Paul Luckraft interviews the author of ‘Signs: The Significance of Biblical Prophecy’. My readers may recall Neil’s very useful summary paper EU Membership Referendum: Stay or Leave? and my much earlier introduction to his book and our friendship. I recall well those quick 50 miles round-trips on sunny summer evenings to Winchester for his most enjoyable and interesting course in my early writing on the same topics.
Paul writes in last week’s online issue of Prophecy Today UK.:
How does a retired Brigadier come to write a book about the signs of the end times? To find out, I went to visit Neil in his home and learn about his background, calling and how this particular book emerged.
God’s Guiding Hand
Neil would not describe his early life as particularly ‘Christian’, certainly not in the sense of being born again. At boarding school, he experienced the typical way in which ‘church’ was part of school life but there was no personal commitment.
In 1965 he joined the Royal Signals and began a career in the Army, travelling the world and soon rising to the rank of Major. Then in 1987 he decided to leave to enter the world of finance, but this was a bad time for such a move. This was the year of the ‘great crash’ and it was soon apparent there was no future for him there. Looking back, Neil can sense God’s hand in this, directing him back into the Army where God’s plans could more easily be fulfilled.
Amazingly he was not only accepted back with his old rank but was quite quickly promoted to Brigadier, taking on various roles in the Royal Army Pay Corps and the Adjutant General’s Corps. This was the time when the army was downsizing and one of Neil’s tasks was to help army personnel with redundancy packages and pensions. In that sense he was in both finance and military service. God always knows what he is doing!
Breakdown and Breakthrough
However, some aspects of his new role disturbed him, especially when he was asked to teach a certain course that he found difficult and ill-prepared to deliver. His self-confidence, developed and strengthened through his time at school as well as his army days, was being undermined and challenged. A significant change was about to happen. Neil describes this time as one of “breakdown and breakthrough”.
No longer able to cope with life in the way he was used to, he felt desperate – even slightly frightened. He could no longer sleep properly and became ill as a result. One night he knelt by the bed and cried out to God, that if he was really there to reveal himself and help him. After just two hours sleep he woke up feeling refreshed and clear-headed. A change had begun.
Neil realised that any semblance of Christianity in his life up to that moment (his 50th year!) had been nominal and self-serving. He had been living a self-centred life and expecting God to be part of that. But in a few short weeks, with the help of a house church leader that Neil knew, a spiritual transformation occurred, involving conviction, repentance and being baptised in the Spirit. No longer would God have to serve Neil – Neil would serve God!
‘Active Service’ in Retirement
His new joy led to a renewed confidence, no longer in himself but in God, who told him to stay in the army as a witness. In his remaining years there, God honoured him with more promotions. Becoming a Brigadier actually gave Neil more opportunities to share his faith and even pray for people.
Once he retired in 1998, God found more ‘active service’ for Neil. After two years as a school bursar in the Lake District, he moved to Edinburgh, the home of his late wife. Sadly, she died of cancer shortly after their arrival. Neil stayed in Scotland for a few years, becoming an elder in the Church of Scotland. After remarrying, he ran a Healing Room before returning to Hampshire and joining the Winchester Vineyard Christian Fellowship.
He has served at ‘WinVin’ for some years, including as a trustee, and it is there he started to teach and preach. So how did writing a book become part of his life?
Discovering Bible Prophecy
Neil offered to teach on the end times at WinVin but was initially turned down. However, six months later the leaders changed their mind and approached him to put on a course. This he did willingly, not because he knew all about it but because he was intrigued by the topic and wanted to find out more. Prophecy was a key part of Scripture, so why was it either ignored or badly understood?
Neil already knew the Bible was God’s truth and his regularly study in the Word (with the help of Grudem’s Systematic Theology, among other aids) had given him the grounding to tackle something as daunting as the end times.
Neil also already had a significant advantage, namely a clear understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus and the importance of Israel and the Jews. He had no need to repent of Replacement Theology or re-adjust his thinking in this respect. God’s word had spoken to him and Neil knew what had to be taught.
After 18 months of teaching through the various topics on the end times, Neil realised he now had a wealth of material, both on his computer and in handouts. What to do next with all this? Why not write a book? He had written articles before for a military magazine, so he had some experience in this field, but this was a new venture altogether. However, he believed this was what God wanted, so in 2012 he started turning what he knew into book form. Focussing on writing for just one day each week meant it took him 18 months to produce the first draft. But then what?
Completing the Journey
God had it all in hand, and led Neil to the right people to help him, from editing the first draft through to the final process of publishing. After being rejected by one publisher, he decided to go down the road of self-publishing, choosing Kingdom Writing Solutions as the means of doing this, and Amazon for the sales side via print-on-demand and an e-book. This all worked out smoothly, which was a great blessing.
Would he write another book? Perhaps, but only if it was clearly what God wanted. Meanwhile, Neil does continue to teach his course, or a revised shorter version of it, on a regular basis. His story is a further example of someone being led by God through life and finding new fruitfulness in the latter years, an encouragement to us all.
Neil’s book Signs, reviewed earlier this month on Prophecy Today.
[Republished with the kind permission of Prophecy Today UK.]