Another Fallen ‘Giant’ – News We Don’t Like Hearing

Most people, by now, will have heard how one of the world’s most well-known Christian leaders, Ravi Zacharias, has been exposed as a long-term sexual abuser. He died less than a year ago, but he had so effectively managed to keep this dark side of his life covert that Mike Pence, the Vice-President of the United States, accepted the invitation to speak at his funeral in May 2020.

This is not just a case of a man having fallen into sexual sin once, as David did with Bathsheba, it is a case of a man knowingly practicing deceit, in order to feed his sexual appetites, over most of his adult lifetime. The details are dreadful.

I knew of accusations that were circulating a few years ago and he was given the opportunity then to come clean. But in his pride he not only rejected the offer but labelled the accusations as false and convinced all the members of his staff and teams of his innocence.

Now that everything from hundreds of accusers is out in the open, it is clear that Ravi Zacharias was a practised liar who carefully and wilfully planned and lived out his fantasies over a long period of time, without any consideration of what he was doing to his family, the women who were his victims or, worst of all to the Body of Christ and above all to the Lord.

He was a liar and a cheat who deliberately and knowingly supressed his conscience in order to wilfully steal from others – all under the cover of being one of the world’s leading charismatic teachers and Christian apologists. The fall-out in the Body of Christ is massive.

So how could such a thing happen? Rather than write an extended blog on the subject, I have decided to re-publish below an updated version of an article I wrote over twenty years ago, at the time of another Christian leader’s fall from grace.

Sailing with the Bow Doors Open!

On the 6th March 1987, the Herald of Free Enterprise sankjust outside Zeebrugge harbour. This large roll-on roll-off car ferry had crossed the North Sea many hundreds of times and had already made four crossings on that day between Belgium and the UK.

When disaster struck 193 people lost their lives. The tragedy of this tragedy is that it was totally avoidable. It was not an accident. The ship sailed with the bow doors open.

It had become a regular practice for the ship to set sail before the bow doors were fully closed. On this occasion the crew were unusually late in closing them. As the ship hit the open sea, water flooded the car decks. The ship took a heavy list to one side as vehicles began to move and then the whole ship capsized in just 30 feet of water..

As I watched a TV documentary the disaster God began to speak to me of the dangers of sailing through life with the bow doors open. The crew had set sail like this on many previous occasions without consequence, but on this occasion the unthinkable happened. The Captain of the ship was responsible for setting sail with the bow doors open. The crew were responsible for not closing the doors in time. The victims who died were innocent bystanders of an avoidable drama.

We are all individually responsible for the ship of our lives. If we are sailing with the bow doors open, then nothing untoward may happen for a long time. There is little danger when the waters are smooth. Complacency and pride can make us careless in our conduct. And when the unthinkable happens it’s not only the individual who suffers, but all “the passengers” who were depending on us for their well-being are in danger of becoming victims.

Those passengers include our own families, our colleagues, those who work for us and all who look to us for spiritual input and care at various levels of church life. For a Pastor or leader of a Christian ministry, the passengers include their whole congregation, staff, the wider Body of Christ and the readers of their books. When the disaster occurs to a high-profile Christian leader the ripple effect can become a tsunami.

Many of those I have prayed with, whose lives had experienced some form of shipwreck, had been sailing through life with the bow doors of their lives wide open. For some, disaster struck by way of public exposure of immoral conduct. For others, the torment of inner guilt was the root cause of personal breakdown. For yet others the circumstances of life had turned against them and when everything was laid upon the table, it was painfully evident that ‘bow doors’ which had been left open years ago had never been closed.

The enemy will use anything and everything in our lives which is out of harmony with God’s covenant of blessing. The ten commandments are referred to as God’s covenant in Deut. 4:13 – they represent God’s very best for us. Unresolved sin issues always condense down to wilfully choosing to ignore one or other aspect of God’s laws – His covenant of blessing for His people.

There may be reasons in the past as to why a particular sin has remained out of control – such as abuse or various aspects of parental damage – but sin is still sin and it is far better to face the fact of it, and receive healing for the cause, than to wrestle on one’s own to close a bow door that has been jammed open and which seems immoveable. There are answers.

If the bow doors are not closed there will come a time when disaster will strike. That is why the healing ministry must be a vital and integral part of Church life. It is the unhealed areas of our lives that leave us vulnerable to being overwhelmed with a flood. God wants to heal us before it’s too late. He takes no pleasure in the casualties, pain and trauma of public shipwreck.

The history of Christian ministry is, sadly, punctuated with disasters caused by people sailing through life with bow doors open – and the more senior the person the greater the disaster. The Captain of the Herald of Free Enterprise was complacently doing what he had always done, but when disaster struck the consequences were terrible.

Just as this shipping disaster was totally avoidable, most of the spiritual disasters, which give the enemy so much leverage in the Body of Christ, are also avoidable. All that is required to begin the journey of hope is humility, open-ness and honesty.

Pride may say “I can never own up to this or that thing – it would not be edifying. I could never let anyone know what I’m really like on the inside”. Pride also says “keep sailing even though the bow doors are open”. Humility says, “get the doors closed before there is a disaster.”

A Christian leader I know could no longer cope with the pressures of his calling. He pensioned himself off from service in the Body of Christ. He then heard how God had restored a colleague on one of our schools and discovered that the sexual problems of his youth had left a bow door wide open. For decades he had used all his surplus energy to try and keep the water out, but one can only do this for so long. The enemy was robbing him of his destiny. Today he is healed, restored and back in the front line. The bow door that the enemy had used to overwhelm him is now well and truly closed.

There are many disasters waiting to happen in the Body of Christ – people who are shipping water privately through open bow doors. Those disasters can be avoided. All the problems a person has in this life are not automatically resolved at conversion. When we get to heaven the old man will fall away, but right now we are still wrestling with the consequences of the fall – even after we are born again. Conversion is but the beginning of a journey of discipleship.

The name of the vessel that sank over thirty years ago was Herald of Free Enterprise. God wants each one of us to enter into the fullness of His destiny, but if we choose to live a life of Free Enterprise, independent of the discipline of God’s love and without heeding Paul’s advice to Timothy “Guard your life and doctrine closely” (1 Tim.4:16), then we will only give the enemy opportunity to one day sink the vessel and devastate the lives of hundreds and, as in the Ravi Zacharias case, many thousands who have been so terribly betrayed.

When Paul told the Corinthian Church “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) – he was speaking to those who already knew the Lord. In the New Testament the word salvation not only embraces entering the Kingdom of God, but the healing and deliverance of those who are already in the Kingdom.

Since 1987 over 3000 people have died in similar roll-on roll-off ferry disasters – because the lessons of earlier disasters were not learnt and applied by the crews of other vessels. Now is the day for getting our lives in order and closing all the bow doors there may be in our lives – testing days are coming when the waters may not be calm. We must take action now to remove the ground from our lives on which the enemy is standing and avoid more disasters in the Body of Christ.

Time is Running Out!

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”

Isaiah 55:6, NIV

There will come a day and a time when Jesus comes again. Nothing is more certain. All the promises about the first coming of Jesus were precisely fulfilled. And there are more promises in Scripture about the second coming than there were about the first. The world is on notice and as every day passes we get closer and closer to the day when Jesus returns as King of Kings.

As we see and hear about the awful events currently unfolding in the world, people are being forced to ask serious questions about the prophecies Jesus made about His own return. Some are searching the Scriptures and looking for answers. No, I am not going to make any predictions as to when, but it will happen.

I will remind you, however, of the significance of our Scripture for today – time is running out! If we do not know the Lord for ourselves, then, as a matter of urgency, stop whatever you are doing, humble yourself before the Lord, the Creator of the Universe, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and come to Him now. And, as John tells us in John 1:12, “As many as receive Jesus, Who believe in His name, have the right to become children of God.”

None of us knows either the day or the hour when Jesus will come again or the day or the hour of the time when we ourselves have to prepare to meet our Maker. The events of the world are a huge wake-up call for the Body of Christ. Don’t delay reaching out to the Lord your Saviour. If you do, salvation will come to your house today!

Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for the urgency of today’s Scripture. Thank You for reminding me that it is only in You that there is salvation and forgiveness. I come to You afresh today, confess my sin and my need of a Saviour, and invite You to be Lord of my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Rescued!

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters . . . He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

Psalm 18:16-19, NIV

We were on a family holiday at the seaside. I was a venturesome toddler. My father was playing near some rockpools with my older brother, some of which were quite deep. Suddenly a cry went up, “Where’s Peter?” I was nowhere to be seen. It was one of those “Oh, God help!” moments as my parents looked for their missing second son.

Then, it was as if another hand had guided my father to the deepest of the pools. He plunged his hand beneath the murky water and grabbed hold of the toddler beneath the water and pulled me out. He didn’t know I was there, he just plunged his arm down into the water in the place where the Lord told him to go. And, praise God, I’m still here seventy-five years later to tell the story!

I always enjoyed the retelling of the story – for obvious reasons. Dad, with God’s help, saved my life. And in a similar way David enjoyed retelling the stories of how God’s divine hand had directed his life on many occasions. The whole of Psalm 18 is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance.

The final phrase of our Scripture for today reminds us of what God thinks about his children – He delights in them. So be encouraged, the Lord delights in YOU. He loves you with an everlasting (never stops!) love – and for those who are in Christ the experience of being loved stretches from time into eternity.

I pray that as you read this, whatever the circumstances you are currently going through, that you will know the love of the Father’s hand directing your steps and stretching down into the even the deepest of waters to rescue you.

Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for Your amazing love. Thank You that You came from eternity into time so that we may go from time into eternity. Thank You Father God for Your rescuing hand which stretches down into the darkest of situations. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Light in the Darkness

“For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Luke 2:31-32, NIV

On this first day of 2021, I would like to wish every one of you reading today’s Seed of the Kingdom, a very blessed New Year. For no matter how difficult or dark last year may have been, our Scripture reminds us that the Christian message is one of light, joy and hope for all peoples. In spite of all the difficulties that the whole world has experienced in 2020, we have an incredibly joyful message for those who truly seek the One who is the Saviour of the World.

Simeon had spent all his life longing for the day when he would finally see the baby he had been waiting for. Day by day in the temple he had been watching and waiting and when, finally, the day came, and his eyes lighted upon the baby Jesus in Mary’s arms, his spirit was immediately alerted to the words of the prophet Isaiah and he spoke out our Scripture for today. His eyes had seen the salvation which God had been preparing for generations – for both the Gentiles and the Jews.

We didn’t just celebrate the birth of a baby over the Christmas season, but we were celebrating the incarnation of Jesus, the Light of the World. World events are hastening on and it feels as though darkness is closing in. It’s a fact, however, that lights shine with equal power day and night, but during the daytime they are barely visible. Then, as darkness falls they seem to shine ever brighter till in the fullness of the night they shine brilliantly. The night is coming. And the Light of the World will shine ever brighter as darkness falls and the babe of Bethlehem awaits the moment for His return as King of Kings.

Today we can truly give thanks to God Himself that in His mercy He sent Jesus and that His love encompasses all who cry out to Him from the darkness. And, like Simeon, day by day we watch and wait with excitement in our spirits.

May the joy of Jesus fill your hearts and minds throughout 2021 and may I encourage you to pray today for those you know and love who have not yet discovered the Light that soon they will come to know Him.

Prayer: Thank You that You gave Simeon the inner witness as to who the babe in Mary’s arms really was. Thank You Lord for bringing eternal Light into the world. Help me never to lose sight of who You really are and that one day, You will be returning as King. In jesus’ Name, Amen.

This is Love!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love . . . the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jeremiah 31:3 and John 1:14, NIV

A loving Dad makes plans for his children. I can remember many occasions when we did exciting things as a family. For my brother and I, we just lived in the excitement of the moment when these plans came to fruition. But looking back now I can see that Mum and Dad had been thinking about, talking about, saving up for and preparing for the event weeks and months in advance.

Our heavenly Dad, Father God, never stopped loving mankind because man had sinned. Instead He set in motion a plan which would take centuries to come to fruition – a plan which originated in His everlasting love. The Old Testament is full of prophecies telling the world what God was planning to do, such as Isaiah 7:14 which says “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son.”

The Christmas story is not a made up fable – but the true account of what actually happened all those years ago. Prophecy was fulfilled, all that God had planned came to pass. The glory of God was manifest in Mary’s baby – the baby who had been destined to become not just a man of God, but was God made man,“full of grace and truth”, Father God’s extraordinary gift to mankind – the baby who as a Man would become the sacrifice for the sin of the world, and through whom we can receive eternal life.

John 1:12 tells us that “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” This is the heart of the Christmas message. Because of His supernatural birth and sinless life, we who have sinned can be born again as children of God, redeemed and restored to fellowship with our Father God who planned it all for us.

What an incredible and amazing gift. I pray that as you share gifts to celebrate the coming of Jesus, you will begin this special day by thanking God for the most amazing gift of all – the gift of Jesus, the gift of Life – everlasting Life, from a Father who loves us with an everlasting Love!

Prayer: Thank You Father God for Your everlasting love. Thank You Jesus that You came in fulfilment of all the Father’s plans. Thank You for being willing to die for me. Thank You for being my Saviour. Help me to always live for You as Lord of my life, alive in You for evermore. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Inner Wisdom

“It is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.”

Job 32:8-9, NIV

There are many profound truths hidden away in some of the more obscure parts of the Bible. I’ve recently been working my way through the book of Job and there are many places where I have marked verses that I need to go back to and think about, including the words which are our scripture for today.

The world often assumes that because a person is full of accumulated knowledge that they are also wise. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’ve prayed with quite a lot of people across the years who were both very clever, very knowledgeable and sometimes wealthy as well. But when I heard their life story and saw the deep pits they had fallen into, on the inside I was shaking my head in disbelief at the foolish mistakes they had made.

When they had stood at life’s cross-roads, or faced different temptations, they had made choices which were sourced in the emotions of the moment and not the wisdom of God. They hadn’t learned to listen to God’s spirit speaking to them within. It doesn’t matter whether we are young or old, we are all capable of listening to the voice of God’s Spirit within us and then making choices which line up with the wisdom of God.

We may not have the knowledge of an highly trained and qualified individual, but we don’t need any qualifications to hear the voice of God – what we need is a humble and a submissive heart which recognises that God’s wisdom is better than ours! That may sound as though we are stating the obvious, but man has a huge capacity to switch off the voice of God at the moment when they should be listening intently for His voice and most need to hear it.

God offers us His wisdom – it is the breath of the Almighty that gives us His understanding. And God breathes His breath into our spirit at all ages of our life. If only we took more time and care to listen!

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the incredible privilege of being able to hear Your voice in our inner being. I pray that Your wisdom will guide my life’s decisions so that I will be able to walk in the destiny that You have prepared for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What a Commendation!

“Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord . . . . “

Ephesians 6:21, NIV

Whenever I have reason to visit a graveyard, I’m particularly interested to read what is carved on the stones, by way of a short epitaph on the life of the person whose body lies there beneath the ground. Sometimes they’re witty, sometimes profound, sometimes generous and occasionally a beautiful commendation of a godly life, well lived.

These words of Paul were not an epitaph to a man who had died, but a commendation to a much loved Christian man who was serving an apostle of God, in order to be a blessing to the people of God in Ephesus. But I can well imagine that if Paul, at a later time, had the opportunity to write on a stone over the grave of Tychicus, this is exactly what he would have said. “Dear brother and servant in the Lord.”

As I read these words, I found myself being challenged by their powerful simplicity and began to ask myself questions about what it might really mean to be a ‘dear brother’ to all my fellow believers. And then I dwelt on the importance of being a servant and remembered afresh how the best example of being a servant in Scripture is seen in the life of Jesus. He came not to lift himself up, even though he was the Son of God, but to serve others so that one day in eternity they will be lifted up to a place of blessing in glory.

Tychicus had clearly learned well what it means to be a follower and servant of Jesus, so much so that two thousand years later we are still reading about him in these words of Scripture through Paul’s amazing commendation on his life. May each of us be challenged to live out our lives so that perhaps one day, when we have passed on people will think about our Christian character which made us what we are, rather than any achievements we might have been privileged to do. Everything we have ever done for Him has only ever been possible by His grace. It is to Him that the glory goes.

Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for this powerful testimony to the life of Tychicus. Help me, Lord, to so live my life that people will recognise You in me and be blessed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hezekiah’s Lessons

“In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.”

2 Chronicles 31:21, NIV

Prosperity is not a bit of magic that lands from Heaven on God’s special ones! And prosperity is not always measured by wealth and worldly success. There are principles that need to be applied and also a realisation that to be prosperous in God means walking a path of humility and being content with whatever version of prosperity God blesses us with. To be at peace and know that all is well with your soul is a form of prosperity whose value is beyond gold and diamonds. And one of the dangers of material prosperity is the temptation to pride – which became a trip wire in Hezekiah’s life which caused distress and sickness in his later life.

There are three principles in our Scripture for today which are foundational for a prosperous life: Firstly, obedience to the laws of God; secondly, seeking God’s input on everything we find to do; and, thirdly, working wholeheartedly – and that can sometimes mean working really hard as well. These three basic principles are a powerful recipe for living a godly and successful life.

Jesus made it clear that love and obedience go hand in hand – saying that if we really loved God, then we would want to follow and obey Him. The Bible is full of stories of how God blessed people’s lives, when they chose to do what he had shown them. Sadly, there are also the stories of how things went badly wrong when they ignored what God had said! When it comes to guidance it’s easy to start doing what we want, and then asking God retrospectively to help us – much better to seek His plan for our lives first and His guidance on the daily steps of life, than to do our own thing and then cry out to God for help when we get into deeper water than we intended!

Working wholeheartedly is an important principle for entering in to God’s prosperity. We can’t expect to receive when we don’t give our all into anything – and when it comes to serving the Lord, does He have the whole of our heart? And that’s an important question for us to consider.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, that You gave everything You are to save and rescue mankind. I’m sorry, Lord, for times when I have expected You to bless me when I have been less than wholehearted in serving You. Help me now, Lord, to put everything I am into loving and serving You for the rest of my days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Healing Through Creativity

It was a very exciting moment when the first copy of Healing Through Creativity was placed into my hands. My wife, Fiona, has been pioneering the ministry of healing through creativity for almost twenty-five years and for most of those years I have lived with a wife pregnant with excitement at all that she saw God doing – especially as she ministered hope and healing to some of the most damaged and hurting ‘lambs’ who came through the doors of our centres desperate for the Shepherd’s healing touch.

God is our Creator and Scripture tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of our God. So, every single one of us is made to be creative! Our creativity was designed by God to be a vital part of who we are, to be encouraged and developed as a natural part of growing and maturing as human beings.

But if, for whatever reason, our God-given creativity is discouraged, crushed or damaged our human spirit, at the very core of who we are, can become disabled, with all manner of side-effects and consequences, even causing long-term spiritual, emotional, psychological, psychiatric or physical symptoms.

So, if the disabling of our creativity can cause such inner and serious damage, it is not surprising that the restoration of our creativity can result in such profound and life-transforming healing! Instead of treating the external symptoms, God heals the broken heart. And then the healing flows from within to wherever the need for healing lies. In Revelation 22:1 the water of life is described as flowing from “the throne of God and of the Lamb”, watering the tree of life, the leaves of which “are for the healing of the nations.”

The water of life has indeed flowed through Ellel centres all over the world as Fiona has pioneered these special Healing Through Creativity courses in many different places. We have seen the water of life transform broken lives in every different culture and people group.

It is not surprising, therefore, that I was so excited when I first set my eyes on the book, as you will see in this video clip:

And here’s Fiona talking about the work of healing through creativity.

For years people have been telling Fiona that she should write a book.  And she has been working on it now for close on five years. It’s been like running a marathon, but we are praying that God will use this book to bring deep healing to thousands of people the world over.

Until the 18th December Ellel is offering the book at a special introductory price of £24.99, saving £5, and, in the UK, post free. Copies can be ordered now from Sovereign World Ltd at www.sovereignworld.com.

Healing Through Creativity, 352 large format pages, printed in full colour throughout. Over 175 illustrations.

Keys to Healing

New Livestream Teaching Series

Covid-19 has caused devastation across the world and has successfully closed the doors of thousands of church buildings. Congregations have been unable to meet in the normal way and Christians have been deprived of personal fellowship with fellow believers. There has been a huge sense of loss across the Body of Christ.

But, where one door has temporarily closed, God has opened literally thousands of others, as on-line events have been streamed right into people’s homes. When we had to close the doors of Ellel Grange, I began a series of live-streamed events on a Tuesday to encourage people who were suddenly trapped in their own homes.

I had no idea what this might lead to. But a lot of people tuned in and there was very positive feedback. The Tuesday Livestream soon became a series of topic-related messages – all of which can still be watched via our website. I was amazed at the encouraging responses that came in from all over the world.

Then the Tuesday event expanded with a parallel live-teaching event, being translated into Russian and live-streamed every Thursday to Russian speakers right across the former Soviet Union from Ukraine to Siberia and, indeed, all over the world as well!

Suddenly, it seemed, I was privileged to be reaching far more people than ever before and in places that I could never have dreamt of visiting! What began as an emergency response to Covid-19 has become an extraordinary opportunity for God to bless His people through the ministry.

After the latest series of four messages, on the Second Coming, I sensed the Lord was encouraging me to start a new open-ended series, explaining how to use the many different keys to healing that He has shown us over thirty-four years of Ellel Ministries.

So, I will be starting this new Tuesday series on the 10th November at 1.00pm UK time and the topic for the first message is Seek First the Kingdom of God. Each teaching will then be posted on the Ellel website under Livestream Events and will also be made available on YouTube. I’m looking forward with great anticipation to sharing some of our experiences and illustrating how God uses the truth of His Word to transform hurting lives.

One of the great blessings from the livestream messages to date is hearing how God has touched people’s lives and, even, brought profound healing as they listened to the teaching. I pray that if you are able to join us on Tuesday that the Lord will encourage, bless and bring His healing into your life also.