Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

On Fasting, Misinterpretation of Scripture… and Dangerous Cults

November 7, 2016

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In recent years the forces of law and order in western society have been working hard to deal with scenarios that many had never even previously heard of. “Honour” crimes abound and young people flee from forced marriages which are seen as the norm in their native (mostly Islamic) countries. It is also not uncommon to have to bring justice for the victims of certain types of African ritual and religion. “A clash of civilizations” the authorities call it.

While we think that we’re living comfortably and mundanely in our ‘civilised’ little 21st century high-tech world, perhaps somewhere not too far away there is someone else who is trapped in slavery or a child who is being tortured for having an ‘evil spirit.’ It really is horrifying to think of the thousands of cults of one sort or another in this world and how confusion abounds.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14v12 & Proverbs 16v25)

These thoughts struck me just recently, as I discovered old photographs that I’d taken of the Thames River in London, in November five years ago. They reminded me of a book which I had read some years ago too… “The Boy in the River:” a shocking true story of the murder and sacrifice of a small child in the heart of London in 2001. I was horrified to discover how young children can be the sacrificial victims of certain systems of belief which operate in a very clandestine way. Unfortunately even pseudo “Christian” groups in certain African countries can believe that some very young children have “kindoki” (a kind of witchcraft or possession by an evil spirit) and as a result they are sent back to their native country to have it “dealt with.”

“Dealing with” the offending “spirit” can amount to exorcising the unfortunate child by starving him, since the pastor and his helpers (in their strange mix of traditional beliefs and so-called “Christianity”) misinterpret scripture.

In Matthew 17 we learn of a certain man who came to Jesus, to beseech Him for his son who was described as “a lunatic,” who often fell into the fire – or water.” (v15) The disciples had been unable to cure him and Jesus had rebuked them for this. However, he added… “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (v21) Here we see that the disciples needed to pray and fast in this instance… not the child. This is at variance with what happened in the case of one young boy in the book, who had been starved in order that an “evil spirit” be removed. Unfortunately, even very young children who aren’t aware of what is happening to them are treated in this way too and often it is the “church hierarchy” who have the so-called evil spirit – not the child.

In a world of widespread confusion, evil and pain, those who know the Lord can only pray for opportunities to serve Him in the places where He has led us to be. We live in a rapidly changing, uncertain world where suffering abounds – perhaps much closer to us than we even realise; the Lord would have us to be vigilant and prayerful as a result. I have discovered many ‘faith groups’ which have sprang up all over the place but Jesus said “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7v20)

Gardeners know how easily weeds spring up and anything taking seed in stony ground is especially easy to pluck up. Yet… “The Lord knoweth them that are His…” (2Timothy 2v19) We need to pray about the evil realities that exist in our communities… including human trafficking and individuals being blackmailed into working for very little or practically nothing. Most of all, we need to pray that souls will truly come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour in these last days when cults and false prophets are on the increase.

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On Slavery, Islam, the Sack of Baltimore – and “a Thief in the Night”

June 20, 2015

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Today, 20th June 2015, marks the 384th anniversary of “the sack of Baltimore.” On the night of 20th June 1631 Muslims from North Africa’s Algeria made a surprise raid on the village of Baltimore which lies on the coast of west Cork in Ireland. Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845) the Irish poet and politician describes the dreadful scene in his poem which is quoted in Des Ekin’s book “The Stolen Village.”

Most of those villagers (men, women and children) were carried far away to a life of slavery in North Africa; apparently only two of them ever saw Ireland again. I wonder what terrible stories they would have to tell us if they were alive today?

The Sack of Baltimore is said to have been “the most devastating invasion ever mounted by Islamist forces on Ireland or England.” Some of the prisoners would spend the rest of their lives chained to oars as galley slaves, while others may have been prisoners in harems. I can only imagine their horror as they tried to grow accustomed to the stifling heat of a new climate, while the peaceful seaside village that they once knew became a mere part of their dreams.

Today most people view slavery in terms of European slave traders whisking African prisoners away to a life of forced labour, something which was abhorrent to William Wilberforce, the Christian who headed the parliamentary campaign for the Abolition of Slavery. William Wilberforce (1759-1833) is said to have trusted the Saviour in 1785 and went on to campaign for many other worthy causes, including the Society for the Prevention of Vice, the foundation of the Church Missionary Society and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The words slave/slaves are only mentioned twice in the Bible (Authorised Version), given as an account, as it was part of the culture during certain periods of history. However, I believe that the Lord never intended that any man, woman or child should ever be a slave; even though, despite their slavery many souls triumphed in adversity and became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!” (John 8v36)

As opposed to this, the Koran, on the other hand allows slavery and there is evidence to suggest that slaves still exist in many parts of the Islamic world, particularly in Saudi Arabia, even though Saudi Arabia and Yemen are said to have abolished slavery in 1962. However, there are countries which presently claim that slavery has the sanction of Islam and within these countries slavery is said to be a current practice; these include Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Sudan.

Today we are facing the threat of invasive change on a global scale… but the invaders are much more subtle in their approach, pointing to ‘political correctness’ to further their aims and rapidly gaining positions of power in the political world. Nevertheless, for those who know Jesus as Saviour – “here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13v14)

I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma for those villagers in Baltimore all those years ago, when men, women and children were literally stolen away. The Algerian Muslims descended upon their peace “like a thief in the night.”

In 2Peter 3v10 we also read of a thief in the night: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

The villagers of Baltimore never for one moment expected such a terrible thing to happen to the peaceful security of their lives in that village in the southwest tip of Ireland. They had no warning at all.

On the other hand, there is a warning to those who live in the world today of that ‘Day of the Lord’ which is to come. We are warned of this many many times in God’s Word and for those who are His servants it is our duty to warn others of His coming again – this time to judge the world.

“Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” (Revelation 16v15)

As the signs of the times show us that “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5v8) may those who have never trusted Him, turn to the Lord in repentance and may those who know the Him as Saviour, be faithful to loved ones, neighbours, friends, acquaintances – yes, and even the very stranger they meet in day to day life…

“All Things Work Together For Good to Them That Love God…” (Romans 8v28)

November 9, 2013

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I have recently read, yet again, that familiar story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis. Every time I read it, I feel sympathy once again for his father Jacob, who, on hearing that Joseph’s coat of many colours had been found covered in blood, “mourned for his son many days,” (Genesis 37v34). As a parent myself, I can imagine how heartbroken and distraught Jacob must have been at this news. I can also imagine how horrified the young Joseph may have felt to find himself eventually sold into slavery in Egypt.

Yet we learn later in Genesis 39v2 that “the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.”

Joseph was to be dismayed later, when his master’s wife tried to cause trouble for him and he was subsequently cast into prison, but eventually his God-given ability to interpret dreams brought him into favour with his master once more.

And so, life with its happy times (but often troubles) carries us along and sometimes we may feel shocked and saddened to find ourselves in situations not of our making. However, if we have made the Lord Jesus Christ the Master of our lives, then we must trust Him to carry us through whatever situation we find ourselves in. Whether that situation is a serious health diagnosis or something completely different, the Lord has promised those who love and follow Him that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8v28)

Perhaps we may find ourselves in a hospital waiting room or ward, or in a support group with those who have been similarly afflicted. At first we may naturally ask: “why me?” Yet Joseph, although he was innocent of wrong-doing when he was thrown into prison, was greatly used of the Lord in these new circumstances in which he found himself. Joseph communicated with his fellow prisoners… “Wherefore look ye so sadly today?” (Genesis 40v7) He was able to interpret the butler and baker’s dreams, although one of them heard something which I am sure he would have preferred not to hear…

Perhaps, we too, may find ourselves in a place where we are the only Christian in the room, the ward, or even a prison cell. But the Lord wants to work out His perfect will through each and every chilling new development in His children’s lives. Not only will He draw His child closer to Himself… He will use him or her to reach others with whom they have been thrown into contact.

The child of God is going Home to the city that has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God will lighten it… “and the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Revelation 21v23)

The earthly heartaches and trials of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and all of the Lord’s ancient people and His prophets are over and while they walked this earth by faith, all things (even the seemingly terrible) worked together for good for them.

Despite the jealous action of his brothers (although it has to be said that Reuben tried to prevent what happened) Joseph eventually was to be instrumental in saving his family from famine. The Lord has work for each and every one of His children to do despite the immediate gloomy forecast!

The youthful Joseph was possibly frightened as those strangers took him away… but the Lord saw down the years: the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine and many more besides. He saw the “bigger picture.” As Joseph explained to his brothers… “God did send me before you to preserve life.” (Gen.45v5)

Today as we look at our immediate situations, perhaps we may feel apprehensive or even frightened but we must never forget that there most certainly is “a bigger, greater picture” and that for those who know Him, the Lord has plans, to the extent that their lives and example may touch the lives of unsaved loved-ones and many others with whom they will meet in these new circumstances in which they find themselves.

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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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On Millstones, the Sea, Sin – and Amazing Grace!

June 5, 2010

“Millstones…” Isn’t it strange how our train of thought takes an unusual tangent, when we are disturbed by something we hear on the news? The particular item I refer to is that of a recent report on the clerical abuse of children throughout Ireland. This abuse spanned a period of many years we are told – who knows how long? Well actually, God knows. In fact there is nothing He doesn’t know, hence the term that we use to describe His nature – “omniscient.” Every word spoken in secret, every evil and clandestine behaviour on the part of man (or woman) – He knows it all, and some day everything shall be exposed!  (Matt. 12v36; 1Cor. 4v5; Rev. 20v12).

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 18v6. Having had an opportunity to view millstones in an old converted mill, I was impressed by how solid and massively heavy they were. There is no way that they could be lifted by ordinary human hands! Many would be of the opinion that these abusers deserved ‘a millstone necklace, and to be subsequently launched into the sea.’ As a mother, I felt justifiably furious by the idea that people in positions of ‘spiritual’ authority would use those positions to abuse children, given that we can never even begin to estimate the psychological damage sustained by the victims.

Then I thought of those millstones again – and the sea, and someone who had been a sailor. This person had taken advantage of his position to abuse African slaves on board ship, during the vile slave trade of the 18th century.

The seas were often treacherous on his long journeys back to his native England, but it was on one such journey that the Lord spoke to John Newton. On March 9th 1748 he happened to pick up and read a Christian book that he found in his cabin. Already disturbed by the contents of this book, the infamous slave trader became terrified the following day when the ship was caught up in a violent storm. Sadly, one man was swept overboard and the vessel severely damaged by the crashing waves. However the Lord used this terrifying situation to bring John Newton to his knees. He became acutely aware of his sin, to such an extent that he was convinced that he could not be forgiven. For weeks his ship drifted at sea, violently tossed to and fro by the angry waves; furthermore the crew were rapidly running out of rations. But during this time John Newton searched the scriptures, with a desire in his heart to get right with God. Then, miraculously, the winds abated and the ship found a safe haven in Irish waters, anchoring on the shores of the lovely Lough Swilly, County Donegal.

Here the locals helped the crew to repair the damaged ship and John Newton came to see that God’s grace and mercy is extended to the most ‘hopeless’ sinner – even him. Soon others noticed the changed life of this man who “once was blind – but now could see.” How marvellous that one who once blasphemed the Saviour’s name was inspired to write some of the most beautiful poetry and hymns in the English language. Perhaps the best known of these today is “Amazing Grace.” Written in 1772, it lived on to touch hearts over the centuries and continues to be sung even at secular events today. His numerous other hymns include: “How Sweet the name of Jesus Sounds” and “In evil long I took delight.”

Having been a drunken infidel, sunk in the mire of the deepest sins known to mankind, John Newton had put His trust in Jesus who still calls out to all who will hear His voice today: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16v26).

Whether a man wears the robes of a priest or bishop, or the rags of a debauched John Newton, is irrelevant to God, for He can see beyond the outward appearance, to the ‘inward man’ and his spiritual condition. In 1Samuel 16v7, we learn that… “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” What is more, He is willing to forgive the most awful sins of mankind, providing that they repent and put their trust in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary; He wants too, to heal the victims of abuse and crime.

Most of us have probably never sunk to the depths of depravity that John Newton sank to, but every one of us needs a Saviour, and not one of us will get to heaven without taking the humble route that John Newton took! Whether we wear a clerical robe, a salesman’s suit, a police uniform, or a judge’s wig – we must get right with God, if we have not already done so. We need to recognise the truth in those words in Romans 3v23… “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Then we must be willing to let God put matters right, by simply repenting of our sins and asking Him to take over our lives.

When we do this, it will be as if “our sins have been cast into the midst of the sea;” we read in many portions of scripture of the great mercy of God in this respect. While men may find it hard to forgive us, God does not remember our sins and hold them against us, when we are truly repentant, turning away from sin in His strength. “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7v19). He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Peter 3v9) Not willing that a millstone be hanged around anyone’s neck, but rather that their sins would be cast into the sea! If the Lord can bring about dramatic changes in the life of a man like John Newton, there is no limit to what He can do with your life, whatever it has consisted of in the past! Please trust Him now – for your destination for all eternity depends upon it, and in this life God can use you for His glory, just as He used His servant, John Newton.

© Elizabeth Burke 2008

Link for hymn: “Amazing Grace”: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/m/a/amazing_grace.htm