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/

 

Warning in Dreams

I started to read from Matthew’s gospel each day since the beginning of this new year. I am excited to read in the first three chapters there are five dreams given by God. The first was given to Joseph, who was engaged to Mary. When he heard Mary was pregnant he decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.””

The angel reassured Joseph in his distress and told him what to do. Joseph obeyed the Angel. He didn’t question or doubt or be unbelieving.

Here are the other references to the dreams.

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:9-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:13, 19-20, 22-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Just in two chapters of Matthew we read about God speaking to Joseph four times to guide him as the guardian of Jesus before and after his birth and Mary his wife. This is a great encouragement of any nervous man who doesn’t know who to marry or where to live, for the safety of his family. God is good and caring. It is good to trust in God.

Three Magi came to see the young baby Jesus bearing gifts, of gold, frankincense and myrrh. What did Joseph think when the Magi fell down before Jesus to worship the new baby, Jesus. Joseph didn’t know what was happening. These gifts would have covered the expense of his travels to Egypt, his stay there until he returned.

God spoke to the Magi in a dream to warn them not to go back to Herod who wanted to kill anyone who claimed to be a king. The Magi had come to Jerusalem looking for the new born King of the Jews.

The fact that God spoke to Joseph and the Magi in dreams is an encouragement for anyone starting out on a journey of faith. God will guide along the way.

God has spoken often to my husband, myself and other members of the family to guide us in testing times. When I was suffering from cancer, my husband and family had dreams to encourage me I was going to be healed. This helped me enter into faith to receive my healing.

Action and faith is required after God speaks. Joseph went to Egypt after he was warned in a dream. The Magi obeyed God and didn’t go back to Herod.

My son had a dream the first night after I started my chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I was feeling discouraged and fearful. God sent help. In the dream he heard a voice say, “The blood is not getting to the cancer. His sister, who is a doctor said in the dream “let’s wait till the doctors tell us.””

It is right to go to the doctor to show one is healed. When Jesus healed the lepers he told them to go to the doctors to show they were healed. This dream greatly encouraged me. It was God’s will to heal me but I had to believe myself and act as if I was healed. I went through the treatment of five weeks the doctors advised.

But when they wanted to operate I told them I knew I was healed of cancer and I didn’t need an operation. The doctors thought I was crazy. I remained strong in my faith and didn’t waver. The doctor did a colonoscopy. There was no sign of the tumor. I showed my self to the doctors. They saw the tumor was gone. Even after seeing the photos of my clear colon the surgeon insisted I still have an operation in case the cancer was still there. I refused. I said to the surgeon “I believe that God has healed me completely of cancer.” He was perplexed.

I was confident to speak to the top cancer surgeon because of the revelation from God in my son’s dream. If I gave into doubt or fear I would not have been healed. I showed myself to the doctors and they couldn’t find the tumor. I remain healed seven years later and I do not have to take any medicine! Thank you Lord.

Let me explain a little more how I received my healing. In Joel I read about God speaking through the prophet.

““Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
“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 ‭2:12-13, 28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In Joel God warned the people to return to Him with fasting and mourning. When I had cancer it was a time of mourning and weeping for me. I had to cry out to God. I confessed my sins of rebellion, independence, self ambition, resentment, bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness. God forgave my sins. After my confession of sin I was healed of cancer. Then God sent his dreams to bring my healing as Joel promised.

So at the beginning of this New Year 2017 let us return to the Lord. Let us thank him for all his goodness and mercy. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He is pleased with a contrite heart. As David said in Psalm 51 “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence O Lord.” Only God knows what is lurking in our hearts. I didn’t know what was in my heart. God had to reveal it to me.

Restore our Fortunes.

God will restore our fortunes.

Today I read in Northern Ireland Visitor’s Journal the following article.

image

I was born near where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea in Co Down Northern Ireland.  I took its beauty for granted.  I left home at 18 and studied in Coleraine, eighty miles away.  A new university had opened there and I applied to go there and was successful.  I remained there and raised my family.

I came to visit with my sister for a few days with four of my youngest children.  She lives in Co Down.  We went for a drive to Newcastle.  As I approached the town I was amazed at the beauty of the mountains that stood before me.  I had not appreciated this beauty before.
Are not we all like that.  When we are young we can’t wait to leave home to seek our fortunes somewhere else.

Percy French wrote a song which helped  publisize the Mountains of Mournes in Co Down.

Oh Mary this London’s a wonderful sight

With people here workin‘ by day and by night

They don’t sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat
But there’s gangs of them diggin’ for gold in the street
At least when I asked them that’s what I was told
So I just took a hand at this diggin’ for gold
But for all that I found there I might as well be
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

The song tells us about a young man who left behind his girlfriend in his hometown near the Mournes, to seek his fortune in London.  He comes to realize the futility of hard labour away from his homeland, his beloved and his beautiful country.

Some years later my family moved from Coleraine back to Co Down.  God brought me back to my father’s land.  Just as he doing for his people Israel.  Over and over God promised his people Israel that he would restore them to the land of their forefathers.

Down the centuries many people have left Ireland.  Many songs and laments about Ireland have been written.  The inspiration comes out of hearts remembering where they came from and longing to return.  They listened to stories their forefathers told them.

Psalm 126 describes the fulfillment of the longing of the Jewish exiles who returned to their homeland from exile.

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭126:1-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God fulfills dreams.  Are you longing to return to your homeland?  Take the leap of faith and return.

God is restoring my fortunes and filling my heart with joy in my homeland.

Celebrating St Patrick along the Ancient Pathway

I returned to Co Down sixteen years ago.  I was born and lived in Co Down till I was eighteen.  I went to university in Coleraine eighty miles away from home and remained there to get married and rear my children.  In those days I might as well have been moving to another country.  God led us to live return to Co Down.  This scripture spoke to us,

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭6‬:‭16‬ NIV)

Today, St Patrick’s Day, I am savoimageuring the blessing of living along the shore of Strangford Lough.  There is a small bay below our house where gulls play about on the water.  The water is still. A lone heron stands on a stone for long periods of time looking out for food.  A flock of Brent Geese fly in low over the water.  They come to get some fresh water from a stream nearby that flows into the lough.  My soul is at rest.

I am amazed that these Brent Geese’ only winter habitat is along the shores of Strangford Lough.  Thousands land here after a long journey from Northern Canada in September.  Most are to be seen along the sunny side of the Lough.  They feed on Eel Grass and return in April to the tundra to have their young.  The Brent Geese link me to the past.  For generations  they migrated here.  Their generations back would have been here when St Patrick arrived as a migrant.

In the fifth century St Patrick came to these shores.  The main means of transport in those days was by boat.  A boat could access inland by river.  He came to Ireland answering the call of God to go as a missionary.  He would have sailed up the entrance to Strangford Lough and up the Quoile river.  It is recorded that he settled in Saul near the river.

The tourist board of Northern Ireland has mapped out the St Patrick’s trail which helps visitors travel to areas where early Christians settled.  I have lived in three sites that are along this trail.  I lived in. Saul St,  Downpatrick for sixteen years,  one year in Bright, and now in Portaferry.  I can imagine those early Christians coming ashore like the Brent Geese to get some fresh water after their sea journey.  They could have built a shelter and fished from the sea that was teeming with fish in those early days.  No pollution or over fishing then.  They may have even built a settlement on this land where we now live.

St Patrick’s writings mention scriptures, dreams, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  It is interesting that the Christian denominations, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Catholic all look to St Patrick as their patron in Ireland.  At least we are united in the heritage St Patrick left us.

In Ireland we are blessed to have a Christian heritage for 1500 years.  Ireland is known as the Land of Saints and Scholars.  Many missionarys travelled from these shores into Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.  God is calling the Irish men and women to remember the God of their forefathers. I celebrate St Patrick today, not with green beer, leprechauns, or parades, but by being quiet on this ancient site remembering the God of St Patrick.  He is the same God I worship, 1500 years later.  Praise Him.

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)

Adventures in the Nations

Image

Photograph of Mary and Hannah when they met up in Ethiopia for Christmas 2012.

My daughter Hannah is home visiting. She is a midwife and is volunteering with Voluntary Services Overseas.   We met as a family at Nora and Colin’s house for May bank holiday.  They had a barbeque after the Belfast Marathon.  My daughter Nora had organised three groups to run for the Charity VSO.  Well done Nora.

Many of our young people want adventure in their lives.  Very often before or after university they will head off to other parts whether across Europe or down under to Australia or New Zealand, as far away as possible from home.  This is often a challenge to parents when their child wants to leave.  Will they ever return?

Twelve years ago my eldest son decided he and his friend wanted to travel for six months.  They had finished university.  As a parent one’s natural instinct is to be fearful.  This was my first experience of my child flying the nest to go so far away.  Brendan and Paul set off with promises of being in touch regularly.  Back then there were few mobile phones, Smart phones or Skype.  The trip turned into a year when they ran out of money, but my son had a round the world adventure!

In the sixth century another Brendan, the navigator, set sail from Ireland and sailed north to the Faroe Islands and across west to a land we now know as Canada.   My husband Brendan travels to the nations speaking to people about dreams, signs and wonders.  So my son must have inherited the desire to travel from his father.

I learned to trust God that he would look after my husband and now my son.  Matthew 18 v 20 says “See that you don’t look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.”  Also in Psalm 91 v 11 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

Paul’s mum rang me soon after and asked me, “Are you not afraid for your son.”  She could not get over how easy going I was about my son being away.  I believed God’s word which promises that he will be under the Lord’s care.

These are the days, as it says in Daniel 12 v 4  “ Knowledge and travel will increase”.

Thank God for Easyjet and Ryanair, both of which have introduced us to affordable flight travel into Europe.  The nations are opened up to us.  I live in Ireland and my family have been able to take advantage of this freedom.

Knowledge has increased as well.  We can be in communication with anyone in the world with e mail, blogging, skype or mobile phone.  I am taking advantage of this freedom to write my blogs!!!

I have got used to, not only my husband travelling but more of my children as well.  Last September five of my children left to go to the nations.  Isaac went to Canada on work experience, David went to Nicoragua with Raleigh for three months, Mary went to Ethiopia with VSO to work as a doctor and Hannah went to Uganda to work with VSO as a midwife.  My son Aaron went to live in Slovakia with his wife and children.  Two years ago Jacob went as a volunteer to work in South Africa.  They are certainly having adventures!

Next weekend I am going with my husband to Slovakia. I get to go on many adventures with him. Brendan broke through to go to the nations and his children are following.

Angela