Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The Irish had suffered so much during the famine years when their potato crops, their only available staple, failed. Though millions died, others looked to the horizon with hope in their hearts. Distant lands in far-away countries, lands where there was no famine, seemed promising.
That's when it all started. The Irish fled to Australia, to the United States and to Canada, and their migration lasted over a hundred years.
At the height of the Hunger Migration, the boat trips that lasted from five to eight weeks were particularly unsafe. The most desperate amongst them were willing to cross to North America during the winter months. It didn't take long for these winter boats to earn the label of "coffin ships." Typhus and fever became unwelcome passengers that claimed many lives, both on the boats and in the quarantine stations set up for them once they arrived in the "Promised Land."
Even though this "Promised Land" didn't turn out to be quite as promising as originally thought, the Irish continued their migration, even many years after the Great Hunger. They were tired of the ruthless domination by the British, but unfortunately, those who finally landed in North America soon discovered they were not overly welcomed there either!
All of these poor Irish came from rural, agricultural backgrounds. Now they were facing a completely different horizon, one ruled by the urban industrial world, and it wasn't long before this "Promised Land" turned into a nightmare. They were soon labeled the "Know-Nothing," as they sure were not used to making a living this way. When searching for employment, they more often than not encountered signs that read, "No Irish Need to Apply." It was clear they were not welcome, that they were a complete mismatch to this new culture!
The "Promised Land" that some churches offer is no better than the world faced by those Irish. These churches promise the moon, but instead, they offer us bondage and guilt. Jesus would say about these churches: "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.'" (Matt 15:7-9)
Still, these churches are quite popular, for people seem to find a feeling of safety among the rules, even when these same rules are not God ordained. These doctrines are sadly proclaimed with a biblical façade, but if their members would take the time and delve into them, they would indeed find that these "teachings are merely human rules," twisted for their own profit, just like in Jesus' days.
Beware of those: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from" our Heavenly Father. They have some kind of logic defending their doctrines, but their Bible texts are often taken out of context and history is twisted and turned into their own advantage.
It also does help to include some people of prominence among them, such as a prophet, to give them more credence. But when the teachings of these prophets and teachers are placed above God's Word, I wonder who they are truly honoring?
The Irish had fled their catastrophic land to come to a land that wasn't that all that promising after all. Why are we so tempted to do the same? Why do we put ourselves in a situation where we will experience spiritual wreckage? Aren't our Father's promises always fulfilled? Why turn to man-made religions, just because they have a Biblical twist? They are not the fulfillment of God's promises, and just like those poor Irish farmers arriving in North America, they will leave us wanting.
Turn to Him and Him alone. Only then will we find rest in the arms Of Jesus Himself.
Dear Lord, help us not take Your word and twist it to support what we think. Help us always to take Your word in context. We pray today that we would stay grounded in Your word. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.