Archive for April, 2020

Reflections on the Hymn Writer: Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) who died in the 1918 Pandemic

April 24, 2020

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I had been feeling pretty wretched in the last few days and of course when we display a couple of symptoms of the current virus, we think “I hope not…!” However, thankfully, I do feel much better today. It is important to remember that all the usual flu type “bugs” and other health problems haven’t taken a holiday from potentially plaguing us just because this new nasty specimen is doing the rounds on a global scale. Having summoned a bit of energy to clear up some old books, I wearily opened one to discover these uplifting words. It can be sung to the same tune as that of “Safe in the Arms of Jesus:”

Safe in Jehovah’s keeping,
Led by His glorious arm,
God is Himself my Refuge,
A present help from harm.
Fear may at times distress me,
Griefs may my soul annoy;
God is my strength and portion,
God my exceeding joy.

Safe in Jehovah’s keeping,
Safe in temptation’s hour,
Safe in the midst of perils,
Kept by Almighty power.
Safe when the tempest rages,
Safe though the night be long;
Even when my sky is darkest
God is my strength and song.

Sure is Jehovah’s promise,
Nought can my soul assail;
Here is my soul’s sure anchor,
Entered within the veil.
Blest is His love eternal,
What can I want beside!
Safe through the Blood that cleanseth,
Safe in the Christ that died.

I decided to research the author of these words… and I found his testimony. Born in Mountjoy Square in Dublin in 1841, Robert Anderson, was quite an ambitious young man who later attended Trinity College in the city. When one of his sisters trusted the Lord to save her at a revival meeting, Robert, convicted of his own need, attended a meeting one evening but (like many young students) he had his own ideas about what a person must do to find peace with God. Interestingly, the preacher offered to walk part of the way home with him.
The year was 1860, in early October, and I can imagine the scene as he and the preacher walked together through the streets of Dublin having that discussion after the meeting. On research I read that “John Hall (the preacher) stopped at one point, and faced the young man as they stood upon the pavement, and repeated with great solemnity his message and appeal: I tell you as a minister of Christ, and in His Name that there is Life for you here and now if you accept Him. Will you accept Christ or will you reject Him? After a pause – how long I know not – I exclaimed, in God’s Name I will accept Christ. Not another word passed between us, but after another pause he wrung my hand and left me. And I turned homeward with the peace of God filling my heart.”
Between his studies at Trinity College, Robert went on preaching tours in those revival years, in counties throughout Ireland. He addressed meetings in the west of Ireland, in Mayo and Sligo, in the south in Cork and in towns of the north, including Armagh, Newry, Rostrevor and Banbridge.
On his 22nd birthday Robert Anderson was called to the Irish Bar in 1863 and in time became the Assistant Commissioner of the London Metropolitan police from 1888 to 1901. Wikipedia tells me that he was an intelligence officer with Scotland Yard, a theologian and a writer and that he presided over the investigation into the horrific crimes of “Jack the Ripper,” whose identity has never been exposed. He became “Sir Robert Anderson K.C.B., L.L.D.”
In 1918 the Spanish flu pandemic raged throughout the world, affecting 500 million people (or one third of the world’s population). The number of deaths amounted to at least 50 million worldwide, with about 675,000 of these in the U.S.A. Unlike today’s pandemic, mortality was high in those younger than 5 years old and in otherwise healthy individuals of all ages. As for Sir Robert, I read in the old book that “after an attack of influenza, he in measure recovered, sat working till 10.30 am, retired to rest, and at 11am quietly passed into the presence of his Master whom he loved on November 15th, 1918.”
At the end of the day, despite Sir Robert’s achievements in the things of this world, it is the words of this hymn written over 100 years ago that touched me as I felt weak and weary last night – and it is his own simple testimony to God’s saving grace that gladdens my heart. I pray that multitudes would not die from today’s pandemic without hearing and being deeply touched by those simple words… “Will you accept Christ or will you reject Him?”
There is indeed “Life for you here and now if you accept Him.” It is unthinkable to reach the cliff of eternity without having made Him the Lord and Saviour of our lives and in these uncertain days it is good to be certain of one thing – that we are ready to meet the Lord Jesus Christ, who has said… “him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) and whose last recorded words are… “Surely I come quickly.” (Revelation 22v20)

Tract: How To Have “The Peace That Passes All Understanding” During Lockdown

April 15, 2020

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God is our Refuge
“God is our Refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;” (Psalm 46v1&2)
In a time of great anxiety to whom can we turn? This terrible disease (Coronavirus) is spreading to many countries throughout the whole world. While we may take the advice of those in authority, we can put our trust in no man upon this earth, whatever position he holds. Psalm 47v7 tells us that “God is the King of all the earth…” He created us and this world. He knows each one of us individually. In Luke 12v7 we are told that “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” He loves you and cares about you, so why not turn to Him today and tell Him about your cares and worries? He truly wants to shoulder your burdens and to be your Friend.
No Greater Love than this
I read the story of an elderly man who died after offering his ventilator to a younger person. Indeed this was a loving thing to do. But then I read another story about the Creator of all. John 1v10&11 tells us that “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own and his own received him not.” We must also consider that whatever good we do, cannot in itself get us to heaven. The Bible tells us: “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) Only a life begun in faith can produce the good works which are acceptable in His sight.
Also, those on this earth who give their lives may be revered, but Jesus was mocked and humiliated. In Romans 5v6-8 we read: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God gave His only Son, Jesus, for us that we may be assured of a Home in heaven. Nothing can compare with the sacrifice that the Lord Jesus Christ made when He left the splendour and glories of heaven to take on human flesh and to die for a world of lost sinners.
No Respecter of Persons
This horrible virus is no respecter of persons. It affects people of all positions and all walks of life; rich and poor, priests and clergymen, criminals, those high in political positions, royalty, paupers, the famous and the unknown. So it is with sin… every man, woman and child ever born into this world was born in sin. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3v23) 1John 1v8 tells us that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Confession of Sin
To whom should we confess our sins? I have heard a person in authority over many churches in this world say that since we cannot confess our sins to a priest during this time of “lockdown,” we should then go directly to God to confess them. This surely should always be the case, lockdown or not. We are told in 1Timothy 2v5&6 that “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” No man on this earth has the power to forgive us our sins. We must go directly to God, in the name of Jesus, to confess our sins and to be forgiven of them… “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1v9)
His welcoming arms are ever open for all
In some countries you will get no treatment unless you are in possession of health insurance but unfortunately there are people in those countries who just cannot afford this. And so we have an unfair system, where the rich can survive and the poor die because they have no access to the necessary funds. In contrast, the loving arms of Jesus are open to all: rich and poor, great and small, because the Bible tells us that His sacrifice avails for all of mankind – not just some of them. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2v2)

To Delay in Taking Precautions against the Spread of a Pandemic is to Dice with Death
…And to delay in accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour leaves us in grave spiritual danger. The Bible tells us: “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Corinthians 6v2)
We Hear a Lot About “Isolation” These Days.
Spiritually speaking, we must isolate from what is evil – we must repent and trust the Lord to protect us. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3v19)
If we make Him the Captain of our lives, though evil and distressing times may come, we will be victorious in the end, for some day we must leave this scene of time and whatever happens us, we can be assured of a Home in Heaven. The Bible tells us of Heaven… “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Corinthians 2v9) Jesus indeed left the splendours of heaven, so that you and I could join Him there when we leave this scene of time. Are you full of care today because of the terrible things that are happening globally and perhaps also in your own life? Remember the words of 1 Peter 5v7… “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” He loves you and wants to carry you through the rest of your life, whatever it holds for you. The Bible tells us that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8v1)
This world is full of turmoil at the present time
But Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace give I unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14v27)
My prayer is that you would accept Him as Lord and Saviour of your life and follow Him day by day. May the Lord direct your steps and may you experience His love and richest blessings upon your life, from this time forth and forevermore.
© Elizabeth Burke 2020

A Great Moon Rose Over the Sea Last Night

April 9, 2020

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We went out for a walk last night at dusk and not one car passed us on the quiet road… strange times indeed. I posted two letters into the tiny ancient post box – one to my youngest daughter who is isolated in a flat in a town and one to an elderly aunt who lives alone across the border in Northern Ireland. Only the sweetly singing blackbirds and the swishing sound of circling bats in the still night air broke the eerie silence; we met not one soul as we walked in the twilight hour. Afterwards we took a walk in the country lane which leads to a cul-de-sac and a derelict farmhouse. Its former occupants from long ago would not have travelled very far and would have written old fashioned letters and posted them by snail mail, like I did tonight. There is something tangible and meaningful about a letter…
I see evidence in the old garden of the derelict house of fruit growing: gooseberries, redcurrants, blackberries and apples. They would have made their own jam, baked their own bread and lived a simple life – as I am in these days of Covid 19. With one delivery of groceries every week I am rediscovering my love of home baking and the simple life. And I am reminiscing, writing, communicating and witnessing to others… A CD of an ex-R.C. priest’s testimony to someone suffering from macular degeneration and tracts to others.
I loved this walk tonight, as we turned to head home. As we left the old farmhouse, we looked towards the east and we saw it… the blood red moon rising out of the Irish Sea. We stood silently in awe, watching, as it grew bigger and bigger, vibrant, glowing redder and redder on the horizon. Suddenly struck by the beauty of the moment I wanted to seize it and keep it forever – this beauty that my loving Creator had placed there, although we had no photographic equipment with us to do it justice! “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” (Genesis 1v16)
And I am also reminded of the words of Joel 2v30-32… “And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”
Lord help me never to take for granted the beauty and wonder of thy creation and most wonderful of all… thy goodness, mercy and love that endureth forever, in sending thy Son to die for me – and for all mankind. I praise thee that He arose triumphantly; His victory endless over sin and death and hell. “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou has received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord might dwell among them.” (Psalm 68v18)
May the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ be praised for ever and ever. Oh that many would repent and trust in His Great Sacrifice for them in these trying and uncertain times.

Reflections on the Differing Attitudes to Coronavirus, Lockdown and Social Distancing

April 3, 2020

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Since the outset of the global spread of Coronavirus, I have found the various attitudes to all of this very interesting. With regard to the closure of places of worship some Evangelical churches in certain countries have said: “Our doors remain open” (even though their government has advised otherwise.) In contrast, one Evangelical church said… “Given the latest medical advice and Government recommendations (Romans 13v1-5), we believe that the most loving (1Peter 1v22, Matthew 22v39), wise, and biblical thing for us to do is to cancel all upcoming gatherings. They went on to say that they had been reluctant to make this decision, but “each passing day only makes it clearer that this is the right thing to do.”
Then I heard a Jewish person quote from Isaiah 26v20… “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”
There are differing attitudes to “lockdown” from governments as well. The president of Belarus apparently dismisses the risk of Coronavirus spreading and has encouraged citizens to “drink vodka and visit saunas.” In Panama people are separated by gender, with men and women only being allowed to leave their homes for two hours at a time and on different days. Sweden has a relaxed attitude, with schools for under 16’s still open, despite the high number of confirmed cases. Austria is one of the few European countries where the wearing of face masks is obligatory in public; in contrast to this, in Turkmenistan the word “Coronavirus” is banned, while people talking about the virus or wearing masks could face arrest.
While some advocate draconian “lockdown” actions and others refuse to acknowledge its very existence, Coronavirus nonetheless is a reality. I have a family member who has a compromised immune system because of cancer treatment; to me it is awful to think that if such a person were to wear a mask in other countries where they are banned – they would be arrested. (Having said that, I am thankful that we live in an isolated rural area where we don’t need masks!)
I believe what disturbs me most in all of this is that people (even professing Christians) can be surprisingly self-centred about it all. Sadly they don’t see that this is not all about “them” and they would do well to understand the depth of the words of Jesus in Luke 6v31: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” I have seen people wearing masks long before this outbreak but they have been doing so for a very good reason…. There are people with low immunity, because of either cancer treatment or the fact that they have an autoimmune disease but many are sadly ignorant of such situations. It has been a lesson to me in recent years, that I should never look at any person or situation and assume anything. Often only the Lord knows exactly what is going on in that person’s life.
I honestly believe that all across the world right now the Lord is reaching into hearts and homes to draw souls to Himself through this worldwide phenomenon. People are frightened, people are talking about the “end of the world” and thinking on things eternal (and I’ve heard them); people are convicted of their sin. The Lord is working in millions of situations the world over: speaking to the unsaved and endeavouring to draw those who know Him into a closer walk with Him – but of course they must respond… And I believe that He is also preventing worse scenarios in our world…
Most likely nobody alive today will have ever remembered a similar global situation or will have ever experienced anything like it in their lives. There is, I believe, “a bigger picture” in all of this. The Christian walks by faith each day, each step of the way – not knowing what lies ahead but trusting the Lord in every decision they make and being guided in every attitude they should take. While at present we cannot be physically close to many we have a burden for, we can communicate with them in other ways and we can pray for them.
With material things (apart from medicine and basic foodstuffs) so much out of reach in these days, may this be a time to show prayerful compassion, empathy and love to others and of seeking and reflection on the things that matter, the things of eternity… “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1v21)