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United Christians in Evangelism

Last Sunday night, we had an evening meal with GLO Partner United Christians for Evangelism (UCE). They are a superb outfit doing incredible things on minimal funds, which is what I find so utterly inspiring. When I was last out here in October, we had done an outreach in Gatamba in Karuzi Province, which had been a real adventure and very fruitful – some of you might remember the demon-possessed lady Teresa who had thrown both her shoes at me from the crowd who was then prayed for, set free, and helped to make a fresh go of life having fallen on very hard times.

Well, with this latest visit and team, we joined up again with UCE at a different location, and again there were some beautiful stories including Ananias, who was on his way to kill himself (having just been released from prison after a previous suicide attempt) when he walked past our meeting and encountered God in a powerful way. I love his smile in the photo below, and you can be sure his wife is a happy woman! Click here to hear his own words on what happened at last week’s outreach, as put together by UCE’s Pacifique.

Ananias

Anyway, back to our evening meal. UCE had lined up a few people (as seen above) whose lives had been transformed during the outreach last October, for us to hear their stories. It was very encouraging. Here’s what happened to them at the Gatamba rally (from left to right):

Lambert came to the gospel rally with liver and stomach problems. He was also known as a drunk. But he wanted to be set free, so he came forward for prayer and received God’s touch. On the spot, his desire for alcohol disappeared, and he is a totally new man. As a side note, I have never seen anyone eat as much in one sitting (see below), probably three times my healthy portion – we had a good laugh together about that, he took his eating very seriously!

Lambert eating an extremely full plate of food
Lambert with his unbelievable plate!

Liberate’s brother had told her of UCE’s powerful ministry because he’d been healed previously at one of their rallies. She’d been bedridden for six months with horrific pains from her head to her toes. She’d visited three witch doctors who had only made her poorer and certainly hadn’t helped improve her health. So in her desperation, she was the first to come forward at the Gatamba rally to receive prayer. In her words, she felt ‘a strong warm wind go through my whole body, blowing away all my body pains and leaving me free!’ She is now an active member of her church community.

Rose hadn’t walked for two and a half years. One of her legs was paralyzed, but as she received prayer the paralysis went. She is now back cultivating alongside other women in the community.

Eric had long-term intestinal problems, which medicine and herbal remedies gave fleeting relief to. He heard the noise of the rally, came to listen, sought prayer, gave his life to Jesus, and was healed on the spot. He is now busy evangelising, has joined his church’s choir, and longs for others to encounter the Jesus who changed his life.

Diomede had a seriously swollen knee. After prayer, the swelling disappeared, and he got up on the stage and demonstrated his complete healing. On the back of experiencing that undeniable miracle, he became a follower of Christ Jesus on the spot, and over supper testified that he had never experienced such peace as he does now.

It was a joy meeting them and I like sharing such stories, to stir us in our own faith. Many Burundians are so open, hungry, desperate, and a whole lot less cynical than most of us in the West. They have much to teach us. We thank God for His gracious work in their lives. And keep up the great work, UCE!    

BlogInspirationSimon Blog

Greetings from Burundi! There is so much good to report from my short visit (49 meetings and counting so far after seven days), but I thought I’d just share a couple of beautiful encounters to stir your faith. GLO’s motto is ‘Transforming Burundi and Beyond’, and I love how stories from Burundi encourage you in the ‘Beyond’ around the world, wherever you are as you read this. Here goes, as posted on facebook:

Simon and abdoul

I met with Abdoul today. He’s a brave man.

He used to be in charge of 15 mosques, and prided himself in zealously winning Christians over to Islam. He did regular public debates, and became troubled by vivid dreams of Jesus calling him. As he studied the Koran and the Bible, he was struck how the Koran talked of guiding ‘in the right way’ (Surat 1:6) whilst Jesus said ‘I am the Way’ (John 14:6). It was so costly when he decided to follow the Way. He lost everything, was kicked out of his community, and survived a grenade attack and a machete-wielding mob of Muslims angry at his apostasy. But he wouldn’t flee. He’s carried on living humbly, boldly and consistently. He’s been offered $20k to return to Islam, as well as a house, but he’s adamant that nothing can woo him, as he struggles to provide for his family on the $100/month we give him. He’s written a resource used in many churches, and is fearless in living out and sharing the freedom and joy he has found in Jesus. Again, as with so many of my brothers and sisters out here, I am challenged and struck to the core by their willingness to suffer for their faith.

Abdoul, my brother, I salute you!

Also, when preaching at a mass rally in the bush last Saturday, a demon-possessed lady threw her shoes at me from the crowd. It was even caught on film. She was led away behind the stage, prayed for by the intercessors, and delivered. Her name is Teresa. What a smile she has!

A flavour of the rally, including the shoe-throwing moment!

She told those praying for her how she’d been to many churches previously, asking to be set free from the voices in her head. “Those voices were telling me to be violent and abusive to people, and that’s why I came to your meeting as well.”

Now, as you can see, she has been beautifully set free (we have an extended interview with her which I’ve not included). She also had terrible problems sleep-talking and sleep-walking, and those have gone as well.

We are committed to journeying with her, helping her and her family with housing and clothing. Just wonderful!

It’s interesting to me because a (typically Western) secular materialistic worldview doesn’t have room for the idea of demon-possession. Even many Christians (through lack of experience maybe) struggle to believe that demons are real. So with the above undeniable story (unless you want to think we staged it!), it would be reframed as mental illness. Honestly, it could just have been mental illness, but it’s still a miracle!

Again, I’m trying to put myself fully in the sceptic’s shoes… apart from us staging it (surely not), then what would have given this lady the courage to completely expose herself to public ridicule and shame in front of such a crowd? And the timing could not have been precise, as she (they) chose the exact strategic moment to kick things off when I was calling the crowd to make a commitment. 

For what it’s worth, I think mental health (extremely common) is very real, and demon-possession (unusual) is also very real. They are absolutely not the same. Medicines can be helpful for those suffering with mental health issues, but the secular mindset would misdiagnose demons – because it cannot accommodate them in its worldview – under the banner of mental health, and therefore prescribe medicine as a cure. But medicine helps a physical condition, not a spiritual one; medicine as a physical solution can’t effectively address a spiritual condition, if someone is indeed demonised. That is (one of) the West’s (many) blindspots.

It’s a huge area for discussion, but there’s some food for thought!

Anyway, I just thank God for precious Teresa’s miracle, and am cheering her on in her new chapter of freedom.

And lastly, King’s Conference Centre. Honestly, it’s been my biggest ministry headache over the two decades of involvement in Burundi. This second phase has taken 12 years so far. It’s nearly finished and is a massive beast. But wow! It is genuinely beautiful, and is raking in money now having re-established us as the best conference venue in the country. It is rammed almost every day, people love it, and that just means lots more profits can be ploughed back into God’s work in Burundi. Beautiful! Take a quick look here:

So many positives, so much more to share, but that’s a taster. I hope it encourages you, stirs faith, and challenges you to be all in for Jesus – that’s the gift that Burundi has given me.

God bless you loads!

Check out some of my other recent posts from Burundi on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

BlogInspiration

Chrissie Chapman

Things would have looked very different if Chrissie had died when the doctors said she would.

Decades ago, she was dying and had been given six months to live. She was partially paralysed, bald, her whole body was swollen ‘like a Michelin-Man’, and she had two wrecked lungs. On her hospital bed, she heard an audible voice: “It’s time to go home; I am going to heal you!” 

She was allowed out of the hospital some weekends. One weekend, back in her apartment and resting on her beanbag, she believed she was dying but then suddenly felt painful pins and needles in her head. She put her hand to her head and felt bristles on her scalp. Her hair was growing back!

She picked up her Bible, and a piece of paper fell out of it, with 1 Peter 2:24 written on it – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed’.” It turns out her pastor had prayed that verse over her for 6 weeks whilst she was on a life-support machine, and he’d put it in her Bible.

By the following morning, she had a full head of hair, her paralysis and swollenness had gone, and her breathing was fine (indeed, she never again had an asthma attack). She returned to the hospital, and when her doctor saw her and reached out to touch her full head of hair, he fell to his knees speaking in tongues. He wasn’t even a Christian! That week, 17 hospital staff who knew what she was suffering from gave their lives to Christ in response to her evident miraculous healing!

What do you make of that?

Chrissie Chapman died a few days ago. She was a truly remarkable woman. In her death, I want to do two things: give you the opportunity to be stirred by her quite extraordinary faith journey, and contribute to her legacy.

So if you want to hear more crazy stories like the one above, why not watch to this talk or listen to it on the Inspired… Podcast via Apple Podcasts or Spotify. She gave it in 2016 and I would genuinely say it’s one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever heard.

Following her healing, Chrissie pursued a clear call to serve the Lord in Burundi. She wrote her Burundi story in ‘The Night the Angels Came’, which you can buy here.

So that’s the first thing, and it’ll bless your socks off if you listen to that talk or read her book. Now the second thing – an opportunity to contribute to her legacy:

As she joked, she was a single mother with 54 children, all from different fathers! To be clear, she wasn’t spectacularly fertile and promiscuous; rather, she’d taken in 54 precious, vulnerable lives! In turn, those infants needed schooling, so she started what is now called the King’s School in Bujumbura, which now has 714 kids in the student body. 

All of the original 54 are now over 18-years-old. Several of them babysat for us and became our good friends. Some have been through university and have found jobs, but for about ten of them, their studies are still ongoing. During Chrissie’s latter years, a significant concern for her quite naturally was finding sponsors to see them all through. Yet as things stand, there is a shortfall. 

In brief, would you like to honour Chrissie as she graduates to glory by helping the remaining students to finish their studies, and to contribute to the replacement of the 12-year-old(!) dying computers in the King’s School’s ICT lab, and other such needs, as the King’s School was a key part of her legacy?  

This is not a GLO project per se, but our DNA is to bless transformational Kingdom initiatives in Burundi, which this most certainly is. If you do want to help, God bless you.

(If you would prefer to give in US$, please click here)

One of my favourite stories that Chrissie shared was of her encounter with an old man in a miserable displacement camp during the war. He was sat with an empty bowl in prayer. She went over to see him and asked him his story. He was in his seventies. He’d witnessed his wife and kids hacked to death, and his house burned down. He’d walked six days to get to the camp. Sat there in his stinking rags with that empty bowl… that was all he was in the whole world. Yet he was able to declare:

“I never realised that Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had!”

What . A . Line!

Chrissie, we salute you! We’ll all, by God’s grace, see you again sooner or later. In the meantime, let’s live our lives to the full, making the most of it in service of the King!

GeneralInspirationSimon Blog

hand on door handle opening door

I’ve had a fun day so far, and yet it’s been such a normal day. Let me explain:

Our church was serving the local community at the weekend by providing four skips for people to bring their stuff and save them a trip to the tip (many locals don’t have a car, so it’s very much appreciated). There was one last skip that needed filling, so a couple of us did that this morning. As the skip was loaded onto the truck and about to be driven away, I showed the driver a picture on my phone, and asked him if he’d seen it before. He said no, but the conversation that ensued led to me praying for him, exchanging numbers, and him expressing interest in doing an Alpha course.

I then showed the same picture to the guy who’d helped me fill the skip. He’s a lovely Hindu from India. We prayed together as well.

Then back home, the bell rang and I answered the door. I showed that lady the picture as well, and her English was very broken but we established that she was my catholic sister from Brazil, and parted joyfully.

And now I’ve just got off from a Zoom call with someone trying to sell me (good) stuff, at the end of which I asked if he’d mind me sharing with him for a few minutes. I pulled up the same picture again. Another great conversation ensued, at the end of which I prayed with and for him, and he agreed that when he was next in the area (he knew my address now because of what he was trying and succeeding in selling me), he’d come over for a beverage to talk further.

So what am I sharing with all these folks? Well, the picture I show them and the briefest summary outline of what I share is below:


Honestly, it’s so easy. And I’m genuinely not even that good at ‘doing’ it yet, as it’s a relatively new approach to me. But if you’re winsome, open, loving, respectful, it’s such fun – all four encounters today were so positive.

You could do this!

They were such simple encounters – with a truck driver, a man helping me fill a skip, a lady who knocked on my door, and someone selling me stuff – just day-to-day normal meetings.

So I’m offering and recommending you this simple conversation starter and tool. Let me say it again, you can do this!

A few Saturdays ago, 16 of us did it in the town centre, and in one hour we led 10 people to Jesus, including one Wiccan lady with her pentagram. People are spiritually hungry – not all by any stretch, but many – and they don’t want religion (yuck!), but many do want Jesus!

Why don’t you take an hour or so to memorise the script, check out these training/example videos, and then give it a go?!

Watch this video on YouTube
Watch this video on YouTube
Watch this video on YouTube

More resources available at jesusattheddoor.com


You can also download the app (free) with the picture and script using the following links:

Let me know how you get on!

BlogInspirationSimon Blog

On this day last year, my dear friend Caleb Meakins graduated to glory after days battling to overcome injuries sustained in a car crash in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His death left many of us reeling, because he had so much love, energy and passion to give, and it all felt so wrong.

To understand Caleb, you had to know the defining moment in his life. His English father worked for Tearfund and had married his Ethiopian mother. In 1996, his Dad’s plane was hijacked and crash-landed in shallow waters just off the Grande Comore Island in the Indian Ocean. As the plane was losing altitude, his father stood up and shared Jesus with the screaming passengers. Not all of them died, and that was how Caleb came to know through the testimony of the survivors that his earthly father had been consistent in his faith and courageous to the last.

As a student at Loughborough university (coincidentally the same one I attended fifteen years before him), Caleb had contacted me after being impacted by a book I’d written. I wasn’t part of his inner circle, but I was keen to help nurture and encourage this supremely talented younger brother in any way possible. He came out to visit us in Burundi and my kids absolutely loved him. Later on, we shared a twin-bed for several nights together whilst speaking at a conference in Northern Ireland. I got some hilarious footage of him snoring loudly, so he wasn’t the best room-mate if I’d wanted a good night’s sleep! In fact, the flu he had at the time, he duly passed on to me, which meant I remembered him with a distinct lack of fondness for another fortnight!

But how we laughed! And how we dreamed together! Caleb was a beautiful blend of big dreams, creative ideas, entrepreneurial nous, winsome ability to connect, deeply kind and caring, empowering of others, self-deprecating, adventurous, willing to take risks, the list goes on.

I’ve just had a nostalgic look through a few of the films on his YouTube channel. One of the many things he did was take on a challenge of doing 40 days of failure – i.e. taking on something that he knew he’d probably fail at, to see how it worked out. It was about overcoming the fear of failure, and invariably ‘failure’ was a great learning experience!

Simple things like getting on a train and doing his first ‘live’ song! (He talks about it in this TED talk starting at 4mins 45secs) Caleb had a truly dreadful singing voice, but he stood up, introduced himself, and blasted out the song ‘Stand by Me’. 

Stone silence and heads down from all the passengers. 

“OK, that didn’t go so well… could any of you join me if we try again?” 

The second rendition saw a builder and another woman join him at the chorus. Progress! 

“Hey guys, come on, let’s do it! Let’s try one more time!” 

And the whole carriage sang together with gusto, and clapped and cheered at the end!

He said he went from 0% to 100% confidence. And that experience was repeated time and time again.

Seriously, if you’re going to waste some time surfing the web this week, why not check out him getting dressed up as an Arab sheikh and trying to test-drive a Lamborghini; or embarking on giving a lecture at UCL in front of several hundred students until the actual real lecturer arrived; or blagging his way onto the red carpet with Sarah Jessica Parker for her movie launch; the list goes on. Friends posted him challenges, and he rose to them, showing us all in the process that taking risks and stepping out usually turns out just fine. This led to a few TED talks where he spoke as an ‘expert in failure’ (see the one mentioned above and this one).

I love it that Caleb was courted for a job in the UK by an outfit that always got who they wanted – they saw how good he was – but he turned them down! He then decided to go (back) to live in Ethiopia, and had his finger in so many creative pies there when the accident happened. Indeed, there’s so much more that I could share about that chapter, but this needs to come to an end.

I last saw Caleb when speaking at the summer Shift event on the Troughton farm near Cheltenham. Shift was a movement he’d started with the aim of seeing his generation captivated by God and impacting culture. Several hundred of us laughed and worshipped and dreamed together over several days. He was only 31-years-old, and he didn’t seek the limelight in any way, but it was clear everyone looked to him as the leader.

I have to say, he packed more into those 31 years than many do in their three score years and ten. Certainly, he wasn’t one whose highest aspiration was to arrive safely at death. But now he’s gone. What a spectacular loss he is to the many, many people he influenced – most immediately, of course, to his wonderful mother Ruth, and his sisters Lydia and Abi, who have lost the two closest men in their lives. Lord, comfort them!

There was so much more to come from Caleb, as we saw it. Yet it wasn’t to be. Many things happen that we simply can’t understand. Trying to muster a satisfactory explanation is futile. His death was a tragedy. Today is the first anniversary of his passing. But because of the timing of his death, with the onset of the pandemic, there was no memorial service in England and we didn’t get the chance to come and grieve together.

That’s why I wanted to write this. To remember our precious brother. Mercifully, ‘we do not grieve as others do who have no hope’ (1 Thes 4:13). The last talk I gave on that Shift weekend was from 1 Cor 13:12, where Paul writes: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Well, dear Caleb, you’ve beaten us there! Now you know fully, even as you are fully known. How amazing that must be! We miss you, we honour you, we remember you. And as we thank God for your life, we vow to step up and take risks, embrace ‘failure’, and be part of a movement that shifts our culture in the right direction.

Until we meet again!

InspirationSermonsSimon Blog

I just recorded this talk and sent it out to a number of churches. If you fancy a listen, may it bring you some encouragement through these difficult times…

God bless you loads, cheering you on in the Spirit!

Simon

PS Lots of folks have joined the Choose Life Big Church 365 Read, and it’s easy to sign up for, with a weekly vlog to further encourage folks. Here’s the link: glo.org.uk/chooselife

InspirationSermonsSimon Blog

The world we are living in is nuts, and only getting more nuts. Most people, however intelligent, are seeking rational explanations. But the truth is, there aren’t any. I genuinely think most of us in the West are so blind to spiritual realities that we have an awful lot to learn from other worldviews.
I was cleaning up my computer and came across this talk given in 2017. I’d never posted it. But I found that all the more after a short time of living back in the West I needed to hear it. I think it’ll do you some good as well.
Do take a listen.


“We are at war, and the bloody battle is over our hearts. I am astounded how few Christians see this, how little they protect their hearts. We act as though we live in a sleepy little town during peacetime. We don’t. We live in the spiritual equivalent of Bosnia or Beirut. Act like it. Watch over your heart. Don’t let just anything in; don’t let it go just anywhere. What’s this going to do to my heart? is a question that I ask in every situation. “ (John Eldredge)

John Piper highlights the critical issue as follows: “Probably the number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of believers is that we try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom. Until you know that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for… But what have millions of Christians done? We have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance. No strategic planning. Just easy peace and prosperity. And what did we do with the walkie-talkie? We tried to rig it up as an intercom in our houses – not to call in fire power for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask for more comforts in the den…

…Most people show by their priorities and casual approaches to spiritual things that they believe we’re in peace, not in wartime… In wartime we’re on the alert. We’re armed. We’re vigilant. In wartime we spend money differently, because there are more strategic ways to maximise our resources. The war effort touches everybody. We all cut back. The luxury liner becomes a troop carrier… Who considers that the casualties of this war don’t merely lose an arm or an eye or an earthly life, but lose everything, even their own soul, and enter a hell of everlasting torment?”

BooksGeneralInspirationSimon Blog

Amused

George Orwell wrote about the time a wasp “was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed oesophagus.  Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him.”

Back in 1985, Neil Postman wrote ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’. The book is obviously dated, but whatever warnings he flagged up back then concerning the dangers of being conditioned and shaped by vapid television content – well, they need to be heard all the more nowadays with social media, Netflix, etc.

Lockdown is such a weird time. Some people are equally or more stretched with work than before, whilst others are on furlough or simply less pressured. I’m in that latter category.

When one’s schedule is full, time has to be well-used. Personally, I have 5 less speaking engagements each week now than during pre-lockdown days. So when things are more fluid, it’s easy to waste time, and become professionally (or spiritually) flabby. That is my biggest challenge, and I suspect it’s the same for many of us.

And my biggest concern is for my (and your) spiritual journey.

Picture yourself in five years’ time answering the question ‘What did God teach you in lockdown?’ I don’t want my answer to be a fumbling bumbling ‘Err… hum… Well, I got to watch 5 seasons of This is Us, 3 more of Homeland, finished off The Crown, etc’.

The biggest danger to our souls – way bigger than Covid to our bodies, I suggest – is amusing ourselves to death.

John Piper writes: “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

I’m scared that might become true of me particularly in this season…

…So as the new year has kicked in, I’m desperate to feed my soul nourishing fare rather than neutral (at best) or positively destructive crap.

Not just desperate… but determined. Can I spend at least as much time reading/praying/worshipping as in front of the box, for example? Hmm…

Anyway, here’s just sharing a few books and a podcast that will do you good, without trying to overload you.

The single most influential book in my life was E. G. Carré (ed.), Praying Hyde: Apostle of Prayer.

I’ll paste at the bottom some of it and what it did to me. You can’t manufacture personal revival, but it absolutely nuked me as I dug deep and spent time in the Lord’s presence. You can buy the book here.

I’m currently reading Jon Tyson’s ‘Beautiful Resistance – the Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise’. You can buy it here. It came out of a superb recent sermon series. In fact, if I have one recommendation for podcasts, his preaching/teaching would be it. He is so insightful, clear and unapologetic on how the Church needs to shape up in this cultural moment. There’s never a duff sermon from him, so do sign up.  (Search for his series on the Controversial Jesus – brilliant!)

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. He writes of a man who was born in a gypsy tent, of humble origins, and yet ended up being invited to the White House by two presidents. Rodney ‘Gypsy’ Smith came into the world in 1860 in Epping Forest, just outside London. 45 times he crossed the Atlantic to preach the gospel to millions of people on both sides. His passion was almost unparalleled, and there was great fruit in what he did. What was his secret? Private prayer. His praying was even more powerful than his preaching.

A delegation once came to him to enquire how they might experience personal and mass revival as he had. They wanted to be used the way Gypsy was. Without hesitating, he said: “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle round yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.”

So do buy that book here and get in the circle!

Another good one is Ross Paterson’s ‘The Antioch Factor’. I liked this book so much when it came out that I bought 800 of them to get the message out! Buy the book here.

Obviously I’d recommend signing up for Choose Life, which many of you have. I’ll be putting out a weekly vlog each Tuesday and there’ll be other things coming out of that to sharpen/challenge/encourage us in the coming year.

I’ll stop there. Don’t be that unsuspecting severed wasp over lockdown! Resist!

Scroll down if you want to read a bit of my encounter with God through Praying Hyde sixteen years ago

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Pengwern Jones was a close friend of John ‘Praying’ Hyde. What he observed of Hyde is worth including at length because it can teach us so much:

“I owe him more than I owe to any man, for showing me what a prayer-life is, and what a real consecrated life is. I shall ever praise God for bringing me into contact with him… The first time I met him was at Ludhiana in the Punjab, where he lived at the time. I had been invited to speak a few words on the Revival in the Khassia Hills to the Conference of the United States Presbyterian Mission, who had their annual session at the time there. I had traveled by night from Allahabad to Ludhiana, and reached there early in the morning. I was taken to have a cup of tea with the delegates and others, and I was introduced across the table to Mr. Hyde. All that he said to me was, “I want to see you; I shall wait for you at the door.” There he was waiting, and his first word was, “Come with me to the prayer room, we want you there.” I do not know whether it was a command or a request. I felt I had to go. I told him that I had traveled all night, and that I was tired, and had to speak at four o’clock, but I went with him; we found half a dozen persons there, and Hyde went down on his face before the Lord. I knelt down, and a strange feeling crept over me. Several prayed, and then Hyde began, and I remember very little more. I knew that I was in the presence of God himself, and had no desire to leave the place; in fact, I do not think that I thought of myself or of my surroundings, for I had entered a new world, and I wanted to remain there.

We had entered the room about eight o’clock in the morning; several had gone out, others had come in, but Hyde was on his face on the floor, and had led us in prayer several times. Meals had been forgotten, and my tired feeling had gone, and the revival account and message that I was to deliver – and concerning which I had been very anxious – had gone out of my mind, until about three thirty, when Hyde got up, and he said to me, “You are to speak at four o’clock; I shall take you to have a cup of tea.” I replied that he must need a little refreshment, too, but he said, “No, I do not want any, but you must have some.” We called in at my room and washed hurriedly, and then we both had a cup of tea, and it was full time for the service. He took me right unto the door, then took my hand and said, “Go in and speak, that is your work. I shall go back to the prayer room to pray for you, that is my work. When the service is over, come into the prayer room again, and we shall praise God together.” What a thrill, like an electric shock, passed through me as we parted. It was easy to speak, though I was speaking through an interpreter. What I said, I do not know. Before the meeting was over, the Indian translator, overcome by his feelings, and overpowered by the Spirit of God, failed to go on, and another had to take his place. I know the Lord spoke that night. He spoke to me, and spoke to many. I realised then the power of prayer; how often I had read of blessing in answer to prayer, but it was brought home to me that evening with such force that ever since I try to enlist prayer warriors to pray for me whenever I stand up to deliver his messages. It was one of the most wonderful services I ever attended, and I know that it was the praying saint behind the scenes that brought the blessing down on me.

I went back after the service to him, to praise the Lord. There was no question asked by him about whether it was a good service or not, whether men had received a blessing or not; nor did I think of telling him what blessing I had personally received and how his prayers had been answered. He seemed to know it all, and how he praised the Lord and how easy it was for me to praise the Lord, and speak to Him of the blessing He had given.”

I recently devoured the book containing the above passage, as I hungered for the effectiveness in intercessory prayer of the likes of John Hyde. I was back by myself in Burundi, separated from my precious Lizzie and unborn son for what would be several months. I’d arrived back heavy-hearted, my malaise compounded by my Mother’s freshly-diagnosed cancer. However, what followed were days of unparalleled intimacy with Jesus. Largely undisturbed early from the crack of dawn and late into the evenings, I could spend hours in God’s presence, seeking his face, praising him, and engaging in intercessory prayer. I share an entry from my journal of that season to illustrate some lessons learnt from spending real concentrated time in the Lord’s presence:

“29th September 2005: I’m reading this book on Praying Hyde, and it’s so challenging. As I tried to emulate him by letting rip in prayer for ages on my bed in the dark, it suddenly struck me that these few months will probably be my quietest ones for the next several decades! So instead of bemoaning my loneliness, this could be the most fabulous time of nurturing intimacy with the Lord by spending as much time with him as possible. Let’s be positive! I’m rubbish in general with my own company, but loved the chance tonight to pray so undisturbed – not something I really did much over the last few months of hectic preaching around England. So Lord, I give you this time, I surrender my life afresh, have your way, do whatever you want with me. What a great privilege it is to be a child of the King!

30th September: It’s my fasting day. I feel caught up in an extraordinary state at the moment, somewhat a mountain top experience. It surely has to do with the fact that I’m spending so much time in the Lord’s presence – what a numbskull I am and how slow to learn the fact that intimacy, which we all crave, can only be attained and sustained through disciplined commitment and time given to him. We want effortless intimacy, but it just doesn’t happen that way.

So I was up at the crack of dawn, and jumped out of bed with a ‘Good morning, Jesus!’ I prayed passionately, sang, read the Bible and then started preparing a sermon for Sunday. I wanted to make notes on the computer, but it seemed like it had fused with the latest power cut. The power wouldn’t go on, although everything else electrical was working. I prayed over the computer, and went off to start searching the Scriptures for the right message. I came back to find it working! And then the sermon just flowed as never before. The Lord was being so clear, the ideas and structure flowed so easily. Truly preparation of the messenger is as important as preparation of the message.

God knows how long this season of beautiful intimacy will last, but in any case I want to maximize it. Keep the discipline, Simon, and guard the time spent in his presence. Don’t let business crowd him out. It’s so obvious, and we all know prayer is of paramount importance, but Satan will do anything to distract us from what renders him powerless. I remember someone once asking me, ‘How much do you want of God?’ Because ‘nobody has less of God than they want.’ Keep me hungry and thirsty for more of you, dear Lord!

1st October: …Whilst I was in the bath in the evening, Bruno came round, and so I knew he’d be back again shortly. Instead of viewing him as a nuisance who wanted to use up my valuable time to improve his English, I decided to see him as someone sent by God to come to faith through me. But before reading this Praying Hyde book I would’ve just prayed: “Right, Lord, Bruno’s coming round. Please open the eyes of his heart to see you, and give me the right words. May he come to know you.” Such a piddly prayer would take about twenty seconds. Instead I really prayed, and spent serious time, delaying supper until I’d done so. I worshipped away on the guitar, and proclaimed the Lord’s victory until my fingers were too sore to carry on. I was full of faith, so claimed his life for Jesus, and interceded on his behalf.

Then Bruno showed up again. He’s a nice lad, 22-years-old, we chatted about football, studies, etc, and then I asked him what he thought about Jesus – was he ready to face judgment? Basically I then led him through the gospel and asked him if he wanted to receive Christ as his Lord and Saviour right now – no pressure – but do you want to be ready? He did! I prayed and he repeated after me. He’s coming with me to church on Sunday. Seal your work in his life, O Lord!”

BooksInspirationSimon Blog

‘Spiritual enema’ is how my friend Kevin describes my daily devotional ‘Choose Life’ – in his words, it ‘clears the decks and provides a welcome shot in the arm’ – metaphors galore! Well, I would definitely prefer submitting to a spiritual rather than to a physical one! 

So do you need one as 2020 comes to an end? I think we all do! 

From the start of 2021, a whole bunch of churches and individuals are going to be journeying through the year with ‘Choose Life’ as part of the Big Church 365 Read. We’d love you/your family/life group/school CU/church/etc to join us.

Every week over the year I’ll put out a short vlog (weekly video message) relating to what we’ll have been reading, which you can sign up for HERE.

To order your copy of Choose Life and join the journey, click HERE.

If you already own a copy, then please also join in. You too can sign up for the weekly video message reminders. 

Here’s to a year of breakthroughs on many levels, God bless you loads!

Simon

“I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown’, and he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way’.”

Louise Haskins
GeneralInspirationSimon Blog

Get Out There This Christmas

How are you doing? How are you feeling? I’m usually an 8.5/10 but would give myself 5.5/10 in lockdown. I feel like a caged, frustrated animal. Yet I’m aware that although we’re all in the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat – my boat’s one of the nicest, which makes me feel all the worse for being grumpy and lacking in positivity!

However, I’m determined to combat that darkness, and I want to challenge all of us to consider joining in something like the following:

It’s very simple. I’ve just bought this portable Bluetooth speaker. Now multiple times in the build-up to Christmas, a group of us will go out in the city centre and the streets around Bath to sing a carol and then share a short message of hope – which is the central theme of Christmas, innit?!

It’s not rocket science. If you’re a church leader, my mate Pat Allerton aka ‘The Portable Priest’ gives you a similar challenge.

There are huge opportunities here, let’s not miss them! I’ve checked and consulted the latest government guidelines (for readers in the UK), and this is kosher.

So many people are fearful, hopeless and depressed right now. Let’s get out there (appropriately space, of course!) and sing/speak out peace, hope and joy.

Could you do that? Ask your pastor for his/her blessing, he/she puts the word out, gather a group of fellow-frustrateds, and just go for it!

Another idea: sign up as a Deliveroo rider! That’s what I’ve done. I’ll get paid to take exercise, and I’ll get to share Hope with everyone I deliver a pizza or kebab to!

You can stop reading now, but please, seriously, what’s stopping you? Let me know how you get on.

Just don’t do a Larry Walters. The blog’s finished, but scroll down if you want to know what I mean by that…

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Larry

Few will have heard of Larry Walters. He was a 33-year-old truck driver living in San Pedro, not far from Los Angeles. On weekends he used to just sit around and watch TV. But this particular Saturday, he was bored with his usual routine, so he decided he wanted to do something. He went shopping and bought forty-two weather balloons and a deck chair. Returning home, he anchored the chair to the ground with some ropes, and then tied the weather balloons to it. When all was ready, he ensconced himself in the chair, with his air gun nestled in his lap. He then cut the ropes, and rose steadily into the sky.

Within minutes he’d attained an altitude of sixteen thousand feet. The air traffic control tower at L.A. airport reported receiving a number of garbled and incredulous messages from different pilots along the lines of, “You’re not going to believe this, but there’s man floating up here in a deck chair!” Soon Larry’s thirst for action seemed quenched, and he decided it was time to return to planet earth. He shot a number of balloons with his air gun and gradually floated downwards. Forty five minutes later he landed at Long Beach, about seven miles from where he’d taken off.

His excursion made front page news, resulting in a Timex ad and an interview on the Tonight Show. Quizzed as to his motivation for doing it, Larry Walters replied, “It was something I had to do – I couldn’t just sit there!”

Hmm… I’m so desperate not to ‘just sit there’ this Christmas and beyond.