Archive for the ‘Denominations, cults and systems of belief’ Category

Five Hundred Years Later… “Evangelicals” are Apologising for the Reformation!

December 12, 2017

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Here in Ireland, while there have been a few events to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and some encouraging articles written about it, other attitudes to this notable anniversary are just unbelievable. It is understandable when the Reformation is maligned by Roman Catholic hierarchy, of course, but when I hear an “Evangelical” refer to it as “the mother of all church splits;” and another saying that “fractures caused by the Reformation must be healed,” I am shocked – but somehow not surprised. We are living in days when many are embarrassed by the Reformation – even those who profess to be Christians.

I believe it is true to say that Roman Catholicism assimilates itself into the original (often Pagan) religions and cultures of many countries… but while it takes on many faces, Roman Catholicism never changes. Some “Evangelicals” are now moving in the direction of ecumenism and many are falling away as they start to see the Roman Catholic Church as “another Christian denomination.”

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition: Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2Thessalonians 2v3&4)

Jesus said: “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23v9) Who else but the pope on this earth, is referred to as “Holy Father?”

Pope Innocent III said: “The pope holdeth place on earth, not simply of a man but of the true God.”

Pope Nicholas 1 said: “I am in all and above all, so that God himself and I, the vicar of God, hath both one consistory… and I am able to do almost all that God can do. I then, being above all… seem by this reason to be above all gods.”

Pope Julius II was addressed by a papal council: “Take care that we lose not that salvation, that life and breath which thou hast given us… for thou art shepherd, thou art physician, thou art governor, thou art husbandman…” Thou, finally, art another god on earth.”

When he was a cardinal Pope Pius X declared: “The pope is not simply the representative of Jesus Christ. On the contrary he IS Jesus Christ Himself, under the veil of the flesh. Does the pope speak? It is Jesus Christ who is speaking. Hence when anyone speaks of the pope, it is not necessary to examine – but to obey.”

Pope Boniface VIII said: “We declare, say, define and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

As recently as 1984 Pope John Paul 11 was quoted as saying: “Don’t go to God for forgiveness of sins… come to me.”

Even more recently the portrait of Pope Benedict XV1 was named: “The Truth, the Way, and the Life,” a portrait of His Holiness Pope Benedict XV1. But Jesus said of Himself: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14v6)

There are many other reformers that I could quote on this issue, including John Wesley who said: “The pope is that antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition that exalteth himself in the church…”

Coincidentally, just this week I finished my reading and study to the end of the New Testament again and have commenced once more in Genesis. I was, as always struck by those verses in Revelation 18v4&5… “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.”

I believe that we are living in days when ecumenism could pave the way for a “one world system of belief;” there has even been a “common-ground-with-Islam-policy” which has been in place since Vatican II. It is interesting to watch as events unfold in our swiftly changing world but more crucial than ever for those who profess Christ to walk closely with their Saviour. We hear words and phrases like “interfaith dialogue, common belief system, living our faith together, shared values/heritage, ecumenical dialogue, theological common ground…” The list goes on and certainly I can think of a few things that systems of belief like Roman Catholicism and Islam have in common but there is one certain truth… Light cannot have fellowship with darkness! The Lord’s people should not give credence to (or try to find common ground with) belief systems which are not based on God’s Word, the Bible.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of god with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2Corinthians 6v14-16)

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2Corinthians 6v17&18)

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An Overview of Denominations and Heresies in Ireland

November 30, 2017

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I recently counted the number of different churches in a small village I know well in Northern Ireland. (By the way, this is a predominantly Protestant village and while a few Roman Catholic people might live here, there is no Roman Catholic Church in the village itself.) There are the usual mainline denominations: Church of Ireland, Methodist and quite a large Presbyterian Church. Then there is a small Evangelical Presbyterian Church, an Elim Pentecostal Church and a Quaker Meeting House. Now, these are the six churches I know of; there could well be other groups who meet in private homes and other locations… and I believe there is also a Brethren Gospel Hall situated in the outlying countryside.

Compare this with a village that I also know very well in the Republic of Ireland. This village, although with a population around the same size as its Northern counterpart, contains one church… the Roman Catholic Church. Again, there may be small house groups that I am unaware of, although if there are – they don’t publicize their existence. Of the population in this village in the Irish Republic, I would say that many people would be nominal Roman Catholics. By “nominal” I mean that they would have been baptised in the R.C. church as babies, had their “first communions and confirmations,” and perhaps got married in the church. (However, a sizeable proportion of the population don’t get married at all these days, preferring to cohabit, while a few may opt for civil ceremonies). These “nominal” Catholics (and I believe that a huge chunk of the population in the Republic of Ireland as a whole are nominal Catholics) adhere to all the church’s traditional ceremonies but they rarely, if ever, attend mass, unless on special occasions and funerals. They are referred to by some as “`A La cart Catholics,” choosing to stick with ceremonial traditions and rites but ignoring the beliefs which would interfere with their lifestyle. Very often because of underlying fear and superstition, they will ensure that their children are baptised and have had their first communions and confirmations but really, if they were honest, many have absolutely no interest in spiritual matters.

As I look at these two villages (let us call them “A,” the Protestant village and “B,” the Roman Catholic village) I see in both of them much of this “a la carte” or “pick and choose” mentality. Having said that, I am aware that there are many genuine Christians (those who have been born again of the Spirit of God) residing in “A” and although these individuals may attend a variety of denominations on a Sunday morning, theirs is a daily walk of faith with the Lord and the denomination itself means very little to them. Others in “A” are church going people and they may even be friendly, pleasant and honest people but they have never been truly born again and are relying on their good works to take them to heaven.

However, I know “B” very well; the population has been growing there over the past few years, as more and more people travel out of Dublin city for affordable housing. I see “B” as a challenge but I know that “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19v26) It is true that there are the unsaved in “A” who are every bit as needy as those in “B” but somehow the presence of even a few Christians in a village gives it an entirely different atmosphere….

I feel a terrible darkness in “B” – a spiritually heavy darkness which is almost overwhelming and depressing but again… “with God all things are possible.”

While just a few genuine Christians plan to reach the lost in such villages, the devil, of course, is always waiting in the wings with other false systems of belief. The usual Jehovah’s Witnesses make their way around the houses periodically, taking advantage of most people’s lack of knowledge of scripture. But the spiritually parched ground here is also a breeding ground for other lesser-known falsehoods…

False prophets are making their rounds throughout the world and even small localities may be no exception. People are often mesmerised by the sensational and supernatural; these “prophets” claim to possess healing gifts and the answers to a multitude of problems.

In a world of ill health, depression, stress and physical and spiritual poverty, people will flock to them for hope and a warm “feeling” from someone they think cares about them personally, without realising that repentance and trust in Jesus is simply the answer to our every need.

The island of Ireland is currently full of denominations of one sort or another – but the number of people who truly know Him and who daily walk the narrow way with the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour are, I believe, dwindling. Yes, people love the sensational – and the modern. Worshipping “in spirit and in truth” has somehow become rare in this age, with the discarding of traditional hymns and the confusion of an assortment of modern versions of the Bible. Yet, in the midst of all this confusion, this spiritual darkness, these heresies and this craving for sensationalism, the Lord still speaks to those who will hear His “still small voice.” And, in this the Day of Grace, He can still use those who truly know Him as Saviour. Spiritually speaking, these days would appear to be discouraging days to live in but we must remember His words: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor. 12v9)

The battle is the Lord’s – not ours! (1Samuel 17v47) But the Lord also instructs His people that “Light cannot have fellowship with darkness.” (2Cor. 6v14) “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2Cor. 6v17) I feel that the bottom line for the Christian is that he cannot worship properly in a church where he has not the full assurance that the Pastor, minister or person in charge is, at the very least, a Christian!

The Lord gives us discernment when we lean on Him and He can use just one or two people in the midst of all this darkness if these, His people, are obedient to His will and pliable in His hands.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places…” (Ephesians 6v12)

Thank you William Tyndale!

October 31, 2017

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Recently, as I took another of my reflective walks in the fields behind our home, I viewed in the distance a beautiful scene. Against the blue horizon of the sea two tractors were ploughing a field, while behind them was a great company of seagulls following them like a white cloud. My thoughts wondered back to a time when tractors didn’t exist and that ploughed field reminded me of the words of Tyndale… “I defy the pope and all his laws; if God spare my life, I shall cause the boy that driveth the plough to know more of the scripture than thou dost.” These justifiably angry words were spoken to a priest of the Roman Catholic Church – an institution which desired that the “common people” should be kept in darkness. I say “justifiably” because the priest in question had made a statement tantamount to the opinion that we are “better to go without God’s laws than the pope’s!”

Of course, when people are kept in darkness and ignorance, evil men retain their power – and ultimately their riches and standing in society. Today, as then, it is still the desire of the hierarchy in Roman Catholic circles to keep people from studying the scriptures and thereby coming to a realisation of the truth that this system of belief is contradicted by the Word of God.

In those volatile days it was illegal in England to translate any part of the Bible into English. In Norwich a young man, having been found with a mere piece of paper with the Lord’s Prayer in his native language, was burned alive. In this dangerous climate and having faced fierce opposition to his proposed translation of the New Testament into English, William Tyndale fled to Germany where it was possible to print his translation.

William Tyndale (1494-1536) was a learned Oxford scholar who had mastered eight languages – but more than this he had clearly found the Lord as Saviour and had a passion for the scriptures. I can only imagine how it must have felt for him, after the terrible opposition, to hold that first bound edition of the New Testament in his hand. Printing was a laborious task in those days and previously he was only nearing the end of St. Matthew’s gospel when the print shop was raided by those in opposition to Martin Luther at the time. However, he and a colleague escaped with their precious manuscripts up the Rhine to Worms where he lived life as a fugitive. Copies of his New Testament were eventually smuggled down the Rhine to the English and Scottish seaports where they were hungrily received by Christians. A great number of his New Testaments, however, were apprehended at one point and destroyed in a bonfire outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It was in Worms (a centre of rabbinic learning) that Tyndale learned Hebrew and started his translation of the Old Testament into English. King Henry VIII at one point decided that Tyndale, it appeared, was a man of influence, who would be better to live under his jurisdiction… and therefore his control. He sent someone to look for Tyndale but he was angered by Tyndale’s response to him on personal matters and this never transpired. Eventually, having been betrayed by a “friend,” William ended up in a cold dark dungeon, in an old castle in Leuven where he suffered much persecution from Roman Catholic priests who tried to get him to confess to his “heresy.”

However, the jailer and his daughter in this place respected William Tyndale and were impressed by this scholar who could converse with them in their native Flemish language. They grew fond of him, listened to his witness and were wonderfully converted as a result, a story which is recounted in the Foxes Book of Martyrs.

In October 1536 William Tyndale was taken from the dungeon, strangled first and then set alight in a public burning. With his last breath he offered up a prayer – not for himself, but for that of his own country and that the “King’s eyes would be opened.” That prayer (unknown to William) had already been answered, for King Henry VIII had approved of a new English Bible by Miles Coverdale, Tyndale’s friend. Little did the king realise that Coverdale’s Bible was nearly 70% of Tyndale’s work. Later, in 1604 James 1 approved a new translation of the Bible into English. What a wonderful answer to Tyndale’s prayer before his martyrdom… for his work became the basis of 90% of our beloved King James Version!

By his courage and obedience to the last, William Tyndale had started a fire which would flame and spread in his native England and further afield. I thank William Tyndale for his legacy to us all: the scripture in English, written with a clarity which even common people like me (and the men who plough the fields!) can readily understand. And we can understand it with a depth (which has nothing to do with education) when we have made the Master of William Tyndale – our Master.

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119v105) “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119v11)

I am beyond grateful for this great volume that I hold in my hands – I have grown to love it more and more through the ups and downs of life, as I walk by faith each step of the way.

How marvellous, having first met our Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, when we get to heaven, to meet loved ones and then souls like William Tyndale and others who forged the way, in His strength, to put the Bible into our hands. Let us never forget that the English Bible was made with blood!

Signs and Wonders: “False Christs and False Prophets”

October 2, 2017

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“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not…” (Matthew 24v23)

Amazingly it is recorded that there have been individuals claiming to be “Christ” since as early as the first century. Throughout the centuries there have been those who either made this claim for themselves, or their followers were convinced of it. Today, however, the world is full of “false Christs” and perhaps an even greater number of “false prophets.”

At least one “false Christ” has emerged from the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) cult, while Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012) who was the founder and leader of the Unification Church or “Moonies” also considered that he was “the Second Coming.” Nevertheless, like all mortal men he is gone from this scene of time now. His false system of belief unfortunately lives on, under the leadership of his second wife, Hak Ja Han. There are numerous current-day claimants, including Australian Alan J. Miller, who also claims to have met Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Mahatma Ghandi, Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… In the summer of 2007 David Shayler, born as recently as 1965 and a former MI5 agent, also proclaimed himself to be the Messiah. These are just of a few of the well-known claimants of false “Christs,” of whom there are an increasing number throughout the world.

In Matthew Chapter 24 we learn of many of the signs of the Lord Jesus Christ’s coming, in His reply to the question that was asked of Him by His disciples in the Mount of Olives: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24v3)

Jesus told them of “wars and rumours of wars,” “nations rising against nations,” as well as famines, pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places – which are the “beginning of sorrows.” Also, that “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Verse 11) and in that well-known Verse 24 Jesus tells us: “there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

“If it were possible…” Some deceivers are perhaps more convincing than others, while the claims of others are so outrageous that even non-Christians don’t find them believable. However, those who walk closest with the Lord amongst His people are most discerning in these matters and will not be deceived by even the most convincing false prophet, particularly when they look at the fruits of that person.

I think it is true to say that there are more “false prophets” than “false Christs” – and many throughout the world are indeed deceived by them.

We all know of certain famous evangelists of our times – some are very clearly deceivers; others perhaps are more convincing, as has already been discussed. But look, for example, at who a famous evangelical will meet in his life. If he meets with someone in order to be a witness to that person and to show them their need of salvation, that is a different matter – but if he looks, for example, on the pope of Rome as a “fellow Christian,” then there is very clearly something wrong with this “evangelical’s” relationship with the Lord. He may seem to preach the gospel in its entirety but when we see him giving credence to other erroneous belief systems which have departed from God’s Word, we know that he is a deceiver.

As Christians we must be discerning in our walk with the Lord. Ultimately He is the Judge and “the Lord knoweth them that are His” but we must make decisions in our own minds about the standing of those in positions of spiritual authority, so that we can pray intelligently for them and for situations where we are concerned that others believe in them.

I knew of a man, once, who had a dream that the devil was there in a Christian pulpit… preaching the gospel, but he was preaching it in a way that “hardened hearts.” The preacher in the dream did not have the Spirit of the Lord. I believe that we are living in incredible days when pulpits are indeed full of deceivers and we are also living in those days of which Jesus said “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24v12&13)

We learn that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2Timothy 3v12&13) In these evil days those who profess to know Him must not sleep, in the spiritual sense, but be awake, alert and aware that the devil comes in many guises. In order to deceive people… does it not make sense to come in the guise of even the Pastor of a supposedly “Christian” fellowship?

If we love the Lord Jesus Christ and desire to follow Him, He has promised that He will lead us into all truth. False Christs and false prophets are surely a sign of the times we are living in. God forbid that those who profess to know Him… would not “love His appearing.”

Paul’s advice to the young Timothy in 2Timothy Chapter 3, still applies to Christians today… “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” (Verse 14) Praise God for His precious Word and for His Son Jesus Christ – a sure anchor in the storms of life, when we are buffeted on all sides by deceivers and false doctrines.

May Paul’s words be ours, as we face our final battles: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2Timothy 4v7&8)

“Signs and Wonders:” “Miracles” of Healing

September 23, 2017

We are living in an era of the “supernatural;” scenes in “mega churches” (and sometimes not-so-mega churches) where people are violently “slain in the spirit” and seemingly amazing miracles take place. (The former is another discussion for another time.) I am certain that miracles can and do take place in the lives of those who trust the Lord, having experienced answer to prayer in my own life and in the lives of loved ones. “the prayer of faith shall save the sick…” (James 5v15). But surely the sincere prayers of a couple of souls who are close to the Lord in a quiet place are worth a million hysterical voices who clamour for great “signs and wonders?”

Often when someone is not healed instantly, leaders in these churches will put it down to the person’s “lack of faith” and that person can feel ostracised, vulnerable and now in a worse situation than if he or she had never disclosed their health problem in the first place.

I remember someone telling me once that we should not wear corrective lens – whether it is for the myopia of youth or the long-sightedness of later years. “You should,” this person lectured me, “have the faith to believe that you don’t need them.”

My views on this are…. Whatever the Lord’s will is. I don’t live in a perfect world and I don’t have a perfect physique; yet He has promised me… “as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33v25)

What is most important is that I am walking closely with the Lord and always within His will for me. To me, spiritual health takes precedence over physical health; for someday I will be out of this body anyway, praise God. After all, did not Paul have “a thorn in the flesh?” (2Corinthians 12v7) And did not Timothy have “stomach problems…” (1Timothy 5v23) and Frances Crosby lived a very productive life, despite being completely blind in the physical sense. The Lord could have healed her in an instant… but would her prolific hymn writing still be touching lives today? When I close my eyes there are no distractions…

However, if a chronic disease or pain gets in the way of us being able to physically accomplish what the Lord wants of us, then I believe that He very often does remove that “thorn in the flesh.” Still, sometimes the experience can help us to understand the sufferings of others, so that we can comfort (and have a greater empathy for) those who are going through similar problems in their lives.  Sometimes the Lord can allow (even temporarily) illness to overtake us so that His will is accomplished in our own lives and ultimately in the lives of others that we come into contact with. (Job is one example of this.) “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.” (2Cor. 1v2&3)

Yes, and He does comfort us for He has walked this road before us and understands exactly what we are going through, more than anyone else – even loved ones. And yes, I believe that very often He does want to stretch out His hand and heal us in His time and in accordance with His will. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4v15)

However, the notion that we must always be in perfect health (and that this is somehow equated with our spiritual standing) which is put about in some circles is just one malaise in a world which is deteriorating rapidly in the spiritual sense. There are many other aspects of “signs and wonders” which I would like to touch on, for surely we are living in that era of “false Christs” and “false prophets” which Jesus speaks of in Matthew 24v24? “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

“The Love of Money is the Root of all Evil”

June 26, 2017

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“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Timothy 6v10)

Other versions such as the NIV translate this as: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” or “the root of all kinds of evil.” However, I stand by the King James Version and its translation. Ultimately, this verse makes it clear that all evil, although it may not be immediately apparent, can be traced back to this evil root: mankind’s love of money. Today my Bible study brought to mind the specific evil of idolatry…

I have been reading of Paul’s fascinating journeys in territory which would be highly dangerous to travel through in today’s world. Nevertheless, in those days before the advent of Islam, there was the “great goddess Diana whom all the world worshipped” (Acts 19) and who “brought no small gain unto the craftsmen,” (V24). Back then anyone who preached the gospel would have been in danger, just as Paul was. The reason for this was obvious: great profits were to be made from the sale of silver shrines of “Diana” and no craftsman likes to see his livelihood in peril! In fact today, as then, the love of money in itself can be a source of idolatry.

“Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone in Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.” (Acts 19v26&27)

It is interesting to make the comparison with idolatry then and Roman Catholicism today. I see that the Pope wishes to visit Ireland next year (2018) and I believe that there are many reasons for this, not least a report that there is great disillusionment here with the Roman Catholic Church, with numbers of people leaving it faster than ever before. But superstition still abounds. Take for example the village of Ballinspittle in Cork where “the moving statues” phenomenon has brought in tourism and prospered small businesses since 1985 when so called “moving statues of the Virgin Mary” were first observed. Imagine what the “fall of Roman Catholicism” would mean for just one small village – and if it happened all across the world what it would mean for the Vatican in financial terms!

Silversmiths like Demetrius in Acts 19v24, statue- makers and those travelling with “relics” of saints would be at a financial loss, while locations all over the world from Medjugorje in Bosnia to Tapao in Vietnam would lose out on tourism, if crowds no longer travelled to see places where there was supposed to be “apparitions” of the Virgin Mary etc. Shrines and statues as objects of worship would be no more, if many turned to the living God as in Paul’s day, when “mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19v20)

“Sirs,” said Demetrius the silversmith to his colleagues in business, “ye know that by this craft we have made our wealth.” Demetrius, as with all who think only on the affairs of this world, clearly had no concept of this truth: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8v36&37)

Later we read of another “Demetrius” in 3John 1v12 and this Demetrius was a disciple. I would like to think that this Demetrius was the same one, this time, converted – but unfortunately there is no evidence for this either way. Eternity will reveal many things and perhaps, too, many pleasant surprises…

There is nothing more precious in this world than the value of your soul; perhaps it needs attention today, whatever your standing in society, or your church or denomination. It may not be well with your wealth or even, worryingly, with your health – but is it “well with your soul?”

As Paul travelled, contending with dangerous “crowd mentality,” vicious opposition, beatings, persecution, imprisonment – and eventually death (although we are not told the manner of his death), he said: “neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy…” Acts 20v24. When his fellow believers feared for his safety, they “besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.” (Acts 21v12) But Paul answered: “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (V.13)

The proposed visit of the Pope next year should be viewed by those who have been born again as an opportunity. There may be many protests from ex-Catholics who are angry about child abuse and other issues, while pious clergy, church dignitaries and ordinary people will line the streets but this is an opportunity for tract distribution and outreach as the Lord leads, so that eyes would be opened, just as Paul’s were, after acknowledging blindness on the Damascus Road. If the Lord can work in the life of Paul, transforming him from being a persecutor of the church – to someone who was an outstanding apostle, He can perform this same miracle in many lives.

Oh that the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ Saviour today would be able to say with the apostle Paul: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20v26)

The believer must aspire to nothing less than these words of Paul (for whom material possessions and riches meant nothing)…. “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3v8)

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

 

 

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

Let a Man Examine Himself – on “Letters of Commendation”

March 6, 2017

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Just recently I happened to be researching places of worship in an area which I may visit in the near future. One particular place of worship had an online statement: “letters of commendation required for visitors wishing to remember the Lord.”

My understanding of this is that if you are a stranger in a certain place of worship and you want to have communion with the other Christians there, then you must carry a letter “of commendation” from your normal place of worship. As to whether your “normal place of worship” must be of the same denomination as the one you are visiting was not made clear. As it happens no such denomination exists in our area – and in fact we would have to drive for a very long time before finding one!

That Paul wrote letters to churches, commending brothers and sisters who would be visiting there, is an entirely different matter, as he was introducing these people as fellow workers in the gospel. He was not passing judgement or comment on whether these individuals were eligible to participate or receive communion in the church they were proposing to visit.

In the world in which we live, any person could find himself in any area at any particular time – and if that soul is truly a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and wants to have fellowship with local believers in a place where he or she is a total stranger – should they not be given a warm welcome?

Years ago my husband and I were visiting a certain church in a certain city and (although I don’t remember much about it) it must have been decided that we shouldn’t have communion with the rest of the congregation as ‘they didn’t know us’ and so we were amused to find ourselves ‘put behind a curtain.’

I refer to the words of Paul in 1Corinthians 11v26-31: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

Here we see that we should judge ourselves, otherwise we will be judged by the Lord. The Lord “looks on the heart” of men and women and only He knows whether that person eats or drinks unworthily and only He can judge. Obviously, if some stranger came in, acting in an unruly manner, then clearly someone should have a quiet word with this person so that the service is not interrupted. However, this passage talks about “judging ourselves” and the “Lord judging us.” No one else should be able to decide whether we are worthy or unworthy, unless there is some very obvious reason for doing so, like the one previously mentioned.

Legalism and the letter of the law are so at odds with the spirit of the law. Ironically, at the end of the day, the stranger who enters one of these churches might be in a better standing with the Lord than someone who is known to the elders, because… who can know the heart of man? “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17v10)

Praise the Lord, we can have fellowship with (and love for) others without denominationalism being an issue when we pray sincerely about these matters, leaving them at the feet of the “Judge of judges. “For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1Samuel 1v7)

What is “The Church?”

January 16, 2017

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I was at a funeral a few days ago, in a small church which was absolutely packed to capacity, given that the deceased was very well known in this rural community. Later after standing in the bitterly cold wind in the country churchyard, I decided to make my way into the warm church hall for a welcome cup of hot tea and the customary sandwiches and “tray bakes.” Some people that I talked with referred in vague terms to “the church” in conversation, something which led me to my present train of thought…

So what exactly is “the Church?” Many would say that it is an organisation or denomination… their denomination; others would say that it is a building; still others would use the term generally, in the ecumenical sense for members of many (usually mainstream) denominations, while there are those who would say that “the Church” consists of those who “attend church services.”

Well, the truth is that “The Church” as portrayed in scripture is not a building, nor an organisation of religious people, nor a denomination or denominations, nor even the “people who attend church services.” “The Church” is that body of believers throughout this entire world who have been truly born again of the Spirit of God – those who have trusted, by faith, in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and who “walk in the light as He is in the light…” (1John 1v7) These individuals may attend a variety of different churches or denominations but they are marked by one common trait – the love in their hearts for both their Saviour and each other. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13v35)

The warmth and love that is felt when having fellowship with other believers is second to none… and this love is also extended to my fellow travellers in life, whatever their faith or indeed lack of. The believer, the member of that body of Christ has a love for souls and a desire to see them saved and while they may not always see “eye to eye” with fellow Christians of other denominations, they have a love in their hearts for those individuals; love which transcends their differences.

We are not to be surprised if “the world hates us.” (1John 3v13) But understandably it would be surprising to feel the coldness and animosity of those who claim to be our brothers and sisters in the Lord – and yet this must not affect our attitude to them.

In Matthew 24 we are told of many of the signs of Christ’s coming again. In Verse 10-13 we read: “And then many shall be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Coldness and lack of love are surely traits of these last days. Places of worship are full of many nominal Christians but “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1John 3v13)

To love the Lord our God and one another is the greatest commandment upon which all others are based. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1John 4v18)

“And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” (1John 3v23)

And so, “the Church” know the Lord and the Lord knows those that are His. I love the old hymn by Samuel J. Stone: “The Church’s One Foundation” which embraces this truth… “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2Timothy 2v19)

Many denominations were represented at that funeral, but there is only one Church – the Church which is made up of those individuals who have availed of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation; those who love Him and walk with Him until He comes or calls them Home…

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord:

She is His new creation by water and the Word;

From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride;

With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died.”

Link to this hymn, which in its original form has seven verses: https://youtu.be/iOGF93cDYNs