BooksGeneralInspiration

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!”

BooksInspiration

‘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
BooksGeneral

Big Church Read

Greetings!

So lockdown started on a national level on Thursday. There’s no pretending these are easy times to go through…

…but I’ve got a proposition for you, which I’d love as many of you as possible to get behind. All the more in our enforced confinement and isolation, this could be a spiritually bonding and strengthening discipline.


We’re teaming up with St Andrew’s bookshop to get as many people as possible throughout the nation on the same page (literally) as we journey through the coming year.

Many of you have already read Choose Life – in which case, could you get your friends, family, youth group or church to join in?

If you’re not familiar with Choose Life, it was voted ‘Devotional of the Year’. It is a collection of 365 daily readings, inviting you to a year of good choices. If you embrace the challenge fully, it may be the most memorable year of your life!

Could you buy a stack load for Christmas presents? One mate has just bought 50 of them for his gang!

This Big Church 365 Read is a great way to connect youth groups, home groups, student CUs etc together during lockdown and being physically apart. Each week, I’ll post a short weekly video message to encourage those taking part.

How do I get involved?

There are two ways to join. You can buy the book for £12 and have access to the weekly videos OR join The Big Church 365 Read Club for only £24 (equivalent of £2 a month) and you will:

  • Be supporting the work of GLO to the tune of £12
  • Be sent a copy of ‘Choose Life’
  • Receive a free copy of my book, ‘Sacrifice’ 
  • Receive 10% discount on all purchases from www.standrewsbookshop.co.uk and other offers
  • Have the opportunity to join a Choose Life trip to visit Burundi – either as an individual or as a group (dates and costs to be confirmed).


If you’re interested in getting 5/10/20/etc copies, then email Steve of St Andrew’s Bookshop for some deals on bigger volume of books.

Thanks for all your support!

Simon

No time for God? Make time! Why not get out of bed or off the couch and onto your knees? It may lead to revival. Choose Life gives you 365 daily doses of challenge and encouragement. Blessed are the radicals!
– Brother Andrew, Open Doors

Daily inspiration to help us live life to the full. I wholeheartedly recommend this fantastic resource that will help shape your day to be filled with Jesus.
– Mark Melluish, Director of Tearfund and New Wine

BooksInspirationSermonsVideos

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?

BooksGLO

buying Bibles

At last!

Rosemary Guillebaud will be dancing in heaven!

I blogged on this back in April, and it’s taken until this week because of various frustrating delays, but now I’m so happy to be able to say that the new updated version of the Kirundi Bible has been launched in Burundi!!!

I’ll paste the previous blog below for context. Many thanks for all those who sowed money into this, so that we were able to help the Burundian Bible Society to get the project over the finishing line. Now may the new version be quickly accepted (there are always some who are resistant to change) and get out there into the hands of thousands of hungry believers. Do pray for that.

And if you wanted to buy any Christmas Bibles, feel free to do so here (mention ‘Bibles’)

Here are some of the pictures…

“Please, please we need Bibles! And not just any Bible, but a new version. The old one I can hardly understand!”

I could have been offended, but I’m not. You see, my great-aunt, Rosemary Guillebaud, was the person who brought God’s Word to Burundians in their own language, after twenty years of hard graft working on it.

But that was a long time ago – 1967 to be precise – and language evolves steadily. You’d understand the King James Version in English better than Burundians understand Rosemary’s 1967 Kirundi translation.

For example, ‘imbata ya Yesu’ meant ‘slave/servant of Christ’ back then, now it means ‘duck of Christ’ – that’s just no good…

And Rosemary wouldn’t be offended at all. In fact, she’d be frustrated that a new version hadn’t been released before now. I know this would have her full blessing.

So here’s the good news: after many years of hard work, the revised new Kirundi version is ready! It just needs ordering. But the Bible Society here is broke.

I’m desperate to see these new Bibles get into as many hands as possible, and gain broad acceptance by the Body of Christ in Burundi. So we really need your help if we’re going to raise the money for the Bible Society to get a copy of the new Bible into the hands of every Burundian who wants one.

I’m so excited to be a part of this – together we can make it happen. You can donate here.

A subsidised, beautiful, freshly-printed Kirundi Bible costs £7 or $10, with import duties and transport costs. The first print run will be 5000. So we need £35,000 or $50,000. Then we’ll have played a huge role to bless the Body of Christ in Burundi. Please join me!

Could you buy 10 Bibles for £70 or $100, a hundred for £700 or $1000? More, or less? Every one counts.

I hate hearing false teaching. It grieves me when I hear a zealous evangelist preaching a slightly twisted message because his knowledge is stunted due to not having access to a Bible. In our work in schools, we often find the leaders of the Christian Unions, with maybe a hundred students in their care, without their own Bible. That’s wrong, but together, we can easily help put this right.

Please help us make it right. The impact will be stunning, and lasting, into eternity. Please click here to contribute. All money raised will go into this, getting the word out and getting people grounded and equipped in God’s Word.

In a few months – in faith – I’ll send you pictures of the new imported Bibles in the hands of brothers and sisters in Christ here, and you’ll see the biggest smiles ever. That’s a promise!

Thanks for partnering with us to make this happen!

Books

Window on the World

Of all the things we’ve read together as a family, none has been more interesting or effective at engaging with our kids as this book. It includes geography, history, stories, and faith. So I’d give it a massive recommendation. We did it over breakfast daily for several months, and they looked forward to it each time. Parents/grandparents, I can’t think of a better present for your kids/grandkids.

For UK folk, click here to order.

For US folk, click here.

Also, as we prepare for Christmas, and getting resources for Advent, Jotham’s Journey is superb story-telling. There are three of them in the series, they come highly-recommended too.

Happy reading together!

BooksGeneralGLO

Theo did as he was told and laid his head down on the floor, waiting for a machete to end his life…

Here’s a massive recommendation to buy yourself (and for others too) this newly-published book about my friend Theodore Mbazumutima’s truly extraordinary story. He should be dead, but somehow, on multiple occasions, his life was spared.

So please order your copies here for the UK and here for the USA.

Enjoy! (although I’m not sure that’s the right word)

This is a story of soaring hope in the most hideous of circumstances. Yes, there are good news stories to be told from Burundi!

THAT’S THE END OF THE BLOG, FEEL FREE TO STOP THERE. I actually told some of Theo’s story in my book Dangerously Alive, so if you want to read more (it’s quite long), here goes:

At the end of 1993, tens of thousands of Burundians were being murdered on both sides of the tribal divide as genocide kicked in following the assassination of the Hutu President. As a Hutu, Theo had to flee, or otherwise he would have been killed by the Tutsi. He walked several hundred miles through the bush into Tanzania. On the way he had a number of extraordinary escapes.

At one stage he was taken by a blood-crazed gang of Hutus, who insisted that he and his five friends kill some Tutsis to prove they were Hutus. Theo was the leader of the Christian Union at school and the other five looked to him. The choice was basically to kill or be killed. He chose to be killed. He was forced to lie down on the floor, where he prayed a feeble prayer of resignation and waited for the machete to land on his neck. But suddenly a military helicopter flew overhead and everyone dispersed in different directions, so Theo and his friends continued their journey.

Further on, as they crossed a tarmac road, a military tank spotted them and sprayed them with bullets. As they fled, many were mown down, but again Theo survived and continued making his way through the bush. Later he and his group found themselves surrounded by a Tutsi mob. Their end had surely come. There was no escape. But suddenly a Tutsi girl he had once helped with a work assignment at school years before ran up to him and jumped in his arms. “If you want to kill him, you’ll have to kill me first!” she cried. Her brother was influential in the army, so the murderers let him go.

Once in Tanzania, thousands of Hutu refugees were dying of dysentery. Theo lay down to die, questioning why God would have spared him so much only for him to die now, without even having had the opportunity to testify to God’s glory. Suddenly a white man drove up in a truck, lugged him and a few others into the back, and took them to a hospital. One of them died on the way. Theo was given medicine before being dumped back in the bush. That was enough to save him. Some time later, a female Swiss doctor found him and gave him a job, training him up as a nurse.

As the refugee camps became more established, all young men were being forced to join the rebel Hutu movement, but Theo didn’t want to, so he fled to Kenya with some others. He was caught by the Kenyan authorities and was going to be deported when a mystery woman (most likely a prostitute from her manner) for whatever reason came to their aid, going to the immigration officer who was about to sentence them to deportation and imprisonment, and arranging for him to release them. They were whisked off to the officer’s house, given clothes, food, a chance to wash, and false Tanzanian papers enabling them to get into Kenya and apply for asylum.

Theo’s remarkable journey continued as a missionary he hardly knew sent off an email on his behalf and Theo was able to go to Bible college, first in Kenya, and then at Allnations (where we met) in England.

That concise summary doesn’t do justice to Theo’s whole story, but during the time I spent with him, he raised some issues from his experiences which profoundly challenged me:

1. He said that God’s faithfulness does not depend on man’s faithfulness. As he lay there waiting to have his head chopped off, he said his prayer was utterly faithless. But God in His grace had mercy.

2. He had a wholly inadequate grasp of what constitutes salvation. He’d been taught that you come to Jesus to be saved from hellfire and to get a ticket to Heaven. But he wasn’t equipped to live on earth. We don’t just believe in life after death, but life to the full before death, and a fuller understanding of salvation equips us to engage on both levels more effectively.

3. There was the time when he was languishing in the Tanzanian refugee camp. He was angry at everyone – the other tribe for killing his tribesmen, the international community for not helping them fast enough, the manipulation of politicians etc. People were dying all around him and his greatest anger was directed at the Church. “Where is the Church?” he asked himself. Islam spread fast in the refugee camps because Muslims were there providing emergency relief and sharing their things, whilst the Tanzanian churches stayed away. Many converted to Islam purely because they said, “The Muslims are the ones who love us.” However, as his anger boiled over at God, he heard the Lord reply, “YOU are the Church!” And with that understanding, he got his hands dirty, mucked in, and shone as a beacon of light in the darkness.

4. He said, “Don’t ever underestimate small acts of kindness” – the bits of food people gave him, the medicine, the mystery prostitute or white man in the truck, the email sent to a faraway Bible college. Sometimes looking at Africa the problems can seem so overwhelming that we resist getting involved, but his story included lots of crucial little acts of kindness and intervention that kept him alive and led to him now being able to fulfill God’s destiny and make a big impact on his nation.

5. His legitimate and deep-seated prejudice against Tutsi was profoundly rocked by that young lady risking her life to save his. She was prepared to die for him. No longer could he lump all Tutsis together as evil people. There were good and bad amongst both Hutu and Tutsi.

I am humbled by his story on many levels and it makes me want to learn these key life lessons:

1. Thank God that His faithfulness doesn’t depend on mine! I will choose to live a life oozing grace and gratitude for His intervention in my ongoing journey.

2. A full view of salvation includes life both before and after death. Is my own view defective or imbalanced? The stakes are high so I want to give my all to seeing people saved for eternity, but also so that they fully engage in this life too.

3. When I’m tempted to get angry, despairing or frustrated about the Church, when I next criticize or disparage Her, may I stop seeing the problem as being “out there” and instead hear God’s rallying cry: “YOU are the Church!”

4. What small acts of kindness can I do today which, under God’s sovereign hand, could lead to beautiful fruit in the future?

5. For me, my prejudices aren’t so much towards Hutu or Tutsi, but I most certainly have them. We all do. And as followers of Jesus: an immigrant, a refugee, an outsider, we Christians have ironically had a very mixed track record in this area. So what is my attitude and how am I actively engaged in helping the foreigner, the outsider, the immigrant, the alien, the marginalized? Or is following Jesus about being a cosseted member in the safety of the in-crowd?

It’s worth thinking about…

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“I loved it so much, I got it for all my grandchildren!”
“I’ve given it away to fifty people so far!”
“I conduct an orchestra and have given one to every member!”

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This is just a quick plug for Christmas gifts for loved-ones. I love hearing how people have been impacted by the daily devotional-of-the-year ‘Choose Life!’ If you’re struggling to think of what to get someone, how about this?

To order in the UK, you can buy it from St Andrews Bookshop.

Or in the USA and beyond, click here

And as I searched for the Amazon link, I just read the top review, which is encouraging. Diane Moody writes:

“Oh my goodness, I cannot say enough good things about this book! It boggles my mind how often Guillebaud’s daily messages seem spot on for what’s happening in my life. Of course, that’s totally a God thing, but I give the author full credit for writing such poignant and inspiring messages. It’s my favorite gift to give friends and family for birthdays. I’ve used many quotes from the book in my own personal journal and shared them with others. The best devotional I’ve ever read. Thank you, Simon Guillebaud! May God bless you as you’ve so richly blessed your readers!”

GO FOR IT!

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Below are some mind-blowing notes including a couple of edited entries from my Choose Life devotional. If you read them slowly and chew the cud, rehashing and mulling over the contents, maybe it’ll be literally life-transforming. If you simply flit through and then go back to Facebook or answering emails, you’ll have stumbled over and beyond the greatest treasure imaginable. Maybe it’d be worth printing it out and taking it off on a walk. Your choice. Here goes:

Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The Greek present tense is used in the above verse, meaning the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is not a once-for-all event but an ongoing need for refilling and refueling. To those who do think it’s a once-for-all experience at conversion or subsequently, Martyn Lloyd-Jones issues this challenge: “Got it all? Well, if you have got it all, I simply ask in the name of God why are you as you are? If you have got it all, why are you so unlike New Testament Christians? Got it all! Got it at your conversion! Well where is it, I ask?”

Are you thirsty today, or satisfied?

Abraham Heschel wrote, “He who is satisfied has never truly craved.” I hope you haven’t given up on the potential of a life saturated with God’s presence. The cravings we feel, we were made to feel, and only God can satisfy. John Piper wrote in A Hunger for God, “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 remember several periods of my life of being so filled by the Holy Spirit that I didn’t want to leave his presence. I wanted to live in that continued state of heightened reality. When I saw people, I couldn’t help but share of God’s goodness with them. Some converted immediately, others thought I was mad! But the point I want to make is, how easy it is for us to settle for a stunted satisfaction with spiritual inertia. We fear beginning to crave, lest we are left disappointed yet again. “Come, all you who are thirsty… that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:1–3).

A.W. Tozer observed, “Satan has fought the doctrine of the Spirit-filled life about as bitterly as any doctrine there is. He has confused it, opposed it, and surrounded it with false notions and fears. The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth that there is now, for the child of God, a full and wonderful and completely satisfying anointing with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is not a special deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for his people.”

Moody was the most effective evangelist of the nineteenth century. After one service early in his ministry, two old ladies approached him and told him, “You are good, but you haven’t got it… we have been praying for you… you need power!” Moody, an already well-respected minister, was shocked, “I need power? Why, I thought I had power!” The ladies poured out their hearts in intercession for him to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and soon he became desperate for more of God. He wrote, “I began to cry as never before, for a greater blessing from God. The hunger increased; I really felt that I did not want to live any longer if I had not this power for service. I kept on crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day in the City of New York – oh! What a day, I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it. It is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say, God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.”

That was the result after six months of pleading with God. And once God had visited him in power as he walked down Wall Street in New York, he was never the same again. Although his sermons were verbatim the same, those same words saw many dozens come to faith each time where before it had been a mere handful.

John Stott commented, “What we need is not more learning, not more eloquence, not more persuasion, not more organisation, but more power from the Holy Spirit.”

Now this remains a hotly contested doctrine, but the bottom line is, whatever work we’re involved in, surely we want more of Him in our lives? I know I need more power. How about you?

The Victorian minister and missionary Andrew Murray suggested four practical and verbal steps we must take to being filled by God’s Spirit.

Step 1 Say ‘I must be filled’ – knowing that God commands it and you need it.

Step 2 Say ‘I may be filled’ – believing that it is God’s promise to all believers.

Step 3 Say ‘I should be filled’ – willing to surrender all for that pearl of great price.

Step 4 Say ‘I shall be filled’ – claiming the promised gift of God, purchased by Christ.

Finally, what got me to put up this blog was this week coming across the following challenging words from Tozer, which I’ve re-read several times as I do an honest self-assessment of my current spiritual state:

“After a person is convinced they can be filled with the Holy Spirit, they must desire to be: are you sure you want to be possessed by a Spirit who, while He is pure and gentle and wise and loving, will yet insist upon being Lord of your life?

Are you sure you want… One who will require obedience to the written Word? Who will not tolerate any of the self-sins in your life: self-love, self-indulgence? Who will… reserve the right to test you and discipline you? Who will strip away from you many loved objects which secretly harm your soul?”

Tozer concludes, tellingly: “Unless you can answer an eager ‘yes’ to these questions, you do not want to be filled. You may want the thrill or the victory or the power, but you do not really want to be filled with the Spirit.

If, on the other hand, your soul cries out for God, for the living God, and your dry and empty heart despairs of living a normal Christian life without a further anointing, then I ask you: is your desire all-absorbing? Is it the biggest thing in your life? Does it… fill you with an acute longing that can only be described as the pain of desire? If your heart cries ‘yes’ to these questions you may be on your way to a spiritual breakthrough which will transform your whole life.”

Hmm… Wow! I’ve got to re-read that again…

May you and I press in hungrily, embracing the ‘pain of desire’, and thereby be on our ‘way to a spiritual breakthrough which will transform our whole lives’.