Politics Have No Place in the Pulpit

January 3, 2021

If there is one thing that has struck me as we came to the conclusion of 2020, it is that politics have somehow been introduced into many pulpits. I have repeatedly asked myself… “since when have the election results of another country become relevant in our own?” Indeed our own political problems should not even be discussed in our pulpits… Is this a sinister sign of the times?

Yes, we are told to pray for all in authority, including kings and queens and our nation’s leaders but there should be no indication whatsoever as to the political “leanings” of the speaker in a church or Christian fellowship.

“I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men: For Kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1Timothy 2v1-3)

In many ways last year has given those who know and follow the Lord closely many revelations, when they observe attitudes to the necessary steps which have had to be taken in an attempt to halt the spread of disease. Admittedly, not every decision taken was the wisest but as Christians we are expected to abide by the law of our country.  (Romans 13) Really, it only serves to show how few would be ready for real persecution when it arrives… which it will.

Online services have been quite a revelation in themselves. I have heard outrageous announcements for prayer with regard to who will be the president of another jurisdiction. Surely Jesus has said… “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18v36)

For centuries there have been many debates as to who “the Beast” will be but when we observe closely the events of the last year, we can see how things are coming together in these end times. The stage has been set for a situation where those who profess to be Christians would appear to be very easily deceived. The evil one’s challenge will be to deceive people who call themselves Christians – not those who follow the affairs of this world. Sadly it is evident that many professing Christians are currently easily deceived.

“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24v24)

As we watch events unfold before our eyes, we continue to be led of the Lord in our own outreach for Him and most of all… we pray for the salvation of souls whom He loved and gave His life for – and for courage to face whatever lies ahead. As a pandemic rages exponentially throughout the world, spiritual wickedness in high places is rampant and political leaders stand side by side with “evangelicals” and an earthly man who takes the blasphemous title of “Holy Father.”

“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24v11-13)

“For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in the Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9v26)

May the Lord be with those who follow Him in these dark days… “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Peter 5v8)

The Tiny Cottage in the Twilight

December 29, 2020

On a lonely country road in December 2020, I was distributing scripture calendars when I stopped by a detached tiny cottage with an old wrought iron gate. Making my way down the garden path in the cold twilight evening I was greeted by an elderly man in a mask. He reached out for the calendar and warmly invited me into his home but under present circumstances (concerning virus statistics in this region) it would have been the wrong thing to accept that invitation.

As I came away from that little homestead I felt a very strong sense of the Lord’s Presence and subsequently jotted down the following simple little poem which describes the experience. May the Lord enable me to reach this soul and others in these days in which we live – to His glory and for the extension of His Kingdom…

As I journeyed in the twilight zone

I found a cottage all alone

And as I walked t’wards the door,

Some birds of dusk flew swiftly o’er.

I quickly stepped with gift in hand,

When there I saw the old man stand,

Outside his lonely cottage place,

A mask around his worn out face.

“Is this for me?” I heard him say,

And felt light shine in the darkening day.

Yes, all for you, it’s all for free,

My Jesus died that all would see.

And as I took my leave of him,

I felt God’s Presence as light grew dim.

The night drew on and I could not stay,

But there’s a welcome there on a bright new day!

© E.Burke 2020

Using the Seasons to Reach Out

December 11, 2020

The postal service here in the Republic of Ireland has kindly offered many concessions during the Pandemic. In the beginning, when a hard lockdown was enforced they gave free postcards (to post freely) to every household in the country, so that families could get more personal, tangible messages than the ones they receive online. They also gave free colouring books to children who had been off school for a lengthy period and unable to meet up with their friends. Now they have offered to deliver free post to the residents of nursing homes and care homes – up to a weight of 2kg and until the end of January! With this in mind, I purchased a good quantity of colourful 2021 scripture calendars to be delivered freely to nursing homes and care homes. Many of these individuals have not had visitors in a long time and I pray that the literature, letters, cards and calendars that they receive will touch their hearts – whatever their spiritual standing.

It truly has been a depressing time for many elderly people in these places; unable to see loved ones, some of them may not completely understand what is going on. I have found the staff whom I have called in these places to be very grateful for something to lift the spirits of the elderly. Often the latter will find it difficult to concentrate when reading a book but the Lord will use Bible verses and pictures of creation on a calendar to awaken something in their hearts.

Similarly, a family friend who is a talented singer has told me that he has been led of the Lord to sing in nursing homes and although it is not possible for him to be there in person at the moment, his online singing has been reaching out to many. He told me how he had often seen tears forming in the eyes of dementia patients; a deep stirring and a recognition that the Lord is speaking to them. He earnestly believes that the Lord will speak to souls through the sincere message in song, of words written to the Lord’s glory.   

If we look out for them, and pray about it, there are many positive ways to reach out and to be a witness in these times. As the old hymn and scripture proclaims… “Work for the Night is coming!

Psalm 119 (the longest in the Bible) speaks about God’s Word multiple times throughout its 176 verses…

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalm 119v130) I pray that the Saviour’s love would shine into the darkest situation through the proclamation of the Word of God and that souls would be reached with the glorious light of the truths of the gospel, to the glory of God.

The Lord Can Use Every Situation to Bring About His Will

December 3, 2020

I have felt led to write again on this contentious subject and would hope that this would be a final summing up of personal thoughts on the matter, from a Christian point of view. Lockdowns are really “a last resort” I would agree and I know that they will have long term effects on the economy and not everyone will agree that they have any advantages at all… but the Lord can use the negative in life to bring about the positive. As we emerge (to some degree) from level 5, I have been thinking that while Coronavirus has had a devastating effect on many of this world’s population, both in terms of health and finance, the resulting lockdowns are not without their benefits; certainly this is the case in Ireland…

  1. The closure of pubs. Who would ever have dreamt that such an amazing scenario would take place all over the country? I have heard someone say that she realised that she was spending too much time in such places at weekends. Drinking with friends was becoming a problem and she decided to replace her pub-crawling habits with other harmless hobbies and pursuits.
  2. “Bookies,” betting shops or “Turf Accountants” and casinos have been closed. I heard a man say that he was relieved that this was the start of him beginning to address his gambling issues.
  3. Evidence was shown in a recent news article that lockdowns had resulted in a big drop in adulterous and promiscuous behaviour – and all the problems associated with it.
  4. Drugs: I have never heard of as many seizures of drugs as I have in the last few months. The police are out at checkpoints, with the result that drug trafficking has become difficult for pushers and “barons,” who have been thwarted in their attempts to destroy the lives of children and young people.
  5. Online Services: While some of these leave a lot to be desired in the spiritual sense, the fact remains that people who are housebound and who have never heard, are curious and the Lord is reaching many with the simple truths of the gospel for the first time.
  6. Cults: At the same time many cults who go “door to door” have had their activities curtailed because of lockdowns.
  7. People Trafficking: Limited travel and frequent checkpoints have, it is said, inhibited the horrific practice of human trafficking and the resulting human slavery. Yes… slavery does exist in our so called civilised society. Linked with this is also the fact that in normal times young people (many underage) of certain ethnicities and religions are forced into marriage at an early age. A lockdown situation can restrict the movement of people, while weddings are subject to scrutiny and rules.
  8. Mental health/stress: I have heard so much talk about the latter recently, but I have also heard people say that their stress levels have lifted during lockdowns. They’ve learned to “get back to basics” and to appreciate the things that really matter. They have stopped, taken stock and are searching for the deeper meaning to life.
  9. Environment: The skies are clear, the roads are less busy, people are not needlessly shooting and killing God’s creation, while calling it “sport” and “the land had enjoyed her sabbaths.” (Leviticus 26v34 & 2Chron. 36v21) People are using resources like never before and online garden outlets are reporting record sales as many are starting to “grow their own.” Although I am aware that not everybody has access to a garden, I believe that this is a good thing (when possible) in our polluted world and it is how the Lord intended life to be.
  10. “Absence,” it has been said “makes the heart grow fonder.” We miss those whom we cannot see and we reach out to them remotely in many ways but it’s not the same. This may seem like a disadvantage but we are given a fresh and poignant appreciation of how much we care for and love those to whom we are related who are far away at this time – and we pray for them fervently. We long for that re-union and pray that it will take place in the Lord’s time and will.
  11. Finally I wish to mention that major advantage… lockdowns inhibit the spread of disease. When people say that it doesn’t – then clearly they and many in their society are not co-operating. Certainly lockdowns, on the whole, have worked in my own country.

When hospitals are working to capacity with often no beds left in intensive care, then staff are having to make awful choices about “whose life matters most.” Given that thousands of souls are going out into eternity the world over, then those who are professing Christians (and particularly those in leadership) should show an example at this time. We should be aware of the congregations in our own churches or Christian fellowships (however small) and where these people work. Do they work with elderly or vulnerable people or children or do they work in nursing homes for the elderly? Would we really want to be responsible for the spread of the virus to these and other vulnerable people who have low immune systems on account of cancer treatment? Do we pray for hospital staff who are worked to the point of exhaustion? Do we really care about those suffering on ventilators in overcrowded ICU’s? Have we compassion, like Jesus had, for human lives – and human souls… or are we more concerned with our own financial well-being?

I acknowledge that there is a long and indeed very valid list of “disadvantages of lockdown” and while I am aware (and have experienced personally) some of the drawbacks and hardships associated with these, I wish to illustrate that the Lord can use any circumstances to bring His will about.

As Christians why would we not want people to address certain wrongful behaviour and practices? I pray that not only would this happen, but that many would search and take stock of what they are putting their trust in for time and eternity and I pray that they would repent and come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who sacrificed His all for every individual in this entire world. (1 John 2v2)

I believe that the Lord has allowed these circumstances to happen for uncountable reasons and that His will is being achieved in situations all over this world. The work of the Holy Spirit is not restricted because a building is closed and I believe that He is speaking to hearts the world over.

“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things hath been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isaiah 66v1&2)

Jesus said that He would build His church “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16v18) And His Church is not a building or an organisation… “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11v34-36)

Remembering Joshua Hewitt – a Beloved Family Friend

November 24, 2020

I have shed tears a lot this week and here is why… Last Wednesday morning my daughter stumbled upon some news which was a terrible shock to us… the very large and beautiful old period home of a dear friend to my father (Jack Hutchinson) had been gutted by fire. However, we were later devastated to discover that Joshua had lost his life in that fire.

Memories returned to me of one lovely summer evening when Joshua was sitting in the car talking to my father – of things spiritual, I have no doubt. The scene was a peaceful and beautiful memory which also reminded me of how considerate Joshua was. He had a head cold at the time and didn’t want to pass it on to my mother who was in her house with vulnerable health issues and so he sat outside talking to Dad in his car.

Joshua knew the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, He spoke of Him, he witnessed for Him and in those days when he knew health and strength, he often spoke in little mission halls and other places of worship around the countryside. The events of this year (even apart from Covid 19) have been a test of our faith, there is no doubt, as many other Christian friends have passed away, some under very tragic circumstances and now we mourn Joshua’s passing which has been a particularly heart-rending blow, given the nature of what happened.

Joshua was a farmer who had never married. He lived alone after the death of his mother, to whom he was so close; Sarah Jane had brought up her family of five children after the death of Joshua’s father, William David Hewitt. My memories of Joshua are of a quietly spoken, gentle, unassuming, non-judgemental man with deep convictions in the spiritual realm and indeed he often had a smile and a good sense of humour too. He was, I suppose, about a decade younger than my father but he became a particularly good friend of Dad’s and a comfort to him in the time leading up to his death.

Praise God, it is good to know that Joshua is with His Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ now and with my father and mother and indeed all the other dear souls who have trusted in Him alone for salvation. May the Lord be with his sorrowing brother and sisters: Gretta, Robert, Doris and Joyce and other loved ones and friends at this time and may they very much feel the loving arms of the God of all comfort around them, in the knowledge, praise God – that there is a better Day coming!

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8v18)

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2v13&14)

Did You Ever See a “Plague Doctor” Mask?

November 11, 2020

You may never have seen an actual antique one of these scary looking specimens with beaks but many images can be viewed online. Strangely my attention was brought to them last year quite by accident – long before the announcement of Covid 19, when our thoughts were on low immune systems because of cancer treatment.

Living in the countryside with no close neighbours as we do, we rarely wear masks, unless we have some necessary business in the nearest village. During the “Black Death” those who could afford to (and who were still unscathed) moved out into remote rural areas to escape it. It has to be said that isolation has its advantages and disadvantages at a time like this – but how good to know the One who genuinely loves and cares for us wherever we live!

On our last visit to the hospital, I couldn’t accompany my daughter because of present conditions but sat in the car waiting, intrigued by the variety of masks passing by. There was everything from “dog and cat” masks to vibrant flowery masks and eventually when my daughter appeared she was shaking her head in unbelief, but faintly amused. “There’s an old man in there waiting for a blood test,” she said, “and his mask looks like he’s had it since the Bubonic Plague… or at least since the 1918 Pandemic.”

The beaks on the ancient plague doctor masks were able to hold dried flowers and herbs, the theory being that they kept away the bad smells which supposedly caused the infection – a theory that was later disproved. One theory which has never been disproved, though, is the theory that masks are effective in the prevention of the spread of disease and infection – something which has been tried and tested since the middle ages. Who today would be happy to be operated on by a maskless surgeon who didn’t wash his hands?

Many things have puzzled me greatly in the last few months and one of these is the objection people have to the wearing of something which has been proven to help prevent the spread of infection. What mystifies me even more is the fact that this objection seems to be very prevalent amongst professing Christians. I would love to discuss this with someone who holds this viewpoint and try to understand their thinking behind why they are of the opinion that it is “wrong” to wear a mask. Personally I (like most people) find the ordinary disposable surgical masks that I wear a bit unpleasant and slightly stifling but I am so aware that there are those who must wear them on a daily basis while working very hard in hospitals and care facilities. To wear a mask for a short time is surely a small sacrifice to pay; the last thing in this world I ever want to be responsible for – is the death of even one person.

As far as this virus is concerned, I dearly wish that (like the Bubonic plague) it would die out, never to recur but Jesus told us that “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places” shall be amongst those signs of “the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24v7&8) Note: “pestilences” is plural; I believe that we can expect more and indeed mutations of the current one.  Unfortunately, there are two types of attitude in Ireland – and a very big discrepancy (generally speaking) between what is going on in the Republic of Ireland and in the north of Ireland. While numbers of outbreaks and deaths currently continue to drop in the Republic (26 counties) – at the moment they are comparatively much higher in Northern Ireland, which consists of only 6 counties (politically speaking).

There are many more professing Christians in Northern Ireland but unfortunately, from what I have observed… also many more conspiracy theorists. I have noticed from viewing of online services from Northern Ireland, that some pastors are reluctant to broach the subject of this current virus and not so many preach about the implications of it or even bring it up in prayer.  However, I did hear one wise preacher say… “This virus has either been sent by God or is allowed by God. We would need to take heed.” Like all pestilences which fall on this earth, Christians are not immune from it, for already there have been numerous outbreaks in churches north of the border and (unfortunately) deaths have occurred. When I recently went to order scripture calendars for outreach from my usual source, I was dismayed to learn that there had been an outbreak amongst family members of the lady who supplies them.

Christians, like any other human beings in this fallen world can also be responsible for the spread of everything from the common cold – to more sinister viruses, but when we are lead of the Lord, we should do our best under every circumstance, in the knowledge that hospitals can only cope with a certain number of people in ICU at any given time and that there are other people out there who need urgent attention for other health issues. This is surely where “loving thy neighbour” comes in.

If, during the current virus, I am only talking about “me” and “my great faith,” and if I ignore people who are sick until it comes to my door, there is something very wrong in my relationship with the Lord.

Along with my current readings in the gospels these days, where Jesus speaks of pestilences and earthquakes in the end times, I also am struck by His great loving compassion for the people amongst whom He lived; how He loved them! This morning in Mark 1v40-42 I read of Jesus healing a leper… “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him…” He was “moved with compassion…” He loved this man.

What a contrast to that person (a professing Christian with a big Bible sitting in front of him) sitting in an airport using his phone to tell everyone how he is watching “all these freaks” (amongst other unsavoury words) walking around with their masks on (while he isn’t of course.) This person has no compassion for the people as individuals, in the way that Jesus did. Who knows what each individual is going through? Some could be travelling home, praying that they will see that loved one before they die and many more could be facing up to the reality of being diagnosed with serious illness in their own lives. If we claim to be followers of Christ, how can we have this uncompassionate attitude?

God forbid that anyone who believes himself to be a Christian should hear those words which were spoken in Matthew 25v41-43+45: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.” Some of the medieval “plague doctors” it has been said were unscrupulous characters who took advantage of their role to get more money than they should from people who really couldn’t afford it. The Lord Jesus Christ, by contrast, in His great love and compassion for people, healed the sick, the disabled and the mentally ill, asking nothing in return but that the souls He touched would know Him as Saviour and ultimately join Him in heaven when their earthly lives were over. When we walk down a street, or sit in an airport we should see people as He did. They are not faceless monsters (whatever type of mask they wear) who can be referred to in awful terms. This world is full of suffering souls for whom the Lord Jesus Christ died to save. How we need to show love and compassion at such a time as this…

Knocking, Knocking, Who is There?

November 4, 2020

Because of several lockdowns it’s been quite a few months now since I travelled north to my old home environs. A few years ago I remember standing on a dull day at the old door of my great great grandfather’s house. Perhaps his father lived there too – I don’t know how far those who share my DNA go back in that place. It’s certainly a very old house anyway. My father’s grandfather grew up there and the latter’s brother lived there and then his son John. I remember visiting John and his wife (who were older than my parents) with my mother many times over the years. We never used that front door; rather we would gain access through an adjoining outhouse through which we walked into a long narrow scullery and then we would be warmly welcomed by John’s wife Maisie who always had a pot of tea ready for us.

I can still see the flickering flames of the fire in my “mind’s eye” and remember the banter and conversation. I don’t ever recall a television there in those days – just a big old radio in the corner. I can still feel the warmth of the atmosphere and the feeling of “belonging.”

John and his wife Maisie (a hospitable lady with a sense of humour) had four children – three daughters and a son; tragically this only son died at nineteen when his motorbike crashed. His parents were devastated. In the intervening years John and Maisie died and their daughters (who later married) also died – the youngest only very recently. The house now lies empty – a phenomenon which is very common in Ireland. You don’t travel far into the countryside before you find a derelict or abandoned home, sometimes even containing old photographs of the people who once lived there.

That day, a few years ago, my daughter and I entered the old living room and I could almost hear Maisie’s voice calling to us: “Come in and have a cup of tea girls.” My daughter remarked on how strange it all was – this home that once was filled with conversation and life and hospitality lies silent and deserted, yet still containing tiny bits of memorabilia from another era. The love, the laughter, the daily dramas, the arguments, the debates, the tragedy and the tears of many years echoed only in my memories and daydreams. I stood sadly, reminiscing on those old times.

If I knocked that old door on this cold November day, no one would answer with the shout – “come on in!” that I remember so well. They have all left this scene of time and the years have rendered that old house which was once a home – cold and derelict. Life, with all its perplexities is so transient.

This brings to mind the old hymn “Oh God our Help in Ages Past:”

A thousand ages in Thy sight

Are like an evening gone;

Short as the watch that ends the night

Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten, as a dream

Dies at the opening day.

Recently I found another hymn, based on an old poem written by Harriet Beecher Stowe: “Knocking, Knocking, Who is there?” It reminded me very much of the old ivy-covered door of John and Maisie’s house…

Knocking, Knocking! Who is there?

Waiting, Waiting, Oh so fair!

‘Tis a Pilgrim, strange and kingly,

Never such was seen before;

Ah! My soul, for such a wonder,

Wilt thou not undo the door?

Knocking, knocking; still He’s there;

Waiting, waiting, wondrous fair;

But the door is hard to open,

For the weeds and ivy-vine,

With their dark and clinging tendrils,

Ever round the hinges twine.

Knocking, knocking – what! Still there?

Waiting, waiting, grand and fair;

Yes, the piercèd hand still knocketh,

And beneath the crownèd hair

Beam the patient eyes, so tender,

Of thy Saviour waiting there.

It brings a tear to my eye to remember that piercèd hand knocking on my door. Praise God, I opened that door by faith and that fairest One, the One who loves above all others, He lives within my heart. Has He been knocking on your door for many years? Remember – if you had been the only one, those hands would still have been pierced for you, for He loves you and wants to save you. Jesus said: “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3v20)

One day the patient eyes of the Saviour will look upon you as your Judge. Don’t make the behaviour of others (who would call themselves Christians) an excuse for not opening the door. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only One we can depend upon and look to as an inspiration on how to lead our lives. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11v29&30)

As He knocks, realise that it is possible for Him to remove the tangled vines and weeds/ the sins of many years, in order that He may gain entrance. He will forgive and indeed forget the confessed sins of a lifetime. (Hebrews 8v12) He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Peter 3v9) Trust Him now today, “thy Saviour waiting there,” for one day the knocking will cease. Like that family, we all go to our “long Home” (Ecclesiastes 12v5). But when His Presence is ever felt in our hearts, that “long Home” is in heaven with this Saviour who loved us and gave Himself for us, that we may escape the awfulness of a lost eternity.

How Could This Hymn Writer Turn To Roman Catholicism?

October 26, 2020

Lengthening shadows and shorter days, along with news of rising numbers in a world pandemic has the potential to make us feel a little depressed, especially if we have other issues troubling us in life. I decided to research the writer of that lovely hymn of exaltation: “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” which one would imagine is an uplifting thing to do, only to discover that the writer became heavily influenced by John Henry Newman – once an Anglican minister who eventually became a cardinal. I felt despondent on learning this. How could Matthew Bridges, after writing such eloquent words which appear to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, drown in the dark waters of Roman Catholicism? I quote the first and last verses of the hymn…

“Crown Him with many crowns,

The Lamb upon His throne!

Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns

All music but its own.

Awake, my soul, and sing

Of Him who died for thee,

And hail Him as the matchless King

Through all eternity.

Crown Him the Lord of years!

The Potentate of time,

Creator of the rolling spheres,

Ineffably sublime!

All hail! Redeemer, hail!

For thou hast died for me:

Thy praise shall never, never fail

Throughout eternity.”

Sadly Matthew Bridges (1800-1894), at the mature age of 48 (despite having previously criticised it) converted to Roman Catholicism and lived on for another four and a half decades in his adopted faith. I began to wonder…. “Converted from what?” I believe that it is quite possible that this hymn writer, despite his eloquence, had never experienced the New Birth and the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, when I researched the hymn itself, I discovered that it had undergone considerable modification and although I have not looked at his other hymns – they too may have been problematic.

Apparently an Anglican clergyman, Godfrey Thring, added stanzas of his own to the hymn, something he was asked to do as Protestants had raised doctrinal objections to parts of the original. So… everything was not as it seemed. Having said that, I believe that apostasy is also quite possible, although in this case I feel that the hymn writer was not right with God in the first place.

The days of “the great falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2v3) have been with us for a long time but for those who know the Lord, these are days for pressing onwards and upwards. Feeling dismayed by current trends, we nevertheless look at each slowly falling autumn twilight and thank the Lord that we are another day closer to Home. Remember that in the spiritual realm the shadows are lengthening too – and there is work to be done before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ or His Home call for us as individuals. Man may fail us and disappoint us but “He faileth not.” (Zephaniah 3v5) We “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3v14)

Outrageous Proposal to Seal Archives concerning “Magdalene Laundries” for 30 Years

October 17, 2020

Missing that Boat by Five Minutes… Changed a Multitude of Lives!

October 4, 2020

I discovered the following encouraging little story recently in W.A. Weir’s old booklet: “There is Mercy.” What brought this particular story to mind is that a lovely racehorse has come to live in a field beside us and horses in Ireland often run in Punchestown in Dublin, although racing has been interrupted by a virus this year! I was interested to note that Punchestown is mentioned in this true old story which is set in Ireland in 1877…

“The Punchestown Races were over. Crowds were returning home from the famous Irish Derby by train and cross-channel boat. The year was 1877. Mr. Vincent, a retired gentleman, hurried to Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) Harbour, but arrived five minutes too late to catch the boat. Just five minutes… but great and unforeseen things happened as a result. The more closely we examine life and its destiny, the more solemn and mysterious it becomes, until we see the hand of God planning and overruling.

There was nothing else for Mr. Vincent, having missed the boat, but to stay the night in Dublin. He was at a loose end, and not knowing how to spend the evening, he went for a walk. His attention was caught by the names over a theatre: “D.L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey,” and he wondered what kind of company this would be. Going inside he was amazed to find the place crowded, and on the platform a man was singing. He had a wonderful voice, and the words were new and absolutely inescapable:

There were ninety and nine that safely lay

In the shelter of the fold;

But one was out on the hills away,

Far off from the gates of gold;

Away on the mountains wild and bare,

Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

When the hymn was over, he sat down and heard D.L. Moody preach, and strange to say, instead of going home the next day, Mr. Vincent stayed on day and after day. Finally one evening he made the great decision to come as a sinner to the Saviour Who died for him. All that the world had offered was useless in face of his need in eternity. As Mr. Moody knelt beside him, he simply said: “Mr. Vincent, do you believe Jesus Christ died for your sins?”

“I do,” he replied. “Then thank Him,” said Moody. He gave thanks with all his heart, and left that room a transformed man. His conversion led in turn to the conversion of his friend Edward Studd, whose changed life caused a sensation amongst his old friends and neighbours. Not long afterwards his son, Charles T. Studd, the famous cricketer (1860 – 1931) was converted, and was called to be a missionary in China, and later in India and Africa. His work and influence has reached many lands.”

These amazing events can all be traced back to one man missing a boat by five minutes. How wonderful to know that God had planned it all!

In these days of a world pandemic, few are travelling very far but next time you miss a train, boat or plane, remember that the Lord most likely has a reason for this. Just over a hundred years earlier in 1773, William Cowper wrote…

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs

And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11v33)  You, the reader may find in Him a Faithful Guide too, by simply repenting, trusting in Him as your Saviour and placing your life into His hands. May you know the peace that passes all understanding and your steps safely directed to be with the Lord Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate price that we might have an assurance of sins forgiven and a Home in Heaven.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3v16)