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.”

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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The Father’s Joy

I knew that starting a blog was dangerous! And that one day the pressures of life would catch up with me! It’s more than a few weeks now since I last posted an entry and people keep on reminding me of my failure to do so. But the reason is very simple – we’ve been on holiday and it has taken us a little while to get back into the stream of things after returning from a much needed rest.

In the time since the last entry two great sporting events have been occupying the world’s attention – the Olympic Games, followed by the Paralympics. There can’t be many people in the world who haven’t seen some of the events on TV. There are many moments I could reflect on as I watcged the world’s athletes give of their best in the pursuit of gold.

For me, however, the lasting impact of all the amazing images that filled our screens, day after day, is not of some particularly spectacular achievement, but of camera shots that appeared every single day at all the events showing pictures of Mum and Dad – sometimes just Mum and at others just Dad – absolutely bursting with pride and joy at watching their children give of their very best.

For example, when Chris Hoy won his cycling gold medal in the velodrome, there was Mum and Dad, Mum hardly daring to watch and Dad seemingly bursting out of his skin, cheering their son on. The camera kept on flicking to their faces. It was gripping television and made the race all the more exciting and poignant, realising how involved Chris Hoy’s parents were in their son’s achievements.

As I watched Chris’s Dad jumping up and down, laughing and crying at the same time at the end of the race, I was suddenly deeply impacted in my spirit by an image of how Father God looks down on His children and is filled with joy and excitement as he watches them run their particular race of life. Realising how much joy we can give to God, simply by being the people He made us to be and doing the things he gave us to do, has given me a fresh impetus to keep running  the race for as long as He gives me breath.

I’m sure Chris Hoy must have been very aware of his Mum and Dad in the stands as he raced round the track. What a blessing to know that God is watching His children and rejoicing with them in the race they are running. Olympic gold medals are very precious – but they are only of passing significance. Let’s keep our eyes focussed on what God has called us to be and to do as we look forward to an eternal crown of life being awarded to all the redeemed who love and serve Him.

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