Posts Tagged ‘roman catholicism’

“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)

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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)

For God So Loved the People of France, that He gave His only Begotten Son…

December 3, 2014

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“Car Dieu a tant aimé le monde qu’il a donné son Fils unique, afin que quiconque croit en lui ne périsse point, mais qu’il ait la vie éternelle.” (John 3v16)

As my daughter has been in France for a while now, I have been studying with interest the current state of religion in this country. When travelling I like to take the opportunity to distribute my handcrafted “John 3v16” bookmarks, as well as tracts in the language of the country, where possible. Wikopedia informs me that “France is a country where freedom of religion and freedom of thought are guaranteed by virtue of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The Republic is based on the principle of laïcité (or “freedom of conscience”) enforced by the 1880s Jules Ferry laws and the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. Roman Catholicism, the religion of the majority of French people, is no longer the state religion that it was before the 1789 Revolution and throughout the various, non-republican regimes of the 19th century (the Restoration, the July Monarchy and the Second French Empire).”

To the visitor France would appear to be a most secular country these days but although Roman Catholicism is the religion of the nominal Christian majority, Islam is fast catching up, with converts to Islam said to number as many as 200,000, while most of the immigrant population in France are Muslim. By 2011 there were 2000 mosques in France; today the number is steadily growing and it is reported that Muslims in France have the highest percentage in the population when compared with all other European countries.

In Marseilles, where my daughter lived for some time, nearly half of the population are now Muslim immigrants and unfortunately violence, riots and other serious crime have taken their toll here, just as recent riots and car burnings in Paris have created similar chaos.

There are many other religions and cults in France, with Jehovah’s Witnesses being high on the list of the main small religious minorities. However, as is the case in many countries throughout the world, sound Evangelical Christian fellowships and churches are sadly few and far between.

Today the residents of France (whether immigrant or native) desperately need to know the Lord as Saviour. It is reported that 80% of French people have never owned or even seen a Bible

Please pray for the people of France, that country where Huguenots took their stand all those years ago. In what is known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, during the period of 24th August – 3rd October 1572, Roman Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris, while many massacres took place in other towns and cities such as Bordeaux, Bourges, Lyon, Rouen and Toulouse. Many Huguenots escaped to the British Isles, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, the Dutch Republic, South Africa and North America and today their descendants can trace their roots back to those early days in France.

For Christians visiting the country it is good to have in your possession some Christian literature or tracts in the French language. The message to the French people as to the rest of the world is clear:

“Ils dirent: crois au Seigneur Jėsus-Christ; et tu seras sauvé, toi et la maison.” (Acts 16v31)

(“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”)

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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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“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree”… a Weekend Journey to County Mayo

May 3, 2013

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Just recently my husband and I made a journey, in just one weekend, through our own County Meath and then on to counties Westmeath, Longford, Roscommon, Mayo and on the last day – a little trip to the golden (but very cold and windswept) beach in Enniscrone, County Sligo. All in all we covered six counties, stopping here and there to take photographs of some of the fascinating sights enroute.

Just into Mayo I noticed something which brought back memories of a visit to Westmeath once. There, by the side of the road and a river was an old tree which was covered in colourful rags of one sort or another. My thoughts returned to a much warmer afternoon when I had stood by a tree which was massed with similarly hanging rags. The sparkling river, too, was full of mostly copper coins, while the bark of the tree itself had dozens of small coins forced into it.

‘Pagan traditions,’ I remember thinking ‘are surely very much alive in Ireland today.’ In other parts of the world, too, this practice of hanging rags on trees is still very prevalent. In certain parts of Scotland one can still see ‘clootie trees,’ while coins battered into the barks of trees supposedly bring ‘good luck’ and are known universally as ‘money trees.’ All over this world of superstition and unbelief, across Europe, as far as Cyprus and even into Persia it has been documented that these widespread customs are still in existence.

It is interesting to note that Roman Catholicism adapts itself to the original (usually Pagan) beliefs of the inhabitants of any country where it becomes the predominant religion of the people; hence the Pagan goddess ‘St. Brigid’ became a Roman Catholic saint. Islam, too, has adapted itself to the original beliefs of the natives of many nations of the world.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14v12) Sometimes when we look at barren land, devoid of trees or growth, it reminds us of how barren and cold certain areas are in the spiritual sense. Churches where the gospel may once have been preached now lie crumbling; roofless and open to the drifting clouds of the heavens.

Yet the Lord says: “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isaiah 66v1)

Oh to have humility, to love the souls of our fellowmen, to tremble at His Word… and to obey the great commission… “Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature…” (Mark 16v15)

“Every creature” in every tiny hamlet and every larger village, town and city on the island of Ireland and beyond… wherever the Lord calls you and I to live, or work or the places that we have occasion to pass through… hospitals, surgeries, shops and restaurants; how necessary to say a word in season to those whom we are commanded to reach in His Name.

In a small village near Knock in County Mayo, we had lunch in a little riverside restaurant. After leaving the restaurant, I suddenly felt a strong impulse to go inside again and give an elderly lady and her daughter some Christian literature. And we have this certain promise from the Lord when we distribute the Word to hungry souls…

“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. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55v11-13)

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The Terrible Legacy of the Magdalene Laundries

February 27, 2013

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In recent years one powerful tidal wave after another has lashed the institution of Roman Catholicism, particularly on the island of Ireland. Just recently I have read and listened to horrific stories of abuse within the Magdalene Laundries, institutions which were run by nuns and where women of all ages were incarcerated and used as slaves to wash linen for hotels and other businesses. Amazingly, the last of these institutions was closed down as recently as 1996. Unfortunately all of this happened with the co-operation of the government, the police and those in authority. A girl who escaped from these circumstances and who was caught by the police would ultimately be sent back to face even worse punishment and the horror that she had attempted to escape from. And it was horror; many of these women were abused, starved, assaulted, their heads shaved, their clothes confiscated and also beaten by those who were supposed to be “looking after them.”

Of course many were not women at all – girls as young as ten were brought to the laundries and others were born into the system. Many babies who were born there were taken from their mothers without their consent and given up for adoption. Also, the laundries were supposedly for unmarried mothers, but many were not in this situation. One woman told of how she was thrown into the laundry simply because of her family’s poverty, while another had been discovered out ‘too late at night’ by a passing priest who insisted that she needed to be ‘corrected’ by being incarcerated in the laundry.

Perhaps what is most sad is the fact that much of this happened with the co-operation of the families of the victims. Listening to their stories, I realised that some of the girls were the victims of abuse and yet they were punished for a crime of which they were the victims. This brings to mind many present day situations in countries where Shariah law is enforced and where young girls are still stoned to death, even though many are the victims in the situation.

All of this came to mind in my recent reading of St. John, chapter 8, where the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman, taken in adultery, unto Jesus. As usual the hierarchy of the church were tempting Him, “that they might accuse Him.” (Verse 6) “But Jesus stooped down, and with his fingers wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.” (Verse 6)

“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (Verse 7)

All of these woman’s accusers, we learn, “went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (Verse 9)

Jesus asked her: “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?”

She said: “No man, Lord.”

“And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (Verse 11)

Jesus forgave the woman, who was clearly not innocent in this situation – but He also gave her instructions for her future life and ultimate happiness – “Go and sin no more.”

And of course the other person in this adulterous situation was not innocent and her accusers were certainly not innocent, for they went out one by one, having been “convicted by their own conscience.” (Verse 9)

Many situations of cruelty and injustice have come to light in our society in recent years – and no one knows more about it than the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows about every heart that aches and every deep emotional scar and every dear soul who still wakens with nightmares from the events of a past life.

Directly after He spoke those words of forgiveness and instruction to the woman, Jesus again spoke to the Pharisees: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (Verse 12)

If those in authority in our society had truly followed the Lord Jesus and not the false teachings of men, they would have been led of His Spirit and by the light of His Word. (“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119v105). There would have been no cruel institutions, no abuse and no lack of love.

My prayer is that the people of Ireland and the people of our troubled world would turn to His Word, read it and seek His salvation. This salvation cannot be achieved by our own works, (Ephesians 2v8&9); by withdrawing from society and forbidding to marry (1Tim.4v1-3); through ordinances of the church or by putting our trust in anything other than the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4v12)

Jesus said: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11v28) Rest from sorrow-filled years, love for your fellowman – and eternal rest in His presence now and for evermore.

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The Erroneous Doctrine of “The Assumption of the Virgin Mary”

August 15, 2012

I recall some years ago arriving into the Greek island of Corfu quite late on the night of the 15th August, to find that many locals had gathered into our hotel for the celebration of the “assumption of the Virgin Mary.” Throughout the world, this doctrine is held to be true in both Orthodox and Roman Catholic circles, yet few investigate whether there is any scripture to support it.

It is believed that Mary (like Jesus) was immaculately conceived, and that eventually (like Elijah of old in 2Kings 2) she was taken up into Heaven. In my leaflet and blog (The Virgin Mary – and the Bible versus Roman Catholicism) Mary’s “perpetual virginity,” “Immaculate Conception,” and her “Assumption” are all viewed in light of scripture, revealing that in God’s Word, there is no scriptural foundation for these doctrines.

I quote from my leaflet/blog: “As for the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary” which was declared by Rome as recently as 1950, there is no scriptural foundation for this doctrine either. In 2Kings 2 we may read that unique account of how Elijah and Elisha conversed, and how Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (Verse 11) In Genesis 5v24 we learn of Enoch, that he “walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Again, in Hebrews 11v5 we read: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” The latter are unique accounts of two individuals who did not see death, but no account exists to tell us that Mary, unlike most people, did not see death. If she had been taken up into heaven in such a manner, then I have no doubt that the infallible Word of God would have recorded such an important event.

I quote again from Mary’s famous words in Luke 1v46-55… “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.”

These are the words of a woman of faith – faith in her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ the promised Messiah of old. Although Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Enoch, Elijah and many others did not live to see those days of grace, they too would be justified by faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11v6)

And so, in this, the ‘Day of Grace,’ we are most honoured to have an Advocate and sole Mediator, the risen Saviour, who now sits with His Father in Heaven, awaiting that day and hour which no man knows, when He will return “as a thief in the night” (1Thess. 5v2) to “judge the quick and the dead” (2Tim 4v1). But time is running out, and many today are being deceived. As each hour brings us closer to eternity are you ready for that Day of Judgement and is your name written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” (Rev. 21v27)

While many today are only interested in the material, they neglect their soul’s salvation – but what could be more important than the issue of where we spend eternity? May God bless you as you search the scriptures and may you experience that joy and assurance of knowing that your sins are forgiven and that you will have a home in Heaven. Jesus said: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5v39)

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

June 15, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the other hand, if people believe that it is truly the body and blood of Christ, then they are contravening God’s law, for we read… “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to the bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27&28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Adventures of a Bible – A True Story set in Dublin, by the Rev. J.H. Townsend, D.D.

March 31, 2012

This is the title of just one of the tracts which I recently obtained from “Way of Life”, Dungannon, copies of which are also available from “Good News for Ireland,” 5 Rathina, Newcastle-West, Co.Limerick.

Clearly written in a much earlier era, it struck a chord with me. Here is the amazing story of how one worn little Bible brought salvation to the lives it touched over a short space of time. My prayer is that this true story, by Rev. J. H. Townsend, will now touch even more lives…

On a dull January afternoon some years ago – the date of this occurrence is written down in an old notebook of mine – a young widow was sitting in her drawing room looking out of the window.

It was a fine house in a fashionable Dublin square; the room was handsomely furnished, everything indicated comfort, and even wealth, but the possessor looked unhappy.

Mrs. Blake was a Roman Catholic, fervent and conscientious in the practice of her creed, but of late her mind had been burdened with the thought of her sins. Religious practices, penance, and even prayers, brought her no relief; the burden could not be removed.

She had told her sorrows to her confessor, and at his bidding had taken up works of charity; but, although these things were an interest and for a while occupied her mind, the sense of her own sins lay heavy on her soul. Her confessor, a kindly and attractive young priest, gave her full absolution, but his words brought no comfort.

As she sat musing, there was a knock at the hall door, and before she had time to collect her thoughts a visitor was in the room. “What shall I do to rouse you and get that sad look off your face?”

“Ah, Father John, you are kind and you have done your best, but the burden of which I have told you lies heavy on my heart.”

“Listen to me,” said he; “I have made up my mind what you are to do. There’s a man coming to the Rotunda tomorrow who will make your sides ache with laughing, and you shall go to hear him.”

“Oh, Father John.”

“No – not a word! I won’t have any excuse – I enjoin it; go you will, and go you must.”

The young priest explained that a Society entertainer well-known at that period, was to appear before a fashionable audience, and that in his opinion this would be the best thing for her. No protest was of the slightest use; she could not disobey her spiritual advisor, who had even bought her a ticket for the performance, so the following afternoon saw Mrs. Blake at the appointed place, where large placards announced the entertainment which she had been ordered to attend.

The Rotunda, as every Dublin person knows, has more than one public room under its roof; there is the great Round Room, the Pillar Room, and one or two more; there are, moreover, different entrances. Now, as it happened, Mrs. Blake had made a mistake as to the hour of the performance, and instead of the crowd which she would have seen had she come at the right time, she noticed a little string of persons entering the building; following them she found herself in one of the smaller halls and sat down.

It seemed odd that no one had asked her for a ticket, but she concluded that this would be rectified later on. There was no time for much thought, as almost immediately a gentleman came upon the platform and gave out a hymn. Then it flashed on her that she had made some dreadful mistake – she must be in the wrong room, and, worst of all, this must be some Protestant meeting into which she had unfortunately found her way. Mrs. Blake was shy and sensitive; to go out of the place in the sight of all assembled was to her an impossibility. What should she do? She determined to slip out at the close of the hymn, for by doing so her action would be less likely to attract notice.

This she tried to do, but in her anxiety to be quick she knocked down her umbrella violently, and the noise which it made was so great that many turned round to see the cause. Poor Mrs. Blake, terrified at what she had done, sank into a chair and almost wished that she could fall through the floor.

Now there was a deep silence, and then one voice, that of the man on the platform, was heard in prayer. She could not help listening, as she had never heard anything like this before; it was so unlike the “Hail Marys” and other prayers in her books of devotion. The man was so reverent, but he seemed so happy as he prayed! This struck her as most extraordinary.

The prayer ended and the speaker announced that he would read a passage of Scripture on the “Forgiveness of Sin.” The very subject of all others in the world that she longed to hear about! Come what may – let Father John say what he liked or do what he chose – she must listen to this.

The first eighteen verses of the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews was read, and the speaker in a simple way expounded the teaching until it became as clear as daylight. The One Sacrifice once offered; the free and full forgiveness granted to those who ask for it in His Name; this, illustrated by several other passages in the New Testament, formed the subject of the discourse.

As the thirsty ground drinks in the summer rain, so did this poor soul receive these wonderful truths. She had never heard them before, but now they flowed into her inmost being and she longed to hear more.

The speaker ceased, and after another prayer the meeting broke up.

Mrs Blake felt that this was the opportunity of her life, so, summoning her courage, she went to the edge of the platform and asked the gentleman whose words he had been reading.

Surprised at such a question he came down, and was at once plied with so many enquiries that he offered to write down references for her to study at home. When, however, he learnt that the lady had never possessed a Bible, his interest was keenly aroused. “I will lend you mine,” he said; “read the marked passages in the pages I have turned down, but let me have it back in a few days; it is the most precious thing I have.”

Mrs. Blake thanked him warmly, and hastened home with joy in her heart and a new light in her eye; how different a being from the disconsolate creature who a couple of hours previously had found her way to the Rotunda!

For the next few days everything was forgotten but her new treasure; she read and re-read the marked passages and many others too. The Light shone into her understanding; the burden long weighing upon her conscience rolled away into the Open Grave, and the peace of God filled her heart and mind.

Now the time had come for the Bible to be returned. Once more she was deep in her new study and so engrossed in thought as not to notice a ring at the hall door. Someone entered her sitting room and her confessor stood before her. He noticed two things: an embarrassment in her manner, and at the same time a restful calm in her eyes, to which he was a stranger.

“What has happened to you?” asked the visitor. “I haven’t heard how you liked the entertainment, and as I didn’t see you at Mass last Sunday I thought you might be ill.”

Taken aback by the suddenness of the whole thing, Mrs. Blake lost her self-possession. She had intended to keep the matter a secret for a time at least, but now she was off her guard, and with the simplicity of a child she told the whole story – the mistake of the room, the attempt to go, the words spoken, the book lent, and, last of all, the joy and peace that filled her heart. With downcast eyes she spoke, but when she glanced up, her spirit froze with terror at the look of the man before her.

It was black with rage! Never before had she seen such fury depicted on a face.

“Give me that book!” he said hoarsely.

“It isn’t mine” she cried, vainly attempting to stop him.

“Give it to me,” was the reply, “or your soul will be damned eternally; that heretic has nearly got you into hell, and neither he nor you shall ever read that book again.”

Seizing it as he spoke, he thrust it into his pocket and, giving her a fearful look strode out of the room.

The lady sat as if paralyzed – she heard the hall door shut, and something in her heart seemed to shut also and to leave her alone in terror. That awful look searched her through and through; only those who have been born and brought up in the Church of Rome know the nameless horror which their idea of the power of the priesthood can inspire. Then too she thought of the gentleman who had lent her his Bible; his address was in it, but she could not remember it and knew not where to write. This was very grievous, but oh! that look – it was branded on her memory.

Days passed slowly by, but her visitor, once so welcome, now so dreaded, did not return. Courage began to creep back, and at last, after a fortnight or more had elapsed, Mrs. Blake determined to venture upon a visit to him. She must make one more effort, if not too late, to get the book restored to its rightful owner.

Father John lived at some distance from Mrs. Blake’s residence, and his house adjoined a convent to which he was confessor. The door was opened by a nun, who visibly startled at the sight of Mrs. Blake and, upon being asked if the priest was at home, her eyes seemed to blaze for a moment, but immediately her face became rigid and her manner cold as she said, “Yes, Father John is at home – he is in this room; will you not come in and see him?” As she spoke she half led, half pushed, the lady into the room opening off the hall; but as the visitor entered she uttered a piercing shriek, for oh! – horrors of horrors! – there was an open coffin, and in it the lifeless form of her confessor.

Before she could recover from the shock, the nun glided up to her and hissed into her ear these words: “He died cursing you; you gave him a Bible, and he told me to tell you that he cursed you – cursed you with his last breath; now go!” And before she well knew what had happened, Mrs Blake was in the street with the door shut behind her.

Several weeks elapsed. The breath of spring had passed over the earth, waking leaves and flowers to life and loveliness. One evening Mrs. Blake was sitting alone preparing over the events of the past three or four months. The joy of pardon was in her heart, she had bought a Bible for herself, and had read it daily. The old errors in which she had been brought up had been one by one renounced, but there was a sorrow which could not be effaced. How sad, how ineffably sad, the brief illness and sudden death of the young priest! His last look! His last words! That terrible message!

Why should she have been so blest, brought into the haven of peace, filled with heavenly joy, and he – why should not the same words have brought him a like message? It was too awful, and was one of the mysteries which could never be explained. “Why,” she said to herself, “should a God of love do this?”

At that moment the servant ushered into the room a lady who was closely veiled and who stood for a moment irresolute. Before Mrs. Blake could speak, the other said, “You do not know me in this dress, but you will soon recognise me.” With these words she lifted her veil and revealed the face of the nun who had delivered the message of cursing as they stood by the open coffin.

Mrs. Blake started back, not knowing what might happen next, but her visitor calmed her fears, adding, “May I sit down and tell you something?” Having been invited to do so she went on – “I have two things to tell you, and I must be very brief for I am in great haste. First, please, please forgive me for that awful lie of mine; I have asked God’s forgiveness, but I beg also for yours. Father John died blessing you with all his heart. The day before his death he charged me to tell you that he too had found forgiveness for his sin by that book, and that throughout Eternity he would bless you for having brought him to the knowledge of his Saviour. Now, will you forgive me?”

“I will indeed, from the bottom of my heart,” gasped the astonished lady; “but why did you say what you did?”

“Because I hated you. I loved him, and hated you for having sent him to hell as I believed. Now listen. I felt the strongest desire to read what he had read, and after his funeral I could not resist looking into the book for myself; I was fascinated and read more and more, and I too have found pardon and peace in my Saviour. I have been studying the Bible for weeks, and now here it is” – producing it as she spoke, “I have escaped the convent this evening and will cross to England tonight, but I felt that I must come here and return this Bible, and to tell you that all my life I too shall bless you for having through it taught me how to get forgiveness for my sins. Good-bye! God bless you! We shall meet in heaven.”

A brief farewell and she had passed out of the house and was gone.

Was it, after all, only a dream? A little worn Bible lay on the table before her. It was no dream, but a glorious reality. That little book – without a living voice to expound its teaching in two of these cases – had brought three precious souls out of darkness into light.

Imagine the feelings of the owner when it was restored to him with this wonderful record! And yet what says the One who sent it on its mission?

“My word 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.”

Reader, what has your Bible done for you?

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. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”  (John 3v16&17)