Tag Archives: biography

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.

Advertisements

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!

Healed by the Word of God

“He sent forth his word and healed them”. Psalm 107:19

One day, driving past a hospital, I recognized a familiar symptom.  Discomfort in my left tonsil told me that I was about to have another dose of tonsillitis. Infections had tended to go straight for my tonsils ever since I had had acute tonsillitis when I was a boy.

This time, almost simultaneously, another message dropped into mind: ‘By his wounds you have been healed’. It was unbidden and unexpected.  My unthinking response was ‘Thank you, Lord’.  The symptom faded.  I did not get tonsillitis.  This happened about forty years ago and I have not had it since, though from time to time the symptom has tried to return.  When this has happened, in order to stay healed, I have found it necessary to stand on the truth of the word of God rather than accept what the symptom was trying to tell me.

The words that dropped into mind that day were a quotation from the first letter of Peter chapter 2 verse 24: ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.’

Peter, the apostle, is saying that when Jesus died on the Cross he made provision both for the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of our sicknesses.  In claiming this he was echoing what the prophet Isaiah said: ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’

Isaiah 53:4-6.

Something to notice is that whereas Isaiah said ‘By his wounds we are healed’ Peter, looking back to the Cross, says ‘By his wounds you have been healed’.

In 1980 I was diagnosed with a skin cancer (malignant melanoma) when a mole on my face started to grow.  It was removed by surgery but returned a year later.  It was removed by surgery again. Then a black spot appeared on my leg.  By then I had met a lovely Christian woman who had a strong conviction about the Lord’s willingness to heal so I asked her to pray for me.  I did not have any faith of my own, but I did have faith in her faith.  The spot was removed by surgery and declared to be benign.

Someone who played a significant role in my healing was John Wimber, an American who made a significant impact on sections of the Church in the 1980s and 90s.  During his last visit to this country he led a conference at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.  By then he was seriously ill with cancer himself and confined to a wheelchair, but was still ministering powerfully.  As the Holy Spirit came upon him, he rattled off at high speed a list of things the Lord was doing including ‘Someone with a cancer on the left cheek has been healed’. This is where my cancer had started and my response was to throw my hands in the air exclaiming  ‘Thank you, Lord’.

The practice of the Christian ministry of healing arises from a biblical world-view, the conviction that the bible tells it like it is and that it is the Word of God, authoritative for faith and practice.  However this is not to make a god of the bible and we need to be aware of the warning of Jesus:

‘You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life, yet you refuse to come to me to have life’ (John 5:39-40).

God’s House – A Conducted Tour

One Saturday evening in the 1970s, I was relaxing at home when I felt prompted to go into the study and started typing.  This is what came:

God’s  House – A Conducted Tour

I cannot show you all of it because there is much more to it than meets the eye and it’s more like a mansion than a house.  There are rooms I haven’t been in yet, but I hope I will one day.  There are rooms you can tell me about: rooms that you know about and I don’t because you have been there and I haven’t.

We begin with the hall that is remarkably large, in fact it’s more like a railway station than the hall of a house.  There is a lot going on in the hall and it is almost like a house in itself.  Many people seem to live there supposing that this is all there is to it.

There are more doors than I can count, all leading into the hall of the house.  Each of them carries a label: one reads ‘Sunday School’, another ‘Baptism’, another ‘Women’s Meeting’, another ‘Young Wives’, yet another ‘Men’s Meeting Point’.  The hall is a meeting place for everyone in the house.

On the far side of the hall there are two swing doors marked ‘Jesus’.  Here I pause, puzzled.  I had not properly noticed them before and the feeling I have as I look at them is that they don’t lead anywhere.  Is not the hall all there is to the house?  Do these doors just lead outside again – or what?  Just then a voice in my ear whispers:  ‘Try them and see’.

Looking round, I find that it is a servant of the Master who has spoken to me inviting me to go through the doors marked: ‘Jesus’.  ‘How do I go through?’ I ask. ‘Just lean against the door’ is the reply.  ‘Give your whole weight to it.  Give your whole self to the Door and it will open.’ I try it and it does.  I find myself in a room with unaccustomed brightness and it takes me a while to get used to the light.  Somehow I feel different. I feel as if I’ve changed in some way.  One thing I know: it is great to be in the Light.

I go back into the hall and try to tell them about the light, thinking that they will be as enthusiastic about it as I am, but they’re not because they’ve not seen it yet.  They don’t know that it is there and many of them are concerned with other things.

Sadly, I turn back to the door marked ‘Jesus’ and this time I find that it opens of its own accord as I approach it.  It takes some time for my eyes to get used to the brightness but then I notice that there are a lot of people there.  Somehow this comes to me as a surprise that there have been others who have gone through the door before me.  Having left the people in the hall I am not alone after all.  I notice a knot of people clustered round another door marked ‘Baptism’.  They appear to be arguing about the label on the door.

‘I’ve been baptised already’ says one.

‘I was baptised as a baby’ says another.

‘Read the label more closely’ says a third.

Surprised, they turn to look at the label on the door again and find that it reads not ‘Baptism’ but ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’.

Just beyond this door,  there are other smaller doors which can be seen clearly.  Most of them have groups of people around them discussing the label on the door.  There is a large group in front of a door marked ‘Speaking in Tongues’.  Some of them are getting  heated as they argue among themselves about what, if anything, lies on the other side of the door.  Just then, someone comes back through the door.  ‘This is a prayer room’, he says.  A silence falls on those clustered round. They realise that there is a room here that they haven’t been in yet.

Another door is marked ‘Healing’.  Just as I am looking at it someone comes through looking excited:  ‘The Lord has just healed my daughter’, he says.  Again I am left wondering.

As I look round and become accustomed to the light, I see that there are many more doors and many people going in and out of them.  Then it dawns on me that the Master of the house is inviting everyone into all of it.  There is no door marked ‘Private’, no corridor labelled ‘No entrance’.

This realisation  makes  me  feel  a little afraid because I don’t know what’s in the rooms I’ve not been in. My fear is a fear of the unknown, of the things I don’t understand. Then I realize something   else.   The   Master   is   with   me.  Where  He  leads  I  will follow.  I will put my hand in His and not be afraid.

The Forgotten Factor

holy-spiritI recall how surprised I was at theological college when we were told that the emphasis of the preaching of the early church was on the resurrection of Jesus, as shown conclusively by C.H. Dodd in his book ‘The Apostolic Preaching And Its Development’. As a result of my conversion I was deeply convinced that God loved me and that Jesus had died to make me right with him.  I was therefore expecting the emphasis to be on the Cross, that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’  (I Corinthians 15:3).  It included that, but it was not the emphasis.  Beginning with Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, the emphasis was on the resurrection (Acts 2:32-36). It was not until I was in my first appointment as a Methodist minister that I began to understand why this was so.

One day the local newspaper carried a headline: ‘Miracle Man comes to town’.  The story concerned the forthcoming visit of a Pentecostal evangelist called Fred Ball. Having a free evening and being curious I went along to see what it was about.  He began  by sharing that when a young man he had been told that he had an incurable liver condition and had been given a life expectancy of about six months.  He told us how he went home and prayed: ‘Lord, if you heal me the rest of my life is yours.’  ‘The Lord healed me’, he said, ‘And here I am’.  Another surprise.  I was even more surprised when, at the end of the meeting, he invited those who were in need of healing to come forward to be prayed with.  This was 1965 and I had no awareness that Jesus is alive in the person of the Holy Spirit to do today what he did in his physical lifetime.

It was like seeing colour television for the first time after black and white.  Here was another dimension to ministry about which I knew nothing.  I asked him what was his secret.  What did he have that I didn’t?  He pointed me to the promise concerning a spiritual baptism, or immersion, in the Holy Spirit, a promise that is found in each of the gospels, indicating its importance.  (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16, John 1:32-34).

I came to see that John the Baptist was contrasting what he was doing, baptising people with water, with what Jesus would do, baptise people with the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is a gift he wants to give us (Luke 11:9-13).

Most of the teaching of Jesus concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit was given during the Last Supper and is found in John’s gospel chapters 14-16.

This was his last opportunity to share with his disciples before his crucifixion.  He tells them that he is not going to leave them to manage as best they can.  He promises to return to them in a spiritual form: ‘Now I am living with you, then I will be living in you.  I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you.’  (John 14:17-18).  He goes on: ‘On that day you will realize that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.’ (v.20)

The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete meaning ‘One called alongside’.  He is the teacher who will remind them all that Jesus has said to them (John 14:26). He is the Spirit of truth who will guide them into all truth (John 16:13)

In one of his resurrection appearances shortly before his ascension, Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit….you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 4-5,8). The promise of the Spirit was fulfilled during the Jewish festival of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2   “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20).             The Holy Spirit, the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18), was now living in them as Jesus had promised.

It was this awareness of the Lord being with them and in them that gave the early Church its zest and impetus.

Jesus has not changed.  As the writer to the Hebrews puts it: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”

Hebrews 13:8