Peter Holloway

Enjoy the Mournes with my Photography

You would think that those running a business would know better, and you would think that such a business trying to make the most of our wonderful scenery would think twice before taking someone else’s image and using it for commercial purposes, but a local business has taken this image of the Mourne Mountains and used it on their own web site, Twitter and Facebook. The business, Enjoy the Mournes, knows how to contact me, and yet still chose to take the image and use it without permission or attribution. I’ll leave it up to you what to think of such a practice.

Mourne Mountain Viewpoint

Mourne Mountain Viewpoint

The Right Answer – Promises and Providence

Where matters of faith are concerned we naturally look for any answer to our prayers. Often, the temptation is to grasp the first ‘answer’ that presents itself, no matter how far removed from the perfect answer it is. We take the square peg that presents itself and press it into the round hole of God’s promise. Think about Abram’s promise from God that God would make of him a nation.

First of all Abram and Sarah tried to take matters into their own hands in using Hagar to fulfill God’s promise. The child of this union, based on a lack of faith caused problems in the family unit and resulted in pain for Hagar and her son. In her distress she fled from righteous Abram’s family, and yet God was with her. In her distress God reassured her of his provision – for her situation, not Abram’s – and so she called her son Ishmael: God hears.

Hagar returned to the family and in due course we are told that Abram called his son by Hagar Ishmael. What may seem as nothing more than Abram confirming his concubine’s choice of name actually goes much deeper. Abram appropriated the title for himself. It wasn’t ‘God hears Hagar’s plea’ but ‘God hears my plea’ – in this Abram was wrong. We can see that this is what Abram believed because he later says to God: ‘Oh that Ishmael would stand before you’ (Genesis 17:18) – Abram had appropriated the wrong answer. Not only that, but he then invested all his energy in this wrong answer.

Faith is faith because it trusts outside of ourselves – by definition it is neither immediate nor easy, nor achievable on our own. What Abram teaches us is that patience and trust makes faith easier, not harder. Abram’s path would have been simpler in the short and long term if he had not tried to achieve God’s ends himself, and if he had not taken the wrong answer to his heart.

Our almighty God knows the end from the beginning, and he knows that we do not. But he expects us to trust his knowledge and power to bring his plans to fruition. As we wait for God’s promises in our lives, let’s not grasp at the first answer that presents itself no matter what its suitability, but let’s wait and pray and trust and look for the right answer at the right time for God’s glory and in God’s providence.

The good news is that God continued to work in Abram’s life and fulfilled his promise despite Abram’s failures. God will do the same for us.

The Road Ahead

Burr Point Track.jpg

It’s been a year of big changes for us as a family – in January 2015 I sailed for Belfast to start a new job. Sandra and Hannah followed two months later in March as we set up home in Stoneyford. We left Alex in Southport; Stuart and Katie were already living in Haywards Heath.

Almost a year on and Alex is engaged to Ollie, and we have the first of the next generation as Scarlett Jane Holloway was born to Stuart and Katie on 27 December!

As we review a year of big changes we’re looking forward to what God has in store for the year to come. In many ways the big changes of home and job dominated the past year in themselves – big changes take a big toll on emotion and energy.

But we choose to look forward and expect God in his providence to continue what he has begun in our lives. Some of the things that we are looking to God for in the coming year are fellowship, friendship, ministry and direction. The church is the ‘people’ of God, not the persons, and we believe that true church involves fellowship as that people as we worship the one who is our God. If that resonates with you then please let us know – we’d love to fellowship with you.

We are convinced that God has brought us to the place that we now are, but, that is a beginning, not an end. I chose the picture above (of Burr Point) because it shows a path laid out ahead, with no visible end. We don’t expect God to reveal his plans for us in their entirety, but as we walk the path he has set before us, as we get to the bend in the road we will see the next stretch revealed to us – that is our hope and prayer for the coming year, to walk that path worthy of the one who has called us, and to take the opportunities that God gives us to serve him where he has placed us and with God’s people.

 

The Secret Christmas

Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season its sometimes hard to put your finger on what it’s all about. We all want to know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. We all wonder what we will receive, and just as importantly, what we will give to our loved ones. With every passing year the TV adverts start showing earlier, the pace of the build up gets more frantic, the wishes become more and more generic. Somewhere along the line the season has changed from Christmas to ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s greetings’. The day revolves around family, friends, food and gifts.

One of the things that I love about Christmas is singing the traditional hymns – they sound out of place any other time of the year (unless you’re my son, in which case Ding Dong Merrily on High is good all year round). The traditional hymns are jam packed full of good old fashioned truth. I think my favourite couple of lines come from O Little Town of Bethlehem:

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

Of course, Bethlehem was a ‘little’ town, it was insignificant apart from God’s choice. It was the place that God’s chosen Saviour would be born.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

Micah 5:2

The Bible from start to finish points us to a Creator God who comes into his own creation, God become flesh, incarnate, a miracle in itself. But, this God become flesh came for a purpose: to save us from our sins, redeem us from our self-sufficient pride and disobedience and grant us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ Jesus. This event came to fruition in that little town of Bethlehem.

Christmas time is called Advent, because as we approach it we should be considering the coming of Jesus, the God of eternity breaking into time and space for the love of mankind. This is how we should approach Christmas. But, there’s more! Jesus promised that after the resurrection he was going to prepare a place for those whom he had redeemed, and when he was finished preparing he would return for us. There’s another Advent! We are:

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ

Titus 2:13

For those who know Jesus Christ as Saviour this is a blessed hope! The knowledge that just as Jesus broke into time and space to save us, so too he will break into this world at the end of days to claim his own and fulfil all his promises is a hope that is truly blessed. We are told that when Mary, Jesus’ mother was told about the heavenly announcement to the shepherds she treasured these things, pondering them in her heart.

In the hubbub of the season, with the incessant TV adverts, with the noise and the pressure to purchase and receive, in the ‘Season’s Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ of the commercialisation of Christmas learn to treasure these things in your heart. For those who don’t know the true meaning of Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is a pale imitation of the greatest of all gifts: the love of Christ, but it is still an imitation of a real truth. Let’s hold on to that truth, what has become a secret Christmas within a holiday season, for those who understand.

So, take time tonight, tomorrow to read the Gospel accounts to yourself, with your family or friends and treasure the true hope of Christmas and beyond: our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Whitepark Bay

WPB

A little bit of dabbling using Adobe Fireworks to produce a graphic image from a photo.

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