Archive for August, 2015

“Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.” (St. Luke 11v35)

August 27, 2015

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Having recently attended the annual Faith Mission Conference near Durrow in County Laois, I was reflecting today on all the different types of people that we’d met – both at the conference and around that locality. Somehow we found ourselves seated beside someone who had never attended the conference before. He had travelled a distance – out of curiosity. The fact that this person had sat beside us, I felt, was no accident because of the conversation which ensued after the meeting. How good it is to be able to witness to those we come in contact with in this way; I felt a great sense of the Lord’s Presence while we were conversing with this man and also a sense that he was genuinely seeking something more in his life.

There are others who may attend a meeting where the gospel is preached for many years but for some reason it never touches their hearts. Often I pray quietly within my own heart while a sermon is being preached, in the knowledge that there may be someone present who needs to be awakened to see his own need.

Others, still, perhaps young people, have just gone along to please someone – or even under duress. They are ‘anti’ everything that is said and bored with it all… and they show it!

There may also be deceivers; they mingle with Christians and they use the same terminology as Christians, but they have never been truly born again of the Spirit of God; I believe that the Lord gives discernment in this regard too.

Deceivers populate much of the ‘religious’ world. Not only do they deceive – but they are deceived. Very often of deceivers who are deceived it may be said that they are… “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2Timothy 3v7)

We stayed on after the conference, to visit the round tower and the relatively new heritage centre in the picturesque village of Timahoe. Situated in an old Church of Ireland, we discovered much of historical interest in this heritage centre, where we were kindly shown around by a lady who lives in the area.

Models of several austere looking monks caught my eye – but especially one who sat at a writing desk. On viewing the photograph later, somehow that “ever learning” verse came to mind.

Surely “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9)

“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)

He gave Himself a ransom for all: seeking souls shall find Him if they seek for Him with all their hearts; the scorner will be forgiven and the backslider restored if they truly repent – and even the deceiver can break through, when he allows the Lord to show him that the light that he thought he had is but darkness.

Ultimately we can only serve one Master, whose will is that our eye is “single.” Friendship with the world is surely enmity with God. (James 4v4) It is totally His will that our eyes are focussed on Him alone and on the eternal values that count.

In the lovely words of Jesus: “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.” (Luke 11v34-36)

At Times Like This I Wish I Had Learned Greek!

August 10, 2015

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After the conference was over we were free to explore the island of Zakynthos with its many fascinating villages – some of them quite remote. I enjoyed meeting local people who readily accepted my little ‘John 3v16’ bookmarks but sometimes it so frustrating when we sincerely want to communicate in words that amount to much more than ‘yes, no, please, thank you, good morning, good afternoon or goodnight!’ Many Greeks speak perfect English but unfortunately some older people like those we met have no English at all.

Above are two lovely people that I encountered in the heat of the day, in one of those little villages with their narrow streets – and they have both accepted a little bookmark from me. When I asked them, they were also happy to have their photographs taken. Somehow I had a sense of some ‘unfinished business’ on this island; a sense that we definitely will return to the region…

How strange it must have been in those days when “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” (Genesis 11v1) I often wonder what the “Tower of Babel” looked like… After the Lord sees the need to “confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Verse7), He also “scatters them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” (Verse 9) And so we have the generations of Shem, Ham and Japeth to this day, scattered upon the face of the earth. Today there are roughly 6500 spoken languages in the world! However, about 2000 of these languages have fewer than a thousand speakers. There are also many languages which are only spoken – and have never been written. It is said that the top ten most spoken languages in the world are: Chinese (Mandarin), English, Hindustani, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese, Malay-Indonesian and French.

As people travel more and more in the age in which we live, I believe that there are many opportunities for the Lord’s people to reach out with the simple gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I also believe that where our words and attempts to explain have been inadequate, the Lord Himself will take over and speak to hearts through His Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, though, He can lay it upon our hearts to make the effort to learn a language so that we may effectively communicate with the souls we meet. What I felt when I met these elderly people was a great warmth and love in my heart for them and I do pray that this simple little verse in their own language will speak to their hearts.

Meanwhile I have been scanning the evening class language subjects for Modern Greek – but unfortunately don’t see it listed at all. I will continue to do so – and also to pray for those people I came in contact with – whether it was a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, a shop keeper, the owner of our apartment – or an elderly man or woman watching strange tourists who insist on walking around in the 40 degree heat of their hot summer’s day!

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…”

August 4, 2015

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I admire the Greeks for their resilience in the face of a serious economic crisis. Having returned just recently from the island of Zakynthos, I noted that people on this island have helped each other in many ways, where sometimes a barter system operated. Nobody seemed to be panicking about the fact that the banks were closed for a while and on the whole everyone was good-humoured, smiling and gracious to tourists. In the heat of the day we stopped at a remote little mountain village called Agalás for lunch, intending to afterwards visit Damianόs cave and the Andronios Venetian wells. Only two elderly men sat in the old café and on seeing us sit down at one of the tables one of them departed to bring back a lady who had been in her own home just across the road! She immediately made us lovely toasted sandwiches along with ice-cold drinks (very reasonably priced) and as we were taking our leave, she kindly also gave us a free bag of her own home-grown lovely ripe plums.

This generosity was to be experienced throughout our trip, when after a meal out in a restaurant (usually less than half the price that it is at home) we would be offered a free desert, tea, coffee or some watermelon afterwards.

It is said that one of the ‘must see’ sites in Zakynthos is “Shipwreck Bay,” which is also known as “smugglers cove.” I took a photograph of it from a great high cliff (which was thankfully surrounded by a barrier) but it cannot be reached, except by boat. Apparently a ship (built in Scotland) ran aground here as recently as 1980; it had been smuggling cigarettes from Turkey and subsequently chased by the Greek navy. And so the rusty wreck on this lonely little stretch of beach has become a famous scene on postcards and travel books – and a rendezvous for tourists.

I find it interesting that the islanders can make something as simple as a (comparatively recent) wreck into a tourist attraction – with the result that many tourists pay to sail there every day. I heard someone say: “Honestly, those Greeks can use just about anything to make a living!”

Somehow I see an analogy here for those who serve the Lord. Each of us is a unique human being and each of our lives has followed an interestingly different path. He has given each one of us gifts, resources and very different opportunities to reach others but often it is the miserably negative experiences that we have and the times of brokenness in life which have the potential to amass the rich capital that matters – our growth in the Lord and the salvation of souls. An abandoned rusty old ship has been turned into a positive tourist attraction – and a life that has been suddenly hit by illness or bereavement can be turned into a positive opportunity to reach souls. It is only when we experience the low times for ourselves that we can reach out with real understanding and His love for others who need to know Him.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2Corinthians 1v3&4)