Posts Tagged ‘hell’

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)

Testimony of a Dying Catholic Girl

March 10, 2014

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“Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…

but with the precious blood of Christ.”

(1Peter 1: 18-19)

 The following tract was recently sent to me by a friend and I have felt led to distribute it locally. It would appear to have been written in a much earlier era but is as relevant today as ever.  In reading it, I also thought on these words with regard to the issue of purgatory: “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 for ever:) Psalm 49v6-8

 “Mother,” said a dying girl, “It is hard to die and leave this life.”

“Yes, my dear, and I would gladly give my life for yours, but you have seen the priest, and you have confessed and received absolution and you need not fear.”

“Tis true,” said the dying girl, “I confessed all the sins I could think of, and the priest gave me absolution. But with all that, I shall soon be in purgatory, and you know, dear mother, that you are so very poor that you cannot have masses said for my soul.”

The unhappy mother felt the truth of her words and said: “Yes, my dear child, I am very poor but I’ll work day and night and earn money to get your soul out of purgatory. Do you think your mother could rest until she knew you were delivered from purgatorial pains?”

“Mother, I so often think of my cousin Catherine. She was so happy before she died and she never confessed to a priest nor received absolution, and she did not believe in purgatory, yet she believed she was going straight to heaven.”

“Catherine was a heretic, my child; she was not in the true church. It is better for you to be troubled than to die in error like she did.”

“I often think of the beautiful words she said when she was dying; they were like this Mother:

“When I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

“Tell me, Mother, what did she mean? I have no rod or staff, and oh! I have nothing that comforts me, and I can only think of the flames that await me in purgatory.”

“My dear child, don’t think about it: disease is weakening your spirit. Leave all that to the priest. Try and rest, and don’t think of your cousin Catherine any more.”

“I will try for your sake dear Mother, not to think about it, but I can’t help thinking how much better it would be if we could go straight to heaven when we die, and not go to purgatory at all.”

“People like us do not go straight to heaven. We must follow the way the priest has taught us.”

“But, Mother that way is so difficult, and it frightens me to think that suppose I were there and they could not get me out.”

“Hush my dear child, for if the priest heard all you say, he would surely ask for so many masses that I could never get money enough to have them all said. But here comes your brother; he will talk to you while I go to my work.”

The brother had come some distance to see the dear sister he so much loved. He perceived there was no hope and sitting beside her, he said, “Sister, what were mother and you saying about Cousin Catherine?”

“I was saying how glad I would be if I was as happy as she was. She had not confessed to the priest or received absolution. She said that it was not necessary and that she had no fear.”

“Dear sister, it was because she loved God and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. She had no reason to fear. Jesus Himself spoke to her soul and comforted her by the assurance of His love and of forgiveness of her sins. What need had she of a priest to assure her of all this?”

“What, brother! Are you also a heretic?”

“Sister, do not alarm yourself. I do not deny the truth. I have read the Word of God for myself and I found it so full of love for poor sinners that it has become more precious to me than all the world.”

“Have you then a Bible? How did you procure it? Did you ask the priest for it? Does he know that you have it?”

“No, no! I assure you, I did not ask him for it. I met a Bible reader, and I thought I would like a Bible for myself and I asked for one, and the good man gave it to me and I read it and saw how sinners could be saved. I have found pardon and am happy.”

“Oh! My brother, why did you not come sooner to tell me this? But tell me, brother, quick, is there anything in the Bible about purgatory?”

I have searched from beginning to end of the Book and I could not find one single word about purgatory; the priest knows it is not there, and that is the reason he will not let us read it. I assure you, dear sister, there is but one thing that will make you as happy as Catherine.”

“What is it, brother?” I would give all the world to be sure that my sins are forgiven.”

“It is this,” said the brother as he drew from his pocket the Bible which had been the means of bringing salvation to his soul; and he read:

John 3:16, “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.”

And again he read 1Tim 1:15:

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

And Chapter 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”

He also read: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.”

“Those are beautiful words,” said the dying girl, but how can I know they are for me?”

“But sister, you do not believe I would deceive you?”

“Oh no, dear brother, you were always kind to me.”

“Then will you not have confidence in Jesus who died for you? Listen to what he says to all who, like you, are burdened with their sins and need pardon: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11v28)

“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37)

“Could you think for one moment that Jesus would have suffered half the chastisement and leave us to suffer the other half? That is the teaching of the priest, but not the Word of God. To those who believe in Jesus, death has no terror. O, my sister, look to Jesus, the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. When you leave this world, you will go straight to Him.”

The brother ceased speaking, but blessed and happy were the moments spent with the dying sister, who but a few minutes before was the victim of ignorance and superstition. But blessed be God, the Holy Spirit penetrated the soul of the dying girl and helped her to see by faith, Christ, the Lamb of God, who died to save her.

“Oh, brother now I understand it all, I too, am happy. Jesus has forgiven me my sins and given me peace and joy. Glory to His Name.”

And in that blessed assurance, after a few days of suffering, she left this world to be forever with the Lord in Heaven.

 Joyful News Publications

The Bungalow, Foremass, Lisnaskea, BT92 5FH

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Walking in a Smoking Volcano on the Greek Island of Nissiros

September 16, 2012

My memories of our recent summer trip to this volcano, aptly named the “sleeping giant,” are still fresh in my mind this autumn. One morning we took an early morning trip to the nearby harbour at Kéfalos where we boarded a boat bound for the small picturesque island of Nissiros (also known as Nisyros). What a turbulent sea journey it was! However, although I normally get seasick quite easily, on this occasion I sat out on the deck and somehow the fresh air helped. Something else which greatly helped was the fact that I didn’t wander around the boat; I sat still, determined, keeping my eyes on one solid unmoveable object when conditions were at their worst. That solid unmoveable object did not include one of my fellow passengers – for they could quite possibly let me down in this respect, especially when most of them seemed to be having a hard enough time dealing with the conditions too!

Later I was struck by this wonderful spiritual parallel… when life presents us with some turbulent conditions; the only safe place is to have our eyes firmly fixed on the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, our unmoveable Rock and Fortress.

At one point I noticed a distant rocky and misty coastline and asked one of the Greeks where it was, to which he replied shortly… “That is Turkey.” On arrival at this little island of Nissiros, home to around just 1,000 people who are distributed over four villages; we boarded a coach which drove away up into some very barren, but fascinating countryside. As soon as we reached the site of the volcano, I was struck by the fact that this was a very unique experience for me and quite possibly something I may never do again in my lifetime.

Outside the coach I was immediately overwhelmed by the unpleasant smell of sulphur – I could only describe it as being like very rotten eggs mixed with dust and ashes. By now it was around mid-day and the heat in the area of the volcano was almost too much to bear but I was still determined to say that I had walked in a volcano!

Looking down from a height, I noticed tiny figures walking right in the crater and knew that soon I too would be another one of those distant tiny figures when we had reached it. The barren, lunar-like landscape of the area was strange and somehow overpowering and the smell of the sulphur reminded me of  a story that I had heard once of someone who had claimed to have had a vision of hell. He had described the smell there as being of ‘sulphur.’ Even the concept of hell is not a subject that anyone wishes to dwell on and yet I know that hell is a very real place and that Jesus talked more about this horrific destination than about heaven, for He is “not willing that any should perish.”

Clambering down into the crater, the soles of my feet felt extremely hot, as a fierce wind blew dust all around us. In fascination I stared for a long time at the smoking holes all around my hot feet and after a while decided that the mid-July heat that day, combined with the choking smell of sulphur was just too much! By now the water in my flask was very hot too (it is said that one can fry eggs quickly in that crater) and soon we were clambering up the slope again towards our coach which thankfully had the air conditioning running!

The “sleeping giant” is indeed an ever present threat to the people of the island of Nissiros. It is a very beautiful island in many respects but I could still smell that sulphur even when we had returned to the small village of Mandráki where we had some time to wander around the lovely narrow little streets before we once more boarded our boat for the return journey.

In 1996 and 1997 the islanders also experienced terrifying earth tremors for many months and some cracked dwelling places had to be vacated at this time. Scientists are constantly monitoring the “simmering giant” too, but what can mankind do against the forces of nature – but flee to safety when they receive a warning?

Boarding the boat for our return journey, I clutched a piece of volcanic ash – my souvenir from that unforgettable day trip. Staring back at Mandráki, I watched the waves of the sea crash against its ancient walls and then turned to see the sun go down over the sparkling waves on the horizon. I had left little John 3v16 Greek bookmarks with some of the villagers – and some in a monastery to which we had climbed from the narrow streets. But what are these among so many? Nissiros… 1,000 people and yet another lovely Greek island, for whose inhabitants my Saviour died. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Luke 10v2)

Why Beatification is Blasphemous and Contrary to Scripture

May 2, 2011

Yesterday, as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims congregated in St. Peter’s Square in Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul 11, I felt saddened by the knowledge that vast numbers of people throughout the entire world believe in the validity of such a ceremony as this. Firstly 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 and only saints can go to 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, beatification and great ceremonies in the Vatican 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)

Tell Loved-One, Neighbour, Friend & Foe – Before it is too Late!

November 6, 2010

This week I learned of the death of a friendly lady whom I had once known. I could scarcely believe that I shall never see that dear face again in this life and now I wish that I had said more to her. This experience reminded me of “The Graves,” a poem of seven verses which I wrote in 2004 following the death of an elderly neighbour. Oh Lord, help all those who know you as Saviour to reach precious souls before it is too late. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10v32&33)

 

The Graves

 

One cloudy restless Sabbath Day,

I went in search of where he lay.

So pensively I picked my way,

Past ancient headstones and decay.

*******

Celtic crosses in the mist,

Coloured gravestones, raindrop-kissed,

Crying curlew overhead,

Wooden crosses, unknown dead.

*******

The old, the young, the rich, the poor,

A child, a babe…. a grief to endure;

A nobleman, a pauper, a puritan, a thief:

Death knows no boundary, and nor doth grief.

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Who were these within their day,

Whose bodies now lie clothed in clay?

Were they told, or did they see

That Jesus died all souls to free?

*******

And then I thought on the living-dead

For whom His precious blood was shed,

And how I wished that they could be

Joyful, saved, from sin set free.

*******

Oh, how I longed to talk with him,

Before the flickering light grew dim,

But hope had drowned in the Great Forever,

Where land and riches matter never.

*******

So, brother, sister we must go –

Tell loved-one, neighbour, friend and foe,

For how can we so silent be…

If we love the Author of Eternity?

© Elizabeth Burke.

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 Harvest Truly is Great” (Luke 10v2)

August 30, 2010

Tonight I watched a great harvester making its way down the lane to the fields behind our home. This annual activity never fails to remind me of the spiritual analogy of that “Great Harvest,” spoken of by Jesus in the gospels.

Are you ready for that Great Harvest? At present the ‘tares and the wheat’ grow together in our world, but some day there will be a separation. Jesus said: “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matt. 13v30). The alternative to the ‘barn’ (or the safety of heaven) is unthinkable. John the Baptist said… “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear:  he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3v11&12).

The ‘day of the Lord’ is near in ‘the valley of decision.’ (Joel 3v14) This then is the sombre question for each soul upon the earth… ‘Will you be numbered with the wheat – or with the tares?’ Note Joshua’s exhortation in Joshua 24v15… “choose you this day whom ye will serve;” God forbid that we should hear these words… “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matt. 25v41). Indeed the lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels; it was never God’s will that members of the human race (who were made in His image and for whom the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was shed) should go there. I remember once being convicted by that verse… “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8v20). But praise God that I decided to follow Him, and am no longer numbered with the tares. Prior to my conversion, I remember also being troubled and confused by the words of someone who said that we had no control over our own destinies, and that God had pre-destined all souls into either eternal bliss in heaven – or eternal suffering in hell. For a short time I seriously thought that I may be one of those who were ‘predestined to go to hell.’ This filled me with an indescribable bleak helplessness, until the Lord opened my eyes.

God, because He is omniscient, naturally knows the path that each one of us will take – yes, even before the foundation of the world. Therefore… “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Rom. 8v29&30). Here we may see clearly that those whom He foreknew who would choose to follow Him, and endure unto the end (Matt.10v22), are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. Since His blood avails for all (1John 2v2; 1Tim. 2v6; 2Cor 5v14&15), it is His will that all should come to repentance in Him, and that none should perish (2Pet. 3v9). If people perish, it is because they have chosen the “broad road that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7v13) – not because they have been pre-destined to eternal destruction. Nowhere in God’s Word are we told that we have no control over our own destinies! Furthermore, how can His ambassadors be effective in their work and witness, when they have (at the back of their minds) a conception that the eternal destinies of all souls have been foreordained?

As I tossed, unable to sleep one night, I longed that the whole world of men and women and boys and girls, would see the goodness of the Lord who gave His only begotten Son – and not only see, but repent, and trust Him for salvation. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…” (Luke 9v56). To the Christian He says: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” (John 4v35-38). He has work for you and me to do, while it is ‘day.’ Great harvesters work steadily for long hours, so that costly sheaves of golden grain may be safely gathered into the storehouse. Oh that our lives would be burned out in His service, and that we could say with the apostle Paul… “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2Tim 4v7&8)

I saw a field of harvest gold,

Before the sun was set,

Each precious ear, a story told,

But the work is waiting yet.

O come with me, my Christian friend,

And let us work where he doth send,

For shadows grow, as night draws on,

And souls may die before the Dawn.

© Elizabeth Burke 2006