Posts Tagged ‘dublin’

The Pope’s Controversial Visit to Ireland in August 2018

April 20, 2018

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There is no doubt about it; the Ireland of 1979 was vastly different to the Ireland we know today. Between 29th September and 1st October, 1979 Pope John Paul II visited Ireland and by all accounts, received a rapturous welcome from citizens young and old. I remember half of my work colleagues in the office where I worked in Northern Ireland taking the day off to travel south of the border in order to get a glimpse of him. However, back then no one knew what the following decades would reveal in terms of shocking and horrific child abuse carried out by Roman Catholic Priests and nuns – and the historical abuse of women in “Magdalene Laundries.” We were to learn of mass graves at the back of institutions run by Roman Catholic orders, the abuse of little children in “industrial schools” and the fact that babies and young children were used for medical experiments. Many babies and young children were forcibly taken from their mothers and sold to those wanting to adopt in U.S.A. and a great number of mothers would never see their children again. I have heard heart-breaking stories of how mother and child had tried to find each other years later but sometimes it was just too late and one of them had passed away. The aura of secrecy and the withholding of records in the early days certainly didn’t help either.

Many people are justifiable very angry about this and many have understandably abandoned their affiliation to the Roman Catholic system. Unfortunately that spiritual void in their lives has often been replaced by secularism or paganism or some eastern philosophy or one of the many cults pervading society here. That being so, there are still quite a number of “mass goers,” especially amongst the older population and also many “a la carte Catholics” who will pay homage to the system at particular moments in their lives or in the lives of their families.

However, the following words of our Taoiseach (the Irish Prime Minister) have angered a considerable number of Irish taxpayers. He was making the statement that “while the visit by Pope Francis is not a State visit, it will be treated as such in terms of security measures and cost.” He went on the say: “It is ultimately taxpayers’ money but I believe the majority of taxpayers in the country would want us to meet these costs as it is an historic visit. The vast majority of people will welcome Pope Francis to our country.” Given that the cost of this visit will amount to at least 20 million Euro and Ireland has a health care crises, homelessness and uncompensated victims of abuse, well, I am not so sure if he is in touch with reality…

There will be widely differing reactions to the pope’s visit but the Christian should and must use it as an opportunity. There are expected to be around 3,000 journalists from around the world in Dublin at that time, for the “World Meeting of Families” (held from 22nd – 26th August) which is to coincide with the pope’s visit. (The pope is to arrive on 25th August.) The Taoiseach has also said that “families in all their shapes and forms should be celebrated” and that this will “be relayed to the Vatican.”

As I said, the Ireland of 1979 is vastly different to the one we know today… But the need is still the same. Men, women, boys and girls need to find the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour – something which cannot be achieved by infant baptism, confirmation, participating in the mass, confession to men or penance. Only “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1John 1v7) “The Church” is not a building or an organisation or a denomination but is made up of those souls who have repented and trusted in Him alone for salvation and who are “walking in the light as He is in the light.” If only mankind could see this!

It is all too easy for the Christian (those true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ) to despair when they look at the prevailing circumstances in society but we must look up, always keeping in mind that, in the words of an old hymn, “the sky is our goal – not the grave.”  But before we depart this life or the Lord comes to take us Home, there is work to be done, for it is not His will that any to perish. Yes, He can use those who have committed their lives to Him, however weak and helpless we may feel in the face of this rapidly deteriorating world where “spiritual wickedness in high places” abounds. May the small number of stalwarts who truly know Him, write, witness, speak, reach out in love, distribute tracts – and most of all pray for the salvation of souls before the Lord’s return.

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The Mater Hospital, Dublin – and Thoughts on the Hymns of Mrs C.F. Alexander of Eccles Street

March 31, 2018

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Two members of my family have had occasion to spend many hours just recently at both the Mater and the Mater Private; both hospitals beside each other in Eccles Street, Dublin. One day, in the middle of all those lonely worrying hours spent pacing depressing hospital corridors, I took a breath of fresh air on the street outside and suddenly remembered something which lifted me spiritually. Wasn’t it in Eccles Street that one of Ireland’s best known hymn writers was born? Some say she was born at Ballykean House, Redcross, Co. Wicklow, but either way I believe that this lady had links to both these locations.

It is widely believed that Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander (nee Humphreys) was born to Major John and Mrs Humphreys at 25 Eccles Street, Dublin in early April 1818. In fact this year would be the 200th anniversary of her birth! Best known for the lovely hymns she wrote for children like “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “There is a Green Hill Far Away,” Frances was a prolific writer who wrote verse from a very early age.

As I wondered on that busy troubled street with taxis blaring their horns and ambulance sirens drowning my ears, I passed asylum seekers from troubled parts of the world and homeless people sitting begging on the pavement and I saw a man with one leg wheeling himself swiftly forward…

Two hundred years have passed and the Eccles Street where Frances was born has changed entirely, so much so that 25 Eccles Street, the Humphreys’ old family home, would appear to no longer exist. From what I could see, there was a park there now; a little area of green with a few trees and birds gently singing in the middle of mankind’s mayhem. I remembered Frances’ well known carol “Once in Royal David’s City” and the little hymn about my loving Creator that she used to teach children about creation in her Sunday school…

 

“All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

 

Each little flow’r that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colours,

He made their tiny wings.”

 

And I remembered that the hands that designed the petals on the spring flowers and the glowing colours on the feathers of the tiny birds were pierced for me – and for you. How He cares for and loves us and our families – and every needy soul in that street where hearts are burdened with poverty, suffering and a load of care. I thank Him for His Presence and His uplifting Spirit as I walk in this world which is not my home. I thank Him for the memory of the old hymn writers and their faith in the risen Saviour; something which is portrayed in Mrs Alexander’s hymn for little children…

 

“There is a green hill far away,

Without a city wall,

Where the dear Lord was crucified,

Who died to save us all.”

 

He died that we might be forgiven,

He died to make us good,

That we might go at last to heaven,

Saved by His precious blood.”

 

I returned to that hospital ward with a spring in my step, remembering that He is with me all the way… gently leading to Eternal Day. May you know the love of Jesus, the risen Saviour, in your heart today.

 

“Jesus calls us over the tumult

Of our life’s wild, restless sea;

Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,

Saying, “Christian, follow me!”

 

In our joys and in our sorrows,

Days of toil and hours of ease,

Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,

“Christian, love Me more than these.”

(C.F. Alexander 1818-1895)

Church of Ireland Archbishop’s Controversial Participation at the “Beatification” of Jesuit Priest, John Sullivan (1861-1933)

May 16, 2017

On Saturday, 13th May last the first beatification ceremony ever on Irish soil took place and I was dismayed (but not surprised) to learn that the Church of Ireland Archbishop officiated alongside the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin at this ceremony.

The candidate for beatification, John Sullivan, born on 8th May 1861 at 41 Eccles Street in Dublin was one of five children born to Sir Edward Sullivan (a member of the Church of Ireland and later Lord Chancellor of Ireland) and Elizabeth Bailey, a Roman Catholic from a prominent land-owning household in Passage West.  It is reported that he was raised in the Church of Ireland but later converted to Catholicism in 1896, aged 35.

Much that is positive has been recorded about this man, as indeed it has about other notable men and women down through history – but the eternal destination of their souls is something over which only Almighty God has control. God’s Word tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3v23) so how can mortal man have some sort of role in the “promotion” of a soul which has departed this life?

In this, the year of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, it is very disturbing to see how ecumenism has eaten into the fabric of many mainline denominations, which would once have stood firmly for the great truths of God’s Word, the Holy Bible; truths for which men and women suffered and died at the stake.

I have previously written about beatification in my blog: “Why Beatification is Blasphemous & Contrary to Scripture,” on 2nd May, 2011 and now it is with sadness that I learn of this very recent event.  As I have previously said:

“There is absolutely no scriptural foundation for the notion that men (whatever position they have been elected to) have the power to decide the destiny of a soul who has passed into eternity. Hebrews 9v27 tells me that “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…” Who judges us? Surely only God has the power to decide my spiritual standing, or yours – or that of any pope who has ever walked this earth? According to the Roman Catholic Church, “beatification is the last step on the road to sainthood.” How contrary to scripture this is, for whenever I read of ‘saints’ in the New Testament, they are indeed living followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example Paul writes to the living not to the dead in Ephesians 1v1… “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus,” and “to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” (Philippians 1v1.) The saints then (and today!) are ordinary men and women who have come by faith to a living relationship with the Lord.

The fact is… only saints can enter heaven! In Jude 14 we read that Enoch prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.”

John 1v12&13 tells me that … “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Saints are therefore born by the will of God and not by the will of men – and although their bodies die, they live on in the spirit and are elevated to heaven; not by the will of man, but by God the Creator, Saviour and indwelling Holy Spirit of all who come to Him in repentance and faith in His finished work for them at Calvary.

My prayer is that souls would come to see the “spiritual wickedness in high places” and these “doctrines of devils” that are prevalent in such ceremonies as beatification. The Bible tells me that the “love of money is the root of all evil” and I am inclined to think that prayers for the dead, relics, beatification and great ceremonies in the Vatican and other locations bring in much needed finance at times like this.

May my Lord and Saviour speak to those souls who are sincerely searching for truth and questioning the validity of such practices, beliefs and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church. Oh that they would see clearly the simplicity and wonder of this truth… that sainthood is totally God’s will for each one of us and that this has been made possible for us here and now in this life – by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ… “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins…” (Colossians 1v14

“The Ultimate Sacrifice”

March 27, 2016

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During the past week I was immediately struck by the above headline of an article in my local newspaper. The first paragraph of this article read: “This coming Easter Sunday will see people joining together to celebrate the ultimate sacrifice that can be made by any one person or group of people, dying for a cause.” However, of course the article was about the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, prior to the formation of the Irish Free State and later the Republic of Ireland – but I could not help noticing the spiritual parallel!

The online ‘Urban Dictionary’ informs me that ‘the ultimate sacrifice’ is ‘to give everything you have to save someone or something that you hold most dear.’

In the midst of all the celebrations to mark this occasion, I wonder how many are thinking of the greatest ultimate sacrifice that this world has ever known… or will ever know? We are indeed ‘most dear;’ our souls most precious to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the extent that He left the riches of Glory, to descend into this world of sinners, to be held in derision and contempt, to be mocked – and then to suffer the most agonising death at the hands of ignorant people who hated Him “without a cause.”

“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) What a noble sacrifice! This sacrifice has indeed given a life changing and an eternity changing opportunity to every single member of the human race; the opportunity to be free from sin, spiritual death – and ultimately the unthinkable horrors of hell.

In return for this ultimate sacrifice, the Lord Jesus wants nothing – but our repentant hearts, our love and our obedience. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2v3) “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2v9)

Many will celebrate a ‘rising’ in the political sense this Easter… but how many will celebrate the greatest and most victorious rising that ever was or will be? “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28v6)

Oh that you, the reader, would taste and see… the love that Jesus hath for thee! Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  (John 16v33)

“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10v11/12)

“And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27&28) My prayer is that all who read would truly be found ‘looking for Him’ upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

On the 1000th Anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf… and Spiritual Warfare

May 9, 2014

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Some weeks ago on a sunny spring day, we had the opportunity to see the re-enactment of the Battle of Clontarf in the lovely location of St. Anne’s Park, Raheny in Dublin. Hundreds of ‘soldiers’ had arrived over from many parts of Scandinavia and even Russia for the event, while many of the stall holders were from all over Europe and even some from the U.S.A.

I found it a most fascinating event, showing many of the old arts and crafts, costumes and materials, ways of cooking and way of life in general from one thousand years ago, being demonstrated in the large area devoted to the occasion.

In the Battle of Clontarf, which took place on 23rd April, 1014 in Clontarf on the east coast of Ireland, Brian Boru (High King of Ireland) was fighting against a Viking-Irish alliance which consisted of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, king of Dublin, Mάel Mόrda mac Murchada, king of Leinster, and the Vikings Sigurd of Orkney and Brodir of Mann. That battle lasted from dawn to dusk; between 7000 and 10,000 men were killed and Brian Boru’s forces were victorious but unfortunately he was killed, as was his son and grandson.

As I thought about this significant battle in Irish history just recently, I also thought about the spiritual battle that the children of God face throughout life…

From the moment we take that stand, that first step of faith which declares that ‘we are on the Lord’s side’ we can be sure that we have a most deadly enemy. He knows our vulnerabilities, both physical and emotional and will viciously attack if he suspects that our defences are down. We can never over-estimate the deep hatred and deviousness that the evil one has towards the Lord’s people and how he will create misunderstandings and cause trouble, even between fellow Christians, given the right (or should I say ‘wrong’) conditions.

I believe that it is true to say that we face spiritual warfare every day (like the Battle of Clontarf – from dawn to dusk)… and yet I know that the battle has already been won for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only in His strength that we can overcome – not by using the manmade defences and words of this world.

There are many hymns devoted to this spiritual warfare: “Forward Soldiers,” “Marching On,” “A Call to Arms,” “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” “We Shall Win!” “Who Would True Valour See,” “Soldiers of Christ,” “Victory for Me,” “Stand up Stand up for Jesus,” “Overcomers,” “Onward Christian Soldiers…”

Day and night we stand accused by the evil one; is he not the accuser of the brethren? (Rev. 12v10)

Yet the words of the Lord to His people in 2Chronicles 20v15 are indeed for His people today: “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

“Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord…” (Verse 17)

We are commanded to “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Ephesians 6v10-18)

And some wonderful day for those who are victorious in Him “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.” (Rev. 21v4)

Interestingly the Battle of Clontarf was fought on Good Friday (23rd April 1014)… but surely the battle that outshadows all battles in the history of this world was won over a thousand years previously! On this glorious day the victory was won over sin and death and hell for all mankind, ‘the whosoever will,’ by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15v55-57)

Surely, if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8v31)

 

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“Yet there is Room!” (Luke 14v22)

December 25, 2012

As far as I remember it was on a cold evening approaching Christmas that I first spotted the lone caravan on a narrow country road close to our home. ‘Travelling folks,’ I thought, as I glanced at it on my way home to prepare dinner. Somehow I knew that the Lord wanted me to talk to the occupants but busy as I was, I hurriedly drove past, resolving to return as soon as possible. I did call several times, only to find them gone and one day (to my dismay) the caravan too had disappeared.

Then the following Easter the caravan returned again to the very same location. This time, despite the fact that no one was in, I left some gifts in a safe place and a little booklet entitled “If you had been the only one… He would still have died for you!” One evening I returned to find the little caravan occupied. Now, at last, I could meet the owners! Parking my car some distance away, I apprehensively walked up and knocked my knuckles on the cold metal door. To my surprise it swung open and a friendly face beamed at me. “Were you the person who left the booklet and the gifts? Thank you so much!  Please do come in… ” Looking over her shoulder at the many faces within, I felt that to get in would be impossible! “Oh, thank you but… it’s o.k.”  I faltered awkwardly. “I just wanted to be sure you got the stuff I left.” I was embarrassed at my own reaction to their overcrowded circumstances, yet at the same time touched and humbled by the hospitality of that traveller lady.

Many years ago my father struck up acquaintance with an elderly Romany Gypsy man who had travelled over from England. The elderly man in question had just one eye, the other having been put out by a briar springing back on him. He was touring Ireland in his old Romany caravan with his middle-aged daughter, both pleasant friendly people, as I recall. I will always remember one evening, seeing the light of the camp-fire as they cooked their evening meal. I thought of my own limited conversation with the travelling folk I had met just recently and compared it to my father’s witness to the Romany gypsies all those years ago. How relaxed he was when he spoke to them!

I don’t remember my precise exchange of words with the lady in the crowded caravan, but I do pray that the Lord took my feeble inadequate words and spoke to that family, as only He can. As a naturally shy person, I often get tongue-tied, especially when trying to talk to people who are of a different background to me but the Lord has taught me that I should not “respect persons.” (James 2v9)  The local Rector or the ‘lord of the manor’ may quite well be more difficult to reach with spiritual truths than someone from the “travelling community!” It is my sincere desire that the Lord would use me; that I would learn to be natural with people, whatever their circumstances – and how differing those circumstances can be! I have encountered those who live in vast mansions, akin to castles, yet the door has been opened but narrowly and reluctantly – if at all. No welcoming voice has invited me in. On the other hand, I have visited a small one-storey dwelling with only one bedroom, one box room and a family of six children and their parents, where the mother has invited me in for tea. Despite education and widespread affluence, there remains that great gulf in our society between rich and poor and the people we meet are as diverse and interesting as the dwellings they live in.

Oh that the Lord would assist me to proclaim His name to all these differing individuals and that these words of St. Paul would be apply to me… “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1Cor. 9v19-22)

That little caravan was so full of people! Perhaps I would have fitted in – perhaps not. Certainly I didn’t want to take anyone’s seat. Unlike Heaven there may not have been room for just one more person. In this context, George Frazer’s hymn “Come, Hear the Gospel Sound” comes to mind. Born in CountyLeitrim in 1840, George found the Saviour in the Great Revival of 1859/60 in the city of Dublin. There was ‘no room’ in the meeting for George on the night that God spoke to his heart, but by climbing up to a second storey windowsill, he was able to hear those life-changing words: “Yet there is room.” (Luke 14v22) After two weeks of deep conviction, he trusted the Lord for salvation. He was then twenty years old and soon he began writing verse to the glory of his new Master. Much later he recalled that night at the crowded gospel meeting where the Lord spoke to him as he sat on a windowsill, and the hymn “Come, Hear the Gospel Sound” was born. How beautifully it fits in with his conversion experience!

Come! Hear the gospel sound –

“Yet there is room!”

It tells to all around –

“Yet there is room!”

Though guilty, now draw near,

Though vile, you need not fear,

With joy you now may hear –

“Yet there is room!”

God’s love in Christ we see –

“Yet there is room!”

Greater it could not be –

“Yet there is room!”

His only Son He gave,

He’s righteous now to save

All who on Him believe –

“Yet there is room!”

“All things are ready: come!”

“Yet there is room!”

Christ everything hath done –

“Yet there is room!”

The work is now complete,

“Before the mercy-seat,”

A Saviour you shall meet –

“Yet there is room!”

God’s house is filling fast –

“Yet there is room!”

Some soul will be the last –

“Yet there is room!”

Yes, soon Salvation’s day

From you will pass away,

Then grace will no more say –

“Yet there is room!”

George West Frazer

(1840-1896)

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On Young People, Their Future – and Some Thoughts on the Exclusive Brethren

November 27, 2012

After attending the graduation ceremonies of two of my daughters in Dublin in recent weeks, I have been thinking about how difficult it is for young people to make a living in this current era of unemployment and widespread cutbacks. Most parents are apprehensive when their children set out to go to university – but then so thankful when they complete their degrees, accomplishing that goal they had set for themselves three or four years earlier. The Christian parent will pray for their son or daughter, in the knowledge that there is a much more important goal… they pray that their children will ultimately own the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.

Of course we have concerns during the years they attend university. We wonder about the company they keep and the influences that permeate their lives from all quarters – but we cannot keep young people locked away forever from the outside world, whatever our strongly held principles.

If we truly know the Lord, we pray – and we continue to pray in faith for our children until the Lord takes us Home.

With this in mind I have been thinking in recent days about a religious sect known as ‘the Exclusive Brethren’ and just how difficult it must be for young people who are born into one of these homes where legalism seems to be the order of the day.

Exclusive Brethren young people are not permitted to have a third level education and many of them invariably end up working for a company or business which is run by their parents’ church colleagues. The Exclusive Brethren broke away from the ‘Plymouth Brethren,’ the latter having had its beginnings in Dublin in 1830, but formed its first congregation in Plymouth in 1831. John Nelson Darby, one of the original prominent preachers, separated from the Plymouth Brethren to form the Exclusive Brethren which is today governed by the Australian Bruce Hales who is known as ‘the elect vessel.’

Some previous ‘elect vessels’ have been very controversial indeed, but what is most serious is the cult-like influence that they have over their members who amongst other prohibitions, are not allowed to eat or drink with those who are not of their persuasion. They must live in detached houses and pets are also prohibited. If young people decide that they do not want to be Exclusive Brethren, they are ostracised by their loved ones within the church. Today the Exclusive Brethren have spread throughout the world and have a presence in most European countries, while church buildings are built in such a way as to deter visitors. How far removed this is from the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Master Soul winner, who ate with publicans and sinners!

One afternoon I was walking down the street in a local town, when I spotted two young ladies in headscarves. I had often seen other ladies dressed similarly and was curious to know what religious denomination they belonged to. (At that point I knew nothing about them.) I somehow got talking to one of the girls, although her friend was a little reluctant to talk to me at all and kept her distance. Obviously married quite young, they were pushing young children in buggies. As I listened to the girl who spoke to me about their beliefs, I also told her of my own personal experience of coming to know the Lord as Saviour. However, when I asked her of her personal experience, I learned that she had none at all. “I believe what I believe because this is what my parents brought me up to believe,” she told me. I came away from that brief conversation with a terrible feeling of sadness. This young girl had told me of all the ‘don’ts’ in her life but she evidently had no living personal relationship with the Lord Jesus as Saviour. She dressed modestly, lived without all the modern trappings of this life and perhaps even prayed and read the scriptures – but she appeared to have no joy and no knowledge of sins forgiven, no life of faith – but one of works alone.

As I looked at my photographs of the young graduates of Trinity College, Dublin just recently, I thought of Edward Cronin, a young medical student in that same college over 180 years ago and how he was the one to start meeting with others for the ‘breaking of bread’ in a private house, because he was refused communion unless he joined one of the dissenting churches. John Nelson Darby then entered the equation but he was to draw others away with him, over a disagreement about prophetic interpretation. From 1848 the Brethren became two distinct groups; the open Brethren held to the principles upon which they were founded but the Exclusive Brethren became increasingly cult-like, with one central figure dictating how member families were to lead their lives.

There have been many schisms throughout all factions of the Brethren movement, but today I pray for members of the Exclusive brethren and I especially think of the young people who are brought up within the system. Yes, and I pray too for my own children whom I love dearly – and for all children and young people, whether they have had the opportunity to go to college or not, in the knowledge that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.” (Psalm 127v1)

Embarking on our Journey to the Greek Island of Kos

July 24, 2012

I’ve never been a ‘morning person,’ particularly when the morning in question consists of frantic weighing of suitcases and sleepily wondering whether my husband and I had remembered everything – both for the journey ahead and for those we had left at home. It was a quiet, cool grey dawn as we drove along the motorway to the airport. ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘it would be good to get a break from Ireland’s torrential rain for a while!’

For some reason I was selected for a random thorough check by airport security. “Oh, don’t worry,” laughed the lady who searched me, “this morning we’re just selecting every twentieth person.”

Later as the aircraft accelerated along the runway and rose shakily into the grey mist, I thought about what is termed in aviation as ‘the point of no return’ and I immediately thought of those words in Hebrews 9v27: “… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.”  Mankind, in this life alone, can make His peace with God. There is no chance to put things right either with our Creator or our fellowmen after death…

I thought about the ill-feeling which can develop between neighbours and even family members and remembered two men I had known in my life. They had stopped speaking to each other; I don’t recall much about the reason why now or whether they had ever been reconciled to each other before they had passed their respective ‘points of no return.’ I certainly hoped so. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Col. 3v13&14)

Yet, it is a fact that only those who have come to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour can ‘put on charity,’ for we can only be forgiving in His strength.

Later in London’s Gatwick Airport we had some hours to wait before our flight to Kos and I heard a lady’s voice over the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen, you are invited to a service of Christian worship in the south terminal, starting at…”

“Well now,” said my husband, “wouldn’t that be a good way to pass some time, since we have quite a while before the gates open for our next flight? After that we can have lunch.”

I agreed with him and we made our way down to this ‘service of Christian worship.’

We were disappointed, however, with the outcome. As I expected there were very few people there but that wasn’t the disappointing part, “for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them…” (Matt. 18v20)

The service was held in a communal worship centre which is also used by other denominations and religious sects. Amongst those who attended were some enthusiastic young people who had come to witness with Christian literature to those who were attending the London Olympics and I did find this encouraging. However, I felt that the lady who spoke at this service was an advocate of ecumenism and I also felt uncomfortable with the other religious symbols on display there, for… “what communion hath light with darkness?” (2Cor. 6v14)

Later I purchased something in one of the airport shops and the assistant put my purchase into a ‘London News Company’ bag. I looked with interest at this bag which depicted the London skyline, complete with all sorts of religious symbols, including the mosque. For some reason the tune of “Rule Britannia” came into my head, with the words… “Britons never never never shall be slaves…”

‘Slaves,’ I thought, ‘but many are slaves now… slaves to the concept of political correctness.’

Our flight to Kos was smooth and the hours passed quickly – but not uneventfully! I thank the Lord for those opportunities He gives us to reach our fellow passengers within the confines of aircrafts, or ships, or trains – and on the journey of life itself.

Later as our taxi driver, in the heat of the dark night, sped along strange new roads which consisted of hairpin bends overlooking dangerous cliffs, I dreamed of home so far away now. Our driver accepted my ‘John 3v16’ Greek bookmark with a smile, as he helped us out with our cases.

A moment later a friendly face greeted us at our accommodation. “Welcome home!” he said kindly, as he shook our hands warmly. Yes, this would be ‘home’ for a couple of weeks and I prayed that warm night, as I fell asleep to the tune of a thousand crickets… ‘thank you Lord for your goodness, for safety, for your mercy and for the opportunities that you will give us in this place…”

Lovely Laois – and some Spiritual Analogies

June 19, 2012

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Laois, that truly beautiful little county in Ireland’s midlands. However, even Laois was looking decidedly miserable under a sullen grey sky and icy cutting wind on Saturday! After a meal in the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, my husband and I drove on to Durrow, for the opening of the new Faith Mission centre there in the townland of Knockagrally. Crowds of people gathered into the tent which had been erected for the purpose of this opening and dedication service; the centre has not been entirely completed, as a conference meeting room is yet to be built.

Somehow the final hymn of the service spoke to me… “How Great Thou Art!” Especially those words… “Thy power throughout the universe displayed…” The Irish weather has certainly never been dependable, but these days I find it strangely cold for summer. God sends rain, wind, sun and the more extreme versions of all three phenomenons and others as He sees fit. I believe that adverse weather conditions can be God’s judgement upon a nation, including those who profess to know Him.

We stayed overnight at the hotel and on Sunday morning that elusive sun was shining. I looked out of the window to see crowded coaches leaving the hotel. Someone waved to me, as I stared down at them and waved back… those people, I instinctively knew, were making their way to the final meeting of the Eucharistic Congress  in Croke Park. Hurriedly I made my way down to the car park and was relieved to see one remaining coach. As these Cork people made their way onto it, each one accepted a priest’s testimony tract. I thanked the Lord for their response and even for one lady who gave the tract a knowing look and said: “You’re here to create peace, are you?” I was a little taken aback at this, but answered to the affirmative. Yes, I thought… the “peace that passeth all understanding”… but only my Lord can create lasting peace in hearts.

Surely only He can enable us to be content under all circumstances? Certainly, I came away from my tract distribution with the satisfaction of knowing that His Word “would not return unto Him void.”

Sunday proved to be dry with sunny spells and I was pleased to see some lovely scenes as we made our way slowly home… simple things like fluffy clouds reflected in a little window of the old sexton’s house in Abbeyleix, reminding me of that verse: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11v4)

The tent was gone from the conference centre, reminding me of the transience of life and that nothing ever remains the same on this earth… nevertheless, though people may change, circumstances may change – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8)

I saw a plaque commemorating the battle of Barnaglitty in 1599, in which Owny MacRory O’More with his small band of followers defeated the great army of the Earl of Essex, reminding me that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1Samuel 17v47)

The old stone arch railway bridge at the hotel reminded me that there is only one Bridge between God and man – the Risen Saviour; the round tower of Timahoe reminded me that He is my strength and “strong tower from the enemy” (Psalm 61v3); the ancient graveyard in Abbeyleix reminded me that I must work… “for the night cometh when no man can work;” (John 9v4); a sparkling river flowing between green banks reminded me that the “Lord is my Shepherd;” a ruined three storey period house reminded me that this life’s possessions are but for a season and the little stone table and seats that are so common in this part of Laois reminded me that “there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4v9)

My prayer is that the nature of this ‘rest’ would once again be expounded from the pulpits of Ireland… by souls who have truly experienced it in their own hearts.

The 2012 International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin – and the Mass versus the Book of Hebrews

June 15, 2012

It is eighty years now since the last Eucharistic Congress was held in the city of Dublin and this week I have been reading Roman Catholicism’s statements on the Eucharist, in the light of the book of Hebrews. A Eucharistic Congress I learn… “is an international gathering of people which aims to:

(1) Promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church.

(2) Help improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy

(3) Draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist.”

What is the ‘Holy Eucharist,’ according to Roman Catholic doctrine? The ‘Holy Eucharist,’ I am told, ‘is a sacrament and a sacrifice.’

I further am informed that… ‘In the Holy Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received. The whole Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. The words “really, truly, and substantially” are used to describe Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist in order to distinguish Our Lord’s teaching from that of mere men who falsely teach that the Holy Eucharist is only a sign or figure of Christ, or that He is present only by His power.’

Therefore, clearly we understand from Roman Catholic doctrine that ‘the Holy Eucharist’ is a sacrifice. However, when I turn to God’s Word, in the Book of Hebrews, I read these words… “And every priest standeth ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews  10v11-12)

I love the words of Hebrews 10v17-17-20… “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh…”

If the Eucharist as a sacrifice is a ‘bloodless’ sacrifice, then we learn in Hebrews 9v22, that it is futile as a sacrifice, for… “without shedding of blood is no remission.”

On the other hand, if people believe that it is truly the body and blood of Christ, then they are contravening God’s law, for we read… “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to the 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)

My prayer is that eyes would be opened by these words…

“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9v24-26)

I feel at this point that I should conclude with the words of Jesus Himself, at the last supper… “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22v17-20)

Jesus by His words and actions was instructing His disciples and ultimately, all those who would come to Him in repentance down through the ages, to “do this in remembrance of me.” The bread and wine were figurative of the greater sacrifice of Himself.

Here is a thought… how could His disciples actually eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood, when He was there in Person, with them?

Jesus often spoke figuratively… “I am the door,” (John 10v9) “I am the true vine.” (John 15v1) “I am the vine, ye are the branches…” (John 15v5) “I am that bread of life.” (John 6v35) “Ye are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5v13) “Ye are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5v14); “My sheep hear my voice…” (John 10v27)

Prior to last Sunday when I was viewing the special site set up for the purpose of the Eucharistic Congress, I noticed a ‘countdown’ to its commencement. Surely the countdown is getting lower and lower every day, with regard to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? His last words in the Book of Revelation are: “Surely I come quickly.” (verse 20) I would urge all who read this to seek out the truth in His Word and not to rely on the traditions of men…. “seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you…” (Matthew 7v7) May the Lord bless His Word to all who read with seeking hearts.