Personal stories from Ian’s life that are included in Gems and available to read and search as stand-alone stories here.
My Stronghold of Evolution
Probably one of the first strongholds to take hold of me in a significant way was atheism. For me it happened when I was nine years old via my father and then was strengthened by the stronghold of thought that is Evolution. Growing up I was the son of an alcoholic father. It was common for me as a boy to help my mother pick up my father covered in blood and bring him into the house from where he had fallen on the concrete floor of the garage. Then for my mother and me to be subjected to a tirade of verbal abuse about anything and everything. I observed many inconsistencies in what my father said and what my father did. I just observed and put it all together. I knew not to say what I thought as a young boy.
After years of abuse I remember one Saturday night as a nine-year-old. I stood behind my bedroom door with my baseball bat in my hand vowing in my nine-year-old heart that I was going to whack my father over the head as he abused my mother in the lounge. I was going to put an end to this horror for me and my mother. I could hear my drunken father getting up and coming out of the lounge. But he turned the other way and didn’t come past my bedroom door. I lost my resolve and dropped my bat and stood there trembling with emotion behind the door. The next morning I took my rugby ball outside to the front of the property to kick and catch as a sign for my friend to come and play. But my father burst out of the front door and yelled at me to get back inside. That I was not to go outside in the front of the house on the Lord’s Day. It was not that my father was in anyway religious. He had never set foot in a church before. In my nine-year-old head I said to myself there is no God. I didn't know to call myself an atheist at that stage. But growing up I embraced what teachers and lecturers told me about evolutionary theory and consequently had a foundation for my growing stronghold of thought.
Are You Calling Me a Sinner Like Your Father
Allow me to give you one further example from my own family. My mother was a good living woman and had many life values that in fact were very biblical. My father eventually became a Christian and dramatically changed following my acceptance of God’s Truth. One day while talking to mother about her need for Christ to save her, I told her she too had sinned and needed God’s forgiveness. Her reaction was dramatic. In her mind she was not at all like my father – oh that was for sure. But to tell her she too was included in the biblical statement “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) meant she couldn’t hear any more. Her stronghold of thought prevented her from hearing the truth. She said to me “Ian Warren Vail, are you telling me I am a sinner just like your father.” How do you answer a question like that? Whenever I was in serious trouble my mother used my full name. I knew to tread carefully on that one. I had encountered one of my mother’s strongholds and knew it. It took months of unpacking that thought process before she too could accept the truth of God’s Truth about her.
The Holy Spirit Can Heal Past Memories
That happened to me in a dramatic way at a Jack Winter meeting in Hamilton some years after I became a Christian in 1973. Standing in the meeting room with about 100 others Jack described how we can ask the Holy Spirit to deal with the hurts and the things in our past which hold us back. He encouraged us to ask the Holy Spirit to take us back to those times in our past which need healing and where strongholds have arisen. Instantly the Holy Spirit took me back to me as a nine-year-old standing behind my bedroom door with my baseball bat in my hand determined in my heart to whack my father over the head. I saw that many issues stemmed from my hatred for my father. Oh yes there was one positive that came out of life with my father, my aggressive, hard hitting tennis game. But far more negative and destructive results came from my past. God made it clear to me that my atheism started that Sunday when I declared in my nine-year-old head “There is no God” and then proceeded to live by that statement thereafter. I repented for that false vow I had made way back then and asked God to heal me and remove the effects of it. The second issue I needed to deal with was my hatred toward my father, which also was a factor between God and me that needed to be dealt with.
You Stay Away From Me, You Man of God
I had been called to help a woman who had gone through (endured) a series of Sunday evening ministry for deliverance over successive weeks. After the second or third in a row she rang the church again on the Monday morning asking for someone to come and pray with her as she was still troubled and felt oppressed. I volunteered to go. I arrived at the house and could see her through the windows peeking around the door on the far side of the lounge some distance from the front door, which was wide open. I approached the door and knocked and then saw her across the other side of the lounge. She screamed in a voice not her own, “You stay away from me you Man of God, you stay away from me!” As I entered she ran back into the dining room. I followed and on entering the dining room I saw her on the floor under the breakfast bar, pressed into the corner shrinking away from me with a morbid look of fear on her face, still yelling the same words. I spoke her name and then prayed and asked God what I should do.
Immediately I felt I should read the words found in Colossians 1 starting from verse 15 concerning the Pre-eminence of Christ. As I started reading she started screaming in terror in an unnatural high-pitched voice, “No! Not the sword! No not the sword!” Which of course made me read the Word of God even more. I read through to verse 1:23. All the while I read she was cowered into the corner. Then I switched to Chapter 2 and began to read verses Col 2:13-15.
After I had read:
“In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.”
She leapt spectacularly out of the corner from under the breakfast bar, reaching a height of well over a metre and spiralling as she went, only to crash down in the middle of dining room in a whimpering heap and then remained silent. I don't mind admitting it was a total shock to me and left me in no doubt that I was dealing with the demonic. The hairs on the back of my neck felt like they were standing on end and tingling. It was a moment I will never forget. She lay deathly still. I felt to pray out loud for her and then I read again the same portions of Colossians 1 and 2. Suddenly she started to move again and went back to whimpering. I said her name and asked her if she could hear me. She spoke to me in her own voice for the first time during this encounter and began to answer my questions. I asked her if she knew what had just happened but she had no recollection. I then told her what had happened. She was shocked.
I then talked with her about the ongoing ministry she had received and then made it clear that nothing had happened to free her apart from statements made from those helping her, that "she was now delivered of evil spirits". I pointed out each long period of ministry she’d had filled with endless repetitions of the spirits naming themselves when commanded hadn’t achieved what she wanted. But after each successive week of ministry by others in the church she would be back at the same place of needing ministry. I then felt to read Luke 11:14-23, followed by:
“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.”
I then asked her if she could say, “Jesus is my Lord and Saviour”. She tried a number of times but all that would come out over and over was the first syllable of Jesus name, “Jeez . . .” “Jeez . . .” and no more. It was like it was stuck inside. After a series of attempts I explained to her that her problem was that she hadn’t filled the house with the Holy Spirit. But she didn't want to do that at that time. She said she needed time to think about it. I told her I was not going to do anymore on the basis of the verses I had just read. Unless she was willing to submit to the Lordship of Christ and begin to walk with the Spirit, there was no point casting out demons. I did not want her end state to be continually worse than before. Sadly she still refused to come under the Lordship of Christ, so I left. I pointed out to the others subsequently that it made no sense to me to spend hours and hours commanding demons to name themselves. Why would demons, who are the henchmen of satan, the father of lies, tell you anything you could rely on anyway?
I Am 35 but My Mother Treats Me Like a Five Year Old
Just Be a Good Girl
'Unloved' Yet Loved By God
All her life she felt unloved and abandoned, as a child by her parents and later by her husband. After hearing me share on these concepts she told me. “Ian do you know what I do to feel loved?” I had no idea, I could only imagine. Then she said, “I go into our shared walk-in wardrobe and I take one of my husband’s long-sleeved shirts and I wrap the arms around me.” I had tears in my eyes looking at her. I don't think I had heard as sad a story as that one. It touched me deeply in that moment. How must it have affected and be affecting her still?
I then told her, “You need to know the key to breaking that stronghold over you. The key is in the David Stone that you hurl at the enemy of your soul. I believe the name on the stone you must hurl is “Loved by God”. But first you have to get into the place of believing it. When you know that you know that you know, you are loved by God, you can hurl the David Stone “Loved by God” and gain victory.
God Always Leaves You a Faith Gap Short
When I first became a Christian as a result of George Curle’s Faithfinder Films ministry I was made aware that God will also leave you a faith gap short. On the 19th of August 1973, that’s right, that long ago! I stepped from death and darkness into life and light. I have already told you I was an atheist from the age of nine. I was strengthened in atheism through high school and university but I had niggling questions, which my university professors, lecturers and tutorial group leaders couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. I could never get straight answers to my questions. I was either fobbed off with intellectual circuitous reasoning or told to go and look up in Lyell's Principles of Geology or some other reference work the answers to my questions. On the 19th August ’73 I was given answers to life questions by George Curle. A church guy was the source to my answers. That was a mystery to me. How could that be?
I bypassed the altar call and waited, until after the service had finished and the crowd around him had dispersed, to ask a barrage of further questions. George answered most of them, but then told me something shocking,
“Ian, you don't need to ask any more questions. God has given you answers already. You already know enough to make a step of faith.”
I protested and said, “I am not a faith person George. I want facts.”
To which he replied, “Ian, everyone is a faith person. We all put our faith in something. God will not answer all your questions. He will always leave you a faith gap short. To truly know the truth, You will have to come to Him in faith and believe that He is Who He claims to be. It’s one of God’s mysteries.”
Read It Seven Times Until You Perfect It
My Greek professor taught us to do that. Read a book over and over until you get it. He told us over and over, countless times, “Class to understand any book of the Bible you need to read it in one sitting, at least 7 times.” Whenever he told us that he would always have a wry smile on his face. Like he was holding a secret. He was! He was hinting at the fact that the number seven is the biblical symbol of perfection. In other words read it until you have perfected it. Until you get it. When I was writing the Bible Gems on Ephesians, Prof Basil Brown was reading them as I wrote them and sent them out. Then he would write back to me and we would talk about it.
It Takes God To Be A Man
Any man who has to keep his wife submitted to him by violence of any sort, be it physical, verbal, intimidation, threats, belittling or any other means in order for him to make him feel like a man is really no man at all. I grew up with an alcoholic father who used physical force, threats, intimidation and anger to keep his wife, my mother, and me, his son cowering in fear. I remember clearly to this day the fear that would come upon me when we came close to 6.00 pm and my father’s home-coming was imminent. The six o’clock swill meant he would try to down as many beers as possible before they called time. It didn't get any better with 10.00 o’clock closing. He had more time to drink steadily and bring more home with him. We never knew the mood he would arrive home in, but even what you could call good moods were wretched. It was a fact of life.
Lord, Please Confirm the Book
Wednesday June 10th 1981 Yvonne was praying in her Quiet Time as per usual. She was going through the church directory and praying for people in order. She came to Ian and Tania Vail on the list and started praying for us. As she prayed the usual kind of things Yvonne looked at the magazine on the side table beside the bed which was advertising a book called “Bruchko”. She thought nothing about it until the thoughts came into her mind “show that page to Ian Vail”. The ones she was just praying for. She thought that’s silly, what would I want to do that for? What’s the point? But the thought came again and again. It was like she couldn’t shake it off or push it out of her mind, it kept coming back. So at the end of the day when cell group was finished she summoned up the courage and risked being thought a fool to tell me that God had said to give this to Ian Vail. And of course you already know what significance it had if you have read or have heard us tell our testimony of how God led us into work with Wycliffe.
There is another woman called Sherry Chapman who lives in Texas, USA. She is an intercessor and regularly sat on her lounge floor with a map of the world at her feet and laid her hands on the nations of the world and prayed for them. She told the Lord one day that it was too hard praying for the whole world, she knew too much about it and there was too much to pray for. She asked the Lord to give her one nation. “Indonesia” came at her from every quarter over a two-week period. She said “OK Lord, I will pray for Indonesia.” She prayed for Indonesia for two and half years and then said the same thing. “Lord I know too much about Indonesia now. There’s too much to pray. Give me one island.” She looked at her wall map of the nation of Indonesia at her feet and she thought, “Sulawesi looks a strange island right in the middle of the archipelago. I will pray for that island.” A number of years later she joined Wycliffe’s Bibleless People Prayer Project and asked them for a people group. She received the Rongkong of Sulawesi. She was over the moon because that was the island she was praying for. She poured her heart into praying for the Rongkong and the translators who would go to the Rongkong. One thing among many others that she prayed: “Lord you have given me a such vision for the mission field through the book Bruchko. Father I want to ask you to use the book Bruchko in the lives of the translators you will send to the Rongkong of Sulawesi as a part of their call. Will you do that Lord? Use that book so they may know that they know they are called to the Rongkong”.
Tell Me My Life Verse
I know a young woman in JPCC who when faced with the issue of choosing her life partner, told the guy in question that she had a life verse. In order for her to know if he was God’s man for her he had to tell her what her life verse was. When he told me his side of the story, he said, “Ian, do you know how many verses there are in the Bible? (Yes, there are 31,273 +/-). Then he told me, “Ian, I asked her how many chances she would give me? How many guesses did I have? She told me, “Just one! Just tell me my life verse and either you get it or you don’t.”
His response, “That’s impossible!”
He struggled with the challenge laid down to him. Then after a period of time he woke in the night with a song going over and over in his mind. He couldn't get it out of his mind. He asked God to help him get back to sleep and stop thinking of the stupid song. Then he felt God put the thought into his mind, “That song is actually a verse in My Word. That is the verse you are looking for. That’s her life verse!” Nothing is impossible for Him. With God you can beat the odds of 1:31,273. Oh, are you waiting for me to confirm that last part of the story? Really?
Yes that was her life verse!
Being Led Astray To Test What Was In My Heart
We all have stories of when we thought we knew for sure God's will for us at a particular time only to find out we were wrong. Let me illustrate by another Ian story. There was a time back at the beginning of my "walk with Him" when as Christian teachers at Matamata College we were seeking God for His will for what to do for the school context for the Lord in the weeks ahead. I won't go into great detail, the specifics are not important. We fasted and prayed for a fortnight and then met together to see what God had told us all. I was excited about it because I just knew that God was going to do something amazing. I had the sense that when we all came together all of our senses / contributions would make up a united whole and we would have the sense that God had put this all together.
During the fortnight it was like God was showing me things in His Word. Giving me verses that linked up. Speaking to me in other ways through things that came "across my path". It was all coming together in amazing ways. The way things dovetailed together from my Quiet Time, books I was reading separate from what I was praying with the Christian teachers for school was incredible. Everything was lining up. A programme I watched on TV, an article I read, verses I read in the bible. Everything was coming together. I couldn't wait until we all shared together on the appointed day to see how it all flowed and how each had a part of the puzzle. I was sure that God was leading me and so He must be leading the others too. I couldn't wait for the unveiling of His plan. This was all so exciting. During that two-week period I had taken careful notes of all God had shown me.
When we came together the chairperson asked, “Who wants to share what they have first?” No one else made a move so I said I would go first. I told them all what I felt God had told me. I was expectantly waiting to see how it all came together with what everyone else shared. The second person shared something totally different. The third person shared something similar to the second person. Likewise the fourth person and so it continued until everyone had shared. It was apparent that the others were somewhat similar and their ideas dovetailed together. My input was distinctly different. I was so disappointed. How could that be? God had showed me things. God had brought the thoughts to me, at least I had thought so. It had all happened so amazing well. But I was oh so wrong. Could it be that they were all wrong and I was right? No, in my mind I believed that God would work in unity, in unified thought. I was the one who was out of sync, not them. We had all been eager to see how God had spoken through us all. Yet I was the odd man out. If anyone was at a tangent to the group, it was me! I remember trudging my way home “with my tail between my legs”.
That night as I took the Bible (my first huge NASB version) and dared to read it again, God used some verses from Deuteronomy 8, the passage where I was reading in my systematic reading of the Bible for the year, to speak to my heart. It staggered me.
These are the verses that struck me in reading Deuteronomy Chapter 8, with the parts in bold that God quickened to my heart:-
Deut 8:2 "You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years [two weeks], that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
Deut 8:3 "He humbled you . . . that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.
Deut 8:5 "Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.
Deut 8:14 then your heart will become proud . . .
Deut 8:17 "Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.'
It was like God was speaking to my heart and embolding verses to me off the page. Following that I turned to my New Testament reading in Luke 1. The first words I read were:
Luke 1:51 "He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
Luke 1:52 "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.
God burned this principle on my heart. I had become proud of the way that God was leading me. It was like God led me astray in order to reveal to me that which was within. Those verses are seared on my heart, spirit, being – somewhere, everywhere. Engraved on the tablets of my heart. I haven't thought of this leading for years but putting this Nugget together this morning these verses come flooding back and I knew exactly which verses they were and went straight to the references.