Seven Reasons For 24:7 Prayer

If you haven’t yet seen the brilliant new 24-7 Prayer animation asking the question why we pray, then I present it here for your viewing enjoyment.


And while I’m really enjoying the responses to the question as to why anyone (“even atheists”) should pray, I think we need to also ask the deeper question, ‘Why 24:7 Prayer?’ Now many will answer, ‘No particular reason–but it helps us pray! And so why not!’ And that’s okay as far as it goes. But I think we can–and for the more iconoclastic among us, need to–do better. Or at least I do, given that I’m on my way to YWAM Harpenden on Friday in the hope of seeing non-stop night-and-day prayer there started as soon as possible and continuing until Jesus comes back. So here are my seven reasons for 24:7 Prayer.

Download them as a PDF

#1 It’s a HEAVENLY REALITY
And [in the heavenly throne room] they do not rest day or night,
saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.
Rev.4:8

In Revelation, John is given a vision from Jesus himself – a vision given not only to encourage John in the midst of his suffering on Patmos ‘for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ’ (Rev. 1:9), but to inspire the church throughout the ages to stand strong in the face of persecution one side and compromise on the other.

In the vision he sees, in breathtaking clarity, the heavenly throne room of God. Around the throne he sees these wonderful ‘living creatures’ who ‘do not rest day or night’ because they are worshipping God. As John watches, the twenty-four elders begin casting down their crowns and joining in with this non-stop worship. And as he continues watching, ‘ten thousand times ten thousand’ angels also begin joining in.

Jesus taught us to pray to God,’Thy kingdom come.. on earth, as it is in heaven’ (Matt. 6:10 KJV). If God is to be worshipped on earth as in heaven that means offering up prayer and praise that continues day and night without rest.

Jesus exemplifies this for us. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, he ‘ever lives to make intercession’ (Heb. 7:25) – which is to say even after his ascension He is still constantly involved in non-stop prayer!

If we are to imitate Christ in our prayer, and bring the kingdom of God on our little patches of earth as it is in heaven, then there is no better starting point than establishing night-and-day prayer.

#2 It’s a BIBLICAL PRACTICE
Now the first lot fell to Jeohoiarib, the second to Jedaiah…
1 Chronicles 24:7

The idea of praying non-stop for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, strikes some people as excessive – perhaps the sort of thing that a corrupted medieval monasticism might indulge in, but far too absurd a thing to be compatible with simple biblical Christianity.

But if you turn in your Bible to 1 Chronicles chapter 24 verse 7, you will find something very interesting. What initially appears to be nothing more than the beginning of a dull list of names of no enduring significance turns out on closer inspection to look suspiciously like a sign-up list for a 24:7 non-stop prayer room. The twenty-four priests are each allocated a slot in the Temple to ensure that there would continually be someone there in that house of prayer – just as we seek to fill weeks with prayer by dividing each day into twenty-four hour-long prayer slots.

So there is biblical precedent for what we are doing. More than that, as you read the Chronicles of Israel’s history, you see that whenever the Davidic order of non-stop worship is restored – whether by Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah or Josiah – there is a subsequent time of spiritual breakthrough, deliverance and military victory.

And we cannot make the excuse that such non-stop prayer was a thing for Old Testament Israel and not for the New Testament church, for the activity of the church in Acts begins with nothing else but non-stop prayer, as the followers of Jesus “all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).

So not only is there biblical precedent for non-stop prayer, but a strong biblical argument for night-and-day prayer.

#3 It’s PROPHETICALLY FORETOLD
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem,
Who shall never hold their peace day or night.
Is.62:6

Isaiah is perhaps the prophet that Christians know best, famously foreseeing that the Messiah would be ‘wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities’ so that ‘by his stripes we [could be] healed’ (Isaiah 53:5).

Perhaps less known is Isaiah’s vision that ‘in the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established… and all nations shall flow to it’ (Isaiah 2:2). Yet this vision frames the whole of Isaiah’s prophecy. It sounds the book’s first note of hope in the bleak context of a Temple so corrupt that God says ‘[the Temple’s] incense is an abomination’ (1:12). And it provides the connecting theme which ties the whole book together, that of the true nature of God’s ‘house of prayer for all nations’ (56:7).

When he comes to the details of this house of prayer, we hear God speaking from the perspective of eternity of how he has set ‘watchmen… who shall never hold their peace day or night'(62:6) because they are ‘making mention of the Lord’ in non-stop prayer.

Now someone might argue that if we look closely, God says that he sets watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem – not of the YWAM Harpenden chapel, or the 25 Portugal Place Cambridge prayer-room! But such an argument misses Isaiah’s essential point: as the final chapter declares, ‘Thus says the Lord: Heaven is My throne, and earth is my footstool, Where is the house that you will build Me?’ God is too big to be confined to Jerusalem. Which means that to see the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah 62:6, we need ceaselessly praying watchmen not only in Jerusalem, but in every city.

Which means we need night-and-day prayer in YWAM Harpenden, we need night-and-day prayer in Cambridge — we need every Christianity community to be dissatisfied with just showing up once a week to hear someone preach and accept the call to love God with all our hearts in 24:7 prayer and worship.

#4 It’s APOSTOLICALLY ENCOURAGED
Pray without ceasing 1 Thess. 5:17

Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonian church is so simple, it shouldn’t need any explanation.

Pray without ceasing.

What does that mean? Well surely – pray without ceasing.

But because our Western culture is one in which individualism reigns supreme, when I read that statement I assume that Paul is telling me to pray without ceasing. And then I think to myself, ‘Oh, but I need to eat and to sleep and…’ and so on, and I immediately dismiss the idea of literally praying without ceasing: ‘It’s impossible.’

But imagine if we read Paul’s letters as being written to a community of Christian believers, who understood that only together could they fulfill their calling to be the Body of Christ. Imagine if when we read Paul telling us to pray without ceasing, we realized that although as individuals ceaseless prayer might be impossible, as a community it’s almost easy: you would only need 24 people praying an hour a day; you would only need one-hundred and sixty-eight YWAMers praying an hour a week; you would only need 29% of Harpenden’s 30 thousand inhabitants (or 7% of Cambridge’s 130 thousand or 3.6% of Luton’s 240 thousand or less than 0.017% of England’s 50 million + population) to be praying Christians prepared to spend one hour a year contributing to ceaseless prayer…

When you think of it like that it sounds a very plausible idea for us to have ceaseless night-and-day prayer in Harpenden — or in any community.

#5 It’s HISTORICALLY PROVEN

The historian Edwin Orr writes that ‘History is silent about revivals that did not begin with prayer’. But unfortunately history is filled with examples of revivals that began in prayer and then fizzle out all too quickly as the praying comes to a halt – because if prayer is merely done to bring revival, then once revival begins what need is there for continued praying?

Fortunately, history does also tell us of some occasions where the praying didn’t cease once revival broke out. The Moravians, for example, were a group of German Protestants divided (as Protestants so often are) by religious factionalism. But God is merciful – and in 1727 they experienced a dramatic visitation of the Holy Spirit. They then organized themselves to set up a watch of continuous hourly prayer – which went on for over a hundred years.

As the Moravians prayed, this small community became the launch-pad for the first large-scale Protestant missions movement. The story is told of two Moravians moved by God to go to the slaves in the West Indies. The slavers would not grant missionaries access – so they sold themselves into slavery, declaring as they left home their desire that ‘the Lamb receive the reward of His sufferings’.

Also worth mentioning is a man called John Wesley, who met some of these pious Germans whilst on a ship in troubled waters and was impressed by their fearless prayerfulness. He then went to a Moravian prayer meeting in London in 1738, felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ – and the subsequent revival is well-known.

Who knows what the history books might say about us? – if we were to establish continual night-and-day prayer in our communities?

#6 It’s PERSONALLY TRANSFORMATIVE

I was just a 2nd year student doing Mathematics – or perhaps it would be fairer to say, trying and failing to do very much Mathematics – when I wandered into a 24:7 prayer room to pray.

I was a Christian, but not particularly involved in either my church or my college CU. I was a Christian who found it a struggle to pray. I came on a Tuesday evening to pray with some friends, thinking that I could hopefully get back to my room before it was too late – I needed to finish an example sheet that was due the next day.

We began to pray. We prayed for our city. We prayed for our university. We prayed for ourselves. We prayed for our friends. We prayed for those who weren’t our friends. We sang songs of praise. We read scripture. We continued praying. We prayed for the kingdom of God to come. We prayed for hours and hours.

I had never prayed like that before.

In the early hours of the morning I returned to my room, still inwardly praying and praising as I went. I returned the next evening, dragging along with me as many from college as I could persuade to join me. And again, on the Friday evening. I started leading evangelistic Bible studies, with a friend who had also been part of that group praying on that Tuesday night. At the end of the year I switched from Mathematics to Theology. I graduated two years later, and am still trying to convince people to join me in the 24:7 prayer room.

And I never finished that example sheet.

All because of a week of night-and-day prayer.

#7 It’s HAPPENING NOW
Let whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit is saying… Rev. 2:7

The call to non-stop prayer is being sounded throughout the world in this generation in a way like has never happened before.

Consider this: In September 1999 Pete Greig started his first 24:7 prayer room, intending for it to go on for a month, and for that then to be the end of the matter. That ‘first’ (although, as we have seen, not really first at all) 24:7 prayer room got to the end of its first month and had too much momentum to stop – it ended up going for six.

When finally things were brought to a close, they found that the idea had spread by word of mouth to various other places where others were putting the idea into practice in their own contexts. 24-7 Prayer International was then set up to respond to the need to answer all the inquiries that were coming from people across the world, asking how they could set up a non-stop prayer room.

That same month – completely independently – Mike Bickle’s ‘International House of Prayer’ had just begun a meeting of prayer and praise fuelled by musicians leading worship ‘in the spirit of the tabernacle of David’. Their expression of non-stop prayer began on September 19th 1999 in Kansas City, USA, and has continued without stopping in that place whilst multiplying into other nations.

I am convinced that God is calling the church in every part of the world to non-stop prayer. I am convinced that God will establish night-and-day prayer in Cambridge. But for the next year I’m leaving Cambridge to try and be part of making it happen in Harpenden. And once that’s done, then I plan to return to Cambridge and start the process all over again.

Care to join me?

What Staff At Hebron School Should Know

Yesterday I Tumbl-ed some news about staff vacancies at the secondary school in India where I spent six years. This seemed to draw a little interest, so I thought I should share my thoughts on what a staff member at Hebron (potential or current) should know.


This is easily done, because when I returned to Hebron four years after graduating I was actually asked to speak at the Staff Meeting! And this is what I said when given the opportunity to stand before the staff of my much-appreciated, sometimes-hated, yet truly-loved Hebron School…

_____________________

Wow. As a student I would have loved to stand in front of you staff and tell you a thing or two. And now’s my chance! But actually it turns out that the things I feel you Hebron staff need to know aren’t all the things you have done wrong.

No.

Instead I want to encourage you. This is my prayer:
May my words drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew,
Like gentle rain upon the tender grass, like showers upon the herb.

So, here are three things I think you need to know:

#1 You need to know the Importance of what you are doing here

Because of what you are doing here,
the gospel is being preached to people who have never heard the name of Jesus;
because of what you are doing here,
the Bible is being translated into languages which have never heard God’s Word;
because of what you are doing here,
doctors are providing medical treatment to the poor and needy;
and orphans are being cared for and widows are provided for;
because of what you are doing here,
missionaries are able to do the work that God has called them to do,
and the kingdom of God is advancing,
and people are being saved.

What you are doing at Hebron is very important.

Before I came to Hebron I was at school in Malaysia, at another school for missionary children. Many of the friends that I had there returned with their families to their home countries, because they felt that was the only viable educational alternative. But because of what you are doing here at Hebron, I was able to come to school here, and my parents were able to continue working as missionaries. And because of the high quality of what you are doing here – I should in particular thank Miss Smith for helping me through the STEP exams with which I just about scraped my way into Cambridge University – because of the high quality of what you are doing here I have suffered no lack in my education.

And because of the high quality of what you are doing here, not only do you allow Christian parents to do the work that God has called them to do, in some of the most difficult and least reached parts of the world, and send their children here – but you also cause Hindu parents, and Muslim parents, and Sikh parents, and Parsi parents to send their children here.

You need to know that what you are doing at Hebron is very important, because here is a demonstration of the kingdom of God, here is a community of people who have heard the call of Jesus and are trying to follow him.

And when Hebron successfully points people towards the grace of God, then these Hindu and Muslim and Sikh and Parsi students, who have been sent here for a good education, find that in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and become followers of Jesus. And the Christian students, those children of pastors and preachers and medical workers and missionaries, see the reality of the God of their parents and – more often than not – themselves become missionaries and medical workers, and are able to continue and surpass the work that their parents have done.

But when Hebron fails to point people towards the grace of God, then Hebron fails.

Because when Hebron fails to point people towards the grace of God, then those who do not come from Christian families become inoculated against the gospel, convinced that they have seen what Christianity is like. And those who do come from Christian families become convinced that their parents’ faith is a hollow lie and lash violently back against Christianity, against religion, against authority, against God.

That could have been me.

You need to know the importance of what you are doing here.

#2. You need to know the Influence of what you are doing here

Sometimes you will see the influence of what you are doing.

Sometimes you will see students’ work improving as a result of your teaching. Sometimes you will see people settling into life here and becoming more confident, as a result of you coming alongside them when they were homesick. Sometimes you will see people beginning to understand the gospel better, as a result of the Bible Study that you’re leading. Sometimes you will see people becoming Christians.

But sometimes you may not see the influence of what you are doing for a long time. In fact sometimes you may never see any influence. But you need to know that what you are doing does have an influence.

If you’re new here and you have no idea what sort of influence this school has on people, then I would encourage you to go and ask someone who has been at Hebron a little longer, maybe Mrs George (and while you’re at it, make sure she treats you to a snack from her kitchen), and I’m sure she’ll be able to give you a few examples.

And if you’ve been here a while, then I would urge you to make sure you remember those people who have been influenced for the better through being at Hebron. Let them be an encouragement to you.

“Look what God has done for us, over all the years we’ve shared…”

Because there will be times when you might feel like your work here is in vain. But it’s not.

And I stand before you this evening to testify that I am someone who by the grace of God had his life transformed while he was at Hebron.

And I want to say Thank-you.

#3. You need to know the Impossibility of what you are doing here

Some of you may have just arrived at Hebron. Maybe you were told that the school needed a Geography teacher, and you’ve done some teaching before and you know a lot about Geography – and so you think you’re well prepared to teach Geography here.

Maybe you’ve been told how much better behaved Hebron students are, compared to kids in other schools where you may have taught, and you thought this was going to be easy.

And now you’ve arrived here, and someone’s just told you that as well as the Year 7 Geography class you were expecting to teach, you’re also going to need to fill in as the A Level History teacher, as there’s currently no-one to do that job – and surely you know that you’re also dorm-parenting the Standard 10 Boys? And directing the Standard 7 Drama Week play? And coaching the girls’ football team? And maybe you’re thinking, ‘Hang on a minute, this is crazy. What I’m being asked to do here at Hebron is impossible.’

If that’s what you’re thinking, then you’re right. What happens at Hebron is impossible.

And you need to know the impossibility of what you are doing here at Hebron.

Because when it comes to academic results, the international schools we are competing against have a much higher budget with which to entice all the teachers they might want – while at Hebron there is usually at least one key teaching position that is not quite filled. (And I won’t mention the budget).

And when it comes to sporting competition, the schools we are competing against have a far greater number of athletes to draw upon, and plenty of time to practice – while at Hebron, we are usually scrambling to get a team to to participate within a week or two of arriving back at school.

And when it comes to more important things –- you know there is something more important than academic results, right?– When it comes to people’s hearts being changed, when it comes to the power of the Spirit of God breaking into the life of a Hebron student and transforming them into the likeness of Jesus, only God can do this!

But – here’s the good news – God does do this! And in the 100+ years since Hebron began, God has done this in more ways than you or I will ever know.

For although what you are trying to do at Hebron may be impossible, the Bible says that with God nothing is impossible. And the Bible says that every prayer prayed in the name of Jesus will be answered. And I’ve prayed a lot of prayers in the name of Jesus for which I haven’t yet seen any answers. But I will keep on praying, because I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is faithful.

So let’s pray:

Father God,
I thank you for the work that Hebron has done for so many years.
I thank you for the privilege that it is to be a Hebronite.
And I pray in the name of Jesus that you would encourage the staff here,
and that you would continue to bless the work that they do,
and I pray that your kingdom would come in this place,
and in the lives of everyone working and studying here.
And I pray, O Lord, that your love and your power and your wisdom
Would flow forth from this place like a mighty rushing river
And would transform Ooty,
And India,
And the world.
In Jesus’ mighty name I pray,
AMEN.

_____________________

What would you say if you had the chance to speak your mind to the teachers at your old school? Blame them for their mistakes?
Thank them for their hard work? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

And what about those of you who were actually at Hebron? What would you say to our staff if you had the chance?

‘Disgustingly Intolerant & Unconvincing Bigotry’

Download this essay as a PDF

After causing something of a stir last week with my post on atheism, I seem to have caused similar controversy by dipping my toe into the debate regarding the issue of the definition of marriage–currently the subject of a British government consultation on how (not whether) it should be redefined to include gay relationships. William has urged me to respond to this, and he’s right–

We need to talk
When I began this blog a couple of months ago I explained that one of the reasons that I am writing is for the sake of transparency. I wrote then:
«for a long time — all my life! — I have stood with one foot in an evangelical missionary culture and the other foot in the predominantly secular culture of the contemporary English-speaking world. And I’m not sure I’ve ever quite managed to overcome the challenge of communicating in a way which makes sense to both cultures — which probably explains why so many of my non-Christian friends from university find me somewhat peculiar.» So, I should be–and indeed am–glad that this small controversy has compelled me to consider my views and created opportunity to try and explain myself.

But this concerns more people than just me. According to Operation World, there are more than 500 million (half a billion) evangelical Christians in the world. The number of gay people is a contentious issue that depends on how you count (do we mean gay attraction, orientation, behaviour or self-defined identity?) but regardless of the exact figures, both groups wield quite considerable influence in today’s world. So it is important that we try to understand each other.

I therefore am offering this post not merely to explain myself. Rather I hope that what I write will help make transparent the biblical Christian perspective on ‘gay marriage’ to those who feel sometimes that evangelical Christians are from another planet. And I hope that what I write will better equip Christians to “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:15).

But first, some ground rules for the discussion.

We need to respect each other
If we are to have a conversation then each party must have at least a basic degree of respect for the other.

If one is a Christian (I am), then this should be motivated by the knowledge that each of us, whatever our sexuality, is made in the image of God, and therefore worthy not only of respect but love. It is also worth saying explicitly that the gay people I have known have in general been friendly and intelligent.

We need to begin by refusing to demonize each other.

But we need more than that.

We need to distinguish disagreement and intolerance
To disagree with something someone says or does isn’t of itself intolerance. On the contrary, if there was no disagreement there would be no need for tolerance.

Further, as the famous Tolerance Paradox points out, unrestricted tolerance is not possible, whether or not it is desirable. This is evidenced in Boris Johnson’s recent remark (intended I think without any irony) “London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance.”

Now, I have written before that I am doubtful that secularism can ever co-exist comfortably with ‘religion’. But, uncomfortable as this might be, here we all are, me with my Bible and you with whatever worldview you happen to have, and unless the pre-tribulation rapturists are right, no-one’s going to be suddenly disappearing. So we need to learn how to peacefully disagree without becoming apathetic and passive.

So for example, we Christians must see that the disagreement we have on this issue with those who are unconvinced that the Bible offers a universally valid definition of marriage is understandable and quite different from the unacceptable intolerance of those who have, in distinct situations, threatened death to the MP David Burrowes and a fourteen-year old American girl for respectively speaking in defense of the current definition of marriage.

Now our use of terms like ‘disagreement’ in some cases, and ‘intolerance’ in others, actually reflects a moral judgment: ‘disagreements’ are legitimate and ‘intolerance’ is not. And this judgment is not always a simple one.

But if we are to make it (and in fact we must and already do), then:

We need to acknowledge that there is an objective morality
This is also necessary if we are to believe in real human rights. As the Archbishop of Canterbury points out, if we “take away this moral underpinning, language about human rights can become either a purely aspirational matter or something that is simply prescribed by authority”. And given the eagerness of some (but not all) within the LGBT movement to use the language of human rights to argue for gay marriage, it seems that there is a generally shared belief in human rights.

As a Christian, I believe that this objective morality is grounded in the existence of a transcendent good God, witnessed to by biblical revelation (and the hand-carved ten commandments), and known in an instinctive but limited way (‘conscience’) by all humans (being made in the image of this God).

This might be–but probably isn’t–the same as saying I believe in natural law. As with everything, this depends on your precise definitions. The way the term is usually used suggests that if such a thing exists it can be recognised by reason alone. Which I reject–I think we need the witness of Scripture–and hence my lack of optimism that a secular society could ever agree on what constitutes ‘morality’.

Thus if I were to say (as Dr Saunders does) that “Throughout history in virtually all cultures and faiths throughout the world, marriage has been held to be the union of one man and one woman”, I would offer such an observation not as proof of that definition of marriage but merely evidence.

Clearly if we accept that such things as human rights and morality are real, then:

We need to see that there is such a thing as wrongdoing
This is all the Bible means when it uses the word ‘sin’. As we see in this definition from the book of James: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Now sin is an unpopular word. And I have Christian friends zealous for the glory of God and eager to share the gospel who would say that we need to update our vocabulary because otherwise we will unnecessarily confuse and alienate people. But sin is undeniably a word which the Bible has no qualms in using. So can the word be redeemed?

I believe it can. And that if we are going to become comfortable with the Bible we need to become comfortable with the word (though not with the activities that it describes). And to do that we need to understand how the Bible uses the word.

Which means:

We need to notice the breadth of the Bible’s ‘intolerance’
Before we move on to discussing the specifics of the marriage debate, it’s important to see that we Christians (or at least those of us who still do the good old street-preaching evangelism thing) are not trying to pick on gay people by pointing out their sins in particular. Our focus is much less specific than that.

A few quotations from Paul should demonstrate my point:

«Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like»
(Galatians 5:19-21)

«Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners…»
(1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

«God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting, being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…»
(Romans 1:28-31)

«The law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers…»
(1 Timothy 1:9-10)

In all of these cases, Paul is not trying to emphasise any particular sin on the list over and against the others. His aim is rather to cover the whole wide range of types of wrongdoing that the biblical God refuses to tolerate.

The reason for this is simple:

We need to realise that each one of us is a moral failure
Paul explains in the third chapter of his letter to the Romans that the reason he aggessively quotes the various activities forbidden by the biblical law is so “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God”, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” by which we come to understand that “all have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God”.

This is why it is not simply an intolerant bigoted power-play when Christians say that particular activities are ‘sins’, because to be a Christian a person needs to have recognised that they are in the category of ‘sinners’. From the point of view of a perfect God, being ‘undiscerning’ and ‘unmerciful’ are as bad as anything else on the list, be it sexual sin or ‘inventing evil things’.

So immediately after his brief list of sins in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul reminds them that “such were some of you”. But he’s equally willing to point the finger at himself. So in 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul writes “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am chief”.

If it still strikes us as strange, that Paul can boast almost shamelessly that he is ‘chief’ of sinners, while all the while condemning sin wherever he goes, then we will also doubtless find the suggestion that we should consider ourselves ‘moral failures’ rather repulsive. Hence:

We need to understand the relationship between sin and shame
Robin (who I gladly count among my friends) points out that “in John 8:6 we see Jesus writing in the sand instead of joining the religious leaders in condemning the women for her sin”. He then concludes that “He was more concerned with her shame than with the law,” suggesting that shame is the real issue rather than sin.

But then what about Jesus’ closing words to the woman: “Go and sin no more”?

What about the fact that Jesus himself says very specifically that he came to call “sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17)?

What about the fact that when Paul is writing to the Galatians he begins by reminding them of the gospel that “our Lord Jesus Christ…gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil age” (Gal.1:3,4; cf. 1 Cor.15:3) and immediately goes on to say that “if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal.1:9) ?

From a biblical point of view, sin and shame are related as cause and effect. So, in Gen.2:25 before there has been any sin, we see that “the man and his wife were not ashamed”–but after they have been tempted and have disobeyed God they become ashamed and “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God”(Gen.3:8), instinctively knowing that the sin they had committed would incur a penalty.

The good news for shame-faced sinners is not that Jesus has been superficially unconcerned with our shame, but that through dying on the cross Jesus has radically dealt with the cause of our shame–that is, sin. And now in Jesus there is “forgiveness of sins” for “everyone who believes” (Acts 13:38-39).

This is the message: Trust in Jesus! And then all your sins will be forgiven. And thus your shame will be taken away. Hence you need no longer be ashamed of your moral failure, because you have a gospel in which you can be unashamed.

This is true for gay people just as much as heterosexual people–just as it is true for women just as much as men, and for Gentiles just as much as Jews. But to trust a Jesus who claims to be a king and is inviting people to be part of his kingdom means to obey this Jesus.

Now, to be honest to obey Jesus you only need to know three things: the First and Second Great Commandments, and the Great Commission.

But the Great Commission does include ‘obeying all that Jesus commanded’. And if we are to obey Jesus on the subject of marriage:

We need to know the definition of marriage
Hebrews 13:4 says that ‘Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.’ But simply to say that it is wrong to do anything ‘sexually immoral’ begs the question—what is sexually moral? Clearly the verse contrasts adultery and sexual immorality with keeping “the marriage bed pure” – but it assumes that we know the definition of ‘marriage’. And this is precisely the issue which we must now address.

I have already said that I don’t think that we can prove a definition of marriage on the basis of secular reason. The best we can hope for is to find a biblical definition and then see if the anthropological evidence corroborates the biblical witness. So: Is there a biblical definition of marriage?

Yes, there is-–and in fact we find it in Jesus’ own response to the Pharisees when asked about divorce.

Jesus takes his definition of marriage from Genesis: «Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ (Genesis 1:27), and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24).»

So we have immediately and clearly the “one man and one woman” part the current definition of marriage (“the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”), and the “union for life” part becomes apparent when we see that Jesus concludes from the fact that the two have “become one flesh” that divorce is not to be permitted.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that this definition of marriage ‘discriminates’ not only against gay couple couples but also against heterosexuals in a variety of modes: promiscuous, non-commital and polygamous.

But why did Jesus define marriage this way?

Now at one level, we simply have to be content to hold our hands up and admit that we don’t know for sure. The Bible doesn’t tell us. The secret things belong to the LORD our God… and all of that.

Nevertheless, not only are humans curious creatures (in both senses!) but trying to answer questions like this that are not explicitly revealed are a good way of testing whether we have understood the things that have been revealed. So:

We need a theology that makes sense of why marriage must be heterosexual
If we were to speculate, what are the options as to why marriage must necessarily be heterosexual? I can think of two lines of approach: children and headship. The former being the Roman Catholic argument that marriage “forms the best atmosphere in which the children who result from their union can best be brought up”. Indeed, even the gay Matthew Parris writes: “I am glad I had both a mother and a father, and that after childhood I was to spend my life among both men and women, and as men and women are not the same, I would have missed something if I had not learned first about the world from, and with, both a woman and a man, and in the love of both”. But, as this writer notes, “the idea that marriage is solely for the procreation of children is easily dismissable” since “Plenty of straight couples, particularly older ones, do not marry to have children.”

An alternative theological explanation could be forged around the biblical theme of husbandly headship. It would go something like this: marriage is a picture of the relationship between God and his people (Isaiah 54:5), ie. Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). Christ is the head of the Church in a way analogous to the way “the head of a wife is her husband” (1 Cor.11:3). (It is important that we go with the ESV’s translation here as the Bible nowhere suggests a general submission of women to men, as this writer points out). Hence to reject the authority (headship) of God naturally leads to homosexuality (Rom.1:25-27). Further, this is grounded in the relationship of the Father and the Son within the Trinity, where both are equal in worth (Revelation 5:13), but in function it is the Father who is head (1 Cor.15:28).

One final thing before I open this up to the world:

We need to ask big questions
One of the questions that is often assumed to be central to the issue of gay marriage is whether someone of homosexual orientation is born this way. Brendan O’Neil notes the peculiar transition that has occurred in the last century
‘Once upon a time, conservatives and Christians argued that homosexuality was a genetic trait, while gay-rights activists insisted it was a lifestyle choice. Now, in an eye-swivelling turnaround, their arguments have reversed. Surely, this is the most comprehensive position swap in the history of culture wars?’

But rather than getting caught up too quickly in the disputed details of the questions everyone assumes are key, let’s remember at least occasionally to step back and gain perspective. Sometime it’s important to question the question.

So, for example, rather than running round in circles asking whether people are born gay or not, perhaps instead we should ask what it is that people are born for.

What’s the purpose of human life?

You probably know by know what I think the answer is. So instead of telling you what I think the answer is, I’ll tell you what I think it’s like when someone finds the answer: It’s like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

______________

What do you think of the idea of redefining marriage? What do you think of what I’ve just said? Please let me know your thoughts–I welcome disagreement. But not intolerance 😉
______________

Some links:

If you’re interested in the question of how we can help evangelical Christians and LGBT people understand each other a little better, then Andrew Marin is a man who is probably doing the job as well as anyone out there.

If you’re a Christian and you’re interested in thinking more thoroughly about your theology of marriage, then you can’t do any better than Christopher Ash’s ‘Marriage.

If (but not only if!) you agree with Jesus’ definition of marriage you can sign the Coalition for Marriage petition here.

If you’re interested in a thorough analysis of Jesus’ understanding of why it was necessary for him to focus on the problem of sin, I recommend George Smeaton’s The Doctrine of the Atonement which you can actually download for free.

Should I Be Making Fun Of Atheism?

Download this essay as a PDF

I caused a little bit of controversy yesterday by posting the above tongue-in-cheek definition of atheism on Tumblr. So I felt I should try and explain why I felt justified in passing on this caricature of the beliefs of my atheistic friends. So here are a few thoughts and clarifications in response to the comments.

First: Atheists should be distinguished from agnostics.

Jon thinks atheism should be defined as the rejection of belief in the existence of deities–I disagree.

For the English-speaking person who does not believe in God, there are two commonly-used words which he can use between to describe his position: ‘agnostic’ and ‘atheist’. I use the term ‘agnostic’ for the person who humbly admits that he does not (and in most cases thinks he can not) know whether there is a God. And I use the term ‘atheist’ for someone who is confident that there is no God. So, consistently with the way I use the terms, I consider atheism a belief in the non-existence of God. Feel free to tell me if you think I’m not using the terms correctly.

Second: Atheism is not only a positive belief in the non-existence of God, but a worldview.

After all, Atheism is an ‘-ism’.

Julian Baggini’s ‘Heathen Manifesto’ (which Nic just pointed out to me) is an example of an atheist who would seem to agree with me in thinking that this is a legitimate consideration. (The person who commented at the bottom of Baggini’s Guardian article to say ‘I don’t need to follow rules of atheism, if I wanted to follow rules and be part of the crowd I could go to church’ would be an example of someone who disagrees with us).

Three: A ‘worldview’ is the way a thoughtful person answers the major philosophical questions that occur to him as he finds himself in the world.

Specifically and most basically, questions of:

Anthropology: what am I? what does it mean to be human? (who am I?)
Cosmology: where am I? what is this world like?
Metaphysics: where did it all come from?
Theology: who do I thank and worship for the blessing of being alive?
Axiology: what is good? (ethics and aesthetics)
Teleology: what is it all for? where is this all going?
Epistemology: how do we know what we know?

A consistent and coherent worldview will hold compatible answers to each of these questions. And so when a group of people share convictions regarding the answer to one of those questions, they usually have similar answers to others of those questions.

Four: Thus ‘Worldview’ might loosely approximate to what most Western English-speakers mean when they use the generally misunderstood term ‘religion’.

I say misunderstood, because it is generally assumed in the Christian-influenced English-speaking world that a person’s religion answers the theological question. But this is not the case. To see what I mean, let us consider two different world ‘religions’, Christianity and Hinduism.

First, Christianity: Christianity, as we all know, defines itself theologically: that is a Christian thinks that the one we should worship is the Creator of the world who has revealed himself to the Jewish prophets (this revelation being contained in the Hebrew Scriptures) and came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (of whom we have reliable testimony in the New Testament). Which is to say, Christians are defined by being those who worship the God of the Bible.
This immediately suggests a partial answer to the epistemological question–‘we know some of what we know because God has revealed it to us in the Bible’. But this is clearly only a very partial answer, and hence Christians disagree over how to understand the nature of God’s revelation in the Bible: is the Bible a Christian’s absolute epistemic authority, being the infallible (ie. totally trustworthy) Word of God? or is the Bible merely a fallible human witness to God’s previous revelation of himself in history? (Going with the latter position the point at which Liberal Christians disagree with Evangelicals and Catholics). And if the Bible is the infallible Word of God, is it made comprehensible to anyone who believes by the help of the Holy Spirit, or only by the magisterium of the Church? (The former being the Evangelical position, the latter being the Catholic position).
The centrality of the Scriptures (however understood), and the fact that Scripture touches in at least some way on all of the basic worldview questions, means that there is a fairly rigid outline of what a Christian worldview looks like although the precise details will differ. For example, in answering the cosmological question of what the universe is, all Christians will hold that it is the creation of an unchanging God — thus giving us a rational basis for assuming that it will behave consistently (thus providing the necessary framework to do science) and for expecting it to be beautiful (it being creatively constructed and not randomly generated). And then depending on their understanding of the epistemic relationship of scriptural and scientific authority, some will hold further that it is about six thousand years old, whereas others will hold it to be much older.

Hinduism, on the other hand, begins with the axiological question, ‘What is it good to do?’. This is illustrated par excellence in the Bhagavad Gita’s dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. In scholarly speak, ‘Hinduism is characterised by orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy’. In lay-man’s speak: to be a good Hindu does not mean to worship a particular god, or to believe a particular set of doctrines, but to observe the duties (dharma) of your caste. In particular, this means practicing endogamy (marrying within your caste) and commensality (eating according to caste purity rules).
But Hinduism allows for a diverse range of answers to most of the other questions. Specifically, let us consider the theological question. A Hindu can worship Krishna, Shiva, or Kali, and be a good Hindu regardless. A Hindu can think that all of these are but manifestations of the cosmic divine energy and that it doesn’t matter which you worship, or a Hindu can worship one exclusively and believe that it is mistaken to worship another. A Hindu can even be theologically atheistic.
Hence, some argue that Hinduism, “is not correctly described as a religion but rather as a civilization”.

Note that I am not saying that Christianity is better than Hinduism because it provides a more rigid worldview, I am just saying that if we use Christianity as a default to give us an answer to the question of which parts of a worldview a ‘religion’ provides answers to, then we will certainly misunderstand the other major world religions.

Five: No individual has a worldview which is entirely consistent and coherent.

This is why it is worth challenging each other whenever disagreement arises, and indeed even occasionally provoking disagreement. As Proverbs says, ‘Iron sharpens iron’. This is why discipleship needs to be an ongoing process.

I include myself in this category and if you think I am being inconsistent with reality, my own human nature, or the Bible, then I want you to tell me so that I can change and become more consistent.

Six: There is probably only one entirely consistent and coherent worldview.

This is why it is difficult for secularism to co-exist comfortably with religion. But I won’t go into this now.

Seven: Humour is a legitimate tool in demonstrating the incongruity of someone’s beliefs.

To see this we must step back and consider how humour works. The theorists say we laugh at things for three reasons: Relief, superiority, and incongruity. In the first case laughter is the physical mechanism by which we reduce psychological tension. In the second it is a social mechanism for making us feel better about ourselves at the expense of others (for Plato, this is why some laugh at ugly people). And in the third, humour is the result of an intellectual realization.

Now, if someone is laughing purely because of physically uncontainable tension, then we’ll probably regard them sympathetically and excuse any resulting breach of social etiquette. But if humour is being used as a social device to make someone else look stupid and yourself look stupid, then it is unkind–and hence Simon and Anjali (both Christians) have understandably taken exception to my post. But there is a third option: we laugh because we realize the ridiculous incongruity of things.

These can be things that a comedian makes up for the specific purpose to be funny. So Rowan Atkinson says things can become funny in three ways: by behaving in an unusual way, by being in an unusual place, or by being an unusual size. And so for example we get the brilliant Eddie Izzard suggesting to us the idea of Darth Vader being in an ordinary canteen.

But these can also be incompatible convictions that a person holds. And by laughing at a person’s incongruous beliefs, we are thus able to show the inconsistency of their worldview in a way that is more interesting and enjoyable than merely having a boring discussion. To keep this from being unkind, the Golden Rule must be obeyed: so we must be prepared to have our own worldviews exposed to humourous critique. In particular we should be able to laugh at ourselves.

So make fun of me: I won’t mind 😉

Eight: I don’t think Atheism can give satisfactory answers to the metaphysical, anthropological, or epistemological questions.

‘Atheism: The belief there was once absolutely nothing. And nothing happened to the nothing until the nothing magically exploded (for no reason), creating everything and everywhere.’

This, as Theo correctly saw, is the Cosmological Argument in its reductio ad absurdum form. Now, the cosmological argument does not show that the God of the Bible created the universe, but it does show that a belief in the God of the Bible is compatible with a lucid and logical answer to the metaphysical question of where this all came from.

As a worldview, ‘Atheism’ (‘Naturalism’, ‘Heathenism’, ‘Rationalism’—take your pick) also has at some point to come to terms with the metaphysical question, ‘Where did this world come from?’ The main possiblity being–correct me if I’m wrong–the multiverse explanation.
To which we give you the thoughts of the scientist Paul Davies: As one slips down that slope, more and more must be accepted on faith, and less and less is open to scientific verification. Extreme multiverse explanations are therefore reminiscent of theological discussions. Indeed, invoking an infinity of unseen universes to explain the unusual features of the one we do see is just as ad hoc as invoking an unseen Creator. The multiverse theory may be dressed up in scientific language, but in essence it requires the same leap of faith.

‘Atheism’ is also faced with the anthropological question, ‘Who are we?’, which goes hand in hand with the question of ‘Where did life come from?’. The answer to this latter question being something like ‘random chemical processes generate amino acids which then form simple cells which evolve’. Which might or might not convince you, but is in a similar vein to this:

Then a bunch of the exploded everything magically rearranged itself (for no reason whatsoever), into self-replicating bits which turned into dinosaurs

But if we are the product of random chance, and thus exist ‘for no reason whatsoever’, then a consistent worldview must address the implications of this. Albert Camus faces the question most frankly, and sees that if there is no God, then there is no basis for our necessary conviction that our lives are meaningful. Hence ‘Il n’y a qu’un problème philosophique vraiment sérieux: c’est le suicide’ (There is but one truly serious philosophical question, and that is suicide).

And this is not just a theoretical issue. In 2004, the American Journal of Psychiatry reported the following: ‘Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation.’

Nine: I do think Christianity offers a worldview that is rationally coherent and consistent with reality.

And so I encourage you to consider it.

Read the Bible, do an Alpha Course, ask a thoughtful Christian why they believe what they believe.

Go on–we won’t bite.

And we’ll try not to make fun of you 😛

__________________

What’s your worldview? How would you answer my seven worldview questions? And are you ready to laugh at your own worldview?

An Englishman Unashamedly Asking For Money

As YWAM missionaries, we receive no salary, and have to trust God to provide for all of our needs. But why are we asking for monthly support directly from individuals? And how is that I, an English person, can be so direct in talking about money? Here are seven reasons:

1. This is how Jesus did it.

If you turn to the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, you will read that
…Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

In case you haven’t already seen the point I’m making, at the end of verse 3 we see explicitly that Jesus and his disciples were supported directly by “women helping to support them out of their own means”. So not by the Missionary Support Fund of his local synagogue in Galilee, but by a group of individuals who believed in the work he was doing.

‘But you’re not Jesus’ – someone might legitimately say. Very definitely true.

Nevertheless, when Jesus sends out his disciples he instructs them to depend on relational support just as he has been modeling – “for the labourer is worthy of his wages” Luke 10:7.

2. This teaches us to be humbly transparent about our needs.

If I have a weakness—and I have many—it is a tendency towards self-sufficiency and self-reliance. This is a tendency which individualistic Western culture often encourages, and rarely recognizes as a weakness.

But Christians are not meant to be self-sufficient individuals but rather part of an interdependent family. This is something God is teaching me.

And part of the way that he is teaching me this is by putting me in this position where we need to actively seek out others in God’s family who will be willing to provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves (finances).

3. This teaches us to depend on God’s promises.

Consider just three of the Bible’s ‘exceeding great and precious promises’:
– The promise of Easter logic (Romans 8:32):
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
– The promise of Jesus to his followers (Matthew 6:28-30):
“ Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
– The promise of Paul to gospel Christians (Philippians 4:19):
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

It is all too easy to pay lip-service to the faithfulness of the God who has promised all of these things. But when it comes to the point where we need to step out in faith, trusting that the God whose name is Jehovah Jireh will indeed provide—then will we be able to show that we really trust these promises?

As for me and my household, we will.

4. This is how YWAM does it.

We are about to join Youth With A Mission, to work full-time as missionary volunteers. YWAM does not pay any of their members a salary, and so we are required to find support elsewhere.

But ‘we are required…’ makes this sound like this is a hard and difficult thing that YWAM forces us to do. On the contrary, this is a privilege for us—to be able to spend all of our time seeking God and his kingdom, and say like the Levites that “the Lord is our portion” (Numbers 18:20; cf. Lamentations 3:24)!

And it is also an aspect of our continuing discipleship, by which we will learn to ‘Practice Dependence on God for Finances’ (in the words of YWAM Foundational Value #16) .

5. This keeps us directly accountable to you, whose money we are receiving.

Too many middle men can often create a muddle of bureaucracy whereby the people who really need resources don’t receive what they need, and the people who give don’t know where their gifts have gone.

Supporting us directly means that whoever gives to us knows where their money is going. We will keep in regular contact, so that you can continue to pray for us and keep us accountable. And if at any point you have any questions regarding what we are doing then please ask, and we will inform and explain.

6. This allows you to participate directly in our ministry.

We have an incredible privilege in doing what God has called us to do: devoting ourselves to prayer and worship in a peculiarly intensive way, having the chance to share the gospel in all kinds of situations, helping people from different nations learn what it means to be disciples of Jesus—and there is much more!

Without in any way wanting to deny that it is important that there be Christians in business, in the media, in teaching—in every sphere of society—God has given us an exciting and vital ministry. And by supporting us financially (or indeed even more, by supporting us in prayer) you become part of this.

7. This is a method that can be implemented by anybody.

If the Great Commission is going to be fulfilled in this generation, and communities of gospel-centred Spirit-filled followers of Jesus are to be established in every ethnic group of the world, then it’s going to take a larger full-time missionary force than just Taryn and me.

Now if our support strategy is based on our specific gifts or the peculiar privileges of the social/economic backgrounds that we come from, then there is no way that we can guarantee that it will work for anyone else.

But if our support strategy is rooted in biblical principles then we can trust that those principles will be valid and effective in every place and age. And so, when we find ourselves talking to those who feel called by God into full-time missionary service, whether the person be a high-flying Cambridge graduate or a refugee from Somalia (within the past two months we have talked to would-be missionaries of both descriptions), we can confidently say that God promises to provide, and point to our own lives by way of example.

What are we doing next?

A brief interview in which I explain our plans for the next two years:

1. So, Peter & Taryn, what are you doing?

We have been invited by John & Suzi Peachey, leaders of the YWAM Harpenden Base and also the main leaders of our DTS, to stay on in Harpenden and be involved in catalyzing 24:7 prayer and worship on the base. We have also been asked by Connie Taylor and Andy Henman if we would be involved with leading a DTS (with a prayer/worship and mission focus) that they are hoping to start in Cambridge in September 2013 – and to prepare for that, if we would stay on as staff in Harpenden and get some experience staffing the Discipleship Training School. And we have been asked to stay in Harpenden by the Brazilian couple planting the church in Luton that we were working with for a week of outreach before heading to Africa.

So after praying, and after consulting with my parents and our Cambridge pastor Ian Hamilton, we have decided to commit ourselves to work with YWAM for the next two years: in Harpenden until summer 2013, and then in Cambridge to staff the DTS from September 2013 until it finishes sometime around Easter 2014. At which point we will then decide upon our next step from there.

2. I don’t understand all these acronyms!
— Who are YWAM?

YWAM is pronounced Why-Wham: the acronym stands for Youth With A Mission.

The organisation was started in 1956 by Loren Cunningham, who had a vision of a wave of young people going as missionaries to the ends of the earth. Fifty-five years later, YWAM is no longer just for youth but has “over 16,049 full-time volunteer workers in nearly 1,100 operating locations in 171 nations” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_With_A_Mission), making it the largest evangelical missionary organization in the world.

It is also the mission that Taryn’s parents used to be involved with, so when we went to visit the Harpenden Base for the first time we were pleasantly surprised to find that the first person we met was able to greet Taryn by name, having been her babysitter many years before!

— And what is a DTS?

DTS stands for Discipleship Training School.

The Discipleship Training School is a five month, hands-on Christian training program (‘a missionary boot-camp!’ was the comment of one friend when I tried to explain) with a 12 week lecture phase followed by an 8 week outreach phase. The program teaches you how to build an intimate relationship with God, develop personal character, and lead a lifestyle of expressing God’s love to others.

3. But what about all your talk of night-and-day prayer in Cambridge?

At the start of my year of working as an evangelist with CPC, I went and stood on the top of Castle Hill and read Psalm 132, where the psalmist prays that the Lord would remember David, “how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, ‘I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob”. And I prayed that God would make me like David, and give me the grace to work tirelessly until there was 24:7 prayer established in Cambridge. I have not forgotten that prayer.

We are going to Harpenden not because we have forgotten what God has called us to do in Cambridge, but because God still has more work to do in us before we will be ready for Him to do the work through us that He has planned. And, as we have said, our plan is to return in September 2013.

Besides this, it is perhaps obvious but nevertheless vital to say that what God is doing in Cambridge is far bigger than anything that Taryn and I can do on our own. It is exciting to see how God is continuing to gather key people: the most recent being Vishal Mangalwadi, who is just about to be named the John Howard Lecturer in Christian Heritage.

4. And what about your plans to go to India?

India is still very much in our hearts. And it is still our desire eventually to work long-term in India.

But this is not happening as soon as some might have first thought. For two reasons:
1. After the trial of Taryn’s British visa being refused after we got married, we have decided that it makes sense for her to get British citizenship, so that in the future we will not have to face that same nightmare situation. This should be possible after she has been here for three years, ie. in 2014. This was one factor in the choice we have just made to work with YWAM in England for the next two years.
2. It is hard to say at this point how long we must stay in Cambridge before we have finished the work God has given us to do here. Perhaps in two years we will be able to say that we are no longer needed in England and we will be able to immediately come to India, and perhaps then after a few years in India we will realize that these countries were just stepping stones on our way to some other place God had planned for us.
Or perhaps in two years we will realize that to accomplish the task God has given us we need to put down roots in Cambridge for the next fifteen years, and it might be that we are forty years old before we are able to go to India for more than a brief visit—and then perhaps we will spend forty years of fruitful ministry in India.
Moses spent forty years in Pharaoh’s palace before he even made an attempt to deliver his people from bondage to the Egyptians, and then spent another forty years in the wilderness before he was finally ready to be used by God. And if you’d asked him at twenty-four what his plans were, I suspect he would have already had an inkling of the fact that he was called to deliver his people. (For even at birth his parents had seen that he was “no ordinary child”, as the NIV puts it in Hebrews 11:23). But I doubt he had any idea of how long it would take for him to begin the work God had prepared for him!

One exciting thing about being involved with leading DTS is that we will have opportunity to begin leading short-term outreaches to India, even while we are still based in England.

5. You seem strangely sure of what God has called you to do. Doesn’t James 5:13-14 say not to be so confident about what you will do in the future?

The passage in question: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:13-17

Some brief thoughts:
a) James is specifically criticizing those who are boasting about the profit (4:13; cf. 5:1-3) they are going to make – we are not in this for the money!
b) We happily do confess that all of this is subject to the will of God (4:15)
c) Nevertheless, we have spent time seeking God’s will, and looked to Godly people to test what we feel God is saying to us. And this means that our situation is not that of those criticized in verse 13 for presuming that they will be able to do what they want to do, but rather that of those in verse 17 who know what good they must do, and so must resolve to do it!

6. Okay, you seem to have thought this through. What can I do?

Pray for us. If you don’t receive our not-quite-monthly prayer-letter, then please just ask and we would be delighted to send you a copy.

And please consider supporting us financially. As YWAM missionaries we receive no salary and depend upon the cheerful contributions of those who believe in what we are doing.

But we want your friendship much more than we want your money. We really appreciate all of the ways that you keep in touch: emails, letters, cards. Our address from the 3rd May will be 7 Highfield Oval, Harpenden, Herts AL5 4BX.

Even better though, for those of you who are able, is if you come and visit us. As it is written(!) : “I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face.” (3 John v.14).

___________________

Anything else you’d like to know about our forthcoming plans? Any more questions that we haven’t answered?

Ask them in the Comments below.