Archive for April, 2019

Sing Praises to thy Lord and King: Thoughts on Traditional Hymns

April 25, 2019

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Having returned from more hospital treatment we heard our robin friend singing his little heart out behind our home – and my daughter got a lovely photograph of him! If there is anything I love to hear… it is birdsong. How they love to praise their Creator – and how their song can cheer the weary soul! Around here we have chaffinches, bullfinches, blue tits, great tits, wrens, greenfinches, goldfinches, blackbirds, gold crests, sparrows, swallows, swifts, robins and of course birds of prey like buzzards and long-eared owls. Starlings, curlews, pheasants, crows, jackdaws, pigeons and magpies, although sometimes noisy or with their own peculiar plaintive call, have their songs too!

The Lord wants mankind to praise Him too and it is true that many beautiful hymns have been written to His glory and for the extension of His Kingdom over the centuries. However, for a number of years now I have noted a departure from the traditional hymn, with all its depth and sincere exaltation of the risen Saviour. Not everyone is aware of this, as they may worship in a fellowship or church where traditional hymns are always sung – but these are rare nowadays.

Unfortunately the traditional hymn, rich in doctrine and divine truth, has been discarded in many places, in favour of modern choruses with little depth. What is worse, sometimes their words are far from the truth…

“You’re the Lord of every man…” “Really?” I thought, as I heard these words sung recently. Someone told me once that he felt that some modern choruses were like “the vain repetition of the heathen” and sadly I was inclined to agree with him.

Of course mankind can only truly praise the Lord in song when he owns Him as Lord and Saviour. How many have sat in congregations over the years singing words which did not at all apply to their own spiritual state? Only those who have true communion and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ can sing out the beautiful words of hymn writers like Frances J. Crosby. Somehow, I feel that only those who know Him as Saviour can truly appreciate and are especially touched by something as simple as a little member of His creation singing sweetly to his heart’s content.

Rich are the moments of blessing

Jesus my Saviour bestows;

Pure is the well of salvation

Fresh from His mercy that flows.

 

Ev…er He walketh beside me,

Bright…ly His sunshine appears,

Spreading a beautiful rainbow

Over the valley of tears.

 

Rich are the moments of blessing,

Lovely, and hallow’d, and sweet,

When from my labour at noon-tide

Calmly I rest at His feet.

 

Why should I ever grow weary?

Why should I faint by the way?

Has He not promised to give me

Strength for the toils of the day?

 

Tho’ by the mist and the shadow

Sometimes my sky may be dim,

Rich are the moments of blessing

Spent in communion with Him.

(F. J. Crosby)

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Neither Saint nor Sinner

April 18, 2019

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St. Peter’s old tin country Church of Ireland, beside a river and the picturesque area of Laragh in south Monaghan was probably originally built around the same era as a very old book I’ve been reading was published. Memories of walking down the steps here reminded me of a certain true little story. I was given “One Thousand Tales worth Telling” (well over 100 years old) as a gift and find its true, very short stories just fascinating as each one has an associated scripture text. In these days of ecumenism, secularism and apostasy, it is rare to hear the gospel preached from the pulpits of established churches but on occasions it has been – and a silence has fallen on the congregation when the spirit of the Lord is there. However, not everyone is pleased with such sermons, which tell individuals of their need for salvation…

I quote this simple little story, an example of one of these true “1,000 Tales Worth Telling…”

Neither Saint nor Sinner

“Coming down the steps from the kirk, a neighbour asked an old lady how she liked the sermon by the strange minister from a distance. “Indeed,” said she, “I didn’t like him a bit! He talked all morning to one class of folks called saints, and to another called sinners, and he hadn’t a word for a decent, respectable body like me.” How many like her are neither “lost and on the way to Hell” nor “saved and on the way to Heaven.” Yet each of us are either one or the other. (Joshua 24v15; John 3v36; Rev. 20v15 & 22v11). The great question to settle is… Which is it?”

Clearly the preacher in this instance used his opportunity to relay a message to both the saved and the lost. How often have we heard a gospel message for the unsaved – but nothing to encourage growth in the believer, or indeed vice versa! Also, how difficult it is to reach “the respectable” – the law-abiding church goer, who may even be a Sunday school teacher or indeed an established church “reverend.”

Praise God, He has given His children the power of prayer and faith, in the knowledge that the Lord’s convicting voice can speak to such people. We cannot make them see their need – but He can.

“He revealeth the deep and secret things; he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.” (Daniel 2v22)

We should never view “the respectable” as lost causes who will never see their need of a Saviour. Only the Lord knows the innermost thoughts of those people and will work to draw each one to Himself. As His ambassadors, we should never be afraid to be a witness to “respectable bodies” – and pray fervently for them also.

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8v26)

 

I Can Do All Things through Christ Which Strengtheneth Me (Philippians 4v13)

April 10, 2019

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Yes, I can; I can drive many miles through heavy city traffic, I can pray while someone I love is going through procedures and treatments – and I can trust the Lord each day for whatever it may bring. He is my strength and my shield through all the changing scenes of life. What is more – He can assist me to be a witness and a comfort to those I come in contact with in that place. Someday I will understand why certain things happen but for the moment I walk by faith, His thousands of promises filling my heart. “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34v17)

If all of my life had been filled with joy, good days and laughter, how could I empathise with those who are suffering? I would nod as they tell me of their troubles and try to understand but no one can even start to understand unless they have been there.

Jesus walked this earth and understands – and His timing is perfect, as regards the people we meet, seemingly by chance. But it is never by chance, as I have discovered this very day. He gave me the words for the little tract: “Words of Love, Hope & Comfort Especially for You” over a year ago (29th January 2018) and He has assisted me to give copies to people as He directs. Yes, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me… including having the courage to speak to others. I “test the waters” first, as not everyone wants to speak. A smile, a comment, a friendly two-way conversation and then, in the Lord’s strength, showing them that you understand, you care – and what the Source of your own strength is. Only He can give us real love and compassion for others.

“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)

No, nothing is by chance. Ultimately, as soldiers in the Lord’s army, we are placed strategically in certain places and at certain times – to reach certain souls. And I firmly believe that we will meet some souls that we have spoken to some beautiful day in Heaven.

There are times when my heart is heavy but I turn and place my burdens on the God of all comfort, for His ways are perfect and I know that no matter what happens in this scene of time to His children… “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30v5)

Thoughts on the Kings of Israel and Judah – and Eternal Security

April 3, 2019

As I approach the end of 2nd Chronicles in my daily reading, it is interesting to note the behaviour of each king from the beginning of his reign until the end – which is usually marked by his death. Some kings (like Joash) start off well and please the Lord. We are told that “Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Je-hoi-a-da the priest.” (2Chronicles 24v2)

However, after the death of the priest we learn that the princes of Judah “made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them.” (Verse 17) Listening to man, I feel, was the downfall of Joash for after all the good he had accomplished in repairing the house of the Lord, after the death of Je-hoi-a-da, he turned to idolatry. As a result he would not listen to Zechariah, the son of the priest whom we are told had “the Spirit of God.” He said “because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you.” (Verse 20) Sadly Zechariah was stoned to death for merely warning Joash of the wrath to come – and it did come, in the form of an attack from the Syrians. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16v7). When we read about the lives of the kings, we can see that the reverse is also true.

There are other kings who started off well in their reign but something then happened to mar their relationship with the Lord. Certainly David walked perfectly with the Lord “save in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” David and some other kings are greatly repentant and restored in their walk with the Lord but there are kings (like Ahaz) who from start to finish are steeped in idolatry and never got right with God at any time during their reign.

We are not told either way whether Joash (who died at the hands of his servants after being attacked by the Syrians) found peace with God in his final hours. It saddens me to think that all the good that he had previously accomplished in repairing the house of God would be vanquished by his later actions.

In Ezekiel 18v24 we read: “When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.”

By the same token… “if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” (Verse 21)

“Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? Are not your ways unequal?” (Verse 25)

Today there is a doctrine permeating many churches globally and the ways of this doctrine are not equal. It holds that an individual can commit his life to the Lord and then enjoy the position of unconditional eternal security, no matter what sin or degradation he descends to in the present or future – even if he never repents of it. While some preachers promise their congregation “liberty,” they simultaneously tell them that they “are slaves to sin.” Indeed I have heard these very words uttered from the pulpit. We have to ask ourselves, did the Lord suffer and die so that those who commit their lives to Him should be “slaves to sin?”

In 2Peter 2v19-22, we read… “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment, delivered unto them.”

But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Here we learn that it is indeed possible to fall way.

Like the kings of the Old Testament, some of whom walked with the Lord for a while and then fell away, Revelation 2 has a message for certain churches or categories of Christian…. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Verse 4&5)

Thousands of years ago in the Garden of Eden the devil uttered those words…”Yea, hath God said…?”(Genesis 3v1) He assures Eve… “Ye shall not surely die.” (Verse 4) And he still utters them today. But today, praise God, there is eternal security for the believer who rests in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. We are told “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.” (1John 2v1) Note, it is not when we sin.

Something else has never changed since the Garden of Eden… God never has taken away the free will of mankind. Unlike mindless robots, invented to perform certain duties, the Lord wants nothing but our wholehearted and sincere love for Him, His ways and His Word. He never forces His way into our lives and He never drives us on that narrow road. The Shepherd ever leads us. By faith we trust Him and we follow Him by faith all the way. Our security is sure in Him, as long as we desire His Presence in our lives, obey His Word and follow the Shepherd. We are exhorted to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12v14)

Yes, of course “backsliders” can be restored. The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of those who die spiritually (Ezekiel 18v32) and is long suffering to us-word, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Peter 3v9) But I believe that there is a point at which this may not be possible and certainly if someone remains in unrepentant sin, he will die in his sin.

There is a dangerous doctrine which states that “God doesn’t see my sin – He looks at Jesus and I am forgiven.” Where in scripture does it say this? Sadly, this idea may leave people with the notion that they have no need to repent of sin. Another well-known statement I have heard is that “when we trust the Lord to save us, all our sins are forgiven: past, present and future.” Again, there is no scripture to back the latter. Yes, past sins are forgiven when we repent of them. However, no sin is forgiven until it is repented of, whether the person concerned is a professing Christian or not – for God’s ways are equal.

The vast majority of evangelical Christian churches and fellowships in the Republic of Ireland adhere to the doctrine of unconditional eternal security and some would even go as far as to say that the Lord Jesus Christ only died for certain people.

His creation is precious in His sight. He died for them all – not just “the elect” (another subject which I have touched on briefly and will do so again) “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2v2)

Praise God His atonement is not limited – and neither is His mercy. It is His will that souls are not led astray into a false sense of security, in which they think that they do not have to get right with Him, concerning many serious issues and even deep sin in their lives. There is a reckoning day coming and His message to all is… “Cast away from you all your transgressions; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” (Ezekiel 18v31&32)