Tuesday, 23 January 2018

REPOST: The Pale Blue Dot

THIS BLOG IS THE FIFTH MOST READ POST ON MY SITE WITH OVER 500 VIEWS. IT'S ONE OF MY FAVOURITES AND A REMINDER OF THE GREATNESS OF GOD.

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

REFLECT: REVIVE: RENEW

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."


 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Good Effect

Over the last few months, I have had the privilege of interviewing three great men of God in preparation for books to be published. I have found the experience thrilling. The way that God has used these guys is awesome. Men of faith, ready and willing to be used by Him; having a good effect on the world around them.

But their story is our story too. Every one of us has a story to tell. Every one of us can have a good effect. It may not make a book, but it makes a life – in other words, each one of us has the ability to change the lives around us for good.

Martha Graham saysThere is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.’

The Bible says ‘God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.’ (1 Peter 4: 10, NLT).

The Psalmist says we were knitted together by God, secretly and intricately woven. (Psalm 139).

I don’t know who you are, as you read this, but God does. You are unique. And you have a unique contribution to give. I may never read of it; I may never see it. But God does. And your family and friends do. Don’t underestimate to good effect that only you can have on the world around you. (Matthew 5: 16, Titus 2: 7).



 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Nominal Christianity or the Real Thing?

There’s an interesting article in today’s Times (Can’t link to it as you have to pay to see it- that’s a whole other set of thoughts!) The article by Daniel Finkelstein notes the recent survey that indicated for the first time that over 50% of the nation ‘has no religion’.

He points out (correctly in my view) that this may be a reflection of someone automatically saying in the past that they were ‘C of E’ (ie they went to the local church for funerals, weddings and Christmas) and now felt freer to say they had no firm belief.

Finkelstein goes on to point out the high level of faith still attributed to political power- for example, of our last four Prime Ministers, two were kids of clergymen and one a Christian socialist who read his Bible every night. (Thus, Cameron was the exception, in case you were wondering...). And, again in the article, they key role church and Christian charities take in our nation’s welfare.

I’m not as pessimistic about the Christian faith in the UK as the statistics suggest. I think it’s simply a weeding out (Biblical pun!) of the C of E brigade. I see an increase in spiritual interest in the population. I see many more willing to talk about faith and spiritual issues than was the case, say, 20 years ago. I see real change happening through Alpha courses (many at C of E churches). I see resurgence in Christianity among the denominations. I see continued growth in the non-denominational churches. I see more in the UK coming to a real faith in Christ than I have seen in my lifetime - this is reflected in the numbers of responses to the work of Mission24, for example.

The decline in nominalism is a breakthrough for the real thing.

Monday, 14 August 2017

India - 70 Years On - Still the Jewel

At the age of 17, I heard God speak to me. Your views on this will depend on who you are and what you believe. For me it was a very real moment- the only time (so far!) I have heard God audibly speak to me.

His words were ‘Ralph, I want you to go to India.’

I responded by trying a few Christian agencies, but nothing materialised.

At college I met my future wife. Roh is of Indian origin. I reasoned India had come to me – I didn’t have to go anywhere!

And then, nearly 30 years later, Roh and I are in a Christian meeting. The leader of the meeting calls anyone to the front who has a heart for India. We went forward, expecting to be praying for the country. The next thing we know, someone (who doesn’t know us and is not aware of the back story) is prophesying over us and sending us out to India!

We went there a few months later with some experienced missionaries. I expected, because of the call in my youth, that there would be some longer term relationships established. And that’s just what happened. The moment I met Joel, a pastor and apostle who lives near Hyderabad, I felt God prompting me that this was the man I would work with.


Joel and I have worked together for nearly 20 years now. Roh and I have taken many teams. But right now we can’t.

As India celebrates 70 years of independence, it is also facing increased persecution of Christian’s and Muslims. There is extensive violence and a Government who appear to be turning a blind eye to it.

It is no longer safe to take teams out to help with medical camps and children’s clubs. Hindu fundamentalists are causing widespread persecution.

Seventy years ago, India became independent. It may no longer be the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, but it is surely still a jewel in God’s crown:

The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.’ Zechariah 9: 16.

I pray that despite the persecution, the church will stay strong, knowing God’s care and protection.