how long

“My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. If you told me you had said to God, “It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,” it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real. (Anne Lamott) 

Here’s a talk on Psalm 13, in which David gets really real with God. Be encouraged whatever you’re going through…

Arcade

The answer is he is not a child, he is a 19-year-old young adult called Arcade. It’s difficult to believe… but when you hardly ever get any food to eat, physical development is stunted. More of his story is below… 

…before that, I want to praise the Lord for peaceful elections. Seriously. Last time in 2015, it got really messy. But in a month of dramatic twists, the outgoing President died suddenly, and so the new President was quickly inaugurated for the sake of stability. He’s got a tough job on his hands, but I’m praying (who wouldn’t want this to happen?) that he’ll be the best President ever, for the benefit of Burundi and all Burundians. Would you join me in that please (his nickname is Neva)? And for COVID-19 to have minimal impact.

Burundi was already the hungriest country in the world, but the situation is even harder on the back of the coronavirus and closed borders. One friend sent me a Whatsapp message: 

“Hello my brother, I’m dying of hunger! Things are so tight, I haven’t eaten for three days now. I ask you as you always stood with me, I know you can’t leave me to die of hunger, please send even $10.”

I hate those messages, received in my parallel universe of (albeit frustrated and restricted) comfort in England. Some sound so hopeless, whilst others are so hopeful despite the challenges of life at the moment. Another friend writes: 

“Thanks for your heart for Burundi and my family. God who protected us during the turmoil in the valley of the shadow of death, is still the same, He never changes. I’ve been so stressed about how to feed my family, food is expensive, it’s not easy. But I went to preach in Rumonge to 1000 people, over 100 chose Jesus! God told me ”take this message of hope, I am with you”. God is in control and His blood covers us. Go on praying for us, we will not die, we will live and proclaim the wonders of God.”

Back to Arcade: he is an orphan from Ciya village in the Burundian bush. He joined GLO partner J-Life’s porridge program for the malnourished because he had what appeared to be a distended belly. Despite the regular porridge, his tummy remained swollen. Local nurses tried giving him malaria medicine as a potential cure, but that didn’t work either. Eventually, Bosco took him to Bujumbura where a tumour was detected; and with contributions from you, he’s now had surgery and is convalescing. The impossible has happened for him – the poorest destitute and forgotten village boy going for surgery in a fancy hospital in the capital city – he can’t quite believe it!

There is always hope… I don’t know how you’re feeling right now. I’ve had a few sucker punches and have been struggling at different times. But being involved in Burundi helps me maintain focus and keep a sense of perspective on my own issues. Hang in there! 

If you can possibly dig deep to help others like Arcade, please give some money/hope HERE

Thanks for caring, thanks for praying. Do share the joy with me of peaceful elections and lives transformed in Jesus’ name! 

Yours hopefully,

Simon Guillebaud
www.greatlakesoutreach.org/give

This blog will only make sense if you’ve read the last one, please do so…

Done? OK, I’ll carry on.

I felt the need to write a follow-up to the last blog because a number of highly intelligent and spiritual people, whom I respect deeply, responded unfavourably to it, expressing disappointment and loving concern for me. Was I going soft? On the edge of burn-out? Losing my faith?

The answer is no. My contention was and still is simply that the use of language is nuanced, and I question the received meaning of words such as ‘Christian’, ‘Christianity’, ‘missionary’, etc in the contemporary Western world. They are loaded with different meanings for different people.

Language evolves.

My Great-grandfather had begun translating the Bible when he died suddenly in 1941 in Matana, Burundi. On his tombstone was written ‘Harold Guillebaud, imbata ya Yesu’. ‘Imbata ya Yesu’ at the time could be translated as ‘Jesus’ servant’. Unfortunately, all these decades later, ‘imbata’ now means ‘duck’! I reckon all the more as a linguist Harold would laugh his head off to think that passers-by nowadays read of him as Jesus’ duck!

In Kirundi, ‘Umukristo’ means ‘Christian’ in the broadest sense, i.e. a cultural Christian. So I’ve never been an Umukristo/Christian in Burundi. There is another term, ‘umukizwa’, which means ‘saved’, i.e someone with a genuine living relationship and faith in Christ. Yet even ‘umukizwa’ has been debased in meaning through questionable political associations of the term. One almost has to say, when asked, “Yes, I’m an umukizwa, but… (and then qualify it further)”

Up until the mid-20th century, ‘gay’ usually meant ‘carefree’ or ‘cheerful’. Back then, I would have been right to identify as gay. Now it no longer means the same, and if I/you use it that way, I/you will be misunderstood.

I think you can see what I’m saying.

I received a number of comments on the blog itself, many more directly to my email. My wife, Lizzie, who doesn’t always agree with my thinking (thank goodness – how awful it’d be to live within an echo chamber!), was outraged by some of the comments. For me, they simply illustrated exactly what the blog was saying – that we Jesus people can do a massive disservice to our cause by not really imitating his style. For example:

Simon, you were never ever a Bible-believing Christian… otherwise your supposed faith would not have fallen away like a tiny raindrop. I know those in your organisation and their faith is similar… very shallow, just like the parable Jesus gave us about the seed that falls on shallow ground… very sad because you have no idea what’s ahead. I’ll be praying for you to return to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whilst loyal Lizzie spat defensive venom, it was more like water off an imbata’s back for me. I literally laughed out loud… but then felt slightly sad. Another example:

Dude, keep your judgemental opinions about Donald Trump to yourself. You have no idea what you’re talking about… Please please please do more research. And don’t use google.

In contrast, I really appreciate this thoughtful one so much more, both in tone and substance:

Perhaps person-by-person redemption of the term – rather than rejection – would be better? Though that would obviously be a much longer-term project. A problem with rejection is distancing oneself not only from ‘bad’ Christians but an awful lot of good ones… otherwise I’m a big admirer of your work and the notes you strike more generally.

That makes sense to me. He’s right. There are so many beautiful examples of followers of Jesus that I would indeed be proud to identify with, and call Christian. But still…

So am I a Christian? Well, who’s asking? What does that word even mean to me/you/them? I don’t think my blog is going to change the world’s use of the term, but it’s worth thinking about.

As award-winning blogger/theologian friend Ian Paul (it’s well worth subscribing to his blog ‘Psephizo’) wrote to me:

“In my blogs I largely avoid using the words ‘Christian’ and ‘church’—in fact, when teaching at St John’s, I prohibited students from using the word ‘church’ in relation to the New Testament, because of likely misunderstandings!… People often don’t realise that the coining of the term Christianos in Acts 11:26 took place in a particular cultural context, and at the time was actually a term of derision which the followers of Jesus then happily took on themselves. They wore the mockery as a badge of pride!”

Context is everything, and so in different parts of the world, this discussion might not be relevant. But missiologically-speaking, there are many contexts where it’s definitely the wrong word. As one comment shows:

I’ve befriended Muslim neighbours. Also Jews. I’ve asked, “Do you consider that the Crusaders were Christians?” They always answer firmly, “Yes!” Then I insist that they were not, in my opinion, “Christians,” because they were NOT following Jesus! I have read a number of books by ex-Muslims, by Muslim Background Believers. They never call themselves Christians. They become “followers of Jesus”…We do not defend “Christianity” or “the church.” We are witnesses for Jesus. If asked if we are Christians, we must learn to reply, “How do you define a Christian?”

That’s surely right, isn’t it?

Thankfully, there were indeed plenty of other comments revealing that many of you resonate with what I’m wrestling with, such as:

Thank you for articulating so well something I have thought about and struggled with for years and think about regularly now in the midst of these world events and as the owner of a business that speaks into a lot of people’s lives. I have struggled with wondering if I am unfaithful to my Lord and my faith by struggling with identifying as a Christian. And I struggle with how to talk about and share my relationship with Christ, with others because of the issues that you bring up. Anyway, thank you for this encouragement to stand fast for Christ, but to not have to feel compelled to identify with a term that I know alienates people and often does not help bring them closer to Him.

Again, I got this was from an American friend of mine who is a passionate follower of Jesus, having served for a number of years in India:

I so appreciate what you wrote. I have struggled with American Christianity, or more specifically I’m realizing white evangelicalism for many years. Since the 2016 election, I have not been able to ‘identify’ as an evangelical for the same reasons you have written. White evangelicals handed Trump his victory… I can’t understand this at all. Now after George Floyd I’ve really come to a breaking point. Trying to find my voice in all of this and figure out how to speak out to the Christians around me and keep my love on.

Please, my US buddies, I’m not bashing you. Hear that! Indeed, to counterbalance the above, I agree with my friend Gerard’s concerns:

Your blog was a seriously interesting commentary. I just add one thing which worries me: there’s currently a generation of ‘Christians’ who are so determined not to identify with Bible-waving Trump, that in their efforts to appeal to his critics they have come to abhor everything about him, including his stand against abortion and his favour for freedom of speech and the right to possess a Christian worldview and not to be forced at work to act in contradiction. I am not comfortable with that either. We really need to think, and stick with God on everything, while adopting a culture that builds bridges from a solid place.

Agreed, Gerard. We really need to think, and (discern what it looks like to) stick with God on everything, while adopting a culture that builds bridges from a solid place. That’s our challenge…

Probably the most interesting module I ever did in my theological training (at Allnations) was a course on Christology. It was so fascinating to see how different cultures represented and appropriated their version of Jesus, as often seen through their art. You had the Latin-American-liberation-theology-freedom-fighter Jesus, the Aryan-blond-haired Jesus, the black Jesus, etc. We’re all inclined to do it!

The danger is we end up genuinely believing that Jesus agrees with everything we do. Or as Tim Keller warns us:

“If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshipping an idealized version of yourself.”

I don’t want to be that person. And I don’t think, put in those terms, any of us does.

Dostoevsky said of Jesus:

“I believe there is none lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic and more perfect than Jesus.  I say to myself, with jealous love, that not only is there none like him, but there could never be anyone like him.”

I agree. And I want to serve Him with my whole heart at whatever cost to the very end.

If you’re still reading this, and you’ve been put off Jesus by me or any of my brothers and sisters around the world because we’ve misrepresented Him, I’m truly sorry. Forgive us! Don’t give up on your spiritual search. I’d be really interested in hearing from you. 

So, in closing, I could still be wrong – please be kind in telling me so – but for the above reasons, that is why I still say that I no longer call myself a Christian… rather I’m a follower of Jesus.  

PS Why not, during this period of restrained movements, check out who Jesus really is in this brilliantly-produced short video series called the Alpha Course? Our church is launching the course this coming Thursday night, so you could join us for free from the safety and comfort of your sofa!

Thursday June 18th at 7.30pm, see you there? Sign up here

If you just want to check out week one’s content, here it is

Gini was my first love (or should I say lust?). It didn’t work out well, much to my chagrin…

I was given 5 minutes as part of 24-hour speaking event, and this is what I came up with.

Feel free to pass on to folks who could do with hearing it.

Next steps? Over lockdown I’ve been looking at the Alpha Course. Short videos that are so clear and helpful. Here’s the first one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBMMD5C0k-s

It might surprise some of you when I say that I stopped being a Christian about ten years ago. Last week’s picture of the world’s most powerful man holding up a Bible for what was in my view a questionable photo-opportunity polarized many, and prompted much discussion and outrage. It certainly got me thinking, and such events reinforce my reticence to be identified with ‘Christianity’.  

In his book ‘Blue Like Jazz’, Donald Miller recounts how a secular talk show host urged him to defend Christianity on air. Miller refused to do so, which made the host curious:

He asked me if I was a Christian, and I told him yes. “Then why don’t you want to defend Christianity?” he asked, confused. I told him I no longer knew what the term meant. Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity; they may have been yelled at by a teacher in a Christian school, abused by a minister, or browbeaten by a Christian parent. To them, the term Christianity meant something no Christian I know would defend. By fortifying the term, I am only making them more and more angry, I won’t do it. Stop ten people on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the word Christianity, and they will give you ten different answers. How can I defend a term that means ten different things to ten different people? I told the radio show host that I would rather talk about Jesus, and how I came to believe that Jesus exists and that he likes me. The host looked back at me with tears in his eyes. When we were done, he asked if we could go get lunch together. He told me how much he didn’t like Christianity but how he had always wanted to believe Jesus was the Son of God.

Words can be so abused, misused, misunderstood. Am I a Christian? Honestly, I don’t know – or rather it depends who’s asking, and what they mean by it. I’ve not used that term of myself for a decade now. What sits more comfortably, and what I tell people more often, is that I’m a follower of Jesus.

I have a friend who is working in Mozambique. One time as he entered the country, he put ‘missionary’ as his occupation on the entry form. The official spat at him: “Missionary? We don’t want you missionaries in our country!” Now instead he writes ‘Transformational engineer’, and if they question him further as to what he does, he says he builds people! I like that. In fact, I started doing the same when filling out the ‘occupation’ box on my entry forms.

‘Christianity’, ‘missionary’, etc – they’re loaded words. Depending where you live, you or those around you may or may not have a problem with them.

Let me share another anecdote from Carl Medearis from his book ‘Speaking of Jesus – the Art of Not-Evangelism’:

I was teaching a class at the American University of Beirut one day, and after the class, a young man came up to me and asked bluntly if I was a missionary.
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “What makes you think I’m a missionary?”
“You were talking about Jesus earlier,” he said, “and I thought that you were a Christian missionary.”
I held a hand to my forehead, appalled. “Are you saying,” I asked, “that I’m one of those people who wants to spread capitalism and democracy and political idealism and Westernism and import a new religion?”
He looked at me, suspicious. “Well, that is what missionaries do, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said, “typically. Now tell me, do I look like a person who would ever be interested in changing your culture, obliterating your heritage, and making religious converts? Why would I do that? There’s nothing sensible or right about that, is there?”
“Of course not.” He held up his hands. “Look, I didn’t’ mean to offend you, but I just had to ask.”
“Why?”
“Because…” He trailed off, unsure of what to say.
“Because you don’t trust missionaries,” I stated.
He nodded. “Honestly, yes. I thought maybe you had an agenda and I wanted to find out. Sorry if I offended you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Look, if you are interested in anything, just let me know, but don’t worry that I’m here to subvert your culture or anything, because I’m not. My interest in Jesus has nothing to do with religion, okay?”
“All right, Mr Medearis, I’ll see you later.”

If that’s all you knew of Carl, you could misunderstand what he meant. Let me assure you, he is a passionate follower of Jesus indeed, but one who doesn’t insist on wrapping Jesus in extra damaging and distracting cultural layers. That approach doesn’t benefit anyone.

In a telling discussion, Ayatollah Fadlallah (the late spiritual leader of Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah in Lebanon) said to Brother Andrew (founder of Open Doors):

“You Christians have a problem.”
“What do you think our problem is?”
“You’re not following the life of Jesus Christ anymore.”
“So what do you think we should do about that?”
“You must go back to the Book.”

For us, going ‘back to the Book’ will involve re-reading the Scriptures right now in the context of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter and humbly asking God how I/you/we’ve been blinded by my/your/our own cultural presuppositions. People talk of a ‘broken’ system. It’s not broken, it’s been designed that way.

In the USA particularly right now (but not just there), the Church has a real challenge finding her voice amidst all the outrage at the murder of George Floyd and the deeply-rooted systemic injustices in almost every sphere of society. As I wrote a decade ago in my book ‘More Than Conquerors’:

We are part of the system and share in its complicity. Desmond Tutu said: “I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself to be my master. I want the full menu of rights. If you’re neutral in situations of injustice, you’ve chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you’re neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Mahatma Gandhi’s comment on the Book to a group of missionaries rings as equally challenging today as it did back then: “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.”

The Rev. Pattison, a respected friend of Gandhi, recounted how one Sunday morning Gandhi decided to visit one of the Christian churches in Calcutta. As he tried to enter the church sanctuary, the ushers blocked his path. They told him he wasn’t welcome, nor would he ever be allowed to attend this particular church because it was only for high-caste Indians and whites. He was neither high caste, nor white. As a result of that single event, Gandhi rejected the Christian faith, and never again considered the claims of Christ. He was turned off by the sin of segregation that was practiced by the church, and that experience of rejection prompted his declaration: “I’d be a Christian if it were not for the Christians.”

Tragic…

Mother Teresa was 85-years-old when she was invited to address the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. This frail old lady, dressed as ever in her simple cheap clothing, passionately and eloquently called on the powerful luminaries gathered around her to enshrine the protection of unborn babies in law. She pleaded for compassion on behalf of the ‘little ones’: “How can we speak out against violence, when we are the most brutal with the most defenseless?”

It was obviously a controversial and sensitive subject, and many of the media elite spoke of that awkward moment for the President Clinton, Vice-President Gore, and their wives as this humble diminutive lady spoke with such conviction. As she stood down, the audience gave a roaring standing ovation. However, a number of people, who were seated on the stage, very ostentatiously chose not to stand up, in obvious disagreement with what she’d said.

Afterwards, President Clinton was asked in an interview what he thought of Mother Teresa’s pointed message. He paused and said only this: “It is very difficult to argue against a life so beautifully lived.” He was wise to keep his words to a minimum, because he recognized that all the arguments supporting his opinion about her words were irrelevant at that time. Anything he said would only reflect his attitude toward Mother Teresa the person; and in the presence of a life well lived, he was no longer responding to an issue at hand, but to a person in front of him.

Jesus was the supreme example of a life well-lived. Indeed, he was and is the Life. He shows us the way – indeed He is the Way. He shows us the truth. Indeed He is the Truth. And we can remain hopeful because He is the Resurrection.

So we find ourselves at a critical, long-overdue moment – one full of noise, anger, and indignation. How will we respond? What/Who are we passing on to our children? Will we maintain our neutrality between the elephant and the mouse? There are many more big questions to grapple with…

May God help all of us to listen humbly, to learn important lessons, and to look forward in hope, committed to embracing the cost of authentic faith, whether we reject all labels, or proudly call ourselves Christians, transformational engineers, or followers of Jesus…


PS The above has resonated with many but alienated others, as showed in private or public comments on different platforms. Some people I care deeply about have misunderstood what I’m trying to express and been offended. To them I simply ask that they re-read it, without interpreting extra layers of meaning which I’m not intending. Apologies for where it simply hasn’t been well-expressed. Of course I’m still a Christian(!), and orthodox too, as we would both probably agree on defining. But ‘judgment begins at the house of God’, so asking painful questions, re-evaluating, and maintaining a stance of humility (and repentance where appropriate) are pre-requisites to our discipleship journey.

Click here for Why I’m No Longer a Christian… Part 2

This is an interview I just did with Wes Poirot. Some interviews are a bit of a waste of time, but his questions were brilliant and I do think this is worth a listen. Here goes:

And If you’ve got teenage kids (we watch his daily short video as a family over breakfast), why don’t you subscribe and get a daily discipleship shot in the arm together, we’ve loved it. Subscribe here.

William Booth’s last speech to the Salvation Army ended with this: “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight. While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight. While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight. While there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end!”

Greetings!

The above and below are a few of the stories I shared in this talk from the New Wine National Leaders Convention, just before lockdown kicked in. Seems like a long time ago now. There’s lots of juicy material in there, worth a listen!

Amy Carmichael was someone who knew the meaning of suffering, and yet continued in sacrificial service, for many years rescuing young girls from temple prostitution in Hindu temples in India. She spent her last two decades mostly bed-ridden, using the time to write at least 35 books of meditations and reflections. When she died, in accordance with her wishes, no headstone was erected. Instead, the thousands of girls she had rescued placed a bird bath over her grave, inscribed with the word Amma which means ‘Mother’ in Tamil.

This is the poem she wrote about the suffering involved in being obedient to the gospel call.

Have you no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear you sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail your bright, ascendant star.
Have you no scar?
Have you no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Have you no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But yours are whole; can he have followed far
Who has no wound or scar?

She said: “We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own, yet we settle down in the most un-stranger-like fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could. I don’t wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has.”

A certain mission society in South Africa once wrote to David Livingstone, “Have you found a good road to where you are?  If so, we want to send other men to join you.”

Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them.”

He later wrote in his journal on one occasion concerning his “selfless” life:

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa.  Can that be called a sacrifice, which is simply paying back a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?  Is that a sacrifice, which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind and a bright hope of glorious destiny hereafter?  Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought!  It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege.”

My life motto is John 10:10 where Jesus says: “I have come that you might have life, and life to the full.”

This talk on the Adventure of Calling was given a few months ago in North Carolina. It definitely applies to all of us, and is worth a listen. Below I’ll paste a few quotes that I included:

If you want the adventure of calling, you have to COME:

Claim God’s promises
Obey God’s instructions
Maintain faith in God’s leading
Embrace risks for God’s glory


“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” Thomas Merton

Two Cornell psychologists (Gilovic and Medvec) did lots of research, found time key factor in regrets. Tend to regret our actions in short term, but long term regret inactions. Study found that in an average week, action regrets slightly greater than inaction regrets – 53% to 47%. But people looking back at end of lives, inaction 84% to action 16%. So end of lives we may have made a few mistakes but our biggest regrets will be risks we didn’t take. Anticipating future regret, Mark Twain warns us, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Oswald: “If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, “Come,” then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s “Come,” That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus. Have I come to Him? Will I come now?”

Hands raised in prayer for Burundi

How long do you think you could hold your arms out wide for? That’s what I tried to do yesterday for the first time. Why not give it a go?! I managed so much longer than I thought possible, imagining that every extra cramping second signified more lives saved, which actually was the case with Moses in Exodus 17 (I’ll tell you how long I managed at the end).

Whilst the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership defended themselves against an Amalekite attack down in the valley, Moses was up the top of a hill with Aaron and Hur. Verse 11 says: “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.” 

How desperate are you for breakthrough in your life? 

One of the most impacting things I’ve ever heard was this question and answer: 

Q: How much do you want of God?
A: Because no-one has less of God than they want. 

The stakes could hardly be any higher right now. I am absolutely desperate for Burundi breakthroughs, and I want God sooooo much. 

In the shadow of COVID-19, there are four days of campaigning left, and then the elections will take place next Wednesday. There has been some bloodshed, and things are hotting up. I don’t want to say more here, but read between the lines, and please pray. 

So here’s a short clip that my son filmed of me as I collapsed at the end of my Moses challenge yesterday. My sore muscles are still screaming at me now. I look a bit of a fool, but I know whose fool I am! And everybody’s somebody’s fool…

And then remember the rest of the story with Moses: “When his hands grew tired, Aaron and Hur took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. They held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady until sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army…” (v12,13)

We do this together! That’s the power of intercession. Can you please help us keep our hands held up in desperation to the Lord through next Wednesday, and beyond? 

Are you desperate for anything? What? How desperate? Give it a go… 

Lifting up holy hands, 

Simon

Join us on Zoom for inspiring weekly updates live with Burundian friends on www.greatlakesoutreach.org/saturdays at 2pm (UK time)

PS I managed 31 minutes 30 seconds. Just give it your best, and let me know how you got on!

A vicar was too busy to help a desperate homeless lady needing help. He fobbed her off with a promise to pray for her. She wrote the following poem and gave it to a local Shelter officer:

I was hungry,
And you formed a humanities group to discuss my hunger.
I was imprisoned,
And you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.
I was naked,
And in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick,
And you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless,
And you preached a sermon on the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely,
And you left me alone to pray for me.
You seem so holy, so close to God
But I am still very hungry – and lonely – and cold.

We sympathise with the vicar. The challenge is, we are all so very busy. Is it the right kind of busyness…? Have you had a similar experience? 

Greetings folks! 

The above and below are some of the notes from the questions I wrote up for discussion in home-groups this week, having shared the message yesterday at my local church, Holy Trinity Combe Down.

A little fellow in the ghetto was teased by one of the older street kids who said, “If God loves you, why doesn’t he take care of you?  Why doesn’t God tell someone to bring you shoes and a warm coat and better food?” The little lad thought for a moment then with tears starting in his eyes, said, “I guess He does tell somebody, but somebody forgets…” 

Let’s not be that person who forgets…

“I was talking to a friend who runs a national youth ministry. He told me about the Scouts in this country. They have a waiting list of over 50,000 kids, which puts paid to the lie that kids don’t want to go to a youth group. Many really do want to. They simply can’t. Why? Because there aren’t enough adults volunteering anymore. Where are they? They’re at home in their living rooms bowing down at the altar of Netflix (or Amazon Prime, etc).”

Discuss.

How would you answer the question: What did you do during lockdown? And, what did you learn during lockdown? And what new habits would you like to take out of lockdown moving forwards?

Evening options instead of just vegging in front of the TV watching lame programs (still on the TV though!):

8 sessions of the Prayer Course, free online:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO1WIawSAkQ

The Alpha Course videos have likewise been posted for free, I’ve loved doing a refresher, high quality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBMMD5C0k-s&t=521s

Or how about Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, we really enjoyed this:

Do sign up for praying for Muslims during Ramadhan – prayercast.com They send you a daily 4-min beautiful prayer video.

Ed Walker’s book A House Built on Love is well worth reading. Could any life-group get excited about coming alongside ex-cons/sexually-trafficked ladies/those wrestling with addictions etc in the context of buying a house and loving these precious wounded people to life? Hope into Action have seen stunning fruit, and as a full-on Christian organisation have repeatedly won secular industry awards for their approach. The social capital and potential of the Church is unparalleled in addressing such needs.

In Rocky 3, there’s a scene where he’s going soft, getting cultured. He’s achieved boxing fame, and he loses his fighting fire. Manager Mickey says to him: “The worst thing happened that could happen to any fighter – you got civilized.” I wonder if that is exactly what Jesus would say to us. You got civilized…

Have you been ‘civilised’? Is it wrong to be ‘civilised’? What is the point Simon was making? Do you agree or disagree, and why?