Sunday, 11 March 2018

Fake News

I think I first heard the phrase used by President Trump. ‘Fake News’ became the ‘word of the year’ for 2017 according to the Daily Telegraph; despite it being two words!

But the concept has been around forever. Ever since the lies in the Garden of Eden, Fake News has been in existence. The Times comments that ‘a lie is halfway round the world before truth has got its boots on’. Why? Because too many of us love to gossip and are fascinated with the failure of others.

A new study from Science Magazine is extremely thorough. The report indicated that Fake News travels ‘faster, deeper and more broadly’ than the truth. Truth on social media platforms takes six times longer to circulate than lies. Twitter gets the most Fake News, with other social media not far behind. People tweet and retweet what they consider to be a surprise, to be provocative or disgusting. Indeed, it may be disgusting- but was it true?

I remember a debate on the BBC some years ago - I haven’t been able to source it so it may be Fake News! - where these issues were discussed. There was a concern from the Corporation that they were showing drama dressed up as history. I guess the concerns didn’t win. I loved watching Netflix series ‘The Crown’. Claire Foy was amazing as the Queen. But there was so much fiction in there. It made Prince Philip out to be some sort of mad egoist and misogynist. History doesn’t back that up. But how many now have a view of the Royal Family based on this new fiction?

Or take the simplest of lies. I spotted a quote on Facebook the other day attributed to C S Lewis.  In fact it was a quote from a motivational speaker called Les Brown. Does it matter? The quote was a good one, so who cares? But that’s the point! We need to care. Without a truth filter, we are creating a future full of false news for the next generation.

As someone that works with Christian History, I’m taught to verify what I teach. I try and find the original source of a story. If I can’t, I check it out with accepted historians with a good track record. I see whether the story is regularly reported in Christian History books, or is it an outlier in just one or two? I check who is recording the story and as much as possible, whether they have a particular slant on Christian History they want to convey.

We can’t do that with Twitter. So, much as I value free speech, I agree with the conclusion in The Times: ‘[Social media companies]must be forthcoming, transparent and co-operative in helping their users distinguish lies from the truth, and in helping understand why the former should not be so blithely spread.’

We need to care what is true and what is a lie. Or maybe we just prefer to gossip?

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Blinded By Your Grace

In musical terms, I’m a child of the 70s. I grew up on the heavyish rock of Argent, Led Zeppelin, Free and Deep Purple. And when I’m feeling nostalgic, that’s still where I return.

So you won’t be surprised to learn that I never really got into Rap, didn’t particularly get along with Punk and as for Garage, Grunge and Grime… it passed me by.

That was, until four months back, when the artist Stormzy appeared as a guest on X Factor on TV, and sang Blinded by Your Grace. I’m told he’s a Grime and Hip Hop artist. What I heard was pure Gospel. In fact, for me, one of the best Gospel songs I’ve heard in many years.

If you’ve not heard it yet, here’s a link:

As I watched, I found myself worshipping:

Lord, I've been broken
Although I'm not worthy
You fixed me, I'm blinded
By your grace

You came and saved me...

You saved this kid and I'm not your first
It's not by blood and it's not by birth
But oh my God what a God I serve…..

Now I'm in a better place
No longer afraid
Blinded by your grace
You came and saved me

It’s been a particularly tough time, especially with regard to local church. I’m a part-time church historian, so I know that even in the most successful revivals in history, there’s often an undercurrent of unrest and disagreement. Even my heroes George Whitefield and John Wesley fell out for a while!

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says:

There are friends who pretend to be friends
But there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.

It’s important to focus on line 2, not line 1, and that is what I choose to do.

As I write this, I look out of the window, I see all His creation, I think of all He’s done and I’m blinded by His grace. Amazed at a God who would love me, who saved this kid- and I’m not His first. What a God we serve…

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Meeting John

He's smartly dressed in a business shirt and suit trousers. And he's just offered me a cup of tea.

John is a warehouse supervisor during the week. His accent gives him away as coming from the Black Country. And today he's a volunteer at a hospital, making tea's and coffee's, helping with meals and washing up.

Imagine that. Five hard working days in the warehouse and then giving your Sunday away to care for the sick. Wow.

John's not the only one. Jo and Judith are the nurses on duty today, on the men's ward at Burton hospital. Their love, care and attention help these largely older men maintain a degree of dignity and decorum in the most difficult of circumstances.

And that's why I'm here. Dad's had a fall and the care from John, Jo and Judith is helping him make it through.

Could the NHS be better? Sure. Does it need more money? Of course. But because of selfless giving and compassion, it's one of the best and most inclusive healthcare systems in the world.

I read President Trump's comments on the NHS. A bit rich coming from a man who is planning to unravel a first attempt at universal care in his country. He really has no idea.

But then.... he hasn't met John.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

REPOST: The Pale Blue Dot


Look carefully at the image. The pale blue dot is the Earth, captured in a picture from the Voyager 1 spacecraft at a distance of 4 billion miles on February 14, 1990.

Carl Sagan was the one who pushed for the Voyager craft to take the shot, and it’s his quote that follows:

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

With thanks to Professor Brian Cox, speaking at the NAPF conference, October 2012 for pointing out the Pale Blue Dot.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

REPOST: Laminin

I love history and geography more than I do science. So that’s reflected in what I watch on TV. Having said that, I found a Professor Brain Cox programme fascinating the other day.

With a touch of scientific theory, Cox investigated how complex our bodies are. Quite amazing. What our blood does, what our lungs accomplish. How we respond to the energy of a meal.

I wont begin to try and explain it as Cox did, but I’m left in awe of an amazing God who created us to work perfectly and in an intricate and detailed way.

One of my most popular blogs on this site is the Laminin one. I repeat it again here, by way of example of the miracles God has performed:

I’d never heard of Laminin until the other day, but it’s been with me all of my life. Laminin, according to Wikipedia, is a protien molecule that ‘is capable of binding to cells, which helps anchor the actual organs to the membrane. Laminin is vital to making sure overall body structures hold together.’

In other words, Laminin is the vital piece in our body that holds us together. Now have a look at the shape of Laminin:

Wow! Laminin, the essential protien that holds our body together is cross shaped. Paul, writing to the Colossian church says this about Jesus:

‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’ (Colossians 1: 15-17)

All things hold together by the cross.

Have a look at this short talk. It’s worth your time:

Saturday, 30 December 2017


This is not the usual short blog from me- you’re going to need patience to read it, but there’s a REWARD if you get to the end.

I don’t go in for too much reflection on these pages, but 2017 was a life-changing year, so here goes.

I’m so grateful for such a wonderful wife. My youngest daughter constantly reminds me that I managed to secure a beautiful woman- well beyond everyone’s expectations! And to have four children and two kids-in-law, all of whom love God is an amazing blessing. As for the two grandkids, don’t get me started!

As I REFLECT on the year, it was mixed, with doors closing and others opening. To be dropped from the lead team for our Leicester church was a real sadness. We remain leaders in various capacities at ‘home base’ in Peterborough and will continue to support Leicester as much as we can.

But other doors opened. Not least with the Leprosy Mission and Mission24. To be Chair of the Leprosy Mission England & Wales is an immense privilege. This often forgotten and still stigmatised sickness deserves all the support we can give.

And to be Team Pastor for Mission24 was one of the greatest surprises of 2017. It matches my passions for teaching and for encouraging the next generation. As part of this, working with Jonathan Conrathe and Carlos Anacondia in Argentina was personally life changing. I was well and truly REVIVED.  I look forward to continuing the work with our ten Mission24 Interns into the New Year.

Book writing has come on apace. One book was published this year and hopefully, there will be two next year.  I’m mainly writing biographies and ghost writing autobiographies. I love it!

And the blogs trundle on too. I’m retired from the pensions industry but I give some support to Pension Geeks- and for that I get the best job title in the world: Executive Geek! The Pension blog is mainly along the lines of pension communications. The Church History blog is very occasional, but reflects my love for it. And this blog has now been read by over 80,000 people from its start back in December 2006. I don’t think that’s record breaking or anything, but it seems to work. I have readers from all around the world, including Europe, India, Africa, the America’s and even Russia and China. (If that’s you- thank you for reading).

As to next year, I look for God to continue to RENEW me. And there’s the challenge for you too. You’ve read this far. Read on and be RENEWED. We give New Year resolutions a hard time, but the New Year is a watershed moment in the calendar, and we can use it as a memorable moment in our own lives. A date we can attach to change.

Here’s the REWARD for reading this far: Decide on two things. One thing to drop for the New Year and one to start. The one you drop doesn’t necessarily have to be something bad. It may be something that has run its course. Something that needs REPLACING. As to the new, make it attainable – a step at a time. Not a RESOLUTION that gets broken in the first few days of the New Year. Small steps work. Martin Luther King said ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.’

Decide on those two things. One to drop. One to start. If you’re a pray-er, pray about it. If you’re a thinker, think about it. But make the changes. A step at a time. I pray your REFLECTING results in REVIVAL and RENEWAL in 2018.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

God Coincidences

Over the years, I've heard and read of so many 'God coincidences' - moments when God steps in, in an amazing and unexpected way. maybe a 'chance' meeting with someone that changes everything.

Here is one from the autobiography of Johnny Cash:

"I was walking down 57th Street with June one Sunday morning when we happened on the First Baptist Church of New York, which we hadn't noticed before because its entrance doesn't look like a church's. We saw from a sign outside that services were just about to start, so we went in, and the strangest thing happened. The congregation was seated as we entered, but about halfway down the aisle a young boy was turned around watching the door. He saw us, immediately jumped up, and yelled, "JOHNNY CASH! Johnny Cash has come to church with me!"

As it happened, the only free seats were right next to him and his parents, so we took them, and that's when we saw that the boy was mentally handicapped. He was so excited. "I told you!" he kept saying to his parents. "I told you he was coming!"

The preacher came over and explained to us that, yes, the boy had told his parents, and the whole congregation, repeatedly that I was going to walk into that church, sit down beside him, and worship with him. And that's what I did. Being next to him was such a pleasure. He was so happy.

When the service was over, we walked down to the corner with him and his parents, and they filled in the story. They were Jewish, they said, but their son had decided to become a Christian after listening to some of my gospel recordings. That's why they were in a Christian church on a Sunday morning. They were in that particular Christian church because that's where he knew I was going to walk in the door."