Dear Church Family
A few months ago, Max Hagen shared with me a message for our church that I've been praying about and sharing with a few people. It's simply this: 'Renewal is here. Revival is coming.'
Since the publication of my book, A-Z of Discipleship, I'm being asked to do some radio interviews about it. This week I was interviewed by Trans-World Radio, the world's most far-reaching Christian radio network. One question they asked was this: 'which chapter of the book do you think is the most important?' My answer was 'J is for Jesus,' saying that Jesus is at the heart of discipleship - because disciples follow Jesus! We're dependent on him. He is the One who died and rose again for us, and continues to shower his goodness upon us by his Spirit. The life of discipleship is really one of a growing appreciation of the wonder of Jesus! Since then I've been thinking what I'd have said if I'd been asked which is the next most important chapter. I think I'd have answered: 'N is for New.' As I wrote it I sensed there was a prophetic edge to it as it describes how the Lord loves to do new things - what's often called renewal.
I agree with Max, that we are in a season of renewal at The Belfrey. We see signs of it as people encounter God, are convicted of sin, put their faith in Christ, experience healing and a fresh outpouring of his love. There are many signs of renewal in our midst, and I'm praying and working to see more and more. As I say at the end of 'N is for New':
God is renewing the earth. Renewing his church. Renewing individuals. In anticipation for the final day when all things will be made new in heaven. This means disciples need never be bored nor get dispirited. There's always more. Always new things of enjoy and discover. The best is yet to come!
So what are you doing to encourage and join in with the renewing work of God? In your own life? In your family? In your Belfrey Group, congregation and beyond? Why not pray with me that this summer would be a period of deep and joyful renewal for many - especially as quite a lot of our church go off to give and receive at festivals such as New Wine United (week 1: 22-28 July; week 2: 30 July-5 Aug), Inspire (18-22 Aug) and Belfrey Youth Fest (31 Aug-3 Sept).
When we come to Christ we're forgiven and given a brand new start. As the bible says: 'the old has gone, the new has come!' (2 Corinthians 5:17). But that's just the beginning! There's much more renewing for us all. Through our prayers and actions let's be 'fanning into flame' the renewing work of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:6) and be expectant of more.
The best is yet to come.
Dear Church Family
Jesus's last orders were to 'go and make disciples' (Matthew 28:19). It's easy to complicate discipleship, but at it's heart it's simply this: it's following Jesus. It's going where he goes, doing what he does and saying what he says.
This life of following Jesus is the best life. The fulfilling life. The authentic life. But it's not always an easy life. Sometimes we're called to do things and say things that stretch us and that don't always fit with living comfortably. That's why being disciplined and obedient are such important but underrated aspects of discipleship (and why both are highlighted in my book, A-Z of Discipleship).
I've been at a conference this week. On the first day I met a man from London and we chatted about all sorts of things, including generosity, and he mentioned in passing how he'd been challenged by hearing about another Christ-follower who, when he eats out, tips the waiter/waitress the full amount of the bill. Later on that day we ending up eating together in the same restaurant with our spouses. When it came to paying the bill I felt a nudge from the Spirit to do this, which they thought was a great idea. So one couple paid the bill and the other gave the tip. The young waiter was overwhelmed! In fact at first he wouldn't accept, saying 10% would be just fine, but we said we'd like to thank him for looking after us and that we wanted God to bless him. He was so happy - saying that nothing like this had ever happened to him before!
What about you? What is the Lord calling you to do, even today, as his disciple? What is he asking of you, this summer? And as he is speaking to us at The Belfrey about encountering him in greater measure and learning not to fear, how are you responding? With business as usual, or with discipline and obedience?
Jesus said: 'Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command' (John 15:14).
Dear Church Family
The least likely person you'll find in a UK church at present is a twenty-something white male. Whilst the Lord is bringing to us at The Belfrey all sorts of people of differing ages and backgrounds, he is particularly bringing us young adults. We must take this seriously. Discipling them. Equipping them. Investing in them.
That's why I'm so pleased that this year we've finally been able to employ a Student Worker, leading the work particularly amongst students at both York universities and among young adults. This is thanks to two significant gifts which have allowed the role to be full-time for the first few years. Today I'm able to announce that The Belfrey's Student Work will be Brogan Hume. Brogan has been part of the church for the last three years and has a passion to see young adults begin following Jesus and then grow in maturity as disciples. Married to Beth, Brogan originates from Sheffield and will build on the excellent work done (and still being done) by Ben and Ellie Doolan. Please pray for Brogan as he takes up this new role.
One the the most significant things happening amongst young adults in the United States in recent years has been the Jesus Culture movement. So it's a great honour to have Banning Liebscher, founder of Jesus Culture, speaking at The6 this Sunday evening. Banning will encourage us and pray for us, and I hope you're able to join us for what will be a great night!
The Lord is at work amongst all ages in our nation. But the need for a significant work, especially amongst young people is greater than ever. If we can play a part in that - however big or small - then we must. In fact I think the Lord is asking us: 'will we?' 'Will we do all we can to see our church, city and region increasingly filled with young people, following Jesus and transforming culture?' The answer, surely is: 'yes Lord!' 'Whatever you ask, Lord. Whatever it takes, Lord. We will.' May that be your prayer and mine in these coming days.
Dear Church Family
Thank you to everyone who gave to our recent Gift Day. We'll keep it open for a few weeks, as we know lots of people were away last weekend. We have currently received around £20,000 which is a great start! Please be praying we receive all that we need.
As I wrote in last week's Friday News, giving is part of discipleship. It's one of the central things that Christ-followers do. This life of following Jesus is a great life - challenging, stretching and not always easy - but nevertheless it's a wonderful adventure! That's the message behind my book A-Z of Discipleship which is published tomorrow (1st July). It's a simple book aiming to build strong foundations for a life of following Jesus, covering chapters such as B is for Bible, C is for Church, D is for Disciplines and E is for Encourage. If you'd like to know the story behind the book, you can read about by clicking here - which is a Q&A session published on the website of bookseller's Eden.
Each of the 26 short chapters of A-Z of Discipleship ends with an 'Action' and 'Prayer' section. So rather than reading the book in one go, I'm hoping that most people will read it slowly - ideally taking a chapter a day - allowing each chapter theme to be put into practice every day. Reading this way allows the message to soak more slowly and deeply into our minds, hearts and wills.
The Belfrey has played a big part in shaping the book and I'd like to thank the church for this. I'm pleased to offer the church family copies at a discounted price of £6.99 (rather than £9.99 in bookshops or online).
Copies of A-Z of Discipleship will be first available at the Vicarage Tea tomorrow (Saturday from 3-5pm) and in church on Sunday. I do hope you find it helpful and encouraging, but most importantly I hope you'll want to give a copy to someone else. That's because we all have people we know who need a book like this! They're either new believers who need guidance to start well, or those who want to go back to basics, or maybe they're friends or family who are considering faith but want to know what the life of following Jesus might be like.
Thanks to all who've encouraged me with this book. Being a disciple of Jesus really is the best life. And together it's how we change the world.
Dear Church Family
Next weekend my new book, A-Z of Discipleship is being launched. One of its short chapters is 'G is for Giving'. Writing that particular chapter helped me see again that giving really is at the heart of the Christian faith. God gave us the very best thing he had in giving us Jesus and he continues to give to us in multiple ways. Our response is to live a life of giving.
Our giving is expressed in all sorts of ways. In the hospitality of our homes. In visiting friends who are ill. In caring for those less well off. In speaking kind and encouraging words. But it starts with our giving to the Lord: in giving our very lives to him and then expressing that on a regular basis in giving him our worship, our prayers and our money.
In our materialistic culture, new disciples often find the giving of money to be one of there hardest parts of discipleship. But those who do give financially soon find that giving money is not only a discipline, but a joy and honour. I was reminded of this recently when someone, who'd discovered there was a particular need in the life of the church, thanked me for making them aware. They were pleased that their giving could make a real difference. That's why we have a Gift Day at The Belfrey this coming Sunday - providing each of us an opportunity to give beyond our regular giving, and support some people, projects and organisations that need our giving. So please do be asking the Lord what he's asking you to give, and enjoy knowing that your giving is making a big difference.
In addition to our individual giving, I hope that all that's done in the name of The Belfrey models this kind of generous giving. That's why we give generously to our Diocese and to mission partners. That's why we're pleased to be the New Wine network church for our area and one of the main churches behind the August New Wine Inspire conference in Thirsk. That's why our clergy and staff give away a proportion of their time outside of The Belfrey, to help others. Greg Downes, for instance, is away tomorrow training clergy and leaders in preparation for a large mission in the Penrith, entitled 'Moving Mountains 18'. And last week I spent a whole morning at St Hild College, training those who are about to be ordained as clergy in the North.
Giving. It's so counter-cultural. And yet so impactful. So biblical. So Kingdom of God. It's what we're called to do. It's how we're meant to be. So enjoy being a giver as we model ourselves on the greatest giver of all - our gracious, generous, giving Father.
Dear Church Family
In the coming weeks there are a number of things in the life of our church that I'd love you to both know about and get involved with. Sometimes in all that's going on in life, and the mass of things that come our way, it's easy to miss some of these things, so I want to use my message this week to let you know about four of these.
- Sunday 25th June: Gift Day 2017
We're having a Gift Day next Sunday to support some great people, organisations and projects - all that need our support. In particular we'd love to support Ben and Ellie Doolan, enabling them to stay with us beyond the summer. As well as leaflets at the back of church you can find all the information you need about Gift Day by clicking here. Please be asking the Lord what he is asking you to give. It's so good to be part of a church that steps up time and again to generously give to mission, and may I thank you in advance for your support at this year's Gift Day.
- Tuesday 27th June: Impact Consultation Evening
We're about to accelerate progress on the reordering project for St Michael le Belfrey Church (called Impact). Before we do that we want to hear from you, our church family, and so on 27th June at 7.30pm there'll be a Consultation Evening in church, where there'll be an opportunity to share ideas and we'll give further information about the exciting reordering journey we're about to embark on.
- Saturday 1st/Sunday 2nd July: Launch of A-Z of Discipleship
My new book, A-Z of Discipleship is published on 1st July and I'd like to give you, our church family, the first opportunity to see it and read it. It's a simple guide to the life of following Jesus, and is particularly written for new believers, for those thinking about following Jesus, or for those who want to go back to basics. It would be a good book to read and pass on to someone else.
A-Z of Discipleship will be available first at the 9am Congregation Afternoon Tea, which is at The Vicarage (Jubilee Terrace) on Saturday 1st July, from 3pm-5pm. Please come and join us, hopefully in the Vicarage garden, for homemade tea and cakes and I'll be sharing for just 5 minutes about the reason for writing the book. It will then be available at all the services in church on Sunday 2nd July.
I am able to let you, the church family, have copies at £6.99 (which is 30% discount of the cover price).
- Sunday 9th July - Banning Liebscher
It's an honour to have guest speaker Banning Liebscher with us, speaking at The6 on Sunday 9th July. Banning helped establish 'Jesus Culture' in the United States, which over the past few years has had a huge impact on the lives on many young people in the United States. Banning will bring an inspiring message to us, so please mark the date in your diary and do invite friends and family to hear him.
Finally, Adam Norton, our Youth Worker, will be leaving us at the beginning of September. Adam will be hugely missed at The Belfrey and I in particular have valued his faithful, practical and positive service to the young people of our church. Adam's wife Heidi has work in Hull and together they're looking forward to new ventures together.
Dear Church Family
After yesterday's General Election, the UK political landscape today feels somewhat different to yesterday and we have yet to see how events will fully unfold. It's a reminder of the fragility, instability and uncertainty of so much of our world.
Politics is important - but we don't put our faith in politics or politicians. Western culture continues to change and develop at a fast pace with new music, new technology and new cultural trends fascinating us - but most of these things come and then they go. We need more solid foundations on which to build our lives. Something more permanent to stand on. Someone more reliable to trust.
The someone is Christ. And the something is his Word.
That's been the witness of God's people for thousands of years. The prophet Isaiah declared it and the apostle Peter confirmed it: 'The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever' (Is 40:8; 1 Pet 1:25). In a world of uncertainty, Christ and his Word endures.
That's why we keep the Bible central. As a church the Bible shapes our worship and prayer, our teaching and mission. As we explore faith and science over these few days and at our services on Sunday with guest speaker David Wilkinson, the Bible will keep us rooted in eternal Truth. As individuals and families it's important to feed daily on God's word, allowing its message to sink deep into our hearts and minds and change the way we live.
When I was entering the United States recently and going through immigration, the man checking my passport asked me some questions. He asked me about the nature of my work back home and I told him I was a minister of religion - a pastor. He then asked me about the purpose of my visit, and where I'd be staying. And then he said, 'have you got your sword in your bag?' It wasn't a question I was expecting! In these days of heightened security I wasn't sure if it was a trick question. So I smiled, and hesitated slightly, to which he said, 'Your sword. Do you have one in your bag?' 'Oh, you mean the sword of the Spirit' I said. 'Yes' he replied, 'take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17.' 'That's right' I said. 'The sword of the Spirit is right here. It's here in my case.' 'Good' he replied. 'You need your sword with you.' With that he handed me back my passport and he told me I was free to go.
I spent much of my time in the US with my sword. I especially appreciated studying and reading the Acts of the Apostles, in the Passion Translation. It was great having time to sharpen my sword.
What about you? Do you have your sword with you today, and are you using it? This morning in my devotions I read the story in 1 Samuel 13 of Israel struggling against their enemies because their supply of swords had been cut off. As soldiers of Christ, there's nothing the enemy would want more than to keep us from picking up and using the sword of the Spirit - the word of God. Because the word of God is powerful, transformative and enduring.
So let's take up our swords today. And may we put our trust in that which eternally endures and is forever reliable. Christ and his Word.
Dear Church Family
We're in a 10-day season of concentrated prayer - named by the Archbishops as 'Thy Kingdom Come'. Having returned recently from a short period away for study and then holiday I spent two sessions in St Cuthbert's House of Prayer yesterday. Each time I was joined by a number of others, calling out to God for our city, region and nation. I'm so encouraged to see and hear that many are praying for the Lord to move in power in our day. That is good and important, for nothing of lasting significance happens without prayer.
So please join us this Sunday - Pentecost Sunday - in York Minster at 7.30pm for the regional Beacon Event at the end of 'Thy Kingdom Come'. We will worship, hear a short inspiring message and then spend time in prayer. We'll be praying for all sorts of things, including for Manchester as we continue to remember those who lost loved ones in last week's tragic bombing. It helps if you've signed up for the free Eventbright ticket, but if you haven't of course you're still welcome to come - just get there in good time! The Archbishop of York will be with us, and we'll be joining with thousands across our nation and beyond who'll be gathering in similar beacon events. Let's be praying that ancient prayer of the church - 'Come Holy Spirit.'
It's significant for our nation that this time of prayer is closely linked in timing to the recently-called General Election (taking place next Thursday - 8th June). As you cast your vote next week, do pray for our nation, that the new parliament will be filled with women and men of integrity, wisdom and love, serving the constituencies of the United Kingdom. When many don't have the opportunity to choose their government, let's not forget the privilege we have to live in a democracy and make sure we each prayerfully use our vote on Thursday.
Finally, on this Pentecost weekend, don't forget to pray for yourself! Some of us are tired. Weary. Low. Troubled. In need of hope, encouragement and renewal. The God of hope longs to pour out his Spirit afresh on you (as Paul makes clear in Ephesians 5:18) and for you to have fresh encounters with him. Why not find time to pray the wonderful blessing-prayer of Romans 15:13 over yourself this weekend? It's a wonderful prayer. A prayer not just for others. But for you. So why not pray it, replacing the 'you' with 'me' or 'I'? That way you can make this your prayer for Pentecost.
'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit' (Romans 15:13).
Dear brothers and sisters,
The horrific events of this last week have shaken each one of us - like 9/11 before it, many of us will no doubt remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the terrible news. I was watching Newsnight on BBC2 on Monday night when, as the programme was coming to an end, the presenter announced the news of an explosion in Manchester just minutes before. I stayed up 'til the early hours, as details of the tragedy unfolded. But it was not until the next day that the full scale of the carnage, with its horrific onslaught against young innocent lives, became apparent.
In times of emotional turmoil and overwhelming grief we can be tempted to doubt God and even hide from him. And yet if we seek his face we, like the Psalmist, can know that "God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble." (Psalm 46:1) The day after the attack, we had a special prayer meeting for Manchester in St Cuthbert's House of Prayer, and have since opened a book of condolence in St Michael le Belfrey Church, with a sign outside to welcome people in to sign the book, light a candle, and say a prayer. As you pray for the people of Manchester, I would encourage you to pray Psalm 34:18 - "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed."
It is my continued prayer that all those affected by this tragedy might not run from God but to God, and will know the consolation and comfort of his Holy Spirit.
With love in Christ,