Tag Archives: personal

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.

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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?

Towards Wholeness

Soon after leaving theological college in 1960, the opportunity came to study Clinical Theology under the late Dr Frank Lake, a Christian psychiatrist.  This involved attending seminars over a two-year period.  Dr Lake had developed a model for understanding the development of the human personality called ‘The Womb of the Spirit’ and emphasized the importance of what happened in the first nine months of an individual’s life. We looked at various types of personality and it was not long before I recognized myself as fitting into the schizoid  personality pattern, someone shy and withdrawn who found close relationships difficult.  I was very sensitive and tried to bottle up my feelings.

Following this I was generously given permission to attend a further course at Lingdale that was then the Clinical Theology centre in Nottingham.  We met on alternate weeks from Monday to Friday over a six month period.

We were a small group of clergy, all Anglicans apart from me.  The facilitator of the group was Brian Lake, also a psychiatrist and Frank Lake’s brother. We met together every morning with the same task: share what you are feeling.  Metaphorically speaking, I would hide behind a newspaper and peer out occasionally to see what was going on.

One day my dam broke: floods of tears and the release of incredible inner pain.  When the storm passed, I discovered to my surprise that my colleagues were still there, accepting and supporting me.  It was a most wonderful experience of love and acceptance.

Why was I hurting so much, where did the pain come from?  I began a search to find out.

Not long after this I became aware of the ministry of Wholeness Through Christ, a small charity offering training in prayer ministry through five-day training courses held at various conference centres up and down the country.

Each person attending one of these courses is offered time to explore their own need for healing and discover how the Holy Spirit can bring both healing and release from the effects of past hurts and sins as well as giving us the grace to forgive those who have hurt us.

Over a period of time I attended a number of Wholeness Through Christ courses and was eventually invited to join the team.  I found them very helpful and beneficial but the question that set off my journey towards wholeness was still unanswered.

By now I had come to understand how the Holy Spirit, the revealer of truth, can enable people to recover ‘forgotten’ memory, even the memory of an unborn child.

I went on another course called ‘Journey into Healing’ with the express intention of finding out how I was feeling when my mother was carrying me.

I was encouraged to lie on a mattress, curling up into a foetal position and breath deeply.  I began to experience some very powerful emotions, including murderous rage.

I realized that I could never be what my mother wanted me to be because she was hoping for a little girl.

At last I had found the answer.  My pain stemmed from feeling rejected while still in the womb.  I found that the discovery of the truth set me free, as promised by Jesus (John 8:31-32).

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.

Baptised in the Holy Spirit

doveflight-xx1I invited Fred, the Pentecostal evangelist, to lead a series of services.  Each evening he invited people to receive Jesus as their saviour, to receive healing, and to be baptised in the Holy Spirit.  One night I stood in response to the last invitation.

The following night, the last in the series, Fred gave the same three-fold invitation.  No response.  The meeting felt as dead as the proverbial Dodo. In desperation he prayed: ‘Lord, please do something!’  Whereupon a young man, sitting across the aisle from me, began to pray in tongues.  As he did so, I experienced a tingling sensation from the crown of my head to the tips of my toes. My awareness was of the presence of Jesus.

The meeting being effectively over, I walked to the front and said: “If those of you in need of healing would like to come forward, I will lay hands on you in the name of Jesus and you will be healed”.  No ifs and buts because I knew that Jesus was there to do it.  I knew that there were a number there in need of healing because I had invited them to come. In the event no one moved to come forward.

The following week, one of those present told me that when he got home he was about to have another glass of whisky when he heard an inner voice say to him “You don’t need that any more”.

For me, the immediate result of this experience was that my theology changed.  I already believed that God loved and that Jesus had died to pay the price for my sins, now I knew that he lived for me as well.  I came to see that Jesus is alive in the person of  the Holy Spirit to do today what he did during his lifetime.  I also came to see that the enemy is alive as well!  Whether we like it or not we are involved in spiritual warfare.

Another result was that the bible came alive too.  I came to see that it is the Word of God, authoritative for faith and practice and that the ministry of deliverance, the casting out of evil spirits, is a valid and important part of Christian ministry.

This took place in 1965.  I discovered that others were having a similar experience, including a young curate at All Souls, Langham Place, London, called Michael Harper.  It was not long before he left and founded the Fountain Trust that became the focus, for the mainstream churches in this country, of what came to be known as the Charismatic Renewal.

I went to one of my appointments as a Methodist minister with a question: could an ordinary Methodist church be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit? Within six months of going there I invited a colleague to come and explain what it meant to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Slowly people came into blessing, beginning with some of the young people.  Some began to get excited about Jesus.  Others began to feel like second class Christians and troubled about the changes beginning to take place.  For some a new togetherness was emerging: others began to feel left out and resisted attempts to include them in.

When the time came to consider whether I should be invited for a further period it never occurred to me that it might be right to leave, though with the benefit of hindsight I feel that it probably was.  The question was decided for me when I discovered that someone had organized a petition and secured twenty-five names of people threatening to resign their membership if I was invited to remain for a further period.

The decision not to invite me for a further period took effect eighteen months later and during this time I encouraged the development of the emerging lay leadership.  I am glad to say that the growth of the church continued after I left.