Archive for May, 2017

Oh for a Glimpse of Eternity!

May 28, 2017

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There are many thousands of different religions and systems of belief in this world – and many conflicting views as to what happens human beings when they depart this life. Roman Catholics believe in an intermediary place known as “purgatory,” although the Christian Bible contains no reference to any such place; Hinduism teaches reincarnation, “karma” and the cycle of life, while Islam believes that “mankind will be divided into two groups, one in Paradise and one in hell.” Both, they say will “abide therein forever.” Of course, they maintain, that only Muslims can go to Paradise. Whatever conflicting views they have, there is a general consensus amongst all systems of belief that our behaviour in this life will determine the nature of our life in the next.

There are also multiple conflicting views on the nature of paradise too. Mormons, for example, have some strange views, talking of “three heavenly kingdoms:” the celestial, terrestrial and telestial. However, that is another discussion for another time. In the wake of recent suicide bombings, it is the nature of Islam’s “paradise” that has been very much occupying my mind this week. Amongst all the systems of belief that I have ever heard of, their view of “paradise,” with its promise of 72 virgins to jihadists must surely sound evil to any right-minded person.  It is said in Palestine that a mother who sends her son to die as a martyr is sometimes seen as “marrying him off.”

All of this makes me wonder what supposedly awaits female jihadists – and there have been quite a few. Sadly, those who die this way, unless they repent within the very short time they have before death, face an eternity more horrific than we can ever imagine. I only wish that they could have a vision of this – for if they did, they would never murder and maim so many men, women and children the world over. If only they weren’t brainwashed by the words of their fellowmen and would seek the living God – the one God who sent His only Son to die that they might inherit the real paradise, which can never be compared to anything we have experienced on this earth. Even the peaceful green fields of my childhood to which I sometimes return to walk with joy, are nothing in comparison with what awaits those who love the Lord.

Those who have not been born again of the spirit of God have a view of heaven that is akin to a continuation of their own base greed and earthly desires in this life. They don’t see it as Jesus described it… “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22v29&30) But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Corinthians 2v9)

As the Muslim month of Ramadan has just commenced, there have also been calls for jihadists to perpetrate yet more crimes in the countries they are living in throughout the west. With all my heart I wish that potential suicide bombers and terrorists could see that far from an eternity of self-indulgence and their own strange ideas of “paradise,” they will face judgement, for “as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27&28)

Sadly, Islam maintains that Jesus never died at all – and therefore He never rose again. On the contrary those who know Him love Him and see His resurrection as the ultimate victory over sin and death and hell. “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in the heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1v15&16.)

I have often thought about heaven and the joy of meeting loved ones again. It is important to remember that our relationship with them will be different, yes – but it will be better beyond anything we can ever conceive of in this life. And most of all, what joy to meet the One who saved me by His grace! “His smile will be the first to welcome me.” How I wish those who are planning evil deeds could believe that there are untold wonders in the real paradise, for all who repent and put their trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. Frances J. Crosby’s hymn “My Saviour first of all” describes the scene so beautifully and scripturally… This lady was physically blind in this life, but oh how she could see spiritually! How amazing for her, when on the first day of eternity, she had the joy of meeting and seeing her beloved Saviour!

“Thro’ the gates to the city in a robe of spotless white,

He will lead me where no tears shall ever fall;

In the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight;

But I long to see my Saviour first of all.”

Link to this hymn: https://youtu.be/CMFM-lpzCC0

 

 

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Remembering Manchester Today – and Terrorism then

May 23, 2017

Today I have been thinking of and praying for the victims of this horrific terrorist attack last night, most of them so very very young. As a mother my heart goes out to any parent who has lost a child and, indeed, numerous others who are comforting seriously injured loved ones in hospital, as well as the adult victims involved. This whole horrific incident doesn’t even bear thinking about, given that the perpetrator waited until the concert was over in order to create maximum loss of life and injury.

From a personal point of view, I have very pleasant memories of Manchester, a city I often visited to do courses connected with my work in Northern Ireland years ago. Often I would have brought my Mum along for the trip, as she enjoyed exploring the city during the day while I was on the course. She especially loved a walk around the Arndale Centre, which is Manchester’s big shopping centre. Today that shopping centre was evacuated just hours after the other atrocity, as police dealt with what they described as ‘an incident.’

Manchester is no stranger to terrorism. In June 1996 the Arndale Centre and many other buildings were destroyed, as the IRA detonated a powerful bomb (the largest since World War 2) in the centre of the city. Miraculously, although more than two hundred people were injured – there were no fatalities in this attack. However, damage incurred was in the region of around 700 million. (More in today’s currency.)

I remember the sound of bombs in my youth – and one bomb in particular. I was around twenty at the time and working in an office in a small town in Northern Ireland, when a man ran inside the door and gave us a choice: either lie on the floor or run out of the building down the street. “There’s a bomb in the post office across the road,” he told us. I chose to do the latter and when I reached the bottom of the street with a much older colleague, I can still recall the hollow sickening thud and a sensation which made me feel like my entire head was going to burst open. With shaking hands and a terrified look my colleague took out a packet of cigarettes and offered me one. “No thanks,” I said. Although I wasn’t a Christian at that time, I was determined that no terrorist was ever going to make me feel that I had to start smoking to calm my nerves.

Modes of communication have certainly changed since then. Today “Twitter” alerts people very quickly as to what is happening. Back then I had no mobile phone to call my parents and reassure them that I was safe, when an “incident” occurred. However, I was fortunate to find one of those old telephone kiosks which thankfully hadn’t been vandalised.

Yes indeed… there have been amazing leaps in modes of communication and technology over the last decades – but sadly the hearts of men who have not been touched by the Saviour’s love are as cold, cruel and evil today as they were then, whatever their ideology. Today international terrorism (which has its roots in Islamic fundamentalism) is at the forefront of discussion where terrorism is concerned. A tidal wave of evil is sweeping across the world, with sporadic attacks on ordinary people.

We are living in dangerous days – too dangerous to neglect the value of your soul. To those who know Him, we must follow His example and work, “for the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9v4) And to those outside of the Lord’s grace, although you may certainly be no terrorist, you need to acknowledge your need of salvation, repent and place your lives under the shadow and safety of His wings. No one is guaranteed a pleasant release from this life – but the Lord Jesus Christ has promised: “him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.  (Hebrews 7v25)

I pray (and will continue to do so) for the heartbroken and suffering this day – and I pray that they will know His comforting Presence in their lives – the Lord’s strong Presence, like warm arms, that I felt all those years ago, when I was feeling lonely one night in a hotel in Manchester, shortly after the Lord saved me by His grace…

 

Church of Ireland Archbishop’s Controversial Participation at the “Beatification” of Jesuit Priest, John Sullivan (1861-1933)

May 16, 2017

On Saturday, 13th May last the first beatification ceremony ever on Irish soil took place and I was dismayed (but not surprised) to learn that the Church of Ireland Archbishop officiated alongside the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin at this ceremony.

The candidate for beatification, John Sullivan, born on 8th May 1861 at 41 Eccles Street in Dublin was one of five children born to Sir Edward Sullivan (a member of the Church of Ireland and later Lord Chancellor of Ireland) and Elizabeth Bailey, a Roman Catholic from a prominent land-owning household in Passage West.  It is reported that he was raised in the Church of Ireland but later converted to Catholicism in 1896, aged 35.

Much that is positive has been recorded about this man, as indeed it has about other notable men and women down through history – but the eternal destination of their souls is something over which only Almighty God has control. God’s Word tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3v23) so how can mortal man have some sort of role in the “promotion” of a soul which has departed this life?

In this, the year of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, it is very disturbing to see how ecumenism has eaten into the fabric of many mainline denominations, which would once have stood firmly for the great truths of God’s Word, the Holy Bible; truths for which men and women suffered and died at the stake.

I have previously written about beatification in my blog: “Why Beatification is Blasphemous & Contrary to Scripture,” on 2nd May, 2011 and now it is with sadness that I learn of this very recent event.  As I have previously said:

“There is absolutely no scriptural foundation for the notion that men (whatever position they have been elected to) have the power to decide the destiny of a soul who has passed into eternity. Hebrews 9v27 tells me that “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…” Who judges us? Surely only God has the power to decide my spiritual standing, or yours – or that of any pope who has ever walked this earth? According to the Roman Catholic Church, “beatification is the last step on the road to sainthood.” How contrary to scripture this is, for whenever I read of ‘saints’ in the New Testament, they are indeed living followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example Paul writes to the living not to the dead in Ephesians 1v1… “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus,” and “to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” (Philippians 1v1.) The saints then (and today!) are ordinary men and women who have come by faith to a living relationship with the Lord.

The fact is… only saints can enter heaven! In Jude 14 we read that Enoch prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.”

John 1v12&13 tells me that … “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Saints are therefore born by the will of God and not by the will of men – and although their bodies die, they live on in the spirit and are elevated to heaven; not by the will of man, but by God the Creator, Saviour and indwelling Holy Spirit of all who come to Him in repentance and faith in His finished work for them at Calvary.

My prayer is that souls would come to see the “spiritual wickedness in high places” and these “doctrines of devils” that are prevalent in such ceremonies as beatification. The Bible tells me that the “love of money is the root of all evil” and I am inclined to think that prayers for the dead, relics, beatification and great ceremonies in the Vatican and other locations bring in much needed finance at times like this.

May my Lord and Saviour speak to those souls who are sincerely searching for truth and questioning the validity of such practices, beliefs and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church. Oh that they would see clearly the simplicity and wonder of this truth… that sainthood is totally God’s will for each one of us and that this has been made possible for us here and now in this life – by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ… “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins…” (Colossians 1v14

A Wonderful Meeting with Peggy O’Neill Who Found The Truth, After Fifty Years As A Nun!

May 13, 2017

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On the May Bank Holiday weekend last my husband and I embarked on a four hour journey to the south west of Ireland. What a journey that was – but how rewarding the outcome! Years ago I had read this lady’s testimony in tract form and also her story is one of twenty in a book called: “The Truth Set us Free: Twenty Former Nuns Tell Their Stories,” by Richard Bennett & Mary Hertel.” Somehow I had always wanted to meet Peggy… This desire intensified when an acquaintance asked me did I know anything about her or her whereabouts now. This person told me that Peggy was in the process of writing to the Pope and cardinals at the time (she had met her in 2013) and that behind her home were all the verses of the fruits of the Spirit… painted on planks.

Having approached all the people I thought might have known and ‘drawn a blank’, I eventually contacted members of a local Christian Fellowship in the area who were able to tell me. This was before Christmas last year and at the time I was dismayed to hear that Peggy was critically ill. I prayed very much for her then, still with this great desire in my heart to meet her. I later learned that Peggy had recovered from that illness. My prayers (and I am certain, the prayers of others) had been answered!

Well, on the afternoon of Saturday 29th April after a long drive, more prayers were answered when I had the great joy of meeting Peggy for the first time ever! She is now 96, bedridden for the most part and in a nursing home but there is an amazing brightness about her which clearly comes from knowing the Lord – this dear elderly lady is truly unique. Her face lit up when I showed her my big Bible and she hugged her testimony tract, which I know is so precious to her. Although missing her right eye from a fall some years ago and although frail with all the pains and aches that accompany someone who is not far from 100, she is so content with a beautiful, peaceful spirit – something which only those who know the Lord’s Presence in their lives can truly experience.

Here is a very short summary of her testimony – which can be viewed online in several locations by googling “The Testimony of Peggy O’Neill.”  Peggy was born in 1921, in Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, one of a large family who were raised Catholic. At school she notes that she was “well grounded in Catholic doctrine” and that in her local convent school many of her teachers were nuns. Having viewed life as a nun as “being the highest calling for any woman,” she later took her vows and maintains that “during my fifty years as a nun, regardless of the inevitable ups and downs of life, I was very happy. Happy to believe that I was following what I then thought was my God-given vocation. The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience I had made were meant to be perpetual and final.”

Then in 1989, her nephew (Tom) came home from England with what she terms “an interest in the Bible.” “He also said that he had left the Catholic Church.” Greatly concerned about this, Peggy decided to investigate for herself and discovered, to her shock, that “not only were there additions, but also some Catholic doctrines even contradicted the Bible.”

She states in her testimony: “Today there are thousands of false religions in the world and every religion, including Catholicism, has devised a different gospel. A church stands or falls by the Gospel it preaches, and at the age of 70 I had no option but to leave the church, which for so long I had greatly trusted.” She goes on to say: “for me there is only One Saviour and One Mediator, The Lord Jesus Christ.” Peggy states that after 50 years of serving as a nun (from ages 20-70) in the Catholic Church “I came to this profound realisation, and put my whole faith and trust in the saving work of Christ.”

That weekend my husband and I stayed in the town of Ballybunion, the place where Peggy’s life had begun in 1921. From our room we had a lovely view of the sparkling waves of the Atlantic Ocean as they washed in on the Blue Flag beach and on the last evening, as we walked along the shore, watching the last rays of the setting sun on the sea, I thought on the goodness of our Heavenly Father and Creator – and on my loving, lovely friend Peggy, who says in her tract: “I thank my Father who loved me so much that He sent His only beloved Son Jesus to save me. I thank Him my dear Redeemer who even now is interceding for me as my High Priest, and who will soon return to take me home to Heaven where I will shine like the sun and praise Him for all eternity.”

Over those three days we had the joy of visiting Peggy each day: on our way to Ballybunion, on Sunday afternoon – and by the Monday morning she had grown accustomed to our visits and was so overjoyed to see us. I felt a great closeness between us and the Lord’s Presence with us as we read and prayed with her. She has a pleasant view of some trees blowing in the wind by her little room in the nursing home. I remarked on this and on the beauty of the sunny countryside outside, to which she smilingly nodded in agreement. “But,” I said quietly, Heaven will be even better than this – and, of course we won’t have all our present human ailments…”

Heaven will be even more amazingly beautiful than the most stunning scenes of nature in this world. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Corinthians 2v9) And this is the Lord’s will for each person in the universe, if they would only but trust Him! (“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1John 2v2)

I praise the Lord that this lovely lady has, as she says “abandoned all other means and mediators and put her faith in Christ alone;” I pray that the Lord will assist me to share her story with loved ones, friends, neighbours and, yes, even with those I meet quite by chance. As I gave Peggy, my dear sister in the Lord, a hug before we left, I knew that this is what she would want, to the glory of our Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Message in a Bottle – An Amazing Find!

May 5, 2017

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One fine evening recently two of my daughters were having a stroll on a local beach when suddenly they spotted what looked like a little note washed up on the shore. Clearly the bottle had broken but whoever had thrown it into the sea had made the extra precaution of putting it into a small zip-seal plastic bag. Fascinated by the contents (which were a little soggy despite the plastic bag) they proceeded to carefully peel it apart and dry it on the lid of our old Aga. Soon we had a full name and address – and the fact that the messenger was originally from Brazil and had been travelling on a cargo ship. In this era of internet, of course they were able to log in and see the very street (and house) where the person now lived… what a small world we live in!

As I watched my daughters delicately peel the pieces of the message and dry them out, I was struck by what a delicate process this was – and how long it was taking them to do it. Once dried out, the writing was fairly legible but it took a while to piece everything together. This interesting little incident brought to mind a simple spiritual parallel – God’s message to us, which is contained in His Word, the Holy Bible. Through the rough currents of the centuries, through opposition and the fact that (in this case) the forces of evil would have tried to hide it from those who needed to hear the message, it has survived – and today it is an open and clear Message for all who are willing to read it. We don’t need to go through a long process of peeling its pages apart – and we don’t need to attend a theological college, in order to understand God’s message to mankind today. Indeed, I know of a Christian who, although illiterate, has memorised much of the Bible by listening to it on CDs. If we are indwelt by His Spirit, sincerely desiring the truth in its fullness, He will surely lead us into all truth.

Through the ever-rolling tides of the ages, though tossed in many a storm, the Word of God stands resolute and sure and although some have tried to conceal it from the “common” people or make the message obscure by watering it down, or changing it, or twisting it to suit their evil purposes, it has survived. Men and women (some known and others not so well known) have died in the flames of persecution down through the centuries for that very survival. But the Lord knows them all and praise His Name: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21v7)

Jesus said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24v35) The sea casts up many an interesting object, as I have learned from walking by the rolling tide over the years and although I have seen a poor animal, thankfully never a human body! However, it is prophesied in Revelation that “the sea gave up the dead which were in it” and some day “the dead will be judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Rev. 20v12&13)

It is amazing how a little note in a bottle can be preserved and washed up on a beach in a different country, after a long period of rough seas, storms and treacherous rocks – and it is no small miracle that God can preserve His Word through the centuries, tossed about and attacked though it is, through the raging storms of adversity and persecution. This night, as I write, I am grateful to Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer and many others, too numerous to mention here, who have died in its defence. And above all, I am grateful to their Master, the inspired Author, who paid the ultimate sacrifice that they (and we) might have abundant life now – and forevermore in His Presence. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1Peter 1v23)

Jesus said: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5v39)

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1John 1v5)