“And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in,” Isaiah 58:11-12.
The above verses were impressed upon my heart in 1966, while a student in Whiteabbey Free Presbyterian Church, which later became Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church.
I freely confess that in unbelief I felt that I could not claim such a glorious promise as being for me from the Lord.
It was many, many years later that these words, though never forgotten, were applied with power to my heart and gave me some understanding of the task given me in the later years of my life.
The old Whiteabbey church building, a former courthouse and police station, where I began my preaching as a student minister of the Free Presbyterian Church in February 1965, some ten months after my conversion, in company with fellow student minister, Rev William Beattie, who shortly afterwards took up full time duties in Dunmurry Free Presbyterian Church.
Some time ago I mentioned to our readers that I had in mind a target of 1,000,000 visits to “The Burning Bush” website as a ‘line in the sand’ to indicate that it was time to wind down the witness for God’s truth which has been running, in one form or another, since March 1970 when the first printed edition appeared.
Now I have reached that point. All told of course, far more than 1,000,000 people have been reached with the voice of protest of “The Burning Bush”. The printed editions would have been shared by far more than one reader and the articles and sermons on the ‘internet’ edition undoubtedly would have been downloaded and shared many times over.
It has been a privilege to have been enabled and spared to carry out this small labour for the Lord. In doing it, I have been blessed many times as I prepared the articles. Do we not read: “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn,” 1 Timothy 5:18? And also, “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits,” 2 Timothy 2:6. I have fed bountifully off whatever corn I was enabled to ‘tread out’ for others.
Furthermore, it has brought me into contact with Christians from all over the world who are those who “have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:1. That friendship and fellowship has extended back over many years with quite a few. I must state also that the actual witness was very largely financed by the kindness and generosity of such friends and companions in the battle.
Over the years there have been many helpers who laboured to help in the distribution of the printed editions of the “The Burning Bush”. Many amongst the staff of Kilskeery Independent Christian School aided in the bundling, parcelling and posting each month.
In more recent times, my son Andrew, based in Canada, looked after the website and managed the transition of it all from ’SermonAudio’ to its present location. There was a lot of work involved in that of which I did not have the technical knowledge to understand never mind help with!
Mr John Pittman Hey, of Mississippi, USA, whom I have never met, but with whom I have exchanged a myriad of emails ever since he came forward and offered to help my son with the managing of the website. Since that time, he has greatly relieved Andrew of much of the work, he having more than enough to do as pastor of Penticton Free Presbyterian Church, and wonderfully overhauled the website and made it much more ‘visitor friendly’ and easier to access and navigate through.
I owe both Andrew and John much and to them belongs much credit for what I believe I can honestly call, the ‘professionalism’ of the website. They have had to wrestle with ‘cyber attacks’ upon the site by those who are the enemies of the gospel and erected shields around it, for otherwise it would quickly cease to be!
My wife Ann has been a ‘dearly beloved . . . fellowlabourer’ since we first met and soon after began a gospel witness on a Saturday morning at Belfast City Hall, distributing gospel tracts and articles on the ecumenical apostasy, written by Dr Paisley. I was little versed in the contents of the Bible, being a recent convert, while she had a life-long and most comprehensive knowledge of it, being converted as a child of four. I joyfully did the verbal battling with those who objected to our literature and she was ever at my elbow supplying the Bible ‘bombs and bullets’, whispering the texts and Bible references to me!
She has had a vital role from the first edition of the “The Burning Bush”, back in March 1970. She typed out the articles, cut and then glued them together to form a magazine and then that was copied and printed. That was a most tedious labour and it continued until the advent of my obtaining an ‘Apple Mac’ computer and my launching of our ‘desktop publishing’ edition of the witness. That was in January 1988.
In all the publishing from 1970, Ann was my overworked ‘spelling and grammar checker’! She and I were of the same mind on the spiritual issues of the day, and indeed still are! She was of godly stock, her father and mother being founding members of Pastor James Kyle Paisley’s ‘Gospel Tabernacle’ in Ballymena. She entered Queen’s University in the Autumn of 1964, and began attending Dr Ian Paisley’s Ravenhill Free Presbyterian Church, where I had been a member since my conversion in April of that same year. We soon met and became friends and that grew into a lifelong loving companionship, with our marriage taking place just a month before my ordination in April 1968. She is still my friend and fellowlabourer after some 54 years of marriage, which has been blessed of God with six children, Andrew, Richard, Lois, Stephen, Keren and Melody, twenty-one grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, the latest being born a little Canadian citizen in mid-July past. We have lived through times that we now know to have been periods of revival blessing and through days of IRA terrorism and threats.
We would not change one day of it all for the Lord was there with us every step of the way!
That monthly writing, printing and distribution labours continued until 2007 when we ceased the paper edition and went exclusively ‘digital’. I had been mounting the monthly editions of the “The Burning Bush” on the ’SermonAudio’ website from 1998 with the help of Mr Steven Lee, the founder of SermonAudio. That ended in 2017 when my son Andrew constructed a new website and transferred all my old material to it.
Well, the years have rolled by and old age is catching up, indeed has caught up with me and with Ann. The labour in more recent times has been almost entirely mental as we have prepared the articles. Nevertheless, such labours become a little more arduous as the days go by and the likelihood of error increases and that would greatly concern me.
I hope to be able to continue for a little longer speaking to the boys and girls in Kilskeery Independent Christian School and to be able to distribute and mount those talks. Indeed, from the comments sent to me, those talks have been amongst the most popular of my ‘productions’!
I hope to be able to continue ‘resurrecting’ sermons preached in earlier years and articles written in the past and which are relevant to the issues of today. God’s Word, if faithfully preached and expounded, is ever relevant and the issues we face today are those faced yesterday, though perhaps enlarged and more severe.
The actual website will be maintained as a sort of ‘reference library’ for any who wish to delve into the tens of thousands of articles, comments and audio recordings therein.
I could not wish for a better tombstone!!
Let me finally express my sincere thanks to all those readers who have faithfully supported the witness of “The Burning Bush” over the last fifty-two years and who have continually made known to me their appreciation of the witness it presented. The Lord knows how such comments lifted my spirits at times when they flagged somewhat in “the burden and heat of the day”!
It has been my privilege and honour to have had you as ‘fellows soldiers in arms’ in the midst of this latter-day rebellion against the Lord. May our labours together have had some impact for good amongst “a perverse and crooked generation”!
The Lord bless you all richly,
July 27, 2022