FUEL UP

Another essential part of training for a triathlon, that I had helpfully ignored was the need to give the body the right fuel and at the right times.

If I am honest this came to a head after I had been eating a huge dinner at 8:30pm followed by a glass of wine to wash it down and a slice of chocolate fudge cake. (The one with a moist chocolate centre)

I sat there, feeling ill with horrendous heart burn having planned to go running on a 6 mile hilly course the next morning at 6am. Yeah, it didn’t happen, instead I popped a couple of Rennies.

Getting the right fuel in when training for stuff like this is so important, physical instructors at the gym are always talking about winning the war in the kitchen before you get onto the treadmill.

Let me be really honest here, whenever I talk to a Christian bloke who is struggling or has hit a wall in his life or some form of temptation, I will always get the same response to this question: ‘Tell me about your prayer life and when and how you read and study the bible?’ The response is this, ‘er…yeah struggling with prayer actually,’ or ‘yeah I haven’t picked up my bible in a long time.’ The apostle Paul talks about being ready to ‘devote ourselves to prayer!’ Now that’s serious stuff! Colossians 4:2

Your personal life and intimacy with God is the fuel and it is essential to being able to run this race, cover some serious ground and see stuff happen.

Think of it this way. If I had a seed and wanted to plant that seed to help it grow I would do a few things. I would prepare the ground, ensure that it was in a spot to get a load of sun, plant the seed and ten keep it watered.

Think about how you fuel the seed of faith that has been planted in your life or that you are sowing into the lives of others. (It is important to say that God makes these grow, that’s what He does) but our part is to ensure it is being given the right stuff!

When we struggle with temptation, or to pray or read the bibles the challenge is to have a look at the fuel we are putting in. Many times when I have done this in my own life and with others, what we have found is instead of feeding the seed with prayer, the bible and honest living with other Christians, the seeds getting a cocktail of compromise, secret sin and zero prayer and bible time. Yet we are still surprised that our faith is struggling!!!

Get the right fuel in, get yourself alongside some Christian fellas with undefended hearts, pray and read God’s word and your faith will be fuelled beyond belief!

Image Credit: Martin Kníže

COUNT THE COST

So, confession time. About 2 years ago I took part in a triathlon, it was a sprint distance tri and it was awful. I consider myself to have incredible explosive power, pushing something, pulling something, or lifting, but physical endurance strength is, well just not something I’ve got. (yet)

This year I signed up to do a half Ironman tri, building on the last one and raising the bar. The point of this was to raise a £1k for the CVM coffers.

I realized early on that I had made yet another terrible mistake and had chosen to ignore that small inner voice of reason and logic. In the end, after trying to get in shape and go from virtually no running, cycling or swimming ability I had to reluctantly throw in the towel.

This was actually a tough decision to make as I had worked hard at training but just hadn’t realized the investment needed and time it would take to get me anywhere near race fit.

The point in sharing this is, that I think we can also go into the ‘Christian life’ in a similar way, without a clear vision and commitment to the cost this is going to have. We can even sell a version of Christianity that prescribes to the same model, and I have done it. This and the next 3 blogs are going to look at the way you train and count the cost for this Christian race we are in!

• Count the Cost
• Fuel up
• Mind games
• Getting the gear and making this social

So that’s the outline for the next 5 blogs, put that doughnut down and get yourself a dry cracker. Lets train.

When I signed up for the Ironman, I was sold on the trophy, the title and the branding. It looked great and something that would be a great head turner to have in the office when people visited. I can ride a bike, I can swim and I can run so what’s the problem?

What I hadn’t realized until very late on in my campaign of terror on the treadmill, was that to get to the fitness level I needed it would mean a 20 hour schedule of fitness each week. This covered miles and miles, hours and hours of training, and I just wasn’t ready to pay that cost, and it slipped away. Eating the right things, not drinking the wrong things, sleeping early and getting going early. Weekends out running and cycling.

The thing is, I think we can buy into a Christianity that leaves us in the same place. We can discover Jesus and the life he has for us. Forgiveness of sin, a hope for today and an eternal promise of life to come, something after death. Amazing, and wonderfully true! But we can quickly turn that into an emotional, needs based message. Jesus will meet your needs, he will nestle you under his wing and you will feel like your feet never touch the floor.

The reality is, to follow Christ is a call which costs the most. To really die to ourselves and pledge your heart, mind and body, your devotion and obedience to him is actually very costly.

A fantastic old school British evangelist was a guy called Leonard Ravenhill, and once he said this ‘the problem is not enough Christians have been to their own funerals.’

Now that sounds harsh, but his point was that we need to know that Jesus and this new life we have, really is something new, the old has died and gone. To put Jesus and his kingdom first will cost and even Jesus tells people to count the cost before getting involved and possibly falling away before the finish line.

Jesus uses strong words and even says that if we follow him this means carrying our own cross! Jesus explains this a bit by using a couple of everyday examples, here is one of them:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?
Luke 14:27-29

What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus? What does it mean to count the cost, to really be sure this is for you and that you will not lose sight of the path half way along your life journey with Jesus?

Well, the thing here for me is that this is capturing the reality of what is really at stake. Your life depends on it. My ironman failure caused me a few weeks of ridicule at the hands of my beloved CVM team, but this, this is something very different.

This choice we make will impact our eternity, it changes where you and I will be 10,000 years from now. Jesus makes it so clear that he wants you to be in his kingdom, in his company and to enjoy the place of a son, welcomed back into the family.

Maybe today, just take a moment to think about what the cost of all this is to you. Spend sometime maybe just recommitting yourself to Jesus, your energy, your time, your wallet, your hopes and plans, your family.

Image Credit: Martin Kníže

8 Strategies to Assist You in Your Evangelism

QUICKFIRE: Jonathan Sherwin from CVM on Vimeo.

The CVM Quickfire Conference is day of TED-style 15 minute talks by ministry specialists covering a wide range of topics for men’s ministries. In this talk, ‘Conversion Through Persuasion?: Looking at how we can deploy arguments, questions, and illustrations effectively as we do the work of an evangelist’ I attempted to get through 8 points before the klaxon sounded (see the video above if you want to know if I made it!).

Conversion Through Persuasion?

Evangelism is a spiritual struggle. It’s a bloody, vicious war. There is no Geneva Convention or International Court of Justice imposing civility. Our enemy is not a gentlemen and he is out to totally, utterly ruin all that you love, cherish and seek to protect.

In this war we have been given tools, and I believe the role of persuasion – arguing, illustrating, and questioning – is a weapon that we are to deploy in this war.

Timothy was told by the Apostle Paul to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). We’re shown that evangelism is both a task, as well as an office or role (Ephesians 4), and a task that in the Great Commission (Matthew 28) all Christians are called to.

As we think through how to use persuasion in evangelism here are 8 points to remember.

1. Being & Thinking | Feeling | Doing

Michael Ramsden is fond of talking of the Ontological Root of the Gospel. That is, the core of our Christian message is that it’s not what you think or what you feel or what you do that makes you a Christian, but that the very centre of who you are are is changed – redeemed – by God himself. That central change is the root of the Gospel.

Michael’s point is I think incredibly helpful. A Christian is someone who’s heart has been redeemed by God.

So then, focussing on that, we are freed to use our thinking, our feeling, and our doing to show Christ. We are to reflect our salvation in what we think, what we feel, and how we act. So too we can illustrate across all these areas.

Each one of us has a different personality. Some are more cerebral, others more in touch with their emotions, and still others who are intensely pragmatic. By illustrating the Gospel in a way that connects with the hearer we can demonstrate something of the message, but without forcing the listener to conform to that pattern of behaviour.

A change of our thinking, of our feeling, of our doing, comes out of a change of our being. We don’t change who we are to become a Christian – our core is changed by God and that then goes on to change everything else.

2. Persuasion is a skill

The art of persuasion is, according to Sam Leith, rhetoric. And rhetoric is something to be learnt. It is a skill.

I know what some of you may be thinking: rhetoric, just verbal tricks and cunning collections of words to sell your point. A go-to in the politician’s hand-bag of tools.

Rhetoric does appeal to emotions, to reasons … yes! But deployed correctly they serve truth.

Of course, rhetoric is a skill that may be used for the wrong reasons but for goodness sake, don’t stop using it because some guy in a bad suit and appropriately coloured tie is misusing it in a fancy palace like Westminster!

Blaise Pascal said that we ought when sharing the Gospel to,

“Make them wish it were true and then show them that it is.”

Our individual testimonies – our stories – share something of how we have met Jesus and have been changed. We appeal to our story to share something of the Ultimate Story, or as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis referred to it, the True Myth.

3. Stand on Scripture

The basis for our confidence in the Gospel does not ultimately rest on our experience but on the revelation provided to us through the Bible. We don’t stand alone on reason, nor on emotion, nor on action, but on the Word of God.

Because the Bible is a reliable revelation that may be trusted we can stand firm on the foundation that it provides. This sure footing offers a position of strength and a starting point for all our creative efforts in sharing God’s truth.

Having a foundation is a powerful thing. Having a strong foundation that doesn’t rest on who we are, what we know, how we feel etc. provides a deeper assurance that when relied upon in our evangelistic efforts helps to make our efforts all about Christ (as revealed to us) and gets us out of the way. It’s not about us; it’s all about Jesus.

4. Know what is provoking your spirit

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” (Acts 17:16)

The Apostle Paul launches into his apologetic in Athens at Mars Hill after having “his spirit provoked within him”.

Our individual worlds are increasingly larger and the Gospel opportunities are seemingly endless. We are more connected than ever with easier travel and greater communications abilities than ever before.

In our modern world it can be hard to know where to act or to what we are called. Paul had his spirit provoked and took it as his cue.

So what is provoking your spirit? What can’t you let go of that can be used a starting point to share something of Jesus? We are each to be going after what is that we each are meant to be going after. We’re all different (thankfully) and who we are is to be used to reach those we’re called to.

5. Pick the hardest battle

Evangelism is a series of battles. In the Bible the church is often related to as an army. To do well we need to perform just like any army: we need to show discipline and courage.

After the British army in World War 2 had been beaten out of Burma back into India by the advancing Japanese it had to heal. The army was in a bad shape. They were plagued by malaria and bad morale. Their enemy was brutal – unlike anyone they had faced before They were far away from home and far away from comfort.

Sickness in the camp, lack of motivation, and attacks from the enemy: these things bring armies to their knees.

In ’42 they went kicked out of Burma and it took them nearly two years to fight their way back in.

And as they advanced, they picked their battles. They knew the enemy was fierce and that if they were to succeed they would need to engage in some brutal assaults. The war wouldn’t be won by sneaking a little victory here and there. They would need to crack the enemy at his strong points.

Where is the battle fiercest in your friend, in your office, in your family? What is the main stronghold?

It won’t do any good dealing with the brazen academics and their philosophical questions if the main issue in front of us is one of loneliness and fear, and a search for God that hasn’t yielded any answers so far.

Martin Luther said this:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Don’t Construct Straw Men

We need to take the person we are sharing Christ with seriously. We need to treat them and their objections to Jesus with all seriousness.

When someone offers a problem don’t reduce it down to a bite-size chunk. If anything, build it up in to a really big problem and then hack it to pieces.

6. Use words

You will have of course heard the phrase, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.’ This maxim we are told is to be attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – but in truth there’s no record of him ever having said it.

And if even if he had said it, it’s just not true.

God preached the world into existence in Genesis 1:3. Jesus, in Matthew 5, “went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying …”

Stephen preached his own funeral. Paul reasoned with the Athenians, and before that he preached at Salamis, and Antioch, and Iconium, and Lystra, and Derbe, and Perga. He preached all those sermons with words, and that was on just one journey!

Words have incredible power. A friend of mine who is a leadership coach to large international companies often says, ‘Words create culture’.

The right word at the right time can bring life. The wrong word at the wrong time …

7. Illustrate: Use authorities people recognise

Paul, in the Athenian court, quoted from Greek poets and philosophers. He’d done his research. Or perhaps this was just part of his education.

He was establishing common ground. But I’m not sure if I were Paul I would have gone to those authors first. By this time we remember Paul had seen the resurrected Christ, had his life incredibly altered  from chief Christian persecutor to chief evangelist. Post-conversion Paul looked nothing at all like pre-conversion Paul.

If were Paul I think I would have been strongly tempted to say, ‘Look at me! Look at my life!’ But he didn’t. He pointed to Jesus, preached on the evidence of the Resurrection, and borrowed the authorities of his day to make a point.

It’s often said that “all truth is God’s truth”, so when we find nuggets of gold in our culture – the arts, the media etc. – we can borrow these to point to Ultimate Truth.

8. Conversion is through the Holy Spirit

Look, Richard Dawkins never sent anyone to Hell and you’re not sending anyone to Heaven.

The heart of a person can only be redeemed by the power of God. He will use you to illustrate, to demonstrate, and to advocate but the final solution to man’s deepest problem cannot be dealt with by humanity. We all need supernatural transformation and it is the Christian’s great honour to witness God taking people from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).

We cannot save ourselves and we cannot save others. But once we have been saved we bear witness to the truth of God as we have had it revealed to us.

This liberation from sin is also a liberation from self. Our friends and family members don’t  – thank God – rely upon us for their salvation.

We’re freed to spend our lives pointing to the One who spent His life for us.

Separation and Homecomings

Picture the scene; RN warship returning from a 6 month deployment. Ships crew lining the decks, looking looking looking to make that eye contact with loved ones on the jetty. Then I saw her … my wife Helen with our 7 month old son Ben. As I looked I thought ‘blimey .. she’s gone grey since I’ve been away’ so I lifted my cap and pulled at my hair … thinking ‘you’ve gone grey since I’ve been away’ …. Now her entire focus was on Ben, who I had not seen for 6 months except in photos (pre skype). She thought ‘oh that’s nice, he has noticed that Bens hair colour is the same as his’ so she started waving a seven month baby above her head, on the jetty, as the ship came back, shouting ‘It’s yours ! It’s yours!’ meaning the hair colour ….. you can imagine the reaction on the jetty and the ship …

Separation and homecomings are a huge part of service life … and of course I had a fair few during my 28 years in the RN (like the time it was raining heavily when we came back, I had both of our boys in my arms, walked into the ship, slipped and dropped both lads … nice to see you too Dad!). Anyway, why am I telling you all this? I have now moved on from working directly with the military, and sometimes after a change direction in life it’s a good time to reflect back … for most of my time in the Navy I was what saliors call a ‘Bible basher’ ‘God squad’ you know the sort of thing … I learnt that you can’t take yourself too seriously and need to maintain a sense of humour … because as soon as you do something that is perceived to be not very Christian, your messmates are all over you! Like having one beer too many …..

We were alongside in Rhodes doing a handover for the Bosnia patrol during the 90s. My mate was on the ship that we were taking over from, so we agreed to go ashore for a meal. We had a beer in my mess, then walked down the jetty to his mess, while he went to get changed. Well, we never got ashore. Sat in his mess till about 2 in the morning. I then spent about 40 minutes snaking back up the jetty. By the time I reached our gangway the entire duty watch, most of my mess, the second in charge of the ship and numerous others were on the Flight Deck to watch the lesser spotted ‘Church Chief’ (as I was known) come back on board rather the worse for wear .. never before been seen. I was the talk of the ship the following day. But as a Christian we do get things wrong, we slip up, we make mistakes, we have bad days and shout and even on occasion swear … but do you know what? In my time in the Navy, God never once let me down! I never felt him saying to me ‘you are a failure’ … he did say stuff like ‘could do better’ ‘try harder’ and ‘I understand the challenges you face’ (like many of my reports over the years) … but actually he said ‘I like you a lot … in fact I love you just as you are …’

Being ‘God squad’ on board also had its funny moments, mainly revolving around meeting up with Christians and other churches ashore in some foreign port … once when in Barbados we went to a massive Church, about 4000 in the congregation. The guy on the platform welcomed us ‘the guys from the British warship’, which was great. But he then asked one of us to come and ‘bring greetings’ … as I was ‘the leader’ I was stitched up to go and talk. Now anyone who has been to the Caribbean will know, they all dress up in Sunday best for Church. We didn’t. So there was I, making my way to the platform, in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops (trying desperately to at least get my shorts to cover my knees), when the pastor said ‘here he comes, it’s a shame he didn’t dress for the occasion …’ but the thing I remember about all these occasions is the friendship, welcome and hospitality of Churches and other Christians all around the world. I know it’s a cliché, but I really did have family everywhere I went (not to mention free food and tours around the local area … but that’s not why I met up with these guys honest!!!!).

Apart from visiting other Churches around the world, one of the other things that the RN enabled me to do was run. Lots. In loads of amazing places. But this brought with it some challenges. Over the next few months I will be writing about some of these experiences, and how they relate to life … but for now a couple of short examples. The ship was in La Guira (the port for Caracas). Me and the shipwright (or ‘chippy’) went out for a ten mile run, and as usual the port was in the decidedly dodgy area of town. We came off the ship, out of the port gate and turned right. Looked fine. We were about a mile away from the ship, when chippy said ‘is that gunfire?’. We ran on … then we realised it was getting louder, and as we ran between two apartment blocks it was actually above us … they were shooting at each other across the road … then there was the time we ran up the wrong mountain thinking it was Mount Vesuvius, or getting picked up by the police in Spain while running up a motorway … the list continues. Being a Christian did not make me immune to these things, (in fact most of them were probably my fault … ), and always served to remind me that God does not control me like a robot. He gave me a mind and ‘freewill’ to do stuff my way if I chose, it’s just that sometimes I thought my way was better, and didn’t really think about the consequences …. if you think you are not good enough to be a Christian, or think its all a load of mumbo jumbo … think again, God wants to get to know you just as you are … right now! Give it a go.

Pete’s Dragon (PG)

Pete’s Dragon 2016 (PG) – in UK cinemas from 12 August 2016

pd_ethos_800x350

I’m old enough to remember the original ‘Pete’s Dragon’ film, and it also happens to be one of my wife’s favourite films too, so I was really intrigued to watch this new version and see what Disney had done with it.

I’m quite used to watching films that are suitable for a family audience as I have three children under 10 and we really enjoy cuddling up on the sofa to watch our favourite family movies – this one would certainly feature on that list now!

The animation has been dramatically improved since 1977 and really helps to re-tell this powerful story following Pete and his friendly dragon, Elliott. The setting is slightly different – moving from a coastal town, to one set in the heart of a large forest in America’s Pacific Northwest, but otherwise the storyline is very similar.

‘If you go through life only seeing what’s right in front of you, you’re going to miss out on a whole lot.’
Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford)

It starts with a very young Pete being orphaned and meeting Elliott who takes care of him. Then, years later, he is taken in by a new family and things don’t go very smoothly … this gives great insight into the meaning of ‘family’ in it’s widest sense, and the struggles faced by modern-day families. This and other issues are discussed in the excellent ‘Family Activity Book’ produced by Ethos Media that will help families, friends and neighbours to explore themes of faith and family that are evident in ‘Pete’s Dragon’.

pd-fab-cover-3Produced in collaboration with Home for Good as well as HOPE, CPO and Urban Saints, this community resource encourages you to not only watch Pete’s Dragon in the cinema (from 12 August 2016) but then to come back to your house to share together in fun, food and reflection. This booklet can be downloaded here, or order free printed copies from CPO here.

Robert Redford plays Mr Meacham, an old wood carver, who has spent years telling local children stories about a dragon that lives deep in the woods – but it is not until his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, meets Pete that she realises these stories are not just tall tales.

It is quite easy to see parallels between believing in the existence of a big furry dragon, who is sometimes invisible, and belief in God who is often not seen either. The children catch on much quicker than the adults. Also, Elliott is not a typical dragon as he protects and cares for the ones he loves, and uses his considerable power to combat evil forces. There are some really great Biblical truths coming through in this film that could lead to some very interesting discussions afterwards.

cpo-pd-fab-order2Whether you remember the 70s original or not, you are sure to enjoy this re-imagining of a classic tale! Take the kids – either yours or someone else’s, and prepare to be moved, challenged and entertained by this summer’s Disney film.

See what others thought of it here in this short video featuring clips from the film:

Gospel Legacy

A couple of Sunday’s ago I was asked to speak at my local church, and decided to preach about Gospel Legacies. I had discovered that a recent survey suggested that 2 out of 3 baby boomers said they had no plans to leave any legacy and wanted to get on with living their lives and enjoying what they have.

There is even a group you can join of likeminded individuals called skiers. Spending The Kids Inheritance.

Anyway, the point is we looked at how the Apostle Paul intentionally invested his life into a gospel legacy and in particular with a bloke called Timothy. I talked about investing in the gospel, being sold out for Jesus and making him and his rescue mission everything to us, gospel multiplication, salvation for all! The sermon was ok, nothing amazing but what happened afterwards was fan-flippin-tastic!

I finished speaking, which was good news for many, and a wonderful elderly lady from South Africa got up and approached me at the front for permission to share a word. She didn’t need to really ask me at all, but she wanted to and up she got.

She said this. ‘I have been sitting here and I believe someone here is needing to start a new life with Jesus, you can be transformed, forgiven and all the shame and guilt taken away. You can be a prince or a princess, a son or daughter of God.’

At the end of the service she got up again and stood at the front just looking out, eyes scanning the church to see. She knew the Holy Spirit had spoken and was ready to receive that person home. Amazing……but nothing happened, no one rushed to the front, no big rush from the seat at the back somewhere, people just got up and walked away for tea, coffee and a Hobknob.

As people left, I could see 3 older women at the front of church, including our South African friend now, praying and worshipping God as a lady was giving her life over to Jesus. (I’ve actually got tears in my eyes writing this!) This is what its all about! Gospel legacy, people being rescued from the gates of Hell!

These ladies have invested in this ladies life, spent years with her, explaining the Bible, praying, caring, supporting, building faith.

What about you? Who are you investing in? Who is your Timothy? Maybe it’s your children, maybe a mate from work or someone at church you are building up. Maybe you think you have nothing much to give, or the time to make this a priority. Perhaps start with the desire to build gospel legacies, start with the willingness to be THAT bloke and see where God takes it. OK, the tears have dried now, I need to go and break something.

What Would Make You Change Your Mind?

A friend and I were having a conversation recently. “I was so left,” he said, referring to his political persuasions. “That was my background,” he explained. “When I then, later on, began to ask why I thought that way, I began to change my mind on a few things.”

This interested me. My friend (now self-identifying as more moderately left) had examined what he believed, questioned why he believed it, and ultimately changed his mind under that examination. It was, I thought, an act of honesty and bravery.

Why We Believe What We Believe

I suppose we believe all manner of things for all manner of reasons, but many of the big things we believe are in large part shaped by our communities – our families, our friends, our colleagues etc. These social groups can produce strong feelings of loyalty, and to change our mind can sometimes feel like a betrayal of the people we are closest to.

There are of course natural break points in life where we are afforded chances to examine our beliefs. Going off to university for many brings a cessation – or at least a pausing – of old community ties and an introduction to new ones.

When our families grow – marriage, children, grand-children – we can re-evaluate a number of things closest to us.

But for most of the time we continue to operate as we have, more or less, always done.

Collisions With Reality

Have you ever noticed that within many sadness’s there’s often a secondary, deeper pain? When the man in his 50s is made redundant it is sad, and it is proper for he and you and I to grieve his loss. But the grief is made more protracted when this pain causes him to question his place in the world or lose his sense of value and purpose.

In another way, we might never think long about what happens after we die, until someone close to us passes away.

At the exact moments that our belief frameworks need to stand strong in the face of massive disruption, they all too easily collapse. Our loss then becomes total loss to us.

Testing Our Beliefs

Unless we want to run a similar risk to the man who suffers a heart attack brought about from poor diet and lack of exercise, we need to begin doing the right things now. We don’t want a shock in the future to cause us to think if only we had changed something in the past, the present would be avoidable or made more bearable.

Ravi Zacharias, the Christian thinker, is fond of saying that there are three ways we can test a belief or thought to see how strong it is.


Firstly: is the belief logical? Does it confirm to the laws of logic? Secondly: does it make sense? Does the belief contradict itself at any point? Thirdly: does it work? Does it fit with our observations of the Universe and our experience?

We can hold a belief for many reasons: it’s popular, or it’s traditional, or it’s new or fashionable. But there is only one good reason for holding a belief: is it true?

Faith and Truthfulness

It’s entirely possible to hold to beliefs that are true, but for bad reasons. A Christian, the Bible says, is to be prepared to answer questions of faith asked of him by anyone, and so the question is: do you know why you believe what you believe? And do you believe for good reasons?

Truthfulness is not just for the believer of course, there are many seeking truth that don’t see faith in God as a warranted belief. But if you don’t believe in God because you think the Christian position is not truthful I’d say, take another look and ask yourself, why don’t you believe? There have been many people who, upon second glances, have come to see that their reasons for not believing weren’t as strong as they at first supposed.

It takes an act of strength for anyone to change their mind. It’s humbling, sometimes humiliating, but when we take a step back and compare the value of our pride and ego against truth itself, well, the honourable pursuit of truth gleams much brighter than the dim bulbs of our own self-value.

THE KING turned up at TG16.

If you came to our Gathering this year then you will know about this and what it was all about. (No not Elvis the King, he was last year!) But if you were not with us, let me explain.

At the end of June, 2,300 men descended onto a field near Swindon for CVM’s annual men’s festival. We had sport, beer, axe throwing, cars, bikes, inflatable’s, an ice cream van and even a kebab stand. The point of doing all this stuff is to create a weekend that we actually want to be at, and a place where we can meet Jesus.

Over the last few weeks since the Gathering, we have been washing mud off clothes, resources and equipment. We have been processing paperwork and paying bills, but above all, and the most exciting bit for me, are the stories I have been reading.

These stories are from the men who came to Gathering and met with King Jesus.
Guys who have been through tough times, and good times, men who didn’t even think they needed to know this King Jesus but met him in a field. Reading this stuff is incredible. These are men who felt the presence of God at the Gathering, men who had heard the Bible teaching, the prayers, the worship, the seminars and have given their life to Jesus. Not only is this amazing now, it will still be the best news 10,000 years from now when these lads are in glory!

Remembering back now, on the Saturday afternoon at the Gathering a load of the team had got together to pray. We stood around praying and I was praying too but asking God for some sort of picture. I don’t get a lot of pictures in prayer but sometimes God does give them, so I ask for them.

On this occasion I had this picture of Royalty visiting the Gathering, but this was no Queen, or even a prince … the King had shown up. Sounds a bit strange I know but I had this picture of the king turning up to a field near Swindon.

Whilst this was going on the group had started to pray for Mike Vickers, who was also due to speak that day. I went over and put a hand on his shoulder to pray and as I did he gasped, I saw it and felt it, bit weird. Straight after the prayer time he came up to me and said that gasp, was at the precise moment he had a picture of King Jesus walking through the tent putting His hand on the shoulder of men.

Why am I sharing this? Well that night it happened! Over 150 men came forward to accept Jesus as Saviour or to recommit themselves to this King. Amazing! The build up, the weekend, the mud, the fun, the mayhem, the cowboy hats, the whole thing is ultimately about one thing, to see the King arrive and do what ONLY He can do: change lives and bring forgiveness of sin.

Radical Giving

So recently I went out to Brazil to spend some time with Everton, our CVM man in Brazil.

Everton has a faith that inspires you and challenges you whenever you meet him.
I remember on one occasion he came to stay with me in the UK at my place. His flight was long and delayed and he arrived exhausted. We had planned to get up at 6am to walk and pray together for an hour, just encourage each other but with the flight and sitting up late chatting, he was worn out.

I woke up at 6am in a bit of a rush, went downstairs and it was all quiet. I thought to myself, ‘ah, he’s slept in, don’t blame him.’ As I turned into the living room he was sitting on my sofa, bible open in prayer and he’d been their since 4:30am.

This deep commitment to prayer is so tangible in his life, once a desperate drug addict and criminal, he has found a source of life that he just wont neglect, even when he’s exhausted.

On this recent trip to Brazil he informed me that he had be given R$3,000. That’s a good lump of cash for a bloke who lives on R$600 (£1500 a month.)

He set about spending this money quickly and I was absolutely speechless at his radical generosity.

He booked a venue for the weekend, invited over 50 families, ordered all the food, then drove around picking anyone up who couldn’t get there. He worked and worked all weekend, up first to bed last. He paid for it all, no one had to pay a penny. They arrived, relaxed, played with the children, swam in the pool, sat and heard the gospel. A few of us spoke about families, relationships, marriages and the truth of Jesus Christ. I shared our winning men vision and CVM’s heart for winning men to Jesus.

But behind all this I was so humbled watching Everton serve others. He could have legitimately pocketed that 3K and sorted out some of his own financial needs. I asked him about it, and why he did this, and his reply was ‘I want people to meet Jesus Nathan, that’s all.’

I was silenced fellas, I have seen men of God get edgy with each other over 3 Euros change on a meal out. In truth, at times I have been driven by this too, and we must guard our hearts when it comes to money.

Keep your heart soft for the gospel and spend yourself on championing Jesus in any and everyway you can. If it costs you and your pocket then do it. The amount of times I have seen one bloke foot the bill for a men’s event, silently paying the bill because it’s about getting men to hear about Jesus.

Lets operate with a radical generosity, that sometimes hurts us to do it if it means men hear about Jesus.

Hadn’t planned for that!

Every man on earth is always self-conscious of having a Doctor looking at their testicles.
However, I was one man who bravely took a step of faith to let my Doctor look at them and it turned into the best decision I made. Finding a lump is always a concern as there are always so many excuses for what it is. “It’s only a cyst, a bacterial infection, a skin tag etc”. For me however, a little more concerning: testicular cancer. A 26 year old with testicular cancer. I’m too young for this, or so I thought. Studies had shown most common cancer amongst men between the ages of 15 – 35 is testicular cancer, to which the goal posts have recently moved to 15 – 44.

I had always been proactive in checking my tackle and had never found anything for concern. However, the lump wasn’t as read in text books; it was more of a bulge located posteriorly. I only found this lump from checking in August 2015, when out of the blue, I was struck by a voice and had an overwhelming urge to have a talk with my Doctor about this lump (as if God was telling me to go call the Doctor). I instantly got up from my chair at work and booked an appointment.

Hardest part done, just needed to go to the Doctors to be told that everything will be ok, then carry on with life. Honestly, I won’t lie that it’s weird having a Doctor look at you balls but they see a lot worse. He said it was a bacterial infection, take some tablets but he’ll send me for an ultrasound to be on the safe side. Good news! However, the ultrasound wasn’t so positive with an abnormality found and 1 was referred to a specialist urologist. I had some time prior to the consultation to which I gave all my worries to God, who placed a real peace on me. When we met with the specialist, he confirmed that I had testicular cancer. Fortunately, the consultant said it was unlikely to be fatal as I had a 97% chance of being cured from the surgery alone.

This felt like an absolute blessing, not the fact I had cancer, but the statistics were in my favour. My surgery was 2 weeks after the consultation (whilst also doing the necessary deeds in-between) which was quick and since the operation, I had one mop up of chemo and I’ve had the all clear. I just have 5 years of check-ups that become less frequent as time goes on.

I know it seems like a daunting prospect of finding a lump and being told it’s cancer however, throughout this whole episode, I trusted God’s will for me and my life is so much better than before when I thought ‘life was going well’. God knew better, has greater Plans for me (and you) beyond what we can imagine.

There is plenty of advice online and some great charities supporting this cause:
myoddballs.com
Orchid-cancer.org.uk
itsinthebag.org.uk
ballboys.org.uk

Image Credit: Patrick Pilz

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