Friday, 21 December 2012

Divine Suddenness and Divine Sovereignty

"Suddenness is the wrapping paper in which sovereignty sometimes arrives."  So wrote Dr Dale Ralph Davis in his commentary on 1 Kings (p.273).

When trials come to us suddenly, we often respond, "Well, that's all I need now." Plans are altered.  Careers shattered.  Families devastated.  Lives threatened.

Yet for the Christian, God, in His sovereignty, arrives with us in ways that are guaranteed to get our attention. We are made to think, to ponder, to ask questions, even at times to doubt.  But it also drives us on our knees in prayer to the only One Who can hear and help us.

Someone very wisely said, "When trouble drives us to our knees before God, it does more good than harm."  How true.  And how delightful it was to hear **** saying yesterday that she never thought she would ever find herself thanking God for her cancer.  Why is this?  Because it has brought her to a closeness to Christ that she never had before.  She thanks God for working in her in this way, for the spiritual benefits she has received are innumerable.  She spoke of the peace that she enjoys everyday – the peace of God.  For her, peace and joy are linked intimately with Christ and her relationship with Him.  This is as it should be.

It is when we are facing trouble that we get to know God best of all.  "When trouble puts us on our backs, the only way we can look is up."  This has been the indescribable joy that we have experienced over these past months – the joy and delight in being able to come into the presence of the holy and loving God, and to talk to Him.  Looking up to the Lord as our only Helper has been deeply satisfying.  And do you know what it has done for us?  It has created in us an independence of circumstances and people that has given us the greatest freedom we have ever known.  Just think what heaven will be like if we can have a foretaste of it here and now!

God is sovereign, and we cannot understand why He does some things, nay, many things.  We have to "walk by faith not by sight" if we are to make any sense of what happens to us.  Knowing that God knows the end for the beginning is the greatest comfort to us.  When we cannot see where we are going, how good it is to walk with Someone Who does.

You have known the suddenness of divine intrusions into your life.  So have we.  It can change everything.  New priorities are set.  The truly important things get top place.  Everything else is put way down the list.  And God gets top place.

And it is then that God comes into His own and we see things about Him that were there all the time, but we did not stop long enough to see them.  How we impoverish ourselves by not staying long enough in His gracious presence.  How we deprive our lives by only ‘filling up’ for a moment.  To hear **** singing (privately, I must add) those lovely words, “And I shall see Him face to face, And tell the story, ‘Saved by grace.’”  Just think what hearing this does to one’s soul.  To hear that deep personal assurance of salvation coming from a believer’s heart, is wonderful.  To know that she knows where she is going when the Lord calls her, is the greatest comfort imaginable.  It is “to be absent from the body but present with the Lord.”

Stop, sit, wait, meditate, think, ruminate, drink it all in.  That's what God is calling His people to do.  To give Him priority in their lives.  And when we do that, God blesses in ways that we could never imagine.

All praise must go to the Lord for his numerous and wonderful answers to your prayers.  Having just had her second chemotherapy last Wednesday, and knowing now what to expect, she is in brilliant form.  The last three days have been really good, with only the most minor of annoyances (and I’m not talking about me!!!).  Her mouth is a bit sore and food tastes different from what it ought to be; but apart from that she is very well.

Now, this cannot be put down to **** or to me or even to you.  But it can and must be put down to the Lord’s graciousness to her in answer to your prayers.  Friends, never doubt that God answers your prayers.  He does.  She dreaded the sickness that often accompanies chemo, and she has not had any.  Yes, she has tablets to take to control sickness, and in answer to your prayers, God has made them very effective.  We prayed that the Lord would send ‘sweetness’ along with the chemo – and He did that too.  And why?  Because that’s just the kind of God He is. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

God Is No Man’s Debtor

God is no man’s debtor, and He richly rewards those who diligently seek him.  It is a blessed thing just to be in His presence in prayer, to look on His Face and to behold His glory.  It is the greatest sweetness to meet with Christ on earth; what must it be like to be with Him in heaven forever?  To experience the sweetness of our Saviour is not to be missed, and the Lord sometimes has to bring His children into uninvited situations where they experience that spiritual sweetness in their own hearts.  Just to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings is the nearest thing to heaven on earth.  To know that deep, deep contentment with all that God has brought in our lives is far above rubies.  An old Puritan preacher wrote a book entitled, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment; and it is a rare jewel.  But to taste something of it is something to be coveted above wealth. 

And that’s what Christ has done for us.  And He can do the same for you, if you ask Him.  But let me add this caveat: Be careful what you ask God for, for you might just get it.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Pat Finucane Killing - The Inside Story

Truth is an important commodity that we in Northern Ireland have dispensed with in a bid to appear to be PC, committed to Equality, fairness, justice, etc.

I met Sean O'Callaghan in London in 2000.  He was in the Southern Command of the IRA and carried out many murders in Northern Ireland.  He now sees things very differently, and is prepared to write and speak about what he knows, to be profound annoyance of the IRA.

The has heard the Finucane side of the story, as well as that propounded by their republican friends.  Now it is time to hear the other side of the story - the truth about Pat Finucane, LLB.

Why am I publishing this particular story now?  First of all, it is big news in Northern Ireland  the Irish Republic and throughout the rest of the UK.  Second, this murder was wrong and indefensible. and third, very few people have yet heard the inside track of Pat Finucane's activities.

So I want to share with my readers, through this website that is growing in popularity, another side of the Finucane story that will help put the entire event into proper context.  Truth is important to the Finucane family and its supporters, so let us have the whole truth.

You might be interested in this paper.

This from the former Head of PIRAs Southern Command, Sean O'Callaghan:

I knew Pat Finucane reasonably well. I first met him in 1980 at a high-level IRA finance meeting in Letterkenny, Co Donegal. The meeting took place in a private room above a public house. Also present were Gerry Adams, the now-dead Tom Cahill, Pat Doherty (now the MP for West Tyrone) and several others.

Adams and Finucane arrived together in the morning and left at lunchtime. Did Finucane introduce himself as a member of the IRA? No. Did anyone present describe him as such? No. It was, however, exclusively an IRA meeting and quite clearly, without doubt, understood to be so by all present. That is the evidence of my own eyes and ears and I stand by it today as I did yesterday and as I will tomorrow.

Of course Finucane should not have been murdered, and if it is proved that anyone played a role in that murder they should pay the price. But he was not the blameless, innocent "human rights" lawyer beloved of nationalist Ireland and the quasi-liberal chattering classes in the United Kingdom.

He came to visit me several times in Crumlin Road prison in Belfast, where he spent much of his working life acting as a trusted conduit between the IRA prisoners and the leadership on the outside. Finucane wanted to represent me, but expressed no interest in my legal position. All he wanted to know was what I had told the police, and there is no doubt in my mind as an individual that he was acting as an IRA member and exploiting his own legal position for the benefit of that organisation.

When an IRA member was arrested, the first person to gain access to him was usually a solicitor. The organisation on the outside was often desperate to discover if the prisoner had made any statements incriminating himself or others, had provided information on arms dumps or future IRA operations or even had been turned by the security forces.

This was where an individual solicitor such as Finucane was invaluable to the organisation. He was different to many other lawyers who held strong political views. The renowned Belfast solicitor Paddy McCrory was undoubtedly a staunch republican, but he was a constitutionalist who demanded the highest standards from the state and never believed that the law was a weapon to be exploited by a terrorist organisation.

Pat Finucane was first and foremost an IRA volunteer, and he exploited his position ruthlessly to wage his war on the state. In Crumlin Road, I once explained to him that I had admitted the attempted murder of a UVF member from Portadown and went into some detail.

When I finished he looked at me with contempt on his face: "And after all that, you missed him." Hardly what you would expect to hear from a peace-loving man who believed in the primacy of law. The last occasion I met him was in Crumlin Road about 27 hours before he was murdered: I was, in fact, the last prisoner he spoke to.

Pat Finucane was an effective agent for the IRA. Who knows what "punishments" were exacted by the IRA as a result of his activities? Finucane did end up being murdered, but not because being a member of the IRA was immediately punishable by murder or execution - unlike being a member of the RUC , the Army, the judiciary, a civilian worker at a security force base or an agent for the state.

Strange old "troubles"; a very strange "dirty war". To anybody who has involved himself in Northern Ireland, none of this should come as any surprise. How Pat Finucane would laugh at his continuing effectiveness.


I guess that you did not know this side to the story, but now you do.  This changes the way you see things, and helps to promote the fuller truth about this man who is deemed to be a human rights lawyer, but whose human rights, it seems, were only for IRA terrorists.

God's law clearly says, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER.  It is not your right to do so.  No murderer has eternal life in him, says Jesus Christ.

A Broken Servant And An Adequate God

"You needn't fear being a broken servant when you have such a kind and adequate God." So wrote Dr Dale Ralph Davis in his commentary on 1 Kings (p.270).

What great encouragement this brings to any servant of Christ who has been rejected and dumped by his church.  Indeed, the same encouragement comes to every Christian who feels the similarly.  Our God is kind and adequate.  Whatever the depths of our condition, the Lord Who saved us and Who called us, is the same Lord Who keeps and sustains us.

What is it that breaks God's servants?  First, the awful spiritual condition of the professing church.  No Christian minister can look at the Christian church in her current spiritual state with any measure of complacency.  Second, the wide-scale infidelity of the church in many countries.  The acceptance of openly immortal people in church membership and in church office is appalling.  Third, the doctrinal indifference of many within the professing church. This is seen in the total acceptance of theological liberalism by professing reformed evangelical ministers, ruling elders and Christian members.  Fourth, the idolatrous pragmatism of many churches, especially within evangelical churches, where the Word is no longer enough to sustain church attendance and resort has to be made to "the ways of the world" to keep, mainly, the young people interested.

You can tell who God's true servants are because they are the ones who get deeply upset for God's sake because of the state of the professing church in the twenty-first century.  No one else will be concerned, and very, very few will articulate what little concerns they have in the public media.  Those who do are, like Elijah when the critical scholars are finished with him, psychological basket cases awaiting the 'men in white coats' coming to take them away.

However, true servants are decidedly more concerned about the state and recovery of the church than are many of her ministers who are more concerned about continuing to draw their salaries and get their pensions.  Time servers, I call them.  Even the presence of time-servers within the church are an offense to God's servants, and this realisation adds to their feeling of brokenness.

"But God."  Here is the antidote to such brokenness - the kindness and adequacy of our covenant God and Saviour.  Faithful servants feel for what they see around them; but they are encouraged by the One they do not see, the Invisible God.  He is sufficient, and we are sufficient in Him.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Pulpit "Essay Readers" Need Not Apply

I have said it often, there are far too many 'essay readers' in our pulpits today with the result that they are far more concerned to get something out of our heads rather than get something into the hearts and heads of their hearers.  Preaching is about communication, communication of the highest and most exalted order; yet it is here that we fail so lamentably.  How sorrowful I am when I think that I used to describe my ministry as "a Bible teaching ministry."  This type of ministry is vitally important, but if that is all we are doing, then God be merciful to us.  My sinful heart was so full of pride of the worst kind that I blush to even say this.  My heart is pained to even admit this travesty.

Is your 'preacher' a mere "essay reader"?  Or does he come with a heart burdened with the Word of the Lord for his congregation?  Are his sermons so well constructed that they have no room for the life of the Spirit?  Is the argument and logic so tight that there is no room in the sermon for Christ?  Does your minister come with a fresh message from the living God or with a lifeless message to a lifeless congregation from the living God?  If so, there is probably nothing more obscene that such a minister.  A minister of what, I might ask?  And a minister of Whom?

The Barrenness Of A Busy Life.

One thing I have been well aware of (and its something I have observed more in the breach than in the observance) and that is "the barrenness of a busy life." 

Satan works us so hard that we do not do the very spiritual exercises that are needed. 

The church also plays into this because she does not want us to be "men of God" in any real and effective sense.  So, she puts us on all these committees and commissions with the very purpose of keeping us off our knees.  She invites us here and there, all to keep us from fellowship with the Lord.  And into the bargain, we become all puffed up with pride and entertain thoughts of how good/great we really are, when in reality we are just unprofitable servants.  How much we crave and pursue popularity with men, and neglect being in the special favour of God. Our hearts are so sinful and wicked.

The church knows, in the words of Robert Murray McCheyne, that "what a man is on knees before God, that he is and no more.  A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God."  The last thing in the world that the church wants is a holy minister, a minister who is living close to the Lord.  What a handful such a minister will turn out to be.  He is living close to Christ, so he knows things about the spiritual state of the church that the church does not want him to know.  And what he knows he speaks.  And when he speaks these things, the church goes immediately into defensive mode, and behind backs, resorts to underhand ways of silencing such a holy man of God.

One way she does this is to keep him very busy with needless activities.  Keep him 'serving the wider church,' and you'll keep him off his knees before God.  Keep him as busy as possible, make him think he is indispensable to the future of the church, get him to see his activity as promoting the Gospel through the church, and you've got him.  Distract him with 'all kinds of everything,' especially church things, and he'll be no bother to a spiritually look-warm church.  Appoint him to represent the church at foreign conferences, and he'll soon get big ideas about himself.  Talk nicely to him, and bring him to see what a 'good churchman' he is, and you've nobbled him.

How many good evangelical ministers have been nobbled in just that manner.  How many spiritual wrecks litter the church.  The church has been, and is, very successful in keeping the Gospel in its place, and that place is not at the front of church life and service.  And in so doing, she has neutered many good Gospel-preaching ministries.

Oh, the barrenness of a busy life.  Flee it like the plague.  Don't yield to its mesmerising appeals.  It's a killer. It is Satan's tool to destroy your effectiveness in Christ's Kingdom.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Where are the Ministers When Crises Arise?

The country and world in which we live is facing crisis after crisis.  Every day brings a fresh crisis.  God has set His watchmen on the lookouts to keep watch for His people.

Yet these crises come and no one seems to notice.  Certainly the ministers who are the watchmen do not see these crises coming.  Nor do they recognise them as crises when they eventually arrive.  Are they asleep?  Are they mere hirelings - drawing a salary, having an easy time?  Today, we see sodomy being made legal and official, but the watchmen have been silent.  We see abortion on demand, and still the silence continues.  We see marriage under relentless attack, and they are silent.  We see the Gospel being perverted by theological liberals, yet God's servants sit back in their relative ease and say nothing.  Worse, they do NOTHING.

God's people are discouraged, enraged, disappointed and betrayed.  They looked for men who will act as watchmen, but they were asleep while the enemy was entering the fold.  They thought they had such a man, but alas, they were deceived.  He fought no battles, fronted no campaigns, raised no alarms.  And the church of Jesus Christ has been decimated.

God says He will require an answer from that man at the last Day.  Indeed, He will require their blood at his hands.  He has been unfaithful and the Lord's people have been attacked and scattered.  God will require this at the watchman's hand.

One can quite seriously ask, 'Where are the ministers when the flock is being attacked?  Why are they not defending the flock?  Why aren't they taking a stand against all that it inimical to the spiritual well-being of the flock?  Why aren't they raising a massive ecclesiastical row when the Gospel is being denied by not being preached in every congregation?'  The church is in crisis.  But where are the ministers, the shepherds, who will ward off the prowling wolves who often come in sheep's clothing?

Are they too late?

Perhaps they ought to follow the lead given by Jaques de la Fontaine, the French Protestant minister who rose above and triumphed over many crises that confronted him because he was essentially a pastor of principle.  His story will inspire all who read it.

Satan Hates Believers

This is true!  The devil hates God's children!  He is out to devour them.  He wants to discourage them big time.

My wife and I are finding this just now.  She was being attacked in her mind by the devil in recent days.  On Thursday, 13th Dec 2012, she was feeling a bit sickly and unwell.  But  she was exposed to attack after attack from Satan. This came in the form of doubts; she is to have more treatment and the evil one said to her that she will never make it.  So bad was it that she thought she was going to take heart attack.  She thought she was losing her mind.  It is also interesting that this has happened to her after each time she witnessed to Christ.  These devilish attacks have pounded her.

Let me give you another little incentive to pray.  Also this week, my wife came under another strange satanic attack.  He tormented her all afternoon, and refused to relent.  That is, until about tea-time when she experienced a lifting of her burden, and the rest of the evening was great.  

Why did this happen?  Because someone, somewhere, perhaps one of you, had been praying for her at that moment.  It may have been a Christian friend in Northern Ireland, or England or in far away places like India or Panama.  Someone unknown to us had uplifted her in prayer, and God answered.

That's the kind of God He is; and that's the kind of God and Father we have.  We can trust Him implicitly.

Victory Over Satan

Our God has had the victory over the prince of darkness at Bethlehem, during His life especially when enduring the temptations of the devil, when He healed the sick and raised the dead back to life; when He quelled the sea and stilled the storms.  

Come to Calvary, then to Resurrection Sunday, to the Ascension, and you will see evidence after evidence of the devil’s defeat by the strong Son of God.  In all these He proved Himself superior to the devil and defeated Him.  We have to rest upon that victory alone for peace of mind.  And God comes down and gives that to us.  He is the giving God because He is the living God.

Because He Lives

The words of a beautiful Gospel hymn have been with me for the past days: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone.”  

What a wonderful truth is the truth of the literal, physical, resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is alive and is alive forevermore.  His resurrection means that death and the grave have lost their power and sting.  That greatest miracle the world has ever witnessed means that death, for the believer, is the means of entry into God’s nearer presence.  It is a move from this old sinful world and into God’s pure heaven.  There, all pain and suffering and tears are gone; all darkness expelled and all that offends our Saviour obliterated.  It is where God lives and reigns.  And that calls for a good reformed ‘Hallelujah’!