Fake News (Newspaper article)

This week, Facebook launched a UK newspaper campaign to help people spot false news stories in the run-up to the general election. Last month, Google added a 'fact check' feature to search results. It is all part of an effort to clamp down on the spread of 'fake news', a problem which has snowballed with the rise of social media.

Yet while we are quick to jump on others who are less than completely truthful, we are often less stringent with ourselves. An advert has appeared in this very paper beginning 'We all bend the truth now and then' - and none of us could argue against that statement.

Some will respond 'so what? Everybody exaggerates a story or tells a little white lie occasionally. As long as it doesn't hurt anybody, it's not a big deal'. But perhaps the following illustration will help show why our failure to always tell the truth should worry us more than it does.

In the Harry Potter books, those who are evil are associated with snakes. Evil characters can speak parseltongue - the language of snakes. And so when Harry's friends find out that he can speak it too, they begin to worry - because to speak the language of snakes is to speak the language of the enemy.

The Bible tells us that we too have an enemy. And to lie, twist the truth, tell half-truths, exaggerate or gossip is to speak his language. Jesus said of Satan 'When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies'. In contrast, God is the 'God of truth'. The reason there is suffering and death in the world is because men and women listened to the lies of Satan rather than the truth of God.

There are only two sides - and how you use your tongue (or pen or keyboard) will show which one you are on. The frightening truth is that by nature we are all on the devil's side. No-one has to teach us to lie or shift the blame - the language of the serpent is our mother tongue.

The Bible makes it clear that liars, promise-breakers and gossips won't get into Heaven. But Jesus came into a world of lies and said: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life'.

Published in Stranraer & Wigtownshire Free Press, 11th May 2017

Stranraer FC: Chaplaincy update

At 17 days old, Willow made it in time for Stranraer's last home game of the season!

At 17 days old, Willow made it in time for Stranraer's last home game of the season!

It's been a varied few days on the Stranraer FC chaplaincy front. Saturday saw the team defeat East Fife 2-1 to finish 7th in the league - a very respectable finish given that they had been bottom of the table at Christmas. A few hours after the game, it was time for the annual awards dinner. As chaplain, I am asked to say grace before the meal each year. The dinner is a great opportunity to chat to the players, committee and others involved with the club.

Then yesterday I went to Paisley for a Regional Training Day on the subject of sudden bereavement. It was a hard-hitting day, led by Sports Chaplaincy UK CEO Warren Evans, focusing on supporting those who lose children, but also touching on other sudden bereavements such as suicide.

Meeting up with other chaplains is always a blessing

Meeting up with other chaplains is always a blessing

After having lunch together, we heard an update on the growth, needs and opportunities of chaplaincy in the UK, and were also able to hear a bit about how our fellow chaplains have been getting on.

The BBC featured a timely interview with Kilmarnock's Kris Boyd yesterday as part of Mental Health Awareness Week where he spoke about his brother's suicide last year. PFA Scotland figures show that nearly two thirds of footballers in Scotland have experienced mental health problems or know a team-mate who has. As last week's news about Everton's Aaron Lennon highlights, someone can seem to have it all from the outside but still be in pain inside. Training days like this aim to leave chaplains better equipped to support anyone involved in a football club who is going through a tough time.

Stephen Steele, club chaplain to Stranraer FC


"Give them the whole Bible!"

Kenneth Stewart (Glasgow RPCS) preaching at the ordination in Stornoway Town Hall last night

Kenneth Stewart (Glasgow RPCS) preaching at the ordination in Stornoway Town Hall last night

Last night saw the ordination of Stephen McCollum as minister in Stornoway. At an ordination service, one of the other ministers is usually given the task of addressing the new minister and exhorting him in one or more particular aspects of his work.

One such address was given in Stranraer in 1932 by Rev. Andrew Cross Gregg at the ordination of Mr Moffett Blair as minister - and it's still as relevant as ever.

After warning about the mistake of thinking that orthodox sermons are more important than a Christ-like life, the older minister went on:

"Another great mistake we ministers make is that we do not give our people enough of the Bible. We have preached too much and too often from single verses and single clauses, and not often enough from whole passages. I advise you to serve to your people big slices of the bread of life...The late Mr. Struthers once took for his text the 119th Psalm - the whole 176 verses! The sermon was printed, and a fine sermon it is, and not too long either! Give your hearers plenty of the Bible. Give them the whole Bible.

A. C. Gregg, then minister in Greenock

A. C. Gregg, then minister in Greenock

After more than forty years of attempt to preach I regret to have to confess that there still remain large and fertile tracts of Bible material which I have never tried to expound. I have, of course, taken many texts from the great Prophets of Israel, but I have not yet tried to travel right through Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Daniel, to bring to my hearers some of the rich and luscious fruit of the linked thoughts of those grand, inspired men with their living and creative messages.

I take it for granted that you are a diligent student of the Word of God. Walk through the length of it and the breadth of it, survey its heights and its depths, its green pastures and its quiet waters, and then take your people through that good land and let them feel by experience that it is flowing with milk and honey".

- A. C. Gregg, 'To a young minister' in R. P. Witness (Dec 1932), 279-280.

The Reformer John Calvin also urged the importance of studying Scripture in its context. Commenting on a frequent misunderstanding of Isaiah 14:12 (that 'Lucifer' is another name for Satan), he says: 'When passages of Scripture are taken up at random, and no attention is paid to the context, we need not wonder that mistakes of this kind frequently arise'.

As he concluded his ordination address, Gregg said: 'I can assure you, my dear young brother, that there is far more cause to-day for a happy view of the future of our Church than I have ever seen'. Perhaps some of us could say the same today - but if we do, may it not be because our confidence is in men, but because it is in the Word of God. And not just parts of it, but all of it! 'Give them the whole Bible'.

Pizza & Praise

Recently we had a 'Pizza & Praise' night with Stephen McCollum. Stephen had led a number of Bible classes in Airdrie on ways to improve congregational singing, and came down to Stranraer to give us a summary of his talks - and chances to immediately put them into practice! 

Stephen talked about the importance of singing and gave us a quick guide to the Psalter (the different metres, the difference between stanza and verse numbers etc). He also talked about little changes which can make big differences (eg posture and breathing) and the importance of beat and rhythm.

We had a break for some pizza in between and those who were there enjoyed a chance to meet baby Zoe. It will be the McCollums' last time in Stranraer before Stephen is ordained as the new minister of Stornoway on 28th April. We are grateful to them for coming and will be praying for them as they move up and begin life in Lewis!


You can hear some examples of congregational psalm singing below:

The Universe: Random or Designed?

On Thursday some of us went to hear Prof. David Galloway (President of the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons) speak at Glasgow RP Church on 'The Universe: Random or Designed'? Around 100 people were present for what is planned to be the first of 3 public meetings on the issues of Creation and Evolution. As well as local visitors, a good number were present from the RP churches in Airdrie and North Edinburgh. As part of Prof. Galloway's talk, he showed the following video which shows the astonishing fine tuning needed for life to exist:

As well as highlighting some of the incredible design of the universe, Prof. Galloway also talked about a number of areas where Darwinism is increasingly being questioned today.
After the talk there was a time of Q&A, and then supper was provided. Overall it was a very worthwhile evening, and a great introduction to a vitally important topic.