Prescott Prayer Letter: New Year Clarity

clarity
Beloved friends and family,

I hope you’ve had a Happy Christmas, and I’m praying for each of you that God would impart a supernatural clarity of identity, calling, purpose and vision as you step into this New Year.

We’ve had a fantastic time of feasting with family over this last week or so. Taryn’s mother has come from India to spend her three-week Christmas holiday with us in our new house here in England. My parents, who are usually in Vietnam, are also in the country and were able to come and spend Christmas with us. As were my (fully recovered!) sister and her husband. We thought it was going to be quite a squeeze, but then it turned out that our neighbour three doors down (a former YWAMer herself) was away on holiday over Christmas and was happy for her house to host my family.

I wasn’t actually planning to write, but this afternoon I was reading John’s Gospel and was so struck that I felt compelled to share this little spark of Scriptural revelation with you all immediately. I was reading about John the Baptist (Jn. 1:19-36). The religious dogsbodies are sent to ask John who he thinks he is. How dare he baptize sinners and proclaim the forgiveness of sins! I was struck by the way John avoids entangling himself in theological controversy or political power-games. Instead he responds with humble simplicity and remarkable clarity.

His identity was clear: ‘I am the voice in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord’ (1:23).

His message was clear: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ (1:29, 1:36).

His purpose was clear: ‘for this purpose I came baptizing, that He [ie. Jesus] might be revealed to Israel’ (1:31).

His vision was clear: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven, and it remained on Him… He who sent me to baptize said, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit”‘ (1:32-33).

And equally clear was his humility: “He who comes after me ranks before me” (1:15,30); indeed “I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal” (1:27).

I believe the world is in greater need than ever of prophetic voices who would invite people to behold Jesus, and would live lives driven by the purpose of revealing Jesus to their nations, and who would be motivated by a God-given vision of what it would look like for the holy presence of the Spirit of God to rest and remain upon us.

But I also believe that each one of us is unique, with a specific and particular role to play in God’s plans and purposes.

So my challenge to you is to spend an hour today reflecting on your God-given identity, calling, vision and goals. This is an exercise I’ve done in the past with DTS trainees, and I’ve had enthusiastic feedback even from some of the most resistant to such formulaic approaches to such important questions! You don’t have to accept this challenge. But to all who do receive it —

IDENTITY: Who am I?
As human beings we’re all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), but more specifically we have all been personally handcrafted. As Psalm 139:13-14 declares (my translation):

‘You SHAPED my innermost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it full well.’

Reflect on how God has SHAPED you by considering your identity from six angles:
1. Significant Scriptures.
For John the Baptist (as we’ve already seen), it was Isaiah 40:3 (cf. Jn. 1:23). If you read 1 Peter 2:4-8, it seems that Peter (whom Jesus had given the name, meaning ‘rock’) had spent time gathering and meditating on all the places where the Scriptures talk about rocks or stones (Is. 28:16, Ps. 118:22, Is. 8:14). Even Jesus had a specific Scripture that he chose to announce the commencement of his public ministry — Isaiah 61:1-2 (cf. Lk. 4:16-19).

2. Heart’s Desires.
Psalm 37:4 promises that when you ‘delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart’. There are certainly some desires that will have to be uprooted if we are to truly delight in the Lord, and there are other desires that will be transformed — perhaps beyond recognition! But all too often Christians have good God-given desires that they haven’t dared to truly embrace; or worse, have stifled out of the misguided fear that to do something they enjoy would be selfish and sinful.

3. Abilities and Gifts.
This isn’t time for a long discussion of spiritual gifts. Rather, this is a chance to honestly and humbly name your strengths so that you can begin to use them for God’s glory and the good of his people (cf. Rom. 12:3-8).

4. Personality Traits.
Moses was ‘slow of speech and of tongue’ (Ex. 4:10), while Peter was often overly hasty to speak (Mk. 8:32, 9:5-6). Matthew was an analytical thinker who was careful to pass on every jot and tittle he could of the teaching of Christ, while Mark was a active doer impressed more with Christ’s power than the content of his preaching. I dislike talking about ‘Personality Types’ because I have too often seen people use their ‘Type’ as an excuse for not stepping into the opportunities God has put before them (like Moses!). But that we each exhibit different Traits is both undeniable and helpful to be aware of. So (especially if you’ve not done one before) here’s a free ten-minute personality test. Just don’t make it an excuse for disobedience to God’s call on your life!

5. Experiences.
If you were applying for a job, then you’d list all your relevant experience on a CV. And in God’s kingdom, every experience is relevant, positive or negative. Consider Paul and the way his cross-cultural background (a Jew born to zealous Pharisees, but also a Roman citizen) uniquely prepared him to lead the explosion of cross-cultural converts to the Way of Jesus; and the way his education in the Jewish Scriptures empowered him to express in writing the theological truths of the gospel like no-one before or since; and the way his experience as one who hated and persecuted Christianity made him Christianity’s most authoritative apostle. Perhaps you need particularly to reflect on the painful moments of your life so far and ask God how He wants to redeem them.

6. Divine Encounters.
Isaiah had his vision of the throne-room of God (Is. 6). Paul had his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus (Acts 9). But maybe you don’t feel like you’ve ever had a ‘divine encounter’ worthy of the name. In which case, perhaps like Nathanael (cf. John 1:47-51) what you need is less a dramatic personal encounter with Jesus than a revelation that Jesus already sees you in those simple, honest personal ‘under the fig tree’ moments. That moment where you made a genuine response to the grace of God. And maybe it didn’t feel significant enough to tell anyone about. Maybe it didn’t even feel like God really noticed. But Jesus says, ‘I saw you there under the fig tree’. And as you realize that, ‘you will see greater things’ (cf. Jn. 1:50).

CALLING: What/Who/Where has God called me to?
Usually when we think of ‘Calling’, we think primarily of ‘What’ God has called us to. But the questions of ‘Who’ and ‘Where’ are equally valid places to begin. And when you do have clarity regarding one of those questions, you will eventually need to come back to the others. In YWAM we talk about Circles (of Relationship), Circuits (of Geography), and Cycles (of Time). Paul knew he was supposed to preach the gospel to anyone and everyone (Rom. 1:16), but only when he had the vision of the Macedonian man (Acts 16:6-10) did he know where at that time he was supposed to go.

VISION: What might this look like?
If you want to have a meaningful life, then make sure — like John the Baptist! (John 1:15,27,30; 3:30) that your vision is bigger than yourself. The point of this exercise isn’t to ‘develop your life vision’ but rather to develop a specific vision of what it would look like for the world filled with the glory of the Lord, and work out how you can play a catalytic role in bringing that vision to fulfilment. One of my favourite verses is Habakkuk 2:2: ‘Write the vision clearly, so that whoever reads it can run with it’. I pray that God would give you such clear and compelling vision that you people begin to run with it before you’ve even asked them to.

GOALS: What commitments do I need to make to get started?
A wise Christian blogger suggests that goals should be ‘SMART’ = Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timebound. Proverbs 16:3 promises that if you ‘commit your actions to the Lord, your plans will succeed’. So go on! Write down three specific goals, and pray in the name of Jesus that God would make those plans succeed.

And now you’re actually going to do this, it might be more helpful to print out this exercise as a simple worksheet. Please let me know if you found this helpful!

Much love,
Peter

Happy Christmas from the Prescott Family

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Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!

Here a few fun little Christmas links while you count down the final hours:

1. The excellent Bible Project have an animated exposition of Luke’s account of the Christmas story.

2. Or you can watch puppets acting out the Nativity story to the tune of the classic Bohemian Bethlehemian Rhapsody.

3. Or if you prefer real live children acting out your Nativity, then you’ll enjoy these cute Kiwi kids in ‘They Won’t Be Expecting That’.

4. Glen Scrivener’s 4 Kinds of Christmas is a poetic meditation on the various approaches to Christmas on offer. (And if you enjoy Glen Scrivener on Christmas, there’s also Santa vs Jesus and Christmas in Dark Places).

5. Alternatively, if you just want some classic Christmas music then you can choose between
Bethel Music, Keith and Kristyn Getty and Cambridge’s King’s College Choir.

6. Or if you like your Christmas music a little more original then here’s Josh Garrels and Sufjan Stevens.

7. And finally, there’s always our very own 9-lessons-and-carols White (Christmas) Album.

Much love,
Peter, Taryn, Isaac and Anu

Prescott Prayer Letter: Our Fellow Labourers

fellow-labourers
I [Peter writing] have been struck by the lists of other people with him that always feature at the end of Paul’s epistles, and thought this month it would be good to give you a little account of the people we’re working with, so that you can be praying for them, and our relationships with them – “that we may all be one, as the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father; that we also may be in supernatural Trinitarian unity, that the world may believe that Jesus truly is the One sent from God” (cf. Jn. 17:21).

So, first of all there’s obviously the YWAM Liverpool team, which gathers around our dining table for a couple of hours every Monday to connect and pray together.

YWAM Liverpool was actually started back in the 1980s by Rita Leage and her husband David. They then became involved with YWAM’s frontier mission work in North Africa but after David sadly died a few years ago from cancer, Rita bought a house back in Liverpool. She is still very connected with the work in North Africa, but is wondering whether to pass that on and connect more with things here.

The YWAM Liverpool team leader is Jude McMaster. She came to Liverpool as a student and then did a DTS and has been here ever since, keeping the YWAM banner flying. Her vision has been particularly to reach out to women involved in prostitution. She had been involved with a church doing a regular outreach on Friday nights to girls on the streets, and then felt the need for there to be more long-term support to see true transformation in their lives. And thus was born Pearls Project. Jude is married to Zac, and has been on maternity leave after prematurely giving birth to Levi.

Another key figure who we don’t get to see as much of as we would like is Joel Greaves, who is only able to be involved part-time with YWAM as he also works for a school. But he does The Accounts — so is therefore a vital part of keeping things running smoothly!

Then there’s Shephen & Caitlin Mbewe, who were missionaries in the Mozambique bush pioneering YWAM Marromeu, until a few years ago when they moved to Liverpool. The move was primarily for the sake of their daughters finishing their education (Nyasha their eldest is now in her third year at Oxford, Sinead is staffing a DTS with YWAM Amsterdam, and Titenda is in her final year of A Levels), and for the last few years Shephen has continued to travel back to Southern Africa several times a year — while also speaking wherever he’s invited (not least on a certain DTS in Cambridge!) on the subjects of Mission and Worldview. But when someone recently offered to buy their family a house in Liverpool, that made them think they should connect more fully with the YWAM work in Liverpool, and so Shephen has been dreaming of what it would look like to again run DTS here.

So when Shephen found out that we were moving to Liverpool he immediately wondered if we would be interested in leading the DTS–to which the answer was definitely No. We were moving away from Cambridge to Liverpool in search of a fresh start where we could work out a healthy rhythm of life and ministry for our family without the challenge of enthusing a team of DTS trainees to fulfil the necessary requirements to be qualified YWAM missionaries. My vision had never been primarily about DTS–it had been about praying and proclaiming the promises of God until Cambridge is filled with night and day worship overflowing in mission to the ends of the earth. And my hope had been that the DTS would be a way of gathering a team to help fulfil that vision. For us as a family that hope was not fulfilled–and so here we are in Liverpool, going back to the drawing board to ask God again what He would like us to do with our lives–though I believe that our visionary seed that fell into the ground and died will yet produce much fruit through YWAM Cambridge and CamHoP and the lives of all those whom we were privileged to train as wholehearted disciples of Jesus. But while we might not be called to lead DTS in this next season, there are a couple that are — Michael and Stephanie Chesterman. Friends of Michelle (we’ll come to her eventually!), they are hoping to come from the States to join the team here sometime next year.

Last but definitely not least, there’s Michelle Brennan, who had overlapped with us during our time at YWAM Harpenden and New Covenant Fellowship. She moved up to Liverpool about a year ago and has been keeping the Pearls Project running while Jude has stepped back to look after her new baby. Michelle’s desire for a weekend of non-stop worship was the spark that lit the fire of the monthly worship gatherings that feel like they could be a catalyst for all sorts of things!

And that brings us on to the other circles of ministry that we are involved with. ABLAZE is currently very much still in its earliest stages, and I would not claim to know what exactly it will become, but currently we are describing it as a partnership between YWAM and Burn 24/7 that involves monthly twelve hour (or more!) worship gatherings. So that means I’ve been connecting with JJ Waters (Burn’s new national director) and William Byng (regional director for the North of England), as we try and work out what this will look like!

Specifically, it looks like gathering a core team of people in Liverpool that are hungry for worship, prayer and mission. Enter Ethan Miller, who has been hoping for there to be a regular Burn in Liverpool ever since his family moved from Norwich two and a half years ago. Ethan finished school last summer and is now doing a gap year, interning with his church. He is a skilful pianist, has already recorded an album of worship songs, and is keen to make sure that our worship gatherings overflow in intentional evangelism on the streets.

We are very grateful for the way God has connected us with Tony Roberts, a retired joiner and sound engineer, who several years actually bought a complete professional PA system specifically to be used for Christian events in Gladstones cafe. But for various reasons, the events didn’t quite take off. But someone connected us with him as we were trying to gather worshippers for our first event in October, and he has been more than happy to lend us his equipment and his expertise! He actually lives just across our local park, and has converted his basement into a three room recording studio. And he eagerly hoping that ABLAZE will become more than just an occasional worship event, but a gathering point and catalyst for all sorts of Christian creativity — new songs, new music, new artistic expressions of the kingdom of God that would capture the imaginations of a new generation!

None of this would of course be possible without the openness of the trustees of Gladstones Cafe, Peter Gray and Peter Buckley, who I join for prayer each Friday morning. They were both part of a house church in the 1980s that took over the cafe with a vision to start a cafe and bookshop that would act as a launchpad for outreach into the centre of the city. About five years ago though, it seemed like that vision had run its course — the cafe was losing money and people were saying the wisest course of action would be just to shut it down. But these two Peters were convinced that the fullness of God’s promise for the building had not yet been fulfilled, and so for the last few years they have given themselves as full-time volunteers to the task of relaying the foundations for Gladstones to be a healthy missional coffee-shop ministry hub. Thanks to their hard work (and I shouldn’t forget the administrative skills of Rada Railton!), that initial season of rebuilding is now complete, and so they asked Shephen if he would be interested in personally taking on the role of overseeing the Gladstones ministry. ‘Personally? No!’ was his reply; ‘but if you’re asking me as part of YWAM, then here’s what we could do…’ and he put some thoughts in writing as to what a YWAM/Gladstones partnership might look like, including the suggestion (inspired by Shephen’s experience of YWAM Amsterdam’s ‘Tabernacle of the Nations’ prayer room) that the Gladstones upper room might become a House of Prayer. So if any of you know anyone with a passion for (in no particular order) coffee, prayer, worship, evangelism and mission — there’s need for more labourers in this vineyard!

I have also been connecting with Manchester House of Prayer. Initially I thought this was the nearest group of people running explicitly with the ‘House of Prayer’ banner — although actually the very week after we had gone to visit MHoP, I learnt at the annual national House of Prayer gathering in Stoke that there was a Warrington HoP. At any rate, we connected really easily with Michael Ball, who has been pioneering the House of Prayer with his wife Becci since 2010. He offered to come and lead two hours of worship at our first ABLAZE event, and in turn invited us to join us for lunch the next week. In the midst of that meal-time conversation, he mentioned that they were about to start a six-month internship — and as we were driving home to Liverpool I felt that still, small nudge of the Spirit say I should think about getting involved. So until April I’m spending Monday evenings and all of Wednesday in south Manchester with the two other interns Enyo and Mark, joining with their schedule of prayer, and specifically helping them develop their strategy for praying for their city.

I should also mention our local Bethel Church, which is a two-minute walk from our front door (or would be, were it not for the added complication of a three-year old gleefully jumping in as many puddles as possible along the way). The church was born out of the 1934 Liverpool Revival, and is now a warm and welcoming FIEC church with a strong evangelistic emphasis and a healthy horde of children’s ministries.

So: YWAM, Burn 24/7, Gladstones (which is about to change its name to ‘Tree of Life’), House of Prayer (MHoP and WHoP and — dare I say it? — perhaps ‘LHoP’), Bethel, FIEC — how do all these relate together? I have been reminded recently that Christ’s Bride is awesome as an army with banners (Song of Songs 6:10) — which is to say that our various labels aren’t supposed to be boxes dividing us, but banners calling all the people of God to lift their eyes to God and align themselves with the standards of heaven. Even the Ark of the Covenant was never a box which contained God’s Presence — it was merely a footstool (1 Chron. 28:2) over which the fiery cloud of God’s glory rested.

So pray for us, and for all those that we are connected with, that we would be encouraged in heart, knit together in love, and filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that we may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:2).

Much love,
Peter, Taryn, Isaac and Anu