A Season of Opportunity

To All our Friends and Supporters

I want to write and encourage you in the midst of this unprecedented season of world history. For these truly are extraordinary days. As I said in my last blog, we have never walked this way before. But nothing of what we are experiencing through the impact of the Coronavirus is a surprise to God. So, it is to Him we must look for help and understanding. David went through some very tough times in his life, and often expressed sentiments such as, “I call on the Lord in my distress and he answers me” (Psalm 120:1) and in the very next Psalm he tells us where his help really comes from, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). And we need His help now.

For, never before in history, have all the nations of the world been simultaneously brought to a stand-still by the same common enemy – a previously unknown virus, so small that no-one can see it, and from which no-one has any protection and for which there is not, as yet, any known cure. As a result, most of the nations are in lock-down, meaning that normal life has been suspended and people are confined to their homes.

The airports of the world have become parking lots for redundant aircraft. The economies of the great nations are being stretched to unimaginable limits in their attempts to control the spread of the disease and treat those who have caught it. Every day, the terrible statistics of disease and death are the substance of our news programmes. And no-one knows how long it’s going to last.

The Maker of Heaven and Earth

If we didn’t know where our help comes from, it would be easy to allow fear and panic to become the controlling forces of our lives. For our help doesn’t just come from some unknown spiritual being – it comes, as David reminds us, from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. And therein lies a problem for the nations, because the governments of the world have not only written God out of the script in terms of the laws of their lands, but they have bowed the knee to the godlessness of atheistic science, which teaches that the universe has no such thing as a Creator!

But, whether or not someone acknowledges the fact, all of us are made in the image and likeness of God our Maker; the creativity in every single one of us is simply a reflection of the creative power of Almighty God. And in every human being there is a God-shaped hole that desperately needs to be filled. I watched an interview on TV with a man who was seriously ill with the virus in hospital. As he lay there, not knowing whether he was going to live or die, he was saying “I wonder if I’ve been good enough?” He was asking the question because the virus was causing him to search for answers about life and death, to questions he hadn’t been asking before. The TV controllers must have allowed it to be screened, because he was representative of millions watching who would be asking the same question in similar circumstances.

Looking for Answers

Right now, there are hundreds of millions of people across the world who are locked away behind closed doors, many in fear of what might happen to them, but also looking for answers. And they are not just looking for an answer from the medics, who they hope will solve the virus problem, but for answers to much bigger questions about life, the meaning of life, death, the hereafter and why all this is happening. I have been surprised at the open-ness of people we have talked to. One said to me, “Is it because we have forgotten God and He is trying to get our attention?” and then added, “Do the nations need to repent?”

A simple answer to both these questions is, Yes. The nations do need to repent – in scripture repentance was always the first step towards the land being healed (2 Chronicles 7:14) and the people being restored. And yes, God will use whatever comes upon us as a means of getting our attention – as happened on numerous occasions in Scripture.

You cannot believe in Jesus, without also believing that God created everything. John’s Gospel begins by stating unequivocally that “without Him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:2). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about Father God’s provision for His creation (Matthew 6:25-34) and then urges people who are faced with the worries and concerns of this life, however small or great they may be, to “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” And I believe that one of the most important messages that Jesus would speak to the world in the face of today’s anxieties and fears is just that – seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

Essential Repentance

Because man has rejected Creator God, he has also rejected the God who saves and the God who heals. We learnt how important it is to begin all our training schools and conferences on healing, by laying out the foundations of faith, which begin with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” For our Healer is, indeed, our Maker. He holds the blue-print and master plan for our lives and is the only one who can restore our inner being as the maker intended.

The world does, indeed, need to repent over this – and many other things. This is a day for salvation! For, one day soon, Jesus is coming again, at a time that no man knows. But Scripture warns, in many places, about events that will shake the world in the times before He returns in glory. Jesus told many parables to warn people to be ready and of the consequences of not being ready when He comes again.

When the world is being shaken, as at the present time, people begin to seek God again and God, in His mercy, uses times like this to cause many to repent, come to Him and find Him. Those who have ears to hear will, indeed, be listening. There is a message they need to hear. Many will turn to the Lord, and there will be a harvest for the Kingdom of God.

Salvation and Healing

In this season of desperation, our prayers must be unceasing for all caught up in the crisis, either as victims of the disease or as part of the medical teams who are striving to help the sufferers. And we need to be crying out to Him for His protection and provision. For, this is also a season of harvest and, as always, the Lord of the harvest is calling for workers to go out into his harvest field (Matthew 9:37)to bring the harvest in. That is why Ellel Ministries is about to launch a series of on-line programmes, so that we can use this season of lock-down to share the heart of God to save and heal.

I came into the work of Ellel Ministries on the back of a life-long commitment to evangelism and sharing the good news. It was part of my parental upbringing. And when we began healing retreats at Ellel Grange, thirty-three years ago, the Lord showed us that the most important healing anyone can ever receive is to be born again of the Spirit of God. It’s resurrection from the dead! It’s the beginning of an incredible journey with God our Maker. For many who were born again in this way, it was their need of healing that brought them to the Saviour – and then they discovered that their Saviour was also their healer, their deliverer and their restorer!

Countless testimonies from people who have attended Healing Retreats all over the world testify to the power of God to save, heal and restore. Their need of healing made them cry out to God for an answer. And we saw, like David describes in the Psalms, how God heard and answered their cries for help and healing. Many such stories are featured in the latest edition of our Newsletter.

It sometimes takes a crisis such as we are now going through, to make people ask the right questions. So often they can want God to heal them, for example, but they don’t want to live their lives in harmony with their Maker! Psalm 66:18 reminds us that there are times when cherishing sin in our hearts means that God isn’t able to hear our prayers. And that doesn’t always mean current sin, but often includes things from our past that have never been brought into the light. No wonder James highlighted this issue (James 5:16), when he recommended those who are sick to confess their sins as a vital part of their healing journey with God.

Prayer in the Current Crisis

Returning now to our needs in the current crisis, the opening verses of Psalm 91 remind us that to know the protection and covering of God, we need to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and rest in His shadow. This is the place of security and safety. When we are in tune with Him we are under His covering and there is no reason to fear. Whatever may befall us, we are in Him – both for time and for eternity, even in the face of a deadly pestilence (v3).

And as we all look to God for His answers in the face of this world crisis, it must surely be a time of preparation. A season when, in the midst of lock-down, we have an unprecedented amount of time to watch, pray and look to Him. A time to look again at our lives, face any issues that could be an obstacle to either healing or the experience of His presence with us; and a time to come back to Him, our Maker, and be under His covering. A time to seek His face.

Two ministry friends who are both now with the Lord, described their ministry as ‘evangelising the heart of the believer’. This is a season when, I believe, God not only wants to seek and to save the lost, but also wants His people to examine their hearts (1 Corinthians 11:27-30) in preparation for both receiving His healing and for a time when God’s Spirit will move in reviving power through His church and into the world. It’s vital that we are ready for when His Spirit moves and begins to draw men to Him.

May I urge you also, to spend time in prayer for the nations and the peoples of the world, that there will be many who will seek for and find the Lord, and that the church will be renewed as believers use this season to focus once again on the essential realities of their faith and prepare themselves to be workers in God’s harvest field.

And watch out for details of Ellel programmes that will soon be available free of charge on-line.

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“You Have Never Been This Way Before”

When Joshua was preparing God’s people to cross the River Jordan and enter the promised land, he told the people to keep their eyes on the ark of the covenant of the Lord, being carried  by the Levites, and when they move, to follow! Then, they were told, “you will know which way to go, because you have never been this way before.”

As I write this blog, the nations of the world are struggling to overcome a virus so small that no-one can see it. Fear has become society’s controlling force and severe governmental advice, new laws and economic remedies have swiftly followed. The simple fact is the world has never walked this way before and the leaders of the nations are making up the script as they go. Only President Trump of the world’s leaders has taken the spiritual initiative and called their nation to a day of prayer.

All of us in the Body of Christ need to be on our knees before the Lord, crying out to Him for our leaders, the medics and everyone who is fighting this virus and its effects, for this is a world crisis. We must all play our part.

Yesterday, in response to Government information and advice, the Executive Leadership of Ellel Ministries had to make the unprecedented decision to pause all operations at our centres in the UK for four months. It was a huge decision for us to close our doors to those who need the help, the training and the ministry which has become the core activity and spiritual DNA of our work.

But, just as the Israelites were told to go where the presence of the Lord was and to follow the ark of the covenant, we were also looking to follow where the Lord was leading. But what was He saying? How could pausing all our operations for four months help the people that God had called us to serve?

Even as we were wrestling with this decision to close our doors for four months, we were also becoming aware that this devastating crisis could become a God-given opportunity to support and encourage the wider Ellel family and beyond, by using the internet to provide Ellel Online. We were realising that by changing our strategy, in this unique season, we would be able reach many more people across the world, than could ever come through our doors! But we needed the Lord’s clear confirmation that this was where He was leading.

Then, right into our meeting came a texted word from an intercessor to one of our Exec members. They knew absolutely nothing about the decision we were wrestling with when they quoted to us John 4:35. “Do you not say, Four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

Immediately, we knew it was right to pause our centre activities for four months, but God was telling us not to wait four months before continuing operations to bring in His Kingdom harvest – for the time is NOW. This is a time of reaping, even as fear and panic is spreading across the world. For, in the middle of the crisis, there will be those who are turning to the Lord and crying out to Him. It is now that the harvest must be reaped!

We had been asking God to show us His way forward for the ministry, because we had never walked this way before. It was an awesome moment when we realised that God had spoken right into our situation.

Yes, there will be consequences of closing our doors for four months, especially in respect of our finances. For, without anyone coming on our courses, there will be no income from this source. And what about all our teams – and many other issues we will have to wrestle with? The potential problems are huge – but God has spoken, therefore, we need not fear.

We may not have gone this way before, but the coronavirus pandemic was not a surprise to God, even though it’s a season in history unlike any other that there has ever been. It is a spiritual war with an invisible enemy. There may be a physical virus to which mankind has no immunity, but as Paul so rightly said in Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms.”

So, as well as doing everything necessary to protect ourselves from the virus, we need also to heed Paul’s advice and put on the full armour of God – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and have feet that are ready to take the Gospel to wherever there is one who is crying out to God for answers. We live in a world which has largely turned its back on God our Maker and His Son, our Saviour, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t millions of people who are still looking to God for an answer to the fear in their hearts and the issues in their lives.

These may be testing and challenging days – but they are also days of great opportunity for the Kingdom of God. We need to take every wise precaution physically to protect ourselves from the physical virus, but we need to be diligent also in using the armour of God to provide us with spiritual protection from everything that the enemy of souls wants to throw at mankind – and especially at God’s people.

Right now, our leaders at Ellel Grange are working on the details of an on-line programme of encouragement and teaching for the times in which we are now living. So, watch out for an email telling you how to link in with this new Ellel service. It’s coming very soon!

And may I ask you to pray for the ministry and our works across thirty-six different nations as they seek to minister faith and hope into the lives of people who are coming under the threat of a global wave of fear and panic. We may not have walked this way before, but, as children of God, we are stretching out our hands to the One who knows the way to go. May the Lord’s hand of protection and blessing be upon you and all the nations to which we belong.

Posted in Current Events, Ellel Ministries, General | 27 Comments

Time to Inspect the Walls

For the past twelve months I have been putting the on-line teaching of Ellel 365 into book form as Journey to Freedom. Hence the recent absence of Blog entries! With six volumes already out and only two more to go, I’m feeling liberated to write again!

In Chapter 2 of his book, Nehemiah describes arriving back in Jerusalem, after receiving his commission to rebuild the walls and gates of the city. It was, at first, a secret mission, “I had not told anyone what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.”

Nehemiah knew that If the city was to be restored as the city of God’s people, the very first objective had to be the repair of the gates and the restoration of the walls. Only when the walls and the gates were secured would it be safe for the people to live there. So, he surveyed the walls, assessed the damage and made a plan. He then told the leaders what he had come to do and said, “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

As I was reading, I sensed the Lord speaking directly to me about his church and saying, “The walls of my church are broken down and its gates have been destroyed. My people are no longer living in safety. The time has come to survey the walls, assess the damage and rebuild.  Only then will my people be able to live in safety and be protected by walking in my ways, according to the truth of My Word.”

Nehemiah knew that the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem would be opposed, as was soon demonstrated by the mocking intervention of Sanballat and his friends. So, Nehemiah taught the people to work with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other, to resist the attacks of an enemy while continuing to build the wall. And so it was that, with a carefully orchestrated plan, the walls and the gates of Jerusalem were restored.  

Nehemiah records that “The work was completed in fifty two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realised that this work had been done with the help of our God.”

I believe that God wants to see the walls and the gates of His church restored. The popular image of today’s church is largely of an imploding organisation with little respect and no significant influence on society or government. But is this surprising when so much of the church itself has lost respect for the authority of God’s Word and has chosen to tread the easy road of compromise, instead of the upward path of spiritual integrity?  The foundations are shaken, the gates have been torn down, the leaders have lost their fire and the flock has been scattered.

This is a day when, I believe, God is looking for a new generation of Nehemiahs, people who will carefully survey the walls of His church, see where they have been broken down and start to rebuild. It is time for the people of God to regain their confidence in God’s truth and, once again, for the church to become a place where the people of God will be safe from the inroads of the enemy. And the gates of the church will become a doorway of hope for those who are looking for answers, to both the big issues and the needs of ordinary people who are struggling to make sense of life in a godless society. Yes, there will be mocking opposition, but since when has opposition to the truth been a reason for abandoning it!

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Light in the Darkness

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

Isaiah’s extraordinary prophecy was given hundreds of years before Jesus, the Light of the World, walked on Israel’s soil. Jesus began his ministry by quoting these very words (Matt. 4:16). He was making it clear that the shadow of death hovers over every human being, from the day of their conception until the moment when they die. Physical death is the one life experience that unites the whole of humanity!

In John 11:25, Jesus spoke out a mystery, telling the people that if they believed in Him they would live, even though they would die! And that whoever lives and believes in Him will never die.

This is the mystery which has been at the heart of the Christian Gospel for two thousand years. When the Light of the World comes into our lives, physical death may still be our common experience, but for those who die in Christ, He is the gateway to life – eternal life.

John began his Gospel by declaring “Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5). The nations of the world, many of which have an extensive Christian history, are rapidly turning away from those Christian foundations for life and government. Fear of God has left the corridors of power, spiritual darkness has invaded the lands and, sadly, people are choosing darkness rather than light.

But, as the darkness increases, so does the contrast between the Light of Christ and the surrounding darkness. Only Jesus, the Light of the World, can heal broken hearts, restore the lost identity of a confused generation and set free those who have been caught in the bondage of addictions, giving them back a hope, a future and a destiny.

That is what the work of Ellel Ministries is all about – declaring the gospel of salvation and giving people hope and the opportunity to have their destiny restored through healing the broken-hearted and setting the captives free. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3.16).

May the Lord richly bless you this Christmas Season

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What a man! But what a Saviour!

I was just settling down at my computer to write a blog about Strands of Destiny, when breaking news came through on my computer that the veteran evangelist, Billy Graham, had died, aged 99. Billy Graham was not just “one of the most influential preachers of the twentieth century” as he was described by the BBC, but he was, arguably, one of the most influential of all men and women of the twentieth century.

There are hundreds of millions of men and women, probably from all the countries of the world, who owe the fact that their lives were redeemed and put back on a God-honouring course by meeting their Saviour through the ministry of Billy Graham. No-one will ever be able to calculate the extent of the blessing he has been to all those people and the consequences there have been down the generation lines to children, children’s children and beyond.

I was ten years of age when I went with my Dad to hear Billy Graham at Harringay Arena in London in 1954. I was mightily impacted and will never forget how one particular man came to the Lord there through Billy’s ministry. I tell his story in Strands of Destiny. Then, many years later in 1984, I was privileged to be the originator of Mission England Praise (now Mission Praise), the song book for Billy Graham’s Mission England, and be involved in organising the meetings at Liverpool Football Club’s, Anfield Stadium. Those never to be forgotten days were part of my own personal journey of seeing faith in action.

Meeting Billy Graham, and his almost equally well-known song-leader, Cliff Barrows, was an inspirational moment that touched my life. Even though for over thirty years now I have been involved in the healing ministry, I have never forgotten that the primary calling of a Christian is to introduce those who don’t know Jesus, to their Saviour.

This will be a day of great thanksgiving in the hearts of countless people, including my own. There will be hundreds of millions of strands of destiny woven into a tapestry of thanksgiving as Billy meets His Saviour face to face.

I was going to write this blog about reactions to my book, Strands of Destiny, but that will have to wait for another time. Today is a day to thank God for a man who walked in his destiny throughout his days. His obedience to his calling has produced a harvest of extraordinary fruit.

Thanks be to God for the man – but even greater be to God for Billy’s Saviour, who called Billy to Himself when only a teenager and has now called him Home on the brink of his hundredth birthday. What a man – but, Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

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Are You Shovelling Coal or Stones?

Occasionally I have some very vivid dreams. More often than not they are forgotten within seconds of waking up, but every now and again I have a dream that persists and which I know that God is speaking through.

In one such dream, I was leaning out of the window of a long steam-hauled passenger train, as it was going round a bend in the track. I could see the engine and the front coaches of the train in the distance. Suddenly, the link between the first three coaches and the rest of the train came adrift. I watched as the engine with its three coaches disappeared into the distance, while the rest of the train that I was on slowly free wheeled to a halt.

It seemed that I was the only person fully aware of the problem. Eventually a small shunting engine came reversing down the track to connect with and retrieve the rest of the train. The shunter was accompanied by a tender full of best quality coal. And in the dream it became my job to keep shovelling the coal into the fire box of the engine, so that this small engine could get up enough steam to pull a long heavy train.

I was doing a good job and was pleased with the work I was doing. Then I noticed that as the coal began to be used up, amazingly, someone was pouring bags of fresh coal into the tender so that there was always a good supply.

But then I also noticed something else. There were some sacks of what I thought to be coal being poured into the coal-tender from another direction. And as I bent to shovel this fresh coal into the fire I was suddenly aware that these sacks did not contain best quality coal at all, but pebbles of stone, which were now mixed with the best quality coal still being poured in from the other side.

I now had a huge problem. If I continued to shovel the coal mixed with stone into the firebox of the engine the coal would burn, but the stones would be left behind. And before very long the fire box would be clogged with stone, the engine would not be able to produce any steam and the whole train would grind to a halt.

I soon saw that before I could shovel more coal into the firebox, therefore, I had to pick out the lumps of stone and separate them from the coal. But this was taking such a long time that the fire in the firebox began to burn low for lack of coal.

So, if I shovelled in the mix of coal and stone it would clog the firebox. And if I took the time to separate out all the stone from the coal, I wouldn’t be getting enough coal into the firebox to keep the engine going. Either way, whoever it was that was pouring sacks of stones into the coal tender was winning the battle.

It didn’t take me long to realise that there was only one way to win the battle – and that was to stop whoever it was that was pouring bags of stones into the coal-tender.

And then God spoke to me:

“The sacks of best-quality coal are being poured into the tender by My angels so that you will always have enough fuel to keep your life on track. When My enemy realises that you are determined to press on with your calling, he knows that he cannot stop My angels from pouring in the coal. So, in order to slow your progress, he looks for every possible opening there may be in your spiritual defences into which his ‘angels’ may pour sacks of stones.

If you do nothing about it the fire-box of your spiritual life will soon go out – clogged with ‘stones’. And if you start tackling the problem, the time you have to spend in clearing the stones out of the coal tender will also limit your potential in the Kingdom of God. Either way, eventually, your train will run out of steam and be going nowhere. Sadly, My church is full of trains going nowhere.

I am now urging My people to ask Me to show them where the holes are in their defences, through which My enemy can pour in stones, and to close them off by being willing to deal with the issues through repentance, healing and deliverance. Only then will their lives get back fully on track and they will be able to generate enough steam to pull the train of their life in the manner and direction that I intended.”

I woke up knowing it was time to go to prayer.

 

 

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View from a Distant Hill

When you are young the hills of time merge into the outline of a distant horizon. I used to look at my grandparents, who were younger then than I am now, and try to imagine what it must be like to be so old! They were standing on a distant hill and enjoyed telling me what their view of life and history was like from their elevated perspective.

The years have now passed and I, in turn, am standing on one of those distant hills. I have been looking back over the 73 years that God has so far granted to me, over 30 of which have been spent on pioneering and developing, with the Ellel team, the work that became known as Ellel Ministries. What God has done in that time is beyond human comprehension. I have been privileged to see Him work miracle after miracle – both in terms of the life-transforming work of His Spirit, in the lives of thousands of people, and in meeting the practical needs of the ministry.

The Psalmist encourages us to make a record of what God has done (Psalm 102:18), so that future generations will be able to praise and thank the Lord for what He has done. So, over the past few years I have been doing just that – writing the story, both of the years of preparation which preceded Ellel Ministries, and the step-by-step journey of faith that has seen the work established now in over thirty countries.

At long last the book, Strands of Destiny, is finished and about to be published. It is with considerable nervous anticipation that I await seeing the book for the first time. I have used the phrase View from a Distant Hill as the title of the Epilogue. For that is exactly what the book is – a view from the distant hill of my own life, looking back on seven decades of God’s faithfulness through many ups and down and often extraordinary experiences.

I find myself saying a very loud Amen to all that is expressed in Psalm 34 in which we find those simple words of testimony “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (v8). The poetry of Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate perfectly encapsulates the words of the Psalm, and expresses for me my own thanksgiving to the Lord as I look back from my own distant hill. For He has miraculously woven the many different strands of my own life into His destiny purposes – hence the title of the book, Strands of Destiny.

Through all the changing scenes of life,
In trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ. 

 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
With me exalt His name;
When in distress to Him I called,
He to my rescue came.

 The hosts of God encamp around
The dwellings of the just;
Deliverance He affords to all
Who on His succour trust.

Oh, make but trial of His love,
Experience will decide
How blest they are, and only they,
Who in His truth confide.

Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear;
Make you His service your delight,
Your wants shall be His care.

(Strands of Destiny will be published by Sovereign World at the end of November.

Over 400 pages of text, and 48 pages of photographs.)

Posted in Books That Changed My Life, Ellel Ministries, General | 10 Comments

The Spirit of Antichrist

I normally have several books by my bedside – all of which I am reading bits of, according to what takes my fancy on any particular evening. But, this past week two very different books have grabbed my attention, essentially for the same basic reason.

The books are Back to Jerusalem by Paul Hattaway – being the story of those extraordinarily brave Chinese leaders who have laid down their lives to take the Gospel from China back to Jerusalem, through the strongholds of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, where the peoples are largely unreached by the good news of Jesus. This is a movement which originated in the middle of the last century – a movement which has cost the lives of hundreds of Christian martyrs, whose blood is on the land.

The other book is a much older tome, Fox’s Book of Martyrs, a great Christian classic which in Victorian England stood alongside Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as the two books, after the Bible, which every Christian should read. I have only ever dipped into the book in the past, it has been awaiting the time when the Holy Spirit prompted me to absorb the incredible stories of those who, down the centuries, have given their lives for their faith. That time came this past week.

So, a week later I have almost finished Back to Jerusalem and, so far, have managed about 30% of Fox. It’s not easy reading. But my spiritual life and calling has been challenged to the very core as I have read the stories of extraordinary courage and fortitude, as both young and old, men and women suffered the cruellest of unspeakable tortures and means of execution, rather than renounce their faith in Jesus and deny their Lord, even when knowing what terrible sufferings lay ahead of them on earth.

But it was what lay ahead of them in Heaven which shone so powerfully in their hearts, that kept them utterly faithful to their calling and destiny to the very end. Countless thousands down the centuries have lived the reality of Matthew 10:38-39 and have found their lives through martyrdom: ”Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find their lives.”

As I have meditated on why God had me read these two books at this time, I found myself analysing the reasons why men could act with such terrible and unjustified cruelty. Ultimately, I realised, that their demonically inspired murderous actions were, invariably, because their victims refused to acknowledge and accede to the beliefs of their accusers.

During the ten waves of Roman persecution, it was the Christians’ refusal to sacrifice to the idols of the state, in which the Emperors and their governors believed, which brought down the powers that be upon their heads. To oppose the authorities in this way was considered to be an act of rebellion, even treason, and this always carried with it the threat of death. Then, when things went wrong for Rome, it was sometimes said that it was the fault of the Christians and, as a result, general persecutions broke out with instructions to kill all Christians. When, what the authorities believed in was being rejected, all Christians became an enemy of the state.

I, personally, am a descendant of Huguenots who managed to escape from France during some of the most terrible and bloody persecutions ever recorded, as the Church of Rome tried to eliminate all protestant believers from France. And in the UK, in the days of Queen ‘bloody’ Mary, refusal to believe in the Roman doctrines and acknowledge the Pope as the head of the Church, lit the fires of martyrdom beneath thousands, including Bishops Ridley, Latimer and Archbishop Cranmer in Oxford. And I could hardly read the unbelievably awful and terrible things that Rome did to Protestants in the Spanish Inquisition.

In China refusal to stop believing in Jesus hit directly at the atheistic beliefs of the communist government. Members of the house churches became enemies of the state and, over the last seventy years, millions have paid the ultimate price for faithfulness to their Saviour and Lord.

It is believed that there were more martyrs for the faith in the twentieth century than in all the previous centuries put together!

And today, in the middle East, we have seen how the beliefs of radical Islamists have caused them to execute a similar brutal judgement on anyone (Christian, Jew or, even, Muslim) who dares to think and believe differently from the leaders of ISIS.

There is a spirit behind all such murderous persecutions of believers. It is cruel, it is antichrist and it rides on the back of a spirit of religion. Anyone who dares to think or believe differently from the adherents of their religion, whatever its name may be, becomes a victim of their hatred and poison. In the world, today, we have many different recognised religions, but we also have a religion which adherents would not want it to be called as such, but which is as much a religion as any other – for it is motivated by a belief.

In essence, that belief is humanism, which declares, in one way or another, that there is no such thing as a Holy God to whom we are answerable and that, in the moral realm, man is god of his own choices and is free to do whatever he likes especially, it seems, in terms of marriage, sexual relationships and abortion. Anyone who dares to think differently becomes an object of vitriolic persecution, powered by the same antichrist spirit that has caused the deaths of millions of martyr-saints in the past two thousand years.

Anyone in the UK, who saw Tim Farron resign as leader of the Liberal Democrats, after the recent election, was watching that antichrist spirit at work, driving him from office for holding orthodox Christian views. Tragically what, essentially, Tim Farron was saying is that in the UK, it is no longer possible for a practising Christian, with orthodox views, to remain leader of a political party. And that is a conclusion that believers would have to reach in many other of our western nations also.

But even more sadly, the church has fallen victim to the same pressures of humanism. Instead of being salt and light in a fallen world, boldly proclaiming the truth of Scripture to what is now a post-Christian society, it is increasingly drawing upon the beliefs and ways of the world for its moral direction, as opposed to being faithful to its founder and the teaching of Scripture, the Word of God.

In my student days, on my way from Christ Church to the science laboratories, I would cross Broad Street at the place where a large brass cross in the road had been put to mark the very spot where Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were burned at the stake. We may not burn people at the stake today for holding the same orthodox, scriptural views as those noble Bishops but, make no mistake, it was the same antichrist spirit which called for the head of Tim Farron!

I pray that the Churches of our nation, as they deliberate on the critical issues of the day, such as abortion and marriage, will not choose to appease the spirit of antichrist and the false god of humanism in their councils and synods, by changing their orthodox beliefs to accommodate the world. I pray, too, that they will remember our blood-splattered land and not betray those who laid down their lives so that the Word of God could be freely available. These are severely testing days for those who want to remain faithful to the word of truth.

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The Aftermath

The UK has just emerged from its most extraordinary election in living memory. An election where a significant Conservative lead was whittled away by a far-left version of the Labour Party at the same time as two Islamic terrorist attacks on Manchester and London took thirty lives in the name of Allah, left dozens seriously injured and scarred the lives of the many hundreds who were caught up in the events. As the commentators and politicians pick over the pieces of all that has happened in the past few weeks, it is incumbent upon God’s people to not only pray for their nation but to seek His face afresh for how they should respond in the face of chaos, fear and spiritual darkness.

I have always followed closely the unfolding story of all the elections in my lifetime. But the one I remember the most is the 18th June 1970. Not, primarily, for the fact that Ted Heath surprised the nation by coming out on top, but because that was the night when God spoke to me, as I began the work of restoring the wreck of an Alvis Speed 20 car, and said “You could restore this broken car, but I can restore broken lives.” In that moment, my life was changed for ever and the seeds were sown for the founding of Ellel Ministries sixteen years later.

As I stare now at the moral confusion that dominates most of the main political parties – which all espouse what is termed social liberalism and embrace policies which allow all manner of conduct and relational behaviour, without restriction – I felt the grief of God and found myself weeping in my spirit. It wasn’t Buddha, or the gods worshipped by Hindus, Sikhs and Moslems that answered the desperate prayers of our nation during the second world war. The King called the nation to prayer, and the people flocked to the Churches to pray to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. God graciously heard and answered their prayers in a miraculous manner. But after the war the people forgot and today we have a younger generation that is largely ignorant of the Christian faith, the faith which has been the guiding light of our nation and its laws for generations.

There is no doubt that our nation is once again at war – not with a physical enemy from without, but with a spiritual enemy that has been turning the hearts of the people away from the living God for two generations and has now invited into the vacuum every alien spirit imaginable. Lawlessness is always the consequence of rebellion.

Last night, I dwelt on the chaos that reigned in the eighteenth century and remembered how God raised up John Wesley, among others, a fearless evangelist who spent his whole life traversing the nation, and once again turning the hearts of the common people towards God. I ended the day in prayer that once again God would raise up fearless evangelists who would uncompromisingly declare the truths of God’s Word to the people and that the Holy Spirit would unleash a spirit of repentance on the people.

I found myself weeping for the lack of a credible public Christian voice among the clergy of our churches, a voice which would command the respect of our political leaders. Then I was reminded of what God said through Ezekiel about the leaders of Israel: “Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things, they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 22:26).

I read on and was encouraged that in verse 30 it says that God “looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land, so I would not have to destroy it”, but then I was dismayed when I read that God had to say “I found none” and that judgement of the nation was the consequence.

Surely, Lord, there are those in our nation who will stand in the gap on behalf of the land? Where are those with the gift of leadership who have been honed by the spirit in the secret place so that at the right time they will ‘come out of hiding’ and speak with a voice of holy authority in the public place?

Lord, I cry out to you to have mercy on our nation and to look for the men and women who are willing to stand in the gap for the land. Lord, I ask you to raise up those who will become a Wesley or a Spurgeon for the twenty-first century and give them a platform for their voices to be heard. We are desperately in need and our eyes, Lord, are on You.

 

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“Easter People – living in a Good Friday World”

Recent newspapers have been full of the precipitous stand-off in North Korea, and many other harrowing stories of human suffering, including the stabbing to death of an English girl studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In the midst of all this, the Editor of the Daily Telegraph chose to fill the whole of his editorial column on Easter Saturday with a remarkable account of the Easter message, focussing on the fact that Jesus “descended into Hell” so that we could have a hope of Heaven. Here’s the link:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2017/04/15/light-let-broken-doors/

It’s well worth reading and realising that not everyone in the media is anti-Chrstian. Indeed, during this past week there have been several  major articles in the Telegraph about the persecution of Christians overseas and the apparent disinterest of politically correct governments in opening their eyes to see that there is a systematic attack of believers going on, especially where radical Islam has a foothold. The ancient Syrian church is all but annihilated and the number of Christians left in Iraq is minimal.

But in the midst of the darkness the light of truth is being shone by the Holy Spirit – especially into the hearts of some Muslims who are sick of what their fellow Muslims are doing in the name of their religion. And many are turning to Jesus. And as we have discovered, there are many who come to Jesus the Healer and then discover that He is also Jesus their Saviour. More former Muslims celebrated Easter this year as devout followers of Jesus than at any other time in human history!

This Easter season has been a poignant time for me as I have meditated on the Sabbath day that divided Easter day from Good Friday. It must have been a day of confusion, uncertainty and fear for the disciples. We can look back with the benefit of hindsight and say to the disciples, “Why were you frightened – didn’t Jesus say He would rise again from the dead?” But if we had been part of that first group of disciples, caught between the tragedy of the day before and promises for the future that had not yet been proven to be true, I’ve no doubt we would have felt just like them.

I was deeply challenged by a comment by Andrew White, the former Vicar of Baghdad, who is now ministering in Jordan. He has on many occasions experienced believers having been tortured and killed for their faith in today’s spiritually hostile world. He is living and working with people who face the possibility of death on a daily basis – people who are trusting that the Jesus who was raised from the dead all those years ago, will be true to His Word and when He comes again and that He will raise them, also, to new life, free at last from the horrors they have experienced in this world.

Andrew’s summary of the world He is living in with believers is that “We are an Easter people, living in a Good Friday world.” This profound statement reflects the very heart of the Gospel – we are Easter people because Jesus was raised from the dead. But we are living in a Good Friday world, where the enemy of souls is still true to his name as a thief and a robber and seeking to cut short the lives of God’s people.

I have been challenged afresh to hold our persecuted brethren across the world in prayer in this their time of hurt, grief, suffering and distress. And through the agency of Ellel Ministries to do as much as we can, with the resources we have, to bring hope and healing to those still suffering, through the deep wounds and scars that mark their journey of faith.

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