Tag Archives: Bible

Freedom From Guilt

‘I can never forgive myself for killing my own child!’

The woman who said this was a member of the community in which I was serving as a Methodist minister. It transpired that she had had an abortion some years previously.  As gently as possible, I asked her: ‘Would you if you could?’ The silence that followed seemed interminable.  Eventually she whispered ‘Yes, I suppose so… BUT I CAN’T!’   ‘Good, in that case I can ask the Lord to help you’.  I have never known the Lord to fail to answer this prayer.

It is important to recognize that she had the freedom to choose. If she had said ‘no’ there is nothing further I could have done.  Having expressed her willingness to forgive herself, I could then ask the Lord to help her. Having received the Lord’s forgiveness and choosing to forgive herself, she was freed from a burden of guilt that she had been carrying for a number of years.

We can be guilty without knowing it.  I did not realise that I was a sinner needing a saviour until after I had become a Christian.  We can feel guilty for no good reason.  There is such a thing as false guilt.

Part of what God has done for us through His coming in the person of Jesus Christ is to make provision for us to enjoy freedom from guilt and the forgiveness of our sins: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The prophet Isaiah foresaw what Jesus achieved for us through his death on the Cross: ‘He endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne.  All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God.  But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did.  We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received’ (Isaiah 53:4-5).

John, one of the disciples of Jesus, expresses it like this:  ‘(Jesus Christ) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).  Through his death on the Cross Jesus paid the price for all our sins.  John also tells us that the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sins (1 John 1:7).

The blood of Jesus washes away our guilt. An old chorus expresses it: ‘There is power in the blood’.   This is a mystery that I do not understand but nevertheless believe.

In the Catholic tradition it is customary to go to the Confessional in order to confess our sins to a priest and hear him pronounce absolution.  For those of us who are not Catholics it can be very helpful to acknowledge the truth of what has happened to a minister or another Christian who will listen to what we have to say and remind us of the truth expressed in the Bible that if we confess our sins, he will keep his promise and do what he has said he will do: he will forgive us and purify us. (1 John 1:9)   Our part is to choose to accept God’s forgiveness.

If we have difficulty doing this we may need to consider whether we have forgiven ourselves.

Advertisements

The Continuing Ministry of Jesus

I have long been convinced that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is meant to be continuing the ministry of Christ through the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Something to notice is the way in which Jesus shared his ministry with his disciples:

“When Jesus called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick…so they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere” Luke 9:1-6

And also 72 others:

“After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go…When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come upon you’.  Later the 72 returned with joy and said  “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Luke 10:1,8-9,17.

During the high priestly prayer, Jesus said to his Father: ‘Just as you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world’. (John 17:18).  Then, in one of his resurrection appearances he said to his disciples: ‘Just as the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. (John 20:21).

Jesus was sending them out to continue his ministry but they were not to do so in their own strength.  They were to wait until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-5,8).  Then they would realize that Jesus was back with them in a new way. (John 14:15-21,23)

This became their experience.  Mark concludes his gospel like this: ‘After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it’.

Paul testifies:

“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ” Romans 15:18-19.

I believe that this is how it is meant to be today.

Concerning Evil Spirits

C.S. Lewis says this in his introduction to ‘The Screwtape Letters’:

‘There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors’.

Corrie Ten Boom, who had a significant international ministry after the second world war, says this in her booklet ‘Defeated Enemies’:

‘Having faced fights “not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil” (Eph 6:12 Phillips) in prisons during the war and, later when travelling all over the world; and having met so many people – even dear servants of the Lord – who, though surrounded by the powers of darkness, the devil and the demons, do not recognise them, and do not know how to deal with them, I decided, at the request of a missionary friend, to write down what I have learned, as a help for other children of God’.

We do have an enemy to contend with. The apostle Peter warns us that we need to be self-controlled and alert because “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8,9.The apostle Paul tells us:


“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

Demons have a real personality.

  • They have knowledge Mark 1:23,24

  • They can feel James 2:19

  • They have a will Matthew 12:44

  • They can speak Acts 19:15

These are some of the things they can do:

  • Entice James 1:14

  • Deceive 1 Timothy 4:1,2

  • Enslave Romans 8:15

  • Drive, compel Luke 8:29

  • Defile Titus 1:15

They can attack:

  1. Through the mind – e.g. unbelief, indecision, false teaching
  2. Through the will – e.g. pride, stubbornness
  3. Through the emotions – e.g. resentment, anger, hatred, fear
  4. From the outside  – when we must resist them James 4:7, 1 Peter 5,8,9
  5. From the inside – when they need casting out Matthew 8:16, Mark 1:39

Worldview

How are we to understand the world in which we live?

Francis MacNutt, a leading Catholic authority on the Church’s Ministry of Healing, asks:

‘Do we believe in the existence of a spirit world, populated with angels and evil spirits?  Or would we rather not think about it?  How do we see the world in which we live?  The predominant world-view of the West since the so-called Enlightenment of 200 years ago has been scientific rationalism – if something cannot be seen,      measured or proved through reason, it simply does not exist – or at the very least should be doubted.  However this has been changing with the advent of New Age spirituality and a rising interest in the occult. Jesus assumed the existence of a spirit world – so much so that a major theme of his preaching highlighted the clash between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.  The question is, which world view is the correct one – the world view of Jesus or the world of the society into which we were born?’

Deliverance from Evil Spirits published by Hodder and Stoughton.

How Lay Witness Missions came to the UK

For me it began with a waking dream: one word, MACEDONIA, like a place name I saw once on a Welsh railway station, with the letters embossed,  standing clear of their background.  Pouring over a map later, I realized that, for the apostle Paul, the call from a man of Macedonia was a call to take the gospel west across the sea to Europe.  Was God calling me to go west across the sea to America? I knew no one in America and saw no reason to go there.

Ten years later, in 1974, when I was the Methodist minister at Bolsover near Chesterfield, I was in my study thinking about this again.  By then I had an open invitation to visit someone in Florida and a pressing request to allow two Americans, Charles and Lucille Gipson, to take me to a Lay Witness Mission if ever I visited the U.S.A.  I was also keen to see how the Lord was at work in various situations being affected by the Charismatic Renewal which was then at its height.  I decided to go for it.

So it was that I found myself in a remote community in the Appalachian mountains where a small Methodist church was having a Lay Witness Mission.  I could see the potential for the U.K.  Several months later, early in 1975, I had a letter out of the blue from Dr. Roger Haining, a dentist living in Seattle, asking if I would be willing to help him introduce Lay Witness Missions to England.

The idea was that we would have a joint American and British team for the first weekends that Roger would lead.  My task was to find the British team members and the churches to have the first missions.  Roger was hoping that they would be held later that year but as time went on it became apparent that though it was easy enough to find some volunteers to be the first British team members, finding enough churches willing to have an American led mission about which they knew nothing was a different matter!

The Lord knew that I needed help.  I recall vividly the day when Nev  Marples, a neighbour and a member of the church at Bolsover, called at the manse looking very worried.  He told me that he had been putting on his boots ready to go to work at the local Coalite plant when he heard a voice telling him to go to America.  When he recovered from the initial shock and asked whereabouts, the answer came back clear as a bell “Spokane”.   This was totally outside Nev’s experience and when I asked him why he was looking so anxious he told me that he thought I might recommend him to see a psychiatrist!  He had never heard of Spokane (neither had I for that matter).  Looking it up on a map he found that it was near the west coast!

After Nev’s visit I came across the word ‘Spokane’ on three separate occasions, one of them in a letter from Roger saying that the Methodist church in Spokane was thinking of sponsoring one of their young people to join the team.  I realized that Spokane was not all that far from Seattle and asked Roger if he would like to invite Nev over to sample a LWM so that he could then come back and help me find the churches to have the first missions.

The day came when Nev was dropped off at Spokane and told that he would be collected again later in the day.  Looking around and wondering what he was doing there, he noticed a building with a cross on it.  When he went to investigate he found that it was a shelter for disadvantaged men.  Nev ended up having lunch with the director who told him how he had been a successful cattle rancher when the Lord called him to the work in which he was now involved: how reluctant he had been and how he had been thrown from his horse, ending up on his back with plenty of time to think.  He told Nev: ‘If the Lord calls you to do something you’d better do it!’

Nev was taken to a Lay Witness Mission and also saw their potential for the U.K.

When  Nev came back home he had an amazing story to tell and was the one who encouraged churches to have the first missions as well as becoming a member of the management committee and going on missions himself.  Sadly, Nev died a few years ago.

The 1,000 Lay Witness Mission was held in October 2006.  This coincided with the 30th anniversary of the first mission being held at Bolsover.

Looking back it feels as if I had the privilege on entering into something that God was doing.

Angels

This is what the writer to the Hebrews says about angels:

‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’ Hebrews 1:12

The psalmist says this: ‘If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.   For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.’ Psalm 91: 9-11

My daughter Clare contributes the following:

‘I was about 18 years old and on a walking holiday in the Lake District with a friend.  This particular day, we were walking up Coniston Old Man.  As we headed towards the summit the mountain became enveloped in a thick mist.  We couldn’t see a thing, perhaps only 3-5 metres ahead.  We lost our way and had no idea which way to go.  We sat on a rock and prayed for God’s angels to look after us.  Soon afterwards, while we were still sitting there, and trying to decipher where we were on the map, a man walked towards us, a hiker, and asked us if we were OK and needed any help.  We told him we were lost.  He gave us some directions and then went back the way he had come.  We followed his directions the best we could and ended up going down a scree slope towards the bottom.  We eventually came to a country lane that had a house on it with a cross on the wall next to the door.  We decided to knock and see if we could get a lift back to the car.  They were very welcoming and gave us cups of tea and some cake/biscuits and got us back to the car.

It was an interesting series of events because, although we weren’t sure that we followed the hiker’s instructions accurately, we were led to safety and a means of getting back to the car in one piece.

Maybe the hiker was an angel.

Another incident took place more recently.  One day I was driving up Ecclesall Road in Sheffield.  This road splits into two lanes as it heads towards Ecclesall Road South.  I was in the right hand lane getting ready to turn up Ringinglow Road.  As I was driving, I was feeling very heavily tired and was fighting sleep.  I kept telling myself not to fall asleep and that I would be at my parents very soon anyway.  However, that heavy half-conscious state started to fall over me and I would probably have gone out completely if I hadn’t heard a voice from the back seat shouting ‘CLARE!’.  It was loud enough to give me a start and make me turn round quickly to see who it was.  There was no one there. What I saw instead was a car coming up towards me in the left hand lane, with me veering towards it.  I quickly regained control of the car by steering it back towards the right.  The other car carried on past me in the left hand lane.

All I can say is that if I hadn’t been woken up at that point, I would have swerved into the car coming up on the left hand side.  I definitely heard a voice, and I can remember thinking that it must have been an angel.’

Praise the Lord for the ministry of angels!

Miracles and the Ministry of Angels

angeleI was a boy at the time, riding down a hill on my bicycle.  Rounding a bend, I looked up and saw a parked car right in front of me.  All I could do was shut my eyes.  When I opened them again I was the other side, continuing my journey.  I remember thinking at the time: ‘That’s good, I must have gone on the inside’. I knew that there was no way I had gone round it.  Years later, for some reason it came back to mind.  Thinking about it again, I thought: ‘No, I didn’t go round it, there wasn’t room.  In any case I had my eyes shut.’  So how did I get to the other side?

I was recounting this incident in a group one time when a woman spoke up and told us how, when driving along a country road, she was faced with the inevitability of a head-on collision with a lorry.  Nothing happened.  When she looked in her driving mirror the lorry was continuing its journey behind her.

How are we to understand incidents like this?

Bill Bryson says this in ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’:  ‘The world in which we live is not as solid as it appears.  Everything is made up of atoms that are mostly empty space. The solidity we experience all around us is an illusion. Every atom is made of three kinds of elementary particles: protons that have a positive electrical charge, electrons that have a negative electrical charge; and neutrons which have no charge at all. When two objects come together in the real world – billiard balls are most often used  as an illustration – they don’t actually strike each other.  Rather the negatively charged fields of the two balls repel each other.  Were it not for their electrical charges, they could, like galaxies, pass right through each other unscathed.’

Perhaps an angel turned off the electricity?