Arnold Bell – a life well lived

ArnoldI spent this afternoon at the thanksgiving service for the life and ministry of Arnold Bell, who, until his death shortly before Christmas, led City Church Sheffield. The service had a number of tributes from different people who knew him well. Clearly, this was a life well lived.

One of the Elders of the church spoke from Hebrews 11 and described how the writer to the Hebrews talks about these men and women of faith. They were just ordinary people, he said, believing in an extra-ordinary God, and living accordingly. Arnold was an ordinary man who believed in an extra-ordinary God and certainly lived accordingly. His life was an example to many and even his Thanksgiving service was a challenge to us to believe God and live accordingly.

Here’s what I wrote recently on his tribute page:

My first meeting with Arnold was when he was my lecturer when I was studying on FIT for Leadership, and then FIT2 (the forerunners to Leadership Training Foundations & Advanced). I remember being taught to think Biblically and not make assumptions; to look at what the text actually said and not to be afraid to say, “we don’t know” when we really didn’t know!

I remember preaching class with Arnold and also remember what he thought of my sermon! His honest feedback was invaluable and helped to shape my preaching in both content and delivery.

On FIT2, there were only a handful of us and I well remember how we used to try and get him onto Monty Python or other such subjects on a Friday afternoon! His impressions of comedy moments were quite something!

More recently I have had the privilege to serve with him on the ChristCentral team. He always brought such wisdom and insight to situations and will be sorely missed. Arnold – thank you for all you taught me, modelled to me and encouraged me in. Your legacy lives on.

So my question is this – are you believing God, and are you living accordingly?

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… and a very Happy New Year!

Anyone who knows me will know that I am probably the worlds worst blogger. What started off as a good idea soon got relegated to the bottom of the to-do list, and more often than not has fallen off altogether! However, a friends post on Facebook yesterday got me thinking, so I thought I would share my thoughts.

He was reflecting on the year that was 2012. He was saying that for him, it had been a mixed year – some highs, some lows. My guess is that this would be true for most of us. Life is rarely all good or bad – it’s most usually a mixture. He went on to quote from Romans 5:

Romans 5:3-5 (ESVUK)
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul talks about hope. This is one word that has such a stronger meaning in the Bible than we have for it in everyday English. We might hope for good weather, or for a favourite sports team to win their next match. Often this hope is no more than wishful thinking. Biblical hope is so much more. Biblical hope looks not to good fortune but looks to Jesus. We are encouraged to put our hope in Him.

The Psalmist puts it like this:

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. (Psalm 71:5)

As 2012 has now ended and we look forward to 2013, my encouragement to all of us, me included, is not just to hope for a better year, but to put our hope in Him who is our hope. Let’s put our hope and trust in Him who promises to walk through this year with us, no matter what it may bring. As you hope in Him, let me wish you a very Happy, Hope-filled New Year.

CS Lewis on giving

On Sunday, I preached at Jubilee about giving. Basing ourselves in Malachi 3, we looked at what the Bible has to say about generous, grace filled giving, as part of a life that’s sold out to God and committed to His purposes. We looked at how giving to God is not primarily a financial issue, it’s actually a heart issue. It flows out of a heart totally devoted to God. Anything we give to God, as part of our worship, should actually reflect the whole. The part given represents the whole, because we want to give everything to the Lord.

One of my quotes came from CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, where he answers the question as to how much we should give. He says this:

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.” 

In typical Lewis style, this is a challenging and provocative statement. So, how are you doing with your giving?

A review of North 2011

Over August Bank Holiday weekend, 2,500 people gathered in North Yorkshire for North 2011. We went as a church and had a good number of people staying both on and off site. Despite generous amounts of rain and mud, the weekend was a resounding success. Such a powerful sense of God’s presence and power; outstanding preaching from Terry Virgo, Guy Miller and Jeremy Simpkins; inspiring worship; excellent kids and youth events and a great time away with friends, old and new. Once again, Paul Mogford (Jubilee Church Teesside) and his amazing team served us outstandingly well, by turning a working farm into a venue fit for such a momentous gathering.

In addition to the powerful preaching, God also spoke to us through some very significant prophetic words. Including, being shaped like clay in the potters hands, with North no longer being a holiday camp, but a boot camp where God was raising up an apostolic army!

On the first evening, Jeremy set the tone for the weekend by setting out the key distinctives of the North team and our sphere:

  • Being Friends enjoying God together
  • Building Churches empowered by Word and Spirit
  • Advancing The Kingdom, transforming the world
  • Reaching Nations, making disciples

You can watch a video of us as a team discussing these distinctives here:

Terry wonderfully served us, with 3 morning preaches from Ezra, which culminated in taking an offering which currently stands at £132,000! A very tangible example of how North was moving.

Guy Miller brought a challenging word to us, to believe God for significant growth, and he could see us becoming like a runway at an international airport with many thousands of people coming and going. He felt God challenge us to have the nations firmly in our sights and to dream bigger dreams. Guy’s presence and chemistry with us was also a very tangible foretaste of how the new emerging apostolic teams can and would work together in the future.

North 2011 was so much more than just a weekend conference – it felt like God was fashioning us together, building an Apostolic people, an army who can advance His church and His Kingdom across the nations of the world!

You can download all the main sessions and the videos shown over the weekend from www.north2011.com

(This article was written for and first appeared on www.newfrontiersuk.org)