Posts Tagged ‘vikings’

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

May 9, 2014

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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)

 

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The Last Faith Mission Convention in Stradbally, Co. Laois – and Memories of the Rock of Dunamase

August 23, 2011

The Stradbally area will always hold special memories for me, since it was the evocative beauty of the scenery here which inspired the covers for my first two books: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and “Singing on the Journey Home.” It was with a sense of anticipation tinged with a little sadness that we set out on our last journey to this area where the convention has been held for the last twenty-eight years.

Last weekend I recalled the bright August morning on which we first discovered the ‘Rock of Dunamase’ – ancient castle ruins dating back to AD 432, which the Stradbally area is famous for. This rock, if it could speak, would tell of many battles. In the 9th century it was plundered by the Vikings, in the 13th century it became a Norman stronghold, while in the 17th century it was destroyed by Cromwellian guns. Throughout Ireland’s turbulent history the Rock of Dunamase remained a strategic base, even through constant violent attacks. Amazingly the rock was recorded by the Greek geographer, Ptolemy, in his map of AD140!

Little did I know when I first photographed the “Rock Church” from high amongst the ruins of the Rock of Dunamase, that it would be on the cover of my first book and that a view of a lovely little Laois farmhouse would provide the cover for the second.

As we drove along the narrow country lanes, I gazed with interest at golden crops just waiting to be harvested. Yes, they were “white unto the harvest” but would there be enough help available to get those crops safely gathered in before the dark days of rain which had been forecast? There were numerous “tares amongst wheat” and regrettably some “wheat amongst the tares.”

And so I pray for the Faith Mission workers as they move to a new location; that they will stand true to the principles on which they were founded; that souls will be touched like never before and that the Lord will use this new centre in Durrow to His glory. I thank God that He gave ordinary people like me the opportunity to reach souls in the Stradbally area, while attending the convention there over the years and I pray that some day I will meet those souls in heaven.

It was good to meet with old acquaintances and to receive and give spiritual encouragement last weekend and I pray that those who attended will be met at the point of their spiritual needs, for how we need the Lord in these times.      

I thought about the spiritual condition of many who claim to follow the Lord, both in this county and others and sadly the words of Revelation 3v2 came to mind: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” Yet, recalling how I reflectively touched the ancient remains of the Rock of Dunamase years previously, I cannot but think of the words of Jesus to Peter, in Matthew 16v18… “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

That “Rock” was surely Christ, as is evidenced by the words of 1Cor. 10v4… “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”

If a great remnant of the earthly Rock of Dunamase still remains, despite the fierce battles of two hundred decades; how much more shall we withstand the gates of hell if we are strengthened and made pure by faith… in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal “Rock of Ages?” Praise His Name.

“Time and Tide Wait for no Man” – and the Story of King Canute

July 21, 2011

On a recent trip to my native Northern Ireland I noticed a beautiful clock with a swinging pendulum in the window of a charity shop. I love clocks and although this one needed a bit of work, I couldn’t resist its ‘Big Ben’ chime and so I purchased it for a very small price. Others in the family have become irritated with this chime ‘on the hour – and every hour’ with good reason I suppose! However, it has awakened me to a couple of very important trains of thought, especially after a comment by my youngest daughter the other day… “You know Mum, even if you live until you’re eighty, you really haven’t got that much time left.” She was joking of course, but as I listened to the steady tick of the clock, I started to do some serious thinking about my life – and about the use of my time. Within the Christian’s life, time is a precious commodity which should never be wasted or misused. I remember well one particular verse from the old hymn “Our God, our help in ages past,” sung at a funeral once…

“Time like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten as a dream

Dies at the opening day.”

Every tick of the clock and every chime on the hour is a constant reminder to me of my own mortality in this fleeting scene of time. And yet I am just that: a mortal being who becomes weary on occasions, needing rest – and the Lord knows this! Yesterday I climbed a mountain with my daughter on her birthday but today I feel really exhausted with a sore throat. What good am I to anyone today? Yet I know that in the Lord’s strength I can touch lives – and most importantly, I can pray, for His strength is “made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor. 12v9) Perhaps today in my weakness, I am of more use to the Lord…

If the story of King Canute is true, then he certainly had no illusions about his power or role as just another man making his way through life. King Canute (or Cnut) lived around c985-1035 and was King of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. Although I have no idea as to King Canute’s spiritual standing, he was certainly right about one thing, as this story illustrates…

His subjects were always praising the King, telling him how wonderful and powerful he was. Then one day, tired of this constant flattery, the King demanded to be brought to the seaside where he asked to be seated by the rolling waves of the sea. With such foolish words as: “Your highness, there is nothing you cannot do and all things will obey you,” echoing in his ears, the King commanded the tide to turn back. But of course the rolling tide never ceased on its course. Turning to his subjects, the King enquired whether they had learned a lesson from this little episode, showing that there is only one King who is all powerful and who holds the oceans and the course of nature in His hands.

For my own part, I have learned two lessons from my relentlessly chiming clock this week… Firstly, that I must be focussed and not waste the precious and limited time that the Lord has given me to serve Him while I live here and now. Secondly, there is absolutely nothing that mankind can do to halt the process of time and tide. Yet, today the Lord has taught me that my health and very existence are totally within His hands too. Moses may have stretched out his hand over the sea – but it was God who made that path through the rolling waves, so that the Children of Israel could pass through safely.

There is only one King who can command the winds and sea (Matthew 8v27) and who has determined “that there should be time no longer.” (Rev. 10v6) Today I look to Him as the Master planner and controller of my life’s timetable; He who will roll back the angry waves, making a path for me to cross over. Praise God…

“I do not have to cross Jordan alone,

For Jesus died for my sins to atone…”