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Dear all Good afternoon and a Very Happy Easter to you all!
I am pleased to introduce yet another community partner who has joined our Branch this month- Simon Pinchbeck who works for Christian Vision for Men who lives in Hertfordshire has joined us! Simon does great work ministering to men in his role in CVM- So Simon welcome it is great to have you on board!
Are you sure???
Jesus Appears to Thomas
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20: 24-27
Are you sure? The question that strikes fear into any one of us who have said that they don’t need to stop and ask directions on a journey or when our oldest daughter assures us that her bed room is tidy to ‘Mummy standards’ and I say ‘Are you sure?’ (which usually leads to five minutes extra tidying!)
Those three words are enough to spread doubt and confusion even amongst the more confident of us!
I remember watching early editions of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ with Chris Tarrant hosting; where the studio lights would go down and a question would appear along the lines of:
‘What colour is the sun?’ with four possible answers of:
The contestant would confidently say ‘I know this Chris- it is A’. Chris Tarrant would pause, nod and reply-
‘Are you sure?’. At which point you could see the seed of doubt had been placed in the mind of the contestant who would normally then waste a life line or two, dither for a few minutes and then ultimately stick with their original answer…… Which of course was right all along!!!
We see in the old testament a clear example of the seed of doubt being firmly placed in the mind of someone- In Genesis 3 we read:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
The truth is that in each of our lives there are days when we are full of doubt- I as a Christian cannot say that over the last 25 years I haven’t on occasion doubted. I have experienced heart breaking loss of family and friends, have seen family issues end in disaster, have been in such a low place personally that have felt totally alone and questioning if God was actually there for me….. we see above that the seed of doubt planted by the enemy led to huge consequences…!
In the Gospel of John above we see how after the Crucifixion and resurrection Thomas says that he won’t believe until he can see Jesus and examine his wounds…. Well we know what happened next!
In his moments of despair he was doubting what others were saying and was only convinced when Jesus revealed himself.
When I have been in that position of doubt I try and spend more time in the word of God and praying by myself- and I very often think back to when Christ was first revealed to me to the extent that I wanted to make a commitment to him- I think back to that wonderful moment standing in the rain in Watford when I was healed of a rather nasty infection, the feeling of absolute peace and absolute Love that overwhelmed me- when I first saw Jesus for who he truly is- the Son of God who Loves me- who loved me enough to take my place on that cruel cross so that I could have an eternal future!
The truth is that we all have ‘Thomas’ or ‘Eve’ moments when the enemy tries his best to undermine our faith- usually when we are at our weakest or lowest as I have experienced in the last year with Anxiety and Trauma issues. Through is all though I have been able to see that even in small ways God has continued to bless me and help me through dark days- the pain and the troubles didn’t disappear overnight but God gave me the encouragement and strength to go on with him firmly at my side.
I was speaking with some guys from my own church this week and talking about the subject of faith and doubt and how God can even turn the worst situations into Good and we discussed the biblical story of Joseph who was abandoned, sold into slavery, transported from his home land, falsely accused and thrown into prison (A brief explanation I know).
In Genesis 50:20 we read – ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’
The enemies intention is always to undermine, hurt or harm you- But God can and wants to change those intentions around if we let him!
So this Easter time be blessed- if you are with family enjoy or if you are working (like me) stay safe.
If you are currently in the midst of an ‘Are you sure?’ time then I want to encourage you to think back to when Christ was first revealed to you and like Thomas have revelation of Christ’s presence.
So once again Happy Easter and God Bless from the family Evans!
At the end of June the CPA took a small group to “The Gathering”, a men’s festival organised and run by Christian Vision for Men and held in a field near Swindon. Equipped with tents, bacon, burgers, beer from a Christian brewery, CPA T-shirts and wellington boots, we arrived on the Friday afternoon for a perfectly timed downpour and groups of soggy men frantically trying to pitch tents on a muddy field – Bear Grylls would have been proud…
With a break in the weather the BBQ’s came out before the first evening meeting. After a keepy-uppy competition hilariously hosted by Steve Legg of Sorted Magazine, CVM President Carl Beech welcomed the men from all around the UK and quickly established some codes of conduct which included the banning of all fruit for duration of the event, and the exclusion of any flag waving or interpretive dance during the worship times. Throughout the weekend various offences were disclosed and dealt with severely by the occupying military, the Armed Forces Christian Union.
The evening meeting also featured a powerful message from CVM Executive Director Nathan Blackaby about change in our lives, and worship lead by Graham Kendrick and his band. The rousing sound of 2,300 men belting out the 90’s classic “Shine Jesus Shine” was one of the highlights of the weekend, and this classic 90’s song has now become something of an anthem for The Gathering!
Following a short break and a perusal around the “Mess Test” at all the exhibit stands and a free cup of tea we found ourselves with a pint-in-hand and sitting back in the big tent for some stand-up comedy from Paul Karensa, a very funny man and a great way to get the really get the weekend in full swing!
It would have been remiss to begin Saturday without a bacon and egg roll – so we did! Refreshed and well-fed we trudged through the increasingly sodden field for the morning meeting, which featured an incredible talk by Mike Vickers who has waked with a large wooden cross all around Europe to spread the Gospel message. Carl Beech also interviewed the boss at Compassion UK about their work and there was plea to all the men to sponsor a child in poverty.
The afternoon consisted of seminars, a car display, axe-throwing, human archery, 5-a-side football, scalextric, Euro 16 on the big screen…and some more rain and mud! One of the best parts of the weekend was meeting new people and as we were sporting our trendy CPA T- Shirts we had many conversations with people about the work of the CPA, and made contact with serving officers, police staff, and others who had connections with the police service.
The evening meeting was incredible. There was a tangible expectation in the big tent as we kicked off with more hilarity about breaches of the “no fruit policy”. The main meetings were punctuated with some very powerful testimonies from men who had been stuck in desperate lives of crime, addiction, drugs, prison and depression. These men had found forgiveness, hope and release from their situations through a relationship with Jesus. Carl Beech wrapped up the evening meeting by speaking from God’s word with passion and conviction. At the end of the meeting he called on the men in the tent to make a commitment to Jesus if they hadn’t already. With an overwhelming and unprecedented response, about 200 men came forward and came to faith under the canvas of the tent and a brilliant rainbow in the sky!!
Sunday Morning featured more testimonies from men who had found faith in Christ and grown in their relationship with him through tremendous adversity. Roy Crowne from HOPE gave the final talk of the weekend from Romans 12 encouraging us to be experiential, to endure and to be an example in our faith which prompted more men to commit their lives to Jesus!
The whole even was rounded up with “manly” communion (chunks of bread and flagons of Ribena!) which was a great opportunity to unite as brothers in remembrance of Jesus ultimate sacrifice for us.
The weekend was so inspiring and such a great opportunity to spend time together, meet new people, encounter Jesus and just have a great time that we have already booked to go back next year. I would encourage every bloke to book a ticket and come with us. We have plans to have a CPA stand in the Mess Tent, and to have a greater CPA presence to share the work that we do and link with others that are in the police service or who have an interest.
The website www.thegatheringformen.com has more details and instructions on how to book. If you’d like to go as part of the CPA group please contact me.