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.” 
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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
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Monday, December 21, 2020

Isolation



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. 
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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.

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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 

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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)
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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.
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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? 
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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.
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Friday, December 04, 2020

Two instructions you had better obey?




Photos courtesy of Storyblocks

Fulfilling the two great commandments (Matthew 22.36-40)

(this is truth for Christians) 

Love for God? 


We express this by our devotion to Him and His interests. We can do that as individuals and in local churches as is our norm. But now is not normal, so our individual devotion matters even more. When not able to meet together, our commitment to God must not waver!

 

Love for our neighbour


The best expression these days may be in selflessly protecting others from infection, isolating ourselves and saving our country’s resources from being stretched to breaking point.
 
Affirm your faith in Christ and your love for others by praying and continuing to serve your brothers and sisters in every way that you can. Firmly grasp His 'full assurance of hope,' Hebrews 6.11, as the storm rages around you. Hope is the spiritual anchor of every believer, and God will brighten our hope and comfort us the more as our burdens grow heavier. Remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind, 2 Timothy 1. 7.
 
In this time of distress, reach out to your heavenly Father in prayer. It is especially important that we make intercession for countries, governments, church leaders, communities, healthcare and other key workers, our families and neighbours, and our Christian brothers and sisters near us and in every land.
 
May we keep faithful and helpful, loving the Lord and loving each other.
 
“This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us
and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  (1 John 4.10)

Used by kind permission of Bert Cargill, Scotland
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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

What should we do when unwelcome things come along?



Photo by Callum T on Unsplash

Photo by Filip Kominik on Unsplash


The year 2020 has brought some surprises, many of them unwelcome and none more so than this terrible coronavirus. None of us can escape its threat nor the prospect of its arrival on our doorstep. We have to take it seriously. It would be irresponsible to ignore the advice and not take precautions to limit its spread. No one has seen anything like this before.
 
What can we do when difficulties arise, when diseases like these come so close? We get the warnings, we take precautions and make preparations, but sometimes the best of these prove ineffective.
 
What else should we do? Is there someone to turn to?
 
Yes, there is! There is One who knows all about our troubles because He has been there before us in this sin-stained world. His name is Jesus Christ our Lord. Matthew 8.17 reminds us that “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses”.
 
Once He was with His friends crossing a lake in a small boat when a really wild storm sprang up and threatened to drown them all. They panicked and said to Him, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
 
He calmed the storm and brought them safely to the shore. They marvelled at His power. He always cares. Read about it in Mark 4.35 - 41.
 
Whatever threatens us in life, and even death and the judgement for our sins, He has promised to carry us through in safety if we put our whole trust in Him. He is able and willing to save all who call upon Him. 

Used by kind permission of Bert Cargill, Scotland
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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.
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