Archive for February, 2016

On Irish Election Leaflets… and the Living and the Dead

February 24, 2016

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In recent times we have had a variety of postmen, who perhaps are not as well acquainted as our old postman with those who live in this rural community. I therefore often have to ‘play postwoman’ as I deliver the right post to the right houses! Just this week we have had numerous election leaflets delivered by the postal service… and then an isolated leaflet from one particular party was delivered this morning. I looked at the name and address and sorrowfully shook my head, for this person had sadly passed away some years ago. No, I wouldn’t be delivering this one as I would never be able to communicate with this person ever again… certainly not in this life anyway.

As coincidence would have it, I am presently reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes, a Book which I find unique in the Bible, much of it appearing to reveal man’s conclusions about the hopelessness and vanity of life. For example Chapter 3v19 states: “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminance above a beast: for all is vanity.” Now, those who know the Lord also know that there is much more to the existence of mankind and we cannot take this verse in isolation. Reading on in this chapter there is a question in verse 22… “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?” Praise God the answers to such questions are to be found in the final two verses of Ecclesiastes. Containing ultimate wisdom, they bring this fascinating Book to a wise conclusion… “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Chapter 12v13&14)

The incident of the mistakenly delivered election leaflet and the Book of Ecclesiastes brought many thoughts to mind. First of all I was thinking that it had been a while since we’d had a visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I also know that they don’t like to ‘do their rounds’ while political parties are out canvassing at the same time. Here is a cult which very often does quote little portions of verses in isolation and one example is this… “the dead know not anything.” (Ecclesiastes 9v5). Unfortunately these isolated few words from a verse are taken to support their view on what happens to a soul after death.

I, however, feel that we must quote from verses 4,5&6: “For to him that is joined to all living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.”

“For a living dog is better than a dead lion…” Imagine a situation where the person to whom the leaflet was addressed had been wealthy in the things of this world and also had been held in very high esteem by the local community – but where is this person now with regard to eternity? Surely there is more hope for the living poverty-stricken than the rich who have died in their sin? While there is life, there is hope – the joyous hope that souls still living in this the Day of Grace have the opportunity to get right with God.

Verses 5&6 of Ecclesiastes 9 tell us of the lot of those who have no hope beyond the grave – but Revelation 14v12&13 describe the inheritance of those who have loved and served the Lord: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

The “harvest of the world” is surely coming and “the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9v4) Precious souls are dying around us with no hope beyond the grave and so those who know the Lord must work for Him while it is yet day.

The following verses of Ecclesiastes I find good encouragement and exhortation for those servants who seek to serve the Master while it is day…

Ecclesiastes 9v10: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, no device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Surely our opportunity to serve Him by reaching souls is now – in this life?

Ecclesiastes 11v1: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” This can apply to giving to the Lord’s work and it may also apply to the words that we write or speak for the Lord through the years of our lives; kind deeds, too, can speak to souls of the love of God for them and His desire to see them saved.

Ecclesiastes 11v4-6: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” There are many hindrances thrown our way to prevent us from serving the Lord, but we must keep our eyes upon Him and not upon the dark clouds of potential trouble which we feel may thwart our efforts to do His will. “For if God be for us… who can be against us?”

Political parties may come and go and the philosophies of this world change with changing times but “the Word of the Lord endureth for ever” – and only what is accomplished for Him will last.

“Little Children, let no man deceive you…”

February 16, 2016

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I wakened to the sound of a cold blustery wind this morning and pulling the curtains to my little bedroom window, viewed the effects of this invisible wind as it bent the ivy-covered trees in the garden. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3v8) Praise God for sending His only begotten Son into this world, that this world through Him might be saved…

As the grey morning drew on I was remembering what I was doing around five years ago. Unlike this cold and wintry day, it was a beautiful day with sunshine and a blue sky. As I write, I recall how I tearfully followed my Dad’s funeral cortege as it made its final journey down the avenue from the old country home; it was in this very dwelling place that I had trusted the Lord to save me many years previously.

This week, in order to honour his memory, I inserted a little memorial notice with a verse of scripture in the local newspaper of that area – the Ulster Gazette… “Hutchinson, Jack, called Home 16th February, 2011. Lovingly remembered by his children, Elizabeth, George, Grace, Christine and their families. Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Corinthians 15:57.”

I was thinking earlier… now how best can I honour my father’s memory today? What good memories he left behind… above is a text which he painted on one of his sheds. I know for sure that he would love me to quote the verses and uphold the great truths that he held dear, as he walked through this scene of time.

I recently attended a meeting where the sermon was based upon the words of first John chapter 1. I quote verses 8-10 in this chapter… “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

I have absolutely no problem with these verses, even taken in isolation. The truth is plain and simple… if I have sin in my life, I cannot deceive myself by saying otherwise and if this is my state… then I would be a liar to say that I have not sinned. However, “He is faithful and just” – not only to forgive me my sins, but to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. To deny that this can truly happen in an instant is to deny His infinite power.

How good it is to read on… “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1John 2v1-4)

What victory over sin and death and hell is offered to us through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ! Victory – not only in the next life, but in this transient and potentially troublesome one too! Note the important little word ‘if’ in 1John 2v1. The philosophy that those who have trusted the Lord to save them must then be weighed down by the chains of habitual sin for the rest of their lives is a highly dangerous one and those who preach it bear a fearful responsibility.

“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1John 4v6&7)

These were the verses (and there are many many more!) that my Dad loved.

Today as I think of him, I know in my heart that he would want me to continue to propagate that which he took a stand on in this life. Above all he would desire that loved ones and acquaintances would apply it to their own lives. For all who trust the Lord Jesus Christ to save them to the uttermost and to keep them in the narrow way in their daily walk with Him, there are these promises:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortality must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortality shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

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.”

The final verse of this chapter, I believe, would be Dad’s message to brothers and sisters still walking in this scene of time… “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, umoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for inasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15v51-58)

Praise God!