In or Out?

Thoughts on the coming referendum on membership of the European Union.

The United Kingdom stands at one of the most significant and critical junctions in its long history as an island nation. On the 23rd June 2016 the UK will be voting in a referendum which will decide whether the UK stays in the European Union or chooses once again to be an independent sovereign nation outside the European Union.

The Second World War was fought and won by the UK and their Allies and in so doing preserved the independence of the UK as a nation, in the face of the military objectives of Hitler and the Third Reich. The cost of victory was huge – especially in terms of lives lost. And along the way there had been extraordinary and miraculous deliverances such as at Dunkirk, after the nation had been called to prayer by a God-fearing King.

When, as a nation, we, somewhat reluctantly, put our toe in the waters of Europe and entered the Common Market  in 1975,  it was a political experiment that promised much. Never again would we be vulnerable to war from any of our European brethren and the vast populations of all the European nations together would give us a market for our products which would guarantee prosperity for our businesses. It seemed an experiment worth exploring.

But now the nation is divided. We have a one-time opportunity to assess the success of the experiment and make a choice – either come out and plough our own furrow in the fields of international politics and government as a sovereign nation, or stay in.  Which should it be? Will it be of greater strategic value to the nation and the world for us to remain inside Europe? Or should we pronounce the experiment a failure and walk away to fulfil our own destiny?

Those who are arguing for staying in Europe are issuing dire warnings of what it would be like for Britain if we came out.  Those who are campaigning for Britain to leave (known as Brexit) are arguing equally passionately that, if we stay in, Britain will lose its sovereignty and we will no longer have any control over our laws or our borders. On many occasions now Britain has found that Brussels has trumped London, especially on legal matters, and imposed unwelcome decisions on the British people. There are a lot of question marks in peoples’ minds.

As I meditated on the situation and prayed about how I should vote, God turned my thoughts to the story of King Jehoshaphat, as it is told in Chapters 17-20 of 2 Chronicles.

Jehoshaphat was fundamentally a good King. We are told that the Lord was with him “because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed” (17:3) and “his heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord” (17:6). He gave instructions to his officials to go throughout Judah “taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord” (17:9) in order to teach the people. The result was amazing. “The fear of the Lord fell on all the Kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah” (17:9) and they didn’t make war with him. The fear of the Lord became their holy protection and Jehoshaphat “had great wealth and honour” (18:1).

So how was it that a King who was so clearly heading in the right direction, got side-tracked? There were two occasions in his life when he got things badly wrong – both were through wrong alliances.

First, he allied himself in marriage with Ahab’s family. Ahab was one of the most evil Kings who had ever ruled neighbouring Israel. As a result, Jehoshaphat was compromised. So when King Ahab asked King Jehoshaphat to go to war with him against Ramoth Gilead, Jehoshaphat said “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will join you in the war” (18:3). King Ahab died in the battle (18:33-34) but King Jehoshaphat returned safely to his palace – no doubt very relieved to have survived.

But Jehu the prophet met him on his way home and asked him a very profound question, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord” (19:2) referring to Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel. “Because of this the wrath of the Lord is upon you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God” (19:3).

Jehoshaphat had learned a very profound lesson and as a sign of his repentance “he went out again among the people and turned them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers” (19:4). In Jerusalem he spoke to the Levites, priests and heads of Israelite families and told them: “You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord” (19:9) and said “you are to warn the people not to sin against the Lord’ otherwise his wrath will come on you and your brothers. Do this and you will not sin” (19:10). Finally he said “Act with courage, and may the Lord be with those who do well” (19:11).

The whole of Chapter 20 describes what happened next. A vast army came against King Jehoshaphat and he led the people in faith, trusting in God for protection and victory. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the prophet and he said to the King, “This is what the Lord says to you: Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15) and “You will not have to fight this battle, Take up your positions, stand firm and see thee deliverance the Lord will give you” (20:17).

The story of the battle is remarkable. For “as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (20:22). And the end result? “The fear of God came upon all the Kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the Kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side” (20:29-30).

It would be great if that was the end of the story. But there is one more devastating experience in Jehoshaphat’s life-story, that was also of his own making. Following the death of Ahab, with whom Jehoshaphat had been compromised through a marriage relationship, Ahaziah, his son, came to the throne. But we read that “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he walked in the ways of his father and mother and the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin.  He served and worshiped Baal and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger, just as his father had done” (1 Kings 22:52-53).

So why did Jehoshaphat join hands with this very ungodly man in a business alliance? Because he saw it as a way of making money by constructing “a fleet of trading ships” (20:36) in a joint business enterprise that he, no doubt, thought would make him even more money than he had. But why did he need to do that when the Lord had blessed him with so much in terms of both “wealth and honour” (17:5) and with “peace on every side” (20:30)? Maybe it was pride, or greed or that he was still under the spiritual influence of being compromised with the family of Ahab – Scripture is silent on the reason. But it is not silent on the result of his enterprise!

Eliezer, the prophet, came and spoke to Jehoshaphat and said, “’Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made”. The ships were wrecked and were not able to sail for trade” (20:37).

Jehoshaphat’s business enterprise was doomed to failure because he had entered into an alliance with an ungodly partner. Shortly after this sad event Jehoshaphat died – what a sad conclusion this final episode proved to be to the life of a King that began well, had been made prosperous by the Lord and had known the blessing of God on his kingdom in time of war.

So what are the lessons that I sensed God has been showing me through Jehoshaphat’s story, that would help me with deciding how to vote in the forthcoming referendum?

  1. Jehoshaphat compromised his godly foundations through a marital alliance with King Ahab who worshiped Baal and who, with his wife Jezebel, had put the prophets of God to death. Having learned the lesson through the words of the prophet Jehu, his repentance was clear and definite as he called the nation back to the worship of the living God.
  2. At the end of his days Jehoshaphat entered into an alliance with Ahab’s son for purposes of trade. It was an unmitigated disaster.

As I prayed through these two stark facts, I sensed the Lord was showing me that when the UK first went in to the European Union it was like a marriage of convenience that seemed good to our leaders and the nation at the time. But that it was not what God wanted for this Christian nation, with its extraordinary and godly heritage going right back to the oldest legal document in history, the Magna Carta. In this, God and Christian teaching were put at the forefront of the nation “to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.” And today we have a Queen who has not reneged on the vows of her Coronation, in which she acknowledged that the Bible contains “the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes . . . the most valuable thing that this world affords . . . Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.”

In centuries past the centrality of the Word of God and the Christian faith has been the solid mainstay of the UK’s life and government. Countless believers became martyrs for the cause of truth and God’s Word. The eighteenth century Wesleyan revival saved and transformed the nation. And in the nineteenth century countless believers left the shores of the UK to take the Gospel to the known world. People such as William Carey, Hudson Taylor and hundreds more, less well known but equally faithful, became true ambassadors for Christ. William Wilberforce led the way, as a Christian in politics, to the abolition of slavery and many other Christian leaders were active politically in the nineteenth century.

It is stated thatwhen asked by a diplomatic delegation how Britain had become powerful in the world, ‘our beloved Queen Victoria sent him, not the number of her fleet, not the number of her armies, not the account of her boundless merchandise, not the details of her inexhaustible wealth … but handing him a beautifully bound copy of the Bible, she said ‘Tell the Prince that this is the Secret of England’s Greatness’”.

In the twentieth century it was the UK which led the way in the two greatest conflicts the world has ever known to overcome an aggressor – and the hand of God was on the nation and her allies to become the victor. On several occasions Britain experienced a Jehoshaphat moment when it was clear that the Lord was with the people of the UK and their allies in holding the ground against a heinous and anti-semitic aggressor.

In May 1940, over 300,000 British soldiers were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk with the German forces closing in on them from all directions. Churchill thought that maybe 20,000 would survive and told the nation, “There is only one hope. Let’s all pray for them.” Several generals aid that “only a miracle” could save them. On the 26th May 1940 King George the Sixth declared a “National Day of Prayer for Deliverance”. The Archbishop of Canterbury led prayers from Westminster Abbey that were broadcast to the whole nation. The British people stopped to pray – and God heard and God answered.

The miracle of Dunkirk happened as fog descended on the beaches, the German air force could not take off and for “nine days the now calm and foggy English Channel made it possible for anything that would float – tugboats, yachts, pleasure boats – even the smallest of craft, as well as naval vessels – to sail across the channel and ferry 335,000 troops from the shallow beaches of Dunkirk back to England.”

Winston Churchill called it a “miracle of deliverance”. And Archbishop William Temple declared, “Why has God preserved us? We may, and we must, believe that He, who has preserved our land in a manner so marvellous, has a purpose for us to serve in the preparation of His perfect Kingdom.”

And so the nation survived, retained its sovereignty and, after the war was over, began to rebuild and play its part in a newly emerging post-war world.

But the words of William Temple were soon forgotten, for a wind of change was blowing hard through the western nations and the moral foundation of law, based on the authority of the Word of God, was gradually being eroded as the so-called enlightenment began to reap a harvest of agnosticism and atheism. Things were changing so fast that most people didn’t notice how the centuries old spiritual foundations of the nation were also shaking.

Christianity was challenged by the lack of belief of a generation that was indulging itself in the ‘free love’ rebellion of the pop-music dominated sixties, as well as the different beliefs of thousands of immigrants that were beginning to come to our shores. Our tolerant society quickly reneged on its historic conviction that Jesus was the Way, the Truth and the Life, indeed the only way to God. Multi-faith services gave way to the mutual equivalence and acceptance of other religions and eventually to fear of offending those who believe differently, as the more radical elements began to wield an influence through terror based activities.

The world was changing too fast for anyone to notice what was really happening to the spiritual heart of the nation. All the changes were producing a soft and vulnerable amoral underbelly, which has now gone full circle. In my own childhood a non-marital man-woman relationship was referred to by both believers and non-believers alike, as ‘living in sin’ – but today the word ‘sin’ is an offensive word and no-one dare question any form of sexual behaviour, almost no matter how ungodly it may be, because that is their human right!

Morality in relationships and human behaviour is no longer an ingredient of law. And what is of great significance to the current debate is that, within the European Union, Britain has had to make its statute book subservient to the dictates of Brussels. We are no longer free to make our own laws, if others might say that any such changes could infringe a person’s human rights!  Our elected parliament no longer has the authority that the electorate wants it to have.  We are, literally, ‘out of control’ because, the ultimate control of our affairs is now in the hands of Europe. We have been compromised by a political version of a marital alliance.

Denmark, Ireland and Britain first joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. It seemed a good business deal (Remember Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah!). Under the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, there was a UK referendum on continued membership of the EEC in 1975. The electorate voted ‘Yes’ by 67.2% to 32.8% to stay in Europe. At the time no-one had any idea of the extent to which Brussels would eventually dictate so much of what has become life in the UK. We were deceived. And now, even if we wanted to, we could never, within the European Union, reverse even one of the laws which, as a nation, we might believe are wrong – for whatever reason. Inside the EU we have become a subservient nation and we are no longer a sovereign state.

After Jehoshaphat realised what he had done through his marital, political and military relationship with Ahab, God gave him an opportunity to repent and change direction once more. He took it and the subsequent years were the most prosperous and God-protected of his entire reign. In some ways I now see this coming referendum as being like an opportunity for the whole nation to repent of the decision it made in 1975, in ignorance of what membership of the EU would mean.

But now we know what it has meant and what it will mean, and we have a one-time opportunity to choose whether or not we are going to remain in alliance with a type of Ahab or Ahaziah, through which we lose both our sovereignty and the potential to be a God inspired nation. Or, we can choose to take back into our own hands the future destiny of our government, our laws and our finances.

You may say that it won’t make any difference, for our own government has not shown any desire to return to our spiritual foundations, an opinion with which I, sadly, have to agree. But the difference is this: with the UK inside Europe, if leaders were to rise up in the future with the intent of changing things, to bring the UK more in line with God’s laws, they would have no legal authority to change anything – because everything would be subservient to our masters in Brussels. Even if God were to raise up a modern day ‘Joseph’, ‘Daniel’ or a repentant ‘Jehoshaphat’, inside the EU they would be impotent.

But, released from the shackles of what I now see as an ungodly alliance, who knows what God could still do in and through this nation?

I do not believe that God has forgotten our history, or the blood of the Christian martyrs who have laid down their lives and I would agree with the implication of what Archbishop William Temple said during the second world war – that God still has a purpose for this nation in the times that are yet to come before Jesus returns.

There are those who are saying that for the economic benefit of the nation and our workers we need to remain within the trading community that is the EU. However, let us not forget the painful lesson that Jehoshaphat learned the hard way – that trading alliances with the wrong partners will not be a source of blessing.

So, for deeply spiritual reasons – reasons that you will not see talked about in the Newspapers, or hear about on TV, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for the UK to cut itself free from alliances which undermine our sovereignty and limit our capacity to make our own laws. On the 23rd of June I will be voting to leave the EU – but I’m already praying for those hidden ‘Jehoshaphats’, ‘Daniels’ and ‘Josephs’ to come to the fore of public life, and start steering our nation back to the godly roots from which it has currently wandered so far.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

A Very Happy and Blessed New Year to You All

First of all, and above all, we give thanks to God for all His blessings during the year that has passed and then we rejoice at all the opportunities that God will lay before each one of us in 2016!

I am  always challenged by the Lord at this time of the year to both review the year that has passed and prepare for the year that is to come. For John Wesley, the first Sunday of the New Year was always designated as Covenant Sunday, when those who called themselves Methodists were encouraged to renew their vows to the Lord.

As the Church is the Bride of Christ, Wesley saw his relationship with God in Covenant as being like a marriage between human beings (both as a community and as individuals) on the one side and God in Christ on the other (cf. Ephesians 5.21-33). His original Covenant Prayer, therefore, involved taking Christ as “my Head and Husband, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, for all times and conditions, to love, honour and obey thee before all others, and this to the death”!

Wesley recognised that people needed not just to accept Jesus as their Saviour, but also to grow in  their relationship with God. He therefore emphasised that God’s grace and love constantly prompts and seeks to transform us, and so we should continually seek and pray to grow in holiness and love. Wesley’s Covenant Service always incorporated Holy Communion, which included the confession and forgiveness of sin, before making the following covenantal prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Wesley was the epitome of an evangelist and disciple-maker. He also believed in healing and deliverance and it was not unusual for people to manifest and experience deliverance as they listened to his preaching. Often, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, people were brought to a place where they were set free to serve the Lord.  As the years have gone by, I have realised that the relationship between evangelism, making disciples, deliverance and healing those in need has rightfully drawn ever closer in our own teaching and ministry practice.  This year I have sensed the Lord has been prompting me to encourage all our leaders to take time out during the beginning days of the year to follow in the steps of John Wesley, and prepare our hearts for all that lies before us in 2016. The clouds of darkness have been gathering across the world in 2015 and I believe that 2016 will not only be a year of great blessing  for those who love and serve the Lord, but that the Body of Christ is going to face fresh challenges as well – we need to be ready!

In years gone  by, when I actually had time to drive a vintage car, I would thoroughly prepare the vehicle for any long journey I was going to take. For me this meant servicing the car thoroughly, going over all the working parts and checking that everything was in order before setting out. And I always took a good set of tools with me for the journey, together with a workshop manual! Let’s look on 2016 as a journey that we are all going to take together in our respective ‘vehicles  of  life’ – may I encourage you to get ready for it and give your life a thorough and comprehensive service and get yourself equipped for the journey! He has given us an amazing tool kit in all the Scriptural material which is now incorporated in Ellel Ministries courses and books, and we have the best workshop manual that has ever been written in the Scriptures! May I encourage you to begin your time “in the garage”  by giving thanks  to God for all His blessings in the year that has passed?

I believe that God is preparing His people for greater responsibilities and opportunities for service – hence the prompting that the Lord gave me to encourage all of you to take time out this coming week to prepare yourselves in heart before the Lord for whatever He is preparing you for. The days are undoubtedly urgent. And the clouds may be gathering but, as we sang at our last  international conference at Blackpool,  there is also a light upon the mountains:

“There’s a light upon the mountains,
And the day is at the spring,
When our eyes shall see the beauty
And the glory of the King:
Weary was our heart with waiting,
And the night watch seemed so long,
But His triumph day is breaking
And we hail it with a song.

In the fading of the starlight
We may see the coming morn;
And the lights of men are paling
In the splendors of the dawn;
For the eastern skies are glowing
As with light of hidden fire,
And the hearts of men are stirring
With the throbs of deep desire.

There’s a hush of expectation
And a quiet in the air
And the breath of God is moving
In the fervent breath of prayer;
For the suffering, dying Jesus
Is the Christ upon the throne,
And the travail of our spirit
Is the travail of His own.

He is breaking down the barriers,
He is casting up the way;
He is calling for His angels
To build up the gates of day:
But His angels here are human,
Not the shining hosts above;
For the drum beats of His army
Are the heartbeats of our love.

Hark! we hear a distant music
And it comes with fuller swell;
’Tis the triumph song of Jesus,
Of our king, Immanuel!
Go ye forth with joy to meet Him!
And, my soul, be swift to bring
All thy sweetest and thy dearest
For the triumph of our king!”

As we walk into 2016, let us never forget the reality of the second half of verse four:

But His angels here are human, Not the shining hosts above; For the drum beats of His army,  Are the heartbeats of our love.”

Posted in Current Events, General | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Under Cover of Darkness – God is at Work!

Several months have passed since I wrote the last entry in my blog.  During those months I have watched in stunned amazement at both the unfolding of history and the continued disintegration of respect for the Word of God and the laws of God.

Holy fear of a holy God is no longer a motivator for leaders outside the church and, sadly it seems, for many leaders inside the church. The lessons we can learn from the lives of the Kings of Israel and Judah in Scripture are going unheeded and this cannot be without consequence for individuals, nations and, indeed, the church.  Unseen spiritual laws, as powerful in the spiritual realm as the law of gravity is in the physical realm, operate on the affairs and circumstances of men and nations.

When we live in accordance with God’s covenantal promises we are laying the foundations for God’s blessing. But when we consistently and flagrantly fly in the face of the wind of God’s Spirit then the consequences can be serious. In Isaiah 45:7 there is a challenging verse in which God says through the prophet, “I bring prosperity and I create disaster. I, the Lord, do all these things.”

We don’t like to think in terms of a loving God creating disaster, but in the stories of the Kings we read time and time again how through their rebellion against God, they lost their covering and protection with serious consequences – personal and national disaster was often the result. These stories are in God’s Word for a purpose.

As believers we cannot control the free will choices and amoral behaviour of non-believers. But both believers and non-believers are subject to the laws of the land in which they live. The god of this world rejoices when governments pass legislation which violates the will and laws of God. Over the past fifty years the relationship between governmental law and the moral laws, implicit and explicit within Scripture, has disappeared from the statute books of nations, culminating in a tsunami of changes in respect of marriage, where one nation after another has fallen, like a line of dominoes, into the trap of passing legislation to authorise and legalise so called ‘gay marriage.’ The fact that there is no such thing in God’s eyes has been overlooked by the majority of nations. Marriage can only be between male and female – not male and male or female and female.

No nation on earth has the authority to redefine what God ordained through His covenantal promises and laws. In creating ‘gay marriage’ the nations of the world have deliberately stamped on one of the primary covenantal purposes of marriage – to have and to bring up the next generation of children. Gay marriages are, by definition, sterile. Surrogate motherhood, on behalf of a gay couple, further violates God’s laws of sexual relationship, introducing a third sexual partner into the equation. And in the latest Supreme Court decision in the USA, which has forcibly made ‘gay marriage’ legal across the Union, the judges who made the decision have deliberately over-ruled the principles enshrined in their own constitution!

There are now circumstances prevailing that make it difficult for believers to remain faithful to the Word of God in respect of marriage without, at the same time, breaking the law! The days Jesus warned about in Matthew 24:9, when He said ‘nations would hate you because of me’ are definitely here.

And while increasing spiritual darkness in the moral arena is covering the nations from the top down, in the Middle East the drums of war are rolling as the so-called ISIL caliphate flexes its terrifying muscles through the proliferation of human atrocities in the name of fundamentalist Islam. Its ultimate stated target is Israel. At the same time Sunni and Shia Muslims are at war with each other across the whole region. Even as I write these words six of the most powerful nations of the world have signed a nuclear agreement with Iran, without the involvement of the one nation who is most threatened by Iran – Israel!

As all the above things are happening, God is at work raising up an army of believers in Yeshua (Jesus) in Israel. In 1980 there were perhaps 200 believers in the land – today there are over 15000 meeting in well over 100 congregations. Something serious and totally unprecedented is happening beneath the world’s spiritual radar! God is preparing the ground for the return of the Lord.

In Ephesians 2:14-18 Paul talks about the “one new man” that God is raising up from Jewish and Gentile believers. For almost the first time in history since those very earliest days of the Church age, we are seeing that very thing happening. God is truly stirring His people as Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus are recognising each other and working together in unity of heart and purpose. Scripture advises us to read the signs of the times. As we have witnessed the gathering of Jews from all over the world into the nation of Israel, following the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, we are now witnessing the rise of Jewish believers in Messiah and the rise of the “one new man”!

Rather than recoil in fear from all that is happening in the world that causes grief to our spirits, and seems to be spreading darkness across the planet, let us focus our attention on what God is doing under cover of darkness – for the day is fast coming when the Light of the World will once again penetrate the darkness. God’s prophetic agenda is unfolding. Our security must be in Him for it is only in Him that we can rise above every circumstance, knowing that He has already overcome the world.

Posted in Current Events | 7 Comments

Braking or Breaking?

One of the reasons why English is such a difficult language for people to learn is because there are many words which sound the same, but have very different meanings. You can only understand which word is intended by the context of the sentence in which the word is used. In order to understand the meaning of one word, you have to understand the implication of the whole sentence. Not easy for beginners!

Let’s look for a moment at the two words ‘braking’ and ‘breaking’. The pronunciation of each word is identical, but their meanings are radically different.

If you are driving a car and braking – it means that you have put your foot on the brakes and the car is being brought to a stop.  If you fail to use the brakes when there is danger ahead then you could discover the hard way the meaning of the other word – breaking, as you hit another vehicle or a brick wall!

I recently had reason to meditate on the spiritual significance of these two words. It seemed to me that there had been a large number of people I had ministered to down the years who had failed to apply the brakes to a direction in which their life had been heading and, before very long, they discovered the hard way what the word breaking means. They had hit a spiritual brick wall and their life had begun to fall apart. If only they had applied the brakes before it was too late. If you fail to use the brakes, breaking could be the result.

To ignore the warnings of Scripture, about all sorts of ungodly beliefs and practices, is like keeping your foot on the accelerator when there is danger all around. One of the commonest things that people say when looking at the breaking that has happened in their lives, as a result of a failure to apply the brakes to the direction they were going, is “Why didn’t someone tell me this would be the result?” That sounds a good question, but the fact is, God has spoken very clearly to us in His Word.

We read that There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs:16: 25).  At all times we need to check whether what seems right to us really is in line with Scripture – otherwise we might very quickly learn the difference between braking and breaking!

Too often in recent days I have had reason to grieve over the dismissal of Scripture’s authority in favour of what seems to be good. I learnt long ago that fallen man is incapable of being the arbiter of what is right and true. We need God’s Word to understand what is right and true and, therefore, when to apply the brakes. It’s time that the authority of Scripture should be restored in both the Church and in our personal lives. Otherwise we will discover the hard way the breaking that can happen when we fail to apply the brakes, and have to live with the terrible consequences of not understanding the difference between these two very important words.

Posted in General | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Strands of Destiny

It’s a long time since I wrote an entry in my blog – and there’s a very good reason for this. But first, can I say how sorry I am that there has been such a long gap? I hope you’re still there!

The truth is, lots has been happening inside the work and on top of that I needed to have a knee operation to tidy up the consequences of rugby injuries from more than fifty years ago!

Then in September we welcomed Andy and Cath Taylor back from being the Directors of Ellel USA in order to step into the exciting new role of UK National Directors. For the past few months they have been ably finding their feet. Now, having been released from many day-to-day responsibilities, Fiona and I are finding we have more time to write (including this Blog!) and get many other important things down in print before we’re too old to remember them!

Towards the end of 2014 we conducted an Advanced Training School together for the USA team, and thanks to the jet-lag I found myself sitting with my computer at 4.00am in the morning starting to write the story of how God used a very reluctant pioneer (me!), to establish the work of Ellel Ministries. I found myself being very challenged, convicted and encouraged, as I realised the extent of the Lords’ grace there has been for almost thirty years. He has been so very faithful.

This week I finished the writing, of what turned out to be a book, and I’ve called it Strands of Destiny. There’s still lots of checking to do – and, of course, digging out all the illustrations and pictures which add flesh to what has been a very exciting spiritual journey. In the book I’ve tried to illustrate how God brought together many different strands of life’s experiences and wove them into an extraordinary tapestry, which demonstrates to a very hurting world that our God cares and our God heals.

Another way of looking at the title is that a lot of strands interwoven together form a very strong rope. And a rope is something that people can hang onto – I once used a rope to save the life of a boy who was drowning in the River Eden – and there are countless thousands of people out there who are looking for someone to hold out a rope and drag them into arms of safety. In many ways that’s what Ellel Ministries is all about – holding out a rope to the hurting and desperate.

So, for the past few months I’ve been totally absorbed in writing Strands of Destiny. I’m hoping the book will be available in June. But now it’s finished I will, once again, be keeping the blog alive with regular updates – so watch this space!

Posted in Ellel Ministries, General | 3 Comments

The World Cup

Right now the world’s most consuming interest is not any major political, economic or other international crisis currently prevailing on Planet Earth, but the game of football! It is estimated that when Brazil play Croatia in the opening game of the World Cup Finals in Brazil the world-wide TV audience will exceed two billion people – the eyes of close to one in three of the world’s population will be glued to their TV screens. And I will be one of them!

Just four weeks later on the 13th July, the thirty-two national teams that made it to the World Cup Finals will have been reduced to just two. When those two teams walk out on to the pitch it is confidently estimated that they will be participating in the most watched live event in the history of the world!

It will be an amazing spectacle – but it will also be a great and a terrible day at the same time.  And the difference between whether or not it is a great or a terrible day depends solely on which side you’re on! It will be a great day for the winners, but it will be a terrible day for the losers – to have got so far, only to fall at the final hurdle will be a devastating experience. But this is only a game – and in four years time all the teams can try again to capture the most prized trophy in world football.

But one day there will be a different sort of great and terrible day – that isn’t ‘only a game’. The Old Testament ends with the prophet Malachi looking forward to the coming of the Messiah when “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). And then Malachi looks beyond the first coming of the Messiah, to what he describes as “the day of the Lord” when the final whistle will blow on the stage of time and for those who are on the Lord’s side, who already have eternity in their hearts, it will be a great and wonderful day.

We don’t have to fight to win the trophy – the battle has already been fought and won at Calvary, nearly two thousand years ago. If we are on His side and are known by Him, then we can enjoy all the joys of His victory over the evil one and go in through the doors which will be wide open for all who have joined the winning side before the final whistle goes!

But for those who have rejected the Messiah and His lordship over their lives, it will indeed be a terrible day. There will be no coming back in four years time to have another go. The doors of time will be closed. Jesus expressed this shocking truth in that most graphic of parables in Matthew 25:1-13, when He spoke to the five virgins who were clamouring for the door to be re-opened for them, and said, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”

So, if you are one of those who will be joining me in watching some or all of the World Cup Finals, I pray that you will allow the Lord to use this event to challenge your spirit about the urgency of sharing the Gospel with those who are not yet known by the Saviour.

For those who don’t know Him, the day of the Lord will indeed be a terrible day. But for those who know and are known by Him it will be the most wonderful day there could ever be – and the victory celebrations will stretch throughout eternity!

Posted in General | 1 Comment

Learning to Trust – Again!

For a long time now, a 53-year old rugby injury has been reminding me, at regular intervals, that there’s something wrong with my left knee. Eventually it got to the point last year that I took it to the Doctor, who ordered an x-ray. When he got the results he expressed surprise at how I was managing to get around OK with so much deterioration of the joint.

Next he recommended a visit to the orthopaedic consultant who, in delightfully non-medical terminology, simply said, “Your knee’s knackered” and strongly recommended knee replacement surgery – a hugely successful and normally very routine operation in this day and age. So, I signed myself up for the procedure, but had to wait a while until the after-effects of the virus, that knocked me out last year, were fully resolved.

So, on the 14th May I was ready and presented myself to the hospital. I can’t say I was looking forward to the operation, but I had read everything I could in advance and was as ready as I could be for putting my body into the control of someone else. I could relax in the knowledge that the surgeon knew what he was doing, and I knew exactly what he was going to do and there would be no surprises.

Initially, everything went according to plan and a few hours later I was in a recovery ward, coming round from the anaesthetic and reacquainting myself with my body. A mass of bandages encased the knee joint. The pain-killers were doing their job and I was as much at peace as it’s possible to be in the circumstances. I’d prepared myself in advance for the next stage and was looking forward to the restoration process and getting back to normal.

But, I was soon to discover that things were not going to be as straightforward as I had expected. A rash of various secondary symptoms and unexpected issues had to be faced and suddenly all that I had prepared for in advance was like a pile of teaching notes being blown about in the wind, without any hope of ever getting them back together!

The world that I thought I had under my control was fast disintegrating in front of me and I was sailing uncharted waters without any indication of whether or not my vessel would ever again reach safe harbour – at least, that’s how it felt!  All the peace of answered prayer for the operation was replaced by the confusion of uncertainty. In some ways I don’t like admitting to the reality of what I went through for the next seven days – the medical details of what was happening are irrelevant, but it would be unreal not to be scrupulously honest about my feelings. For what’s the point of a testimony that does not admit to the rough seas, just for the sake of keeping up appearances?

It was wonderful to have my wife Fiona with me at visiting times, and to know that there were many other people praying for me, but as I lay in that hospital bed for those seven days I have to confess there were times of extreme spiritual loneliness. Not because I was being ignored or that everyone wasn’t doing everything they could for me, but because I no longer had any capacity to control my circumstances. The original operation was ‘my choice’ – it was in my control. But now things were different, there was nothing I could do.

Various images floated across my mind until I realised I had been staring for quite some time at one of the most well-known of modern Christian pictures. Who hasn’t seen the image of Footprints in the Sand, in which two sets of footprints are replaced by a single line of prints? The life message which this graphic image first paints is of the Lord walking alongside us. But then the question arises, “Why was there only one set of prints at this stage of my life? Why, Lord, did you leave me so alone?” And the answer comes back, “I never left you,  that was when I was carrying you!”

I stared at the image in my mind and felt both the pain of thinking that the one set of prints on the sand of my life represented the utter loneliness of my situation and, at the same time, the deep inner peace of knowing, and truly understanding the meaning of this graphic image! A second operation had not been on my agenda. I was out of control in a way that I had never experienced before, and it was in that situation that I chose to put my trust afresh in the Man of Galilee and allow him to carry me into the unknown.

I picked up my Daily Light, a beautiful leather bound edition given to me by my Mum and Dad. I read again their loving inscription on the inside front cover and turned to the evening reading for 20th May. God spoke directly into my spirit with the words, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine  . . . behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands, thy walls are continually before me  . . . the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth  them that are his.” (Isaiah 43:1, 49:16 and 2 Tim.2:19)

Suddenly, I knew that even though I was completely out of any capacity to control my own circumstances,  all those circumstances were within Him and the unknown with Him was more secure than anything I could control. I was drifting in and out of sleep, but somehow or other, deep down in the core of my being, I knew that I was safe. I was out of control in a way I had never experienced before – but no longer afraid.

Very early the next morning, however, my Daily Light reading presented me with a new challenge as I read Paul’s extraordinary statement of faith when he said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities  . . . .  “  (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Right then, I confess, this felt like a bridge too far! But as I lay on the bed waiting for the imminent second operation, I found myself trying to understand what Paul might have meant by glorying in his infirmities and what that might mean for me at this particular moment of my life.

When you no longer have any capacity to fix things yourself, all you can do is trust the God of all circumstances to fix what He wants to fix and give you the grace for everything else! My planned hospital visit for a known operation had become a challenging spiritual journey – a very important episode along the road of life.

Those of us who teach and preach are used to picking up the Scriptures and teaching the principles of life from the Word of God. But sometimes the Lord has to allow circumstances in our lives to test the reality of what we teach and preach! Are they just words or are they words that have been proven on the anvil of experience? I was about to be back in the operating theatre, this time for something that I hadn’t been able to plan and control. I sank into a deep sleep as I realised at a deeper level than I had ever known before, that I was at peace, knowing that He was carrying me across this particular stretch of sand.

A few hours later, everything was successfully over. The unknown was now the known and life could begin again. I went into the hospital knowing that I could teach people from God’s Word that He could be trusted whatever the circumstances. But I came out of hospital, having had my faith in the trustworthiness of God put to the test. I discovered afresh the reality of His extraordinary presence and that trust in Him is only really Trust when there is nothing whatsoever that you can do to fix or change things!

Posted in General | 7 Comments

Change or Die – Lessons from the Life-cycle of the Lobster!

For those who have been waiting for the next entry on my blog, thank you for your patience. It’s over a year since the last posting and it’s great to be back!

So why have there been no entries for such a long time? The answer is both simple and complex. Simple in that just over a year ago I picked up a virus on one of my travels, which really knocked me out and left me with symptoms that it’s taken me over a year to recover from. Complex in that this has coincided with the biggest change in the structure of Ellel Ministries since the work was founded back in 1986.

Just as there are definite seasons in the yearly calendar and weather cycles, there are equally definite seasons in life, and the transition between these seasons can sometimes be like negotiating a sea of uncertainty in the middle of a spiritual war. At least, that’s what it’s felt like for me.

Instinctively, we all like the comfort and security which stability and familiarity bring – but at the same time, I’ve learnt that the very things we love about such comforts can become barriers to growth and the new seasons that God has prepared for us.

Last year, when I was struggling with the virus, and had to speak at one of our leadership meetings, I sensed a strong urge from the Lord to look up the life-cycle of the lobster. This was definitely not a conventional “word from the Lord”!  I could easily have resisted such apparent stupidity as being a silly idea. But when I did a simple search on the Internet, I quickly realised that it really was a word from the Lord!

As a result, I understood something very simple, but very profound at the same time, which the Lord was trying to teach me. This was a lesson which was very pertinent to my own personal situation at that time, but also of great relevance to the changes that were afoot within the structure of the Ministry.

I discovered that if the lobster resists change, it dies! By the time a lobster is fully grown, aged between six and eight years, it will have wriggled out of its external skeleton – that tough outer protective shell – about 30 times and grown a new and larger one on each occasion, into which the growing lobster can expand for the next season of its life. This external skeleton is the lobster’s protective covering, without which it would be easy prey to the many hungry predators that inhabit the ocean floor.

The shell of a lobster, however, is inflexible, so as the flesh of the lobster grows, it comes up against its own external skeleton. Only by splitting this open and shedding the shell can the lobster develop towards maturity.

Having shed its skin, the lobster then absorbs excess water into its flesh in order to expand its size, so that when the new skin forms it is big enough to provide a protective covering which is adequate for the next season of growth. The lobster then sets about eating its own shell so as to quickly take in lots of calcium, out of which to make the new shell – the old shell gets absorbed into the new and is re-formed for a new purpose.

As I thought about this extraordinary process and realised that without moving into its new season, the lobster would die, I sensed the Lord speaking deep into my spirit with a very simple word, “change or die’.  If we do not welcome the new season, the old season will become the limitation which will rob you of your future potential in God.

A lobster is at its most vulnerable during its seasons of transition, so at those times, it needs to carefully hide itself away in a safe place in the rocks while the process takes place. Then, when it re-emerges, into the next season of its life, it is fully equipped for the new challenges of an enlarged existence.

As I meditated on all this, I knew that the Lord was speaking, not just to me personally about my own life, but also about what He was doing with the work of Ellel Ministries. Both have been going through a season of transition. Increasingly the development and management of the work is being shared with reliable leaders from a younger generation and I am preparing for a different season, where the major focus of all my activities will be mentoring the next generation and writing down all the experiences that God has taken us through in understanding the key place healing has in the work of discipleship.

So, right now, I am emerging from a period of transition into a new season. It feels as though, like the lobster, I have been hiding in the rocks during a season of vulnerability. But I am really excited and ready for what lies ahead and it is totally thrilling to see how God is raising up new leaders in so many different parts of the world who are wonderfully equipped for taking the work forward.

In the past few months, therefore, I have been developing a lobster mentality – welcoming God-inspired change when it occurs and developing a tough, new skin to guard and protect all that He is doing in the new season.

So, the Blog is back! The new season is here, and if you want to find out for yourself about the life-cycle of a lobster I suggest you do your own Internet search. You will be amazed at what you discover. I pray that it will both challenge and inspire you in the same way that God used it to challenge me!

Posted in General | 5 Comments

Spiritual Corrosion! Or, “Is there anything showing on ‘your screen’?”

For some time now we have been struggling at home to get a good picture on our TV. The picture would be there one day and partially there another day, but in the end it packed up altogether. I checked that all the cables were still connected – they were. I then feared the worse and thought that a new TV might be necessary – not a happy prospect in these recessionary times!

But there’s also a decoder between the aerial and the TV, which translates the aerial signals into meaningful channels and pictures. It was a cheap one when I first bought it, and replacing this little box of tricks is nowhere near as expensive as a new TV, so I plumped for this being the cause. With new decoder in hand I returned from the shop triumphant, thinking that I had solved the problem. But I was soon to be disillusioned. The new decoder was no better than the old one!

Next step was a phone call to a techno-savvy friend who immediately correlated the symptoms with our excessively wet weather in the UK and suggested that we might have water coming down the aerial cable from the roof of our house – something that would never have occurred to me. So the next call was to Mark, our friendly local aerial man.

When he came, and listened to the story so far, it took him all of thirty seconds to pull out the cable connector and show me the tell-tale greeny coloured signs of copper corrosion, caused by water ingress into the cable. Dampness must have been coming down the cable for months, probably years. In spite of the dampness, the TV had continued to work fine for a long time. But eventually the hidden corrosion  on the inside of the cable had reached a critical point, the signal had shorted out and as a result the whole TV system had been rendered useless.

As I watched Mark at work replacing the cable, connecting it to the new ‘electronic box of tricks‘ and finally to the TV, I was impacted by his confidence that everything would now work OK – and it did, first time. I was very impressed, but through this whole saga God had been speaking to me about His Church and His people.

In many ways every Church and congregation is intended to be like a massive TV screen,  faithfully rendering a picture of God’s truth to the local community, the nation and the world at large. But for a long time now, the picture has been getting progressively bad and in many places the picture has disappeared from the screen altogether, so that the Church has become like my defunct TV system – having all the physical components in place but totally dysfunctional spiritually and effectively useless. There are no pictures showing on the screen!

The problem with my TV system was corrosion in the aerial. The aerial represents the spiritual core of our being, through which we should be picking up God’s signals and passing them through our ‘decoder’ so that we can display a true image on the ‘screen of our lives’ of who God is and what He is saying to the world today.

As I looked at the green-coloured corrosion affecting my TV aerial I began to think about the dangers of spiritual corrosion affecting the spiritual aerial through which God desires to speak to us personally and, through us, to the world. Just as corrosion in the aerial cable had rendered the TV useless, corrosion in both the spiritual life of the Church and in our individual lives can have a similar consequence.

It was obvious that the aerial cable must have been subject to water penetration for months, and probably years, before it eventually ceased to function. In a similar way there can be ungodly things going on in our own lives and the life of the Church for a very long time before the system finally breaks down and the ‘screen’ bears no semblance of spiritual integrity and ceases to be a living witness.

As I said goodbye to Mark, and thanked him for getting our TV back on for the Christmas holiday, I was challenged to take time over the Christmas break to take a long, hard look at my own personal spiritual aerial, asking the Lord to show me any areas which need repair and renewal. The Lord had shown me how important it is that no impurity should be given access to the core of both our lives and the Christian ministries we are involved in. I grieved at how much pain we must cause to Father God, if he looks down and sees that there is no picture showing on our screens. We would, literally, be robbing God of the opportunity of showing His love to a broken and desperate world.

The prophet Malachi was challenged to voice the question, “How are we robbing God?” A modern day answer could well be “by having nothing to show on our screens!” I pray that you will want to take some time too, over the holiday period, to check out on the condition of your spiritual aerial before we enter the New Year of 2013. I pray that 2013 will be a season of great fruitfulness in your life and that the picture showing on ‘your screen’ will be a good one!

Posted in Current Events, General | 1 Comment

A Sign in the Sky!

So much is happening on the world scene these days that even watching the news on TV can leave you breathless! No-one can be unaware of the major situation that is developing in Israel.

Just one week ago I was enjoying the peace of a Shabbat in Israel prior to preaching in Christ Church, Jerusalem on the Sunday morning. Everyone was aware that the so-called peace in the land had a ring of unreality about it. For many months the daily news in Jerusalem has included a tally of how many rockets had been fired in the last twenty four hours into Israel from Gaza. I don’t think there is any other country in the world that would have been so amazingly tolerant as Israel has been. If even one rocket had been fired, in anger, onto the territory of any of our western nations, there would have been an immediate response.

Then last Monday morning, I was sitting in a Jerusalem cafe, enjoying breakfast with some friends. While we were chatting about all sorts of normal things – behind every discussion topic was the realisation that this apparent normality could be shattered in just a moment of time. As I left Israel on Monday evening there seemed to be a significantly higher level of security at the airport – there was tension in the air. By Wednesday everyone knew what was going on and before the next Shabbat the first rockets for over twenty years would be fired in the direction of Tel a Viv and Jerusalem.

Even as I write these words on Saturday in England, the Middle East is changing shape once more and the leaders of the world’s nations are sitting on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next. Once again Israel is the centre of the world’s focus.

2,000 years ago an event took place in Israel around which history has ever since been focussed – the birth of Jesus. Last Sunday I walked out of the Zion Gate in Jerusalem and looked across to the Mount of Olives, a place which Jesus often visited. I was stunned as I looked at this brilliant rainbow in the sky – an extraordinary example of God’s great covenant-keeping sign, touching the earth at the exact spot to which one day soon Jesus will return. Zechariah 14:4 tells us that “on that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives”. And it was an angel who spoke to the disciples, after Jesus had ascended from the Mount of Olives, saying “this same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go” (Acts 1:11).

Rainbow in the sky in Israel

Rainbow in the sky in Israel

The rainbow reminded me of the fact of God’s covenant love and His covenant promises. Whatever is going on in the world is not a surprise to Him. The world may be a very uncertain place from our earthly perspective. But all the current events of world history are included within the time frame of these two great covenant keeping events – the ascension and the return of Jesus.

As I looked at that amazing rainbow, touching earth at the Mount of Olives, I had a deep sense that the time line of history was drawing to a close and that we can unconditionally trust the Lord of history as we walk through whatever events unfold in the years yet to come. We can trust Him!

Posted in Current Events, Discernment, General | Tagged | Leave a comment