Archive for May, 2020

People the World Over Are Hearing the Gospel Message

May 29, 2020

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At this time of lockdown I have noted with interest the numerous services which are broadcast online. Of course all sorts of denominations and even cults “have come out of the woodwork” and we are seeing very strange sights these days. A Roman Catholic priest loads his water pistol and squirts “holy” water from afar, by way of social distancing, while another priest sets up his home-made confessional in a Dublin car park, despite the previous statement by their leader that people should confess their sins directly to God. Indeed the Bible says that it should never be otherwise! (“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” 1Timothy 2v5)
Some of the hierarchy in churches here in Ireland claim that “open churches are an essential service.” While it is good to have fellowship with those who worship “in spirit and in truth,” the fact is that the churches that clamour for re-opening are very often not an essential service. Buildings may be closed, organisations may be disrupted but the Church (the real Church) lives on because the real Church is that body of believers throughout this world, whose Head and One Foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ. Buildings may even be destroyed and organisations and denominations come to nothing but the real Church stands resolute until the end.
Sometimes I wonder whether what people are really missing is their round of social activities connected with their “church” or organisation; perhaps it is not the genuine fellowship that exists between believers that they are missing at all, because their church is a nominal Christian one and they, too, are nominal Christians.
While it is true that we have access to all sorts of dubious teaching and preaching these days, it is encouraging to know that there are now more genuine gospel messages going out around the world than ever before. It is good to hear encouraging, convicting and challenging sermons being preached during this period. People are hearing now and although the cults have gone online too, the truth speaks volumes and those who preach it should be encouraged to know that the little congregation they normally reach on a Sunday morning has increased to include souls the world over.
This has (and continues to be) a horribly tragic time for many because it is not all about Coronavirus; I have an elderly aunt (90) in hospital with another issue and no one can visit her which is terrible for everyone concerned. Mankind is collectively responsible for the situation we find ourselves in but still the Lord is using circumstances for the extension of His Kingdom this old world over. May He be glorified and souls come to know Him through it all. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24v14)

Thank You Lord

May 25, 2020

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This evening, for the first time since 11th March, no new deaths from Coronavirus have been recorded in Ireland. Now, I am aware that things could change with tomorrow’s statistics but this evening I felt emotional on reading this news, despite the fact that 59 more people have been diagnosed. You see, people are more than statistics; they possess immortal souls and each soul has an eternal destiny waiting for them beyond this scene of time. I continue to write on the theme of current events because we are presently living through very significant world history and I wish to record attitudes that I have discovered, which can perhaps be of interest in the future. “What future?” you might ask and you may have a point but the reality is that none of us know how long this old world will continue to exist.
Meanwhile, the Lord wants His people to serve Him and to be loving witnesses to those who are lost. I have found it heart-breaking to hear of so many deaths per head of the population in a small country such as Ireland (both north and south). Even more heart-breaking is the lack of knowledge of the simple gospel; that souls have gone out into eternity without knowing the Lord who loved them, died for them and rose again that they might live forever in His Presence. Generations of their ancestors, too, have gone out into eternity, many believing that they can be prayed for after death. Salvation, they believe, can be purchased for them by giving money to the church. “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)” (Psalm 49v6-8)
Those who name the Name of Jesus have a fearful responsibility in these times to reach out to neighbours, loved ones, friends and acquaintances in these days in which we live, but unfortunately we encounter instead much unhelpful preoccupation with conspiracy theories and debates on political issues, while revering certain political leaders. These things ought not to be in the lives of Christians. The Lord’s Kingdom was not of this world – and neither should ours be.
Encouraging letters with enclosed tracts and gifts, caring text messages, emails and phone calls can all be used positively to reach out in these times to those who need the Lord – and fellow Christians who are finding life difficult. Jesus said: “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9v4)
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5v15&16)
It is distressing to hear of how many deaths have occurred throughout the world at this awful time. When I heard that a Christian I knew had died of Coronavirus I felt sad for his loved ones, that they could not be with their father at this time but I rejoice in the knowledge that he has gone to be with Jesus “which is far better.” But it is truly horrifying to know that many souls have died without an assurance of salvation. I have been reading recently some stories of the amazing 1859 Revival on this island. Surely prayer was never more needed in these days – and sincere prayer for a worldwide revival when souls would cry out upon the Name of the Lord for salvation, as they did during that great spiritual movement of over 160 years ago.

Thoughts on “Lockdown on the Ark”

May 22, 2020

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We have made quite a few animal friends in recent times, particularly “Jeffrey” the pheasant who now eats out of my daughter’s hand. Although confined to a 5km limit for exercise, at least we are able to take a walk outside our own back door and around the countryside that lies behind us, without meeting a soul. I really do appreciate this liberty when I think of others who live in cities; in high rise flats and confined living spaces, with perhaps not even a tiny balcony.
My thoughts recently turned to Noah and his family in the confined space of the ark. We are told that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6v8) As for the world in general… “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” (Genesis 6v11) We learn of Noah’s obedience in building the ark and how rain (something previously unheard of) flooded the earth. Noah, we are told, “was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.”
He entered the ark with his wife, his three sons and their wives – and an awful lot of animals! Compared with that great ship “the Titanic,” it is said that the ark was considerably smaller. Many Biblical scholars say that the length of time they spent on the ark was at least one year – but however long it was, the situation must have demanded much patience and faith for the couples to get along with each other. I recently heard of an individual, who on being stopped by the police, said that he had driven hundreds of miles “to clear his head.” The individuals on the ark could not just decide to slam the door and head out for a walk to “clear their heads.”
For many people, being in a confined space with in-laws would take a toll on their mental health and in fact perhaps they would feel that it would be easier to get along with the animals… However, this extended family patiently and faithfully looked out for various changes until eventually Noah sent out that dove for the final time. We learn that it “returned not again unto him any more.” (Genesis 8v12)
The amazing miracle of how God preserved life to emerge from the ark after the flood struck me yet again as I read it. And if He can work this miracle upon the earth, to replenish it once more, He can work miracles in our own personal lives too.
Noah was promised that “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8v22)
Yes, this will be the case “while the earth remaineth,” but He also later promised that: “as it was in the days of No-e, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that No-e entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26&27)
Historically, the flood was the greatest judgement ever upon this earth, with its entire population destroyed apart from eight people and an assortment of two or seven of every kind of animal. And there may be future pandemics – but nothing will compare with the Final Judgement when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
As we emerge from the different stages of exiting lockdown, and this time of testing and of learning lessons about the things that really matter, I pray that spiritually speaking the dove of peace would go forth on lives; that souls who know the Lord would have grown in grace and patience and that others would earnestly seek the Living God who sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Saviour of the world.
The “ark of salvation” is still ajar and the words of Jesus still resound to weary, sin-sick souls today… “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) Oh, that they would have the faith of Noah, who “being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11v7)

The Danger of Spreading Wildfire

May 18, 2020

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In the last few months here in Ireland the weather has been unusually dry. Certainly here on the east coast there has been relatively little rain, although thankfully our fields are as green as ever. I had the unfortunate opportunity to see how “wildfire” can spread so quickly under these conditions in recent times, from just one match applied to a tiny piece of paper. The whole experience was pretty nerve-wrecking to say the least, but thankfully the fire was extinguished… or so we thought. “There is no smoke without fire,” it is said and sure enough I could see wisps of smoke rising from the location again. We had to deal with that fire once and for all by extinguishing the last glowing ember and thankfully this time it was put out once and for all!
Strangely, later I was struck by the coincidence of hearing someone in government talking about coronavirus as being “a fire in retreat.” This person went on to say: “We must quench its every spark and stamp out its every ember.” I started to think about this in relation to gossip and “hearsay.” As lockdown continues, unlike previous generations in the middle of pandemics, today’s generation has access to many means of communication and social media. I began to think… what spreads like wildfire more than gossip? I remember at school (years ago and before the internet) the teacher placing us in a circle of chairs. The first person whispered a phrase to the next and so on until it reached the last person and that phrase was unrecognisable by the time it had been passed on to the last person. I think they called the game “Chinese Whispers.”
Well, gossip is like that in many ways. It has been said that “the devil finds work for idle hands to do.” Unfortunately we have seen the results here of “idle hands,” as certain young people not in school and out on the street have smashed windows and set fire to old cars in scrap yards – but there is also the other element: those who, confined to their homes (and these include some older people) take to social media to spread news, which may not always be the truth. Sometimes this can result in serious bullying which can cause young people to take their own lives.
I have heard, in years past, many eyebrow-raising things said about many people but whether we feel that they have an element of truth or not, this should never be passed on. Often, when discernment is used, we know in our hearts when something is true and the Lord guides those who know Him in their prayerful response to certain situations.
Gossip in itself can be malicious and “spread like wildfire,” leaving a trail of devastation in its wake, destroying often the very lives of its victims. I hear innumerable people complaining that they are “bored” during the present crises. But the Christian life is never a boring one; there is always so much good to do in every situation and the Lord can use every situation we find ourselves in to His glory. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…” (Ecclesiastes 9v10)
A good motto for the Christian in these days is “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12v21). Proverbs 16v28 tells us that “A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.” And “a talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” (Proverbs 11v13)
There are different ways to put out fires but certainly when starved of further fuel they will most certainly stop.
“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health. The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” (Proverbs 12v18&19)
These are days when we must “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Peter 5v8)
But above all these are days for those who know the Lord to shine as lights, “that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2v15)

“Sacrifice the Weak…”

May 8, 2020

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I recently noticed this shocking statement emblazoned on a placard carried by someone who appeared to be protesting against lockdown. It was shocking in that it proclaimed the view that the “weak” are dispensable. Whether the person carrying it really held this view or whether he was trying to be cynical, I don’t know but I do feel that this is a view is held by some.
Another aspect to all of this is that “the weak” are often not who we assume them to be. For example, I viewed the photograph of a smiling little old lady of 103 who was sitting up in a chair after recovery from coronavirus, while at the same time I read the shocking news that a fit muscular young soldier in his thirties (with no underlying health conditions) had died from the virus. “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9v11)
The Lord is Sovereign, there is no doubt and there are just some things we will never understand this side of eternity. I have been shocked during this time by the level of ignorance, impatience and selfishness – even from those who would profess to be Christians. I have heard it preached that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Timothy 1v7) How true! However, as a Christian this whole issue is not all about me and my personal fears; this is about obeying the law of the land I live in and about caring and consideration for others, in the knowledge that I could well be a carrier of the virus and pass it on to others who are not ready to meet the Lord. I have no wish to contribute to the spread of this disease. Surely this is a time for professing Christians to be an example to the world?
Yet another aspect is the financial one. Churches (including the Roman Catholic Church here in Ireland) feel that they are going to take a financial hit because no one will be putting money into the usual weekly church collection and fewer may bother with “online giving.” It has been suggested that they propose to approach the government to help them in this area – even though, in the case of the R.C. church they are already in debt to the victims of abuse over the years and the government is expected to take responsibility for this also. As for those who are true servants of the Lord, they should trust Him to provide under all circumstances.
There are others within the professing Christian community who crazily believe that coronavirus is “a hoax.” Well, at this point I have personally known people who have suffered from the virus and recovery took a long time for them. To declare something to be a “hoax “is also a grave insult to those who are feverishly working in frontline health services, for they see the suffering on a daily basis and many of them too have become seriously ill and even died of the virus.
There are still others who believe that the virus could never affect them. In the fallen world we live in, anyone can be afflicted with any disease at any time and indeed die of it. However, again the Lord is Sovereign and the lives of those who know Him are in His hands… “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5v45)
I doubt, somehow, that Job’s comforters would have had the same amount of patience that Job had, if they had been similarly afflicted. The Lord referred to righteous Job as “my servant Job.” It is a terrible thing in today’s society (even after the example of Job) that some professing Christians believe that fellow Christians who suffer affliction “must have done something to deserve” what has befallen them.
These days of “lockdown” have been eye-opening to say the least. I believe that there have been many revelations in the lives of many people, both about themselves and those they reside with.
On a personal note, because I have not been going anywhere, the Lord has shown me (as I take stock) the resources that I have been neglecting to share with others. When the time is right, He will open the way and direct my steps.
“Sacrifice the weak…” Well, the Lord has much to say about “the weak” – and oh how He needs them! We may feel physically weak because youth is a thing of the past, or because we have been unwell or weary, or because we feel ill-equipped as His servants, but the Lord needs “the weak” and the humble. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Corinthians 12v9&10)

Was it not two elderly ladies (84 & 82), one of them blind, who prayed together in a humble cottage and brought revival to the Hebrides?

Because the “battle is the Lord’s” in the lives of servants who feel weak, He inevitably gets the glory because “the weak” are totally leaning on Him, dwelling in the shadow of His glory. Oh how the Lord needs the weak and the humble who desire to do His will!

For He hath chosen the weak,
And that which men despise,
To bring to naught the mighty,
To confound the great and wise!
© E. Burke

(Exodus 14v14; 1Sam. 17v47; 2Kings 18v24; 2Chron. 20v15;
Psalm 20v7; Isaiah 54v17; 1Cor. 1v27-3)