On the reading of books

So last week I threw out this question: When I say ‘God of the Bible’, what are the first three words that pop into your mind? And it has had some healthy engagement, with almost a hundred comments (if you include the various threads of dialogue that emerged in the fertile soil of this question’s provocation). Indeed, thanks to Nik Tomanovic’s energetic commitment to polite and intelligent discussion, the conversation seems to be continuing, particularly along the avenues of morality, religion, and the possibility of accounting for such phenomena by evolutionary theories. In forthcoming weeks I may manage to finetune a good question that helps a broader audience connect with those themes.

But this morning I have been struck by the question of another Facebooking Ywamer, Taylor Stutts, about how many books people read and whether people use book-summary websites.

Now I love books. And I love the fact that in this day and age I can type the name of any book into Amazon and more often than not buy a copy for less than £10 (assuming you’re happy to have a second-hand copy or an ebook). What I don’t necessarily do is to read a book cover-to-cover. I used to admit this with a little guilt and shame, but then I read Pierre Bayard’s ‘How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read’. Bayard argues that there is no-one who has fully, thoroughly, completely, adequately read any book at all. He divides the possible relationships one can have with a book into four categories: 1. Books You Don’t Know; 2. Books You Have Skimmed; 3. Books You Have Heard Of; and 4. Books You Have Forgotten. And it empowered me to unworriedly admit that I skim books and forget them.

But I try to remember the lessons I learn from them. And I do this by coming to books with specific questions. And letting them modify my questions. And supply with new questions. And also launch me on to other books. The Contents and the Bibliography are sometimes the most interesting parts of a book! Amazon’s ‘Customer’s who bought this item also bought…’ is also very helpful in this respect.

So if you were to glance at my bookshelf, you would see that I am asking questions about Israel and Zionism (the hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration having just passed) [My Promised Land – Ari Shavit; Israel: A History – Anita Shapira; The Case For Israel – Alan Dershowitz]; questions about constitutional law, legal enforcement, criminal justice and a Christian engagement with such things [Constitutional Law – Loveland sixth ed.; The Locust Effect – Gary Haugen; and everything else by Gary Haugen who founded IJM] and the prayer & worship movement [Enthroned – David Fritch; Fire & Fragrance – Sean Feucht & Andy Byrd; Punk Monk – Andy Freeman; The Return of the Musical Prophet – Steve Abley]. And I’ll stop there, but there are other questions that are on my mind.

So, over to you.

What’s one book you’ve recently read that has taught you something new–and what was it?

In Search of Good Questions

So apparently I haven’t been blogging much recently. Which is to say that if you glance to the right of this blog post you will see that my Archives widget counts my post a couple of weeks as one of two in this month (right now that’s the only one in existence, but by the time you read this post, this post will have increased the count to two), and then only one in the two years since October 2015 — a lonely lyric on ambition and perspective inspired by a pop chorus I came across one night on YouTube.

Now, partly that is explained by the usual intensity and busyness of being involved with a YWAM Discipleship Training School, which has defined my rhythm of life for five consecutive years (2011-2016), and which always starts in late September — so you can see in 2012, there are no posts between October and March; and in 2013, no posts between May 2013 and April 2014 (that was extra-busy: moving from Harpenden back to Cambridge to start the first DTS); in 2014 though it seemed I had cracked the code! and had nineteen months of consecutive posting (between one and nine posts a month) until October 2015.

But then I was overambitious, and thought I would try and blog my teaching notes from each week of DTS–and didn’t get beyond Week 3.

It wasn’t actually that I wasn’t able to write anything during that DTS, but that when the dam of writer’s block broke, the words all flowed out in rhyming couplets as a mediation on the problem of evil and the Book of Job, in the form of what I’m hoping will become an operatic hip hop concept album in four quartets. But that is a long term project which is nowhere near even really beginning (let alone completion!). Though if you really want you can ask, and I will be more than happy to share some lyrics with you :)

Anyway, I would like to revive this blog. And I’m going to do so by attempting to learn the art of asking good questions. James 1:19 says we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. And in this age of instant communication how much more do we need to be slow in our speech. But on the other hand, if we were to be silent the rocks would cry out. And God has called me to blog!

So asking QUESTIONS seems a good way of proactively speaking in a way that invites the opportunity to listen.

Anyway, today’s question is this:

When I say ‘God of the Bible’, what are the first three words that pop into your mind?

And the conversation is already exploding…

12 Passages to Pray for your City’s Church

So some of you might know that I’m spending these next six months on the Manchester House of Prayer team as an intern, and one of the things I’ve been asked to do is to help with their strategy to connect with and pray for the church in Manchester. So I spent this morning asking God for a strategy. And this is what I felt he said: “use the biblical model of the church in Ephesus”. Now, Ephesus was the one church for which the critically-minded controversialist Paul the Apostle had no criticisms when he sent them an apostolic letter. So, it’s probably a good, positive place to start praying for the church in any city! So running with that, I’ve gone through the relevant Scriptures about the church in Ephesus, and put together a rough sketch that could direct twelve months of prayer:

1. Acts 18:24-28. Apollos and Priscilla & Aquilla.
i. Word & Spirit coming together.
ii. Powerful preaching.
iii. Humility to receive correction, boldness to lovingly confront, unity amongst differences.
iv. Jews reached with the message of the Messiah.
v. Fervency in Spirit.
vi. Competency in the Scriptures.

2. Acts 19:1-10. Paul and his twelve disciples.
i. Conversion
ii. Fullness (Spiritual gifts, prophetic, signs)
iii. Discipleship
iv. Multiplication
v. Properties, facilities, material resources.

3. Acts 19:11-20. Sons of Sceva; confession of witchcraft.
i. Spiritual warfare.
ii. Conviction of sin.
iii. Revival: Deliverance, healing, sozo; extraordinary miracles.
iv. Reformation: transformation of education, businesses, religious institutions.
v. Name of Jesus extolled
vi. Fear of the Lord.

4. Acts 19:21-22. ‘I must also see Rome’. Cf. Letter to the Romans.
i. Expansion of vision: regional, national, international.
ii. Written word: books, etc.
iii. Missionary task–unreached (cf. Rom. 15:20).
iv. Missionaries sent out (T&E).
v. Timing, seasons, discernment.

5. Acts 19:23-41. Riot of the idol-makers.
i. Shake the city.
ii. Persecuted Christians.
iii. Wisdom and discernment (19:30).
iv. Vindication of Christians facing opposition.
v. Forgiveness of those who have wronged us (cf. Alexander 19:33; 2 Tim. 4:14)

6. Acts 20:17-38. Established Church Leaders.
i. Full counsel of God.
ii. False teachers.
iii. Corruption.
iv. Fulfilment of calling.
v. Grace.

7. 1 Timothy. Emerging Leaders.
i. Skill with Scripture.
ii. Testimonies of grace.
iii. Prayerfulness.
iv. Honour of older leaders.

8. Ephesians 1:1-2:10. Grace for the praise of His glory.
i. Grace
ii. Wisdom
iii. Revelation
iv. Holy Spirit power
v. Salvation

9. Ephesians 2:11-4:16. Unity
i. Church unity.
ii. Racial reconciliation.
iii. Unreached nations & Jewish salvation.
iv. Leaders to be unified and bring church to maturity.
v. LOVE.

10. Ephesians 4:17-5:21. Character.
i. Repentance.
ii. Sanctification.
iii. Purity.
iv. Community.
v. Awakening.
vi. Worship.

11. Ephesians 5:22-6:9. Relationships.
i. Families: marriages.
ii. Families: children.
iii. MARRIAGE—its meaning.
iv. Workplace: employers.
v. Workplace: employees.
vi. WORK.
vii. Modern slavery—justice, freedom, deliverance.

12. Revelation 2:1-7. First love.
i. Revival.
ii. Repentance.
iii. Faithful toil.
iv. Discernment of leaders.
v. Revelation of Jesus.

I might turn this into a longer and more well-thought through resource, but in the meantime, please feel free to use this to help catalyse your prayers for whatever city you’re in!

Mustard Seed (Feat. Skylar Grey)

‘With faith like a mustard seed, you can move mountains’
If I’ve heard that once, then I’ve heard it thousands
and thousands of times, if I had been countin’
each time for a penny, I’d need an accountant
to keep track of the stack of cash that had mounted,
but it’s never been my desire to be surrounded
by money. No, cash doesn’t get my heart pounding
but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to move mountains!
Pennies, pounds, paychecks, profits all leave me cold.
‘All that glitters is not gold’, and gold’s glitter grows old.
‘And what profit it a man to gain the world but lose his soul?’
but that doesn’t mean I’m completely free of the stranglehold
of foolish pride, vain ambition, losing myself in competition–
I’ve wanted to be known as a Cambridge mathematician
or an apostolic leader with Youth With A Mission –
but give me a moment, this is holy contrition

For once, once in your life
For once push your ambitions aside
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you
For once, once in your life
For once just stop to open your eyes
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you

So I lift my eyes up, and I look to the hills
and I’m reminded that there’s only one thing that fulfils
the longing of the human heart—it’s not dollar bills,
or sex, drugs, hip hop skills, all those cheap thrills.
No there’s only one thing that can satisfy,
it’s being known as His own by the Lord most High
who loves you so much that he came and died
on a hill, on a cross, he was crucified.
And the mountains of guilt and the mountains of shame,
all the times that we’d murdered, molested and maimed
and then pointed the finger, played the blame game,
and then tried to act like nothing had changed–
he took all those sins on his innocent frame,
and died for our sins, in fact he became
sin so that we could be called by his name,
and through faith be righteous, and be born again.

For once, once in your life
For once push your ambitions aside
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you
For once, once in your life
For once just stop to open your eyes
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you

So this is my confession, here’s my sinner’s prayer
for all the times that pride has snapped my ankle in its snare.
Ambition’s my Achilles’ heel, catching me unaware,
ssseducing me into a game of spiritual solitaire:
but if he’s without a legion, then what’s a legionnaire?
And the Christian life’s a team game, cuz this is warfare!
And we need to fight together, and humbly learn to bear
each other’s burdens till the time we meet Christ in the air.
This isn’t an altar call, I’m just preaching to myself,
If I don’t start with me, then why would someone else
have any reason to believe the things that I might tell
them that they should believe. Yeah, what’s a bible belt
when your pants are round your ankles, and you’re stumbling towards hell!
I speak in tongues, but have no love—I’m just a clanging bell.
A mustard seed is all you need to save your soul from hell
but you need to plant that seed, and then water it as well.

For once, once in your life
For once push your ambitions aside
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you
For once, once in your life
For once just stop to open your eyes
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you


For our third week of DTS we sent the team off to Norway to join the Circuit Riders for a week of revival training and evangelistic outreach. Taryn and I were involved with the Circuit Riders training camp in Harpenden (‘London’) in 2012, and it was a life-changing experience (you can read my accounts here, here, here, here, here and here).

They had an amazing time:

And that video doesn’t even begin to go into the testimonies of our team getting filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, souls being saved on the streets of Norway, and the heavens opening to reveal the glorious beauty of the Northern Lights.


The Meaning of Life

Download this as a PDF

What is the meaning of life?

‘Have fun!’ ‘Take risks!’ ‘No regrets!’ ‘Relax!’ ‘Take it easy!’ ‘Be successful!’ ’42!’

It’s one of those questions that’s so big that we don’t even know where to begin.

But here’s the thing–I believe that I have discovered the
real, authentic, fundamental, irresistible, glorious, true
meaning of life!

Do you mind if I share it with you?
It’s not that I’m any cleverer than anyone else and somehow managed to work it out,
but I have found that simply
Through the gospel, through the message of Jesus Christ,
the mystery which was kept secret since the world began
has now been revealed!

(Romans 16:25)

So what is this message? What is the simple gospel? What is the meaning of life?
We sum it up with six simple colours: GREEN, BLACK, RED, WHITE, YELLOW & BLUE.
We start with GREEN. Green represents CREATION.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1.

He created the hills and the seas,
He created the grass and the trees,
He created cactus and caterpillars, grasshoppers and geckos, parrots and pears.

And He didn’t just create the beautiful green planet on which we live,
but He stretched out the surrounding universe,
and filled it with stars and planets,
dusty asteroids, exploding supernovas, and showers of meteors.

He invented the rules that govern creation:
the laws of gravity, electromagnetism, radioactive decay, quantum mechanics.

He precisely tuned the scientific constants of the physical universe
so that life could grow and flourish.

And – most importantly! – He made you! He made me. He made humanity in His image.
He made us to know Him. To share His life. To know His love.

The very fact that we can talk about ‘MEANING’ proves
that we are more than just chemicals bouncing around a test-tube.
And the God with whom the meaning of life begins
is more than just a timeless truth or a creative cause.

We believe that God is Trinity – three persons, but one divinity.
Which means before creation God wasn’t bored and lonely,
but a glorious dance of communication and community.
We believe “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Now some people say—‘If God is love, then why is the world such an unlovely place?’

Death and disease and cancer and bullying and loneliness and rape and genocide…
Why? Why? Why?

Well the answer to that question is actually explained by the next colour: BLACK.
BLACK represents SIN.

In the beginning God was in perfect relationship with humankind.

But He gave us a choice – the chance to show that we loved Him like He loves us.
The chance to trust Him, and receive our meaning from Him, letting our lives be entwined into God’s eternal love story.

But the devil deceived us, and we gave in to temptation.
We did the one thing God had asked us not to do.
We lusted after what was forbidden–we broke that relationship of perfect love.

God had said that ‘In the day you disobey Me, you will die’ (Genesis 2:17) – but they didn’t physically die.
But spiritually they did die — and their connection to God was shattered.
And it wasn’t long before physical death had also come into the world,
as Cain murdered his brother” (1 John 3:12).

Because as soon as we start making up our own meanings for life,
and creating our own standards of good and evil from the world we find around us,
rather than agreeing with God’s one true holy and loving authority,
then who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong?

Why shouldn’t it be ‘survival of the fittest’?

If there’s no God, then why shouldn’t I lie and cheat to get what I want?
If no-one sees me do it, then why shouldn’t I take my brother to a lonely field and kill him? (Gen. 4:8)

‘If a tree falls in the jungle, and there’s no-one there to hear it—does it make a sound?’

Now, most of us don’t like the word ‘sin’.
Because our experience has been that other people have condemned us for breaking one of their rules, and have acted as if they themselves have never broken a rule.
So even to say the word ‘sin’ makes us feel like we too are judgmental hypocrites.

But according to Jesus the whole law of God can be summarised in one word: LOVE.
Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And love your neighbour as yourself.
(Mark 12:30-31).

So sin by definition is simply anything that’s not loving.
And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all at some point in our lives, been unloving.
(And if we’re not honest—well, that’s sin too!)
The Scriptures say that “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3:23).

Now remember, “God is love”.
And obviously ‘love’ and ‘not-love’ are completely opposite.
So by definition God and sin can’t mix. It’s like oil and water:
if you try and stir them together, what happens? They separate!
The water sinks to the bottom, the oil floats to the top.

Which is why even though a God of love made a good world, we now have to face the reality of EVIL.

But the story does not have to end with sin separating us from the presence of God!

RED represents LOVE – and the good news is that God’s love is stronger than death!
And even though sin damaged and destroyed our relationship with God,
and our capacity to feel the full force of God’s love,
nevertheless the fact of God’s love remains unchanged.

Now when we think of love, we sometimes think of a red rose—
that beautiful symbol of blossoming romance!

But a rose quickly withers: its petals fade, and fall.

And too often that’s our experience of love: a sudden rush to the head, but then the feelings fade.

But we could also say that RED represents BLOOD.
For “the greatest demonstration of love is for a person to lay down their life for a friend” (Jn 15:13).

And so in that great Shakespearean romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet both die for each other.

And this is how “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

But unlike the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, the death of Jesus wasn’t simply a dramatic gesture.

No—the death of Jesus was the necessary solution
to the otherwise insurmountable obstacle that our sin had established between us and God.

You see, God isn’t just a loving Father and our Creator –
he’s also a righteous Ruler and Judge, and as such He cannot merely turn a blind eye to sin:
God is a righteous Judge, and God is angry every day”.  (Psalm 7:11)

If someone was to break a law: say, the speed limit, then they would get a speeding ticket.
And they would either have to pay the penalty, or else they would be punished.

We are in God’s world, and we have all broken His law.
And so we are all faced with the duty to pay the penalty we owe—or otherwise face punishment.

The problem is that the Scriptures say that
No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them–
for the redemption of a soul is costly, no payment is ever enough,
that he should still live for ever, and not see corruption.
” (Psalm 49:7-10)

So it seems that we are faced with an unsolvable paradox:
God is gracious and merciful, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin–
but by no means can He clear the guilty!
” (Exodus 34:6-7)

How can this be? How can God forgive us – if He is unable to acquit the guilty?

What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:37.

The Psalmist didn’t quite know the answer,
but as he meditated on this question, he declared with prophetic faith:
God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me!” (Ps. 49:15).

And this is exactly what happened.
God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16.
For what the law could not do, God did,
by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin:
He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled.
Rom. 8:3
Because we are human beings, made of flesh and blood, the Son of God also became flesh & blood.
For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil,
who had the power of death.
” (Hebrews 2:14)

And that brings us to the other difference between the death of Jesus and that of Romeo and Juliet:
which is that while their deaths were a tragic and final end to their young lives,
the death of Jesus was not the end!

The gospel says not only that Jesus died for our sins—but that on the third day He rose again!
God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death,
because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
” Acts 2:24

Which brings us to WHITE, which represents NEW LIFE and FORGIVENESS.

Jesus didn’t just die for us, but His RESURRECTION means that He can now be with us always.

Through Jesus, we too can receive that resurrection life, and be given a new heart and a clean start.

This is the covenant that I will make, says the Lord:
I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts;
and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…
For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
” Jeremiah 31:33-34

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” Ezekiel 36:26.

This is what Jesus was talking about when He said: “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

All we need to do to experience complete forgiveness and be reconciled to God, is to confess that we are sinners and trust in Jesus.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness
” (1 Jn. 1:9)
and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
” Romans 10:9

Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away—
behold all things have become new!
” 2 Corinthians 5:17

It’s so simple! And yet so profound! Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to receive this?

But some people respond by saying—‘Well, it’s all very well for you, but I’m just not sure it’s for me.’

Which brings us to YELLOW, which represents the golden gates and the glory of HEAVEN.

And the reality here that we have to face is that one day all of our lives are going to come to an end.

It’s the ultimate statistic: everybody dies.

And the question everyone needs to ask themselves is this—
Do you know what will happen to you when you die?

Because unfortunately we can’t speak about heaven without also being reminded of hell.

Jesus came preaching the gospel and declaring that the kingdom of heaven was at hand
– but he also spoke more than anybody else about the dangers of hell.

Some say, ‘I think that’s the end. I’ll be buried and that’s it.’

But the Bible says “it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment” Heb. 9:27.

Some say, ‘It’s impossible for anyone to know what happens after death’.

And Jesus almost agrees:
No-one has gone up into heaven – except the one who came down out of heaven!’ John 3:13.

I don’t claim to know what happens after death because I’m any cleverer than anyone else—
but we have to come to terms with the historical fact of Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth.
His teaching—which two thousand years later still speaks with the power of divine truth.
His ministry—a catalogue of miracles and healings, so unprecedented that even secular scholars do not dispute it.
His discipleship—he trained twelve poor and ordinary men to start a movement that today has impacted every single nation of the world.
But in particular, His death, and His resurrection –
because whatever your opinions about the nature and possibility of life after death,
it cannot be denied that his followers were convinced that the man they had seen nailed to a cross and crucified was then resurrected three days later.

So—‘do you know what will happen to you after you die?’

Some say, ‘I hope I’ll go to heaven…’
But we have to ask what that hope is based on.

Often we think that although God might punish other people for certain particularly wicked sins– Hitler, Stalin; rapists, child abusers; –
we think that hopefully we have done enough to somehow earn a place in heaven.

‘I haven’t done anything that bad, have I?’

But the Bible says, “there is none righteous, no not one” Romans 3:10.
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6.

Every other religion says that if you do this and this and this, then perhaps you can earn salvation,
but Jesus said “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” Matthew 5:48.

But none of us is perfect!
If life is a multiple choice test and the pass-mark is 100%, we’ve already got the first question wrong!
We’ve already failed the test!

So if we’re trusting in our own record, then we have no chance of heaven!

But the good news is, that because of Jesus’ death on the cross,
if we trust in Him, we will be “born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away,
reserved in heaven for you.
” 1 Peter 1:3-4

And the amazing thing isn’t just that we can go to heaven when we die,
but that the moment we trust in Jesus, “behold! The kingdom of heaven is within you” Luke 17:21.

Which brings us to the final colour, BLUE, which represents the HOLY SPIRIT.

We use the colour blue, because Jesus described the Spirit as being like water,
living water” (John 7:38-39), that refreshes not just our physical bodies but our inner being.
Jesus promises that “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst”. John 4:14.

Our lives are like an empty glass: we’re looking for meaning, we’re looking for purpose,
we’re looking for something that will satisfy our souls.

God has set eternity in the human heart—yet no-one can fathom it!” Ecclesiastes 3:11.

We can try and fill up that void with all sorts of things:
with money and power; fame and fortune; sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll;
but you only have to read the celebrity gossip magazines to realize that this never really satisfies!

And even good things – friends, family, meaningful work —
if you try and find your identity in those things, then you will inevitably be disappointed.

But Jesus offers us “the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4)–
the indwelling, overflowing, soul-satisfying
presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

And when you receive the Holy Spirit you are given assurance of eternal life,
because “the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” Romans 8:16.
Through the Spirit “the love of God is poured out into our hearts” Romans 5:5.

And this, I believe, is the meaning of life.
I could tell you my own story of how I have discovered it to be true.
But it’s not just true for me—this is a gift for you, too.

Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to receive this gift?

If so, I’d love to talk through whatever questions you might have.

But if you are ready to receive this, then you can ask God to receive this gift right now.

If you’re not sure what to say, then this simple prayer might help:

Father God,
I want to live a life that is meaningful!
I want to receive this gift of eternal, abundant life!

Thank-you that your mercy overcomes judgement.
Thank-you that Jesus came and died for my sin.
Thank-you that your love is stronger than death.
Thank-you that Jesus rose from the dead.

I confess that I have sinned. I’ve done things I shouldn’t have done.
I repent! I turn away from sin. And I turn to Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.

I ask that you would fill me with your Holy Spirit.
Please fill me with your love, your joy, your peace.
Please send me out in the power of your Spirit,
to live and work to your praise and glory.

In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

DTS Week 2: ORIENTATION (Peter Prescott)

After diving in last week with Shephen’s teaching on MISSION, this week was a chance to explain the story and vision of YWAM Cambridge.

I started with a rendition of my own story, which flowed into my take on the YWAM Cambridge story thus far. And then I tried to set this in the wider context of YWAM’s story (and told them that they’ll need to read Is That Really You God? by the end of October), and we finished with the YWAM Values.

The next morning we talked about CULTURE: about being from different cultures, and the missionary principle of cultural adaptation (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23), and what it might look like for us to have a Kingdom Culture (Unoffendable Heart, Culture of Faith, Culture of Honour, Radical Servanthood, Joy-filled Repentance).

I then spent some time unpacking the heart and vision behind some of the things we’ll be doing: Evangelism, Pioneering Simple (Multiplying!) Discipleship, Worship & Prayer.

On Evangelism: How God took me from handing out mustard seeds to effectively sharing the simple gospel.
What we want to see on our scheduled evangelism times: the gospel shared, souls saved, people developing their evangelistic muscle, starting from where they’re at, but stepping out their comfort zone, and creatively dreaming with the Holy Spirit about how to do this even more effectively. (I touched on why we count).

On Simple Discipleship: The revelation that multiplication is ultimately more effective than anointed addition. If there were one super-evangelist, able to lead one thousand people to the Lord every day, then after one thousand years (supposing he lived that long), he would still not have reached a billion people. But if two people were to faithfully commit to simple (even ineffective) evangelism and discipleship, and every year were to each lead only one person to the Lord — but were to train them to do the same! — then their number would double each year. It would be twenty-four years before their numbers compared to the super-evangelist — but if they continued at that same rate for just ten more years after that, their number would exceed that of the entire world’s population! So the Great Commission can be finished in a generation — if only every Christian is involved in the work of simple evangelism and discipleship!
The story of how we’ve got to where we’ve got to with our attempts to start a house church movement.
And my ‘single-handed’ discipleship course running through the basics of simple Christianity.

On Worship & Prayer: I shared my seven reasons for night & day prayer, and a brief explanation of the tabernacle of David, before sharing some thoughts on The Heavenly Prayer Room as described in Revelation 4-5.

Mark Stanyer, YFC youth worker who is conencted to the local churches, came and invited us to be involved with some local ministries.

And Jane gave some suggestions for how to spend time relaxing in Cambridge: museums, evensong, theatrical performances…

I finished the week with an abridged tour of some of Cambridge’s Christian Heritage.

Acts 2:1-13 #HouseChurch

In Summary
Gathered in the context of continual prayer (1:14), the Spirit “suddenly” comes. Rushing wind, tongues of fire, and the chaotic cacophony of the disciples overflowing in supernatural speech! Two immediate results: people from foreign nations begin to encounter the presence of God, and the Spirit-filled believers are the focus of mockery and scoffing.

If we want to impact nations, we too need to be filled with the Spirit–but are we prepared to endure the opposition that we will face?

Eating: Fisherman’s Pie, Garden Peas.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Sophie, Ryan; Linda + Adam; Roxann, Katie, Esther.
Passage: Acts 2:1-13

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

DTS Week 1: MISSION (Shephen Mbewe)

For the third consecutive year, we invited Shephen Mbewe to kickstart our R&R DTS with his inimitable passionate call to be involved in the Mission of God to reach the nations. Here are some of the nuggets that I scribbled down in my notebook:

“I’m passionate about mission because it’s the central theme of the Scriptures.”

“We’re going to find out what the purpose of life is, and what you’re supposed to be doing.”

“Feel free to disagree!–but if you disagree then please can you still be my friend?”

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

“What a privilege that God is calling us to be part of a plan that He has had from the beginning of time!”

John 4:4 “Now Jesus had to go through Samaria.” Why did he ‘have to’? Because of His cross-cultural missionary mandate!

The Living God is a Missionary God.

“We have to stand for the truth of who Jesus is!
That’s what we’re called to declare//
that’s what we’re called to share!”

A missionary God// with a missionary vision//
creates a missionary church// sends it on a missionary expedition.

“If the church doesn’t go out in mission, then the four walls of its building will become its tomb!”

The danger of ethnocentrism == racism.

“One of the things God wants to do this week and in this DTS is to enlarge your heart for the nations.”

Asuza Street Revival and God’s sense of humour — using a half-blind black man called ‘Will Seymour’ (ie. See-More) to bring revival to a racist society dominated by white people.

There’s no way you can say ‘I believe in God,
but mission is not for me’ — #thatsacontradiction
There’s no way you can say ‘I am passionate about Jesus,
but I don’t care about the nations’ — #thatsacontradiction
There’s no way you can say ‘I’m filled with the Spirit,
and I speak in a thousand tongues‘ — #thatsacontradiction

Missions exists because worship doesn’t.

Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1-3 is
the spine of Scripture//
the backbone of the Bible.

Count the tribes that Abraham interacted with:
(1 Canaanites 12:6; 2 Egyptians 12:12; 3 Perizzite 13:7; 4 men of Sodom 13:13; 5 Rephaim, 6 Zuzim, 7 Emim 14:5; 8 Horites 14:6; 9 Amalekites, 10 Amorites 14:7; 11 Chaldeans 15:7; 12 Kenite, 13 Kenizzite, 14 Kadmonite, 15 Hittite, (Perizzite, Rephaim, Amorite, Canaanite), 16 Girgashite, 17 Jebusite 16:19-21; 18 Philistines 21:32)

Don’t reduce God to a small idol who is only concerned for ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘I’.

Do our worship songs reflect God’s heart for the nations? Or are all our songs individualistic, self-centred, ‘me’ songs?
(“That’s why they were called ‘hymns’ — because they were focussed on Him!”)

“The time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see My glory.” (Isaiah 66:18)
“Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” (1 Chronicles 16:24)
All the nations will be gathered before Him…” (Matthew 25:32)

God repeats His promise and purposes:
Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:15-18
Genesis 26:3-5; Genesis 28:12-15
cf. Galatians 3:5-8, Acts 3:25-26, Hebrews 6:13-20

“Deal with your bitterness and then you will hear God’s voice much more clearly.”

YWAM Mozambique story

Story of purchasing YWAM property:
“It’s not what we have in our pockets–it’s what we have in our hearts!”
“When you connect your heart to Genesis 12, you are connecting yourself to a powerful force! Something greater than anything else you could imagine!”

Go through OT looking at all the foreign tribes and individuals that are blessed:
– Abram’s interactions with different tribes
– Joseph and the Egyptians
– Naomi is a blessing to Moabite women
– David to Philistines
– Solomon to Queen of the South
– Elijah to Sidonian widow
– Elisha to Naaman, a Syrian
– Jonah to Ninevah (Assyrians)
– Daniel to Babylonians
– all major prophets had prophetic words for Gentile nations

NT: Paul sees an UNBREAKABLE connection between Abrahamic covenant and gospel faith (Galatians 3)

Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 13:7
“every tribe and tongue and people and nation”

(Rev. 7:9 “a great multitude which no man could number” — not even Cantor?)

“The only thing we can take with us to heaven is other people.” 1 Thess. 2:19-20

Praying at 10:02am for more workers for the harvest field (cf. Luke 10:2).

Did Jesus understand the significance of the Abrahamic covenant? Yes!
John 8:56 “Abraham saw My day…”
What does this mean?
Genesis 22: Abraham offers Isaac.
– God’s provision of a substitutionary sacrifice
– the voluntary self-sacrifice of a beloved son
(How old was Isaac? Perhaps as old as 37! cf. Gen. 23:1. Certainly old enough to carry a substantial load of firewood 22:6, so old enough to resist the 100+ yr-old Abraham. Note that ‘lad’ 22:5 can mean a teenager just as much as a child, and anyway might simply be affectionate.)
NB: Mount Moriah was in the same region as Golgotha.

‘Time does not permit me…’ (cf. Hebrews 11:32)

Schindler’s List: “I could have done more”.

Sam cannot carry the ring, for only Frodo can be the ring-bearer. But Sam can carry Frodo.

In the same way:
We cannot take salvation to the world — only Jesus can bring salvation! But we can take Jesus to the world.

Jesus’ passion for the nations reflected in His driving the money-changers out of the temple: ‘a house of prayer — FOR ALL THE NATIONS!’ (Isaiah 56:7)
Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, Luke 19:45, John 2:13
‘Zeal for your house has consumed me’ (Ps. 69:9)
Jesus gets angry when we forget our missionary mandate.

John 4:35 ‘ripe for harvest’ — Jesus is speaking about the Samaritans.
But most Jews would have seen the Samaritans as weeds, not as harvest! (cf. Luke 9:54 — disciples wanted to call fire from heaven down upon Samaritans)

Jesus highlights Gentile faith:
Matthew 8:10 centurion
Matthew 15:28 Canaanite woman
Luke 17:18 thankful Samaritan leper

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot

(‘suffered gladly the loss of their possessions’ Hebrews 10:34)

Testimony: A DTS trainee on outreach, interrupted a funeral to pray for the dead. Prayed and prayed — nothing happened. Prayed again — still nothing. “The dead body didn’t rise from the dead — but the village experienced a spiritual resurrection!” Up to that point no-one had been interested in the gospel. After that, the meetings were packed full as people sought to discover what these young people believed that they would have the courage to interrupt a funeral!

The key of promises can unlock any door. (Pilgrim’s Progress).

Matthew 28:18-20. The Great Commission commands us to go–it doesn’t say anything about coming back!

The story of Paul beaten up and left for dead is one of my favourites–when I’m discouraged I read it and I pick myself up!”
We have a message worth dying for!

“To obey is better than sacrifice”.
Not only does God prefer our obedience to our sacrifices, but the privilege, joy and rewards of obedience are greater than the cost of anything that we might have to sacrifice.

What are all the people groups in Cambridge?

Omega zones.

Rose: “I didn’t realize that the world isn’t going to end until every people group is reached.”

The situation:
If there were ten people in the world,
just one would be a Great Commission Christian (A),
two would be nominal Christians (B),
four would have access to the gospel but have not yet responded (C),
and three would not have any access to the gospel (D).
D need cross-cultural mission; C need evangelism; B need revival; A need training and equipping.

10/40 Window.
Joshua Project app — God wants to use technology!

“What’s the point of polishing the brass in the sinking Titanic?”

Ezekiel 22:30 God’s looking for a person to stand in the gap. Be that person for the unreached.

Ask God for something really big:
for North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan.

FEAR NOT! is repeated 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year! — Or is it?

What can we do:
1. Give. 2. Advocate. 3. Short-term missions. 4. Career missionary work. 5. Help those who go.

Recommended reading:
Don Richardson
John Piper
Landa Cope
Francis Schaeffer

Serpent or Servant

A simple rhyming revelation that struck me in our time of prayer this afternoon:
There are only two choices–you must take the way of the serpent or the way of the servant.


The way of the serpent is pride:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…”
(Genesis 3:1)

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

(Isaiah 14:12-15)

“Can you draw out Leviathan [the serpent] with a fishhook
or press down his tongue with a cord?…
His sneezings flash forth light,
and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.
Out of his mouth go flaming torches;
sparks of fire leap forth.
Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke,
as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
His breath kindles coals,
and a flame comes forth from his mouth…
His heart is hard as a stone,
hard as the lower millstone…
On earth there is not his like,
a creature without fear.
He sees everything that is high;
he is king over all the sons of pride.”

(Job 41:1, 18-21, 24, 33-34)


The way of the servant is humility:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:45)

Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
(Matthew 20:26-27)

He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
(John 13:12-17)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…
(Philippians 2:5-7)


When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
(Proverbs 11:2)