Jim Wallis writes: “The danger of secular fundamentalism is its allergy to spirituality and disdain for anything religious. Prophetic religion is the antidote to bad religion. Prophetic faith is not the battle between secularism and faith, but rather between cynicism and hope. Prophets begin in judgment, social critique of status quo, but end in hope – that those realities can be changed. It’s a spiritual choice. Ultimately, cynicism protects you from commitment. If things are not really going to change, why try so hard to make a difference? And if you have middle-class economic security (as many cynics do), things don’t have to change for you to remain secure. That is not intended to sound harsh, just realistic. Cynics are finally free just to look after themselves… Perhaps the only people who view the world realistically are the cynics and the saints. Everybody else may be living in some kind of denial about what is really going on and how things really are. And the only difference between the cynics and the saints is the presence, power, and possibility of hope… Hope is not a feeling; it is a decision. And the decision for hope is based on what you believe at the deepest levels. You choose hope, not as a naïve wish, but as a choice, with your eyes wide open to the reality of the world – just like the cynics who have not made the decision for hope.”
Remember if we want to receive the Kingdom of God, we HAVE to be child-like (not childish). The stakes are high…
Here’s a little checklist for you to assess how you’re getting on.:
Needy and dependent v self-sufficient and independent
Humble and teachable v proud and having the answers
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?!
Have you ever had a love bite?! No, I’m not talking about the hickey variety…
Below is last Sunday’s sermon from St Mark’s Battersea Rise as part of their series ‘Love Justice’. After so long in lockdown, it was lovely to be back preaching in the flesh. Have a listen, it’s challenging stuff:
Here are some quotes that I shared:
Anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Edmund Burke: “All that it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing.”
The Reverend Martin Niemöller, a pastor in the German Confessing Church who spent seven years in a concentration camp: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the labor leaders, and I did not speak out because I was not a labor leader. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
A harried vicar was too busy to help a homeless lady needing help. He fobbed her off with a promise to pray for her. She subsequently 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.”
Today we’re launching a new podcast: ‘Inspired… with Simon Guillebaud’.
Upbeat and uplifting, ‘Inspired’ introduces us to a stunning variety of people from all walks of life. It celebrates perseverance, overcoming, and costly faith. Stories of adventure and risk-taking stir the listener to imagine new possibilities.
I’ve loved recording the first few episodes already, which have included tales of dramatic answered prayers, Mai Mai militias, a 6-ft pet cobra, punch-ups, a melted face, witchdoctor and drag queen conversions and more. I have so many crazy/courageous/resourceful/faith-filled friends whose stories will be told over the coming months, and I’d love you to join me with them.
I’ll record a new podcast every week, so do subscribe on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts and I’d be so grateful if (with integrity) you could do two things:
Give us a 5-star review on iTunes here so more people can discover us. Spread the word by sending a friend to our podcast webpage!
The aim is to point people to Jesus, and to celebrate and promote what the Lord has done through His people – what’s not to like?!
This first week, my old mate Ed Walker interviews me so you get more of my own journey with stories you’ll definitely not have heard before, and then I interview him on his award-winning work through Hope into Action, which has seen beautiful fruit amongst the most broken people of society.
An extraordinary phenomenon has taken place over the last few years in Iran – or, to give it its full title, the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the context of the strict application of Shariah Law and in a climate of severe persecution for anyone who converts to Christianity, a steady stream of people are risking life and limb in their declaration of allegiance to the way of Jesus. To become an apostate of Islam is extremely costly, and there are plenty of documented cases of rape, imprisonment and torture of those brave enough to follow their convictions. Yet the Church in Iran has become the fastest growing in the world.
So when an Iranian Christian couple managed to emigrate to the USA, it was their ticket to safety in the ‘land of the free’. Of course, they seized the opportunity. Unsurprisingly. Yet what was surprising, was that after living in the USA for a while, the wife said to her husband: “Please, take me back to Iran. There is a satanic lullaby in this nation. All the Christians are asleep, and I feel myself falling asleep.”
Here was a woman who had escaped the very real probability of sexual violence, loss of income and separation from loved ones through incarceration or worse, and yet she was saying that that risk was worth taking because of the greater danger to her very soul of the insidious and deathly lies she was (and we are) being steadily drip-fed in the Western world.
Think about that for a minute.
A satanic lullaby… can you hear it?
. . .
A church leader in London asked me to give this prickly sermon before lockdown, addressing some key cultural issues that most steer clear of. So I’ve just re-recorded it, if you fancy a listen.
Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich was asked whether it was more effective to change society through violent revolution or gradual reform. He replied: ‘Neither. If you want to change society, you must tell an alternative story.’
Here’s to telling the best alternative story in the world!
You will be healed if you have sufficient faith. Still sick? It’s your lack of faith! That loved one of yours who died? It was because they sinned.You can have anything you set your heart on… Just claim it by faith, and God’s Word says it is yours! Amen?
I hate false teaching, heresies, lies like the above. Sadly, they are very popular and common in Burundi.
The Church is growing – you could say exploding in growth – which is wonderful. But the challenge of that growth is the prosperity gospel drivel disseminated on the radio, from the pulpit, or in the classroom.
And why is this nonsense spreading? In large part because of a lack of access to the Word of God.
A vibrant Christian Union may have 100-150 members, but only one or two (and sometimes none) of these students will own a Bible. That’s not enough!
We need to get more Bibles into the hands of students who are often passionate but hugely susceptible to these lies. Will you help us?
Thanks to the huge generosity of a few supporters, we’ve got matched funding of £20,000 to get Bibles into the hands of school children and college students.
Each subsidised Bible costs us £5, so our goal this Easter is to provide 4,000 Bibles, which will be doubled to 8,000 Bibles – beautiful!
Through Scripture Union’s Bible Project, we go into schools and provide Bibles at great discount, which the students purchase through a savings club with affordable increments. The students treasure the Bibles they’ve saved so hard for, and the money raised gets recycled – enabling more students to access Bibles. We’ve done it for years and it works!
Here’s us doing it last week in a school upcountry.
Would you consider making a donation, all the more knowing that it will be doubled?
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.
I’m gutted to say my old friend John Riches passed away this morning.
I first met John 24 years ago. I was living in the North of Rwanda doing language study, and he swung by to greet my Aunt and Granny for ten minutes on his way back to Burundi from Uganda. Off the cuff, I jokingly asked if I could hitch a ride with him to visit Burundi. He gave me three minutes to pack my bag, and we were off!
So began a great friendship. The war in Burundi was ongoing, and there was an international embargo as well, so he was generously bringing in lots of goodies for friends in his beloved Landrover. At regular intervals, on what was just about the most dangerous road in the world, he told me of previous close escapes, through ambushes, of charred dead bodies in the wreckage of taxis that had blasted past him a few minutes earlier… He lived by faith, was ready to die, and was a kindred spirit.
He had arrived in Burundi as a divorcee in his 40s. Brilliant with his hands and a methodical problem-solver, he was as good a mechanic and electrician as anyone I know. He saved us many thousands of dollars in our construction projects by sending back faulty materials or creating cheaper and more effective complex solutions.
Meeting and marrying Nadine gave him a second chance at creating a happy family. She was a few decades his junior, and kept him young. Their mutual love was deep and genuine. They had six children together, and their home was full of noise, chaos and laughter.
In obituaries (which I guess this is), the tendency sometimes is to exaggerate or overstate the deceased’s qualities. To avoid that happening here, let me just say that John was perhaps the least linguistically-skilled person I’ve ever met – after thirty years in Burundi, his Kirundi vocabulary extended to about a dozen words, and to listen to him attempting to communicate in French was sheer comedy! But despite the language barrier, he always got his point across eventually and got the job done.
About five years ago, he was working on our roof, setting up a solar panel. It was pouring with rain. I was sat reading a book when I heard the most almighty crash. Fearing the worst, I ran into our bathroom to find torrential rain pouring through a gaping hole. John had slipped and come smashing through the ceiling. He was hanging precariously from a metal beam, that stopped him falling fifteen feet onto the concrete below – which a 70-year-old surely wouldn’t have survived. I rushed him to the hospital to the X-ray machine (the one that he kept in working order!). Thankfully nothing was broken… and in his dazed bruised state he insisted he needed to go back and finish the job on our roof. “No John, you’re going home!”
That’s the kind of workhorse he was. He spent the last thirty years tirelessly keeping sound-systems working at churches, concerts, schools. I preached from the prison to the palace with him in the background overseeing the sound desk and rescuing the situation when things went wrong.
Unfortunately, he was such a soft touch that he seldom got paid for his work. Be it a medical centre, a school, or a friend, most had tight money situations and so John let them off or the bill got lost in his pile of disordered paperwork. I used to hassle him in frustration on behalf of Nadine: “John, you’ve got to charge for your services. You’ve got to take care of your family!” He would reply: “I just can’t. The work needs doing, they haven’t got any money. God will provide for me, He always does.”
And this morning, after three weeks of battling against Covid, John has graduated to glory. He would rank right up there as one of the most servant-hearted and kind people I’ve ever met.
Nadine is now left with six children in her charge. They have significant hospital bills to pay (hopefully mostly covered by insurance), have been asked to vacate where they live, and a future ahead of them without the main bread-winner. Please be praying for them all in their grief.
As John has blessed so many people over the years, I want us to bless him (and them) back. When he said: “God will provide for me, He always does”, that usually happens through His people.
So I invite you to be a part of his story and testimony. It’d be wonderful if we could raise enough to help Nadine own a family home, have funds to get all the kids through school, and start-up capital for her to exercise her entrepreneurial gifts.
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?”