Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

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!

 

Oh for a Glimpse of Eternity!

May 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He will lead me where no tears shall ever fall;

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

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

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

 

 

Remembering Manchester Today – and Terrorism then

May 23, 2017

Today I have been thinking of and praying for the victims of this horrific terrorist attack last night, most of them so very very young. As a mother my heart goes out to any parent who has lost a child and, indeed, numerous others who are comforting seriously injured loved ones in hospital, as well as the adult victims involved. This whole horrific incident doesn’t even bear thinking about, given that the perpetrator waited until the concert was over in order to create maximum loss of life and injury.

From a personal point of view, I have very pleasant memories of Manchester, a city I often visited to do courses connected with my work in Northern Ireland years ago. Often I would have brought my Mum along for the trip, as she enjoyed exploring the city during the day while I was on the course. She especially loved a walk around the Arndale Centre, which is Manchester’s big shopping centre. Today that shopping centre was evacuated just hours after the other atrocity, as police dealt with what they described as ‘an incident.’

Manchester is no stranger to terrorism. In June 1996 the Arndale Centre and many other buildings were destroyed, as the IRA detonated a powerful bomb (the largest since World War 2) in the centre of the city. Miraculously, although more than two hundred people were injured – there were no fatalities in this attack. However, damage incurred was in the region of around 700 million. (More in today’s currency.)

I remember the sound of bombs in my youth – and one bomb in particular. I was around twenty at the time and working in an office in a small town in Northern Ireland, when a man ran inside the door and gave us a choice: either lie on the floor or run out of the building down the street. “There’s a bomb in the post office across the road,” he told us. I chose to do the latter and when I reached the bottom of the street with a much older colleague, I can still recall the hollow sickening thud and a sensation which made me feel like my entire head was going to burst open. With shaking hands and a terrified look my colleague took out a packet of cigarettes and offered me one. “No thanks,” I said. Although I wasn’t a Christian at that time, I was determined that no terrorist was ever going to make me feel that I had to start smoking to calm my nerves.

Modes of communication have certainly changed since then. Today “Twitter” alerts people very quickly as to what is happening. Back then I had no mobile phone to call my parents and reassure them that I was safe, when an “incident” occurred. However, I was fortunate to find one of those old telephone kiosks which thankfully hadn’t been vandalised.

Yes indeed… there have been amazing leaps in modes of communication and technology over the last decades – but sadly the hearts of men who have not been touched by the Saviour’s love are as cold, cruel and evil today as they were then, whatever their ideology. Today international terrorism (which has its roots in Islamic fundamentalism) is at the forefront of discussion where terrorism is concerned. A tidal wave of evil is sweeping across the world, with sporadic attacks on ordinary people.

We are living in dangerous days – too dangerous to neglect the value of your soul. To those who know Him, we must follow His example and work, “for the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9v4) And to those outside of the Lord’s grace, although you may certainly be no terrorist, you need to acknowledge your need of salvation, repent and place your lives under the shadow and safety of His wings. No one is guaranteed a pleasant release from this life – but the Lord Jesus Christ has promised: “him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.  (Hebrews 7v25)

I pray (and will continue to do so) for the heartbroken and suffering this day – and I pray that they will know His comforting Presence in their lives – the Lord’s strong Presence, like warm arms, that I felt all those years ago, when I was feeling lonely one night in a hotel in Manchester, shortly after the Lord saved me by His grace…

 

“The Eyes of the Lord are in Every Place, Beholding the Evil and the Good” (Proverbs 15v3)

October 27, 2015

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An elderly friend of my family was on the telephone to me just recently, telling me that someone had tried to burgle her when she was out. Something or someone had interrupted his attempt and thankfully there was no evidence to show that he had ever been in the house. However, her window had been prised opened and police forensic evidence showed tiny fibres from gloves that the would-be thief had been wearing. My friend laughed when she recalled the very apt ‘thought for the day’ that she had been reading on that very morning… “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and dust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal…” (Matthew 6v19)

“That thief would have had no interest in my little sentimental things,” she added, “but of course I’m glad that he never managed to get into the house and it does leave me feeling uneasy…”

A short time later I was driving to my peaceful rural home one night last week, when I noticed numerous oncoming cars flashing at me in the darkness. ‘Was there something wrong with my lights, was there an accident ahead…?’ My mind was filled with all sorts of possibilities as I drove on towards the edge of the village which I had to drive through to get home. Soon I reached a police blockade. An officer put his hand up and proceeded to tell me to find some other route home, as the village had been sealed off. “What’s going on?” I asked anxiously. “I’m sorry madam; we are not at liberty to say right now. There’s a very delicate situation here and no more cars are allowed through this village for the moment.”

I later learned that there had been some sort of ‘stand-off’ and a vague statement had been issued about someone ‘being potentially a danger to himself and others.’

We don’t have to travel very far in this world before we are confronted with all of the sins and spiritual ailments of mankind – our ancient legacy from Eden. There is nothing in this world that the Lord is not aware of. He knows of the unspoken plans of the thief and the murderer; He knows of those who ‘bear false witness’ and He knows of the self-serving schemes of rulers and politicians the world over. He knows when some poor soul takes a nervous break-down and He knows every single anxiety (large and small) of every individual the world over.

And He also knows when good and loving deeds are accomplished to His glory. These may never be known or recognised by anyone else on earth and in fact many of the Lord’s servants may be misunderstood and their good deeds misinterpreted – but that which is done to the glory of God will receive an eternal reward. “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” (Luke 8v17)

Have you ever been accused in the wrong? Are you ostracised from the company of others and have no idea why? His eyes are surely in every place, beholding the evil and the good. All across the world at this moment terrible crimes are being perpetrated, while acts of terror are being planned in the name of a false prophet. Yet, for those who know the Lord, we can rest assured that He is in control. “He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 62v6)

Whatever your lot today, it is no secret to Him. He knows well your troubles, your worries, your sorrows and perhaps your regrets. He died to lift those burdens that weigh you down with grief and He died for the sins that would seek to enslave you. If you have not already done so, His will is for you to repent and turn to Him today.  His eyes are indeed “in every place.” He understands “every place” in your heart too and He wants to heal that broken heart, filling it with His love. Oh that mankind would turn to the Lord, for our all-seeing, all-knowing God is coming (perhaps very soon) to judge the earth with righteousness and truth. (Psalm 96v13)

How safe is Your Holiday or Business Destination this Summer?

June 29, 2015

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As recent terror attacks in three continents continue to send shock waves around the world, many people are now wondering whether to cancel their summer holiday – particularly if it happens to be in Tunisia. Horrific scenes have emerged in the last few days; of tourists, including young children running for their lives on a Tunisian beach; of rising casualties in a Shia mosque in Kuwait and of an explosion in a chemical plant near Lyon where a man beheaded his boss…

Elsewhere many areas of the world are in complete turmoil. Refugees and migrants fleeing war, poverty and persecution are floating in the open seas in rubber dinghies and little wooden boats which were never meant to hold the number of people that have been packed unto them. We see images of men, women and children being washed ashore on Greek islands – where the locals are barely able to provide for the needs of their own families.

On a personal level, my husband is to participate in a conference in the Greek island of Zakynthos next month but Greece, we fear, is on the brink of a humanitarian crises. School teachers in Athens have complained that young children are under-nourished and some are even fainting because they have not eaten in a couple of days. In the countryside at least, people it appears are able to grow fruit and vegetables, keep hens for eggs and goats to milk and make goat’s cheese from. However, I have to admit that I am a little apprehensive about our proposed trip to this lovely green island which the Venetians once named “the flower of the east.”

It was here, on this third largest of the Ionian Islands that dozens of terrified Afghan and Iraqi Kurdish refugees washed in to shore just recently, because they were unable to make it to the coasts of Italy. So what awaits any traveller this summer, having reached their destination – financial chaos, refugees on the beach – or worse still… a gunman on the beach?

Yes, it appears that even Greece is on the map of “tourist area hotspots with terror threat level” issued by the foreign office. On the red alert “high threat” list are France, Spain, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Turkey – and now Tunisia of course. Italy, Greece and Morocco are classified under “general threat,” while Portugal, Croatia and Bulgaria are listed under “underlying threat”.

“Oh, just stay at home,” some sigh… “Let’s face it, the world is just not safe out there anymore!”

‘But is it even safe at home?’ I ask myself. If someone had asked an 82 year-old British grandmother ‘did she think she would ever be beheaded in her own back garden?’ I’m sure that she would never have dreamt of such a horror – but this happened not so very long ago.

In an uncertain world, we brace ourselves for tomorrow’s news… but there is a happy band of people in this world who can claim these lovely words and apply them to any situation that they find ourselves in… “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Se-lah.” (Psalm 46v1-3)

Can you claim to feel a genuine peace when you hear these words? Whether it is financial unrest, wars, rumours of war, persecution; violence in the forces of nature, sickness or even death – if the Lord has control of all of your life, you have nothing to fear – either here or in the world to come. Of course pain, bereavement, anguish, or having to face up to our own death is horrendously hard to bear but thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ who loves us and wants to be our Burden-Bearer. He said: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11v28)

But He also said: “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)

And so, in an uncertain world, it is essential to be certain of this one thing – that the Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme in your life.

If it is that you fear an uncertain eternity, it is not His will that you continue to live in this unhappy state. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5v8)

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died for your sins because he loved you and wants you to have an assurance of sins forgiven in this life – and a deep peace in your heart that you will spend eternity in heaven with Him. All He asks is that you repent and put your trust in Him today. Remember – tomorrow may be too late… for all our tomorrows on this earth are becoming increasingly uncertain. There is nothing comparable to the joy of feeling His Presence with you as you face into each new day. Oh that you would be one of that happy band who can honestly say…“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48v14)

May the Lord bless these words to whoever reads them.

Happy New Year?

January 8, 2015

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I certainly hope so! A Happy New Year is what I sincerely wish for everyone who reads this… but who knows? The Bible says: “Boast not thyself of tomorrow: for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27v1) Indeed, knowing how it is with the terrible unrest in this world, we brace ourselves in the knowledge that just about any evil can be perpetrated.

Today I have been hearing about the recent Paris shootings from my daughter who works a short distance from the area where they took place. How my heart goes out to the loved ones and friends of those who were murdered, some of whom were police officers. Yes, who knows “what a day may bring forth?”

Shortly before Christmas my dear Mum passed away on 13th December. I was just starting to come to terms with this terrible loss when suddenly we received the news that my husband’s Dad, of whom I was very fond, had also passed away. My children have witnessed the funerals of two of their grandparents – one on 16th December and the other just eight days later, on Christmas Eve… And this past year I have also had to face up to other negative news concerning my health, having had a third operation.

I often wondered how on earth I could ever cope with the loss of my mother – but I have! How can this be so and how can I have lived through such a traumatic time over these last few weeks, with whole nights spent without sleep? The answer is… I could not possibly have coped if I had not been leaning on the Lord and His great power to carry me through.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46v1

He has helped me to cope physically and He has helped me to remain calm when faced by some very distressing circumstances.

“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34v4)

I met an acquaintance (a Christian) locally one day while shopping and I told her about Mum.

“Oh, but your mother knew the Lord didn’t she?” she said cheerfully.

“Yes, but I miss her so much…”

“Oh, Elizabeth…” she said warmly, “she’s gone just a little while before you. You’ll see her again!”

“Yes, yes… you’re right of course. That’s true…”

Somehow those cheerful words put a spring in my step and I continued on my way, much encouraged on that dark December day after her funeral. Yes, in just a little while I will see her again. Recently, too, I also remembered Mum’s words to me… “Don’t worry about me love… if I’m not here some day, you’ll know where I am…”

What a glorious wonder… to see the face of our Redeemer, our Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Meanwhile I will go in His strength, sowing the seed, distributing her testimonies – and that of my Dad who passed away just three years ago.

And I am ready to reach others in whatever way the Lord will direct me, until the Lord’s return – or His home call to me. Who knows, indeed, what a day may bring forth (never mind a year) in this uncertain and dangerous world we live in?

To those who know Him… “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psalm 46v11)

What a wonderful Saviour, Redeemer, Comforter, Confidant and Friend to have as we launch into the year ahead – whether its waters are troubled or smooth.

Whoever you are, yes, I do wish you have a happy year ahead but who knows? And even when everything is going our way, without the Saviour life is really meaningless. Furthermore none of us are immune from unhappy events in this world, whatever our profession of faith… but His grace is greater!

If you have never done so – trust Him now to forgive you your sins and to shoulder your burdens and heartaches – and He will deal with them all, for He died that you might have life and have it more abundantly and then, even when the low times come knocking at your door, He will carry you through and you can claim these words for your own…

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8v38&39)