We are striving to create an environment that encourages and stimulates friendship with God.
We do this through meeting together to read, discuss and reflect on the scriptures as our guide for living and ask God to change us. Rather than thinking we have everything sorted, it’s a life of humility, knowing that we have offended God and a life of gratefulness to God for his love and mercy.
Jesus said that he lived, died and rose again to bring freedom, healing and hope. He claimed to bring abundant life. It’s our conviction that we live in a God- centred Universe. If this is so, then it follows that living with Jesus as our focus, is living as God designed us to live and will consequently make life work.
God’s love is extravagant, he wants to take us as we are and transform us, both as individuals and as a society. It’s not about performance; it’s about a living, vibrant friendship with the King of all kings who wants the best for us!
The Welcoming Heart of the Father A long time ago in the heartland of rolling hills and lush green grass was a farm in a valley whose farmer had a heart of gold. The farmer was a father who delighted in his two sons as they grew and flourished. Dad wanted the best for his boys and gave freely from his abundance. One day the youngest son, overcome with desires to roam open country, brashly approached his father with an offensive request. The request brought a tear to his father’s eye, but reluctantly the wish was granted that his share of the inheritance was to be cashed so he could fund his freedom expedition. Without a second look, he took off like a bat out of hell, to live life in the fast lane. He spent his bounty like there was no 2moro, gathering fair weather friends and unsavoury alliances. Ethics went out the window, shamelessly he unshackled himself from any home grown restraints and allowed no limits to impede his pleasure. Then one friendless day when the money was all spent he found himself alone. Was this really all he’d dreamed of? Where had it gotten him? Why did it hurt so much? He found himself hungrier than the pigs he was feeding. What would he do? About there, at rock bottom, knowing he was far from home, he came to his senses. ‘My father is a warm hearted generous man’, he thought, he’d go home, apologise and maybe he’d become a slave with food and shelter. He rehearsed his lines of repentance on the long trip home with his head hung low. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the older brother diligently worked the farm and enjoyed its fruits. Each day the father would yearn for his younger son, going to the edge of the rolling hills in hopeful lookout. Then one day, the father took off at lightning pace after catching a glimpse of his lost son returning. With his arms open wide, lavishing gifts on his son, he prepared a feast in honour of his son’s homecoming. The oldest son was fuming at the episode and refused to enter the banquet. The father went out to his oldest son and pleaded with him to join the party. The oldest son replied with hatred in his eyes – ‘...this son of yours squandered your wealth with wild living and prostitutes, he doesn’t deserve this – and all this time I have worked my socks off for you with no thanks’. He exposed his ugly heart that was distant from his father, even though he had behaved well all those years. In Jesus’ parable, found in St. Luke 15:11-32,the Father is God and we are his sons. It illustrates that we can be alienated from God by being very bad (moral failure) or by being very good (moral high ground). Both sons wanted the Father’s things – one away and one at home. One son thought he’d been so bad his Father couldn’t accept him (banished in exile) whilst the other son thought he’d been so good his Father was obligated to accept him (God owed him) – both were wrong! Both sons were self-absorbed and failed to value their relationship with their Father. What about us? This story shows that all are lost and need a Saviour – Jesus came and died for our sins at great cost so that we might be accepted by the Father. Once we start to see the depth of love and generosity of God at the cross our hearts are strangely warmed and transformed. When any of us humbly bow the knee and seek to know the Father – he reveals himself as the God of a hundred thousand welcomes!
Who can find my WAG? (Wives and Girlfriends of Footballer’s)
Loosely based upon a modern rendering of Proverbs 31:10-28 Who can find my WAG? She wears expensive rubies, Her husband has no confidence in her And he feels insecure and alone. She is off entertaining herself, Playing with flirtatious fire, And shopping all day long. She buys and parades the latest fashion, People see her picture in far flung global magazines, She ensures her right to long lie in’s, And looks carefully after her own interests. She splashes money wherever she goes, Leaving mounting debt to her husband’s account. She rests whenever possible and tries to not over do it. She has more shoes than a shoe shop, And more clothes than a factory. She walks on by the afflicted and the poor, Unwilling to associate with non-celebrities. When it snows, she books exotic sun holidays for the girls, And she is no longer cold or damp. Her husband is in a spin and he finds it hard to concentrate. She is a constant drain on his wallet, A stress to his bones And his strength is sapped from his body. She is a portrait of weakness and corruption, She lives in the now and is frightened of tomorrow. She always speaks trivia and superficiality springs from her lips. She doesn’t plan ahead or see any upcoming danger. Laziness is her constant companion, Entertainment is the only fleeting friend she has. Her children arise and ask ‘Where are you?’ Her husband sadly asks ‘Who can find a wife of noble character?’ Headings to lead us through the text Never Underestimate the Value of a Good Woman Character of a God-Fearing Woman Allow Wisdom to be lived out in your Home Could it be that just as earlier wisdom has been personified as a female voice and here is embodied by a housewife (and much more) that the author is pointing beyond the mythical perfect home-maker to Jesus Christ Himself as the personification of Wisdom. John 1:4 Conclusion:
Perhaps inviting Jesus as Saviour and Lord invites a wisdom revolution in the home. Maybe God-centred lives will transform our homes from bankrupt soap operas of desperate housewives into flourishing family homes that form the bedrock of stable communities!
A Beautiful Disaster
A lone man stands nervously at the foot of a mountain in southern Iceland, and watches with fearful disbelief as his skies are darkened. The scenes from the volcano’s summit are captivating with dazzling flames and spectacular clouds. There have been stunning special effects and breath-taking sunsets. Locals are calling this a beautiful disaster – as the beauty is short-lived by the terrifying reality of darker skies, contaminated air, dangerous flash floods. The outlook is bleak! It’s not like Icelanders can just fly away! Irish life has come to feel like there’s a looming ash cloud hanging overhead. A cloud that darkens horizons, dampens spirits and floods our lives with uncertainty. Disturbing disclosures are constantly published by the media, exposing catalogues of corruption. Once there was a certain beauty in our loveable rogue syndrome, or a certain charm with our prevailing attitude of ‘it’s only wrong if we get caught.’ Now with the evaporation of our cloud’s silver lining, a discoloured murky inside is uncovered. Just as the ash cloud threatens aviation disaster, ecological pollution and climate change so our clouds of corruption threaten to unravel the fabric of our society. ‘Trust’ has and is being shaken in every sphere of public life. From religious abuse of power to self-serving politicians, from opportunist developers to greedy reckless bankers – the revelations continue as relentlessly as the volcanic ash. Vapours of deceit are impoverishing our once honourable nation! Once this land was known as the land of saints and scholars, now it seems it could be branded as a land of swindlers and scoundrels. Just as the man isolated at the foot of the volcano asks ‘Where is this beautiful disaster headed?’ So we must ask – ‘What God forsaken place will we wake up to one day?’ The volcano shows no signs of ceasing emissions and neither is the ash content diminishing. If only our cloud of dishonesty was confined to public life – the alarming reality is that each of us is deeply infected with a tendency to look after number one. Problematically, just as the large dodgy bank deals were contaminated, so is the street market fruit selling. Just as the high ranking officials are exposed of covering up, we each have secrets that remain hidden. Just as the thick ash cloud blocks out sunlight so our cloud of corruption forms a barricade to the light of God and the warmth of his love. The Scriptures are refreshing as they speak of God encountering imperfect crooked people, warts and all. The bad news is that man is as helpless to remove the stain of sin as he is to eradicate the ash from the sky. However, the good news is that God has found a way to disperse the ash cloud of our corruption ‘...as far as the east is from the west’. Christianity is not about outweighing the bad with the good but admitting failure and asking for God’s help. ‘Then God steps in – and on the basis of Jesus’ death (leading to our new spiritual life) he cleanses our dark past, chooses to remember our sin no more, and begins to transform us. God’s way of changing society is to begin with one life at a time. What about you and I? Why not join me in quietly reflecting on the lingering ash in our hearts. Have you ever wondered why God seems so far away, have you ever speculated on what heart warming forgiveness could feel like? Maybe the beautiful disaster of an internal ash cloud could be the beginning of clear skies between us and God – giving fresh hope for our community and our nation! Simmering Smokescreen of Chaos
Is it just me or has our world gone crazy? Has the universe given up on us? Have the ecosystems of our world lost the plot? Have the systems of civilisation gone on strike? Two years ago everything seemed hunky-dory; life was meandering along nicely in a predictable universe where man was in control. We were masters of our own universe, Lords of our own castles, spending money like it was going out of fashion, advancing in technology at breakneck speed and feeling secure, even settled. Ireland had a trajectory of living the high life and nothing could stop it. Have you ever woken yourself up in recent months and pinched yourself to check you’re not stuck in a recurring bad dream?
Sitting at the sunny side of a North Tipperary hillside I am currently flicking through ‘Making Sense of Smoke Signals’ written by a new-age focus group. Inhaling deeply of the Icelandic volcanic ash that has ventured this far south and wondering if it can causes lung damage. The global village has become a BIG place overnight. Hearing of thousands stranded and others embarking on journey’s of epic proportions highlights the magnitude of the disruption caused. Soon we may not have fresh fruit, by the time it reaches our tables it will be fermenting or worse. Sporting fixtures are threatened. There are reports of hotels profiteering on stranded tourist’s misfortune. There is widespread confusion about who is liable for this gross inconvenience, whether compensation is likely and who can be blamed. The entire continent of Europe has the word cancelled written across airport notice boards. Meanwhile, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano defiantly spouts ash relentlessly into the sky, propelled by a volatile reaction of hot magna above a glacier. What lessons have we learnt in recent days? · Volcanoes don’t respect the profit margins of the airline industry. · Volcanoes don’t mind if people are late for appointments. · We must design new engines for Airplanes. · No-one knows what may happen next? This country is unrecognizable from 2 years ago, the endless list of changes include rising flood waters, coldest winter in 50 years, collapsed dysfunctional banking system, a black hole that’s gobbled tax payers money for decades, child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked all religious credibility, political rumors of corruption causing mistrust and cynicism, unemployment like the 1980’s, and water charges coming down the pipeline! Are we to expect tribal warfare to break out from the Rock of Cashel? What else could unravel before our eyes and what does it all mean? How do these changes sit with you and your household? Do you wake up with a lump in your throat or a twitch in your eye? Has mankind been humbled once again by his insignificance? Did we lose the run of ourselves? Is everything out of control and lurching toward disaster? There is a verse in the Psalms that describe the panic many of us feel at present – ‘...though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.’ We could paraphrase that with ‘though the sun be blocked by Icelandic ice...’ Yet the Psalmist knew something we forget all too easily. He didn’t presume to be in control but was confident the Most High God was in control. That’s why he could say ‘I will not fear’ before the above phrase. He declares ‘God is our refuge and strength, the Almighty is with us.’ Psalm 46. Maybe the universe has gone haywire because man has ignored the Ruler, perhaps all this uncertainty is a wake-up call, so that we seek God who rules behind the curtain of history, unhindered by the cloud of molten ash. Maybe there is a God waiting to be acknowledged who has been underestimated and long forgotten! DIY Paint Job and being Passed Over These were strange times indeed, everything we had accepted as normal was turned on its head. The ‘powers that be’ were being shaken to the core. Life would never be the same again. I was a peasant shepherd in Goshen living near the edge of the fence line between us and the mighty Egyptians. For as long as I remember we had been enslaved and brutally treated by them. Our nation was in great distress and we’d finally cried out to God in heartfelt desperation. Little did we know that God heard us? This odd man called Moses arrived on the scene; he looked like a cross between us, an Egyptian and a Midianite. He seemed legitimate but the jury was still out. Then it happened, the wheels started to come off for this Empire. First, the life source of Egypt, the river Nile was turned to blood. Then frogs jumped everywhere, quickly followed by gnats. Now we perhaps gave Moses some slack but still didn’t believe his empty words of deliverance. From here on in things changed, we could see swarms of flies and insects like a black cloud descend over the fence but not one insect entered Goshen. Loads of livestock died mysteriously but not ours. There was a growing confidence in our camp that perhaps God was on our side. Reports of nasty boils on the Egyptians skin filtered back, but again nothing touched us. One day a ferocious noise was heard, a massive hail storm crashed to earth but not where we lived. We looked on in horror and disbelief as locusts ate every green thing in sight while we enjoyed untouched fresh cabbages. We saw this thick blackness fall over our neighbours for three days whilst we sunbathed nervously wondering what may be next. Then Moses spread very specific instructions from God regarding what was coming and what action we must take. By now we all had seen the raw power of God and had begun to trust Moses. God seemed tangible, real and as he if was reaching out to us, yet we were afraid, what if we angered or upset him? Alarmingly, we were told that God would kill the firstborn son in each household. How could we stand safely before such a Holy Awesome God? We did as instructed despite the oddness of it – we took a spotless lamb, collected its blood and pasted it on the doorposts and lintels of our houses, we stayed inside and got ready to travel, we roasted the lamb, ate it with unleavened bread. Our family like every other obeyed– our hearts were beating fast, scared and excited as we waited sleeplessly amid the wafting aroma of roast lamb. Immunity and safety were promised when God saw the blood. God had made a way to accept us through substituting a lamb in our place. I was the eldest in our house; I had no right to live. Then we overheard loud eerie wailing from the other side of the fence, my heart skipped a beat. I had been spared. I was overwhelmed with gratitude; I felt my life had being given a fresh direction. To our surprise when morning came, our Egyptian neighbours urged us to leave their country immediately; they showered us with valuables to send us on our way. We made up cool new songs of deliverance as we escaped Egypt and marvelled at the new start. As I look from what we knew then to what you know now, I am envious! You have been told that ‘Jesus is your Passover lamb’. (1 Cor5:7) You too can be overwhelmed by joy and gratitude because of Jesus the great substitute. He stepped in your place to absorb the wrath and judgment of God that we all deserve. What have ye pasted on our doorposts, what are ye relying on for salvation? God accepts those who trust in Jesus the Saviour, there is nothing that we bring to the equation only obedience. Only the blood of Jesus is powerful enough for God’s judgment to pass over us and for him to free is from the slavery of sin. Take it from a shepherd boy who jumped for joy as God passed over him – God is reaching out to give you friendship and life beyond your dreams. Be released from God’s condemnation by trusting in the Saviour’s sacrifice and walk into a new life of freedom.
The Sad Blues Musician
Set against the yellow desert sunset was a shabby man slumped against the round mud-brick well in the middle of nowhere. This mysterious man had a tattered cowboy hat, a pipe in his mouth, a gun in his holster, a pale whitish shirt with torn blue jeans. His breathing was heavy and his head hung low. He then pulled out a guitar and began to pierce the dusty desert atmosphere with the sounds of the blues. With a contorted face, with bending notes and a steady beat of walking bass rifts, the bluesy melodies wafted into the evening sky telling a story of a man who had a past. What had this man been through? Why was he here at this well? Was he seeking a new start or just thirsty? Had there been troubles left far behind him but still etched in his memory? Was he alone for a reason? Here sat a man who looked like his dreams had been dashed, whose conscience lay heavy with some dark secrets, whose hope had all but disappeared. Beneath that hard exterior was a man grappling with failure and disappointment. Here was a man who didn’t fit anywhere, a social misfit, an exile wandering the desert plains desperately wanting to believe there could be a new start. Had God even given up on him? His story began a long, long time ago. It all kicked off with an identity crisis almost from his troubled birth. After only three months of life his family were forced to abandon him in a basket in a river. Fortunately he was found by a compassionate princess who paid a slave woman to nurse him for several years. (This was his mother). He was taught the ways of his slave people and their famous God but suddenly his natural family ties were severed and he was brought into training for prince hood in the superpower of the day. Despite the confusion and turmoil he matured into a powerful prince, impeccably taught and nurtured with all the trappings of luxury yet he was aware that he didn’t fit, something was amiss. What of his real people, their plight of slavery could not remain hidden from him. Deep down he felt a strong pull to liberate his own people. With a growing sense of justice he watched his people’s mistreatment and lamented their predicament. Then one day he snapped. Seeing the crack of the whip once too many, thinking he was a lone ranger, in an act of lunacy he checked that the coast was clear, then struck and killed the oppressor. After a night of tossing and turning in his palace bed he returned to his people thinking that now they had seen where his loyalty stood, maybe they would let him lead a rebellion. But alas, it was not to be, instead his people didn’t understand and didn’t want to know. Word had escaped about his act of madness the day before and he was forced to flee for his very life. Like a restless fugitive on the run he slipped quietly and quickly into the shadows and fled to a distant foreign land dejected.
And now the painful cocktail of failure and time messed with his head. He faced the wilderness fugitive blues, living with what might have been and haunted by regret. As he sat there slumped over his guitar, thoughts of failure and identity confusion rattled around his head. This mysterious dispirited man was Moses the Hebrew slave who became the Prince of Egypt and then a shepherd in Midian. All the bumps along the road in Moses life were being strangely used by God to prepare him for a great destiny. Moses was down in the dumps yet he was nearer to a spiritual breakthrough than ever before. He just didn’t know it. He was about to meet the unchangeable all-powerful God and become his servant with incredible purpose. What about you and I? As we ponder the struggles and strains that constitute our lives, as we play the blues, it seems to me that we have a choice to make! Are we going to wallow in self-pity allowing the brokenness to hold us back and spoil our future or will we trust that the God of miracles can redeem all of our past baggage and use it as preparation for a purposeful fulfilling future? Could God be calling you into in his royal service to do mighty things for the glory of God! Moses had to learn to play the blues before he could enjoy the tango!
An article to chew on...
Hope Beyond the Family Portrait
We had a family portrait not too long ago and the personalities of the family members nearly jumped off the photograph; one serious, one shy, one talkative pre-schooler with her mouth open, one noisy baby and two jaded parents. But what happens when we scratch deeper beneath the surface of a family portrait. If you are like me you may get uncomfortable at this point. So rather than talk about you or me, let’s talk about a Technicolor Dreamer called Joseph. Joseph’s family portrait was not a pretty sight, it involved 12 sons who were a by product of Jacob plus four women (two wives, one loved and one not and their two maid-servants). Can you imagine the explosive tensions of this family all living under one roof. Joseph was born of Rachel, the wife he really loved. I love the bible’s transparency as Genesis tells all regarding the families’ dirty linen. Why does it do this? You’d think that some sort of divine cover up may have been better! Or maybe a squeaky clean story would be unbelievable! Or maybe this really happened! As if there wasn’t already an atmosphere in the home that could be cut with a knife, Jacob creates a time bomb of favouritism and decides that Joseph (age 17) should have a special amazing technicolor coat. This marks Joseph, the second youngest of 12 brothers, as management material. His brothers resented this and began to hate Joseph. This is a family in such a mess that it will make any of us feel good about our own. When things couldn’t get any worse, Joseph receives a dream from God that he arrogantly tells his brothers of how they will all bow down to him. That is one step too far; he insults his brothers, upsets his dad and offends his mother’s grave. His brothers understandably plot to have him killed and the rest is history. Was God surprised by how far the brothers went? Had God lost control? Did God even notice the drama? Let’s take a step back from the madness and ask a couple of questions. Where was God during this episode, why was hope fading quicker than the Irish sun for this family? Have you ever lost hope for your family? Have you ever wondered what to do next? Who do you turn to in the shadows of life? Have you ever thought your family was beyond redemption? Ever thought your family was beyond God’s reach of help? If so, then think again. This family, warts and all, was the family that God had chosen to funnel his blessing to all nations. Joseph ultimately in God’s plan saves the entire known world from starvation including his own family members. Is it possible that brokenness and hurt looks different through the eyes of God? Could it be that what we see as paralysing pain, God can turn into remarkable restoration? The biblical honesty of real life is refreshing because it points to a God who delights to use broken people for immense purposes. In fact a clear message of Joseph’s upbringing is that if you are not broken then God has little interest in working with you! If you ever feel despair in family life, if you ever worry about how the future may shape your family, why not call out to the Great Restorer. Call on the One to whom brokenness is an opportunity not a setback. And maybe we’ll all discover hope beyond the family portrait!
Another article to chew on...
Ever longed to be free… Basking in the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef lived a special family of Clownfish. Their fascinating home supports one of the richest diversities of life on the planet. In a micro-cosmos that has housed countless colourful Clownfish in the lap of luxury, one fish wanted more! Saoirse had set his sights on freedom, freedom beyond the ocean. You see, this fish, was not only headstrong but imaginative too, he had a dream. He imagined himself soaring like an eagle, he could visualise a stroll on the 18th hole and he could picture himself sunbathing in Hawaii. He questioned his conservative Clownfish clan, declaring boldly that he could do as he wished. At first they laughed, but soon got worried, particularly when he started to plot his escape. He’d show them that nothing would constrain him. His mother’s heart murmured as he catapulted himself from the water to dry land. Saoirse was never seen or heard of again, maybe he was free? You (like me) may have heard yourself think: ‘I have rights; I will do what I want to do’. There’s a deep undercurrent in our culture that claims freedom is determining our own ideas of right or wrong. But is that freedom? What frees one person may indeed cause suffering to the next person. If everyone does what he/she wants, the planet might freefall into chaos! Perhaps it is! Could it be possible that true freedom may not mean the removal of all boundaries? On the other hand, are we really free if we only do what others expect of us? Maybe only the right limits actually enhance our liberation. How can God tell us how to live (place boundaries) and yet claim that there is freedom in Christ? (Gal 5:1) Who does He think that He is? When God gave the Ten Commandments was He trying to stifle living like a cosmic kill-joy, or was He giving limitations for our protection? Could these guidelines be designed to foster a better world? Just as a fish’s nature is limited to absorbing oxygen from water, so our nature is to live close to God and not far away. Is it possible that God longs for you and I to reach our full potential? Could that be why Jesus entered this world voluntarily and suffered a horrific death to launch a rescue mission? Is His offer of deliverance capable of releasing us from bondage to decay and from a bias to destruction, as the scriptures claim? Maybe true freedom is bundled up with God’s purposes to make this planet a better place, starting with you and me? Maybe God’s forgiveness triggers a fresh start under new management enabling us to love God and others! Perhaps we’ll all feel like fish out of water until we find who God made us to be! Written by Matt Tuttlebee