Posts Tagged ‘singing on the journey home’

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)

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)

“Reflect Me” – A Thought from Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

February 22, 2020

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Amy Carmichael, born in the little coastal village of Millisle, Co. Down in Northern Ireland, served as a missionary in India for 55 years without furlough. Trusting the Lord to save her at a young age, Amy was to live a long and fruitful in her Master’s service. In the early days she worked amongst the poor of the part of Belfast which the family had moved to, starting a fellowship in the “The Tin Tabernacle.” Today that fellowship remains and is known as the “Welcome Evangelical Church.” Amy’s own family (she was the eldest of 7 children) knew days of hardship, illness and poverty but through it all Amy felt led of the Lord to work in Japan, Ceylon and eventually southern India where she worked amongst Indian women who had been persecuted for leaving their original Hindu faith. After meeting Preena, a little girl who had been offered to a Hindu temple, Amy discovered the horrifying practice of temple prostitution and started to rescue children who had been trafficked for this purpose. The growing place of refuge which she started was known as “Dohnavur.”
With other Indian women, Amy founded a huge hostel as well as a children’s hospital and in time her immense work led to the law being changed in India to protect children from this awful abuse. Of course, in the process of this she faced terrible persecution and much hardship but her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who had saved her as a child carried her through, for the Lord protected her and saw her financial needs for medication met.
However, an accident in later life meant that Amy was left incapacitated for the last 20 years of her life. Confined to bed as an invalid, these years produced much of spiritual worth – and another great legacy was left in the form of around 37 books and much poetry, which live on to touch hearts to this day.
Only days ago I was delighted to discover a little book in a second hand book sale, published by Amy in 1941: “His Thoughts Said…. His Father Said….” These short little thoughts show the private thoughts of man – and the accompanying words of wisdom. The following was written under “Reflect Me….”
“The son was grieved because some whom he had hoped to help would not even look at his Lord. They were trying to satisfy themselves with husks. They were playing with phantoms. As he thought sorrowfully of those dear to him, who were so near and yet so far, he remembered how they and he together had looked at the reflection of a mountain in still water. It was the reflection that first caught their attention. But presently they raised their eyes to the mountain. “Reflect Me,” said his Father to him then. They will look at thee. Then they will look up, and see Me. And the stiller the water the more perfect the reflection.”

Amy once said: “Nothing is too precious for Jesus.”

On this stormy rainy night I think of the Carmichael family home on the Ards Peninsula, where Amy was born all those years ago. Despite frequent illness in her own life, Amy lived on to leave a legacy which would leave its mark on a nation of people and today Amy’s body lies in India where she served her Master until He called her Home at the age of 83.
This single lady who often suffered in life, also once said… “When I consider the cross of Christ, how can anything that I do be called sacrifice?” As His servants, we have a work to do in the society (or even in the tiny sphere) in which we live; such work may or may not be instrumental in changing evil customs… but oh that we would be used of the Lord to reach the lost and to leave a legacy of love and goodness for time and eternity, for He has said: “Reflect me.”
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2v5)

Remembering Harold Irwin, Recently Called Home – & His Lovely Old Cottage Prayer Meeting

February 10, 2020

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Nestling in the lovely emerald countryside of the Northern Irish countryside, near Richhill in County Armagh, lies a little old cottage beside the former home of the Irwin family. For some reason, I often feel nostalgic about old times and memories on a windy night and this weekend past was no exception. I have lovely memories of sitting in this little cosy cottage which Harold and his wife Evelyn provided for use as a mid-week prayer meeting. Harold piled the logs on the fire and before long everyone would feel the warmth of the little room in more ways than one! There would be a short devotional and then rousing singing of the old hymns, followed by sincere prayer. Those who attended loved this time together, where they felt the true fellowship of fellow believers.
Sadly, Harold and his wife have been suffering from ill health for a number of years and just recently, in his 98th year, Harold fell into a peaceful sleep one night, only to waken the next morning, as his daughter put it, “at home in heaven.” “At Home in Heaven” where my mum and dad (Jack and Ella Hutchinson) and others from those days are rejoicing in the glory of the Lord’s Presence. What a wonderful way to waken up!
We travelled to Harold’s funeral in Richhill last week, where the little church hall was packed to capacity. Meeting old acquaintances that I hadn’t seen in a while was emotionally daunting and I felt moved by the hymns, which touched on some of the experiences in my own life of late. Even before the service started, many of Harold’s favourite old hymns were sung and I felt myself shedding tears as I remembered loved ones who had once attended the little prayer meeting.
Strangely, the old hymn “At Home in Heaven,” had been going through my mind for some time prior to Harold’s death. I discovered the hymn, written as a poem in an antiquarian book “Christian Lyrics Illustrated,” published well over 100 years ago. What I like about this old book, is that it shows many of the hymns printed in full, in their original wording. I think it is terrible when old hymns (no longer under copyright) have been “mutilated,” both in regard to their lyrics and the original music which was set to them. Worse still, is the fact that some modern musicians will claim that they have written those hymns and this is believed by many in today’s generation. Perhaps it would be a good idea for people to research the words and music of these hymns and “songs,” before assuming anything.
“At Home in Heaven,” was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854) who was born in Scotland but spent some years in Ballymena, Northern Ireland and in England. At best, most hymn books show 8 verses of the hymn but there are in fact 22 verses in its original form, as a poem!
Harold loved poetry, particularly of a spiritual nature. The above old photograph of the cottage prayer meeting setting was taken back in 2008, one night just before the prayer meeting, when I was visiting from my former home. As Christians may we never neglect the place of prayer, whatever the setting, until that day when we too are “Forever with the Lord.”
“At Home in Heaven.”
“For ever with the Lord!
Amen; so let it be;
Life from the dead is in that word,
‘Tis immortality.”
Link to this hymn: https://youtu.be/FBRge7RC95M

 

“The Love of Many Shall Wax Cold”

February 6, 2020

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We are living in days when much of Matthew 24 is being fulfilled before our very eyes. Certainly we are reaching that place in history where the Christian faces hatred and betrayal from even his own fellow countrymen, for taking a stand on the truth of God’s Word. Have you ever felt that you have been given “the silent treatment?” You try to understand why this is so, to no avail, not fully realising the extent to which there is a natural and very strong enmity between those who truly know the Lord as Saviour – and those who do not.
“Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mark 13v12&13)
Spiritual wickedness currently resides very much “in high places.” (Ephesians 6v12) And many individuals have now all those characteristics mentioned in 2Timothy Chapter 3. Savage attacks on defenceless individuals on public transport and elsewhere shows a lack of “natural affection” but this is also portrayed on another level, with many having become cold, unloving, callous, uncaring, even “mercenary” in their attitude to the plight of life’s fellow travellers. Sadly these traits and lack of warmth have taken root in those who would once have made a profession of faith. We are living at a time in history when the love of many is waxing cold because iniquity abounds. (Matthew 24v12)
Whatever is going on in our lives right now, we can be sure that “offences will come.” (Luke 17v1) Jesus said: “ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24v9) Paul echoes the words of Jesus when he says “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2Timothy 3v12)
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24v13) The secret is to abide in Him by faith and though we may be cruelly slighted, we continue (in His strength) to love as He loved. Our short lives will soon be past history but we love and follow Him, letting our hearts be filled with love (and grave concern for) the destiny of souls, regardless of how those individuals are mistreating us.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2v5-8)
The Lord knows, sees and understands everything in His children’s lives, including when they are unfairly treated, for “what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” (1Peter 2v20) Someday we will be rewarded for patiently bearing that which we could never bear outside of Him.
We journey on, showing love for hate, sincerity for ridicule, caring for coldness – for we follow in the footsteps of He “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled , reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” For were we too not once “as sheep going astray?” But, praise God, are “now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” ((1Peter 2v22-25) In this great knowledge, we love and pray on for those who are facing a lost eternity, in these “the last days,” when “perilous times shall come.” (2Timothy 3v1)

Beyond Cruel – The Evil World of the Illegal Drugs Trade in Ireland

January 23, 2020

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As this is currently a very serious issue in Ireland, I am also giving the following out in tract form…
Recent times have exposed the extent to which people will go to perpetuate this evil in our society. Young people (and older people too) have been tortured and murdered and it would appear that these evil dealers control entire swaths of Irish society. Those who try to throw light on the situation or organise meetings with advice on how to keep their children from drugs, are violently threatened and targeted. Drug dealers want teenagers and very young children dependant on this vile but very lucrative source of income.
The homeless and the vulnerable in society are easy targets for these people and the awful reality is that often drug dealers can never be reimbursed. An individual may indeed want to “go clean,” settle the debt with the dealer who is chasing them and make a new life for themselves, by gaining experience in some field and working in this area where their talents lie – but drug dealers will pursue, constantly looking for more and more money over and beyond what he is “entitled” to.
Even rural areas are targeted; it has been said that this evil trade is plied at every crossroads in Ireland. In one large town I know well, random shootings and arson attacks can occur at any time of the day or night and innocent people going about their business have unfortunately fallen foul of this and become victims too. Rival gangs who vie for trade have shot each other fatally and this “gang warfare” has spilled out into Spanish resorts in recent years, with rich dealers living in luxurious places beyond Ireland. “Unexplained wealth” is certainly a phenomenon in our society.
Sadly this disease is not confined solely to those from a “disadvantaged background,” as some professional people have been said to have (or have had) a “drug problem.” Week after week we hear of it all, so what can be done about this deadly evil that has spread throughout our society?
How horrific it is to make your money out of the misery of others – and what a hard task master the devil is! You, the reader, may be involved in some way in all of this – or indeed, thankfully, you may not. But whatever your standing in society, the Bible tells us that there is one thing you can be certain of: “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12)
One of the most beautiful feelings in the world is to waken up in the morning with a clear conscience and in the glorious knowledge that you are not “hooked on” anything. Praise God… He can give us a clear conscience! “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8v36)
The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23) We may in no way be associated with the drugs trade but whoever we are in this world, we need a Saviour and only the blood of Jesus, the precious Son of God, who gave Himself a ransom for all, is able to atone for sin when, by faith, we confess our sins to Him, asking Him to forgive us and to come into our lives to make us “new creatures.” “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Corinthians 5v17)
With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19v26) Sin, like many deadly physical diseases, comes in many guises, not all of which are readily recognisable as being dangerous. As a police officer once told me: “there is no such thing as a harmless drug.” While law enforcement are often successful with regard to drug seizures – they have no control over the hearts and minds of either the pusher or the addict. But praise God, there are those who truly know Him and have committed their lives to Him; who pray fervently that this evil may be eradicated and that souls would live out their lives in healthy freedom, to the glory of their Creator and Saviour. Yes, these things are possible and many can testify to having been delivered!
Whoever you are, whether a “pillar of society,” a very worried parent, a seemingly hopeless addict or someone steeped in deepest sin as a dealer – you need to trust the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul. “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)
Remember, He loves you personally and cared enough for you to give His very life for you, that you may have abundant life now – and eternal life in His Presence forevermore. Yes, we live in dark days when evil abounds and the most horrific deeds are being perpetrated but praise God there is a way out… through faith in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for all. (“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John2v2)
Perhaps you would like to pray these (or similar) words right now in the quietness of your own heart… “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to die for me. I acknowledge that I am a sinner and that I need your forgiveness. Please come into my life and make me a new person. Assist me, in your strength, to tell others of my experience and to live according to your words, as contained in the Bible. Open my eyes to the great truths within it, and help me to find fellowship with others who share this experience.”
My prayer is that you will find the peace that passes all understanding in these days of increasing spiritual darkness, for the Lord has promised that He will return to take those who know Him, Home to be with Him, while those who have not trusted Him will face a lost eternity. In the serious knowledge that this could be at any time, I pray that you will trust Him to save you now, if you have not already done so, for “behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Corinthians 6v2)
Jesus promises those who trust Him: “My 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)

On the Distribution of Scripture Calendars

January 13, 2020

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The New Year brought a few revelations to me as I distributed some calendars around very rural areas whenever I could get an opportunity. There are little areas in the depths of the Irish countryside which appear to have been forgotten by time and there are tiny cottages at the end of overgrown garden pathways which I’m not sure were inhabited at all… but for the dogs. Their wagging tails revealed how glad they were to see a visitor and it came to mind that some elderly (or indeed younger) person could have died alone in any of these dwellings and not been discovered for days – or even weeks. Every little homestead had a story to tell, I’m certain, and souls the need of a saviour.
Most people who distribute any type of Christian literature rarely visit rural areas. It’s much easier to go from door to door in urban areas and much more ground can be covered but I feel that the Lord places each one of us in certain districts and gives us a burden for a reason. As Christians we have opportunities in our own areas because of their close proximity; also in the areas which the Lord gives us opportunities to travel to and the contacts we have (however limited) in the spheres in which we circulate.
I ponder the lives of those who live in each rural residence. A few are clearly affluent but very often cold to the gospel; others (both rich and poor) are caught up in the wrong system of belief and many are deeply unhappy, while others, although polite, have simply no interest. The “season of goodwill” has left an aura of dissatisfaction and depression. The lonely are lonelier still as the tinsel is pulled down for another year and the beer bottles await recycling. There is an atmosphere of gloom in places, as wrought iron gates remain heavily padlocked and savage dogs of the not-so-friendly type leap and growl at potential callers – thankfully behind spiked railings surrounding the property.
One morning I remember a cold breeze blowing up from the sea to the east as I endeavoured to find the letter box of an old house where no one answered the door, although I could hear a radio or television on inside. However, people are afraid of being broken into and robbed which is why they often leave these on to give the impression that the house is occupied.
Letterboxes, I have discovered, are as diverse as their owners! Some are very small and old; envelopes were tiny in the days of total “snail mail.” And then there are the “furry” types of letterbox which people have to prevent draughts. A long time ago I can recall my hand getting stuck in one of these, while in the hallway a growling dog snapped at the fingers. I prayed that the Lord would get them out – and He did! It seems amusing now but at the time I was terrified.
He also helps us not to feel discouraged, when it is so easy to do so. We learn not to look at circumstances as they appear – but to the Lord who sees the heart and unseen response when no one is around. I have heard someone say that every word of scripture goes forth like a registered letter. It has been delivered – and someone somewhere will be convicted, encouraged, challenged or have had their thoughts and opinions provoked. Not one word will return unto the Lord void. (Isaiah 55v11)
Souls need the Saviour as they launch out into a new day, a new year and indeed a new decade. Only He knows what lies ahead for them. If only they would seek the Pilot who will guide them safely Home, instead of a system which tells them to put their trust in works and ritual for their salvation. I am very sensitive to atmospheres around these rural areas and feel that loneliness and isolation is certainly a problem. I pray that the “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother” would reach down and touch hearts.
In the biting January wind I think of the wind “that bloweth where it listeth” (John 3v8) in my little verse “Born Again…” Who knows what will be the outcome?

“In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” (Ecclesiastes 11v6)
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3v8)

There is a wind that no one knows
From whence it comes or where it blows,
But when it touches souls of men,
The Spirit whispers… “Born Again.”