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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.
STAND YOUR GROUND!
The Armour of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Ephesians 6: 10-20
Stand your ground!
I have something to tell you all this month and it may come as a bit of a shock- I need to inform you that we are at war! Yes that’s right brothers and sisters we are at war; not with another nation or another group of people- but we are at war against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (As mentioned above!) We need to be aware that there is a constant battle on the go in the Heavens and on the earth. God gave Adam a commission to have His rule over the whole earth (Gen. 1:28), and immediately after that the devil came and convinced both Adam and Eve to disobey God and abandon their posts as God’s vice regents over the earth (Gen. 3:1-8). Since that time Satan has been jealously attempting to protect his control over the earthly realm he stole through subverting Adam, including its systems of government, commerce, media, the arts, science and education. Those who attempt to bring God’s influence in these realms will most likely experience some of the highest levels of satanic resistance. The apostle Paul had a messenger from Satan follow him everywhere he went that caused riots and persecutions (2 Cor. 13:1-8), only because he was turning the present world system upside down (Acts 17:7).
And sometimes in a battle or in a War we have to make a stand- even when the odds are stacked against us or it seems impossible- At the Battle of Waterloo, when the fight became its worst, an officer galloped up to the Allied Commander, the Duke of Wellington and said, “My Captain says we are being destroyed, we need reinforcements quickly.” The Duke said simply, “tell him to stand.” The officer galloped back to relay the message to his Captain. Shortly the same messenger galloped back with the same message. Again, Wellington said simply, “tell him to stand.” Very soon another officer same with the same request. Wellington’s response was this, “I have no help to send you, tell him to stand.” The officer saluted and replied, “You will find us there sir.”
When the battle was fought and won the Duke found each of those men at his post. All dead, but they stood. They had laid down their lives for the victory.
A very poignant picture of men who gave everything when called to do so by their commander in the heat of battle!
I was speaking with a friend recently who has felt like he is under attack at the moment- well he is right; he is under attack. Although it seems like some of the people he works with have got it in for him at the moment this attack stems from somewhere else- it is the enemy trying his best to harm him, discredit him and make his days at work troubling and difficult! This is all going on because my friend is a strong and committed Christian who doesn’t hide his faith in the work place and the enemy hates it!! He is choosing to make his stand daily in the workplace even though on occasion it can be hard and it can lead to some ridicule from those who do not believe!
These battles can come in a number of guises and can spring up from seemingly nowhere to catch you by surprise! For each of us individually they will all be different and to others our viewpoint on the matter may appear deluded, radical or wrong- but we must be willing to stand up and be counted when we need to just as a soldier is required to! As followers of Christ we are called to resist the devil (James 4:7) that doesn’t mean that we just acquiesce, compromise and quietly go along with what others want or do but that on occasion we must take a stand and in the wisest possible way say No! In short there are times when we must ’Stand up for Christ and be counted!’
The wonderful thing about our faith is that unlike The Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo our commander always has help to send us and is always willing and able to stand alongside us in the midst of the battle! When the enemy is pressing in and everything seems hopeless our Lord is there right on time to give us the strength to continue, the right words to say or guides the right person through the door to offer us support- How great is our God!!! In Psalm 120 verse 1 we read: ‘I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.’ What a wonderful verse- You call; he answers!
We are called in the scripture above from Ephesians 6 to put on the full armour of God so that we are ready to fight when we need to- No soldier goes into battle without their equipment ready to use and we should be no different! When we put on the full armour of God we are ready- ready even when a battle appears out of nowhere; when the battle is at its fiercest, when there is no hope or when we feel lost- we are ready to fight, to Trust in our Lord and win the battle for him daily! We read in 1 Timothy 6: 12:
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
So this month I want to encourage you that if you are in the midst of the battle and you feel lost or surrounded- You have an ever present commander who will come to your aide if you call! And also I want to encourage you to stand up for Christ; be counted and wisely make a stand for him when you need to!
Have a Blessed month!