Mud, glorious mud!

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Mud, mud glorious mud

Nothing quite like it

for cooling the blood

so follow me

follow

down to the hollow

and there let us wallow

in glorious mud

(Flanders and Swan)

 

 

What a weekend I have just experienced!!!  I did not believe you could get so much mud in one place and no, I was not at Glastonbury!!!  Until this weekend, I had not really appreciated The Song of the Hippopotamus by Flanders and Swan.

I have just come back from The Gathering 2016.  It was my first time and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  What I experienced far outweighed any expectation I had!  I experienced mud, mud and more mud along with fellowship, fun, some great teaching and encouragement.  I was challenged and excited by what I could see was happening in the lives of so many men.  Oh and in case you hadn’t picked it up – there was mud, a lot of mud!

The experience that I will take away with me is best summed up in this photograph which we saw at the meeting on Saturday night

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The rainbow appeared over the Big Top just as the Saturday night session began.  The rainbow was used in the story of Noah (in the Old Testament).  After all the flooding had subsided God makes Noah a promise.  To symbolise God’s trustworthiness, He puts a rainbow in the sky.  God then tells Noah that each time he sees the rainbow, it will remind him of God’s promise.

The rainbow over the Big Top spoke to me of how God keeps on loving us, despite our weaknesses and failures and He longs for us to live in a relationship with Him.  On that Saturday night, hundreds of men stepped forward and gave their lives to Jesus, they said “yes” to that relationship – I still have a lump in my throat when, I remember seeing those men step forward.  The mud we waded through over the weekend became glorious mud!

So, whenever I come back from any conference I ask myself a question “will you go again?”  My answer is “I have already booked”.  Come rain or shine I will be there, even in the mud I will be there because, even mud can truly be glorious!

 

Who’s Fault?

Judge

As we approach the referendum (sorry, you are probably sick of hearing about it), my mind has been turning to what happens post referendum.  I am not qualified to discuss the economy (maths not my strong point), or even the political fallout but, one thing I have observed is that whenever there is a vote the “blame game” begins soon after.

As far back as the Garden of Eden, humanity has played the blame game.  You may remember the story, God finds man hiding in the garden because he has broken the rules by eating the fruit from the tree of good and evil.  When God asks him to own up, he promptly blames the woman and, when God confronts her, she blames the serpent. And on and on the game goes.

One company used to use the slogan “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” you see, the blame game can be quite profitable!  I used a well-known search engine (the one whose name rhymes with frugal) to look up “UK claim companies” and got 86000000 results in less than ½ second!

The problem with playing the “blame game” is that we tend to ignore our own responsibility in a given situation.  The problem with the human heart is, the human heart (cannot remember who said that).  The oft repeated story, The Times sent out enquiries to famous authors asking for their views on “what is wrong with the world today”, GK Chesterton (writer of the Father Brown mysteries among others) replied

Dear sir,

I am

Now, let me make this absolutely clear (sounds a bit like a politician!!!!), I am not advocating that we all walk round in sack cloth and ashes crying “mea culpa” (that’s your actual Latin).  What I am advocating is, that we are honest with ourselves and, most importantly, honest with God.  Why honest with God?  Well, in 1 John it says these words,

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

(1 John 1 vs. 8 -9)

 

When we are honest with God about the reality of our lives, we can receive His forgiveness and discover His peace.

Everything in the garden…

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Not everything in the garden is lovely.  Well, certainly not in mine anyway my fingers have never been green (the photo is a stock one, not my back garden – honest)!  But, this is a truth in life too.  There are good times and there are hard times, a time and a season for every activity under heaven as the writer of Ecclesiastes says.

This was brought home to me very much yesterday.  We had a wonderful service, celebrating our church anniversary.  We had a fabulous fellowship lunch, shared with some really good friends.  Our afternoon was to be spent in the company of some very dear people, and then…

As I came to reflect today on what had happened yesterday, I found myself thinking about the old proverb that says;

All sunshine and no rain makes a desert

The Bible is not silent about the hard times in life, just a quick glance through the book of Job confirms that.  I want to assure you that , if you are in a difficult place right now, God is not punishing you or walking away from you or abandoned you.  There is no easy “off the cuff” answer to hurt, pain or suffering.

So, where is God when we hurt?  I have come to realize that God is right there in the midst of it with us.  You see, God doesn’t isolate Himself from His creation but, in Jesus Christ, God comes to be with us as one of us, in the weakness and suffering of a Saviour who was born in a manger and hung on a cross.  That is the God we know, and we know that God will be with us whatever happens to us, to rejoice with us, and weep with us, and walk with us every day of our lives up to the very last one and beyond.

This morning, all I wanted to do was get into the words and the comfort of scripture and spend some time in God’s presence and I found these verses really helped me

 

Job 5:11: “He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

Psalm 27:13-14: “I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be strong, and may your heart be stout; wait on the Lord.”

Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

John 16:33: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”

Romans 8:37-39: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 15:13: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God.”

Hebrews 13:5: “Let your lives be without love of money, and be content with the things you have. For He has said: ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you.'”