. I recently listened to old voice recordings on the radio of people who had remembered this terrible tragedy, one of many during the First World War.

I was also fascinated to hear of the work of a modern day diver who explores such old maritime wrecks beneath the ocean. He was emotional when describing how he had seen some of the personal effects of those who had drowned, many of whose bodies had never been found. However, diving and exploring old wrecks is dangerous and intricate work, even though the explorers find it so fascinating.

I have an interesting (ex-library) book in my possession: “The Discovery of the Titanic” by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, who also dived to the Lusitania; this book shows many personal effects and furnishings which were discovered during exploration years later. Poignantly, one of the photographs shows a doll’s head lying on the ocean floor. I wonder did the little girl to whom it belonged survive? Reaching this legendary ship, the author (and diver) says became something of an obsession for him – and I can see why.

Many fascinating artefacts rest upon the ocean floor, some surviving the rigours of time and the elements but the human skeleton will naturally disintegrate. While I reflected on the tragedy of the Lusitania itself, I also thought on the diversity of its passengers.

The last survivor of the Lusitania died in January 2011 at the age of 96. Her name was Audrey Warren Lawson-Johnston (née Pearl) who was only 3 months old when she boarded the Lusitania with her parents and siblings. Unfortunately two of her sisters, Amy and Susan, just 3 years and 14 months respectively were lost. She had a little brother (Stuart: 5) who survived.

Apart from the tragedy of the children, I was intrigued by the many prominent people in public life who were lost in this terrible tragedy: the president of a company, a mining entrepreneur, an actress, a composer and conductor, a well-known assembly man, economist and engineer, the director of a steamship company, a British art dealer, an American writer, the president of a ship-building company, a playwright, Sir Hugh Lane, the renowned art collector, a fashion designer, an American pianist, politicians… the list goes on. People in all walks of life, many of them well-known, lost forever in the depths of the ocean.

Today the wreckage of the Lusitania still lies on the seafloor, some artefacts still being visible. However, of those passengers who lost their lives, many were never recovered and of the 150 victims who were buried in mass graves in the Old Church cemetery north of Cobh, 80 were never identified.

Reflecting upon this tragedy, somehow the words of Revelation 20 verses 12-15 came to mind: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

These are serious words of truth – and warning. Surely: “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom 14v12)

Just as the Lusitania maintained her Atlantic crossings, despite a war situation, leaving civilians open to terrifying danger, many people today, although they have been made aware of the eternal danger, continue to live outside of God’s grace to mankind. Eternity lies ahead of this short life. May those who read be prepared by repenting of their sins and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ to save them and may those who know Him “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1Peter 3v15)

Sunshine, Hailstones… and the Ups and Down of Life

May 2, 2015

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Like the changeable Irish weather, this was a mixed week for me. On Tuesday I was at a funeral which was attended by many hundreds of people. The deceased, at 51 was quite young and had many close friends, acquaintances and loved ones, having three brothers and six sisters who all, of course, had extended family. When I reached there, after a two hour drive, I could scarcely believe how packed the village was with cars. The church could not contain everyone and so I, along with many others, was directed to the church hall – which was also packed. I felt a great sense of sadness for many reasons that day and after the funeral stood for a while at my parents’ grave. I longed to talk to them about my feelings… that overwhelming sense of loneliness. There were things I longed to say to them, that only they would understand. After that I was standing in a supermarket car park when I noticed that I was the only one left in the car park which was about to close… A voice sang over the intercom in that great empty space, somehow echoing my melancholy mood.

But then I reminded myself… the Lord was with me during all of that day, upholding me and comforting me. I remembered how, on reaching the village, I prayed that He would provide me with a parking spot – somewhere. It seemed impossible as the streets were so packed. Miraculously, my simple prayer was answered in an instant, when I noticed a man putting a little boy into a car seat. Noticing my predicament, he smiled and waved for me to take his spot when he had gone. And that spot was very close to the church which was good, as I had been delayed on the journey. It was good to be there, if only to give a comforting hug to the bereaved and to speak words of comfort to others that I met.

The following day I made another journey in my own County Meath, to distribute books and again I felt the Lord’s guidance and comforting Presence. It was a sunny day as I set out and I felt much encouraged as I travelled to the town of Ashbourne where the large modern library stocks my books. Ashbourne, although a small town, has a cosmopolitan feel, with many people of different nationalities living here. Driving on through little hamlets, villages and rural areas, I passed through the small towns of Ratoath – and Dunshaughlin which also has a library where the books are available. I soon arrived at my last destination – the quaint town of Trim. Here I was reminded of my parking incident of the previous day; I was about to buy the parking ticket, when a business man who was simultaneously about to leave the car park came over and kindly offered me his ticket, which he said was valid for the rest of the day. Again, I felt the Lord caring for me and encouraging me.

Even the traffic warden had a smile on his face, when he turned his attention from sticking a parking ticket on some unfortunate’s car, to face the river where ducks and tiny ducklings were waddling by the waters’ edge. Sunshine sparkled on the rippling river Boyne where the quivering leaves of lovely trees were reflected. “Aren’t they so beautiful?” I said, as I snapped a photograph of the little ducklings and their duck chaperones.

“Indeed they are,” affirmed the traffic warden warmly, as he too took out his camera – which would normally have been put to more unpopular use!

It was good to meet the lady in the Trim Visitor Centre again, to visit the little library and to talk to Antonia in Antonia’s Bookstore which also stocks my books.

Heavy rain and hail came down just as I reached the car. Again, the Lord prevented me from getting totally drenched! I sat eating a sandwich as I looked out at it in fascination. ‘What a changeable day,’ I thought, ‘just like life itself… one minute the sun is splitting the trees and the next thing you see a black threatening sky, hear a peal of thunder and soon there are hailstones banging off your windscreen…’

And yet the Lord is with those who love and serve Him through all the weary ways in life – He is ever- present in the sunshine and ever caring in the storms. As I recall the ducks attending to their young, I am reminded of the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32v11, about an eagle this time… “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings…” so the Lord does lead us as He led Moses.

He cares for, protects and guides His children; He bears them up and they shelter in the shadow of His wings. Yes… and how He loves all the people of this world, desiring that they would accept His greatest gift of all: the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us all.

“O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom thou hast made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.” (Psalm 104v24) How the deity of Christ is upheld in this verse… “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:” (Ephesians 3v9) Our wonderful Creator – and our loving Redeemer… He cares for me. Why not cast all your care upon Him for… “He careth for you.” (1Peter 5v7)

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