Archive for the ‘Tracts’ Category

Calm Before Hurricane Ophelia: Remembering “Oídhche na Gaoithe Móire (1839)”

October 16, 2017

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Just yesterday I took an enjoyable stroll in the lane that lies behind our home. Autumn leaves gently falling in the mild breeze carpeted the scene before me, while in the distance a pleasant sunlight glinted on the calm waves of the sea. Who would have thought that today would have brought such countrywide devastation? Yet, unfortunately I have no idea at this point what the rest of the day will hold as Hurricane “Ophelia” sweeps across Ireland. With many thousands of homes without electricity, we are most fortunate at this point to still have a supply at all – never mind internet access!

Today I recall my blog written back on January 6th 2013 entitled “A True Fireside Tale – The Night of the Big Wind – Oídhche na Gaoithe Móire (1839).” It will soon be 180 years since this ferocious storm unleashed its fury, leaving widespread destruction and death throughout the entire island of Ireland. The full extent of this hurricane and some of the truly incredible things that happened are recounted in my previous blog at: https://readywriterpublications/thenightofthebigwind- Oídhche na Gaoithe Móire (1839)

This afternoon I felt a little frightened as the wind beat around our home. Like our two cats I have no desire to venture out into the wilds! Yet I trust the Lord on this unusual day, when schools, colleges, transport and businesses are closing or coming to a standstill. Who would have thought that yesterday’s calm and beautiful morning would result in the scene before us today – and sadly there were people who were alive yesterday but today have lost their lives as a direct result of this storm.

I hope to modify my original blog about “Oídhche na Gaoithe Móire (1839)” (which translated from the Irish means “The Night of the Big Wind”) and distribute it locally as a tract, in outreach. There is so much to say about storms in the spiritual realm and sometimes, even as Christians, we can find ourselves “in the eye of the storm” in another sense. Today, with more sophisticated forecasting equipment, we may have some warning of these hurricanes which are becoming so common in our times – but even then we often have no idea as to the extent of the destruction that will take place.

The one thing that struck me this afternoon is that I am totally helpless in the face of a storm. I can take precautions and secure my property as best I can and stay in as safe a place as possible – but at the end of the day I cannot control that storm. Property (and more importantly lives) may sadly be lost but the soul of mankind lives on… and there is only one sure refuge for the soul of mankind as the storms of life (whatever their nature) unleash their fury.

Yes, naturally I feel apprehensive as I look outside right now – or as I take a good hard look at certain circumstances in my own life. But how marvellous to know the only sure Refuge and Anchor to whom I can flee on the stormy sea of life! He is the Holy One of Israel: the Lord Jesus Christ who said to His disciples: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8v26&27)

The Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us is indeed our Hope, our only Hope in the eye of the storm, “which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews 6v19&20)

 

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My Recent Visits to Five Castles and Thoughts on a “Fortress for the Soul”

June 10, 2017

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In the last couple of months, I have had occasion to visit five old Irish castles, for one reason or another and it never ceases to fascinate me how these fortifications are still standing at all after hundreds of years! By the way, there is little difference between fortresses and castles, since both are “fortifications,” although castles may have been more comfortable to live in!

At the end of April we stayed close to Ballybunion Castle by the Atlantic Ocean in County Kerry when we visited that lovely lady, the ex-nun, Peggy O’Neill. Built around the dawn of the 1500’s, if Ballybunion Castle could talk it would tell us of ancient battles, sieges and power struggles over the centuries. On the way home we stopped to take a photograph of Desmond Castle by the pretty village of Adare with its thatched cottages in County Limerick. Beautifully reflected in the River Maigue, this castle (see the second one above) was built in the early part of the 1300’s and again was witness to turbulent struggles for hundreds of years.

A week later I had to travel over to Trim Castle with a delivery of my first book – “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year,” for Trim Visitor Centre. Trim Castle is impressively large and medieval (12th century), standing by the River Boyne in the historical town of Trim in County Meath. Some days later I had a call from my aunt who (although approaching 88!) loves to travel and takes a great interest in history. “I’ll meet you at Tullynally Castle in County Westmeath, as I hope to travel there with the Historical Society,” she said. Unlike the others this castle is not at all in ruins and is actually still lived in, being a home to the Pakenham family for over 350 years. I took a photograph of it (above) with gathering clouds in the evening.

Soon after this we had a family reunion and picnic in the grounds of the more recent lovely Ardgillan Castle (built in 1738) which overlooks the Irish Sea in north County Dublin. Like Tullynally Castle, this one is not in ruins and is currently used for events at all times of the year. Older castles were often built by rivers or the sea and always strategically so as to afford protection from the enemy. Moats and drawbridges were a common sight at medieval castles and when the enemy would come to invade; the drawbridge would be taken up to bar their entry.

Castles are mentioned throughout the Bible; we read in 2Chronicles 17v12 “And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles, and cities of store.” Castles were a sign of power and enormous wealth; to attack a castle one would have needed to be accompanied by a very great army indeed! In these dangerous days of random terrorist attacks I have been thinking of that verse in Isaiah 59vv19: “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.”

The only hope for safety in our times is in our Fortress, the Holy One of Israel… the One of whom David said: “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. We may not have the equivalent riches of the great lords and kings of old – but our riches are not of this world and while the fortresses of olden days will someday fall to ruins and eventually scattered ancient stones, our Fortress is an Everlasting One which cannot ever be moved. Our armour is a spiritual one and the Force that defends us has already won the battle. We already have the victory – if we have put our trust in His finished work at Calvary! Our riches in Him are beyond compare.

Who knows what future events will occur in our times, with regard to the current enemies of civilised society? Today the enemy is not as obvious as in days of old; he doesn’t wear the uniform of an invading army and he walks our streets with thoughts in his head that no one knows… When he attacks, it is without warning and sometimes there is no place to hide our physical bodies.

But there is a sure place to hide for the soul of mankind. There is a refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us and if we have repented and are trusting in Him with all our hearts, “walking in the light as he is in the light,” He is our sure refuge for time and eternity… a rich and Everlasting Fortress for the soul. His will is that all should put their trust in Him today, for He loves you and paid the ultimate price to make you His own.

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10v28)

LINK TO HYMN: “A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD” (BY MARTIN LUTHER: 1483 – 1546):

That Word above all earthly powers,

No thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Thru Him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also –

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still:

His Kingdom is forever!

 

Remembering Manchester Today – and Terrorism then

May 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Disclosure of Abuse in Ireland’s Roman Catholic Institutions – and Little Children

March 17, 2017

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Just recently it has emerged that the bodies of hundreds of babies and toddlers have been uncovered at the Bon Secours “Mother and Baby Home” which operated in Tuam, Co. Galway between 1925 and 1961. Many tears were shed as older folk, who had been victims of abuse (in many other areas of Ireland too) recounted their stories in radio phone-ins. Many of the victims of child abuse in orphanages, industrial schools and mother and baby homes are still psychologically affected by the unspeakable abuse perpetrated against them, every new disclosure opening the wounds of those old memories.

I have previously written of the evils of the “Magdalene Laundries;” institutions run by Roman Catholic nuns, where women of all ages were incarcerated and used as slaves to wash linen for hotels and other businesses. Amazingly the last “Magdalene Laundry” closed as recently as 1996!

It is ironic that the Roman Catholic Church had issued a recent directive with regard to the “scattering of cremated remains in public places.” They maintain that these must be kept or buried in “consecrated ground.” Of course the reason for this may well be that there would be a charge involved for putting the ashes in a graveyard. Personally I do not agree with cremation but the irony is in the fact that the bodies of these babies and young children were discovered in sewage chambers, clearly not in “consecrated ground.” From samples taken, the bodies of the children ranged in age between 35 foetal weeks to 2-3 years, many dating back to the 1950’s.

Yesterday and today (with all of this on my mind) I have coincidentally reached Mark 9&10 in my daily reading. How Jesus loved the little children – and how wonderful to have that assurance that these little ones are in His Presence at this moment!

“And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” (Mark 9v35-37)

“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9v42)

There is hope for both the victims of abuse – and yes, even the perpetrators of abuse, if they will only look to the Lord Jesus Christ in this scene of time. No man on this earth can heal the broken hearted or forgive the foulest deed… but the Lord Jesus Christ can!

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11v28-30)

He loves you and wants you to repent and trust Him today, whoever you are and whatever your life has consisted of. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23)

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4v14)

What a tiny vapour those little lives were, some hardly entering this world at all, yet they were living souls who now rejoice at Jesus’ feet – something that He desires for each one of us.

“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” (Mark 10v13-15)

What beautiful words Jesus uses to refer to little children… “for of such is the Kingdom of God….” The Kingdom of God is made up of those who have come in simple faith as a little child and humbled themselves at the feet of Him who loved them so much that He suffered, died and rose again… to redeem them to Himself. Praise His Name.

Of Trees: A Bible Wordsearch distributed to Coincide with “National Tree Week” in Ireland

March 10, 2017

I have distributed a little leaflet (adopted from something I had written previously) this past week, using the above occasion to somehow awaken interest in spiritual matters. I believe that very few people read the Bible at all in some areas and, sadly, children are not brought up to know the characters of the Bible who were so familiar to me as a child. May the Lord bless these seasonal leaflets to those who read them!

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ACACIA ALMOND  APPLE  ASH  ASHUR  BALM  BDELLIUM  BAY  BOX  BRANCH  LEAF  CEDAR  CHESTNUT  CINNAMON  CYPRESS  DATE  EBONY  ELM  FIG  FIR  FOREST  GRAFT HAZEL  JUNIPER  MULBERRY  NUTS  OAK  OLIVE  PALM  PINE  SYCAMORE.

One tree listed here is not in the grid. Which one is it? Who climbed into this tree and why did he do it?

There are numerous references to trees (and indeed different species of trees) mentioned in the Bible but perhaps some of the most spiritually significant are those trees which are mentioned in parables and in the first and last books of the Bible – Genesis and Revelation.

How sad that mankind ate of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” but how marvellous that God has sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to save ‘to the uttermost’ those who trust in His finished work upon the cross of Calvary.

Trees have existed since those early days of creation and if ancient trees could talk, what stories they would tell us! They have been used as weapons, turned into paper, regrettably carved into articles of worship; used to make an ark of ‘gopher wood’ and the ark of the covenant; in the day of the battle of David and Absalom “the wood devoured more people than the sword;” they are a source of paper for the printed word, and once so long ago a large piece of wood was carried to a place which is called in the Hebrew “Golgotha.”

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered, died and rose again that we might have right to the tree of life.

 

“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they might have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates of the city.” (Rev. 22v14)

Only in His strength can we “do His commandments,” so that we may be likened to the “man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. And he shall be like a tree planted by the river of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1 – 3)

Our leaves shall never wither while we are walking in the perfect light of the Son.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10v13)

 

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

Seasonal Tracts: Catholicism’s Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary… In Light of Scripture

December 8, 2016

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In recent times I have been distributing tracts locally to coincide with certain occasions and events. My last local distribution of tracts concerned a tract entitled: “The Bible is Still the World’s Best Seller! Thoughts on International Day of the Bible 14th November 2016.” I distributed this particular tract just prior to International Day of the Bible, resulting in a couple of interesting conversations – and ultimately contacts.

Today is a major celebration in the Roman Catholic calendar, celebrating as it does “the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.” The following tract (which can be printed on A4 paper and folded in book fold) concerns today’s event. It has been modified from a blog which I wrote previously. Tracts are free to download, copy and distribute, providing that no part of the publication is altered and the © (copyright) sign bearing the author’s name is retained. The following is the tract: “Catholicism’s Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary… In Light of Scripture…”

I remember one morning an early Christmas card arrive through our letterbox which quoted from that well known verse in Matthew 1v23… “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Here we can see clearly from this verse in God’s Word that Mary was most certainly a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus.

We also learn from the Bible that Jesus was born without sin… “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor. 5v21)

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1v14)

God’s Word also reassures us that Mary was indeed a blessed person. In Luke 1v28 we read the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary… “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” Without a doubt Mary would have to have been a virtuous woman to have been chosen by God for such a wonderful calling. In Proverbs 31v10 we read… “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Mary was surely such a woman, and yet she too, like every other human being born into this world needed a Saviour.

On first hearing of the “Immaculate Conception” when I was very young, I immediately thought that these words referred to Jesus, because of what the Bible told me about Him. I was therefore amazed to discover that Roman Catholicism applies them to Mary.

In 1854 Rome declared the doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception,” which is celebrated on December 8th. This commonly held doctrine holds that Mary, like Jesus, was born without sin.

Yet nowhere in scripture can we read anything which supports such a view. On the contrary, there are many portions of scripture which reveal that only Jesus was born and lived without sin in this world.

In Romans 5v12 we read… “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Also Romans 3v23 declares: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

Note again, an important little word… “all.” With David, the psalmist, each individual born into this world (with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ) can say: “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51v5) So we see that because of one man, sin entered into the world – but thank God for the Person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, of whom we read that He… “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Peter 2v22-24)

The Bible makes no such claims for any other person in history.

Only the blood of the perfect Son of God “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Pet. 1v19) was (and is) able to take away sins.

Note too, that in God’s Word we are exhorted to pray to no one, but the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Tim.2v 5&6)

Here too the little word “all” is important, as is the word “one.” These verses clearly dispenses with the view that Mary is a “mediatrix,” according to a lady I spoke to on one occasion.

Jesus is the One and Only Mediator between God and men!

In 1545 Rome decreed that man’s tradition was to be equal in authority to the Bible. Please do not be deceived. Pray directly to God today, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him to show you the truth in its entirety. His will for you today is that you would repent of your sin and trust Him to save you for He is “not willing that any should perish.” (2Peter 3v9)

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8v32)

© Elizabeth Burke

For further information or discussion:

Email: readywriterpublications@gmail.com

Visit: https://readywriterpublications.wordpress.com

 

 

…”His Compassions Fail Not. They Are New Every Morning…” (Lamentations 3v22)

November 22, 2016

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November, I used to think, is a dull, uninspiring month, a month when the final leaves have fallen, the flowers are almost dead or dying… and all the world lies dull and dreary. But there is something very beautiful about November – its sunsets! In a sense the seasons of the year are like the years of a man or woman. Spring is the childhood of our years, summer is still youthful – but with growing maturity; in autumn our hair will change colour (if it’s allowed to!) and we begin to experience some aches and pains, while winter is, to be frank, approaching death. Of course this is in a normal life cycle. Unfortunately not all lives follow this pattern and sometimes life will be snuffed out in youth or even childhood…

Traditionally November has been a month to remember – we remember the fallen of two world wars and other conflicts and often we remember our loved ones more as the festive season swiftly approaches. Those cold dark evenings are certainly a time for reflection and reminiscing.

As I walk in the fading light of the early evening, listening to the blackbirds in the fields behind our home, I glance towards the beauty of another sunset in the west and I thank the Lord that He has given me another day to live for Him. I thank Him for the simple ability to walk, to see… but above all to appreciate all that He has done for me. In the last few years He has been my Rock, through hospital procedures, operations and bereavements. As John Newton writes in the final verses of his hymn “Amazing Grace”….

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,

His Word my hope secures;

He will my Shield and Portion be,

As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease,

I shall possess, within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who called me here below,

Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we’d first begun.”

This is surely the Lord’s promise to all who trust in Him alone for salvation and who walk with Him towards the sunset of their lives. “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever.” (Psalm 136v1)

In this Psalm there are 26 verses – and each verse ends with “for His mercy endureth for ever!” If you have not already done so – trust Him for His mercy now, while it is day, before that night comes when your soul will be lost forever.

As I view another setting sun (or even just the darkness fall) I thank Him for the beauty of His creation, in the wonderful knowledge that each new sunrise is another gift from Him – and each sunset is another one closer to Home…

 

 

 

Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

October 25, 2016

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I have recently discovered the shocking truth that there are an increasing number of people who do not believe that repentance is a prerequisite for salvation. “Just believe and receive,” they say – “no need to repent.”

I listened incredulously to a preacher who maintained that “repentance is works” and we are not saved by works. It is certainly true that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9) At the same time: “faith without works is dead.” (James 2v14-26) “Bring forth therefore fruits meat for repentance:” Jesus warned the Pharisees and Sad-du-cees. (Matthew 3v8) James said: “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2v17)

Perhaps I should relate my own experience here: for many months prior to giving my heart to the Lord, He had been dealing with me and convicting me of my sin. While the world looking on would have said to me: “seriously, you’re not that bad you know,” the Lord was showing me my life as He saw it – and I knew that it was not a life ready for heaven.

“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.” (Proverbs 16v1&2) He showed me that I needed work done in my heart – work which only He could do. I learned that by giving Him free rein in my life, that only He could make me a better person – one fit for His Kingdom.

Indeed it has always been my clear conviction that, spiritually speaking, the old must die – for new life to begin. The old leaves of autumn curl up and die, in order that spring can bring new growth and fresh shiny green leaves! The night that I trusted Him, I simply walked (spiritually speaking) from the darkness of my past into the light of the future that He wanted for me. Yes indeed, I was sorry for (and turned away from) that old life lived outside of His grace. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Corinthians 5v17)

“Repentance” this preacher shouted, “cannot mean turning from sin, since God repented… didn’t He?”

My answer to this is that when God ‘repents,’ He in effect is changing the course of action He was going to take on account of the fact that people have repented of their sinful ways. In the Book of Jonah we have a good example of this: The people of Nineveh said: “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3v9&10)

Denial of the fundamental doctrine of repentance is a very serious matter and one in which the devil plays a big part. If people think that they can make some sort of ‘commitment’ and then continue to live on in their sin, this awful doctrine has the potential to drag them to lowest hell – a horrific thought. This is why they should pray and search the scriptures diligently for we cannot rely on the words of mankind, regardless of their standing in the community or their achievements in Bible College.

With regard to “just believing,” James said: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2v19)

We read of John the Baptist that “he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;” (Luke 3v3)

Later in Luke 13v3 Jesus said: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The Greek word used in this verse for “repent” is “metanoia,” a transliteration of the Greek “μετάνοια,” which can be defined as “a transformative change of heart, especially a spiritual conversion.” If we merely believed without the “transformation” (which should include an entirely different attitude to sin) what change would have been wrought in our lives? Surely only the Lord can bring about this real transformation!

The devil somehow convincing people that they don’t have to have the sin in their lives dealt with is a story which has its evil roots in the dawn of time. “Yea, hath God said…” he said to Eve in the Garden of Eden, sadly convincing her that her action would have no dire consequences for the future of mankind. (Genesis 3v1)

The fact is… God hath said: “The soul that sinneth it shall die…” (Ezekiel 18v20)

In Acts 3v19 Peter stresses the need for repentance: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;”

Abhorrence is the only attitude that the Christian should have to sin. John says in his epistle: “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. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1John 2v1-3)

And so we see that wherever repentance is talked about in the Bible in relation to mankind, it involves the issue of sin… something which the Lord wishes to eradicate from our lives. At the same time our adversary would prefer that people argued over semantics and the meaning of the word ‘repent,’ while turning a blind eye to sin – which will have eternal implications in their own lives, if the Lord is not permitted to deal with it. No sane person would ignore a cancerous tumour that they had knowledge of. They would be dismayed by its very presence and then they would go immediately to an authority who was qualified to deal with it, to have it expertly operated on and removed, for the good of their whole body. The thought that there might be a waiting list for such an operation would fill anyone with anxiety – and of course even the most ‘non-religious’ would find themselves praying earnestly that it would never return! Praise God, there is no waiting list where the disease of sin is concerned, for He is willing and able to deal with an entire world of repentant ‘casualties’ in the ‘here and now…’

 

A Red Sky at Night… is a Shepherd’s Delight

September 25, 2016

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I had a peaceful walk yesterday evening at dusk in the little lane which runs behind our home. Glancing towards one of the fields, I noticed the last of the large bales of straw awaiting collection… hopefully before more rain! Looking up at the sky, I also noticed a lovely sunset towards the west… hopefully the promise of pleasant weather on the way. We are always ‘hoping’ for good weather in Ireland, sitting as we do on the edge of Europe, the most westerly outpost before America where rain batters its way in from the Atlantic.

As we strolled home we met our neighbour, a farmer, who was walking with his dog. I remarked on the lovely sunset and he said… “A red sky at night is a shepherd’s delight…” With a smile I finished the quotation… “And a red sky in the morning is a shepherd’s warning.” Later at home I thought on this old saying and remembered the words of Jesus: ”When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16v2&3)

We live in days when “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2Timothy 3v13) “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2Timothy 3v1) How well those terrible traits are described in 2Timothy 3! I later recalled a video which I had watched of a man who “had reverted to Islam,” which I found most disheartening. Islam says “reverted,” not “converted,” because it states that every baby who is born into this world is born a Muslim. They maintain that later in life those children become Jews, Christians etc. because their parents teach them to be so, or because of other influences. They also maintain that there is no such thing as original sin… but what does the Bible say?

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51v5) In John 3v3 Jesus says: “Verily verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” However, I do believe that babies and the very young who have no understanding of spiritual matters are not held accountable in the way in which adults would be… “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4v17)

Another verse which upholds the doctrine of original sin is Romans 5v12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Other cults including Mormonism and the Bahia’s also deny this doctrine of Christian faith.

I believe that we live in an age of great deception and confusion, like never before and that “evil men and seducers” are truly “waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are active with their little literature tables in our towns and cities and people, while earnestly searching for something more in the spiritual realm, are sadly embracing error. How confusion abounds in our world with so many cults and wrongful systems of belief!

Jesus said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7v13&14)

“Few there be that find it…” And yet it is the Lord’s will that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth – (1Timothy 2v4) “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5v19) The Lord Jesus Christ having “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10v12)

Denial of the doctrine of original sin is only one of many terrible heresies in these evil days. It is the sin condition that must be dealt with but sadly antinomianism is also prevalent amongst so called “Christian” churches and spiritually speaking that “red sky in the morning” is very evident. Joel 2v31&32 tell us that “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”

His invitation to look unto Him and be saved still stands in this the day of grace, to all who will hear it. Oh that all would avail of it, before, spiritually speaking, this ominous red sky (the signs of the times) are replaced by a moon of blood and a sun turned into darkness, “before the great and terrible day of the Lord.”