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This is the second talk in the ‘Hot Pursuit’ series, delivered at Lee Abbey in August.

Pursuing His Presence
Pursuing His Peace

Pursuing His Purpose
Pursuing His Power

You can listen here:

Pursuing His Peace – Lee Abbey 2023

Some notes/quotes/illustrations from the talk:

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

What is Shalom? Completeness, soundness, welfare, peace. At ease, favour, health, peaceful, prosperity, safety, secure, security, rest, trust in relationships, wellness, well-being. 

  1. Acknowledge your fear
  2. Become aware of his presence 
  3. Claim his promises

“The beginning of fear is the end of faith; the beginning of true faith is the end fear. Fear or anxiety never strengthens you for tomorrow – it only weakens you for today.”

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Henri Nouwen: “Look at the many ‘if’ questions we raise: What am I going to do if I do not find a spouse, a house, a job, a friend, a benefactor? What am I going to do if they fire me, if I get sick, if an accident happens, if I lose my friends, if my marriage does not work out, if a war breaks out? What if tomorrow the weather is bad, the buses are on strike, or an earthquake happens? What if someone steals my money, breaks into my house, rapes my daughter, or kills me?” But if we let such questions guide our lives, we end up taking out a second mortgage in the house of fear.

Fear of other people’s opinions: “We would worry less about what people think about us is we realized how seldom they do.” Whose opinions matter? The Audience of One. Brennan Manning: “Freedom in Christ produces a healthy independence from peer pressure, people-pleasing, and the bondage of human respect. The tyranny of public opinion can manipulate our lives. What will the neighbours think? What will my friends think? What will people think? The expectations of others can exert a subtle but controlling pressure on our behaviour.” “When I was eight, the impostor, or false self, was born as a defense against pain. The impostor within whispered, ‘Brennan, don’t ever be your real self anymore because nobody likes you as you are. Invent a new self that everybody will admire and nobody will know.’” 

“The cost of non-discipleship is far greater…than the price to walk with Jesus. Non-discipleship costs abiding peace… love.. faith.. hope… power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil… it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said He came to bring.” (Dallas Willard)

Thomas Green suggests this prayer: “Lord let me be just as disturbed about this situation (or this person’s behaviour) as you are – no more and no less. If you are angry let me be angry too, but if you are not disturbed let me share your peace.” He continues: “It is amazing and quite humbling how often my disturbance simply dissolves once I say that prayer and really mean it.”

Oswald Chambers: “When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. When He says ‘Let not your hearts be troubled,’ if you see Him I defy you to trouble your mind, it is a moral impossibility to doubt when He is there. Every time you get into personal contact with Jesus, His words are real. “My peace I give you,” it is a peace all over from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet, an irrepressible confidence. ‘Your life is hid with Christ in God,’ and the imperturbable peace of Jesus Christ is imparted to you.” 

“You made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace until they find their rest in you.” Augustine

Two painters each painted a picture to illustrate his conception of rest. The first chose for his scene a still, lone lake among the far-off mountains. The second threw on his canvas a thundering waterfall, with a fragile birch tree bending over the foam; and at the fork of the branch, almost wet with the cataract’s spray, sat a robin on its nest. The first was only stagnation; the last was rest.

Erwin McManus: “Peace does not come when you finally have control of your life; it comes when you no longer need control of your life.”

Going through a hard time or a crisis? In the Chinese picture-letter alphabet, the symbol for crisis is a combination of two characters – one meaning ‘danger’ and the other ‘opportunity’. We can look at it either way.

Fearful of the future: “Future plans are uncertain, but we all know that there is first God’s plan to be lived, and we can safely leave everything to Him, ‘carefully careless’ of it all.”

There was a Christian man called H.G.Spafford in Chicago. Successful lawyer, married man with four precious daughters, become very wealthy.  One summer, Mrs Spafford and daughters were to go to Europe and do a grand tour of the cities, art galleries etc.  Alas, in mid-Atlantic ship collided with another one and sank quickly.  Mrs Spafford was picked up, reached Fr, sent a cable home: ‘All lost! I alone remain. What shall I do?’  But that was not all – there had been a sudden bank crash in Chicago, and Mr Spafford had lost all his wealth.  Gone from being a very wealthy man to a very poor one instantaneously.  So, what did he do? Did he say, ‘I must not give up. I must call on my reserves of courage and be a man’? No, that is stoicism, and this man was a Christian, not a stoic. He sat down and wrote these words:

‘When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul!

That is what the gospel does.

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You might struggle to believe some of the following stories from last month’s outreach. I hope not though. ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrew 13:8).

So here are some feedback highlights, having asked folks to pray last month as we sent out 1,439 young evangelists from 88 churches for two weeks all around Burundi. 

The top-line summary is that they saw over 23,000 people come to faith! It’s the modern-day Acts of the Apostles! Here goes:

An Urge for Healing

In the small village of Bwambarangwe in Kirundo province, 41-year-old Diomede had lain paralysed from the waist down and in increasing despair for the last three years. Our team visited him and shared the gospel, which he accepted as he was desperately in need of hope!

Interestingly, they didn’t pray for his healing initially. But as they parted ways and stepped out of the compound, he felt the urge to call them back to pray for him to be completely healed. Once they’d said ‘Amen!’, he took his crutches and stood up. He then let them go and carried on walking! He burst into tears and shouted for joy. 

Hearing his cries, people rushed to see what was happening. Just like in Mark 2:12, they were ‘all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Thirteen people responded to the miracle by surrendering their lives to Christ.

There were multiple showings of the Jesus Film shown around the country with lots of people responding positively.

In Her Right Mind at Last

In a town called Kivoga, Nadine was a contemporary ‘Gadarene demoniac’, just like in Mark chapter 5.

As her condition detoriorated, her father sought treatment at a mental hospital, as well as spending all he could on traditional medicine and witchdoctors. Eventually, the family gave up, and she wandered around Kivoga deranged and half-dressed, feared and mocked by the whole community. She lived on the rubbish dump and roamed the streets at night.

When our team of evangelists showed up, they overcame their initial fear and started praying for her. Demons manifested, but the team called on reinforcements, took her to the local church, and over the next three hours of intensive prayer, battled through for her total deliverance.

Suddenly, after the last demon was cast out, Nadine’s screams ceased. She looked at herself and began weeping. She had no recollection of what had happened but asked for some clothes. 

When her father arrived and saw her ‘in her right mind’ (like Mark 5:15), he was so overwhelmed he fell to the ground. Our guys shared with him how Jesus had set her free, and her Dad and seven other people present gave their lives to the Lord!

From Cursing to Repenting

Baltazar was a notorious witch doctor from Bugenyuzi. He was feared by all around him, and loved the reputation he had. Nobody challenged him as they didn’t want him to cast a spell on them (I know, many of you struggle to believe this stuff. Suffice to say, out there you don’t need to convince them the power is real). 

Witchcraft charms to be burned
Witchcraft charms to be burned

One day, a neighbour approached and asked him to stop his witchcraft. A few days later, that previously healthy man was found dead at home.

So that was the context when our team showed up. They heard the stories and decided to camp out on Baltazar’s hill and pray every night. When he heard what they were doing, he went out to confront them. 

But as he approached them, he was overwhelmed by a greater power and fell to his knees. He asked for prayers and surrendered to Christ. He invited the team back to his home, where his wife likewise repented when she heard what had happened to him. A crowd came to watch as the team burned all his charms, and he and his wife repented of all they had done to their neighbours and in the community.

Everyone was amazed at this total transformation.

Wow! Wow! Wow!

There are more stories, but I’ll stop there. It’s a different context to ours maybe, but the same gospel message – the same Holy Spirit in us, the same power in the name of Jesus, the same Heavenly Father who longs to forgive his children and lavish them with his amazing grace.

Be encouraged. Be stirred. Be bold.

Thanks for your encouragement, support, and prayers – they make all the difference! Please keep them coming!

BlogSermons

This series of sermons was delivered at Lee Abbey in August under the title ‘Hot Pursuit’. I’ll release them over the next few weeks in turn.

Pursuing His Presence
Pursuing His Peace
Pursuing His Purpose
Pursuing His Power

What are you pursuing?

In greyhound racing, the dogs are trained to chase after a mechanical rabbit, which is controlled by a man in the press box. He keeps the rabbit just in front of the dogs so that they keep chasing it as fast as they can. During one race at a Florida track, as the dogs hurtled after the rabbit, there was an electrical short circuit in the system. The rabbit came to a halt, exploded, and its few remains lay there in flames attached to the wire. This totally confused the dogs. Two of them broke several ribs as they careered into a wall. One began chasing his tail. Others howled at the spectators in the stand; and the rest just stopped running, lay down on the track and rested.

Not one of them finished the race.

So many people are chasing an illusion – a mechanical rabbit of some sort – which they think is real. It seems to provide a sense of purpose, a goal to strive for, a reason to live. Sometimes it takes the wake-up call of our mechanical rabbit going up in smoke to recognize we were chasing after the wrong thing all that time. Many of our friends continue in their frenzied pursuit of their own illusion of choice. May we model to them another way.

So that’s what this series is about, and we start with pursuing His presence. Take a listen:

Pursuing His Presence – Lee Abbey 2023
  1. His presence is constant, whether we realise it or not
  2. His presence is critical, whether we realise it or not
  3. His presence is comforting, whether we realise it or not
  4. His presence is certain, whether we realise it or not

A few highlight stories/quotes from the talk:

In the mid 1990s, I paid my first ever visit to the famous London church, Holy Trinity Brompton, for their winter carol service, which was held in the dark with atmospheric candles lending great intimacy and ambience. The Holy Spirit was doing extraordinary things apparently, and even the secular press was reporting on it. Not one prone to manifestations of the Spirit, I went there nevertheless open to the Lord doing whatever he might choose to do in me. I hadn’t been there long when I felt a warm glow on the back of my head. I kept my eyes shut and continued worshipping. But the warmth of the glow was undeniable – in fact it increased, and I thought I could feel a gentle pitter-patter all over my back. “God, what’s happening?” It got hotter and hotter. “God! If this is you, have your way in my life. Oh, I love you. I surrender all. Make me holy, and more useful, I’ll do anything, go anywhere for you!” After about a minute of such praying, the heat became unbearable – it was positively burning me. I opened my eyes and looked up, and there three feet above me was a chandelier gushing forth wax from a
weeping candle!!!

C.S. Lewis talked of how sometimes people experience extraordinary times of intimacy and closeness to God. “But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.”

Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch theologian of a century ago: “There is not one square inch in all of God’s creation that Jesus does not cry out, ‘Mine!’” Indeed, God is omnipresent. “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” C.S.Lewis

Psalm 139:7-10 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Dallas Willard was once asked by a young man: “How should I use my 15minute quiet time?” After his characteristic long pause, he responded, “I believe God is rather unconcerned with your 15-minute quiet time. He is far more concerned with how you choose to spend the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of your day.” He went on to offer this wildly winsome invitation, “You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy, and confidence in your every day life with God.”

John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides (modern day Vanuatu) with his wife. Well, months before, they found themselves surrounded by cannibals who wanted to kill and eat them. They bolted their doors and dropped to their knees and prayed through the night for God’s protection, whilst listening to the screams outside and expecting to be killed at any moment. But morning came, sun rose, and the cannibals left. A year later the tribe’s chief was saved. They discussed that horrible night, and the chief asked: “Who were all those men with you?” “There was just my family, nobody else.” Chief argues back: “There were hundreds of tall men in shining garments with drawn swords circling about your house, so we could not attack you.”

American guy called Sean Litten was heading up IJM’s work in Thailand. He found out about a girl called Elizabeth who was only 13 and had been forced into prostitution. Caseworkers carried out dangerous undercover investigations and once they had gathered enough evidence presented it to the police and persuaded them to carry out a raid to free her from the brothel. Sean took part in the raid and found Elizabeth locked in a dormitory that looked more like a dark cave. When Elizabeth realised Sean was coming to rescue her and not drag her out to be abused by another client, she said to him,“I knew you’d come. I knew you’d come.” Well that was a surprise. How had she known? What also surprised Sean was to see strange writing on the back wall behind her. It didn’t look like the local language and the form it took made him think it could have been from the bible. He flashed a torch on it. It was from Psalm 27. It read “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” Sean was flabbergasted. This little 13 year old girl was a Christian and even in the midst of the truly appalling circumstances she had found herself in, she was nonetheless putting her trust in her Lord and Saviour. It turned out that Elizabeth from a Christian family. Elizabeth and her family had been praying and praying for nearly a year that God would free her.

God has come, He is here, His presence is always with us. The promise of Scripture is that God is always present with us. Nothing changes that fact; it is only our awareness that changes. God’s promise to Jacob was, “Look, I am with you …” (Gen. 28:15). Jacob’s reply? “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (v. 16, emphasis added). John Piper surely was right when he said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” Believer, don’t allow the darkness of the night or the presence of the storm cause you to doubt whether God is present and working in your life. Indeed, the storms of life do not deny His presence but provide opportunity to prove His presence.

A little girl had just finished witnessing to a small group of friends. Joyfully she told of God’s saving grace and how His love had touched her heart. With assurance, she appropriately concluded her testimony by quoting these comforting words of Jesus recorded in John’s gospel: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28,29). Just then a joshing, doubting friend piped up with the question, “But Maggie, suppose you slip through His fingers?” Quick as a flash, she replied, “Never, never! You see, I’m one of the fingers!” Maggie may not have been well versed in the language of theology, but a biblical principal had been lodged in her heart; namely, that “we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Eph. 5:30). She knew that she had been joined inseparably to Jesus and that she belonged to Him.

This man 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. Forty-five 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.”

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This sermon was from my recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina, delivered at the Cathedral Church downtown.

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”(John 11:25-26)
I tell the story of my friend Providence, who died in 2012, but is still alive today! Try to get your head around that one – you can read her amazing story here.

Here are a couple of quotes from the talk:

Shortly before Moody graduated to glory, he said: “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L.Moody is dead. Don’t you believe it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all! I was born of the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die, but that which is born of the Spirit will live forever!”

John Patton (1824–1907) was a Scot from Dumfriesshire. He had travelled to the New Hebrides (a group of Islands in the south-west Pacific) determined to tell the tribal people about faith in Jesus. The islanders were cannibals. Nobody trusted anybody else. His life was in constant danger. 

He wanted to translate John’s Gospel into their language, but he discovered that there was no word in their language for ‘faith’, ‘belief’ or ‘trust’ because such concepts were alien to a culture which lauded deceit, dishonesty and trickery. 

Eventually, he found the word he was looking for: one day, when his assistant came in, Patton raised both feet off the floor, sat back in his chair and asked:

“What am I doing now?”

In reply, the servant used a word that means ‘to lean your whole weight upon’. 

This became the expression that Patton used. Faith is leaning our whole weight upon Jesus and what he has done for us on the cross. 

Are you leaning your full weight on the Lord, or hedging your bets?!

BlogGLO

Sometimes it’s just plain wrong…
and we have to do something about it.

It is wrong that a pastor serves God faithfully his whole life and then ends up with no pension, in total poverty, abandoned by his children, dying penniless and uncared for, sometimes regretting he’s given his life to the Lord’s service in the first place.

And yet such a scenario is relatively common in a country where very few people get a pension. Daniel was a pastor for 36 years before retiring. He reminisces:

“I taught the Word of God in schools, planted many churches and mentored many people… but now I’m 81. I’ve got diabetes and other health issues. I can’t do any physical labour in the fields. I live a lonely life in total poverty.”

That is wrong.

John is 76. He served Jesus for 46 years, planting multiple churches and leading many to the Lord. When the war kicked off in 1993, he lost his wife and six children but kept going. He says:

“Now I’m too old to work and I’m desperate. An old injury means I can’t walk far. My shack leaks when it rains. I go days without food. My surviving children live far away and don’t help.”

Again, it is just plain wrong that he laid down his life and now lives in misery.

I can’t imagine that happening to my pastor.

So with your help, we are going to right that wrong!

Last year, GLO partner UCE bought some land upcountry to build a retirement village for precious brothers like Daniel and John. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enable dozens of these faithful servants to live out their latter years in peace – well-fed, nurtured and valued?

That sounds right to me!

One of the proposed buildings at ‘Christian Hope Centre’ retirement village.

Whilst another organisation is committing funding to the building work, we want to help the whole project be self-sustaining by buying a lot more of the available surrounding land to develop for farming to feed the community.* Sowing into this means that whatever you give will keep on generating blessing for posterity!

There’s also a dream for it to one day become a place of refuge and discipleship for new Muslim-background believers suffering persecution. I love this! Do you want to be involved?

  • 100m² costs £25 / $30
  • 1000m² costs £250 / $300
  • 10,000m² (1 hectare) costs £2,500 / $3,000

Whatever you can give, it will have a beautiful long-term impact, providing crops year after year after year – the gift that keeps on giving!

We want to be part of the fulfilment of King David’s promise in Psalm 37:25: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”

Click here if you want to help. Thank you!

Quite right!

BlogInspirationSimon Blog

This morning was holy ground.

I’m back out in Burundi with a team of supporters for a week of introducing them to our various wonderful partners. As I knew would happen, the team members are blown away at the calibre, integrity and commitment of these Kingdom warriors. As Justin noted, the repeated story is that almost all of them had the chance to take the easier option and leave for whichever affluent peaceful country, but they chose to stay and make a costly difference here, in beautiful but broken Burundi.

Ephraim shared how he’d fled to the Congo during the war, but after a few years felt convicted to return to bless his nation. As he was on his way back, he was taken by militia who beat him to (half) death, tried to dump him down a latrine (he didn’t fit through the hole), and then hanged him from a tree. He said to them that they couldn’t kill him because God had told him he would go back to Burundi to preach healing and forgiveness in Jesus. They carried on beating him up. He was bleeding from his nose and ears and left in a crumpled heap. His last words to them were (as with Stephen in Acts when he was stoned): “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing!”

I love my brother. He’s doing truly beautiful work with sexually-trafficked ladies, prostitutes, widows – basically the most vulnerable of society. If you’ve got scornful sceptical anti-Christian friends, they should come and meet Ephraim and friends. This is undeniably wonderful.

Ephraim and I

As he carried on sharing, he broke down in tears. It’s very rare to see a Burundian man cry. As the proverb goes: “Amosozi y’umugabo atemba aja mu nda” (‘A Burundian man’s tears fall inside in his stomach’). His passion and compassion for his countrymen, coupled no doubt with the pressures of daily living and looking out for others, led to the dam of emotion breaking within him, and there was a holy release. The team sensitively reached out, laid hands on him and prayed, as our tears merged with his.

There is so much weariness, despair and crushing poverty in this the poorest nation in the world. But there are also many Ephraims and Lyduines (his wife) exhibiting truly remarkable and vibrant resilience coupled with incredible vision, fruitfulness and lasting transformation. As I’ve often said, some of God’s best troops are in Burundi. It’s a privilege to serve them.

Holy ground indeed…

BlogGLO

Gloria Smiling with her sewing machine

Look at Gloria’s glorious smile! Her life has been totally transformed.

She was trafficked to the Middle East and spent ten years in prostitution. Hers was a truly hopeless and miserable life. But when she managed to escape back to Burundi, our Ephraim tracked her down and found her living in total poverty. 

He rescued her, trained her to be a tailor, got her a sewing machine, and now she’s able to make a living and provide for her daughter. Listen to her in this short film…

Just beautiful!

What I love is that with just £25/$30, we can help a vulnerable lady like Gloria start a business. And that’s what we want to do this Christmas. Could you help one such precious life, or two, or ten? Do click through to make a donation here

We have many such beautiful stories of transformation on the back of very small (to us) monetary interventions. Alida was desperate to avoid the last resort of selling her body, but the temptation was there. She tried to make ends meet by cutting hair. We then gave her a £7 loan to buy ladies’ hair products. That was a game-changer, because now she had more customers and made greater margins, so she was able to provide for herself. From her profits she’s now even bought herself a pig! And what I love is that the whole community now honours her for having resisted taking the prostitution route.

Alida Cutting Hair

It blows my mind that a £7 loan changed Alida’s destiny…

What’s Alida’s next step? Setting up her own salon!

It’s a bit early, but I wish you all a very happy Christmas, and here’s to making it all the happier for some of the last, the lost and the least on the planet!

BlogSermons

This talk was given at my local church, St Andrew’s Community Church, as part of their sermon series on 1 Samuel. Below are a few quotes and notes from it for your perusal:

Samuel Chadwick: ‘It is a wonder what God can do with a broken heart, if He gets all the pieces.’

“Until we give God our heart, we give him nothing at all.” J.C.Ryle

Dmitri was a Russian factory worker imprisoned after the house church he pastored grew to 150 people. He was sent 1,000 miles away to a hardened criminal facility full of 1,500 prisoners. As far as he knew he was the only believer.

Every morning he would get up, face the east, raise his hands, and sing songs of praise to God. As he sang the other prisoners would bang their cups along their cell bars, curse him, and throw their food and human waste at him. All he had to do to be released was sign a piece of paper recanting his faith in Jesus.

For 17 years he refused to sign, but after they convinced him they had killed his wife and had custody of his sons he agreed so sign the paper the next morning. That night his family sensed something was wrong and started praying for Dmitri. Dmitri said the Holy Spirit opened his ears so he could hear his family praying. He knew his wife was still alive, and they were all together! He refused to sign the document.

Several weeks later the guards decided to execute him. As they were dragging him out of his cell to his execution, the prisoners stood up, faced the east, raised their hands, and sang “O God Give Me Strength!” The fear of God came upon those guards, and they were terrified. They asked Dmitri, “who are you?” He looked them right in the eyes and said “I am a son of the living God and His name is Jesus Christ.”

He was released shortly after. Eventually, his son became the chaplain of that prison.

You see, we march to the beat of a different drum. This is not our home. As Peter wrote, we are ‘aliens and strangers’. Worldly kings or regimes have different allegiances. It will be costly.

“You can endure a lot of suffering when your heart is set on a purpose, but if your heart is set on comfort – or if you have a wayward heart – you cannot endure any suffering at all.” David Wilkerson

This was my parting quote and challenge, which got cut off by the recording, unfortunately:

“To belong to God is to belong to His heart. If we respond to the call of Jesus to leave everything and follow Him, then there is a voice within us crying out. ‘Fight for the heart of your King!’ Yet Christianity over the past two thousand years has moved from a tribe of renegades to a religion of conformists. Those who choose to follow Jesus become participants in an insurrection. To claim we believe is simply not enough. The call of Jesus is one that demands action” (Erwin Raphael McManus, The Barbarian Way).

BlogSermons

seed sprouting in the desert sand

Lessons from James

This is the final of five talks given at Lee Abbey in the summer, do take a listen or download it below. The previous four in the series were:

  1. Persevering Through Trials
  2. Walking the Talk
  3. Taming the Tongue
  4. Humility in Submission

Below are some profoundly challenging stories and quotes to stir your faith and mull over: 

There’s a certain type of bamboo in Asia which grows to prodigious heights and at prodigious speeds – sometimes as much as 60 feet in six weeks. However, before that growth spurt, the seed lies in the dark beneath the ground for up to five years. Those farmers who make a profitable living from the bamboo would have given up long ago and changed crops if they didn’t know that plenty was going on beneath the surface despite the fact that there was no visible sign to encourage their perseverance. Every bit of watering and waiting is worthwhile. No prayer is wasted.

Might you be growing weary or discouraged in some earnest prayer request you’ve been lifting up to the Lord for quite some time, perhaps even a very long time? If so, here’s some timely encouragement from the remarkable example of George Muller, a man mighty in faith and prayer:

Muller is best known for the large faith-based orphan ministry he carried out in Bristol, England, in the nineteenth century. He was also a diligent, disciplined man of prayer. He kept an ongoing prayer notebook in which he recorded his requests on one page and the answer to each of those petitions on the facing page. By this means, he persevered in praying till he received answers to thousands of specific requests.

Once while ministering in Dusseldorf, Germany, Muller was approached by a missionary to that city who was distressed because his six sons remained unconverted, though he had been praying for them many years. To the father’s query about what he should do Muller responded, “Continue to pray for your sons, and expect an answer to your prayer, and you will have to praise God.”

Six years later, in August of 1882, Muller again returned to minister in Dusseldorf.  This time he was delighted to be greeted by the same missionary who testified that he had resolved to follow Muller’s advice and had given himself more earnestly to prayer for the spiritual well-being of his sons.  The happy results were that two months after Muller had left in 1876, five of the man’s sons had come to faith in Christ, and the sixth was now also thinking seriously about making that commitment.

Muller himself interceded for more than half a century for the salvation of a small group of men. He once wrote: “In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be.  Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted.  I thanked God and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted.  I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them, and six years passed before the third was converted.  I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two.

“These two remain unconverted.  The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer in the self-same hour or day in which they were offered has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these individuals, and yet they remain unconverted.  But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be.

Those two men, sons of a friend of Muller’s youth, were still unconverted when he died in 1897, after having prayed daily for their salvation for fifty-two years.  His prayers were answered, however, when both those men came to faith in Christ a few years after the great intercessor’s death.

After forty years of faithful service to the Lord as a missionary to Africa, Henry Morrison and his wife were returning to New York.  As the ship neared the dock, Henry said to his wife, “Look at that crowd.  They haven’t forgotten about us”. However, unknown to Henry, the ship also carried President Teddy Roosevelt, returning from a big game hunting trip in Africa. Roosevelt stepped from the boat, with great fanfare, as people were cheering, flags were waving, bands were playing, and reporters waiting for his comment, Henry and his wife slowly walked away unnoticed. They hailed a cab, which took them to the one-bedroom apartment which had been provided by the mission board. 

Over the next few weeks, Henry tried, but failed to put the incident behind him.  He was sinking deeper into depression when one evening, he said to his wife, “This is all wrong. This man comes back from a hunting trip, and everybody throws a big party.  We give our lives in faithful service to God for all these many years, but no one seems to care.”

His wife cautioned him that he should not feel this way. Henry replied “I know you’re right, but I just can’t help it. It just isn’t right.”

His wife then said, “Henry, you know God doesn’t mind if we honestly question Him.  You need to tell this to the Lord and get this settled now.  You’ll be useless in His ministry until you do.”

Henry Morrison then went to his bedroom, got down on his knees and, shades of Habakkuk, began pouring out his heart to the Lord.  “Lord, you know our situation and what’s troubling me.  We gladly served you faithfully for years without complaining.  But now God, I just can’t get this incident out of my mind…”

After about ten minutes of fervent prayer, Henry returned to the living room with a peaceful look on his face.  His wife said “It looks like you’ve resolved the matter.  What happened?”

Henry replied, “The Lord settled it for me.  I told Him how bitter I was that the President received this tremendous homecoming, but no one even met us as we returned home.  When I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said, ‘But Henry, you are not home yet!’”

In 1908, a young Liberian called Jasper Toe cried out, “If there is a God in heaven, help me find you.” He heard an unknown voice reply, “Go to Garraway Beach. You will see a box on the water with smoke coming out of it. And from that box on the water will come some people in a smaller box. These people in the small box will tell you how to find me.” He duly walked seven days to the seaside. Meanwhile, John Perkins and his wife were rounding the coast of Liberia on a steamboat. They knew they had been called by God, but they didn’t yet know where God wanted them exactly! Suddenly, they felt the Holy Spirit say to them, “This is where I want you. You need to disembark right now!” The ship’s captain initially refused as it was cannibal country, but such was their insistence he eventually relented, and they rowed ashore in a canoe with all their meagre worldly belongings. Jasper Toe was waiting for them. He took them home, taught them the language, became their first convert, and in time planted hundreds of churches throughout Liberia! 

Oh that we all received such extraordinary, obviously supernatural guidance! Yet maybe, just maybe, we do. Both Perkins and Toe could easily have ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Perkins could have played it safe and stayed on the ship. Toe could have ignored the crazy instructions he received. But through their obedience, God in his mercy engineered a beautiful breakthrough for the glory of his name. 

God is speaking all the time. Are we still enough, quiet enough, attentive enough to listen? Could that person who springs to mind that we quickly dismiss be God’s prompt for us to get in touch with them? Could that creative idea for a new initiative that we quash be an exciting opportunity for him to use us? Listen up! 

This man failed in his first attempt at business. He then tried politics and within only one year failed there also. He went back to business for yet another try, and failed again. Three failures in three years. He asked his fiancée to marry him after four years of courtship, but she said no. Later, another sweetheart died. He struggled for the next two years and suffered a nervous breakdown. After taking two years to recover, he tried once again in the political works and was defeated in his bid to be elected as Speaker of the House. Two years later he sought to be appointed as the Elector and again defeated. Three years after this, he ran for a seat in Congress and was defeated. He waited another five years to run for office again, and was defeated. It was during this time that his four-year-old son died. He spent the next seven years in relative obscurity and then ran again for a political office, this time in the Senate. Again he was defeated. The following year, he was nominated by his party to be the candidate for Vice-President, but was defeated along with his running mate in the general election. After two more years he tried again for the Senate seat, but was defeated. Then, another two years later, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America – 24 years of sheer patience and endurance!

“God can never make me wine if I object to the fingers He uses to crush me. If God would only crush me with His fingers, and say ‘Now my son, I am going to make you broken bread and poured out wine in a particular way and everyone will know what I am doing.’ But when He uses someone who is not a Christian, or someone I particularly dislike, or some set of circumstances I said I would never submit to, and begins to make these crushers, I object.

I must never choose the scene of my martyrdom, nor must I choose the things God will use in order to make me broken bread and poured out wine. His own Son did not choose. God chose for His Son that He should have a devil in His company for three years. We say: ‘I want angels; I want people better than myself; I want everything to be significantly from God, otherwise I cannot live the life, or do the thing properly; I always want to be gilt-edged.’ Let God do as he likes. If you are ever going to be wine to drink, you must be crushed; grapes cannot be drunk; grapes are only wine when they are crushed. I wonder what kind of coarse finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine that came out would have been remarkably bitter. Let God go on with His crushing, because it will work out His purpose in the end.” (Oswald Chambers)

“Patience is love for the long haul; it is bearing up under difficult circumstances, without giving up or giving in to bitterness. Patience means working when gratification is delayed. It means taking what life offers—even if it means suffering—without lashing out. And when you’re in a situation that you’re troubled over or when there’s a delay or pressure on you or something’s not happening that you want to happen, there’s always a temptation to come to the end of your patience. You may well have lost your patience before you’re even aware of it.” (Tim Keller)

“Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.” Henri Nouwen, worth re-reading a few times, if you have the patience…

BlogInspiration

I love these stories! We get bombarded with so much bad news in general, that all the more I see it as part of our job at GLO to tell inspiring tales of overcoming. Meet Divine:

She was an orphan living in Nyanza lac in the South of Burundi. She was married young to a boy who mistreated her, indeed whose family rejected her and maligned her such that she preferred to flee to the streets. She was left with no apparent options other than to sell her body to survive. 

That was five years ago.

Just a few months back, she came across the work of our partner Together for Development (TfD). She got trained up in sewing. She discovered that she had value, that God loved her, and wanted a healthy pure relationship with her.

What a transformation!

Divine leading a group of ladies in Bible study

She is such a dynamo that she now organises a self-help group of 30 ladies. She’s led 15 of them to Jesus, and 12 of them out of prostitution. Each Wednesday she meets with them to share God’s Word and encourage them through life’s trials. 

Ephraim, leader of TfD, visited her two weeks ago, and she said to him: “I don’t have any family – no brother, no sister – you became my family, don’t abandon me.” He won’t, and in the meantime gave her a chicken! Here he is filming her and translating some of her testimony.

Love it! Go Divine! Thank you Lord!