Archive for July, 2010

Fear of Flying – and a Different Law

July 18, 2010

“My mouth was dry, and my heart racing, as the aircraft accelerated along the runway and rose shakily above the emerald ‘patchwork quilt.’ In recent years I had developed a phobia of flying, but today I had another reason to be afraid. “Well, here goes…” I turned to my daughter, who returned my nervous smile with a broad grin.  Squeezing my hand she reassured me. “It’ll be ok. Mum. Don’t worry about a thing. This is probably the safest time to go!” I closed my eyes in prayer for our safety in the journey ahead and for our loved ones back home. How on earth had I got myself into this situation? Here we were, sitting above the little fluffy white clouds, bound for a destination that only two days ago had come under intensive terrorist attacks. And there was no going back!”

The above is an extract from a story that I wrote some years ago after a trip to London directly after the bombings there. To be honest I am still not entirely happy about flying. That sensation as the plane accelerates faster and faster along the runaway may be exhilarating for some but it makes my heart thump incessantly! The fact that our destination was on high security alert after those terrorist attacks only served to exacerbate my worries over the trip; yet on reflection I think that my worst fears were of flying itself.

It wasn’t always like this. When I was younger, I had no fear of flying at all. Then many years later my husband, children and I were involved in a car accident, which involved flying through a hedge into a low-lying field where the car turned on its side. Thankfully no one was seriously injured but sometimes incidents like this; while they don’t leave us with physical injuries, certainly have their psychological effects. Although a car accident has little to do with flying, I still feel that my phobia had its roots in that incident. I remember that terrifying sensation so well; the strange silence, that feeling of being airborne and everything happening in slow motion. However, in recent years I have learned to leave this phobia with the Lord. He knows our phobias, our inhibitions and our insecurities so well and He is the Great Healer!

Well, this week I am about to embark on a journey which will involve four flights, but I go in the knowledge that the Saviour is with me, whatever happens. On a comforting note, planes may crash, but cars much more often – and there is a spiritual analogy in all of this too! The fact is that when we are away up there, we are no longer under the law of gravity – we are under a different law.” Surely too, as Christians, we are under a different law. Flying through the clouds, I experience the ‘law of aero-dynamics’ and when I walk with Jesus each day, I am no longer under the law of “sin and death” but I live by faith on the wings of His grace. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6v6&7). If He takes precedence in our lives, and we live by faith (in His strength) above the world and all its snares, ceasing to serve sin, then… “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom 6v14). 

Of course two laws or two masters cannot govern us at the one time. One must ultimately take control. “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”(Rom. 6v15-18) “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8v1&2)

I never fail to thank the Lord for His protection, as after each journey the aircraft safely touches down in another country, or on my beloved island of Ireland. Yet surely the only safe place on earth is to be firmly within His will, for is anywhere safe, when we are outside His loving arms? But so long as we “take refuge in the shadow of His wings,” (Psalm 57v1), then the joyful words of Psalm 91 will be our portion forevermore: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” (Psalm 91v1-7) Praise God for His loving Presence with His children on life’s journey!

The Beautiful Cooley Peninsula

July 15, 2010

Yesterday as we drove across the Irish border to our County Meath home, we deviated from the usual motorway route after Newry and drove instead along the canal; eventually taking the coastal route which goes through the quaint villages of Omeath and Carlingford. My daughter and I stopped to admire the small medieval village of Carlingford which is set against the greenery of the mountains, but my first port of call here was with the tourist office which took quantities of my first two books: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and “Singing on the Journey Home.” (The latter contains a story set in Carlingford, called “The Lost Ring” – a true story from my own life.)

There is much to see of historical interest in the area, including St. John’s Castle and the little village itself with its narrow streets has lovely craft shops – and a fascinating antique shop, packed with all sorts of memorabilia. However, coming from a rural background as we do, both my daughter and I have a special affinity with the beautiful surrounding land and seascape.

What a beautiful pastoral scene may be composed of those sheep grazing on the scenic Cooley peninsula, where Carlingford is situated! They remind me of the sheep, “that which is lost,” in Luke 15v4&5: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” Beautiful pastoral scenery also reminds me of rural Scotland, where Elizabeth C.D. Clephane (1830-1869) was the author of many inspired hymns including “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” and “There were Ninety and Nine.” Based on the parable of the same name, the latter was written from her own poignant experience, when news came through of her eldest brother’s sudden death after a fall from his horse. However, it is widely believed that, although he led a prodigal life in Canada, the young man returned to the Lord shortly before his death. Surely only eternity will reveal the many ways that are used by the Shepherd to draw straying sheep to the safety of His fold? With this in mind, I pray that those seeds which the Lord has assisted me to plant in the lovely village of Carlingford, will take root in the hearts of natives and tourists alike.

Link to Elizabeth C.D. Clephane’s hymns: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/i/90_and_9.htm

“There’s a Flag Flown High – From the Castle of my Heart!” (Romans 12v18)

July 12, 2010

We had driven for miles that glorious July day along one of Northern Ireland’s scenic coastlines. The blue sea shimmered in sunlight, as we admired the rugged beauty of the landscape across the peninsula. Evening found us in a lovely little harbour town, but by now much traffic had slowed our progress. “Why is everything moving so slowly?” I whispered, as I wound down my window in the stuffy car. Just then I could hear the distant sound of drums and accordions playing some familiar melody. “A band!” one of the children shouted. “That’s why we’re stuck in traffic. Hope we see it soon!” But before the band came into view, we saw first the fascinating array of banners and colourful flags flown high and to the forefront, blowing in the sea breeze.

Suddenly I noticed something else too – the hostile crowd that had gathered across the street. Someone shouted at those who paraded. I hoped and prayed that there would be no further hostilities that evening, and thankfully I believe that the proceedings concluded peacefully – but I can still remember those flags flapping in the summer evening breeze, and the variety of expressions on the faces of those who observed…

Some years later we found ourselves again in traffic, this time travelling south of the border. Gaelic football supporters were driving swiftly towards the latter, their little flags and colourful ensigns rippling triumphantly in the breeze. This time the atmosphere was jubilant and light-hearted. At the sight of those colourful emblems of victory, even opponents of the team in question would cheer good-humouredly and wave. This, however, is not always so under similar circumstances. We are all acquainted with media reports of football hooliganism, and certain colourful emblems which inspire fury in the hearts of opponents. “It’s like showing a red rag to a bull” is a familiar old saying. Indeed (I am ashamed to say) I can recall watching a bullfight in Barcelona many years ago. I felt sorry for that bull as it charged in fury towards inevitable doom…

Somehow all of these thoughts came together as I studied with interest a little book I had discovered, on the history of all the flags of the nations of the world. There were flags which were used to distinguish between friend and foe on the battlefield; flags on sea-faring vessels; flags for signalling; flags for sport and recreation and flags for religious celebration. What fascinated me, though, were the complete array of flags currently in use by each nation, and the fact that each design and symbol was of historical and political significance. Many emblems (such as the hated swastika in Germany) are no longer in use on flags – but can be seen on graffitied walls, and continue to instil fear in the hearts of those who remember truly terrible days. Little nations, such as Lithuania, reverted to use of their old flags after gaining independence. On the Lithuanian flag, for example, yellow represents wheat and freedom from want; green symbolises its forests and renewed hope; while red symbolises patriotism and courage. It is interesting to note how many nations have been born out of warfare and shed blood, represented by the red on their flags, while the Islamic country of Saudi Arabia carries the Muslim statement of faith and a sword! On the other hand, the flag of the Republic of Ireland signifies peace between ‘orange and green’, while the flag of Cyprus, with its two olive branches, portrays peace and prosperity between the Greek and Turkish communities. However, since the Turkish invasion in 1974, the two parts of the island also fly the national flags of Greece and Turkey.

As the Lord looks down upon the earth He sees democracies, dictatorships, divisions, injustices, famine, war, evil laws, rampant terrorism, human trafficking and hostage taking. But beyond the flags of nations, with their colours, races and creeds, He sees, knows and loves each individual within those nations. Indeed, as we can see from His Word, there is no one for whom His precious blood has not been shed.   (1John 2v2; 1Tim. 2v6; 1Tim 4v10; 1John 4v14). It is His will that all should come to repentance (2Pet. 3v9; 1Tim 2v4), and share eternity with Him in heaven. Of the Christian, the Bible tells us … There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3v28&29) Whether we are black, white, yellow, coffee-coloured or of ‘Planter or Gael’ background makes no difference when we are true and loyal subjects of His Kingdom. The Christian cannot be ‘neatly filed away’ in precise little compartments governing colour, race, creed, gender or class. Out of every nation they are those who, by faith, have been born again of the Spirit of God. A ‘peculiar people’ (Titus 2v14) they put God first in their lives; the Bible is their guidebook through life’s journey; and they love their Saviour, even unto death. The verse: If it be possible, as much as lieth within you, live peaceably with all men, (Rom. 12v18) is applied, in practical terms to their daily lives. Also, as citizens of the ‘heavenly kingdom’ on a temporary journey through life’s short day, their mission is to reach others with the love of the Saviour, but not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12v2). According to His promise they look for that day which is described in Isaiah 65v17… “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”

In Rev.7v9&10 we read: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice saying, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Are you ready for that glorious Day, and will you stand with the ransomed of the nations singing (not national anthems) but praises to the Lamb, and waving (not your nation’s flag) but palms of peace? Surely “Jehova-nissi” (the Lord is my banner) is a powerful word to those who serve the “king?” As a child I remember being taught a little chorus:

“There’s a flag flown high from the castle of my heart – and the King is in residence there.”

I sang the words but did not have ‘the heart experience’ until many years later. Now, thank God, I have been set free to sing those words ‘in spirit and in truth.’ Remember, He loves you, and it is His will that you repent and ask Him into your heart now, for He has paid the ultimate price for you as an individual – whatever your skin colour, your nation’s flag, or your team’s colours! And it is His will that some wonderful day you will be allied with those who sing a new song…

“Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by the blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.”(Rev.5v9&10

Throughout the annals of history we may read of how invading armies arrived suddenly and unexpectedly to conquer. Some day Jesus, too, will return very suddenly to conquer and to claim His own. Just as the white flag indicates surrender and peace to an invading army, our white robes will show our total surrender to He who loved us and gave Himself for us. That dazzling white may not always guarantee safety where the armies of the world are concerned, but it will where He is concerned! Furthermore, unlike an invading army, he wants the very best for us and He wants to share His riches with us for all eternity.

In Revelations 6v17, we read: “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Surely only those out of every nation, and under every flag, who have “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7v14).  Oh that all who read would be numbered amongst that “great multitude, which no man could number!”

© Elizabeth Burke 2010

The Cremation…A True Story from my Life

July 11, 2010

I wrote this account shortly after the cremation ceremony of a loved one. For my part, I do not like, or agree with cremation, as it has traditionally been viewed as a heathen practice. However, regardless of all of this, the scriptures assure us that one day all bodies will rise again, whether they have been buried, drowned at sea or burned to ashes and scattered in the mountains. I found it to be a distressing day, but I thank God for His sustaining Presence, for the comfort found in the precious Name of His Son, Jesus and that the His Spirit assisted me to express my feelings about the experience…

Life rushed on around the cemetery, traffic piled up on the grey streets; all roads seemed to converge on the inevitable. Wrought iron railings surrounded the grey façade; no kindness was forthcoming in the dark interior; no presence of God, or warmth, or hope… The coffin was carried to the front of the church; the ceremony begun. Looking around, I saw a tear-stained face, pale and full of sorrow. The priest cleared his throat and began to speak. His words droned on; they were words without meaning; hollow emptiness dropping in the shadows of silent grief.

Outside the grey rain pelted against the windows, while the wind whined and blew a flurry of pink petals to the sodden earth. Beauty denied life in its prime, a victim of the winds of life… The priest continued to drone, his disinterested face a mask of sanctimonious solemnity. Duties were performed as a matter of course; payment for praying for the dead, whose eternity had already been sealed – like that gleaming coffin which sat on a marble altar.

The priest turned towards the coffin, in his hand a golden sceptre filled with holy water. He shook it frantically at the shining wood with its gleaming handles, his voice quivering with set prayers. A million tears coursed down the stained glass windows and I bowed my head in prayer. I prayed for those around me and for those who were not here – but never for the dead, for they have lived their lives and God is their Judge. There is but One Mediator, the man Christ Jesus.

When I opened my eyes, there was eerie music playing and great curtains were slowly closing on the gleaming coffin with its beautiful handles. Soon it disappeared from our view – forever. The curtains were closed without a chink and the coffin left to be burned on another day. The polished beauty of the wood and possibly the metal handles would not survive the furnace. Nothing would survive that furnace…

I looked up again to see that the priest had been replaced with someone who had offered to speak about the life of the deceased. A faint gleam of sunlight now beckoned from the rainbow window and I felt a shaft of warmth. His gentle words of love and prayer had not been learned. They came spontaneously from someone who had found the Greatest Love. He spoke of the positive aspects of the life of a loved one; then with tears he told of how he had spoken to him in his final hours… “I said to him: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. If there is nothing else you do on this earth, do this… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”

A silence reigned as tears trickled down my face and the priest looked on in bewilderment, not understanding this marvellous simplicity. The speaker left the platform, the murmuring congregation arose and the wide doors opened swiftly for us to leave. Just outside the door I looked with compassion at another group of mourners waiting for another rushed ceremony, for another body whose soul had already gone into eternity…

Reflections on the Life of Thomas Kelly – “Ireland’s Most Prolific Hymn Writer” (Born July 13th 1769 – Died May 14th 1855)

July 10, 2010

 

As we read through the gospels which are dedicated to the wonderful life of Jesus here on earth, it is interesting to note that “the common people heard him gladly.” (Mark 12v37) On the other hand the scribes and Pharisees were constantly “laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.” (Luke 11v54) When He healed on the Sabbath day, or when He taught in the synagogue, immediately they were His accusers. “By what authority doest thou these things? Or who is he that gave thee this authority?” they asked. (Luke 20v2) In Mark 15v1 we read that it was the chief priests and scribes who “bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.”

Today, as then, we have our scribes, Pharisees and lawyers – and today, as then, they “love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats at synagogues (or churches) And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23v6&7) Jesus said: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are as graves which appear not and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.” (Luke 11v44)

Of course it was the same in Thomas Kelly’s day. Thomas Kelly was the only son of a judge, Thomas Kelly of Kellyville, Co. Laois – which was then known as ‘Queen’s County.’ His father wanted Thomas to follow in his footsteps, which he did for a time, for he graduated from Trinity College Dublin and moved to London to further his career. It was there that he came under conviction of sin and subsequently put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

After this life-changing experience he left his original choice of career to return to Ireland, where he was ordained a minister in the established church. However, because his heart was in the right place, Thomas could not but preach the truth in all its fullness, which in turn made him unpopular with the hierarchy of the church. In those days he suffered immense persecution from his superiors in the church but it was perhaps the opposition from his own family which hurt him the most.

Eventually, having been cast out from the church and barred from all ‘consecrated buildings,’ he found his place amongst the ordinary people, relentless in his preaching of the gospel to hungry souls. Those were days of both spiritual and physical hunger, with the result that Thomas was greatly loved by the poor of Ireland, especially during the potato famine of the 1840’s.

And so, we can see that just as many of the common people heard Jesus gladly, very often they will hear His followers gladly. Those who come to know the Saviour may find that their greatest enemies are those of their own households, while the hierarchy that they once held in esteem within the established churches are not so sympathetic to the simple message of the gospel either.

But Jesus loved those scribes and Pharisees! Although He could see their faults and hypocrisies, He loved them enough to die for them and some of them were even won by Him. Nicodemus, a man of the Pharisees, (St. John 3) could see clearly that “no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (Verse2) And Nicodemus came to love Jesus, for we read how he came to take care of His body after the crucifixion, along with Joseph of Arimathaea. (John 19v39) Therefore if we are followers of Christ, let us in the words of 1John 3v18… “not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

In Hebrews 11v24-26, we read: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” Moses could have chosen to remain in the Egyptian royal family – but what of his eternal welfare? If Thomas Kelly had remained within the established church, diluting his sermons to please the hierarchy and if he had put his family before God, surely we would have been denied the rich legacy of his hymns today? Such lovely compositions clearly stemmed from Thomas’s own personal sufferings. Above all, if Jesus had called on the angels to deliver Him from the cross, what hope would there be for humanity today?

In Romans 8v18 we read: “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.” Today, I believe that Thomas Kelly is rejoicing in glory with many brothers and sisters in Christ who “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt…” If you have never fully trusted the Saviour for salvation, remember that the pleasures of sin are indeed but “for a season.” Just as Moses “by faith forsook Egypt,” you can by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, forsake sin. John the Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of world.” (John 1v29) He came, not to give us a licence to sin, but to take away our sin. “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1John 3v7) Whatever our spiritual standing – He knows us better than we know ourselves. Why not come to Him today, just as you are, and in the quietness of your heart trust Him to meet you at the point of your need?

Remember the words of Mark 8v36&37: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1Pet.1v7)  Praise His Name.

Link to Thomas Kelly’s hymns: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/t/stricken.htm

© Elizabeth Burke 2007