Archive for March, 2020

Today (24th March, 2020) is the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Hymn Writer Fanny Crosby (1820 – 1915)

March 24, 2020

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On this 200th anniversary of the birth of the blind hymn writer Frances Jane Van Alstyne (Fanny Crosby) I am reminded of a story in my book “Singing on the Journey Home.” This story “My Saviour, My Guide” is linked with Fanny Crosby’s hymn “All the Way my Saviour Leads Me.” Thinking very much on this prolific hymn writer and on this particular hymn today, I quote the little story here, showing how indeed my Lord has “led me all the way… “
“One cool autumn evening in the year 1980, I sat in my bedroom flicking through the pages of a Christian magazine, when something caught my eye. “A Month’s overland to Israel… May 1981. Just £299 all inclusive! Book now for a place on this exciting tour.” I was still in my twenties then; a young Christian who had come to know the Lord just two years previously. Thoughtfully I put the magazine down and then went out for a twilight walk in the little back lane behind our home. I thought about this trip as I walked. Having given up all my old haunts on becoming a Christian, I did feel isolated on occasions. This would be a good way of meeting other young Christians and somehow I felt that it was of the Lord that I should go.
May 1981 saw me standing in London, meeting others from all over the world who had decided to go on this trip. Some had travelled in twos and threes but I was alone and knew no one. We were to travel by boat to Holland; then on to Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia (as it was then) and Greece. From there we were to sail to Cyprus and finally to Israel, where we would stay for some time. I found it one of the most (if not the most) fascinating of all the trips I had ever made. The heavy rain in Holland, turning to snow in Germany and Austria, prevented us from stopping to camp in these countries, so that we reached Yugoslavia all the sooner. There, in pre-war Yugoslavia a warm sun greeted us. This may have been the 1980’s but I was amazed by the sight of oxen pulling old ploughs across the fields. The peasant people working in the fields made me feel that I had gone back on a “time machine” to the turn of the century, and I sat in awe of the endless beautiful forests and glorious mountainous scenery that lined the route taken by our coach. By the time we reached Greece, the sun was exceedingly warm and we were able to ‘take a dip’ in the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea. The tour leader had arranged sleeping facilities for everyone, so that it was necessary to separate into threes – but who would I share with?
As it happened there were two girls from the Republic of Ireland sitting directly in front of me on the bus. “Will you share with us?” they asked me. “Of course!” I responded. (Until then I had felt a little bit lonely, even amongst all those people.) Perhaps it was this simple gesture on their part that would lead to events that changed my life forever…
On return to Ireland, one of the girls (Trish) invited me to stay at her home in Dublin for the weekend, an invitation which I readily accepted. On the journey by car from the railway station to her home in Clontarf, she pointed out a young man cycling with two little boys in her neighbourhood. “That’s Martin,” she commented, “he’s like a father to those little brothers of his. I expect he’ll be around later for a cup of tea. I was telling him about our trip to Israel and that the girl in the photographs with me was coming to stay for the weekend.”
Martin did come around later and some time later again I told him the story of how I became a Christian. Over the months that lay ahead we were to become very good friends indeed, as I visited Trish on a number of occasions and eventually he met my family across the border and I met his in Dublin. However, I was concerned as a Christian about where this relationship was leading; Martin described himself as an agnostic although he came along to church with me on Sundays.
One Sunday, just a few weeks after the anniversary of our first meeting, Martin came to church with my family and me as usual. The date (11th July 1982) is one which holds a special place in our hearts. I certainly was not aware that the Lord had used the sermon: “who then is able to stand before me?” (Job 41v10) to make an impression on him. I can recall that it was a lovely hot summer’s day and that after our return from church, dinner was ready but Martin was missing. After a while I discovered him in an upstairs room, in tears. I was overjoyed when he told me that he had found the Lord. “I can see it! He affirmed, as he stood later in our old kitchen.
How marvellous that the Lord had answered my oft repeated prayer that I would have the joy of seeing Martin saved. Now there would no longer be that ‘unequal yoke’ between us. (2Cor. 6v14) We were now one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3v26-29)… “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Eph. 1v7). Martin began to read the scriptures methodically. The Book of Hebrews was certainly a revelation to him… “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10v17&18)
Nearly three decades later, I still reflect on my little walk alone at dusk in our back lane, and how I decided to go to Israel and how, by a series of events, the Lord worked out His will in my life – and in the life of my husband, Martin. What a loving Shepherd, and what a perfect Guide to have on all of life’s journey! In the words of Psalm 48v14: “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” Frances Jane Van Alstyne (Fanny Crosby) the prolific hymn writer, may have been physically blind from just six weeks old, but how spiritually sighted she became! Her lovely hymn “All the way my Saviour leads me” I sing, when I think back on how Jesus led me all the way…”
(Above is a scan of an old photograph of the little back lane where I once walked alone with my thoughts.)
In these uncertain days when the days look so bleak and the news so terrible, the Saviour is with His children, ever leading them on and leading them Homewards… “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” And I also believe that He will touch hearts through this current world pandemic….
All the Way My Saviour Leads Me
All the way my Saviour leads me:
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who thro’ life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here, by faith, in Him to dwell!
For I know whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
All the way my Saviour leads me;
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for ev’ry trial,
Feeds me with the Living Bread.
Tho’ my weary steps should falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.
All the way my Saviour leads me:
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promis’d
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This, my song through endless ages –
Jesus led me all the way.
Frances Jane Van Alystyne
(1820-1915)

Twilight Memories

March 21, 2020

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Today being World Poetry Day and tomorrow, Sunday 22nd March, being Mother’s Day in many countries including Ireland, I am in a reflective mood. I will miss my mother tomorrow because she has gone Home to be with the Lord – and I will miss at least one of my daughters who is abroad in Northern Italy. I will also miss having contact with other loved ones on account of this present Coronavirus situation and the need for “social distancing.” My memories float back, at this time, to the days of my childhood and how I would run out into the fields to gather primroses for my Mum. “Elizabeth always brings me the first primrose,” she would say and I smile at that memory. Life was simpler then, those days were not as commercialised as they are now – and we had never known “a worldwide pandemic.”
Yet, though all may change, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever,” open and always ready to listen to our every anguished prayer. For those of you who love and miss loved ones – who may be distant in more ways than one, I dedicate “Twilight Memories” to you.

Twilight Memories
Whispering leaves and a blackbird’s song
Warm my heart as I stroll along;
Thrush and swallow, blue tit and wren,
Wagtail and warbler, a lark in the glen.

The farmyard lies as silent as stone,
Weeds in the walls, the garden o’ergrown.
Clouds drift by in a timeless sky,
As I dream and ponder on days gone by.

Soon the darkness will cloak the land
And birds refrain from their chorus grand.
Another day over, the dark night begun;
The moon drifts through clouds instead of the sun.

I remember a farmyard one time;
An old house painted with whitewash and lime.
Children’s voices at play in the twilight hour,
The grass smelling sweet from a summer shower.

I smile at the memory as I walk in the lane,
But my thoughts wander back to a time of pain.
Tomorrow may come and tomorrow may go,
But oh how our lives have changed ever so!

Lord, touch those I pray for with infinite love,
That they would know thy joy from above.
Darkness has fallen; in the silence I weep,
But my Lord never slumbers and nor doth He sleep.

© Elizabeth Burke
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” (Psalm 121)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” (Psalm 34v15… also 17)

On Gatherings for Worship during the Present Coronavirus Crises – and Thoughts on the Doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church

March 16, 2020

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A government order was put out last week, banning all indoor gatherings of more than 100 people here in Ireland. I have been thinking particularly of places of worship in light of the present Coronavirus restrictions but I was especially interested to hear that Roman Catholic bishops have issued a directive prohibiting the gathering for mass anywhere, no matter how small the church. Who would ever have thought that such a thing could happen?
Small churches of other denominations have introduced measures such as no hand-shaking, no passing of “collection plates,” no hymn books and interaction with others reduced to a minimum, while larger churches are not meeting at all, with some having online services.
Reflections on the present surreal situation have led to others about certain denominations, but right now I am thinking of the Roman Catholic Church and its origins, as I have been reading a little leaflet which a friend lent to me recently: “Christianity and Romanism are Different” by Dr M. R. DeHann.
I was interested by the last section of the leaflet… and quote from it below. We would do well to remember that, as the leaflet states, the majority of the things taught by Rome are “NOWHERE TO BE FOUND IN THE BIBLE.”
“29 ADDITIONS TO GOD’S WORD”
The vast majority of the doctrines and beliefs of the Church of Rome have no basis whatsoever in the Bible. They were added at a later date contrary to the clear warning of the Bible in Revelation 22:18. Below is a list of unscriptural doctrines and the dates on which they were made official. All Roman Catholics are demanded to accept them without question.
1. The daily mass, adopted in 394 A.D.
2. The doctrine of purgatory (Pope Gregory), 593 A.D.
3. Prayers to the Virgin Queen of Heaven, 600 A.D.
4. The first Pope (Boniface III) 610 A.D.
5. Kissing the Pope’s foot began in 709 A.D.
6. Temporal power of the Pope declared in 750 A.D.
7. Worship of images, relics and cross 788 A.D.
8. Holy water, blessed by a priest, 850 A.D.
9. Veneration of St. Joseph began in 890 A.D.
10. Canonization of dead saints (Pope John XV) 995 A.D.
11. Lent and Good Friday began in 988 A.D.
12. The mass declared to be a sacrifice of Christ, 1050 A.D.
13. Celibacy of the priesthood and nuns, 1079 A.D.
14. The rosary introduced by Peter the Hermit, 1090 A.D.
15. Selling indulgences began in 1190 A.D.
16. Doctrine of transubstantiation adopted, 1215 A.D.
17. Confession of sins to human priest, 1215 A.D.
18. Adoration of the wafer (Pope Honorius), 1220 A.D.
19. Interpretation of the Bible forbidden to laity, 1229 A.D.
20. Scapular declared a charm against dangers, 1287 A.D.
21. Communion under one kind, 1414 A.D.
22. Seven sacraments declared, 1439 A.D.
23. Superstitions of the Ave Maria (Pope Sixtus V), 1508 A.D.
24. Tradition established as infallible authority, 1545 A.D.
25. Apocryphal books added to the Bible, 1546 A.D.
26. Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, 1854 A.D.
27. Infallibility of the Popes, 1870 A.D.
28. Mary declared to be “Mother of God,” 1931 A.D.
29. Assumption (Translation) of Virgin Mary, 1950 A.D.
The tract continues… This is only a partial list of the things the Roman hierarchy has added to the Bible, and all of it without a shred of divine authority. If time permitted we could show that 75% of these traditions and dogmas accepted by the Roman Church are of pagan origin. This is even admitted by prominent Roman Catholics themselves. Cardinal Newman, one of the most respected authorities in the Roman Church, on page 359 of his book, “The Development of the Christian Religion,” states the following…
“Temples, incense, candles, votive offerings, holy water, holidays, and seasons of devotions, processions, blessing of fields, sacerdotal vestments, priests, monks and nuns, images… etc…. are all of pagan origin.”
At a time when many are alarmed by how swiftly this virus is moving through countries, perhaps it will also be a time of quiet reflection, interruption of old routines and healthy questioning for many. As the old saying goes… “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.” I pray that individuals all over this world will start to think on the value of their souls for whom the Lord Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price; be brought under conviction by the Holy Spirit and take stock of their lives in light of eternity.
Oh that many could see with the hymn writer (Elvina M. Hall 1865), that the Great Price has been paid. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10v11&12)
“Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.”
Link to this hymn: https://youtu.be/9bPaXN9j9yQ

Panic Buying – and the Coronavirus

March 7, 2020

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We are living in very strange times there is no doubt. It may seem like a cliché by now, but for any true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, the evidence is there that we are living in the last days, when spiritually speaking there is that “great falling away.” Before our very eyes we see such decadence and “spiritual wickedness in high places” but bizarre events are happening in nature too, with strange weather patterns and new diseases spreading rapidly throughout the world. Anyone who knows the Lord as Saviour can “feel in their bones” a certain foreboding, that all is not well. The future is uncertain to say the least, even if this virus never reaches crises point.
This week when we went to book our usual delivery slot with the supermarket, it was unusually booked out – well ahead. Panic buying has set in with people stockpiling basic food items which last; all the face masks are sold out in some places and hand sanitizers have reached a colossal price. Living in the countryside as we do has its advantages I’m sure, from the point of view of isolating yourself from crowds of people and growing your own vegetables – but no matter where we live, we are not immune to the decadence of this old world and the threat of the events recorded in Revelation, which may well take place in our lifetime.
There is something scary and apocalyptic looking about a street full of people wearing face masks – and although I’ve seen a few, we haven’t quite reached that stage here in Ireland yet, even though the small numbers affected are increasing rapidly. There is no doubt that this is a very serious matter because surgeries and procedures in hospitals are now being cancelled, while vulnerable elderly people and others on cancer treatment are especially at risk.
Those who know Him must look to the Lord through it all. I’ve been praying about certain situations and strangely it is as if the present spread of the Coronavirus is perhaps preventing something worse in the lives of people who would otherwise be flitting around the globe for no good reason. Personally speaking, while concerned, I have a peace because I know that the Lord is in control – and when He is in control of our lives we have nothing to fear. The Book of Revelation shows that many plagues will ultimately fall upon mankind in the last days but even worse than these, will be the eternity that people will have to face if they have not repented of their sins and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
Do you know Him as Saviour today? He loved you and gave His very life for you, that you could rest assured that whatever befalls you here below, the Lord will someday bring you Home, where all tears shall be wiped away and all sighing and suffering shall cease. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21v4)
If you have not already done so, I pray that you will repent of your sin and trust in Him for salvation this day, for you have nothing to lose but an eternity in horrific circumstances – and everything to gain: an assurance of sins forgiven, the peace that passes all understanding in this life and an eternity in the Presence of Jesus who loved you and gave Himself for you in the next. It must be remembered that our good works cannot get us into heaven, “for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9) Those good works are evidence of our faith after we have trusted Him.
He 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. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3v20&21)
In the face of global uncertainty, may you truly have an assurance of that real peace in your heart today, for Jesus has said: “I will come again.” (John 14v3) Oh that you would be ready to meet Him, either when He returns or when you depart this life, that you would be with those who will have this experience… “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22v5)