Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“Reflect Me” – A Thought from Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

February 22, 2020

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Amy Carmichael, born in the little coastal village of Millisle, Co. Down in Northern Ireland, served as a missionary in India for 55 years without furlough. Trusting the Lord to save her at a young age, Amy was to live a long and fruitful in her Master’s service. In the early days she worked amongst the poor of the part of Belfast which the family had moved to, starting a fellowship in the “The Tin Tabernacle.” Today that fellowship remains and is known as the “Welcome Evangelical Church.” Amy’s own family (she was the eldest of 7 children) knew days of hardship, illness and poverty but through it all Amy felt led of the Lord to work in Japan, Ceylon and eventually southern India where she worked amongst Indian women who had been persecuted for leaving their original Hindu faith. After meeting Preena, a little girl who had been offered to a Hindu temple, Amy discovered the horrifying practice of temple prostitution and started to rescue children who had been trafficked for this purpose. The growing place of refuge which she started was known as “Dohnavur.”
With other Indian women, Amy founded a huge hostel as well as a children’s hospital and in time her immense work led to the law being changed in India to protect children from this awful abuse. Of course, in the process of this she faced terrible persecution and much hardship but her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who had saved her as a child carried her through, for the Lord protected her and saw her financial needs for medication met.
However, an accident in later life meant that Amy was left incapacitated for the last 20 years of her life. Confined to bed as an invalid, these years produced much of spiritual worth – and another great legacy was left in the form of around 37 books and much poetry, which live on to touch hearts to this day.
Only days ago I was delighted to discover a little book in a second hand book sale, published by Amy in 1941: “His Thoughts Said…. His Father Said….” These short little thoughts show the private thoughts of man – and the accompanying words of wisdom. The following was written under “Reflect Me….”
“The son was grieved because some whom he had hoped to help would not even look at his Lord. They were trying to satisfy themselves with husks. They were playing with phantoms. As he thought sorrowfully of those dear to him, who were so near and yet so far, he remembered how they and he together had looked at the reflection of a mountain in still water. It was the reflection that first caught their attention. But presently they raised their eyes to the mountain. “Reflect Me,” said his Father to him then. They will look at thee. Then they will look up, and see Me. And the stiller the water the more perfect the reflection.”

Amy once said: “Nothing is too precious for Jesus.”

On this stormy rainy night I think of the Carmichael family home on the Ards Peninsula, where Amy was born all those years ago. Despite frequent illness in her own life, Amy lived on to leave a legacy which would leave its mark on a nation of people and today Amy’s body lies in India where she served her Master until He called her Home at the age of 83.
This single lady who often suffered in life, also once said… “When I consider the cross of Christ, how can anything that I do be called sacrifice?” As His servants, we have a work to do in the society (or even in the tiny sphere) in which we live; such work may or may not be instrumental in changing evil customs… but oh that we would be used of the Lord to reach the lost and to leave a legacy of love and goodness for time and eternity, for He has said: “Reflect me.”
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2v5)

Remembering Harold Irwin, Recently Called Home – & His Lovely Old Cottage Prayer Meeting

February 10, 2020

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Nestling in the lovely emerald countryside of the Northern Irish countryside, near Richhill in County Armagh, lies a little old cottage beside the former home of the Irwin family. For some reason, I often feel nostalgic about old times and memories on a windy night and this weekend past was no exception. I have lovely memories of sitting in this little cosy cottage which Harold and his wife Evelyn provided for use as a mid-week prayer meeting. Harold piled the logs on the fire and before long everyone would feel the warmth of the little room in more ways than one! There would be a short devotional and then rousing singing of the old hymns, followed by sincere prayer. Those who attended loved this time together, where they felt the true fellowship of fellow believers.
Sadly, Harold and his wife have been suffering from ill health for a number of years and just recently, in his 98th year, Harold fell into a peaceful sleep one night, only to waken the next morning, as his daughter put it, “at home in heaven.” “At Home in Heaven” where my mum and dad (Jack and Ella Hutchinson) and others from those days are rejoicing in the glory of the Lord’s Presence. What a wonderful way to waken up!
We travelled to Harold’s funeral in Richhill last week, where the little church hall was packed to capacity. Meeting old acquaintances that I hadn’t seen in a while was emotionally daunting and I felt moved by the hymns, which touched on some of the experiences in my own life of late. Even before the service started, many of Harold’s favourite old hymns were sung and I felt myself shedding tears as I remembered loved ones who had once attended the little prayer meeting.
Strangely, the old hymn “At Home in Heaven,” had been going through my mind for some time prior to Harold’s death. I discovered the hymn, written as a poem in an antiquarian book “Christian Lyrics Illustrated,” published well over 100 years ago. What I like about this old book, is that it shows many of the hymns printed in full, in their original wording. I think it is terrible when old hymns (no longer under copyright) have been “mutilated,” both in regard to their lyrics and the original music which was set to them. Worse still, is the fact that some modern musicians will claim that they have written those hymns and this is believed by many in today’s generation. Perhaps it would be a good idea for people to research the words and music of these hymns and “songs,” before assuming anything.
“At Home in Heaven,” was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854) who was born in Scotland but spent some years in Ballymena, Northern Ireland and in England. At best, most hymn books show 8 verses of the hymn but there are in fact 22 verses in its original form, as a poem!
Harold loved poetry, particularly of a spiritual nature. The above old photograph of the cottage prayer meeting setting was taken back in 2008, one night just before the prayer meeting, when I was visiting from my former home. As Christians may we never neglect the place of prayer, whatever the setting, until that day when we too are “Forever with the Lord.”
“At Home in Heaven.”
“For ever with the Lord!
Amen; so let it be;
Life from the dead is in that word,
‘Tis immortality.”
Link to this hymn: https://youtu.be/FBRge7RC95M

 

“The Love of Many Shall Wax Cold”

February 6, 2020

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We are living in days when much of Matthew 24 is being fulfilled before our very eyes. Certainly we are reaching that place in history where the Christian faces hatred and betrayal from even his own fellow countrymen, for taking a stand on the truth of God’s Word. Have you ever felt that you have been given “the silent treatment?” You try to understand why this is so, to no avail, not fully realising the extent to which there is a natural and very strong enmity between those who truly know the Lord as Saviour – and those who do not.
“Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mark 13v12&13)
Spiritual wickedness currently resides very much “in high places.” (Ephesians 6v12) And many individuals have now all those characteristics mentioned in 2Timothy Chapter 3. Savage attacks on defenceless individuals on public transport and elsewhere shows a lack of “natural affection” but this is also portrayed on another level, with many having become cold, unloving, callous, uncaring, even “mercenary” in their attitude to the plight of life’s fellow travellers. Sadly these traits and lack of warmth have taken root in those who would once have made a profession of faith. We are living at a time in history when the love of many is waxing cold because iniquity abounds. (Matthew 24v12)
Whatever is going on in our lives right now, we can be sure that “offences will come.” (Luke 17v1) Jesus said: “ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24v9) Paul echoes the words of Jesus when he says “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2Timothy 3v12)
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24v13) The secret is to abide in Him by faith and though we may be cruelly slighted, we continue (in His strength) to love as He loved. Our short lives will soon be past history but we love and follow Him, letting our hearts be filled with love (and grave concern for) the destiny of souls, regardless of how those individuals are mistreating us.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2v5-8)
The Lord knows, sees and understands everything in His children’s lives, including when they are unfairly treated, for “what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” (1Peter 2v20) Someday we will be rewarded for patiently bearing that which we could never bear outside of Him.
We journey on, showing love for hate, sincerity for ridicule, caring for coldness – for we follow in the footsteps of He “Who 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.” For were we too not once “as sheep going astray?” But, praise God, are “now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” ((1Peter 2v22-25) In this great knowledge, we love and pray on for those who are facing a lost eternity, in these “the last days,” when “perilous times shall come.” (2Timothy 3v1)

Beyond Cruel – The Evil World of the Illegal Drugs Trade in Ireland

January 23, 2020

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As this is currently a very serious issue in Ireland, I am also giving the following out in tract form…
Recent times have exposed the extent to which people will go to perpetuate this evil in our society. Young people (and older people too) have been tortured and murdered and it would appear that these evil dealers control entire swaths of Irish society. Those who try to throw light on the situation or organise meetings with advice on how to keep their children from drugs, are violently threatened and targeted. Drug dealers want teenagers and very young children dependant on this vile but very lucrative source of income.
The homeless and the vulnerable in society are easy targets for these people and the awful reality is that often drug dealers can never be reimbursed. An individual may indeed want to “go clean,” settle the debt with the dealer who is chasing them and make a new life for themselves, by gaining experience in some field and working in this area where their talents lie – but drug dealers will pursue, constantly looking for more and more money over and beyond what he is “entitled” to.
Even rural areas are targeted; it has been said that this evil trade is plied at every crossroads in Ireland. In one large town I know well, random shootings and arson attacks can occur at any time of the day or night and innocent people going about their business have unfortunately fallen foul of this and become victims too. Rival gangs who vie for trade have shot each other fatally and this “gang warfare” has spilled out into Spanish resorts in recent years, with rich dealers living in luxurious places beyond Ireland. “Unexplained wealth” is certainly a phenomenon in our society.
Sadly this disease is not confined solely to those from a “disadvantaged background,” as some professional people have been said to have (or have had) a “drug problem.” Week after week we hear of it all, so what can be done about this deadly evil that has spread throughout our society?
How horrific it is to make your money out of the misery of others – and what a hard task master the devil is! You, the reader, may be involved in some way in all of this – or indeed, thankfully, you may not. But whatever your standing in society, the Bible tells us that there is one thing you can be certain of: “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12)
One of the most beautiful feelings in the world is to waken up in the morning with a clear conscience and in the glorious knowledge that you are not “hooked on” anything. Praise God… He can give us a clear conscience! “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8v36)
The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23) We may in no way be associated with the drugs trade but whoever we are in this world, we need a Saviour and only the blood of Jesus, the precious Son of God, who gave Himself a ransom for all, is able to atone for sin when, by faith, we confess our sins to Him, asking Him to forgive us and to come into our lives to make us “new creatures.” “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)
With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19v26) Sin, like many deadly physical diseases, comes in many guises, not all of which are readily recognisable as being dangerous. As a police officer once told me: “there is no such thing as a harmless drug.” While law enforcement are often successful with regard to drug seizures – they have no control over the hearts and minds of either the pusher or the addict. But praise God, there are those who truly know Him and have committed their lives to Him; who pray fervently that this evil may be eradicated and that souls would live out their lives in healthy freedom, to the glory of their Creator and Saviour. Yes, these things are possible and many can testify to having been delivered!
Whoever you are, whether a “pillar of society,” a very worried parent, a seemingly hopeless addict or someone steeped in deepest sin as a dealer – you need to trust the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul. “For 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)
Remember, He loves you personally and cared enough for you to give His very life for you, that you may have abundant life now – and eternal life in His Presence forevermore. Yes, we live in dark days when evil abounds and the most horrific deeds are being perpetrated but praise God there is a way out… through faith in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for all. (“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John2v2)
Perhaps you would like to pray these (or similar) words right now in the quietness of your own heart… “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to die for me. I acknowledge that I am a sinner and that I need your forgiveness. Please come into my life and make me a new person. Assist me, in your strength, to tell others of my experience and to live according to your words, as contained in the Bible. Open my eyes to the great truths within it, and help me to find fellowship with others who share this experience.”
My prayer is that you will find the peace that passes all understanding in these days of increasing spiritual darkness, for the Lord has promised that He will return to take those who know Him, Home to be with Him, while those who have not trusted Him will face a lost eternity. In the serious knowledge that this could be at any time, I pray that you will trust Him to save you now, if you have not already done so, for “behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Corinthians 6v2)
Jesus promises those who trust Him: “My peace I leave with you, my peace give I unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14v27)

On the Distribution of Scripture Calendars

January 13, 2020

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The New Year brought a few revelations to me as I distributed some calendars around very rural areas whenever I could get an opportunity. There are little areas in the depths of the Irish countryside which appear to have been forgotten by time and there are tiny cottages at the end of overgrown garden pathways which I’m not sure were inhabited at all… but for the dogs. Their wagging tails revealed how glad they were to see a visitor and it came to mind that some elderly (or indeed younger) person could have died alone in any of these dwellings and not been discovered for days – or even weeks. Every little homestead had a story to tell, I’m certain, and souls the need of a saviour.
Most people who distribute any type of Christian literature rarely visit rural areas. It’s much easier to go from door to door in urban areas and much more ground can be covered but I feel that the Lord places each one of us in certain districts and gives us a burden for a reason. As Christians we have opportunities in our own areas because of their close proximity; also in the areas which the Lord gives us opportunities to travel to and the contacts we have (however limited) in the spheres in which we circulate.
I ponder the lives of those who live in each rural residence. A few are clearly affluent but very often cold to the gospel; others (both rich and poor) are caught up in the wrong system of belief and many are deeply unhappy, while others, although polite, have simply no interest. The “season of goodwill” has left an aura of dissatisfaction and depression. The lonely are lonelier still as the tinsel is pulled down for another year and the beer bottles await recycling. There is an atmosphere of gloom in places, as wrought iron gates remain heavily padlocked and savage dogs of the not-so-friendly type leap and growl at potential callers – thankfully behind spiked railings surrounding the property.
One morning I remember a cold breeze blowing up from the sea to the east as I endeavoured to find the letter box of an old house where no one answered the door, although I could hear a radio or television on inside. However, people are afraid of being broken into and robbed which is why they often leave these on to give the impression that the house is occupied.
Letterboxes, I have discovered, are as diverse as their owners! Some are very small and old; envelopes were tiny in the days of total “snail mail.” And then there are the “furry” types of letterbox which people have to prevent draughts. A long time ago I can recall my hand getting stuck in one of these, while in the hallway a growling dog snapped at the fingers. I prayed that the Lord would get them out – and He did! It seems amusing now but at the time I was terrified.
He also helps us not to feel discouraged, when it is so easy to do so. We learn not to look at circumstances as they appear – but to the Lord who sees the heart and unseen response when no one is around. I have heard someone say that every word of scripture goes forth like a registered letter. It has been delivered – and someone somewhere will be convicted, encouraged, challenged or have had their thoughts and opinions provoked. Not one word will return unto the Lord void. (Isaiah 55v11)
Souls need the Saviour as they launch out into a new day, a new year and indeed a new decade. Only He knows what lies ahead for them. If only they would seek the Pilot who will guide them safely Home, instead of a system which tells them to put their trust in works and ritual for their salvation. I am very sensitive to atmospheres around these rural areas and feel that loneliness and isolation is certainly a problem. I pray that the “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother” would reach down and touch hearts.
In the biting January wind I think of the wind “that bloweth where it listeth” (John 3v8) in my little verse “Born Again…” Who knows what will be the outcome?

“In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” (Ecclesiastes 11v6)
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3v8)

There is a wind that no one knows
From whence it comes or where it blows,
But when it touches souls of men,
The Spirit whispers… “Born Again.”

Marvel not if the World hates you

December 31, 2019

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I sincerely believe that as Christians, we experience much antagonism when we are being active in the Lord’s service and as the years go by we will naturally feel increasingly like an “alien” in this world. “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” (1John3v13) We are not to be shocked by personal vicious attacks upon us – by virtue of the very simple fact that we are on the Lord’s side.
In this world there is no middle ground; we cannot “straddle” the narrow and the broad road. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve,” (Joshua 24v15) Either we are on the Lord’s side or we are not – and when we are on the Lord’s side we can be assured that we will feel like “fish out of water” in this world and the world will most definitely hate us.
Jesus said: “I have given them thy word; and the world hateth them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17v14) I have been guilty recently of “marvelling,” when really I shouldn’t be at all surprised. I honestly feel that many unregenerate people aren’t even aware of this antagonism within them or the fact that they serve an evil master – and that master hates those who serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
Marvelling and feeling shocked and hurt are human reactions, of course, but we must go in the strength of the Lord and continue to love those souls who are outside of Him and for whom He died. The deep wounds we sustain can be prevented from “festering” when we rest in Him, in the knowledge that He too was hated. He knows all about it and there is nothing in our lives that He is not aware of. How He cares deeply for us and looks with compassion upon us as we tread this earth, as strangers and sojourners.
Let us be encouraged, as we march on by faith to “a better country, that is, an heavenly.” (Hebrews 11v16) “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11v8-10)
Like Abraham, we may not know what the journey ahead consists of but we know that we look for “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2Peter 3v13) We set our sights on that place while on this brief journey which is sometimes fraught with trouble and we can leave our positive mark for time and eternity, in His strength. How amazing to someday meet the prophets and the apostles of old, as well as precious loved ones who have gone before us… but infinitely more marvellous will be to meet the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us and made it all possible. It will be worth it all!

A Quiz and Thoughts for the Season Tract

December 18, 2019

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The following may seem a little simplistic to those who know their Bibles but I have discovered that in my own society very few people read the Bible – or have ever read it. I feel led to use the occasion in outreach, with little thought-provoking tracts like the following. I have also been distributing scenic scripture calendars in our local area and beyond, in the knowledge that people blindly follow what is taught from the pulpit of whatever church they go to on seasonal occasions, never opening their own Bibles. Praise God for the liberty to read His Word; I pray that many would look beyond the traditions of man and would seek for the truth and turn to Him in these days.

1. Where was Jesus born: Jerusalem, Bethlehem or Nazareth?
2. On which of these dates was He born: 6th January, 25th December, 12th April? Or do we know at all?
3. Was Mary immaculately conceived? Yes/No
4. How many wise men were there: 3, 7/ we don’t know.
5. How many shepherds were there: 5, 7, 12/ we don’t know.
6. Did Jesus have brothers and sisters: Yes/No.
7. After the birth of Jesus, Herod later killed all the young children of two years and under that were in the region of Bethlehem. True/False
8. Which country was Joseph warned in a dream to flee to after the birth of Jesus: Greece, Italy or Egypt?

I have been thinking recently about seasonal assumptions and how, sadly, very few people ever read the Bible for themselves. Jesus told us that it was essential to read this most important of all books for ourselves.
He said… “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5v39)
The Bible speaks of the people of Berea who are described in Acts 17v11 as being “more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
The Berean people wisely checked whether what they were being told was true. They didn’t readily accept the word of man, no matter how seemingly learned, or even spiritual, without checking it against God’s word to see “whether those things were so.”
Really understanding and knowing God’s Word has little to do with education, but rather in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of our lives. When we truly know Him as Saviour, then the Bible becomes alive and wonderful; His letter to us throughout life, instructing, guiding, convicting and comforting us through life’s most difficult hours. When we know Him and believe His Word, we can say with the Psalmist… “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48v14)
But how do we find this relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus said… “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3v3)
This “new birth” does not occur when we are baptised as babies – or even adults, or when we join a church. We must firstly recognise that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23) We must also realise that we cannot save ourselves by our good works… “For 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)
In Hebrews we learn that no man on this earth can take away or forgive sin. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (Hebrews 10v11)
But of Jesus the Bible tells us… “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10v12)
“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2v2)
If you have not already done so, turn this day to the only Person who can save you – the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life for you, that you might have fulfilling life in Him – both now and forever in His Presence.
You may pray simple words of acceptance… “Heavenly Father, I come to you now, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His precious blood for me at Calvary. Please come into my heart today, forgiving me for all the wrong I have ever done. Cleanse me, and help me to live victoriously each future day in your presence. Open to me the great truths contained in your Word, the Bible, and help me to find fellowship with those who share my experience.”
When I trusted in Jesus as my Saviour many years ago, the Bible truly came alive for me and as the years go by it has been my companion and Guide throughout life’s journey, while the Lord’s comforting Presence is ever with me in all situations I have to face. Personally, I found it better to start in the New Testament, in Matthew’s Gospel.
I discovered that we are not saved by good works – but unto good works. Now you will be “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2v10)
My prayer is that you too will experience this wonderful assurance of sins forgiven and a Home in Heaven forevermore, before it is too late.
“… behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Corinthians 6v2)
May the Lord bless you, as you search His Word and trust Him to reveal His great truths to your heart.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3v16)
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11v28)
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37)
“And as it is appointed unto men 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)
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3v20)

Answers to quiz:
1. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. (Matthew 2v1)
2. The birth date of Jesus is not recorded in the Bible.
3. It is not recorded anywhere in the Bible that Mary was immaculately conceived. Jesus was born of a virgin (Mary) (Matthew 1v18-25) and He is the only Person ever to be born and live without sin. (2Corinthians 5v21; Hebrews 4v15; 1Peter 1v19; 1Peter 2v22; 1John 3v5)
4. We are not told how many wise men there were. It is assumed there were three because they gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2v11) but we don’t know for sure.
5. The account of the shepherds is recorded in Luke 2v8-20 but we are not told how many there were.
6. Yes… We may read of Jesus’ brothers and sisters in Mark 6v3 and Matthew 13v55&56. Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (Matthew 1v23) but Matthew 1v25 indicates that this did not continue to be the case after the birth of Jesus.
7. True… This account may be read in Matthew 2v16-18.
8. Egypt. (Matthew 2v13-15)

“Like the Falling of a Leaf”

December 1, 2019

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By now most of the leaves have fallen and as I stroll along the country lane behind our home I watch the different scenarios in which leaves fall. Depending on the weather, some are blown swiftly far away in high winds, while others quietly flutter to the ground even when there is no breeze. As I gaze over the countryside, in the distance I can see the blue horizon of the cold sea, but nearer still are the ploughed fields which only a few months ago were full of golden barley. It seems like only yesterday that towering bales of gold were all over that field. How methods of farming have changed! These days massive equipment is taken into the field to complete the harvest. No longer do we “bind sheaves” by hand.
These reflections on swiftly passing seasons with “falling leaves” and “binding of sheaves” reminds me of William J. Kirkpatrick’s hymn “Life at Best is Very Brief.” Born in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1838 and later living in U.S.A., this hymn writer made a significant contribution to hymnody. Amongst these are “A Wonderful Saviour is Jesus my Lord;” “Away in a Manger,” “I am not skilled to understand,” “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,” “Redeemed” etc. But it is “Life at Best is Very Brief” which has been in my thoughts recently. A convicting hymn, it speaks of “being in time.” Whether we are in the spring, summer, autumn or winter of our lives, life has taught me with some very hard lessons that we have no idea what lies “around the corner.” I thank the Lord that I trusted Him all those years ago and He has been my constant and loving companion through it all. As I watch individuals who are going through stormy episodes in life, I long for them too, to have that “peace which passeth all understanding.” That peace is available to all who repent of their sins and put their trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.
I have seen a great tree with glorious leaves one sunny day, reduced to a stark silhouette against a gloomy sky the next… and so it is with life. We must be in time! Perhaps William Kirkpatrick’s lovely old hymn says it best…

Life at best is very brief,
Like the falling of a leaf,
Like the binding of a sheaf,
Be in time!
Fleeting days are telling fast
That the die will soon be cast,
And the fatal line be passed, –
Be in time!

Be in time…….be in time……
While the voice of Jesus calls you,
Be in time!
If in sin you longer wait,
You may find no open gate,
And your cry be just too late,
Be in time!

Fairest flowers soon decay,
Youth and beauty pass away,
Oh, you have not long to stay,-
Be in time!
While the Spirit bids you come,
Sinner, do not longer roam,
Lest you seal your hopeless doom,-
Be in time!

Time is gliding swiftly by,
Death and judgement drawing nigh,
To the arms of Jesus fly,-
Be in time!
Oh, I pray you, count the cost,
‘Ere the fatal line be crossed,
And your soul in hell be lost!-
Be in time!

Sinner, heed the warning voice,
Make the Lord your final choice,
Then all heaven will rejoice,-
Be in time!
Come from darkness into light,
Come, let Jesus make you right,
Come, and start for heaven to-night,
Be in time!

God is no Respecter of Persons

November 21, 2019

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“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1Timothy 6v7) I have been reflecting on present controversies surrounding powerful and rich individuals in Britain and the U.S.A. Unfortunately there are people in this world who think that they are so rich and powerful that they are immune from prosecution – and indeed such individuals in the past often have evaded the forces of law and order which apply to ordinary people. I say “ordinary people” and yet no man is entitled to special favouritism in the eyes of the “blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” (1Timothy 6v14)
In this incredibly evil world vulnerable young people and children have been abused and exploited by powerful politicians, those in authority and in positions of trust and by the higher echelons of society. More and more stories of abuse have emerged in recent years; probation officers, charity workers, those in the entertainment industry, sports celebrities, politicians, priests, nuns and even judges have been shown to be guilty and this is a worldwide phenomenon and not confined to any one country or society.
Jesus said: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matthew 18v6&7)
And so, just as we come into this world, we go out of it, in the certain knowledge that we face judgement whatever our life has consisted of. We cannot go to the Lord with our riches and offer Him a bribe and no one can “bail us out” – and we cannot point to all the good deeds we have done, in the hope that these will “tip the scales” in favour of a sure eternal outcome. Favours can be granted in this world and prison sentences can be reduced for the rich and powerful but eventually both the prince and the pauper must face “the Judge of judges” and “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18v25)
“They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever:)” (Psalm 49v6-8)
We are not entitled to a lawyer when we stand before the “Judge of judges” and no excuse is good enough for Him. We stand before Him, devoid of fame, earthly power, fortune, talent, beauty, charm and popularity. But He knows you by name and He loves you. He loved you enough to die for you – and He wants nothing but your heart, and your love for Him, His Word and His will for your life.
His will for you, whoever you are and whatever you have done in this life, is that you would repent of your sins (whether few or many) and commit your life to Him, if you have not already done so. When we stand before Him, the Great Question will be whether we know Him as the Great Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous – or as the Judge who will commit us to unthinkable, eternal suffering. Which will it be? Praise God, there is hope for “the vilest offender” this side of eternity. His will is that you would sing with the redeemed…
“Oh perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God:
The vilest offender who truly believes
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Great things He hath taught us,
great things he hath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son:
But purer and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.”
(F.J. Crosby)

Reach out to the Living – While it is Day

November 9, 2019

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The recent funeral of a well-known radio and television presenter here in Ireland brought to mind thoughts of being faithful to people while they are still alive. I recall sending something (a tract and a letter I believe) to this person many years ago. When we are faithful witnesses to people, this is something which we will never regret, even if there is either no response or a negative response from the person in question. The Lord loved and died for all and who knows how He will use the little morsels we scatter to His glory? The following is a short modified extract from my book “Singing on the Journey Home….”
I recall years ago befriending a lady whose mother was very ill. One day, towards the end of her mother’s life, I called to see my friend but prior to this I had been praying much for her mother and my desire was to speak with her. After a few moments, in answer to my prayer, she took me upstairs to see her. She was not really old by today’s standards; around seventy I think. The atmosphere was a little strained, but when I look back on that day, I know for sure that the Lord was with me and that He did speak to that lady. I was also sure that she had met another Christian at some time, and that she knew something of the scriptures for she finished some verses of the Bible that I had started to quote. I can recall a certain special moment during this exchange when there was complete silence and the lady looked at me perceptively. It was one of those looks that I shall never forget. I wanted to be gentle, to be led of the Lord, in all that I said to her – yet I felt so inadequate for the task. Still I felt that the Lord was opening her heart, speaking to her in that still small voice – the only voice that can truly penetrate the hearts of men and women.
It was the memory of the journey home from that visit that I shall never forget. I had felt emotional on leaving that home and as I drove away I felt the presence of God very strongly. Then, just as I was about half way home, that presence intensified, so much so that I almost had to stop the car. I tried not to let the tears blind me as I drove along. For the remainder of that day I went about my household duties, continuing to feel the Lord’s strong and loving reassurance in my heart.
A short time later that lady passed away and I went to the graveside as a mark of respect. It was a big funeral. Everyone seemed to know each other but I knew no one there, with the exception of my friend and a couple of others. I shook hands with my friend, who was naturally distraught and then I withdrew a distance from the many people who thronged the graveside. Somehow I was feeling very much a stranger in the midst of it all, particularly with the proceedings that followed.
The ceremony was very elaborate – if it was possible for a ceremony to get someone into heaven, then that one certainly would have. I watched as the young Roman Catholic Priest who was conducting the proceedings suddenly broke into song, in Latin. He sang with all his might and then uttered such eloquent prayers for the deceased. The coffin was one of the best that money could buy, as was the headstone. The intentions and the prayers were sincere but I knew that none of this could make any difference to the most important issue of all – the eternal destination of the deceased.
Walking away from that scene, I realised that I could never know for sure in this life whether this lady had trusted the Lord, but He knew and now it remained for me to pray for my friend and her family, that they too would find the loving Saviour who is our only real comfort in grief and loss. I also knew that the Lord had not brought me into contact with this family for nothing and that His Word, which I had quoted to a dying soul, would not “return unto Him void.”
How lovely it is to tell others of the Saviour who has come “to seek and to save that which was lost.” Like the dying thief on the cross who was only a short time from eternity, they too may find the Saviour before they leave this scene of time. My prayer for the elderly souls that I have felt led to visit (and the younger souls that I have felt led to speak to) is that the light of the Saviour would penetrate the souls of those in their twilight years – and the souls of the younger too, who could also be standing by ‘the very cliff edge of eternity.’ Surely He is but a prayer away… and even though we may be in perfect health, are we not all “dying and perishing” spiritually before we are touched by the Saviour?