Posts Tagged ‘ireland’

“The Love of Money is the Root of all Evil”

June 26, 2017

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“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Timothy 6v10)

Other versions such as the NIV translate this as: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” or “the root of all kinds of evil.” However, I stand by the King James Version and its translation. Ultimately, this verse makes it clear that all evil, although it may not be immediately apparent, can be traced back to this evil root: mankind’s love of money. Today my Bible study brought to mind the specific evil of idolatry…

I have been reading of Paul’s fascinating journeys in territory which would be highly dangerous to travel through in today’s world. Nevertheless, in those days before the advent of Islam, there was the “great goddess Diana whom all the world worshipped” (Acts 19) and who “brought no small gain unto the craftsmen,” (V24). Back then anyone who preached the gospel would have been in danger, just as Paul was. The reason for this was obvious: great profits were to be made from the sale of silver shrines of “Diana” and no craftsman likes to see his livelihood in peril! In fact today, as then, the love of money in itself can be a source of idolatry.

“Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone in Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.” (Acts 19v26&27)

It is interesting to make the comparison with idolatry then and Roman Catholicism today. I see that the Pope wishes to visit Ireland next year (2018) and I believe that there are many reasons for this, not least a report that there is great disillusionment here with the Roman Catholic Church, with numbers of people leaving it faster than ever before. But superstition still abounds. Take for example the village of Ballinspittle in Cork where “the moving statues” phenomenon has brought in tourism and prospered small businesses since 1985 when so called “moving statues of the Virgin Mary” were first observed. Imagine what the “fall of Roman Catholicism” would mean for just one small village – and if it happened all across the world what it would mean for the Vatican in financial terms!

Silversmiths like Demetrius in Acts 19v24, statue- makers and those travelling with “relics” of saints would be at a financial loss, while locations all over the world from Medjugorje in Bosnia to Tapao in Vietnam would lose out on tourism, if crowds no longer travelled to see places where there was supposed to be “apparitions” of the Virgin Mary etc. Shrines and statues as objects of worship would be no more, if many turned to the living God as in Paul’s day, when “mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19v20)

“Sirs,” said Demetrius the silversmith to his colleagues in business, “ye know that by this craft we have made our wealth.” Demetrius, as with all who think only on the affairs of this world, clearly had no concept of this truth: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8v36&37)

Later we read of another “Demetrius” in 3John 1v12 and this Demetrius was a disciple. I would like to think that this Demetrius was the same one, this time, converted – but unfortunately there is no evidence for this either way. Eternity will reveal many things and perhaps, too, many pleasant surprises…

There is nothing more precious in this world than the value of your soul; perhaps it needs attention today, whatever your standing in society, or your church or denomination. It may not be well with your wealth or even, worryingly, with your health – but is it “well with your soul?”

As Paul travelled, contending with dangerous “crowd mentality,” vicious opposition, beatings, persecution, imprisonment – and eventually death (although we are not told the manner of his death), he said: “neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy…” Acts 20v24. When his fellow believers feared for his safety, they “besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.” (Acts 21v12) But Paul answered: “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (V.13)

The proposed visit of the Pope next year should be viewed by those who have been born again as an opportunity. There may be many protests from ex-Catholics who are angry about child abuse and other issues, while pious clergy, church dignitaries and ordinary people will line the streets but this is an opportunity for tract distribution and outreach as the Lord leads, so that eyes would be opened, just as Paul’s were, after acknowledging blindness on the Damascus Road. If the Lord can work in the life of Paul, transforming him from being a persecutor of the church – to someone who was an outstanding apostle, He can perform this same miracle in many lives.

Oh that the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ Saviour today would be able to say with the apostle Paul: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20v26)

The believer must aspire to nothing less than these words of Paul (for whom material possessions and riches meant nothing)…. “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3v8)

My Recent Visits to Five Castles and Thoughts on a “Fortress for the Soul”

June 10, 2017

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In the last couple of months, I have had occasion to visit five old Irish castles, for one reason or another and it never ceases to fascinate me how these fortifications are still standing at all after hundreds of years! By the way, there is little difference between fortresses and castles, since both are “fortifications,” although castles may have been more comfortable to live in!

At the end of April we stayed close to Ballybunion Castle by the Atlantic Ocean in County Kerry when we visited that lovely lady, the ex-nun, Peggy O’Neill. Built around the dawn of the 1500’s, if Ballybunion Castle could talk it would tell us of ancient battles, sieges and power struggles over the centuries. On the way home we stopped to take a photograph of Desmond Castle by the pretty village of Adare with its thatched cottages in County Limerick. Beautifully reflected in the River Maigue, this castle (see the second one above) was built in the early part of the 1300’s and again was witness to turbulent struggles for hundreds of years.

A week later I had to travel over to Trim Castle with a delivery of my first book – “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year,” for Trim Visitor Centre. Trim Castle is impressively large and medieval (12th century), standing by the River Boyne in the historical town of Trim in County Meath. Some days later I had a call from my aunt who (although approaching 88!) loves to travel and takes a great interest in history. “I’ll meet you at Tullynally Castle in County Westmeath, as I hope to travel there with the Historical Society,” she said. Unlike the others this castle is not at all in ruins and is actually still lived in, being a home to the Pakenham family for over 350 years. I took a photograph of it (above) with gathering clouds in the evening.

Soon after this we had a family reunion and picnic in the grounds of the more recent lovely Ardgillan Castle (built in 1738) which overlooks the Irish Sea in north County Dublin. Like Tullynally Castle, this one is not in ruins and is currently used for events at all times of the year. Older castles were often built by rivers or the sea and always strategically so as to afford protection from the enemy. Moats and drawbridges were a common sight at medieval castles and when the enemy would come to invade; the drawbridge would be taken up to bar their entry.

Castles are mentioned throughout the Bible; we read in 2Chronicles 17v12 “And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles, and cities of store.” Castles were a sign of power and enormous wealth; to attack a castle one would have needed to be accompanied by a very great army indeed! In these dangerous days of random terrorist attacks I have been thinking of that verse in Isaiah 59vv19: “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.”

The only hope for safety in our times is in our Fortress, the Holy One of Israel… the One of whom David said: “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. We may not have the equivalent riches of the great lords and kings of old – but our riches are not of this world and while the fortresses of olden days will someday fall to ruins and eventually scattered ancient stones, our Fortress is an Everlasting One which cannot ever be moved. Our armour is a spiritual one and the Force that defends us has already won the battle. We already have the victory – if we have put our trust in His finished work at Calvary! Our riches in Him are beyond compare.

Who knows what future events will occur in our times, with regard to the current enemies of civilised society? Today the enemy is not as obvious as in days of old; he doesn’t wear the uniform of an invading army and he walks our streets with thoughts in his head that no one knows… When he attacks, it is without warning and sometimes there is no place to hide our physical bodies.

But there is a sure place to hide for the soul of mankind. There is a refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us and if we have repented and are trusting in Him with all our hearts, “walking in the light as he is in the light,” He is our sure refuge for time and eternity… a rich and Everlasting Fortress for the soul. His will is that all should put their trust in Him today, for He loves you and paid the ultimate price to make you His own.

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10v28)

LINK TO HYMN: “A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD” (BY MARTIN LUTHER: 1483 – 1546):

That Word above all earthly powers,

No thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Thru Him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also –

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still:

His Kingdom is forever!

 

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

May 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wonderful Meeting with Peggy O’Neill Who Found The Truth, After Fifty Years As A Nun!

May 13, 2017

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On the May Bank Holiday weekend last my husband and I embarked on a four hour journey to the south west of Ireland. What a journey that was – but how rewarding the outcome! Years ago I had read this lady’s testimony in tract form and also her story is one of twenty in a book called: “The Truth Set us Free: Twenty Former Nuns Tell Their Stories,” by Richard Bennett & Mary Hertel.” Somehow I had always wanted to meet Peggy… This desire intensified when an acquaintance asked me did I know anything about her or her whereabouts now. This person told me that Peggy was in the process of writing to the Pope and cardinals at the time (she had met her in 2013) and that behind her home were all the verses of the fruits of the Spirit… painted on planks.

Having approached all the people I thought might have known and ‘drawn a blank’, I eventually contacted members of a local Christian Fellowship in the area who were able to tell me. This was before Christmas last year and at the time I was dismayed to hear that Peggy was critically ill. I prayed very much for her then, still with this great desire in my heart to meet her. I later learned that Peggy had recovered from that illness. My prayers (and I am certain, the prayers of others) had been answered!

Well, on the afternoon of Saturday 29th April after a long drive, more prayers were answered when I had the great joy of meeting Peggy for the first time ever! She is now 96, bedridden for the most part and in a nursing home but there is an amazing brightness about her which clearly comes from knowing the Lord – this dear elderly lady is truly unique. Her face lit up when I showed her my big Bible and she hugged her testimony tract, which I know is so precious to her. Although missing her right eye from a fall some years ago and although frail with all the pains and aches that accompany someone who is not far from 100, she is so content with a beautiful, peaceful spirit – something which only those who know the Lord’s Presence in their lives can truly experience.

Here is a very short summary of her testimony – which can be viewed online in several locations by googling “The Testimony of Peggy O’Neill.”  Peggy was born in 1921, in Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, one of a large family who were raised Catholic. At school she notes that she was “well grounded in Catholic doctrine” and that in her local convent school many of her teachers were nuns. Having viewed life as a nun as “being the highest calling for any woman,” she later took her vows and maintains that “during my fifty years as a nun, regardless of the inevitable ups and downs of life, I was very happy. Happy to believe that I was following what I then thought was my God-given vocation. The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience I had made were meant to be perpetual and final.”

Then in 1989, her nephew (Tom) came home from England with what she terms “an interest in the Bible.” “He also said that he had left the Catholic Church.” Greatly concerned about this, Peggy decided to investigate for herself and discovered, to her shock, that “not only were there additions, but also some Catholic doctrines even contradicted the Bible.”

She states in her testimony: “Today there are thousands of false religions in the world and every religion, including Catholicism, has devised a different gospel. A church stands or falls by the Gospel it preaches, and at the age of 70 I had no option but to leave the church, which for so long I had greatly trusted.” She goes on to say: “for me there is only One Saviour and One Mediator, The Lord Jesus Christ.” Peggy states that after 50 years of serving as a nun (from ages 20-70) in the Catholic Church “I came to this profound realisation, and put my whole faith and trust in the saving work of Christ.”

That weekend my husband and I stayed in the town of Ballybunion, the place where Peggy’s life had begun in 1921. From our room we had a lovely view of the sparkling waves of the Atlantic Ocean as they washed in on the Blue Flag beach and on the last evening, as we walked along the shore, watching the last rays of the setting sun on the sea, I thought on the goodness of our Heavenly Father and Creator – and on my loving, lovely friend Peggy, who says in her tract: “I thank my Father who loved me so much that He sent His only beloved Son Jesus to save me. I thank Him my dear Redeemer who even now is interceding for me as my High Priest, and who will soon return to take me home to Heaven where I will shine like the sun and praise Him for all eternity.”

Over those three days we had the joy of visiting Peggy each day: on our way to Ballybunion, on Sunday afternoon – and by the Monday morning she had grown accustomed to our visits and was so overjoyed to see us. I felt a great closeness between us and the Lord’s Presence with us as we read and prayed with her. She has a pleasant view of some trees blowing in the wind by her little room in the nursing home. I remarked on this and on the beauty of the sunny countryside outside, to which she smilingly nodded in agreement. “But,” I said quietly, Heaven will be even better than this – and, of course we won’t have all our present human ailments…”

Heaven will be even more amazingly beautiful than the most stunning scenes of nature in this world. “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) And this is the Lord’s will for each person in the universe, if they would only but trust Him! (“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1John 2v2)

I praise the Lord that this lovely lady has, as she says “abandoned all other means and mediators and put her faith in Christ alone;” I pray that the Lord will assist me to share her story with loved ones, friends, neighbours and, yes, even with those I meet quite by chance. As I gave Peggy, my dear sister in the Lord, a hug before we left, I knew that this is what she would want, to the glory of our Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Disclosure of Abuse in Ireland’s Roman Catholic Institutions – and Little Children

March 17, 2017

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Just recently it has emerged that the bodies of hundreds of babies and toddlers have been uncovered at the Bon Secours “Mother and Baby Home” which operated in Tuam, Co. Galway between 1925 and 1961. Many tears were shed as older folk, who had been victims of abuse (in many other areas of Ireland too) recounted their stories in radio phone-ins. Many of the victims of child abuse in orphanages, industrial schools and mother and baby homes are still psychologically affected by the unspeakable abuse perpetrated against them, every new disclosure opening the wounds of those old memories.

I have previously written of the evils of the “Magdalene Laundries;” institutions run by Roman Catholic nuns, where women of all ages were incarcerated and used as slaves to wash linen for hotels and other businesses. Amazingly the last “Magdalene Laundry” closed as recently as 1996!

It is ironic that the Roman Catholic Church had issued a recent directive with regard to the “scattering of cremated remains in public places.” They maintain that these must be kept or buried in “consecrated ground.” Of course the reason for this may well be that there would be a charge involved for putting the ashes in a graveyard. Personally I do not agree with cremation but the irony is in the fact that the bodies of these babies and young children were discovered in sewage chambers, clearly not in “consecrated ground.” From samples taken, the bodies of the children ranged in age between 35 foetal weeks to 2-3 years, many dating back to the 1950’s.

Yesterday and today (with all of this on my mind) I have coincidentally reached Mark 9&10 in my daily reading. How Jesus loved the little children – and how wonderful to have that assurance that these little ones are in His Presence at this moment!

“And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” (Mark 9v35-37)

“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9v42)

There is hope for both the victims of abuse – and yes, even the perpetrators of abuse, if they will only look to the Lord Jesus Christ in this scene of time. No man on this earth can heal the broken hearted or forgive the foulest deed… but the Lord Jesus Christ can!

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11v28-30)

He loves you and wants you to repent and trust Him today, whoever you are and whatever your life has consisted of. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23)

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4v14)

What a tiny vapour those little lives were, some hardly entering this world at all, yet they were living souls who now rejoice at Jesus’ feet – something that He desires for each one of us.

“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” (Mark 10v13-15)

What beautiful words Jesus uses to refer to little children… “for of such is the Kingdom of God….” The Kingdom of God is made up of those who have come in simple faith as a little child and humbled themselves at the feet of Him who loved them so much that He suffered, died and rose again… to redeem them to Himself. Praise His Name.

Of Trees: A Bible Wordsearch distributed to Coincide with “National Tree Week” in Ireland

March 10, 2017

I have distributed a little leaflet (adopted from something I had written previously) this past week, using the above occasion to somehow awaken interest in spiritual matters. I believe that very few people read the Bible at all in some areas and, sadly, children are not brought up to know the characters of the Bible who were so familiar to me as a child. May the Lord bless these seasonal leaflets to those who read them!

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ACACIA ALMOND  APPLE  ASH  ASHUR  BALM  BDELLIUM  BAY  BOX  BRANCH  LEAF  CEDAR  CHESTNUT  CINNAMON  CYPRESS  DATE  EBONY  ELM  FIG  FIR  FOREST  GRAFT HAZEL  JUNIPER  MULBERRY  NUTS  OAK  OLIVE  PALM  PINE  SYCAMORE.

One tree listed here is not in the grid. Which one is it? Who climbed into this tree and why did he do it?

There are numerous references to trees (and indeed different species of trees) mentioned in the Bible but perhaps some of the most spiritually significant are those trees which are mentioned in parables and in the first and last books of the Bible – Genesis and Revelation.

How sad that mankind ate of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” but how marvellous that God has sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to save ‘to the uttermost’ those who trust in His finished work upon the cross of Calvary.

Trees have existed since those early days of creation and if ancient trees could talk, what stories they would tell us! They have been used as weapons, turned into paper, regrettably carved into articles of worship; used to make an ark of ‘gopher wood’ and the ark of the covenant; in the day of the battle of David and Absalom “the wood devoured more people than the sword;” they are a source of paper for the printed word, and once so long ago a large piece of wood was carried to a place which is called in the Hebrew “Golgotha.”

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered, died and rose again that we might have right to the tree of life.

 

“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they might have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates of the city.” (Rev. 22v14)

Only in His strength can we “do His commandments,” so that we may be likened to the “man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. And he shall be like a tree planted by the river of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1 – 3)

Our leaves shall never wither while we are walking in the perfect light of the Son.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10v13)

 

What is “The Church?”

January 16, 2017

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I was at a funeral a few days ago, in a small church which was absolutely packed to capacity, given that the deceased was very well known in this rural community. Later after standing in the bitterly cold wind in the country churchyard, I decided to make my way into the warm church hall for a welcome cup of hot tea and the customary sandwiches and “tray bakes.” Some people that I talked with referred in vague terms to “the church” in conversation, something which led me to my present train of thought…

So what exactly is “the Church?” Many would say that it is an organisation or denomination… their denomination; others would say that it is a building; still others would use the term generally, in the ecumenical sense for members of many (usually mainstream) denominations, while there are those who would say that “the Church” consists of those who “attend church services.”

Well, the truth is that “The Church” as portrayed in scripture is not a building, nor an organisation of religious people, nor a denomination or denominations, nor even the “people who attend church services.” “The Church” is that body of believers throughout this entire world who have been truly born again of the Spirit of God – those who have trusted, by faith, in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and who “walk in the light as He is in the light…” (1John 1v7) These individuals may attend a variety of different churches or denominations but they are marked by one common trait – the love in their hearts for both their Saviour and each other. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13v35)

The warmth and love that is felt when having fellowship with other believers is second to none… and this love is also extended to my fellow travellers in life, whatever their faith or indeed lack of. The believer, the member of that body of Christ has a love for souls and a desire to see them saved and while they may not always see “eye to eye” with fellow Christians of other denominations, they have a love in their hearts for those individuals; love which transcends their differences.

We are not to be surprised if “the world hates us.” (1John 3v13) But understandably it would be surprising to feel the coldness and animosity of those who claim to be our brothers and sisters in the Lord – and yet this must not affect our attitude to them.

In Matthew 24 we are told of many of the signs of Christ’s coming again. In Verse 10-13 we read: “And then many shall be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Coldness and lack of love are surely traits of these last days. Places of worship are full of many nominal Christians but “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1John 3v13)

To love the Lord our God and one another is the greatest commandment upon which all others are based. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1John 4v18)

“And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” (1John 3v23)

And so, “the Church” know the Lord and the Lord knows those that are His. I love the old hymn by Samuel J. Stone: “The Church’s One Foundation” which embraces this truth… “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2Timothy 2v19)

Many denominations were represented at that funeral, but there is only one Church – the Church which is made up of those individuals who have availed of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation; those who love Him and walk with Him until He comes or calls them Home…

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord:

She is His new creation by water and the Word;

From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride;

With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died.”

Link to this hymn, which in its original form has seven verses: https://youtu.be/iOGF93cDYNs

A Christian Bookstall in Drogheda… “The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth…”

October 10, 2016

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Just recently, having noticed that people were selling all sorts of ware in the old town of Drogheda, I set up a book table in the town centre. Included on the long folding table were plenty of free Christian literature and booklets, CDs and DVDs, second-hand books, seasonal cards, bookmarks, my own four books and free John’s gospels in the language of many who now live in Drogheda: Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, French and Spanish. It was a pleasantly dry autumn day… but unfortunately also very windy!

I encountered a range of reactions on the day – everything from sheer apathy to mild hostility. In between there were many who were interested and curious, while one lady was very kind and friendly. “Oh you must be so cold standing there,” she said in motherly tones, “let me get you a cup of tea or coffee. Now what would you like? I’ll go now and get you something. Just tell me. I love your books, by the way!” She reached for a second-hand book and also two of my books, “Singing on the Journey Home” for herself and “Ricky the Runaway” for her little grandson. She was delighted with the scripture bookmarks too and I assured her with many thanks, that honestly I didn’t need a hot drink at that particular time. As she was in a hurry, we didn’t discuss spiritual matters but that lady warmed my heart with her friendly manner and I have prayed that the Lord will meet her at the point of her need.

A young man who had watched me put out the bookstall, now perused the books with interest and then asked me sincerely: “tell me, are you a nun?” to which I answered with an amused chuckle, “No, I’m married three children.” He was very interested in the testimony of an ex-nun which I gave him. He told me that he had been a Roman Catholic but was so fed up in the last few years of hearing about the child abuse scandal that he had left the church and had started to attend the Church of Ireland. After the short conversation, he had to hurry for a bus. It was so good to have these conversations, though, which under normal circumstances would never have happened…

Another elderly man came along and, not looking at me, proceeded to swiftly leaf through a few of the books, throwing them down again. “Do you realise,” he said angrily, “that all this literature you have here quotes from the Protestant version of the Bible? The church was built upon St. Peter you know!”

He went to walk off hurriedly and I called him back. “Here’s something to read,” I said, offering him an ex-priest’s testimony tract. He shoved it in his pocket and hurried away without another word… This incident reminded me of another one some time ago. This time a middle-aged woman approached me angrily. “You’re causing dissension between people, that’s what you’re doing!” she told me.

Another young woman (of Ugandan origin), after giving me much encouragement, hurried down to her church to get me some literature of interest. There were others who took an interest and still others who kindly helped in a practical way, when a sudden gust of violent wind sent my lighter literature (especially the tracts) down the street! Looking back on the scene, after leaving for the day, I didn’t see one tract on the street. The wind indeed, “bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3v8)

It was a tiring ordeal, but praise God, my hope is built on nothing less than the real Rock on which the true Church is built – the Church not built with man’s hands or devised by man’s schemes. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1Corinthians 10v1-4) Praise the Lord, once again I lean on this His faithful promise: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55v11)

 

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)

Reflections on World Book Day – and the Book that Counts

March 3, 2016

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“World Book Day,” despite the title of the event, is primarily associated with encouraging children to read. I was somehow not surprised by a comment on the site today: “Many children do not have access to books in their homes…” These days technological influences have brought about a situation where books, certainly in their traditional form, are becoming a thing of the past in some homes.

Most modern homes have a massive television and in the evening family members have either their eyes ‘glued’ to its overpowering cinema-like screen or are similarly transfixed to their smart phones etc.

My childhood, lived in a much earlier era, is full of memories of being curled up beside a flickering log fire in our old farmhouse, engrossed in some mystery or adventure book that I may well have purchased in a second-hand book store. Some of my earliest memories revolve around family visits to “Smithfield Markets,” an area of Belfast where old cobble-stone covered walkways were lined with numerous second hand bookstores. Sadly, that area of Belfast was destroyed in Northern Ireland’s recent ‘troubles,’ in the early seventies.

In those early days we would all arrive home with a car boot full of books of every description and I would dive into my armful of books, carrying them straight up to my bedroom, where they would be voraciously ‘devoured’ in the days ahead. In fact I was so fond of reading in those dreamy childhood days that I would actually look forward to having the ‘flu’ and then ‘prolong my recovery’ in order to spend time with my books!

These days, despite the introduction of electronic book-readers like Kindle and others, I have not succumbed to this new technology… even though my bookshelves are bursting! How life has changed since those early days of old books and shared stories around that flickering log fire… The art of good conversation, storytelling and even caring have become rare in this modern age. Certainly, some old stories from local history have a truly moral basis, with a spiritual significance and should never be forgotten. Good and true stories from long ago, like “ancient landmarks” (Proverbs 22v28) should not be removed and discarded.

Try as I might, it is difficult to imagine a world without books… but imagine a world without God’s Word, that massive and magnificent work, the Holy Bible. Above all the books that I have ever read in my life (and there are many) this is one Book which means much more to me than any other possession. I have some antiquarian and rare books… but none of these compare with my precious Bible. Here is a book containing many books: books of historical accounts, books of poetry, adventure, wisdom, the history of our very existence – and prophetic books about future certain happenings on our planet.  Above all it contains a love story; the story of the Lord Jesus Christ who, even if I had been the only one, He still would have died for me.

Many adventures, miracles and wonders that Jesus wrought can be read in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and yet, even these do not tell it all, for 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. Amen.”

Oh that today’s children and adults would search within and prayerfully read this most victorious of all books, which contains the answer to life’s dilemmas, comfort in life’s heartaches, the cure for sin in this life – and the key to a life of eternal joy!