Unity

There was devastation in my country, Northern Ireland, when Protestants and Cathoilics were at war from 1968 to 1998.

Thirty years of Troubles. Catholics were bombed out of their homes, forced to move away from Protestant neighbours. Protestants were bombed out as well to force families into Ghettos. City centres were bombed to try to disrupt everyday life. Your life was at risk if a Catholic married a Protestant. Hearts were broken over the death of loved ones, and dreams. Men and women were kidnapped and never returned to their families. Many people were forced into exile. Why did this happen? Other nations who don’t believe in Jesus were laughing at us. We were bringing shame to the name of Jesus.

This is Christian Unity week. Around the third week in January each year, Christians are encouraged to gather together to pray. This movement has been encouraged for around ninety years. I think it a great idea. I was inspired to seek for unity many years ago when I read Jesus’ word to his disciples before he went to the crucified.

“Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.
Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
‭‭John‬ ‭17:11-12, 17, 21-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It was one of Jesus’ last prayers for us before he died. This prayer is still valid today. When I first came upon this scripture there was war in Northern Ireland; war between Protestants and Catholics.
I was distressed that this situation was definitely the opposite of what Jesus prayed. I determined to look for unity among Christians.

I sought out other Christians in my town. I went along to every Church to meet the people and see what their services were like. I found they had many things in common. The bible was read and explained. They prayed to the same Father in heaven, “Our Father who art in heaven.” They all said that Jesus forgives our sins. They all said there is a heaven and a hell and one can be sure of getting there to heaven if one has faith in Jesus. They all celebrated the breaking of bread to remember Jesus death. Many people turned to God during the troubles and found solace at Church. Congregations were growing. But still I wondered why are there so many churches. Why were there so many different meeting places? Why was there such hatred and bitterness among people outside causing bloodshed in my country?

Here is another verse that inspired me at the time.

““I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:19-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I wanted God to change my life on the earth. Jesus said “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus promises us eternal life in heaven with him and the Father if we believe and trust him. Not only that but he wants us to experience his kingdom life here on earth. There is peace, joy, unity and love in heaven. Why not on earth as well? I wanted heaven to come on earth in my life, home and community.

I wanted to pray, even if it was only one other person, all those thirty eight years ago. I read a book in the library about people in America meeting together to pray for healing and people got healed! I found a group of ladies who prayed. One was a Presbyterian, another a Church of Ireland, a Methodist, a Baptist and myself a Catholic. We met together to pray each week. I felt at home and began to pray. One lady said later, “I was the best wee evangelical prayer she had ever heard.” Yes God was in our midst, as Jesus said “I am there with them.” There may have been war outside, but we had peace in our hearts and in our meetings. Prayers were answered, especially prayers for peace in our country. We would pray that bombs would not go off. Often bombs were found by the police before they did any damage. We prayed for our families. I found these ladies loving and encouraging. I looked forward each week to seeing them.

With any step forward in one’s walk with Jesus, one’s heart gets tested. Immediately after Jesus taught his disciples to agree in prayer, Peter asked “How often have we to forgive?” It is necessary that to be in unity one has to forgive. Each of us is a sinner. If I want my own way and don’t work with the other person then there is disagreement. Our prayer is not answered.

This can be particularly relevant when a husband and wife wish to pray together. You don’t have to leave home or go to Church to pray with someone else if you are married. Statistics show that not many couples pray together. It is easier to pray with a stranger who believes in God than one’s husband. It is God’s plan that a husband and wife are in unity. He wants us to be one! How can this be? Only by God’s power. No amount of reading “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” will bring about the unity. I know. I have been tried in the furnace of affliction in order for me to agree with my husband. Perhaps you ladies out there can identify with me.

““But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:6-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This is the ideal but in the working out of this truth one has to give up one’s own agenda for the sake of the other. It means giving up one’s pride, ambition, and independence for the sake of the other. Am I willing to do this for the sake of the Kingdom of God and unity to come in my marriage, my family and community of believers.

Jesus knew how difficult we would find it to agree. It is difficult for two sinners to live together. Paul fell out with Barnabas, who had been a big encourager to him before. They went their separate ways. Jesus has made provision for us. He died and shed his blood for me for my forgiveness of sins. He wants me to forgive my brother or sister who has done me wrong. Through his blood we can be reconciled and be in unity again, so we can pray. Outside of ourselves we have the evil one, the devil, with whom to contend. He hates when people agree to pray and especially when a couple pray. Satan is defeated when we overcome our disagreements.

I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to united again in your belief and practice. It is clear there are serious differences among you.”
God has taken me on a journey to seek an answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity. This has taken me back into my own home. I seek unity with my husband so we can pray and our prayers are not hindered. God has cleared away the serious differences between us. This means being humble, forgiving and not arguing.

Jesus told us to remember his death in Communion. Before we come to Communion in remembering Jesus death on the cross we are encouraged to go to our brother and and sort out any disagreement.
“Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I am beginning to understand why there is bitterness and hatred among Christians. It is deeply rooted in their hearts. Injustices against one another in past generations had grown into devastation of lives and property in our towns. Great offences had festered for generations and grew into deep roots of malice and hatred. Can our land be healed? Can people be healed who have been deeply hurt? Is there any balm to heal the wounds of my people?

God was working. There was hope. Two “Cities of refuge”were opened. Cecil Kerr began a work of Reconciliation in Rostrever Renewal Centre. Protestants and Catholics could find a space to meet together and be accepted. Corrymeela, near Ballycastle, was opened by Ray Davey with a vision to give holidays to people who needed to get out of the war zones. Another city of refuge. Protestants and Catholics were starting on a journey of getting to know one another.

Peace talks were held with the help of other leaders from Britain, Tony Blair, and America, President Clinton. Channels of communication were opened. Political leaders from Northern Ireland, John Hume and David Trimble received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for peace. Martin Maginess and Paisley who had been enemies, became the First Minister and Deputy Minister in Stormont. They worked together and became known as “The Chuckle Brothers.” The War ceased. The devastation stopped.

There is a Balm to heal the wounds of my people. I found him. He is Jesus. He forgives all sins of the people and their forefathers’ sins through the shedding of his blood. If we have faith that he forgives sins we can be set free. So the devastation, hurt, divorce, cancer and hatred need not continue. It starts with me forgiving another if he hurts me. If I feel wounded I ask Jesus to heal me and not let the wound fester until I want revenge. By his stripes I am healed.

When I was suffering from cancer, I had unforgiveness in my heart. I definitely wasn’t in agreement with my husband and other Christians. I had to ask Jesus to forgive me again and in return I chose to forgive others. My heart was cleansed and at the same moment my cancer disappeared. I sought reconciliation with my husband and others.

The war has ceased. But now so many of our churches, whether they are Catholic, Church of Ireland, Prespyterian, Methodist, Baptist, or new Church having falling numbers in their congregations? Why are so many people suffering from cancer. Has there been fall outs in marriages, divorces, family and church members?

I urge you as Paul says above, to make up the differences between you. Pray together again with one or two. This is how we solve our problems and our nation’s problems. When we are forgiven, healed and restored we are free to pray together and our prayers will be answered. Some people from Northern Ireland now are invited to other war torn nations to help broker peace. What God has done for us he can do for others.

There is restoration after devastation. We need not give up hope.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/devastation/

 

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A Princess Cup for my Teacher

 

Sara Joye said “Grandma, I want to buy a Princess cup for my teacher.”

“What is a Princess cup?”

“You know, like your cups, Grandma.”
She pointed to some china cups with flowered patterns  in my cupboard.  ”
“Do you not have these in Slovakia.”
“No grandma, only in your house.”
“Would  you like to get a special patterned cup and saucer for your teacher?  I understand now.”
“Yes, I just love Princess cups”.
She held a china cup in her hands close to her heart as if it was the most beautiful, tender thing in the world.

I enjoy collecting jugs and china plates with flowers and gold trim on them.  I display them on my dressers in the kitchen.  Forty years ago a China Tea Set was a “must have” item for a bride.  It would be kept in a safe place and only brought out for tea with special visitors or at Christmas or Easter.  My husband bought me a china tea set.  Its design was called “Angela.”  Sadly I didn’t keep it safe.  I liked to use it often.

I was reminded of words from the poem The Old Woman of the Roads by Patraic Colum.

O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods against the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!
To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!
I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!
I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!
Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house – a house of my own
Out of the wind’s and the rain’s way.

I had often dreamed of having a dresser to display pottery, fine china, glasses or gifts, high up out of little children’s reach.  In my new home I have two dressers.  Items I collected over the years are now on display.  Chinese patterned plates, I received as a twenty fifth anniversary present, wine glasses, china plates, gifts from my children and family photos.  My dream has come true.  My collection is being added as I pick up a bargain from a car boot sale or craft market.  Now my grandchildren admire my collection.  To their eyes it is treasure.  I must be a Princess, instead of a poor wanderer as the poem depicts.

On Saturday Aaron, Marta and their children went to shop locally.  Portaferry is a small village.  I wondered would Sara Joye find any Princess cups.  Her Mum prayed.  “Dear Lord please let someone bring Princess cups to the Charity shop today.”

image
They set off.  Some time later they called me to give them a lift home.  It was cold and raining.  But the children’s spirits were not dampened.  Instead there was great excitement.  Princess cups were purchased at a bargain price.  It happened just as Marta had prayed.  In an Antique store or Fine China shop these goods would be costly.  The prized purchases were carefully wrapped to keep them safe on the journey back to Slovakia.

Sara Joye’s teacher in Slovakia will receive a Princess cup from Ireland.

Jesus Cried Out, ” If You Are Thirsty Come To Me.”

Next Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, celebrated by Christians all over the world.  We remember when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples in the upper room, in the form of tongues.  The Holy Spirit gave them power to go out into the streets to speak boldly about Jesus being the Messiah who had been crucified only days before.  The Holy Spirit  is the Living Water that I am referring to in the following passages.

Isaiah says 
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! 
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭55‬:‭1-2‬ NIV)

I believed this word in the bible.  I came to Jesus without money and without hope and he has provided for me down through the years.

In Jeremiah 17 The Lord is referred as “The Living water.”

Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.

When Jesus was nearing the time when he was going to leave this earth, he spoke these words.

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds,
“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. (John 7:37-39 NLT)

Jesus, when he was talking to the woman at the well said,
People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water ( from the well).
But the water I give them takes away thirst all together. It becomes a perpetual spring within them giving them eternal life. (John 4 v 13, 14.)

Jesus is still appealing to us loudly, “Come to me to receive living water and you will not thirst again.”  

In my Spirit I want to shout out, Come to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit.  He will lead you into all truth.  I went to church today.  The numbers of people there are dwindling.  They don’t know that Jesus can give them refreshing.  He is alive.

It is by the power of the Holy Spirit I am rearing fourteen children.  It is by the power of the Holy Spirit I am healed of Malignant Cancer.  It is by this power lives are changed and people get second, third and even more chances.  It is by the power of the Holy Spirit my children have been saved from danger.

Many people know what it is like to be drunk with beer or wine. They know the joy the drink gives. Their worries are forgotten and they feel free. They love their friends and the world looks happy. But next day where are the friends? Who can help with the hangover? Do I remember what I said or did last night. Fear and dread come in. The next weekend a friend rings and invites one out for another drink. One is thirsty again. The same cycle occurs. I have been there, done that.

Jesus gives us The Holy Spirit. We will not be thirsty again. No guilt, no regret, no hangover, no damage done, no death to relationships, no lies to cover up. Jesus is the Living water. He brings life, healing, forgiveness, no hangover, good friends who build you up, restores love and relationships.

Jesus cried out “Come to Me”. Let THE PERPETUAL SPRING flow out of your heart today. The joy of The Lord will return to replace the sorrow, sadness and sighing. That living water is within all of you.  Let there be water on your tongue instead of ashes.

The gift of tongues is to build you up, and who doesn’t need built up. Pray in the Holy Spirit at all times and you will not thirst again.

The locust has eaten enough years. The Lord is pouring his spirit out on all flesh. Flow again. Don’t be robbed of any more years.  In Joel, God promises to pour out his spirit on all flesh.  

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (‭Joel‬ ‭2‬:‭28‬ NIV)
God promises to touch every generation.  He is moving in the next generation right now.

Sanguine Sunday. An Earthquake hit our Family in 2010

When I received the news that I had Malignant Fourth Stage Bowel Cancer it was like an earthquake hitting our family. We were shaken and the after effects nearly overwhelmed us.

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.”psalm 32 v 6

In our generation because of good communications we hear news of worldwide events very soon after they happen.  There are wars, persecutions, earthquakes, tsunamis and signs in the sun and moon.  Many people have died in these disasters.  Jesus predicted these events would happen.

 “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things.”
“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars.  And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. (‭Luke‬ ‭21‬:‭10-11, 25-26‬ NLT)

People feel helpless and  experience fear and distress as they watch these events unfold on their television screens.  Jesus gave us an antidote in a few verses later, by advising us to keep alert and pray.

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware,
Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (‭Luke‬ ‭21‬:‭34, 36‬ NLT)

I faced death myself in 2010 when I was diagnosed with Malignant Bowel Cancer, fourth stage.  A different Earthquake hit our home.  Death came to our door.  I faced death.  My family faced death of a loved one.  We all experienced the feelings that come along with helplessness, fear, distress and looming death.  We were weak.  Unless something changed the prognosis for me was death.  Man has no power over death.  I realised I was dying.  I had no desire for anything in this world.  I was prepared to leave my husband and family behind.  

But there is one who has the power over death.  It is Jesus.  He died on the cross and took the keys of death and hell off Satan.  

In the previous years of my life I had tried to pray and read the Word of God each day.  We prayed together as a family.  I tried to obey him God as far I knew how to.  In my hour of need God turned up.  God made my husband and family strong.  They prayed for me.  My husband and I had taught our children how to pray. God heard their prayer. Psalm 102 describes what happened.

“LORD, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you.

My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite. Because of my groaning, I am reduced to skin and bones.

My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass. But you, O LORD, will sit on your throne forever. Your fame will endure to every generation. You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem — and now is the time to pity her, now is the time you promised to help.
He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas. 
Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the LORD. 
Tell them the LORD looked down from his heavenly sanctuary. He looked down to earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die. 
And so the LORD’s fame will be celebrated in Zion, his praises in Jerusalem, when multitudes gather together and kingdoms come to worship the LORD. 
He broke my strength in midlife, cutting short my days. But I cried to him, “O my God, who lives forever, don’t take my life while I am so young! 
Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. 
You will change them like a garment and discard them. But you are always the same; you will live forever. 
The children of your people will live in security. Their children’s children will thrive in your presence.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭102‬:‭1-2, 4-5, 11-13, 17-28‬ NLT)

I am recording this today to tell you and the children yet unborn that God in heaven, who made the earth and heavens reached down from his throne and delivered me from death.  He did not turn away from me as it says in verse one. “Don’t turn away in my hour of distress.”

You may be at home reading this, you may have never heard that God answers prayer today.  He does.  He is interested in you.  He loves you.  Are you distressed about what you see coming on the earth, troubles within and without.  Begin to pray and and talk to God as you would a friend.  Begin to read the scriptures.  I am telling you this is the best medicine you could take.  It will make you strong.  It is guaranteed to bring healing.  What God did for me he will do for you.

It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.  Revelation 22 v 2

May the words I share with you today bring healing from fear, distress and anxiety.   As Jesus said “Look up.” 

So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (‭Luke‬ ‭21‬:‭28‬ NLT)

Holy Week and the Signs in the Moon

 

We remember the last few days of Jesus life on earth this week Holy Week.  He was talking to his disciples about the future.  They were very nervous because he was telling them he was going to die.  They asked him about what was going to happen in the future.

He mentioned about his return and said “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.  Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:25, 31 NIV)   There will be earthquakes. V 11

When Jesus died on the cross there were signs and wonders in nature.  There was an earthquake and there was darkness for three hours.
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. (Luke 23:44, 45 NIV)
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split (Matthew 27:51 NIV)

Surely this would have shaken the people and caused them to consider what had just happened to Jesus.  They must have been perplexed.

What is happening in our times?  This very week the moon changed colour.  In some places it appeared red.  It could be seen all over the world!  Surely this will cause all of the peoples of the earth to think?

The prophet Joel foretold many years ago,
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.”  (Joel 2:28-31 KJV)

Jesus promised his disciples before he died that the Father would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who would lead them into all truth.  God wants to pour his Spirit out again.  People will have dreams.  People will have visions.

It is time to seek The Lord.

There is no need to be afraid.  God promises in Malachi,
“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. (Malachi 4:2 KJV)

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:17, 36 NIV)

LEARNING TO PRAY

We met in a different home each week, maybe a farmhouse one week, a house in a posh part of town or a house in an estate another time.

I really enjoyed the hospitality, homemade goodies and coffee.

I was not long living in this area.  My relatives lived some distance away so the warmth of these ladies made me feel like they were my mother or sister, home from home.

My two children and I looked forward to Wednesday mornings.

When we met, I noticed an atmosphere of joy and peace.  Everyone was softly spoken.  It was a welcome oasis away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

During the meeting someone would share a scripture from the bible.  We talked together about how the reading could apply to our lives. Then a lady might say that the Lord wanted her to speak into someone’s life.

How did she hear the Lord so clearly?  Who gave her authority to speak into someone else’s life.  These were some questions I had and I began to ponder about.

Thanks and requests were made to God.  Prayers were spoken aloud.  These ladies definitely believed in a god who cared about their lives and who was willing to help them in everyday matters.  They had no fear.

 I had never experienced personal prayer like this before.  In my experience any prayers that were said aloud were spoken by the minister who was always male. The words were often read from a book and not spontaneous. Praying was a private matter to the individual and definitely not to be spoken out loud. They were not afraid to pray openly.  I took courage and added my requests.  I don’t remember now all that I prayed.  One lady who attended told me later “I was the best wee evangelical she had ever heard pray”.

Perhaps one has to speak out the prayer so others can hear and agree, so the promise that if we ask anything in agreement God will answer and do for us what we ask.  How can we agree to a private prayer?

I had thought God was far away in the sky or “The Man up above who you knew was there but you did not talk to him so intimately”.  Some of these women even called him Daddy God or Abba Father.

My eyes and ears were being opened.

To be continued.