Archive for September, 2019

“There is no Fool like an Old Fool”

September 28, 2019

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I have been aware for some time now that advanced years are not always synonymous with wisdom. When elderly people are arrested for serious drug smuggling (as has happened recently) it just seems so much worse than young people who have been caught up in the same scenario. Also, I was listening to an interview recently in which an ex-R.C. priest (nearly 90 years old) stated that he “had no regrets” with regard to the terrorism (including links with Libya) he had been involved in – and furthermore he wished that he had been more “effective.”
These older people did not appear to be repentant at all about the deep sins they had committed; how horrifying to go out into eternity with all this on one’s conscience. It is useless, too, to go to another sinful man to confess these sins, for only God can forgive and cleanse the sin-stained soul. (1Timothy 2v5)
In the story of Job we read of older men who, although probably not criminals as such, definitely lacked wisdom in their attitude to Job’s misfortune. The young man, Elihu, addresses them wisely… “I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you my opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgement.” (Job 32v6-9)
In 1Kings 4v29&30 we read that “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.”
However, a few chapters further on sadly an older Solomon “went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father.” (1Kings 11v5&6)
“Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.” (Ecclesiastes 4v13)
When Solomon asked for wisdom at the outset of his reign, he asked for something very wonderful indeed and something, I believe, which is totally within the Lord’s will for His people to have today. Indeed, those who have committed their lives to the Lord in any generation would do well to “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of thy mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.” (Proverbs 4v5&6)
When I look at events in our world today, sadly there are people (such as in the recent examples I have given) who have never had the wisdom to repent and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ in the first place. They walk in darkness – but I pray, even as they stand on the brink of eternity, that some light would penetrate into the dungeon of their souls and that they would see that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3v3)
As for the Christian, “the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11v30) In my own life, as the years roll by I would like to think that I would learn to covet this great and precious attribute for there are situations in life which call for great wisdom. “Wisdom is better than rubies; and all things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” (Proverbs 8v11)
On a recent birthday card to a person of a significant age, I wrote… “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90v12) I shudder to think that hours wasted foolishly can never be reclaimed and yet “his mercies endureth forever” (Psalm 136) and He is able to forgive and to “restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.” (Joel 2v25)
And so “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver thee.” (Proverbs 4v7-9)

Distributing Tracts at the “Empty Shoes Memorial”

September 21, 2019

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There is a worldwide phenomenon now concerning “empty shoes memorials.” Budapest, for example, has a very moving memorial of old pairs of shoes made out of cast iron, in memory of Jewish victims who had been shot into the River Danube in the years 1944-1945. Recently I witnessed another “empty shoe” memorial locally; this time with real shoes in my own locality to mark “World Suicide Prevention Day.”
I was wandering out of the car park with my own troubled thoughts, after dropping someone to the hospital, when I heard the singing and witnessed the shoes, which had been placed there for the event. Then I remembered the tracts in my possession and I felt the Lord urging me to give them out to those standing watching the event.
I had completely forgotten, but as it happened this day (September 10th 2019) also marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of hymn writer Joseph Scriven who wrote “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” When this thought dawned on me, I suddenly knew what I must do, because these leaflets were the ones I’d made out to commemorate the Scriven anniversary.

I felt fearful; the temptation was there to keep my leaflets to myself and walk on up the street about my business. After all, wasn’t I more a “one-to one” person and who would read them anyway and wasn’t this too sensitive an event for the distribution of Christian literature? Then I felt deeply convicted because I knew that the Lord wanted me to do this; although alone, I knew that He was with me and would give me the courage.
Taking the opportunity I approached the first lady with a smile and she accepted the leaflet gratefully and thanked me. Somehow, it has been my experience that the first one takes most courage – like plunging into cold sea up to your neck for the first time! Then another, and another – only one person refused for some reason and no one threw their leaflet down, as has happened before.

This was a solemn occasion and the people gathered looked sad – some were even noticeably distressed I thought; most likely they had known someone who had been in the situation which was being marked. How the Lord loved those gathered here and wanted to reach them with the knowledge of His salvation!
I couldn’t help but think of two lovely old hymns, when remembering this recent incident. The first verse of Isaac Watts well known hymn came to mind…

“I’m not ashamed to own my Lord,
Or to defend His cause;
Maintain the glory of His cross,
And honour all His laws.”

Flora Kirkland (a less well known hymn writer) wrote numerous hymns. I quote the first verse of the following hymn which also come to mind…

“Out in the darkness,
Shadow’d by sin
Souls are in bondage,
Souls we would win.
How can we win them?
How show the way?
Love never faileth,
Love is the way.”

The first hymn speaks of shame but the Lord’s people should never be ashamed for Jesus said: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9v26)
The second hymn speaks of love – and perfect love surely casts out fear. Praise God, we go in the strength of the Lord, for if we go in our own strength we are defeated before we even begin any outreach at all.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8v10) The chorus of Isaac Watt’s hymn expresses this joy beautifully…

“At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart roll’d away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day.”

If we know Him as Saviour we want above all to see sorrowful souls who are without hope and soon to face eternity, come to have the joy that we experience in the knowledge of sins forgiven and burdens “rolled away.” We want them too, to hear those words which are uttered to all the Lord’s faithful servants… “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25v21)

His will is for His people to seize opportunities as they arise – and there are so many opportunities in these days. May these words of the final verse of Isaac Watt’s hymn encourage those who name His Name and are faithful in this era of “a great falling away” to “weary not in well doing…”

“Then will He own His servant’s name,
Before His Father’s face;
And, in the new Jerusalem,
Appoint my soul a place.”

“Upon this Rock I will build my Church…”

September 7, 2019

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Ireland is full of famous “rocks,” like the Rock of Cashel in Co. Tipperary, the Rock of Dunamase in Co. Laois and the “Big Stone,” (“Cloughmore” pictured) in the Mourne Mountains, Co. Down. Standing stones are also a fascinating phenomenon in Ireland; many of these are associated with old legends about how they came to be there but I love to draw spiritual analogies from those rocks…
Rocks are sure foundations, rocks are reliable, unchanging, and unmoveable; rocks can be a refuge and a hiding place from the storm and Psalm 81v16 speaks of “honey in the rock.”
Unfortunately many people in Ireland believe that Peter was the “first pope,” of whom they say that Jesus said… “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
However, Jesus when He made this statement was speaking of Himself as the Rock and to get understanding of this we need to read the entire chapter of Matthew 16, especially from Verse 15… “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jo-na: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16v15-18)
When Jesus went on to say “Upon this rock I will build my church” He was clearly referring to Himself because of His words in the previous verses. Throughout the New Testament only Jesus is referred to as “the Rock.” In 1Corinthians 10 Paul is speaking of Moses and his ancestors… “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (Verse 4)
In 1Peter 2v8 Jesus is referred to as “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”
There is no doubt that Peter was a beloved disciple and later in the New Testament, a faithful and fearless servant of the gospel but he is not the “Rock of our salvation.” Read the words of Jesus to him in Matthew 16v23… “get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Peter, like many, may have meant well by his words (“Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” Verse 23) but these words were not pleasing to the Lord. Peter was a mortal man; the church was never built upon mortal man but upon the Lord Jesus Christ “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” (Colossians 1v14)
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1v18) Unfortunately mankind like to establish their own organisations, claiming that only their particular denomination is “the church.”
The church, as I have said previously, is not a building, or an organisation or a denomination – but that body of believers throughout this world who have given their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and are born again of the spirit of God. “Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.” (1Corinthians 12v27) This chapter continues to show how the “body,” of which the Lord Jesus Christ is Head, have differing gifts.
“Wherefore also it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believeth in him shall not be confounded.” (1Peter 2v6)
Praise God, these words are also prophesied of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament … “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isaiah 28v16)
In Psalm 62v2 the words… “He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved,” are repeated again in Verse 6, this time reinforced by omitting the word “greatly.”
Praise God if we build upon this Rock, like the wise man Jesus refers to in Matthew 7v24, spiritually speaking we are building on the Rock which cannot move.
… “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16v18)
We are living in days when the “gates of hell” are most certainly trying to prevail against the church. Black clouds are threatening those who have taken refuge in the Rock of Ages… that Rock which is so eloquently spoken about throughout the Psalms and many other books of the Bible. “The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.” (Psalm 18v46)
But when God promises that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” He will keep that promise. While the famous earthly rocks we are familiar with will some day pass away, the Rock of our salvation is eternal and unchanging and many times prophesied of in the Old Testament. Unto those who believe “he is precious” (1Peter 2v7) but a “rock of offence to them which stumble at the word.”
“And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.”(Isaiah 8v14&15)
“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21v44)
Manmade religion seeks to exalt man above God. How can a mortal man be the rock upon which God builds His church?
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” (1Corinthians 3v11)