The One Thing You Need To Know About Me

Apparently if a blog is to be a blog, it needs an About page.

So that if you are visiting the website for the first time, you will know a little bit about why this blog is here, how often it might be updated, who its author is, where on the socio-politico-religio spectrum the opinions voiced here are coming from. Things like that.

And I am happy to answer those questions: my name is Peter Prescott, I am trying to blog once each week, I do so for five reasons, and if anyone is able to offer a socio-politico-religio analysis of the opinions here expressed then I have no objection to being thus pigeon-holed.

But if there is one thing that I want you to know about me, if there is one defining characteristic of mine without which you will not understand me, if I have one saving grace of which I can boast—it’s that I love Jesus.

That’s My King

Not that I boast in this because I think I deserve credit for this. On the contrary, my love for Jesus is as much a result of much-regretted mistakes that I have made (and my subsequent experience of the inexhaustible kindness and mercy of Jesus in forgiving me) as it is of any wisdom or virtue that I might have (and even then, all that a person has and is, is itself a gift from God, and so not something for which undue credit should be taken.).

Specifically, here are three reasons why I want you to know:

1. To help you understand why I do the crazy things I do.
Shall we start with the more unusual? I’ve sat in my college bar dressed in a white robe, with a red sash tied round my waist, giving away lilies, trying to take people’s minds off the stresses of approaching examinations and turn them towards Jesus. And I’ve spent hours at a time standing in the centre of town offering people mustard seeds in an attempt to strike up a conversation about faith.

Why? Because I love Jesus—and so I want to talk about him.

Or we could focus on the less eccentric but equally provocative action of getting married. At the tender age of twenty-two. To a woman who I didn’t see naked until after our wedding. I didn’t think that getting married was such a controversial thing to do—-until I saw the face of one university friend after another taking on an expression of horrified shock when informed that I was engaged.

And the more I think about it, the more I think that getting married in the post-modern individualistic West only makes sense if you know the rugged sacrificial covenant love of Jesus.

Or perhaps you don’t understand why, when I have a decent degree from a respectable university, I am wasting away my career opportunities being a full-time unpaid volunteer, when I could be making the most of a fast-track graduate programme with a high-paying multinational corporation, or making my intellectual mark in the rarefied realms of academia by writing a doctoral thesis.

Again–while I pray God’s blessing upon all Christians called to work in business or in the university–I do what I do because I love Jesus.

2. So that you will keep me accountable.
So here I am claiming to love Jesus. And in my heart of hearts, I do.

I love him because of the fearless courage with which he spoke and lived, I love him because of his faultless integrity, I love him because of the power and wisdom of his words, I love him because he was willing to die – for me! I love him because he is alive and has defeated death, I love him because he hears my prayers and answers them.

There are more reasons, but these are more than enough. Yet for all my reasons to love Jesus, my attempts to live a life that reflects this invariably fall short.

Do I love him with all my heart? With all my soul? With all my mind? With all my strength?

I want to.

And so I am asking you who know me to keep me accountable, to judge all of my actions according to this standard.

3. Because I want to invite you to love Jesus too.
If you’re not a Christian, then have probably already been weirded out by my unrestrained professions of love for a figure who you might not even think is historical. But if you’ve made this far down the page, then that apparently hasn’t been enough to put you off.

So here’s what I want to say to you. This loving Jesus ‘thing’ isn’t just for me, it’s for everyone.

And it’s for you.

Maybe the best way to put it is like this:
is there any reason why you wouldn’t love Jesus?

Five Reasons Why I Am A Fitness Fanatic

One of the unexpected joys of holidaying here on the Welsh coast has been to discover the beauty of the coastline that runs from Porthmadog to Criccieth–and, importantly, the well-maintained footpaths by which one is able to walk along this scenic coast.

Walk, or better, run — if one is, in the words of the vicar of the small parish church we attended on Sunday, ‘one of those fitness fanatics’.

While I would energetically deny the accusation of being fanatical about my fitness, were it meant with any seriousness, there is no denying that I have for some time gladly associated myself with that species of person which seems so strange to many of more sedentary pastimes – with runners.

The seeds of this association were probably sown in the joyfully active childhood of Chefoo: climbing mountains, trekking through the jungle, exploiting our geography to maximum effect in various brilliant wide games (any Chefusians remember Commandoes?), and playing a lot of football on our eccentrically-shaped pitch.

But my membership of this peculiar tribe really began in the year that my family returned to England, and I found myself starting secondary school in the maroon jumper and striped tie of Oathall Community College. I might at a later date reflect further on the trials and temptations of acclimatizing to a secular British state school of some two thousand pupils after spending four years in a school for forty missionary kids. For now let us simply say that the saving grace of the initial autumn months of the school year was that I was an able football player, the saving grace of the cold and dark winter was the Nintendo 64 that had come miraculously into our family’s possession, and the saving grace of the spring – when it finally came – was that I started running.

I had been out of school for a few days with some disease inflicted by the winter weather, and when I returned it was to PE class on a January morning. And cross-country season had just begun. Hindered only by the necessity of wiping my still-ill nose at regular intervals with the red-and-black sleeve of the school rugby top, I made my way around the three kilometers or so of the cross-country course. Three days later, now recovered, I again made my way around the course—this time sufficiently quickly to be told by the teacher afterwards that I had just been selected for the school cross-country team.

I didn’t know there was such a thing. What did it involve? Nothing—except I would have to miss my next week’s Art class in order to compete in the interschool competition. This was a sacrifice which I could happily make, and the next week while my classmates were enlightened about the usefulness of the Colour Wheel, I found myself being crowned the third fastest boy of my age in mid-Sussex.

Thus I became a runner.

And to this day I love to put on a pair of ridiculously short running shorts and run.

But why? Well, if you believe the spokesmen of the barefoot running movement, humans are made to run. And lest anyone counter that with the truth that humans are made to glorify God and enjoy him forever, we can point to Eric Liddell, Presbyterian missionary to China and winner of the Olympic 400m Gold medal as an example that these two raisons d’etre are not incompatible.

As if that clip of Eric Liddell getting up from his fall to win the race isn’t sufficient to inspire any warm-blooded person to run, here are five more reasons why I run:

#1 Running gives me a taste of freedom
When you run you are your own master, with no-one to tell you what to do or where to go but yourself.

Ours is a world of rules and regulations, of duties and responsibilities, of things to do and people to see. Running allows you to escape all of that for a brief interval and enter a world where your only responsibility is to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

This was particularly true for me at Hebron, in the tightly regulated miniature world of boarding school community. Whenever the frustrations of such life became too much, I could always at the end of the school day put on a pair of running shoes and escape down the drive, past the guard at the gate and out into the world.

#2 Running creates a strong sense of companionship
For all that running is an essentially individual activity that offers a chance to escape from the cramped conditions of community life, it also acts as a catalyst for real friendship. When you regularly spend an hour of your week straining your body to its physical limits in the company of another runner doing the same, you will inevitably feel a special sense of kinship with that person.

Running with Sam Fisk on the athletics field at Oathall, running with Messrs. Longfield & Cantle up the sloping hills of the Nilgiris, running with Feroze along the streets of Singapore—I came to love these people. And not because we had anything very much in common. But purely the fact that we had run together meant that I felt a bond between us.

#3 Running takes me out into the world
When I talk about running, I’m not talking about stationary jogging on a treadmill. I’m talking about getting outside and travelling several kilometers through the surrounding landscape until you arrive, now sweating and somewhat short on breath, back at your door.

Running has taken me through the tropical jungles of Malaysia; past rural Indian villages whilst chased by small boys; amidst crowds of Orchard Road shoppers in the consumerist metropolis of Singapore; alongside rowers sculling through the dawn mist that hovers over the river Cam; and now beside the craggy coast of Wales.

In fact, I would even suggest that you don’t really know a place until you’ve run through it.

#4 Running is a weapon against lethargy
All too often I go through the day feeling as if I’m covered in an invisible blanket that dulls my desire to do anything. But when you start the day by tackling that inertia head-on with a morning run, you’re then set to take on whatever task might come before you.

Sluggishness, lethargy, and that oppressive sense of what the French call la je m’enfoutisme : all can be vanquished — or at least seriously restrained — by a regular habit of running.

#5 Running keeps my body fit
As Paul reminds the Corinthians, It is required of a steward that he be found faithful.

What that means when related to fitness is this: God has given me a body, I need to take care of it. And running helps me do that.

What’s more, with modern technological gadgetry providing me with the sort of tools that until just a few years ago were the preserve of James Bond and the Q Laboratory, I’m now able to track distance travelled, calories burnt, average pace and various other fitness-related statistics on my phone. And having a record of these things is genuinely helpful when it comes to staying motivated. (Although it is also quite frustrating to find that such is the cloudiness of Wales that I have generally run about three kilometers before the GPS on my phone succeeds in picking up satellite signal and begins recording my distance travelled).

So, there you go. Six reasons why I run, and only one of them related to fitness. Perhaps I’m not a fitness fanatic after all.


Runners of the world, what about you? Why do you run?

And to those of you not part of our peculiar tribe, what do you do to stay active?

Some (Slightly Contrary) Bible-Reading Tips

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So, DTS is over and you no longer have the greenhouse environment of the YWAM Harpenden community to help motivate you to get off Facebook and open up your Bible. In sympathy, here are some tips (no more contrary than Proverbs 26:4-5) to help you continue eating up Scripture even when it doesn’t immediately taste like honey on your lips. Oh, and while we’re preambling, let’s dedicate them to Jenny, who just finished her chronological reading through the whole Bible!


#1 Read a literal translation

Not a jot or tittle of the Scriptures will be forgotten by God until it is all completely fulfilled (Matt. 5:18). But when Jesus said that, he wasn’t talking about the jots and tittles of The Message:Remix. He was talking about the original text as originally given by “holy men of God moved by the Holy Spirit”(2 Pet. 1:21).

It follows that if you’re reading the Bible you want to get as close as possible to the original text, not just be relying on the translator’s interpretation. And the closest that can be got, without learning Greek and Hebrew, is to read a literal translation such as the NKJV, the ESV, or the NASB (although I’m obviously not saying that it’s the jots and tittles of these translations which will not pass away).

But on the other hand it might be more helpful to
#1½ Read a dynamic translation

In spite of what has been said above, going this second route is easily justified on two grounds, pragmatic and theological.

As Philip points out to the Ethiopian eunuch, reading the Bible is only useful if you understand what you’re reading. And the ‘dynamic’ translations (such as the NLT or the Message — the NIV is somewhere in the middle) are generally more readable. And then there’s the fact that the freshness of a more contemporary translation can cut through the sense of over-familiarity which can sometimes plague your Bible-reading.

For the theological defense of using various translations, one can point out that the NT quotes the OT in various ways: sometimes with what seems to be a literal translation of the Hebrew, sometimes by just using the Greek (Septuagint) translation, and sometimes in ways which don’t conform precisely to either.


#2 Underline words, highlight verses, mark the pages of your Bible

I am blessed: I grew up in a home where I was encouraged to read the Bible from an early age. (Yes, I have a goodly inheritance!) But I am also blessed because I grew up in a home where I was encouraged to read. And to this day I love reading, and continue to venerate books with a degree of awe.

One consequence of this is that I have grown up with the sense that to deface the page of a printed book was a sin of unspeakable degree.

So when someone first suggested that I mark the pages of my Bible, I took a little while to be persuaded that such a thing was not synonymous with blasphemy. But once persuaded, it was a revelation: having the freedom to scribble on the Bible’s pages helped me to engage with the text and the Bible began to come alive like never before.

But on the other hand it might be more helpful to
#2½ Read a Bible that is totally clean of markings

If you have been in the habit of underlining, highlighting and annotating the pages of your Bible, and have had the same Bible for some time, then there comes a point at which a page can become somewhat cluttered with markings. Getting hold of a fresh Bible, devoid of such annotations, can make it easier for the text to impact you afresh, for new and different things to strike you.

And while you’re at it, try to get hold of a Bible without passage headings, and (if you can) even chapter/verse numbering. After all, the chapter/verse divisions were only added by a medieval monk — they’re not inspired!


#3 Make that extra effort to read the bits of the Bible you’ve never read

Jesus’ comment about “every jot and tittle…” is again relevant here. Or one could point to 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed”.

The argument for reading the whole Bible seems sufficiently obvious that there really doesn’t seem much to add.

But on the other hand,
#3½ Don’t be ashamed of returning repeatedly to favourite passages of Scripture

Dare I say it, but I don’t believe that all Scripture is equal! Or let me put it this way — I think there is a reason why the Scriptures make much more frequent reference to God’s revelation of himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7 than, say, to the genealogy of the sons of Noah in Genesis 10.

So, it’s okay if you sometimes skip over the prophecies of judgement in Jeremiah and head straight for the marvelous promise of Jeremiah 29:11. But do remind yourself occasionally that wrestling with the admittedly bleak context of that verse will help you to understand even better the indestructible hope that is offered for those who seek God with all their heart.


#4 Question the text

Lest this seem impious, let it be pointed out that Jesus was not afraid to asking questions about the Scriptures, from his childhood (Luke 2:46) all the way through to the end of his ministry (Mark 12:35). And if Christianity is true truth (in Schaeffer’s phrase) then it does not need to be afraid of even the most difficult of questions.

On the contrary, questions are an invaluable tool in reading the Bible: they help ensure that we have understood what we have read, and they help root out the various errors that so easily creep in to our theology. What’s more, if you don’t ask the question when you come to something that seems not to make perfect sense, then eventually you are likely to meet someone who is asking that question–and you will have nothing to say to them.

So ask about the historical plausibility of the biblical stories, ask about the compatibility of the gospel narratives, ask about whether and how the Bible applies to life today.

Ask! And you shall receive!

But on the other hand, there are times when you need to
#4½ Accept the text of Scripture on faith

In the words of the great theologian, Anselm, theology is ‘faith seeking understanding’. And while questions are a valid and vital way of engaging with the biblical text, we need to remember that we come to the Bible not like a lawyer for the prosecution cross-examining a witness, but like a child coming to a Father. And as children who as yet know only in part, we should not expect to have all our questions answered immediately.

But as well as being willing to trust that the Bible is the Word of God even when you don’t understand how it fits with the rest of what you know to be true, faith is also necessary in a more active way. For it is faith that is the activating key to making the Biblical promises reality (cf. Mark 9:23). So, for example, when you come to a verse like that in John 14:14, promising that everything we ask for in the name of Jesus will be granted to us, the thing to do is not just to trust that this must somehow be true even though once you prayed and got no answer, but rather to be encouraged by this to pray again, to believe that if this verse is true then an answer must come eventually even if it didn’t come immediately, and to keep crying out in the name of Jesus for whatever it is you need until either it is granted or God specifically speaks to you to say otherwise.


#5 Remember, the Bible is the Word of God
This has been assumed and stated in various ways throughout this discussion, but it’s worth repeating. Let’s be like the Thessalonians, who Paul commended for receiving the apostolic teaching “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).

But on the other hand,
#5½ Remember, it is *Jesus* who is the Word of God

In John 5:39, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for searching the Scriptures while all the while failing to pay attention to the One of whom the Scriptures testify — Jesus!

And — I know this from experience — it’s all too easy for us to do the same: to fill our heads with Bible-knowledge without letting our hearts be filled with love for Jesus. So in all of your Bible-reading, remember — it’s all about Jesus.

Do you have any other helpful tips for those wanting but struggling to read the Bible?

What Was The Best Thing About DTS?

Five months of intensive discipleship training has just come to an end, with the graduation of our DTS class on Tuesday night. And after a day of teary-eyed farewells yesterday, there is now finally some space to sit down and reflect on all that has happened over the last five months. And the question I have been asking myself is this: What was the best thing about DTS?

I tried asking Kelsey at Pizza Express yesterday, as seven of us went out for a final celebratory goodbye lunch. But I think the pizza arrived before she could answer.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it. And I think the word that best sums up what I enjoyed about DTS is the community. Now, ‘community’ is a notoriously abused buzzword that is so commonly thrown in together among the trendy bits of contemporary jargon that I should probably mention a few specific things about the community that I enjoyed.

The Oval Café is the centre of the Harpenden community

It’s A Local Community
When filling in the application form for YWAM Harpenden, one of the questions that you have to answer is this: ‘What leads you to believe you could live in the conditions of a community setting?’ But having spent ten years of my life living in small Christian boarding schools, and then four years in the close quarters of a residential Cambridge college, it isn’t surprising that I actually find it much more difficult outside of the conditions of a close community. Much as I love Cambridge, it was a relief to no longer have to cycle back and forth across town to see the people I wanted to see.

It’s A Praying Community
For the year before coming on DTS, I was working with church in Cambridge, trying to inspire people to come together in 24:7 prayer.

So it was a great encouragement to find upon coming to Harpenden that the YWAM Base was just entering a new season of intensity in corporately seeking God, with the first 24:7 Prayer Week in the Boiler Room beneath the chapel taking place in our first week of lectures, and Mondays just having been instituted as a day of community prayer and fasting for the nations.

Perhaps most surprising was to find one community which practised the full range of styles of prayer: from the liturgical bowing as part of the Agpia at 9am each morning, through the groups of three with heads bowed that you see during the Monday lunch-time intercession, to the hands raised in Spirit-filled worship in the Tuesday night community meetings.

It’s A Cross-cultural Community
England, India, Rwanda, Germany, Canada, the USA — these were just the nations represented on our outreach team of eleven people!

And while I know that in this global village that we live in today it is not uncommon to be surrounded by people of different tribes and tongues, it was a pleasure to be part of a community that takes such joy in celebrating ‘the nations’ at every possible opportunity.

It’s An Active Community
Discipleship is not just about some nebulous ‘spiritual’ realm of life, but about bringing every part of everything you do on every single day under the Lordship of Christ. Which means that while godliness may be the main thing we are pursuing, physical training is still of some value!

And with a 7am morning workout three times a week, football on Sunday afternoons, and the chance to go running with my one-on-one, this was very much put into practice :)

It’s A Creative Community
From the Oscar-style awards night for the Documentary Film-making School and the advance screening of the Rotterdam Film Festival entry Ripples of the Passover, to the gigs of the rock band Evergreen and — of course 😉 — the beautiful Taryn, there is an impressive calibre of creative skill present on the Harpenden Oval.

And when you’ve not only got occasional rap battles, but also original compositions to cheer you up when you fall sick (which you can listen to below), that air of creativity definitely adds to the life of a community.

It’s A Loving Community
But if all these qualities were present, but not love–well, you know the rest.

And so here’s one last THANKYOU to all the people who have been part of the YWAM Harpenden over the last few months, for your welcome, your friendship and your love. Now over to you — what was your favourite thing about DTS?