Back in the Family!

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

John 1:12, NIV

I have had several friends across the years who were adopted as babies into a new home. For whatever reason their natural parents did not want to keep their child and gave them away for adoption. Usually they were received by their new parents with much joy as the hole in their aching heart for a child of their own was filled.

When an adoption takes place, paperwork has to be completed giving the new parents the legal right to bring up the baby as if it was their own and giving the baby the legal right to be brought up under the secure covering, protection and, above all, the love of the adoptive parents.

The problem with mankind is that through the fall, man forfeited their natural rights as children of God and chose to be under the covering of a false father. In so doing we lost our natural birthright. But when Jesus came as Man and died as a totally sinless human being who had never come under Satan’s control, and then was raised from the dead, he opened up a legal way back to the Father that is forever open to all men and women everywhere.

And the only entry requirement is to believe in his name – knowing that He has authority with the Father – and He has promised that everyone who receives Him in this way will have their right of access to their natural Father restored for all of eternity. I feel like shouting Hallalujah in a thousand languages, drawing everyone’s attention to this fantastic truth, so that the whole world will know they don’t have to stay under the control of a false father, but there is now a legal right open to them to be adopted back in to the family of God!

Prayer: Thank you Jesus for dying that I might be forgiven. Thank you that when I receive You as my Saviour and Lord, I am adopted back in to my natural family and can be blessed by all the rights available to me as a child of God. In Jesus Name, Amen.

How to be a Fool!

“You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”?”

Isaiah 29:16,17, NIV

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This old question always teases the minds of children when they come across it for the first time, prompting endless speculative mind-stretching conversations.

But there is a much more serious question that our Scripture for today poses: Can a created being say to his Creator, “You didn’t make me. You know nothing!” Sad though it is, that is today’s reality. For that is the prevailing message that is given by our educational systems to children in our schools. They leave school believing that “God didn’t make me” and ‘knowing‘ that the whole universe, and everything in it, is a glorious accident – a spontaneous product of the big bang. Move aside God, we know better than to believe that You made it all.

With supreme arrogance secular humanism, wedded to a godless brand of science, has dispensed with both the idea and the need for believing in a Creator. Teaching the idea that God is Creator is now banned in our schools, under threat of dire consequences for the teachers who dare stand firm in their belief that God is Creator. God is not in the curriculum!

And once you’ve got God out of the way, there is no longer any need to believe in what He is supposed to have said or done. Scripture becomes a mixture of biased history and religious myths. The Bible gathers dust on the shelves of the learned, unread and unwanted. And man becomes his own authority – indeed becomes ‘god’.
But even our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, when challenged recently about what he believed, by a journalist, was wise enough to answer with a quote from Psalm 14:1, saying, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

To know that God made me is the most comforting of truths. For if God did make me, then He knows how to remake me, to heal and to restore me. And what a glorious salvation message that is for hurting people in a broken world. Take God out of the equation and you deny hope to the world.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord that YOU are the CREATOR. That You are the potter and that I am the clay. And that when in need I can come to You, and You can put me back on the wheel of life and remake and restore me. Hallelujah! Thank You Jesus. Amen.

A Great and Terrible day! (Malachi 4:5)

Along with millions of others we watched the final match of the European Football Championships – England v Italy. After extra-time had failed to separate the two teams on the pitch, the match was finally decided by a penalty shoot-out. If you were an English supporter it was a terrible day, but if you were an Italian supporter it was a great day. But for both it was the same day!

As we face ever-increasing distress among the nations, caused by societal disruption through the pandemic, relational confusion, racial tensions, climate change, rebellious insurrection, financial turmoil and many other factors, it feels as though the whole world is teetering on the edge of a massive upheaval that no politician could tame. The spiritual anchor points of the nations have gone and man has become his own authority, having separated from Creator God.

The tectonic plates that have underpinned government and society for generations are shifting, and a spiritual and social earthquake will be the inevitable result. Faith is no longer respected by the unbelieving world and the plumb line of truth which is at the heart of God’s Word is now such an offence to world influencers, that a new era of persecution of believers is inevitable. Isaiah warns about those who call evil good and good evil and replace light with darkness (Isaiah 5:20).

Scripture tells us that these things must happen, but Scripture also tells us that there will come a day when the sand run’s out of God’s measuring clock and the eternal referee blows the whistle on the game of Life. And as with the Euros final, that will be both a great and a terrible day, according to which side you are on. But it’s not just an ephemeral football trophy that’s at stake, but our eternal personal destiny when the King of Kings returns in power and great glory.

One of the hymns I was brought up on began by asking the question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” This was, perhaps, Frances Ridley Havergal’s most powerful hymn, declaring as it does in verse 4 that His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure. Verse 5 uncompromisingly sets out the battle lines of eternity:

Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band;
In the service royal, let us not grow cold,
Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.
Master, wilt thou keep us, by Thy grace divine,
Always on the Lord’s side – Saviour, always Thine.

As the darkness falls, so the stars shine brighter. And as darkness falls upon a world that has largely written Jesus out of the script, so the day will come when the light of God’s glory brings the whole world into crystal clear focus. And while all Heaven waits that time, the days are becoming yet more urgent for those whose hearts are still seeking the Lord of eternity in these remaining years of time.

In these desperate days, while the healing needs of the current generations escalate, the Gospel message that King Jesus is both Saviour and Healer becomes ever more relevant and important. And, as Frances Havergal urges us, “In this service royal, let us not grow cold.” And never cease to be messengers of hope in a broken world.

Remember!

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth . . . remember Him before the silver cord is severed . . . and the dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

From Ecclesiastes 12:1,6 and 7, NIV

Life is full of many temptations and unless we have good reason to resist them, we will fall into the same traps that countless human beings have fallen into previously, from which it is difficult to escape. In the eighteenth century Robert Raikes became interested in prison reform, specifically with the conditions in Gloucester gaol, and saw that vice would be better prevented than cured. He saw schooling as the best means of training up young minds and the Bible as the best text book. And so Sunday Schools were birthed into the UK. By 1830 there were over a million children regularly in Sunday School and by the beginning of the twentieth century that number had risen to over five million!

The impact on the lives of these children of being introduced to the Lord at an early age must have been dramatic. It was in my early youth that I invited Jesus into my life and I knew from those first days in the Kingdom of God that He had a calling on my life and that His Word would need to be a straight edge on my life. In common with the rest of humanity, I faced many temptations through my growing and then adult years. If I hadn’t come to know Who had made me and Who had died to save me, I would have been one of those crying out to God on a healing retreat many years later after falling into many traps.

We should never underestimate the preciousness of leading children to faith in their early years, for it is this coming to the Lord in the years of youth which provides a future defence against the inroads of the enemy. Sadly in today’s world Sunday Schools have declined almost to extinction. As a result we have generations of children now growing up without an inkling of who the Lord really is and the reality of the fact that there will come a day when whether or not we know Him is the only question that matters, when the silver cord of our lives is severed and our spirit returns to God.

Praying for, and with, our children, grand-children and great-grandchildren could be the most important service we could ever give to the future generations. If they remember their Creator in the days of their youth the doors of fruitfulness in their lives will open wide and who knows what works for the Kingdom of God they will fulfil, which will have amazing ramifications in both time and eternity.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for all those who impacted our own lives, especially when we were young. Help me, Lord, never to forget my responsibility to pray for the children and young people I know, that they will come to know their Saviour while their hearts are still tender and have not yet been corrupted by the ways of the world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Gratitude

Jesus asked, Were not all ten men with leprosy cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? Then he said to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:17-19, NIV

I have often pondered on this particular story of what happened when Jesus answered the cry for healing from ten men with leprosy. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priest and, as they went, they were healed. The extraordinary fact about this story is that only one of the lepers returned to give thanks – and the one who did wasn’t even a Jew – he was a Samaritan, a foreigner.

The main focus of this Gospel story is not the amazing fact that all the lepers were healed, but that nine of them never returned to praise God and express their gratitude to Jesus for what was a totally life-changing experience. We hear nothing more of the other nine. It was clearly a matter of great distress to Jesus that none of them came back to praise God and say thank you.

My meditation on this story caused me to do some soul-searching about how easy it is to take for granted the extraordinary blessings God pours out on our lives day by day. And how easy it is to take them for granted and be remiss in expressing our praise and thanksgiving to God. Many of the great hymn-writers expressed the ideal that every new day is an opportunity to praise and thank God.. For example: “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries: May Jesus Christ be praised.” And John Keble’s classic hymn, New Every Morning, expresses it so powerfully when in the second verse he says:

“New mercies, each returning day,
Surround Your people as they pray;
New dangers past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of Heaven.”

And finally, maybe there are people who have impacted your own life in one of many different possible ways. Did you ever express your thanks to them for the help they were to you, some perhaps at considerable cost to themselves? It would be a blessed day indeed if we caught up with our expressions of gratitude – both to God for all He has done – and to others for the help they have given you.

Prayer: “I am sorry, Lord, for the times when, like the nine lepers I have forgotten to give You thanks and praise for all the blessings You have poured into my life. Help me, today, to put things right with You. Help me, also, Lord, to remember those people who have blessed my life and whom I have never returned to them to say thank you and express my gratitude. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wounds of Love

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Proverbs 27:6, NIV

I love the book of Proverbs. The hundreds of God-inspired sayings which are gathered together in this most amazing of books, reflect every arena of life – from birth to death and all the experiences we can have between these two extremes. I love the down to earth practicality, direct honesty, no compromise and wonderful promises which are scattered throughout all thirty-one chapters, together with the many personal challenges which are embedded therein.

The verse I have chosen for today is one of those personal challenges. A challenge that I have had to respond to personally on more than one occasion, when someone I loved and trusted had the courage to speak into my life with words of correction. I have to confess that my first reaction wasn’t always warm and welcoming. The carnal nature wanted to rise up and defend myself – even when I knew in my heart that what I was doing wasn’t defendable and anger would try to exert itself. I felt the wound in my heart and the pain of having to make adjustments. And I wanted to hide away and lick my wounds and try and justify myself!

Repentance doesn’t always come easily – but if it doesn’t come at all we run the danger of being trapped in an ever tightening circle of ungodly behaviour and reactions. Repentance is the doorway to forgiveness and healing.

Sometimes it took a little while for me to realise how much love had gone into the words of correction, even though they had been hard to receive. And how costly it was for the person who had had the courage to show me such love. I learnt that love, sometimes, has to be tough in order to reap its reward. Looking back now, I am so, so, grateful for those times when necessary correction proved to be more loving than ‘fake kisses of encouragement’ which would have ignored the real needs of my life in those times. The wounds became opportunities for healing and restoration.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord for showing me through this Scripture that wounds of correction can be messages of love and healing. Help me, Lord, to always respond with humility whenever You bring correction into my life – either through the words of Scripture, or the loving intervention of a true friend. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Hurry up, God!

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

Psalm 130:5-6, NIV

I wonder if you’ve ever tried to hurry God up? I have to confess that I have. Many years ago, long before Ellel Ministries was established in 1986, I was daily crying out to God. He had planted the vision for a healing centre in the north-west of England in my heart, but as the years went by I almost became convinced that God had not only forgotten about the vision, but at times it seemed as though He had forgotten me as well.

It was a very lonely place of waiting. And as I got older, I became convinced, as well, that I was getting too old for the work I believed God had called me to do. My natural disposition was to try and make things happen, but God was having to teach me a very deep lesson – that His clocks keep perfect time. Like the psalmist, my whole being was waiting – I was desperate for the dawn to break on the day I was so sure He had told me about.

Those years of waiting, however, proved to be profound years of preparation. God had to do a lot of work in my life to equip me for the work that lay ahead. They were also years of testing as to whether or not I would continue to trust God for the vision, even though it seemed as though God had forgotten. I really understood how Abraham must have felt as the years rolled by, and there was still no sign of Sarah getting pregnant with the child that God had promised them.

But God had given Abraham His word and it was on God’s word that he was depending. And the vision that God gave me for the ministry was a word that He had spoken so clearly into my heart that it had become etched on my spirit and become part of me. I didn’t give up hope. And when the time finally came (the dawn!) it seemed so right. The morning had come and the work began in God’s time, not my own.

There were so many things I learned during those years of waiting that I can look back now with great thanksgiving for the critical lessons I had to learn. God really does know what He’s doing! So next time you are tempted to try and hurry God up, remember that His clocks do keep perfect time and the dawn will come.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, that You don’t forget Your promises and that each one of us is in the palm of Your hand as we await Your timing for the different events of life to come to fulfilment. Teach me patience and give me a willing heart to learn whatever lessons You want to teach me along the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When Jesus Speaks Your name!

“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, Mary said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’”
She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means ‘Teacher’)

John 20:15-16, NIV

After the crucifixion, the disciples and the close followers of Jesus waited till after the Sabbath and then, early on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb. But they were in for a shock. Jesus had gone! His body was no longer there. Mary was desperate. Where was He? Suddenly there was a stranger standing there. Maybe He could help, and thinking He must have been a gardener, the question burst out of Mary’s lips, “Where have you put Him?”

But this was no stranger! And Jesus didn’t need to answer her question. He simply looked at her and spoke her name, “Mary.” And that was all she needed. The sound of His voice said it all. She no longer needed an answer to the question about His body. When Jesus spoke her name she knew exactly who He was. He was alive!!! Risen from the dead, triumphant over death and hell and alive for evermore.

Mary had gone to the tomb to look for a dead Jesus. But instead of finding a corpse, she became the first person in history to speak to the newly raised from the dead, Son of God! Hearing the voice of Jesus, changed everything. The sound of her name, spoken by the lips of her Master, penetrated the very depths of her spirit in instant recognition. When Jesus speaks your name, your world can never be the same again.

Today there are many people who are looking in all the wrong places for answers to their questions about God. Maybe they are looking with their intellect for a historical figure and for the evidence of religion, but they are not looking with an open heart for the truth. With the intellect you will read the thoughts of men, whose minds are closed to the truth, but with your heart you will discover that, as with Mary, “the gardener” is always standing there, ready to speak your name and call you to Himself.

In Jeremiah 29:13 we have this wonderful promise from the Lord, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” On this glorious day, when we celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus, don’t spend the day looking into an empty tomb wondering where Jesus is, but open your heart to Him and listen to the whispering of His voice, calling you by name. When you hear His voice calling you to Himself, it will change your life for ever.

Prayer: Thank You Lord Jesus, for living and dying for me. I rejoice today in Your resurrection life and open my heart afresh to You, my Lord and my God. With everything I am I choose to seek you with an open heart – I’m listening Lord for Your voice, my Shepherd, to guide and direct my steps all my days. In Your Name, I pray, Amen.

Non-Stop Christian Living!

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV

It’s hard to get round the implications of these amazing scriptures – being a Christian is a non-stop experience! The words always, continually, and in all circumstances are very clear in their meaning.

As a believer we always have a reason to be joyful – because whatever the external circumstances, the joy that comes from being in fellowship with our Saviour is an experience that bubbles up from within and enables you to push through whatever external pressures you might be going through.

And ‘pray continually’ needn’t be the impossible challenge some people think it is. For prayer from the heart is simply being there to talk to the Lord and for Him to talk with you, at any time and in any place. He never leaves us, so His ear is always bent towards us to listen to even the whispers of our heart.

And giving thanks in all circumstances can seem like a tough assignment – but take note of what these words actually say – they don’t say give thanks for all circumstances – but in all circumstances. You might be going through a really tough time right now when it seems as though problems and difficulties abound. But isn’t it incredible that whatever is happening, the Lord is with you in it! It’s easy to give thanks for the encouragement of His presence, the wisdom that flows from His heart when you need help, the guidance that He drops into our spirit and the blessing it is to be able to talk with Him anytime, any place!

The Apostle Paul had learnt that the only way to survive and be at peace was never to lose sight of the Lord and to always be in living touch with Him. It’s the key to everything – or, rather He is the key to everything!

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, that You have promised never to leave or forsake us. Thank You that I can talk with You at any time and that the joy which comes from Your presence will never desert us as we keep our eyes fixed on You. Help me, Lord, to live the life of a non-stop Christian believer!. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

The Church’s Rescue Mission

”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”

Matthew 28:19-20, NIV

Reading hymns as poetry is one of my ‘Go To places’ when in need of encouragement, challenge and personal input for all sorts of reasons. Recently I have been mulling over our calling to heal the hurting and set the captives free and I found myself speaking out words once remembered from one of Fanny Crosby’s huge collection of hymns (including To God be the Glory and many other traditional favourites). She was blind from six weeks old and because of this she had an unusual sensitivity to the Lord and extraordinary spiritual sight and insight. In total she wrote over 8000 hymns!

The hymn that has been going through my mind was always a favourite of the evangelical world, Rescue the Perishing, but was probably never (or very rarely) understood in the context of healing and evangelism. Whilst the urgency of evangelism, as expressed in our Scripture for today, is explicit in the first line and title of the hymn, the words of all the verses have a relevance and importance to us in the ministry of healing – especially the third verse which describes what we have seen God do on so many occasions – ‘feelings lie buried that grace can restore’.

1
Rescue the perishing,
Care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one,
Lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing,
Care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful,
Jesus will save.

2
Though they are slighting Him,
Still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly,
Plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.

3
Down in the human heart,
Crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart,
Wakened by kindness,
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.

4
Rescue the perishing,
Duty demands it;
Strength for thy labour the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way,
Patiently win them;
Tell the poor wand’rer a Saviour has died.

Verse 3 describes the deep inner feelings of the real person that have been buried and crushed – that’s exactly what God does through the inner healing of a broken heart, awakening the true long-buried feelings of a hurting and broken person.

I was really blessed by realising that 150 years ago (1869) Fanny Crosby was expressing the heart of healing as a primary means of evangelism. Be blessed as you meditate on all the words of this classic hymn, remembering it was written by a lady who had never been able to see in the physical but had been granted an extraordinary capacity to see and understand the deepest of spiritual truths which she then endeavoured to express in hymns.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the remarkable insights of Fanny Crosby who, even though she was physically blind, could see into Your heart and convey to others extraordinary truths and understanding. Help me, Lord, to always be open to rescue those who are perishing because they do not know You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.