Posts Tagged ‘sweden’

On the 1000th Anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf… and Spiritual Warfare

May 9, 2014

2DSCF8770

 

Some weeks ago on a sunny spring day, we had the opportunity to see the re-enactment of the Battle of Clontarf in the lovely location of St. Anne’s Park, Raheny in Dublin. Hundreds of ‘soldiers’ had arrived over from many parts of Scandinavia and even Russia for the event, while many of the stall holders were from all over Europe and even some from the U.S.A.

I found it a most fascinating event, showing many of the old arts and crafts, costumes and materials, ways of cooking and way of life in general from one thousand years ago, being demonstrated in the large area devoted to the occasion.

In the Battle of Clontarf, which took place on 23rd April, 1014 in Clontarf on the east coast of Ireland, Brian Boru (High King of Ireland) was fighting against a Viking-Irish alliance which consisted of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, king of Dublin, Mάel Mόrda mac Murchada, king of Leinster, and the Vikings Sigurd of Orkney and Brodir of Mann. That battle lasted from dawn to dusk; between 7000 and 10,000 men were killed and Brian Boru’s forces were victorious but unfortunately he was killed, as was his son and grandson.

As I thought about this significant battle in Irish history just recently, I also thought about the spiritual battle that the children of God face throughout life…

From the moment we take that stand, that first step of faith which declares that ‘we are on the Lord’s side’ we can be sure that we have a most deadly enemy. He knows our vulnerabilities, both physical and emotional and will viciously attack if he suspects that our defences are down. We can never over-estimate the deep hatred and deviousness that the evil one has towards the Lord’s people and how he will create misunderstandings and cause trouble, even between fellow Christians, given the right (or should I say ‘wrong’) conditions.

I believe that it is true to say that we face spiritual warfare every day (like the Battle of Clontarf – from dawn to dusk)… and yet I know that the battle has already been won for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only in His strength that we can overcome – not by using the manmade defences and words of this world.

There are many hymns devoted to this spiritual warfare: “Forward Soldiers,” “Marching On,” “A Call to Arms,” “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” “We Shall Win!” “Who Would True Valour See,” “Soldiers of Christ,” “Victory for Me,” “Stand up Stand up for Jesus,” “Overcomers,” “Onward Christian Soldiers…”

Day and night we stand accused by the evil one; is he not the accuser of the brethren? (Rev. 12v10)

Yet the words of the Lord to His people in 2Chronicles 20v15 are indeed for His people today: “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

“Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord…” (Verse 17)

We are commanded to “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Ephesians 6v10-18)

And some wonderful day for those who are victorious in Him “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.” (Rev. 21v4)

Interestingly the Battle of Clontarf was fought on Good Friday (23rd April 1014)… but surely the battle that outshadows all battles in the history of this world was won over a thousand years previously! On this glorious day the victory was won over sin and death and hell for all mankind, ‘the whosoever will,’ by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15v55-57)

Surely, if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8v31)

 

1DSCF8729

3DSCF8695

Advertisements

“How Great Thou Art!”

September 7, 2010

My sister has a lovely holiday cottage in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland, in a small isolated development known as “Wuthering Heights.” A few days ago I brought my daughters there for a break before they return to college. I love this area, evocative of the sentiments described in that hymn “How Great Thou Art.” Here are some of my impressions on this visit…

The walk this morning was, as always, beautiful, with cattle and sheep all grazing peacefully in the mountain pastures; the sun shining, the birds singing and the colour of the wildflowers all contributed to my feelings of happiness about this place. Here I feel close to nature; I feel that I can breathe fresh, ethereal air and relax and unwind from the stress that would daily press upon me. I love this place and I always will. In a sense it reminds me of the simplicity and wonder of my childhood; the quiet walks that I undertook alone in the foothills of the mountains and how my imagination would be inspired by this world of forests, fields and waterfalls.

There is an inexplicable wonder about the Mourne landscape which lies silent and unchanging in this changing world. Only the sounds of nature fill the morning air; very few cars travel along this road and so we walked on, inspired by the beauty that surrounded us. We found to our delight, a sparkling mountain stream where fish were jumping. Further along up a little track towards the mountain known as “Wee Binnion” lies a tiny whitewashed cottage where I was amazed to find someone living. It was something from another era; that little homestead with its minute windows. I remember someone telling me once that there used to be a “glass tax” in the old days, which is why so many ordinary folk could not afford to have big windows. There have been some unjust taxes down the years but to tax people for the ‘luxury’ of daylight surely beats them all!

Soft clouds had formed on the mountain top, as we began our walk home to Wuthering Heights and a mist was coming in from the sea but there was still warmth in the sun. On either side of us lay tiny pockets of land, surrounded by drystone walls and filled with purple heather. As we walked along that road we picked deliciously ripe blackberries and ate them. Here and there my daughter would gather some wildflowers and when we arrived back at the cottage, she made one of the most beautiful arrangements I have ever seen!

Soon I must return to the ‘real’ world; the world of passport renewal, credit cards, college accommodation in a big city, bills, concerns about my children’s futures and work… But meanwhile I will imagine for a moment that I am a ‘mountain dweller.’ I dwell simply in the heart of the mountains, I have no mortgage on my little cottage, I eat my own home grown vegetables, I drink fresh mountain water, I make my own bread from wholemeal grain and I eat wild blackberries for desert. “Like Paradise,” you may say and yet I know that Paradise does not exist on this earth; we battle with the weeds of life whatever they consist of – a legacy from ancient Eden.

Yet, it is true that a little bit of ‘heaven on earth’ can be ours when we fully trust in Jesus as Saviour, whether we walk the mountain tracks or the busy city streets of life. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him.” (Col.1v16) The wonder of creation is surpassed only by the glory of the Redeemer’s love for all mankind. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:” (Col. 1v14&15) These verses bring to mind one of the most beautiful hymns, translated into English and many other languages.

“How Great Thou Art” was first written by Carl Boberg (1859-1940) as a poem in 1885. Inspired by his experience of being caught in a thunderstorm in his native Sweden, the young Christian wrote the original nine verse poem “O Store Gud” (“O Great God”). This original poem was translated into many languages over the years and today, in English, it has evolved into the beautiful hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The fascinating story of how the hymn developed touches Estonia, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and England; while all across the world today, souls are touched by its words in their own language. How can I not help humming its tune as I walk amongst the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in my own native Ireland?

 Link for lyrics and music to this hymn: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/h/o/w/how_great_Thou_art.htm