Posts Tagged ‘a biblical journey through the irish year’

Was Paul “the Chief of Sinners?”

October 15, 2019

The following well known verse is often used to make a doctrinal point… “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1Timothy 1v15) It never ceases to amaze me how this verse is constantly used to make an excuse for habitual sin in the lives of many who would call themselves Christians. Note the words “of who I am chief.” Paul is speaking in the present tense here and if he was speaking of himself he was referring to his (then) present state. Therefore was he “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope…” (1Timothy 1v1) saying “I am the chief of sinners?”
How could Paul (the regenerate servant of the Lord Jesus Christ) be “the chief of sinners?” We need to look at the first few words of this verse… “This is a faithful saying…” The phrase “faithful (or true) saying” is used five times in the New Testament: 1Timothy 1v15; 1Timothy 3v1; 1Timothy 4v8&9; 2Timothy 2v11-13; Titus 3v4-8; in each instance it is “a true saying” – a proverb, which is “worthy of all acceptation.”
This saying was never meant to apply to Paul as an individual at that point in time. However, unfortunately it suits many to believe that “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ” was the “chief of sinners,” so that they can preach “a sinning religion.” There are two types of people in this world: saints and sinners. I am aware that there are also “seekers” and of course not everyone has sunk into the same depths of evil – but the unsaved charity worker, like his drug dealing neighbour, is lost until he comes to that place of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Nowhere in the Bible do we read of “saved sinners” and yet this is a term which I have often heard used in evangelical circles. Amazingly I have also heard of someone who preached that “a little bit of sin keeps us humble.” The Bible makes it clear that “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1John 2v1) Note that it is not when we sin, indicating that sin should be something alien in the Christian’s life. Another phrase which I have heard quoted is “we sin in thought, word and deed every day;” this too is a man-made phrase and unscriptural.
I remember the words of someone speaking at a children’s meeting held years ago in a back garden… “We are all so sinful…” I cannot recall her exact words but she made it clear that she regarded herself as being as sinful as those she was addressing. One little girl who looked confused, asked… “But what’s the point then?” I believe that what she meant was: “What’s the point of me asking Jesus into my heart, if He’s not going to make me a new person?” That little girl is now a young woman whom I haven’t seen in many years and I don’t know where she stands spiritually. Child workers and Sunday school teachers bear such a fearful responsibility.
What Paul was effectively saying was… if I had been the only one, the Lord would still have died for me. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:” (2Corinthians 5v14)
If we read on in 2Corinthians 5, we see that “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (Verse 17) When Paul was blinded by the light of the Lord on the Damascus Road, his subsequent experience changed him dramatically. Although Christians were fearful of him at first, it soon became evident to them that Saul the persecutor had become Paul the saint; miraculously he had become a sincere and fervent follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In his own words… “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life.” (Romans 6v21-23)
“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.” (2Corinthians 5v21)
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2Corinthians 6v18)
“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4v22-24)
Surely only a hypocrite could utter such words if he was indeed “the chief of sinners.” And we know that Paul was not a hypocrite.

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“Wells without Water” – A Career in “the Church”

October 2, 2019

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Over the years I have on occasions met clergy from various denominations. For some reason I have recently been thinking about these encounters and how, sadly, it was clear that many of these people had no spiritual light whatsoever. They generally do what is expected of them: have an acceptable sermon put together for Sunday mornings, visit hospitals, the bereaved and elderly parishioners and conduct weddings and funeral services, amongst other duties.
Sadly, though, they have not had the experience of being truly born again of the Spirit of God and while what they do may seem commendable, it is in most cases their “job” – not a real calling from the Lord.
Of course they have differing personalities and many are charming, friendly and pleasantly spoken. But unfortunately I have also encountered in these days something very disturbing in some – a type of cynicism, with no effort whatsoever being made to disguise it.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7v15) Yet often I feel that some don’t even make the effort to don “sheep’s clothing,” since many in their congregation seem completely blind to the real wolf staring them in the face anyway. I have even heard of ministers jokingly admit that they have “difficulty believing in some of the miracles in the Bible.”
This cynicism, this lack of sincerity, this flippancy is all too common in some circles, while horrifically there are lost souls going out into eternity every second in this world – souls who have sat under the “ministry” of the spiritually blind, whose voices echo meaningless platitudes from the pulpits of great churches and cathedrals the world over.
The Lord loved and died for everyone, including the robed hierarchy of great churches but unless they too, repent and come the humble way to the foot of the cross for forgiveness, the words of 2Peter 2v17 apply to them… “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.”
There are ministers in so called “evangelical” circles too, who unfortunately are what Paul describes as “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” (2Corinthians 11v13)
“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2Corinthians 11v14&15) We are living in incredible days when discernment is a great requirement in the life of Christians. Surely… “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7v16) “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Peter 5v8)
Thank God there is hope for even the hardest, most cynical deceiver, for the Lord is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3v9) If we have knowledge of such “blind, leaders of the blind” we must pray for them that their eyes would be opened to the truth and we must pray for the people of these congregations in dead churches too that they would be drawn to the Saviour who loved them and gave Himself for them. But those who truly know Him in these days must take a stand for the truth and “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1Peter 3v15)… even to the most seasoned, cynical, educated, eloquent and senior member of the religious hierarchy.

“There is no Fool like an Old Fool”

September 28, 2019

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

Distributing Tracts at the “Empty Shoes Memorial”

September 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Upon this Rock I will build my Church…”

September 7, 2019

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

Bicentenary Celebration of the Birth of Joseph Scriven – Author of “What a Friend we have in Jesus”

August 28, 2019

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On 10th September next it will be 200 years since the birth of hymn writer Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886) and I hope to use the occasion to distribute tracts, based on the title of his beautiful hymn. On Saturday 14th September free hourly bus tours of sites connected with the hymn writer will take place in Banbridge, County Down and these can be booked through the Visitor Information centre in the town. I have a lovely early memory of discovering Corbett Lake; near Banbridge and pictured in the old photograph above, it reminds me that Joseph Scriven’s formative years were spent in this area. Joseph did write other hymns and poetry but I believe that “What a Friend we have in Jesus” is sung universally and has been translated into multiple languages.
I have one very personal and poignant memory of the singing of this hymn. One hot Sabbath summer morning far away on the Greek island of Crete, I was feeling downcast as we tried to find an International Evangelical church in a certain town there. Then somewhere on that street, carried on the warm breeze I heard the sweet strains of music and singing in my own language… “What a Friend we have in Jesus…” In that instant I felt the singing of that familiar hymn and the beautiful name “Jesus” touching my very soul and it brought tears to my eyes; I felt the Lord’s Presence very strongly at that moment.
Indeed the singing of the hymn has touched many a troubled heart over the centuries. Little did Joseph Scriven know when he sat down in his little room to pen a few comforting words to his mother who was going through a time of great sorrow, that in years to come those words would touch hearts all across the world. When a Christian neighbour (who helped Joseph in his later years) discovered the manuscript, he asked him who had written these beautiful words, to which Joseph replied… “I wrote it. The Lord and I did it between us.”
Life’s journey, along with happy times, inevitably also brings trials, temptations, grief and trouble but praise God, Jesus our Saviour is a certain Refuge for all who put their trust in Him. Not everyone wants to know about our sorrows but there is “a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18v24) Unlike earthly friends and acquaintances who may indeed “despise, forsake thee,” this Friend is faithful, loving and caring throughout life’s most troubled and sorrowful moments – and He is but a prayer away.
The Bible tells us that “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.” (1Timothy 2v5) Do you know this Friend today? He gave His life for you, so that you may have abundant life now – and eternal life in His Presence in the next.
“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v11&12) It is better, surely, to repent of your sin now and ask Him into your heart, while on this side of eternity – than to face Him as Judge on that Day when the small and great stand before Him.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7v21) His will is that you repent, commit your life to Him today, obey His Word and trust Him for all your tomorrows.
What a Friend you will have in Him as Saviour – a Friend and Confidant who will all “your sorrows share,” and a Friend who will “take and shield thee” throughout life. Only in His arms will you find the great “solace” for which you seek.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Look out for Old Bibles in Charity Shops

August 21, 2019

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Here in Ireland when someone passes away, relatives often have house clearances with many old books and even Bibles being deposited in charity shops. I have, on occasions, picked up books which are well over a century old… and sometimes I have found interesting little notes and even faded letters tucked away between those musty pages. In their hurry to dispense with what some thoughtless beneficiaries see as “sentimental rubbish” belonging to the deceased, they either throw the lot on a bonfire or pack it in a box to give away to charity shops.
There are a world of stories, personal life experiences and thoughts to draw on from these findings, I believe, and some old letters or indeed telegrams are of great historical importance and should never be lost. I have a copy of an old telegram written to my great grandfather (whose wife had died some years previously) concerning his only son (my Great Uncle Johnnie) who had been shot in 1920’s New York by someone trying to rob from the business he worked in. He was only in his early twenties and I can only imagine the shock on his father’s face when he received that telegram.
These thoughts sprung to mind when in recent times someone gave me a copy of “Bible Gems… A Birthday Text Book.” This tiny book with its royal blue cover has a Bible verse for every day of the year and also served as a “Birthday Memoranda” in bygone days. One birthday I noted was of an “Arthur Sheppard” who was born in February 1862. There are other names noted, none of which are familiar to me as I believe they are English – not born anywhere here in Ireland. I would like to think that the person who had noted the birthdays, prayed for these people and that the little introduction applied to them…
“They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.”
“Thine for ever! God of love,
Hear us from thy throne above,
Thine for ever, may we be,
Here and in eternity.”
Arthur Sheppard, whoever he was, has long since gone into eternity but here is his name, written in faded handwriting in a tiny book – and I would love to think, in the “Lamb’s Book of Life.” I wonder did he ever think that someone would be writing “online” about him 157 years later… If Arthur Sheppard returned, he would no longer recognise this world now, with all the technological changes that have taken place.
Nevertheless, some things have never changed in this world. Certainly, as I have said in a previous blog, human nature is much the same as it was “back in the day” and these days as depraved as it was in “the days of Noah.” A few months ago in a charity shop I picked up an old Bible, which despite the fact that it contained both Old and New Testaments, was very light in weight, as the pages were so thin. This one was given to a certain young boy as a special prize, presented by a certain “Boy’s Brigade” in May 1943. I find some Bible notes very interesting, but this one contained two tiny handwritten notes… nothing marked on the Bible itself. Whether the young man himself would have written these, I’m not certain and I felt that I should tread carefully by not naming him as there is a possibility he is still alive…
There is nothing sensational about these Bible notes. It’s just that I would be concerned that whoever wrote them all those years ago was perhaps not thinking for himself. On one of them was written: “Don’t hold-up your Bible Class – Uphold it.” Perhaps the young person who wrote this “held up” his Bible study by asking a question and he was told to “uphold it – not hold it up.” Questions are not always welcome in some communal Bible studies and from experience I have seen that some “Bible studies” are more like “dictatorships.”
On the other note was written: “My Bible Class Membership means a pact to act.” I’m not sure exactly what that vague statement meant but deep down I sadly feel that the person who was leading the Bible study may or may not have been a Christian. That sad reality was the same back then as it is today. Praise God, nevertheless, His Word never changes and He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
I remember talking to a lady at a Christian convention in years past, who told me that she had decided that the King James Version of the Bible was “too old fashioned.” “I got myself a new version and threw that one in the bin,” she said. I can’t remember my reaction…. probably just an open-mouthed horrified stare. At least if she had deposited it in a charity shop, someone else could have benefited from it but I will pray that even this discarded Bible will be used somehow to reach someone.
In my own society I feel that materialism has such a grip on people that they are discarding everything that they don’t see as relevant to their affluence in the “here and now.” When a loved one dies, their diary and their Bible notes may well be thrown out in favour of possessions with monetary value. They don’t see the wisdom in learning from the experiences of previous generations, particularly those who truly knew their Lord as Saviour. Also, there are areas of the world today where people are hungering after the Word of God and yearn for their own personal Bible and there are organisations which need used Bibles and good Christian books to take to English speaking areas of Africa and other countries.
If you find old Bibles, do use them prayerfully in your own distribution and witness. Certainly there are migrants living in centres here and in other countries who would benefit from Christian literature in their midst. The Lord said that His Word would not return unto Him void. (Isaiah 55v11) Everything in this material world shall one day be burned up in that Great Harvest of the world – but those unseen attributes which have for their foundation the Person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ shall survive into eternity. Let us use what He has provided prayerfully and to His glory, while it is still day – “for the night cometh when no man can work.” (John 9v4)

Reflections on Greencastle: a Royal Medieval Castle – and Mankind’s Need through the Centuries

August 9, 2019

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I have felt led to produce some tracts on themes of historical interest to give out in the areas where they are situated. The following, written about the lovely ancient Greencastle in Co. Down, is one of those…
Greencastle, like most ancient castles and fortifications throughout Ireland has a colourful history spanning the centuries. Built in the 13th century by Hugh de Lacy in the 1230’s, it guarded the entrance to Carlingford Lough in medieval times. Lying close to the tiny village of Greencastle which now hosts a ferry transporting visitors to and from Greenore in the Republic of Ireland, many famous names in history are associated with it. Hugh de Lacey, John de Courcey, Edward Bruce, Sir Nicholas Bagnall and Oliver Cromwell are just some of those names.
Today the little hamlet of Greencastle, the green pastures and the familiar sight of the castle are somehow comforting to me in a world that is changing too quickly… and not always for the better.
The familiar coastline here and the nostalgic scene of Greencastle surrounded by green pastures, reminds me of childhood days and carefree walks along the sandy shore from Cranfield to visit this beautiful old castle. I am reminded of shared experiences with loved ones who are long since gone…
What stories the stones of Greencastle could tell me if they could speak and yet the ancient battles and human drama associated with it have long since faded into the misty oblivion of historical records. But of course not all historical records can be trusted because of the very nature of mankind…
Yes, famous people down through the centuries of Greencastle’s existence have come and gone. It has been said that human nature is the same in every era. Indeed it is true to say that…. “there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1v9)
Mankind’s need of a Saviour is the same today as it was in 1230. Well over a thousand years before the first stone was laid in Greencastle, the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to give His life for you and me and every other person who was ever born into this world. “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2v2)
Some day, as His Word says, He will return. “Surely I come quickly,” the last recorded words of Jesus tell us in Revelation 22v20. Are you ready for His return – or for the moment when you will depart this life? The Bible assures us that we can be ready – and that we can know that we are ready. We cannot have this assurance in our hearts because of all the good works that we have accomplished. “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) It is after we trust Him as Saviour that our good works are evidence of a new life begun in Him.
We must firstly acknowledge our sin, repent of it and put our trust in the all atoning sacrifice, once for all, of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, for He has paid the price for our sins. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10v17&18)
God is no respecter of persons and the famous people connected with Greencastle, like all of mankind had to die and face judgement: “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)
Even the ancient solid stones of Greencastle will some day be no more for the Bible tells us that this old world will soon pass away and that there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21v1).
But repentance and simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’s shed blood at Calvary will stand the test of time and eternity. He longs for you to put your trust in Him alone today, so that you may be ready for that great Accounting Day when the “small and great” (Revelation 20v12) stand before God. May you know the wonderful joy, peace and assurance in your heart of the knowledge of sins forgiven and the promise of a Home in Heaven.

Soon we’ll gather by His Throne

July 20, 2019

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“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6v11) These words were written of the days of Noah, just prior to God’s command to him to build an ark. Today we have all the technology available to let us know just how corrupt, violent, twisted and evil this present world has become and some of it is quite frankly… the subject of nightmares. I am aware, yes, I pray for people, yes – but I don’t dwell on the horrific things that are taking place or I find myself getting more and more depressed at the very thought of it. We read that Lot was “vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.” (2Peter 2v7)

Today Jesus is “our Ark.” To those who will still listen – and yes, I believe there are some; cast all your burdens, sins, and despair upon the One who loved you so much that He gave His very life for you. Take refuge in the Ark that saves you now and grants you peace and safety from the wrath which inevitably is going to fall upon this old world.

Jesus said: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24v37) The rainbow is a sign to us that the Lord will never flood the world again “but the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.” (2Peter 3v10&11)

Just last night I was alone and feeling despondent when I reflected on certain news events. I felt the Lord showing me the reality that He was coming again – perhaps soon and that His people must “work for the night is coming…” He also gave me the words of this little poem – a challenge to the unsaved and encouraging for the Christian.

Soon we’ll gather by His Throne

Soon the night of sorrow

Will take its wings and fly.

Soon the Son of Morning

Will beckon us on high.

 

Away away from darkness,

From sickness, pain and grief;

Oh sinner come to love and life

To pardon and relief!

 

Soon the saved will meet their own,

Who left them long ago,

Soon they’ll gather by God’s Throne,

Where the crystal waters flow.

 

© Elizabeth Burke 2019

 

 

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21v4)

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14v3)

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24v44)

“One for Sorrow”… Reflections on Superstition

July 6, 2019

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I’m not sure about other nations as regards this, but the Irish, I feel, are generally a very superstitious nation. I remember a Christian telling me that she had once struggled with that little rhythm about Magpies… “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl – and four for a boy…” To see one magpie, for her, was something which had the potential to ruin her complete day!

Car registrations here have even been dictated by superstition, with number “13” being viewed as a number which brings “bad luck.” In the Republic of Ireland the registration starts with a number, then the first (and sometimes last) letters of the county where the car was registered and finally the year. All was fine with this new registration system until we reached the year “2013”… In 2012 a Meath car could have a registration of “12MH….” But once the year 2013 arrived, the numbers were swiftly changed to “131” or “132.” From that moment on, number “1” was added to each forthcoming year and if the car was registered in the second half of the year a “2” was added. It is incredible, to say the least, that an entire car registration system in a country has been dictated by superstition, as it was felt that no one would buy a “2013” car!

The list of superstitions is endless really… from “Friday 13th” to breaking mirrors and “7 years bad luck,” to a “lucky rabbit’s foot” to the belief that “bad luck comes in threes.” A black cat crossing the road in front of you is supposed to be “lucky,” but if that cat changes its mind and decides to walk back again, that is most “unlucky.” It is usually wiser not to walk under a ladder (for obvious reasons) but not to do so because of superstition is so wrong.

The Greeks, like the Irish, often have many religious icons dangling around in their cars – something which is supposed to give an aura of “protection” for the driver and his passengers. I recall being a passenger in a Greek taxi which flew around “hairpin” bends at a speed which made me feel sick as I looked down on the occasional wreck of an old car which had gone over the cliffs. Those beads and icons dangling from the mirror did nothing to allay my fears… No, I prayed to my living God and Saviour for protection.

Spiritually speaking, I have seen people in chains of anxiety because of superstition; Roman Catholicism, I believe, breeds superstition, blending as it does with whatever Pagan system was prevalent in the particular part of the world where it unfortunately came to have a presence.

The phenomenon of “moving statues” has attracted huge numbers of people to a certain area of Ireland over the years and throughout the world Catholicism has benefited financially from “apparitions of the Virgin Mary” supposedly appearing here and there.

“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious…” (Acts 17v22) Today, as in Paul’s day, many worship “they know not what.”

And today, as in Paul’s day, the risen Saviour wants to free mankind from the shackles of superstitious thought which can often dictate the very nature of their daily lives.

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17v30&31)

The devil is indeed a “hard taskmaster,” seeking to fill his subjects with superstition, worry and obsessive compulsive disorders relating to old traditional beliefs.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8v36)

Oh the freedom, liberty and joy that we can find in Him as Lord and Saviour!