Archive for June, 2015

How safe is Your Holiday or Business Destination this Summer?

June 29, 2015

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As recent terror attacks in three continents continue to send shock waves around the world, many people are now wondering whether to cancel their summer holiday – particularly if it happens to be in Tunisia. Horrific scenes have emerged in the last few days; of tourists, including young children running for their lives on a Tunisian beach; of rising casualties in a Shia mosque in Kuwait and of an explosion in a chemical plant near Lyon where a man beheaded his boss…

Elsewhere many areas of the world are in complete turmoil. Refugees and migrants fleeing war, poverty and persecution are floating in the open seas in rubber dinghies and little wooden boats which were never meant to hold the number of people that have been packed unto them. We see images of men, women and children being washed ashore on Greek islands – where the locals are barely able to provide for the needs of their own families.

On a personal level, my husband is to participate in a conference in the Greek island of Zakynthos next month but Greece, we fear, is on the brink of a humanitarian crises. School teachers in Athens have complained that young children are under-nourished and some are even fainting because they have not eaten in a couple of days. In the countryside at least, people it appears are able to grow fruit and vegetables, keep hens for eggs and goats to milk and make goat’s cheese from. However, I have to admit that I am a little apprehensive about our proposed trip to this lovely green island which the Venetians once named “the flower of the east.”

It was here, on this third largest of the Ionian Islands that dozens of terrified Afghan and Iraqi Kurdish refugees washed in to shore just recently, because they were unable to make it to the coasts of Italy. So what awaits any traveller this summer, having reached their destination – financial chaos, refugees on the beach – or worse still… a gunman on the beach?

Yes, it appears that even Greece is on the map of “tourist area hotspots with terror threat level” issued by the foreign office. On the red alert “high threat” list are France, Spain, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Turkey – and now Tunisia of course. Italy, Greece and Morocco are classified under “general threat,” while Portugal, Croatia and Bulgaria are listed under “underlying threat”.

“Oh, just stay at home,” some sigh… “Let’s face it, the world is just not safe out there anymore!”

‘But is it even safe at home?’ I ask myself. If someone had asked an 82 year-old British grandmother ‘did she think she would ever be beheaded in her own back garden?’ I’m sure that she would never have dreamt of such a horror – but this happened not so very long ago.

In an uncertain world, we brace ourselves for tomorrow’s news… but there is a happy band of people in this world who can claim these lovely words and apply them to any situation that they find ourselves in… “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Se-lah.” (Psalm 46v1-3)

Can you claim to feel a genuine peace when you hear these words? Whether it is financial unrest, wars, rumours of war, persecution; violence in the forces of nature, sickness or even death – if the Lord has control of all of your life, you have nothing to fear – either here or in the world to come. Of course pain, bereavement, anguish, or having to face up to our own death is horrendously hard to bear but thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ who loves us and wants to be our Burden-Bearer. He said: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11v28)

But He also said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10v28)

And so, in an uncertain world, it is essential to be certain of this one thing – that the Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme in your life.

If it is that you fear an uncertain eternity, it is not His will that you continue to live in this unhappy state. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5v8)

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died for your sins because he loved you and wants you to have an assurance of sins forgiven in this life – and a deep peace in your heart that you will spend eternity in heaven with Him. All He asks is that you repent and put your trust in Him today. Remember – tomorrow may be too late… for all our tomorrows on this earth are becoming increasingly uncertain. There is nothing comparable to the joy of feeling His Presence with you as you face into each new day. Oh that you would be one of that happy band who can honestly say…“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48v14)

May the Lord bless these words to whoever reads them.

Discouragement, Our Great Enemy – But His Grace is Greater

June 25, 2015

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Imagine a situation where the Lord has laid it upon your heart to arrange something for local people, along the lines of a study of Psalm 23 from personal experiences that affect many today. You have gone to much trouble to advertise, to send out invitations to individuals and to provide light refreshments but more than this – you have much to offer in the form of good things in the spiritual sense. There is the best news mankind has ever heard on offer as well as encouragement, excellent leaflets, books and booklets freely available. You are open to discussion and questioning hearts; the door is wide open too, the surroundings are bright and comfortable, the event is free and the welcome is warm – but no one comes in. A cute little girl with curly hair runs over and smiles in at you but her mother immediately drags her away by the arm. Moments earlier a little boy did exactly the same thing but was also hastily taken away. It is, after all, a community centre… a place where sports of all types are catered for and a variety of entertainment is on the timetable.

‘No harm in sports,’ you might say and of course you are right – but how many people take a serious look at their spiritual needs? They look after their physical and leisurely requirements and they attend to their business, which is important too – but they neglect the most important part of their very existence, that part which will never die – their souls. As the old hymn goes: “room for pleasure, room for business…”

Now, I could have been really discouraged by what happened – or even reacted in the wrong spirit, but in the Lord’s strength this did not happen, thankfully. I’m a little disappointed of course but somehow strangely not surprised at all. After a long while, when I knew that no one would turn up I talked with the friendly attendants at the centre, gave them a tract each (which they gratefully accepted) and took my leave. The Lord had some purpose in me being there (even if it was to teach me something) and He has promised that His word will not return unto Him void.

Yesterday I witnessed a man giving out tracts on the street of a different town to the one where I held this morning’s ‘non event.’ I watched as he approached another man in a business suit who was walking towards him. The latter uttered a resoundingly rude “no thanks!!” and hurried on his way. Again, this was not at all surprising… but the tract distributor was clearly angered by this and shouted something after him which did take me by surprise… I could see clearly a look of weariness and terrible discouragement on his face as I approached him and shook hands with him. But it was good to have that warm conversation with him, before I had to go to my appointment.

Unfortunately we live in a world where most people’s interests often do not extend beyond the material things of this life but as Christians, we must be led of the Lord and love all souls, patiently praying that somehow the Lord will break through their indifference and hardness.

Yesterday, before the arranged event I had this sinking feeling that I ‘was going to be wasting my time’ and I felt strongly that I should cancel it. As I was having these thoughts, I was walking past the window sill where my little “Bread of Life” verses were sitting. Prayerfully picking one out, I knew for sure that this was the Lord’s message to me for the day: “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6v9)

And how weary I had felt! I was in pain – a dislocated floating rib the doctor had said. To be honest I just felt like not going ahead with this event but I knew that this would be wrong.

The Lord Jesus Christ left the riches of glory to come down to indifference – and even violent opposition. He took on the form of human flesh with all the disadvantages that this entails – and then gave His all, His very life; suffering that souls would be saved from a horrific eternity. Surely the least I can do is to obey His commands as long as He gives me strength to do so?

I feel that there are two messages in these incidents. First of all, it is better not to give out tracts (or do any other form of Christian evangelism) if it is felt that we are doing it in the wrong spirit. It is essential, by far, to quietly draw close to the Lord again and ask Him to put a right spirit within us and a love for souls – something which is a pre-requisite for reaching others. This is His encouraging message for Christians who seek to reach others with His love for them: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1Cor. 15v58) We should obey His commands in a right spirit, in the knowledge that we have no personal control over the reactions of others.  

The second message (on the issue of indifference on the part of the general population) is held in that old hymn, the second verse of which keeps going through my head today: “Have you any room for Jesus?”

The link to this hymn is here: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/h/y/o/hyouanyr.htm

Remember, too, those words in Genesis 6v3: “My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

Have you any Room for Jesus?

Have you any room for Jesus,

He who bore your load of sin?

As He knocks and asks permission,

Sinners, will you let Him in?

Refrain

Room for Jesus, King of Glory!

Hasten now His Word obey;

Swing the heart’s door widely open,

Bid Him enter while you may.

Room for pleasure, room for business,

But for Christ the Crucified,

Not a place that He can enter,

In the heart for which He died?

 

Have you any room for Jesus,

As in grace He calls again?

O today is time accepted,

Tomorrow you may call in vain.

Room and time now give to Jesus,

Soon will pass God’s Day of Grace;

Soon thy heart left cold and silent,

And thy Saviour’s pleading cease.

Daniel W. Whittle (1840-1901)

On Slavery, Islam, the Sack of Baltimore – and “a Thief in the Night”

June 20, 2015

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Today, 20th June 2015, marks the 384th anniversary of “the sack of Baltimore.” On the night of 20th June 1631 Muslims from North Africa’s Algeria made a surprise raid on the village of Baltimore which lies on the coast of west Cork in Ireland. Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845) the Irish poet and politician describes the dreadful scene in his poem which is quoted in Des Ekin’s book “The Stolen Village.”

Most of those villagers (men, women and children) were carried far away to a life of slavery in North Africa; apparently only two of them ever saw Ireland again. I wonder what terrible stories they would have to tell us if they were alive today?

The Sack of Baltimore is said to have been “the most devastating invasion ever mounted by Islamist forces on Ireland or England.” Some of the prisoners would spend the rest of their lives chained to oars as galley slaves, while others may have been prisoners in harems. I can only imagine their horror as they tried to grow accustomed to the stifling heat of a new climate, while the peaceful seaside village that they once knew became a mere part of their dreams.

Today most people view slavery in terms of European slave traders whisking African prisoners away to a life of forced labour, something which was abhorrent to William Wilberforce, the Christian who headed the parliamentary campaign for the Abolition of Slavery. William Wilberforce (1759-1833) is said to have trusted the Saviour in 1785 and went on to campaign for many other worthy causes, including the Society for the Prevention of Vice, the foundation of the Church Missionary Society and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The words slave/slaves are only mentioned twice in the Bible (Authorised Version), given as an account, as it was part of the culture during certain periods of history. However, I believe that the Lord never intended that any man, woman or child should ever be a slave; even though, despite their slavery many souls triumphed in adversity and became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!” (John 8v36)

As opposed to this, the Koran, on the other hand allows slavery and there is evidence to suggest that slaves still exist in many parts of the Islamic world, particularly in Saudi Arabia, even though Saudi Arabia and Yemen are said to have abolished slavery in 1962. However, there are countries which presently claim that slavery has the sanction of Islam and within these countries slavery is said to be a current practice; these include Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Sudan.

Today we are facing the threat of invasive change on a global scale… but the invaders are much more subtle in their approach, pointing to ‘political correctness’ to further their aims and rapidly gaining positions of power in the political world. Nevertheless, for those who know Jesus as Saviour – “here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13v14)

I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma for those villagers in Baltimore all those years ago, when men, women and children were literally stolen away. The Algerian Muslims descended upon their peace “like a thief in the night.”

In 2Peter 3v10 we also read of a thief in the night: “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.”

The villagers of Baltimore never for one moment expected such a terrible thing to happen to the peaceful security of their lives in that village in the southwest tip of Ireland. They had no warning at all.

On the other hand, there is a warning to those who live in the world today of that ‘Day of the Lord’ which is to come. We are warned of this many many times in God’s Word and for those who are His servants it is our duty to warn others of His coming again – this time to judge the world.

“Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” (Revelation 16v15)

As the signs of the times show us that “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5v8) may those who have never trusted Him, turn to the Lord in repentance and may those who know the Him as Saviour, be faithful to loved ones, neighbours, friends, acquaintances – yes, and even the very stranger they meet in day to day life…