Posts Tagged ‘eternity’

Oh for a Glimpse of Eternity!

May 28, 2017

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There are many thousands of different religions and systems of belief in this world – and many conflicting views as to what happens human beings when they depart this life. Roman Catholics believe in an intermediary place known as “purgatory,” although the Christian Bible contains no reference to any such place; Hinduism teaches reincarnation, “karma” and the cycle of life, while Islam believes that “mankind will be divided into two groups, one in Paradise and one in hell.” Both, they say will “abide therein forever.” Of course, they maintain, that only Muslims can go to Paradise. Whatever conflicting views they have, there is a general consensus amongst all systems of belief that our behaviour in this life will determine the nature of our life in the next.

There are also multiple conflicting views on the nature of paradise too. Mormons, for example, have some strange views, talking of “three heavenly kingdoms:” the celestial, terrestrial and telestial. However, that is another discussion for another time. In the wake of recent suicide bombings, it is the nature of Islam’s “paradise” that has been very much occupying my mind this week. Amongst all the systems of belief that I have ever heard of, their view of “paradise,” with its promise of 72 virgins to jihadists must surely sound evil to any right-minded person.  It is said in Palestine that a mother who sends her son to die as a martyr is sometimes seen as “marrying him off.”

All of this makes me wonder what supposedly awaits female jihadists – and there have been quite a few. Sadly, those who die this way, unless they repent within the very short time they have before death, face an eternity more horrific than we can ever imagine. I only wish that they could have a vision of this – for if they did, they would never murder and maim so many men, women and children the world over. If only they weren’t brainwashed by the words of their fellowmen and would seek the living God – the one God who sent His only Son to die that they might inherit the real paradise, which can never be compared to anything we have experienced on this earth. Even the peaceful green fields of my childhood to which I sometimes return to walk with joy, are nothing in comparison with what awaits those who love the Lord.

Those who have not been born again of the spirit of God have a view of heaven that is akin to a continuation of their own base greed and earthly desires in this life. They don’t see it as Jesus described it… “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22v29&30) But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Corinthians 2v9)

As the Muslim month of Ramadan has just commenced, there have also been calls for jihadists to perpetrate yet more crimes in the countries they are living in throughout the west. With all my heart I wish that potential suicide bombers and terrorists could see that far from an eternity of self-indulgence and their own strange ideas of “paradise,” they will face judgement, for “as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27&28)

Sadly, Islam maintains that Jesus never died at all – and therefore He never rose again. On the contrary those who know Him love Him and see His resurrection as the ultimate victory over sin and death and hell. “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in the heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1v15&16.)

I have often thought about heaven and the joy of meeting loved ones again. It is important to remember that our relationship with them will be different, yes – but it will be better beyond anything we can ever conceive of in this life. And most of all, what joy to meet the One who saved me by His grace! “His smile will be the first to welcome me.” How I wish those who are planning evil deeds could believe that there are untold wonders in the real paradise, for all who repent and put their trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. Frances J. Crosby’s hymn “My Saviour first of all” describes the scene so beautifully and scripturally… This lady was physically blind in this life, but oh how she could see spiritually! How amazing for her, when on the first day of eternity, she had the joy of meeting and seeing her beloved Saviour!

“Thro’ the gates to the city in a robe of spotless white,

He will lead me where no tears shall ever fall;

In the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight;

But I long to see my Saviour first of all.”

Link to this hymn: https://youtu.be/CMFM-lpzCC0

 

 

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The Erroneous Practice of the “Blessing of the Graves”

June 12, 2016

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Around this and other times of the year here in Ireland I have noticed various newspapers proclaiming an event known as “the blessing of the graves.” Relatives of the deceased are encouraged to tidy their graves in preparation for the event and although this ritual may vary in rural and urban areas throughout Ireland, in all places where it is held the priest will bless those graves and pray for all the deceased within that graveyard. May I say that I sincerely hope that no one ever prays for me when I am dead! However, whether they do or not will make absolutely no difference to my eternal destination for the Bible says: “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) How wonderful to have that assurance in your heart… that the very moment your soul is separated from your body, it will be in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! “Absent from the body… present with the Lord!” (2Corintians 5v8)

With regard to the afterlife, the Bible makes it very clear that there is only a choice of two destinations for the soul… heaven or hell. Roman Catholic theologians invariably refer to the book of Maccabees to support an ‘in-between’ destination which they refer to as ‘Purgatory’ but the book of Maccabees and other books of the Apocrypha were never referred to by Jesus or the apostles. In fact, these spurious books were not even accepted by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in 1546 AD. Also, these books were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, it was not written in Hebrew and furthermore teaches immoral practices which could never be conceived to be the Word of God.

As is the case with this and other ordinances of Roman Catholicism, there is usually a sum of money involved in having your graves blessed. At this point I must relate something which I witnessed quite a few years ago. I was once visiting a monastery in Northern Ireland when I stumbled upon a “blessing of the cars” ceremony. Before me was an interesting scene… I saw a priest hovering over a car with some “holy” water, while a lady was simultaneously searching her open handbag to pay him for this dubious privilege.

I often wonder how poverty stricken parishioners have felt throughout the years, when they could not afford to pay the priest for blessing the graves of loved ones and for praying that they will eventually be released from Purgatory, which is said to be a place or state of suffering where sins are reputedly cleansed, in preparation for Heaven.

The very thought that a soul may be bought a place in Heaven with filthy lucre is surely the height of blasphemy. In Psalm 49v6&7 we read… “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).

Praise God, the great price has been paid, for “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1John 1v7)

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1Peter1v18-21)

So graves, while they may be kept tidy, cannot be “blessed” and deceased souls should not be prayed for, for the Lord Jesus Christ was “once offered to bear the sins of many” and the great sacrifice has been paid once for all, giving living souls the opportunity to repent of their sins and put their trust in His redeeming blood, so that they may have that assurance in their hearts of a home in Heaven.

“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; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10v11-14) Praise God that we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10v22) And praise God we can be cleansed from our sins in the ‘here and now’ in preparation for Heaven – which, unlike  the fictitious place of Purgatory is a destination of pure light, love and joy; a destination which is in God’s will for every soul who is alive today. (1John 2v2)

“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.” (1Corinthians 15v55-57)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3v16)

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16v31)

The Tragedy of the Sinking of the Lusitania

May 5, 2015

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This week marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great Cunard ocean liner, the RMS Lusitania at Queenstown (now Cobh) off the coast of east Cork. On the 7th May 1915 this once glamorous and famous ship was torpedoed by a German submarine with the loss of 1200 lives. This week the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren (and indeed great-great grandchildren) of the town will remember how their ancestors helped the injured and shocked survivors who somehow made it to the shores of their town. I recently listened to old voice recordings on the radio of people who had remembered this terrible tragedy, one of many during the First World War.

I was also fascinated to hear of the work of a modern day diver who explores such old maritime wrecks beneath the ocean. He was emotional when describing how he had seen some of the personal effects of those who had drowned, many of whose bodies had never been found. However, diving and exploring old wrecks is dangerous and intricate work, even though the explorers find it so fascinating.

I have an interesting (ex-library) book in my possession: “The Discovery of the Titanic” by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, who also dived to the Lusitania; this book shows many personal effects and furnishings which were discovered during exploration years later. Poignantly, one of the photographs shows a doll’s head lying on the ocean floor. I wonder did the little girl to whom it belonged survive? Reaching this legendary ship, the author (and diver) says became something of an obsession for him – and I can see why.

Many fascinating artefacts rest upon the ocean floor, some surviving the rigours of time and the elements but the human skeleton will naturally disintegrate. While I reflected on the tragedy of the Lusitania itself, I also thought on the diversity of its passengers.

The last survivor of the Lusitania died in January 2011 at the age of 96. Her name was Audrey Warren Lawson-Johnston (née Pearl) who was only 3 months old when she boarded the Lusitania with her parents and siblings. Unfortunately two of her sisters, Amy and Susan, just 3 years and 14 months respectively were lost. She had a little brother (Stuart: 5) who survived.

Apart from the tragedy of the children, I was intrigued by the many prominent people in public life who were lost in this terrible tragedy: the president of a company, a mining entrepreneur, an actress, a composer and conductor, a well-known assembly man, economist and engineer, the director of a steamship company, a British art dealer, an American writer, the president of a ship-building company, a playwright, Sir Hugh Lane, the renowned art collector, a fashion designer, an American pianist, politicians… the list goes on. People in all walks of life, many of them well-known, lost forever in the depths of the ocean.

Today the wreckage of the Lusitania still lies on the seafloor, some artefacts still being visible. However, of those passengers who lost their lives, many were never recovered and of the 150 victims who were buried in mass graves in the Old Church cemetery north of Cobh, 80 were never identified.

Reflecting upon this tragedy, somehow the words of Revelation 20 verses 12-15 came to mind: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

These are serious words of truth – and warning. Surely: “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom 14v12)

Just as the Lusitania maintained her Atlantic crossings, despite a war situation, leaving civilians open to terrifying danger, many people today, although they have been made aware of the eternal danger, continue to live outside of God’s grace to mankind. Eternity lies ahead of this short life. May those who read be prepared by repenting of their sins and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ to save them and may those who know Him “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: 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)

All These Things Shall Pass Away

April 12, 2014

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Just last night I was thinking about this world and remembering all the magnificent buildings and the beautiful scenery that I have had the privilege to see over the years. I thought also about mankind’s struggles for power, the wars, the ideologies and the many thousands of different religions that exist in our world today. All across the earth at this moment there are arguments going on in homes, in governments, politicians are scheming, men are planning robbery and while children are starving to death in war-torn regions, others are amassing riches…

Some days ago I walked through an antique store which was full to the brim with very expensive and unique pieces (none of which I could afford) – but all these things shall pass away. I see people with massive dwellings surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens; I hear of celebrities and their acclamation; I see men rise to powerful positions in the realm of the ‘church’ and politics – but all of this shall pass away.

In Psalm 103v15&16 I read: “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.”
Yes, the ideologies of mankind, his striving and his great material possessions will most certainly pass away. Our bodies in their present form shall also pass away. In fact everything that is tangible in our world shall pass away… but there is that, that shall never pass away…

Those unseen attributes, the beauty of the soul whose rest is in the Lord shall never pass away and the mercy of the Lord shall never pass away. “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.” (Psalm 103v17)
“To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.” (Psalm 103v18)
“The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever; the Lord shall rejoice in his works.” (Psalm 104v31)

And, praise God, the soul whose trust is in the Lamb shall reign for ever and ever.
“And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22v5)

As each day draws to a close, with all its concerns and ups and downs, I now remind myself that “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6v34) and praise God, I am “a days march nearer home.”
I quote the final verse of my little poem “Though Towers and Kingdoms flee away”, which is based on Psalm 103v11-22)
The full poem can be seen here: https://readywriterpublications.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/my-strong-tower/

May the Lord bless those who read, that they may find that rest in Him; the blessed rest that shall never pass away.

But the soul whose trust is in the Lamb,
Whose blood was freely shed, its healing balm
A gift of love for all who ever were, or will
Be born into this world of sin and ill –
That soul shall stand though towers and kingdoms flee away,
Yea, that soul shall have eternal joy beyond life’s little day.

© E. Burke

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The Sorrow of Parting – and the Joy of Reunion

June 21, 2013

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Just recently my husband’s aunt returned for a visit from Australia where she had made her home many years ago. How wonderful it was to see her again after quite a few years! With Australia in mind, I recall the emigration of an uncle of mine to that far-off place when I was a child. Their house was sold and my uncle and his wife and children stayed with various relatives until the morning they were to leave. My grandmother was distraught as she said goodbye for the very last time to her son and his family on the platform of Portadown railway station. Sadly she was never to see him ever again and some have even said that she knew this instinctively and that this parting knowledge broke her heart.

As we hugged and said our goodbyes to my husband’s aunt at a farewell reunion of his side of the family, I felt emotional in the knowledge that some of the family may have passed away, should she ever return. It is difficult, too, for someone in their seventies to make that long journey. Australia is about as far as anyone can travel from the island of Ireland, involving long flights.

Some months ago I waved goodbye to my daughter as once more she returned to Italy. I stood there, at our front door and watched, waving, while the car, with my husband driving, made its way slowly out onto the country road outside our home. I watched her last wave to me and then with a heavy heart, I turned and made my way to her bedroom, where I kneeled at her bed to pray for her. I prayed for that ‘hedge of thorns’ to surround her and for the Lord’s protection in her life. Parting is never easy.

Many a tear is shed in railway stations, sea ferry terminals and great airports the world over as loved ones say their goodbyes, not knowing for absolutely certain that they shall ever meet again in this life. I remember sitting in a train which had stopped in a railway station in pre-war Yugoslavia. Wives, mothers and girlfriends were on the platform crying, as young soldiers boarded the train. Although this was 1981, it was a strange scene, almost like a film from the Second World War era…

I was young then too and very touched by this great expression of sorrow that I was witness to.

Parting is never easy when those we love depart this scene of time either. Death, that last enemy snatches our loved ones and leaves us with broken hearts.

And some day there will be a different kind of parting too, for “then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” (Matthew 24v40&41) This is surely the ultimate in a sorrowful parting – the reality that souls will never ever meet again in eternity.

Yet this terrible separation need never happen, for the Lord Jesus Christ suffered, died and rose again that families, acquaintances and loved ones might be united in Him today – and for always.

The most terrible and unthinkable separation of all would surely be the one whereby we are separated eternally from the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. This horrific possibility was never in the Lord’s will for any person on this earth. He gave His life that a glorious reunion may be ours in heaven – with those we loved and knew who trusted Him here. And most wonderful of all is the knowledge that we can rest in His Presence throughout the glorious years of eternity, when all tears shall be wiped away from our eyes and pain, dying, sorrow and war shall be no more. It is surely His will that you turn in repentance and faith to the One who loves you and died for your salvation that you might know His Presence in your life forevermore. May the Lord bless these words to your heart.

 

 

Tears of anguish fell so long ago,

With emigration’s cruel and bitter flow.

Earthly ties were cut forever,

Loved ones lost to man’s endeavour.

 

Oh that every circle would unbroken be,

On that other shore beyond life’s crashing sea,

So find that promised rest, oh troubled soul,

That thy name be called from Jesus’ blessed roll.

 

© Elizabeth Burke

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Have You Broken those New Year Resolutions already?

January 9, 2012

I suppose that most people have made them – and mostly they don’t last! There are so many vices that people may want to cut down on – or give up completely, but somehow they just don’t have the willpower.  “Why don’t New Year resolutions work?” one may ask. Well, the answer is simple – because of the weak nature of our humanity! In Job 5v7 we read: “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” Matthew 26v41 proclaims: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Nevertheless, there are the success stories! I know a man who gave up smoking many years ago, but it wasn’t a matter of mere willpower, for with David, the Psalmist he could say: “My help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121v2) You see, he went to a meeting one night, where he heard that he needed to be right with God in order to spend eternity in heaven and when he asked God to take over his life, all those vices that he knew to be displeasing to Him immediately lost their attraction. To be right with God, we need to change our ways, allowing Him to deal with the sin in our lives, but we cannot do this in our own strength.

Original sin is something that each one of us has inherited from the Garden of Eden… “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5v12). Furthermore, the Bible tells us that no sinner shall inherit eternal life… “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” (Psalm 1v5) ‘How awful,’ you may think, ‘but since I have inherited my sinful condition, what on earth can I do about it – and how can I have that assurance of sins forgiven, and a home in heaven?’

The answer to these very serious questions is surely found in God’s Word, the Bible, where God has laid out His simple plan of salvation. In Romans 5v8 we read: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And in Romans 6v23 we read… “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Many of us are familiar with the story of how Jesus, a righteous person, died all those years ago. But did you know that if you had been the only one, He would still have died for you? Looking far down the years, He could see your birth – and mine, and that of all the other souls who populate this world of ours… and He loved each one of us enough to die, that we may have life. “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2Peter 3v9), He wants each one of us to be ready for that terrible Day of Judgement, when “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…” (2Peter 3v10)

Are you ready for this awful Day, which may take place sooner than we think? If not, salvation can be found, not in your own self-righteousness, good works, church-going, community work, or in any other seemingly virtuous trait that you may possess – but in the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary – who was not just a righteous person, but the Son of God. “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) When Jesus died, and rose again, He conquered sin and death forever, and no further sacrifice is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher that the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7v26-28) Remember that only He can forgive sins, because only He was born sinless, and has never sinned. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4v12)

What then, must I do to be saved? Firstly I must acknowledge my sinful state… “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1v8) Secondly, I must acknowledge that I cannot save myself… “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) Thirdly I must believe that Jesus has paid the price for my sins once and for all, and that no further sacrifice is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2v2) “Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7v25) Fourthly I must repent of all those sins that I’ve committed, whether big or small, in my previous life. Of course I may not remember everything – but if I have a repentant spirit regarding my past, His blood will cover it all. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1v9) Finally, having put my trust in Him alone for salvation, I may rejoice in His wonderful promises to those that love and follow Him… “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8) “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5v9)…”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 through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6v22&23)

Please don’t walk further into the unknown year that lies before you, without considering the most important thing in life – your soul’s salvation. Jesus said… “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10v9) “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2v21) He will not turn away anyone who comes unto Him by faith… “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) Why not pray a prayer of faith, in the quietness of your heart today?  Remember – tomorrow may be too late!

“Dear Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I am a sinner, needing your salvation. Thank You for sending Your only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to save me. Please forgive me for my sins, and come into my heart at this very moment. Cleanse me, make me a new person – the person You want me to be, so that my life will be used for Your service. Keep me from falling, give me courage to tell others of my changed life, help me to read Your Word, the Bible and to find fellowship with those who share my experience. May your Presence reign in my life, for all of my days, in Jesus Name, Amen.”

Praise God – I’m Rich!

April 1, 2011

Something happened to me one evening just recently; something which I find difficult to put into words, expect to say that I was suddenly overwhelmed by the Lord’s Presence and I came to see how rich I was in Him. Of course when most people see the word ‘rich’ in print, the spiritual never crosses their minds; they visualise property, gold, money or possessions. Yet this is what the Lord showed me that evening… the depths of the spiritual riches that are mine in Him!

Sometimes we are troubled on every side by those who can talk of nothing but the material, while at the same time numerous bills are being shoved through our letterboxes or our bank accounts are dwindling with one direct-debit after another. As a consequence, we may start to worry, growing irritable and pre-occupied – but this is not the Lord’s will for His children!

As we walk by faith each day, we must keep our eyes on the Lord and not on the stormy waves of this world’s monetary problems which threaten to overwhelm us.

In the early days of our marriage, when my husband was still a student and we managed to live on very little, someone gave me a little wooden plaque with these words… “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4v19) I believe that these needs apply to both the spiritual and the material, but at the same time I don’t agree with those whose philosophy supports the notion that ‘health, wealth and prosperity’ go ‘hand in hand’ with the Christian life.

In Philippians 4v19, we learn of those “whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things…”

All around me I see people who are so rich in the things of this world. Sadly they are totally taken up with material things and probably never give a thought to the serious matter of eternity. If my possessions consisted of nothing but the material – how poor I would be! Jesus warns us in Luke 12v15… “Take heed; and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

Just recently I was becoming quite concerned about people with whom I was in touch talking about money (or their lack of it) all the time. At the same time I could see that in reality these same people had much to be thankful for in the material sense – but sadly they were poverty stricken in the spiritual sense. In truth this life with all its material possessions will very soon pass away for each one of us. My prayer is that those of us who know the Lord would learn to “count our blessings” – both in the material and spiritual sense, while those who are still outside of grace would read the parable of the rich man in Luke 12v16-21 – and trust the Lord to save them, so that they would not lay up treasure for themselves – but be rich towards God. (Luke 12v21)

Getting back to my experience that evening – I felt so close to Lord after this; somehow He had given me a revelation of just how rich I am and I believe that there are even more riches to be possessed in Him. He has given me His wonderful Word to read; He is constantly there for me as my Guide in the onward march of life, He is my Confidant, my All – and most of all, He has given me the unspeakable riches of glory and everlasting life, which are mine through the gift of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! 1Peter 1v3&4 describes it so well: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,” How can I not rejoice in such riches – and how can I not pray for them to be bestowed on every living soul with whom I come in contact?

Link to the hymn “Count your Blessings:” http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/c/o/u/countyou.htm

Praise God for the Rescue of the Miners in Chile!

October 15, 2010

Their plight struck a chord with me when I first learned of these trapped miners over two months ago. Having a tendency to suffer from claustrophobia, I immediately thought about how I would react in the same situation. But my little one-off experiences of being trapped or ‘locked in’ bear no relation at all to what those Chilean miners have been through. Surviving on minimal nutrition, in darkness, with a lack of sanitary/hygiene facilities… the entire experience doesn’t even bear thinking about. Just yesterday my husband handed me a newspaper which had for its title the cry of one of the miners, as he emerged safely… “I was with God and the devil, and I reached out for God…!”

Surely an experience like this is bound to make men think about what lies beyond their lives on this earth? Their experience led me to other horrific thoughts… what must hell be like? Most people don’t want to think about that at all, let alone think deeply about it; that awful black darkness, the smell of forever burning but above all, no Presence of God, or hope of ever having access to His Presence.

No, I could not even bear to think about being locked forever and ever into such horrific circumstances. For me, to be without the Presence of my Lord and Saviour would in itself be punishment enough but the added punishment of eternal suffering is unthinkable… One mining expert said: “No matter how long miners are trapped underground; the survivors seldom want to return to work there. I’ve seen miners who spent less time underground and rarely, if ever, they go back underground.” This led me to think along these lines… ‘If people could experience even one minute of the horrors of hell, they would do all in their power to escape going there in the next life.’

Hell lies far below all the mines that have been drilled by mankind and sadly there are souls in hell at this moment, even though it was never God’s will that even one of them should go there. Nor is it His will than any soul presently living in this world today should go there (2Peter 3v9).

I now pray that this experience will have touched the lives of those miners in such a way, that not one of them will be eternally lost. It is said that they have “emerged to celebrity status,” with the possibility of starring in movies, but I pray rather that they would know Jesus as Saviour and carry the story of what He achieved in their lives to the world. I also pray that their experience will in turn have touched the lives of friends, family and the rest of the waiting world who rejoiced at their miraculous emergence from the depths of the earth. I thank the Lord for His answer to the prayer of many Christians throughout the world who sought Him for the safety of these men. I thank Him and praise Him for His love and mercy extended to a world of lost sinners. Jesus suffered and died to save us from sin, death… and hell. Today the Lord still says… “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45v22)

Mining brings to mind the land of Wales, also renowned for its great spiritual revivals and vibrant singing voices. I recently found an old photograph (see above) that I took many years ago of Gwennap Pit, a natural amphitheatre where the great evangelist John Wesley (1707-1788) preached to the miners in 18th century Cornwall, an area which lies just below Wales. Another man who lived around that time was the famous hymn writer William Williams (1717-1791) who wrote “Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” I love to hear the singing of these words… “Strong deliverer! Strong deliverer! Be Thou still my strength and shield.”

It was the Lord who delivered these miners from the depths of the earth for without Him men would have no expertise to do anything; therefore He must have the glory! And praise God, He can deliver you and I from “Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction” and land us “safe on Canaan’s side” where “Songs of praises” we will “ever give to thee.”

Link to the hymn “Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah:” http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/u/guideme.htm

So Many Things To Do Before You Die …?

October 8, 2010

One evening I read the following in a National Newspaper… “In a tragic twist of fate, the energetic, globe trotting author of “100 Things to do Before You Die” has died at the age of 47.”

Sadly, Dave Freeman, the co-author of this best seller had died after falling and hitting his head in his own home – having completed only around half of the exciting things to do in his book. I felt dejected but thoughtful as I put the newspaper down. Here was a comparatively young man taken from this scene of time, very swiftly and very tragically. Given some of the dangerous escapades that he had recommended in his book, how ironic it was that he had died under such mundane circumstances.

After watching the second plane crash into the south tower on September 11th 2001, Dave Freeman was philosophical about the future. “Life is a short journey,” he told his readers, whilst urging them to explore before “you pack your bags for the very last time.”  The theme of the book, according to his father, was… “you should live every day like it would be your last.”

‘Life is a short journey,’ I thought. ‘It seems like only yesterday that my children were starting school… How the time flies!’ Yes, and how the circumstances of our lives vary; there are those who spend their lives in remote regions of the world, overcome by poverty and sorrow, while at the other end of the scale there are those who live in palatial circumstances, with all that money can buy.

Yet, whether you spend most of your days doing mundane things like ironing or unloading the dishwasher – or exciting things like surfing on the crest of the waves, one thing is for sure: some day will be your last day. Life most certainly is so short and in the light eternity it hardly signifies at all; yet there is a decision which we must make in this life which will determine where we spend those endless years of eternity.  

Any decision we make which will affect our lives in this life is certainly very important – but just think how much more important it is to make a decision which will affect both our lives here – and throughout eternity. Most religions in the world would agree on one thing – that our behaviour in this life will determine the circumstances of our future in eternity. However, how many of them can give their followers that assurance in their hearts, that they have a certain home in Heaven? Even the leaders of all the major world religions would admit that they cannot be sure of their own eternal welfare. So, is there anyone in history who was both certain of his own eternal destiny and those of his followers?

Jesus said to the thief who hung beside Him on the cross: “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23v43)  Here was a leader, who was not only sure of His own eternal destiny – but He was reassuring a dying mortal at His side, who had reached out to Him in faith. Somehow, I believe that the dying thief knew that Jesus was much more than just an innocent man who had been put to death unjustly. Yes, He was an innocent man – but He was also the perfect, sinless Son of God. Every person born into this world, every major religious leader and every cleric under the sun surely falls short of this description – for “all have sinned.” (Rom. 3v23) Therefore, we must conclude that the only Person in whom we can safely put our trust is the Person of the Risen Saviour – the Lord Jesus Christ.

As lives go, the Lord Jesus Christ had a very short life on this earth – but that short life was full to the brim with goodness. He healed the sick and cast out demons; He raised the dead and calmed the waves of the sea; and in John 21v25 we read: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”  (John 21v25) 

Then, after all the good, loving and miraculous things that Jesus had done, He was unjustly tried and nailed to a Roman cross. But this death was no ordinary death – for He suffered and died for your sins and for mine, so that some day, like the thief on the cross, we could reach out to Him in faith and live in His strength – and to His glory.  “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.”  (1Pet. 2v24)

Life is not only a short journey but it is an unpredictable one, and really none of us know (regardless of our age or health) what today holds for us, never mind tomorrow. Have you that assurance in your heart that you are ready to meet God as Judge? What does He see when He looks at your life as it is? But it must also be remembered that even a life full of good works alone cannot get us to Heaven.  Isaiah 64v6 describes such a life: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” We are also reminded in Eph. 2v8&9: “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.”

The thief on the cross had no opportunity or time to start doing good works for his salvation. No, he reached out; firstly admitting his fear of God and the fact that he was sinful and deserving of punishment to the other criminal who hung with him and secondly he acknowledges Jesus as Lord, while trusting in Him for salvation.  “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”  (Luke 23v42)

What simple words of faith! Today that soul is rejoicing in Heaven, all because he put his trust in the only Person who was able to save him. Unlike the thief on the cross you may have many years of life ahead – but who knows? Today Jesus sits with His Father in Heaven as our Advocate. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  (1Tim 2v5)  Oh that you, the reader, would put your trust in the only Advocate between God and mankind. “But what about my own religion/church?” you may ask.  In Acts 4v12 we read… “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Knowing Jesus and being His follower is not about joining a church or being part of an organisation. It is about repentance, having my sins dealt with, a way of life, a relationship, a daily walk with Him and having that peace and assurance in my heart that some day (whether my life is long or short, exciting or mundane) I will go to be with Him. 

Yes, it is good and essential to have Christian fellowship with like-minded Christians – and once we take that step of trusting Him to save us, He will guide us into all truth and that includes the matter of fellowship. I have travelled in my life to many far-away places and how marvellous it is to meet those of all nationalities who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation! Romans 10v12&13 informs us: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Today, in this the Day of Grace, the Lord Jesus Christ still reaches out to you, the reader, whoever you are and whatever circumstances you live under. He wants to save you from sin, to a life of good works which have faith for their foundation (James 2v14-26). He wants what remains of your life to be lived to His glory and He wants to assure you of a home in Heaven. Yet, because of His great love for all of mankind and His desire to see them saved, Jesus spoke much more about Hell than about Heaven.

You may never visit this earth’s most exotic destinations – but your life lived in His service will have a joy that is not satisfied by the things of this world. And some day you are promised… “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Cor. 2v9)

If you do not have this peace in your heart, His desire is that you would pray wherever you are today… “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Saviour of my sins. Please forgive me for all the sins that I have committed and come into my life – so that the rest of my life will be lived for you and that I can have that assurance in my heart of a home in heaven.”

May the Lord bless you and lead you into all truth – for the joy that is to be found when we simply repent and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour is beyond anything that may be experienced in this world!

© Elizabeth Burke

The Significance of Names – & a Beacon on the Hill

September 13, 2010

Very recently some members of my family in Northern Ireland decided to commemorate the 400th anniversary of their arrival in Ireland. It must be said that the Plantation of Ulster can be a divisive and sensitive subject on which to dwell and so I will not do so. However, the Lord has led me to look at it from a spiritual point of view, using the occasion to reach many with the truth of His Word. Here is a tiny bit about the history…

My surname before I was married was “Hutchinson;” John Hutchinson and his son William were the first to arrive from Staffordshire in England, in 1610, to the area of Mullaghbane, just outside the city of Armagh. William had a son called Andrew, known in later life as “old Andrew.” The latter had a son called Samuel who in turn had a son called Andrew… and so on…! Of course I realize that only those with an interest in (or a connection with) the Hutchinsons from this area of County Armagh would be interested in the entire family tree! By the way, should someone who is reading this require the information, please feel free to contact me.

The event was to be celebrated with a large bonfire on a high hill, somehow reminding me of the “warning beacons” which were lit in Elizabethan times to warn of the coming Spanish Armada. As I thought about the forthcoming glow of the great fire, all sorts of thoughts were going though my head… the preservation of family names through the ages; the handing down of land from one generation to another; old wars and disputed territory; the origin and meaning of our names; and the fascinating gene pool that makes us the individuals we are today, with all our personality traits and physical appearance. Clearly we are very much victims of circumstance, having no control over our origins.

“You’re not related to Burke (Hare’s body snatching accomplice), are you?” I have been jokingly asked, to which I vehemently deny that I have any connection. “Oh no,” I say, “I’m married to a Burke.” Then I think, ‘well, really you know, we are all related from Adam and Eve, so in the great view of the origins of mankind – then, yes, I am related to everyone, including those infamous characters in history.’ So – what is in a name? In this part of the world surnames were often derived from the trade that a person was engaged in, e.g. ‘Thatcher,’ ‘Butler,’ or ‘Farmer,’ or from the area that the family came from, e.g. Moore, Marsh or Woods, or the names of cities or towns; while ‘good’ and ‘bad’ names alike have a certain history associated with them. In the Celtic realm, ‘Mac’ and ‘O’ preceding a name means ‘son of.’ The Bible tells us that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” (Prov.22v1) A good name and reputation can take a lifetime to establish – but a good name can also be tarnished within a very short time indeed.

Names are very significant in many societies throughout the world, revealing everything from the origin of the person to his political standing and perhaps even his class or caste. In this life there are great, and often unjust, divisions between the classes in some societies but how is this all viewed in the light of eternity?

Some day we will stand before the Judge of all mankind, devoid of all the trappings of this life because God is no respecter of persons. We cannot present Him with our respectable family name and although we may have worked hard all our lives, we cannot come to Him with our diligence. We may be viewed as a “pillar of society” but this means nothing to Him, while our affluence and education (or lack of these) is also irrelevant to Him. No, when I stand before God, I will be judged on what I have done with the Name that is above every Name, (Phil. 2v9): the Name of the precious Lord Jesus Christ. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2v10&11)

For those who did not acknowledge Him as Saviour in this life, nor recognized that “here we have no continuing city” (Heb.13v14) it will be too late. The Bible speaks of those whose “inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.” (Psalm 49v11) But the day will surely come when this entire earth (and all our lands and possessions) will be no more. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65v17)

Therefore, in the light of these great truths, we must be sure that we are right with God. Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? We cannot be responsible for the decisions and lives of our forebearers – but God has given to each one of us the opportunity to get right with Him in this life. Praise God, if you do so, you will be given a new name in Heaven. (Rev. 3v12)

If you have trusted in that Name that is above every name, remember His words in Revelation 3v11: “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” When I thought about the great bonfire on the hill, I was reminded of these words: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5v14) Like the great beacons on the hills in bygone days which burned brightly to warn of the advancing danger of the Spanish Armada, the Christian’s life must burn brightly for the Lord Jesus Christ who is returning again to judge the world. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5v16)

Have you never trusted Him as Saviour? Remember that eternity lies before you. Which will it be – an eternity of intense pain and great darkness, with no comforting Presence of the Saviour – or a joyful eternity in Heaven with the Lord and all who love Him? The latter is God’s will for you, whoever you are! Repent of your sin; ask Him to forgive you for all that previous life lived outside His Presence and ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, for he has said: “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) Only trust Him now in the quietness of your heart.

Yes, “a good name is rather to be had than silver or gold,” but only God can give us a good (and a new) name that counts for eternity, when we trust in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, for salvation.

I love Charles Austin Miles’ hymn: “A New Name in Glory.” May yours be one of those names today!

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/e/newnamei.htm