Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Battle is on!

All Photographs courtesy of Unsplash

The fight against coronavirus continues unabated, and the war may not be over for some time yet. Everyone who is contributing to it deserves our sincere thanks and needs a place in our daily prayers. We have our part to play too, of course, obeying the rules to stop the spread of infection, and doing what we can to help, alongside what others are doing in a big way, devotedly and sacrificially.


We remember NHS staff risking their lives on the front line for the sake of those who are ill. Sadly this week more doctors and nurses working in UK hospitals have died, as have many more across the world. Words often quoted from the Bible come to mind: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends.” 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Finding Hope at Christmas


All pictures courtesy of Unsplash
At this time year we talk a lot about hope, but for many of us, hope lacks a sense of certainty. It is more like a wish—something that we want to happen but have no way of knowing that it ultimately will. So we keep our fingers crossed and 'hope' that everything will go the way we want it to.
The reality is that often life does not turn out the way we hoped it would. Hope is a fragile commodity. When life is disappointing, our optimism is replaced by feelings of discouragement and hopelessness. Before long we run the risk of becoming cynics who believe that there is nothing in which we can confidently hope.
This was the landscape of life when Jesus entered the world. The prevailing mood of Israel was anything but hope. The once proud nation was now a puppet state of the pagan Roman Empire. The common person lived under the defeating burden of the exaggerated requirements of the religious establishment. Centuries before, they had been promised a deliverer who would restore Israel to its former glory, but it had never happened.
Into this sense of cynical hopelessness, true Hope was born. As the Christmas season gathers momentum, the promise of hope against the odds is a strong theme which many people share. Christians believe that the promise of hope against the odds is what Christmas is all about. The truth is that it cannot be realised or achieved without first dealing with the darkness and enmity present not only in the world but also in our individual lives. A starting point is acknowledging its immensity?
I love the honesty of the psalmist who said, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” We have all been there, but let us not stop there. Keep reading! 'Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God'.
Rejoice that Jesus came to give us something better than the disappointments of life on planet earth, and when by faith we embrace Him and all that He promised, we can have a hope that is no longer a fingers-crossed wish that we harbour in our hearts, but rather a confident, courageous optimism that is rooted in the certainty of His Word.
The tragedy of the first Christmas was that very few realised the Hope that had been introduced.

Hope for the forgiveness of sins.
Hope for a bright future—forever.
Hope for God’s presence and power in daily living.
Hope that would enable us to forget the past and set our sights on stuff that does not disappoint.
A Hope that, because of Jesus, is a certainty and not just another wish to be dashed on the rocks of reality.

Pin your hopes on Jesus this Christmas—you will not be disappointed!

Messages with Meaning (17/12/20) Written by Peter Francis for Your542Day

Monday, December 21, 2020


All photos used by permission of Unsplash


We are getting more used to self-isolation, strange though it is! And, sadly, it looks as if it could be getting worse again. We hope and pray that it does limit the spread of this dreadful disease, still at large almost everywhere.
I am always glad of a friendly voice to chat with, or a message to read or listen to, so here is something to think about - about people in the Bible who were isolated, not on government instructions, but on God’s instructions. If you want to read about them again, the relevant chapters, from the Bible, for each of them are in brackets. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

A most unusual arrival of a baby

All photographs courtesy of Unsplash

‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,’ Isaiah 7:14

This Bible verse reminds us that the birth of the Messiah (Christ) by a virgin girl was not unexpected. God had promised from the very arrival of evil into the world that the solution would be in the form of a child born of a woman without the aid of a man i.e. the birth of a child through a virgin girl.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Be still . . .

All photographs used by permission of Unsplash

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46.10)
Our valued NHS staff can’t relax and be still just now, run off their feet caring for people. Many others are busy keeping our food supplies going. We thank them for their courage, and pray for their safety. For most of us though, everything is strangely quiet, the streets are empty such as we’ve never seen before. We have the opportunity to “Be still”.  
Sometimes we are too busy to settle down, to quieten our thoughts, to focus on the most important things in life. Whatever else may be important to us, nothing is more important for us all just now than listening to God, and speaking to Him about whatever concerns us. As we listen to Him in the stillness, He listens to us as we pray.
You could read Psalm 46 where our key verse comes from. It describes in graphic language situations which seem out of control, threatening and upsetting, like what is facing people all over the world right now.
Notice first v.5 – God is right there, and He promises to help, to keep us steady, to calm our fears: “therefore we will not fear” (v.2). We read this also in Hebrews 13.5-6: “He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you, so we may boldy say ... I will not fear”. Also in Psalm 23, even in the valley of the shadow of death “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” So for now and for always, let us “trust and not be afraid” (Isaiah 12.2).
Now notice v.10: “Be still ...” He wants us to know that He is GOD.
We should “Sit still”- waiting for a promise to come true (Ruth 3.18).

Then three times in the Bible we read that we should “Stand still “ -  
·       In Exodus 14.13  - to trust the great power of God to save us.
·       In 1 Samuel 9.27 - to listen to the good Word of God to guide us.
·       In Job 37.14 - to consider the wondrous works of God all around us, to lift our spirits to worship Him who made them all. 
If you want to sing something about being still, try this one 
(tune Finlandia)
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Here is another one, one from Sunday School days 
(tune What a friend we have in Jesus)
Said the robin to the sparrow, “Friend I’d really like to know
Why those anxious human beings rush about and worry so!”
Said the sparrow to the robin, “Friend I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father, such as cares for you and me!”
So the robin and the sparrow sang their chorus, O so sweet:
“Don’t you know that Jesus loves you, come and gather round HIs feet.
He who cares for robin redbreast, He who marks the sparrow’s fall
Is the One who died to save you, for He loves you, one and all”

Written and used by kind permission of Bert Cargill, Scotland 


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Discover the love of God this Christmas

Used by permission of Unsplash 

Many years ago there was a young German girl whose father was a printer. He was printing the German Bible that had just been translated by Martin Luther. One day his young daughter found a scrap of paper that had fallen to the floor in the cutting room. The paper contained words from John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave…” but the rest of the verse was missing. She was intrigued by this statement. She read it to herself over and over, “God so loved the world that He gave, God so loved the world that He gave.” 

She liked it so much that she kept it close to her heart and read it every day. She was raised to know that God was just, and Holy, that He hates sin and is angry with the sinner, but she had never read that God loved her so much that He gave…although she did not know what exactly He had given. This revelation brought such joy to her heart that she was singing, and her mother noticing the happy little girl asked, “What is the matter with you?” “Oh mother it is wonderful,” she said, pulling out the little sliver of paper. “Read what it says…‘God so loved the world that He gave.’” “Gave what?” her mother asked. “I do not know, but if He loved me enough that He gave anything at all, I will never be afraid of Him again.”

It is John in his Gospel who says that "God so loved the world that He gave...." But what was His gift? A diamond? A kingdom? A planet? A universe? No! It is so much more! Something priceless and beyond imagination. He gave His Son. And not one of many, but the Only One  that He had. 

Each year we are reminded that Christmas should not be just about giving and receiving presents. But, if we truly think about Christmas, it is, indeed, all about gift giving! At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the greatest gift ever given, by the greatest gift-giver of all, our wonderful God and Father! This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift - the Christ."

Used by permission of Your542Day - Written by Peter Francis for Messages with Meaning (10/12/20)

Friday, December 11, 2020

Could you forgive this?

All photos used by permission of Unsplash

I have just been preparing a lesson on forgiveness for Year 5 pupils. It is easy to understand what it is, but probably one of the hardest things to actually do!

I was quite young when I first heard about Corrie Ten Boom, she was a lady from the Netherlands who lived with her family in Haarlem not far out of Amsterdam. I was fascinated by history and this story gripped me. For my fortieth birthday we went to the Netherlands and while there visited the jeweller’s shop where the events took place. The shop is a going concern and the house above is a museum telling a great story.

The Ten Boom family were Christians and when Hitler and his forces took control of the Netherlands, they were appalled by the persecution of the Jews. They had a rambling old house and bravely had a hiding place built where they could hide Jews when the Nazis came looking for them. They saved many Jews from being captured. Eventually in 1944 they were betrayed and caught and taken away. Corrie’s father Casper died ten days later in Scheveningen prison and Corrie, with her sister Betsie, was taken to the notorious Ravensbruck Concentration Camp where they were treated worse than cattle and went through beatings and indescribable hardship.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

How will you turn out in the tough times?

All photos used by permission of Unsplash

In the world of nature, we only really find out whether a tree is evergreen when the season turns to winter.  Throughout all the other seasons, to the untrained eye, it can be hard to tell the difference between those trees that will eventually shed their leaves and those that will keep them. Yet once the sun fails to climb quite as high in the sky and the temperature drops, the truth begins to emerge. When winter sets in, it soon becomes clear which trees have kept hold of their leaves and which have not.

And so it is, too, with us. Perhaps we do not really know what we are made of until we encounter a little winter in our lives. When things are at their toughest, when life feels at its most frail, that is when we really find out what kind of people we are. Can we remain evergreen and still able to keep singing in the deep dark of winter? 

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Do you find winter miserable?

All photos courtesy of Unsplash 

As the temperature drops we know that winter is fast approaching and for many people it is a time to snuggle up in front of the fire and cosy up in warm jumpers. However, for the sufferers of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) winter signifies a time of misery and gloom. Apparently this form of winter depression affects an estimated half a million people every year between September and April, but more particularly during November, December and January.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

What is the point of resting?

All pictures used by permission of Unsplash

I would like to share some thoughts on resting with you today.

“There just are not enough hours in the day” would suggest that maybe you are not managing time effectively or that your ‘things to do’ list is too ambitious. There is  nothing wrong with aspirational targets, so says the school teacher!

To have a break or rest is so very vital to our well being and health; that is physical health, emotional health and mental health. These seem to be a very real issue for all kinds of people these days and from all age backgrounds.
Let’s face it, there is nothing better than looking forward to a long deserved holiday. It is very much a break from normal life and day-to-day stresses. If it is a long weekend, a 4 day 3 night break, a week, 10 days, a fortnight, 3 weeks, a month or more, it is a well earned opportunity to laze by a pool, sunbathe on a beach, visit places of interest and relax.

Monday, November 30, 2020

What do your clothes say about you?

All pictures courtesy of Unsplash

I am sure that many have had their favourite clothes. Whether it is because they are fashionable, comfortable or have been gifted to us, one problem with such items is their tendency to be outdated, outgrown, damaged or eventually worn out. A shirt I had some years ago ticked nearly all the boxes: it was stylish, comfortable and I bought it for my wedding day.  Regrettably, I had only worn it a few times when it caught on a door handle and it was left with a large tear. More recently, a favourite jacket suffered the same ‘door handle’ treatment, but thankfully, a few stitches was enough to put it right. Sadly, the shirt was beyond repair.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

What can you learn from Coventry City?

All photographs used courtesy of Unsplash

It was my privilege to live for a number of years in the city of Coventry which is a large city near Birmingham.  Coventry was famous for its football team which once won the FA Cup in 1987 and the fountains of the city gushed out blue water as the football team was known as the ‘Skyblues'.  It was also well known as one of the great manufacturing centres for vehicles including a number of famous car making firms. This is what caused it to grow enormously quickly after the Second World War. It was also in Coventry that the story of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom originated.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

What if living in an advanced society is not enough?

All photos courtesy of Unsplash

The ongoing development of technology is revolutionising every dimension of the human experience. Advances in genetics are helping doctors diagnose, treat, and prevent disease on an unprecedented scale. Retailers are developing ways to deliver their products to our homes via drones. Mobile devices allow people to work remotely more easily than ever. Autonomous vehicles may eventually enable people to commute to the office while working in their cars (if people go to an office at all). As a result, suburbs will extend farther from city centres than ever before. It’s hard to identify a dimension of our daily lives that is unaffected by the amazing advances of technology. Those with the skill and discipline to create and market such remarkable inventions deserve the gratitude of those of us who benefit from their expertise daily. And yet, despite all our astounding scientific progress our world is still in trouble. For instance:

Friday, November 27, 2020

How to fix it when you make mistakes!

Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Photo by Gus Moretta on Unsplash

Most of us mess up 'big style' from time to time, in my case regularly if I am being totally honest. When you make a mistake the best thing to do is to apologise. Some people seem to find it easier to say sorry than others. There are those for whom saying sorry is an automatic response mechanism which doesn't mean a lot. Others dig their heels in so saying sorry is a long way down the line even though in their heart they may feel that they are wrong and regret doing or saying what they did.

The other day, I was talking to some people about the Lord's prayer - you know - 'Our Father which art in heaven' and so on. If you remember saying this in school or church, you will probably remember that among many things it mentions forgiveness. Towards the end of the prayer it states - 'and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors[1]'. 

The interesting thing is that the Lord Jesus equates wrongdoing doing with debt. I think the idea is that when we do wrong (the Bible calls it sin) we owe God something. For instance, a lie robs God of the truth, greed robs God of something that should be for someone else. Failing to love and obey God robs Him of the worship and praise that He is due. Wrongdoing and sin also deprive us of many things amongst which are peace, joy, contentment and purpose.

We may not think that we have sinned or robbed God of anything but the Lord Jesus patently thought we had and so He built into His prayer a point at which we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.

I wonder when was the last time that you acknowledged that you were wrong. It would be a good thing to do to repair and maintain your relationships. It is also vital to repair your relationship with God. God is not so concerned about all the little things we do wrong (they are all evidence that we are sinners and we are still responsible for them) but He is very concerned that our sinful nature and behaviour will bar us from heaven. Heaven is a perfect environment and nothing that is sinful can exist there[2]. We cannot go to heaven as we are, but we can be forgiven and cleaned from our sin because Jesus 'Christ died for our sins . . . he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures’[3]

So, may I be direct with you when was the last time you said sorry? May I also ask if you have ever confessed your sin to God and asked for His forgiveness. The Bible promises that, 'if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (i.e. wrong)'[4]. This verse from the Bible is simply saying that God can be trusted (He is faithful) and He is fair (He is just) and that those who believe in Him can know and enjoy the forgiveness of sins.

Have a good day.

[1] The Bible – Matthew 6. 12

[2] The Bible – Revelation 21. 27

[3] The Bible – 1 Corinthians 15. 3,4

[4] The Bible – 1 John 1. 9


Thursday, November 26, 2020

What can happen in a minute?


Photos Courtesy of Unsplash

A lot can happen in just a minute. 

It is reported, that in sixty seconds: 255 babies are born, a healthy adult takes 12–20 breaths and their heart beats, on average 72 times. Google processes over 3.8 million search queries. This message has contributed to 3.3 million Facebook posts and 29 million WhatsApp messages sent.


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What if you could discover the true meaning of life?

All photos used courtesy of Unsplash

I want to ask you today the same question that the James (one of the writers of the New Testament in the Bible) asked nearly 2000 years ago - "What is your life?". What's it all about? Songs have been written about it; films have been produced about it.  For many, there is no greater question to be answered and yet most people believe that they probably will never ever find the true answer.
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