Conversation: Bear

1 Corinthians 10:
13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Hebrews 12:
11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

 12Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;







Song of Hope

Look to the top
Of the poplar.
Lifeless, and
Armoured with glaze.
Monochrome sky
For a back-drop.
Monochrome mood
Now, for days.
Caught in the
Doldrums of winter,
Dampened and
Chilled to the core.
Hear him, the pure
Note of promise.
Fluid and full,
Perched above all
That is dreary.
Scarlet friend, come
With spring’s tune.
Singing the
Prophecy clearly:
“It’ll come,
It’ll come, soon.”








Good Chastening


4-11In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don't feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don't shrug off God's discipline,
but don't be crushed by it either.
It's the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God's training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best. At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

(Taken from Hebrews 12 in The Message)

We must get it into our thick skulls that the periodic tests are working out into trust, confidence, experience, character and a certain knowing of God's voice. The pain comes with the bout of sickness, the disfavour of the supervisor at work, the unanticipated expense, the good intentions totally misunderstood, the rebellion in one's children, the plumbing breakdown in the basement. The list of challenges is endless.

And there is the Accuser leaning over your shoulder and suggesting that 'you really must have disappointed God for all this to be happening'. But it is not punishment. It is training. (Unless of course the Holy Spirit has been banging on your door about some area of persistent sin.)

Remember all the wonderful promises given to the Seven Churches in the early chapters of the Revelation. They are promises to "him that overcometh". They are not promises to "him that breezeth through".


The Broken Vessel


The broken vessel
Strewn across the floor.
Fragments scattered far.
The pattern of original
Gone forever.
The shape, the symmetry
Things of the past.

One asks:
"What the mishap?
What the sudden,
Shocking drop?"
As if somehow
Reversing the loss
Of earlier glory.

And what of that glory?
Thing of men's fashion.
Mis-spent resources.
Calling for kisses
Of praise.
Pride of a pot.
Others have not.

So let it shatter.
Life of convention.
Painful pretention.
Now search for beauty,
Most worthy duty,
Living like Christ
Pearl of great price.

For the Bruised

New Weapons


You have become my gladiators, gladiators of steadfastness, patience, mercy, long-suffering, prayerfulness, watching and waiting. You did not choose me but I chose you, and ordained you that you might go forth and bear fruit and that your fruit might remain.

Once gladiators faced their king affirming, "We who are about to die salute you." But you the new gladiators have the privilege of saying, "We who are never going to die will salute You forever with thankful hearts."

And this is the weapon I give you to defeat the devices of the enemy; it is thanksgiving. You will recall past mercies and deliverances and will go forward with confidence to do my work, partnering with me and bringing me glory.

And in this service there will be times when you will be acted upon, when you will be passive, when adverse circumstances and coarse people will refine the ore. But was this not the place of my Son's greatest work? His Passion? The power is spelled out in a peculiar way in the Beatitudes (hungering, thirsting, mourning, making peace, being pure, meek, choosing not to retaliate, being persecuted for righteousness etc.)


A More Solemn Service


MUSIC IN THE BUSH by Robert Service (1907 Dodd, Mead and Company)

O'er the dark pines she sees the silver moon,
And in the west, all tremulous, a star;
And soothing sweet she hears the mellow tune
Of cow-bells jangled in the fields afar.

Quite listless, for her daily stint is done,
She stands, sad exile, at her rose-wreathed door,
And sends her love eternal with the sun
That goes to gild the land she'll see no more.

The grave, gaunt pines imprison her sad gaze,
All still the sky and darkling drearily;
She feels the chilly breath of dear, dead days
Come sifting through the alders eerily.

Oh, how the roses riot in their bloom!
The curtains stir as with an ancient pain;
Her old piano gleams from out the gloom
And waits and waits her tender touch in vain.

But now her hands like moonlight brush the keys
With velvet grace -- melodious delight;
And now a sad refrain from over seas
Goes sobbing on the bosom of the night;

And now she sings. (O! singer in the gloom,
Voicing a sorrow we can ne'er express,
Here in the Farness where we few have room
Unshamed to show our love and tenderness,

Our hearts will echo, till they beat no more,
That song of sadness and of motherland;
And, stretched in deathless love to England's shore,
Some day she'll hearken and she'll understand.)

A prima-donna in the shining past,
But now a mother growing old and gray,
She thinks of how she held a people fast
In thrall, and gleaned the triumphs of a day.

She sees a sea of faces like a dream;
She sees herself a queen of song once more;
She sees lips part in rapture, eyes agleam;
She sings as never once she sang before.

She sings a wild, sweet song that throbs with pain,
The added pain of life that transcends art --
A song of home, a deep, celestial strain,
The glorious swan-song of a dying heart.

A lame tramp comes along the railway track,
A grizzled dog whose day is nearly done;
He passes, pauses, then comes slowly back
And listens there -- an audience of one.

She sings -- her golden voice is passion-fraught,
As when she charmed a thousand eager ears;
He listens trembling, and she knows it not,
And down his hollow cheeks roll bitter tears.

She ceases and is still, as if to pray;
There is no sound, the stars are all alight --
Only a wretch who stumbles on his way,
Only a vagrant sobbing in the night.




There’s a song in every Christian

And it speaks of rough sea crossed

And of dark nights of desertion

When the former hopes were lost

And the world would brand it weakness

And would silence the refrain

And would drum their battle marches

That precede the grief and pain

Hoping for no other trophy

Than another small tiff won

Never dreaming, never seeing

Total victory in God’s Son.

But the song would call Him gentle

Willing slave to all men’s worst

Brother, Helper, Saviour, Jesus

Matchless lyrics oft rehearsed.

Now perhaps you sense the music

Go ahead, relinquish, Soul

And delight in light and rescue

For the song has made you whole.



Note: I asked her for a large coffee with hazelnut flavour. Name-tag said “Rachel”. Upon her return I said “You have a marvelous name. Rachel, mother of Joseph in the Bible. You know coat of many colours. Betrayed by his brothers. Jail one day. Pharaoh’s right-hand man the next.”

Her brilliant young eyes registered surprise and interest. It appeared she was unfamiliar with the story. “How do you do that? Remember it all and say it so clearly?” (Poor kid – suffering the illiteracy and stifled imagination of this age.)

I responded with the next step of opportunity: “Why don’t you read about Joseph in Genesis. He was betrayed by those closest to him out of jealousy. Ended up in jail for no apparent wrong. But his wisdom and insight soon came to the attention of a troubled monarch with nightmares. Before he knew it he stood majestically beside the Pharaoh as second highest in the land. Now Rachel, when you think of Joseph, think also of Jesus and His trial, death and resurrection. Ascended once again to the right hand of God the Father in Heavenly splendour. Forgiving the wrongdoers. The one Bible character was a forecast of the other. Have a nice day Rachel, mother of Joseph.”

This too was another little verse of opportunity in the Opus.




(A contribution from my son Jordan Blair)

One tender leaf upon a branch
One perfect flake of snow
One grain of sand upon the tide
Wherever it may go

One bird who sings atop the pines
One lonely wolf who calls
One drop of rain aloft in clouds
And downward gently falls

One flower grows between the rocks
One word that's left unspoken
One heart alone in silence sits
And there is slowly broken.


Ah Yes, Reproach

Having dealt with the coming Evil One (in our post entitled "Great Tribulation? No?"), I must now put the other unpopular item on the table - reproach for the sake of Christ.

Little is said in church circles these days about the probability that we will face slander and opposition and alienation just as Jesus did. His Gospel brings a sword of division between those who are fore-ordained unto eternal life and those who stubbornly persist in trusting in self or other social norms.

The old man of faith Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms in the Temple and prophesied the following:

Luke 2:

34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Hear a few other passages issuing similar warning:

Matthew 5:

11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

John 16:

20Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

21But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.

Hebrews 13:

12Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

13Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

14For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

2 Timothy 3:

12Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Now, is the comfort, confidence and commissioning of our stand with Jesus worth the hassle? Yep.

(Picture taken from the film "Gladiator")

 The Dialogue

“Just shake him

And he falls

I tell ya’.

Shake him and he falls.

Remove the perks

And pandering

The sense of

E’er do well

And in short time

This Job of yours

Will court my gates

Of Hell.”

“You have him

For your worst

A season

House and home

And health.

All standing lost

The hedge removed

Men’s praises too;

That heart is still

My dwelling place

Now do the worst

You do.”

Friends add

Into the mix

Their error:

“Why God strikes

So hard.”

They charge the man

With hidden sin

And judgment earned.

He strains into

The storm to hear

His Master’s voice

And mercy learned.



I, Yes, I Matter 

I matter, I matter
Yes I matter.
In this sordid mess
That never should have come.
I matter
And I grumble
At misfortune.
And I question God,
Allowing in this mix
A dreadful sum.

I wonder, I wonder
Yes I wonder,
Could the One Who moved
The sea now let me drown?
I wonder
As I ponder
All our history.
And I know that He
Has purpose in this pain
Ere help comes down.

I conquer, I conquer
Yes I conquer.
As I push aside
Sad self who blocks the way.
I conquer
In surrender
To a Father Who
Employs the night-time
And its settling dews
Before the Day.

Case Study on Revenge
Watched it again this evening (Easter Sunday). Pulled out the old VHS cassette and RCA player to watch the conclusion of the epic film Ben Hur (MGM 1959). This remains one of my favourites. It stars Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Sam Jaffe and Hugh Griffith (the bright-eyed Arab horseman).

In the second reel we had gotten past the accident which sends Judah Ben Hur's family into Roman custody, the slave procession through the desert, a chance meeting with Jesus the carpenter, the Roman galley ships in battle, the oarsman Ben Hur falling into the favour of the Roman commander, and the pomp in Rome where this Jewish nobleman receives Roman adoption.

Returning whole and hale to Jerusalem he stuns his boyhood friend turned nemesis, the Roman commander Massala. He was responsible for locking up Judah's family. The chariot games are scheduled before the new Governor Pontius Pilate, and the Jew is bent on victory and revenge in defeating and out-wagering Massala, master charioteer. The presentation of the crowds, the arena and the thundering chariots was a masterpiece for all time in cinematography. Suffice it to say that Massala's infractions of the rules of the event cost him an upset and his life, but not before telling the Jew that his mother and sister are living skeletons in the Valley of the Lepers (transferred with the plague from their prison).

The Hur house servant, and romantic interest, the beautiful Esther, has been giving them extra care for years, but they now dread seeing the estranged son and brother in their horrible condition. She tries her best, but unsuccessfully, to keep him away.

It appears that the Jew is about to launch organized revolt in his hatred of Rome. A chance encounter on a hillside with Esther puts him within yards of one of Jesus' captivating out-of-doors messages. An old man named Balshazar, and an acquaintance of Hur's for years, encourages him to come hear the wonderful words of the Nazarene. "I have found him, and am thoroughly convinced that He is the Son of God."

Without a word Hur gets up as if to leave. The other sighs, "You still choose death".

I had forgotten that line, but it aptly describes Hur's angry hold on life through the years for sake of revenge by the sword. Those who reject the message and promise of the Christ still choose death.

I will sum up briefly. Hur finds his way with family and Esther to the Via Dolorosa and Calvary's Hill. He witnesses the Man of Sorrows in extremis but without any show of hatred. The impact of this sight is life-changing.

I will never forget the scene where the blood from the Cross co-mingles with storm rainwater and flows abroad. In that storm Judah's mother and sister, speaking good words of the Nazarene, are healed of their contagion.

Believers all. Happy reunion in the Hur household. The hate forgot.

The last spoken words by Ben Hur: "When I heard His (Christ's) voice, the sword left my hand."

Pastoral scene of a shepherd leading his flock. The End.

 Never More Than We Can Bear


The Cup, And All of It



Matthew 20:22


“Can you drink the cup?”

The challenge from the Master

Given Sons of Thunder

His Passion close at hand.

Quickly they said “yes”

With no real sense of wonder

At the mix of living

To later understand.

They had known real joy

While seated at His table

His were words of hope

And brotherhood so rare.

Still most worldly folk

Ignored their every pleading

Hinting at the bitter dregs

Each life would come to share.

His a night alone

Then cruelly to a dying.

Theirs long years abroad

And facing tiresome doubt.

Martyrs’ ends they braved

Still Heaven’s ethic crying

Mixing woe and joy

(The things this life’s about.)

Could they take the cup

And lift it all for viewing

Chalice of their years

Laid, trusting, out for friends?

Could they drink it all

The God-sent blend renewing

Christ still in their midst

And thankful til their ends.


Note: I was constrained to write this after finishing a book by Henri Nouwen entitled “Can You Drink the Cup?” published in 1996, the year of his death. Excellent account of taking, lifting and drinking the Cup.










1 Corinthians 4:

9For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

10We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.

11Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;

12And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

13Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

People in the Church read these verses and almost despair. They bemoan the disappearance of prayer from public gatherings, the roadblock to the Gideon mission of Bible distribution to the public schools, the scarcity of Bethlehem images on the decorated windows.

They suggest that if we do not speak out against such discrimination against the faith, perhaps in a generation or two Christ will be a stranger to Canada. The inference is that if "We" do not act or witness in holy zeal, God's plan will be compromised.

Just STOP IT! He has limitless agents, words planted, refrains overheard, shining incidents of love shared and sacrifice offered. Peter even says in his first letter that godly women may win over the commitment of their errant husbands, "without the word" by their testimony of meek, reverent, gracious living.

The sovereign plan of a sovereign God is on track. The life-begetting influence of the Word is still in circulation. The convicting power of the Holy Spirit is still softening.

Now I am not saying that the Church is to stand by in idleness. Only this morning again in service I was reminded of "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things." (Romans 10:14,15)

I am just exhorting all to refrain from fretting over the state of things. If you are overwhelmed by surrounding callousness, unbelief, profanity, cynicsm or haughtiness you need only read again the message of Psalm 37 and FRET NOT.

I remember our children reading in home school a novel entitled "Martyrs of the Catacombs". Author unknown. Apparently it was found in a sea chest on a commercial vessel at port. Ancient Roman times. Authorities exasperated by the new influence of Christ followers, and rooting them out for public humiliation and death. The protagonist, a soldier of middle rank, has been given the assignment to discover these hidden ones and their strange ethic, and to gather them for public sport in the arena.

What he finds is simply that which was predicted by Jesus, that the love of the brethren for each other would convict the world that God the Father had sent the Son (John 17: 22, 23). The fellowship of the believers, their courageous martyrdom, the mutual respect in their gatherings, their harmlessness, the calm of their leaders. All such influences work upon the soldier, changing him from antagonist to brother in the faith, ultimately at the cost of his own life.

The Gospel of love and of peace is unstoppable.


Church Militant



You have sensed it before. The stiffening of a group of people as you came forward to enter into their conversation. The glassy looks on the faces as you offered some comment of good will or humour. The unspoken sense that you really had no part in them or in what was happening. The common topics of community, sports, weather, neighbourhood happenings appearing somehow off-limits to you. The expectation that you would move on elsewhere.

This is rejection, plain and simple. A putting off of your statement. What statement? Perhaps you have said nothing. But in the past your actions, omissions and expressions of face have spoken volumes to these people. You are a Christian, and a zealous one. The word has gotten around, making others uncomfortable. Old evangelists such as Finney used to talk of how one's presence ought to evoke a sense of "present duty felt".

It wasn't spelled out this way at Church. Supposedly you held the pearl of great price, and by your "loveliness" could charm people into the Kingdom of Heaven. But you now discover the cool response and the rolling eye. Don't be surprised; you are part of the Church Militant and you are still living in an age of the humiliation of Christ.

Be encouraged. The word of scripture is full of assurances for you and the spirit of glory rests upon you in your humiliation. The Church Triumphant is still something for the future, when the whole planet will be covered with the knowledge of the Lord and the joy of His administration.

Listen to Peter the Apostle:

1 Peter 4:

12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

14If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

In Luke chapter 14 Jesus spoke of the wisdom of fully counting the cost of entering into His service. He drew the parallel of an army commander preparing for battle and a builder preparing for a construction project. This is what the Church elicits - a battle and a building. Jesus did not say that we had to have the resources within us. He simply admonished that we be sincere and prepared to offer up all that we had. It resembles the story of the little lad offering his lunch of fives loaves and two fishes, and the miraculous picnic resulting for the audience of five thousand and more!

Perhaps this posting is stern, but it is honest. We are to be salt and light. We are to 'take with us words' of redeeming effect.

I have experienced a portion of rejection today, and am trying my best to re-group, and to think it not strange.


The Tenth Beatitude


John waited patiently in the damp cell for return of his friends from an audience with Jesus. The guard had relatives who had visited John at the waters of baptism. It seemed strange to him that such a well-intentioned man should be locked away as a threat to Herod's family. Only fitting that John should have some liberty in visitors.

The Baptist, through long hours of loneliness, rehearsed that day when Jesus had visited the Jordan and the revelation had come. The humble immersion. The appearance of the dove. The voice from glory stating, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

His preparation of repentance had benefited large crowds, and the Nazarene was now on the move exhorting children of Israel to repent "and believe the Gospel". How John delighted in imagining the scene of Jesus under blue skies addressing large crowds on the subject of the Kingdom of the Heavenly Father, and His marching orders.

John had sensed no other calling, under the circumstances of his imprisonment, than to pray for the success of the new rabbi. But the staightenings of the jail, the isolation, the inconsistent news of Herod's intentions, the prisoner's diet, the end of the great outdoors all pounded away at the prisoner's resolve. Would his mission prove fruitful? Would he ever know?

And so he had instructed the two men to make their way to Jesus and to ask one more time whether He was in fact the Messiah, or should they wait for another?

And now ... the sound of heavy footsteps, some mumbled conversation, the jangling of keys and the incoming torchlight. They were here!

"Did you see Him? What is the word, friends? Please, quickly!"

The iron door groans. The visitors enter. He grabs a shoulder of each with trail-worn withered hands and searches the faces imploringly.

"Brother John, He greeted us with a smile, heard your inquiry, and simply stated, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:

The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

BLESSED is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."

The prisoner let out a slow sigh, slumping forward as if to hang from their shoulders now. His mind journeyed through the promises of prophetic burden which had been his staple for years in the wilderness. What was the Master's intention?

Then it hit him. The words of Isaiah, perhaps the greatest of all prophets:

"3Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.

4Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

6Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert." (Isaiah 35)

No...John would not be offended. His work was accomplished. His Saviour had come. His soul was secure. Come what may.


Expulsive Power


Somewhere in the teachings of Oswald Chambers, deliverance from sin or sickness was attributed to "the expulsive power of an over-riding affection".

The man with the vile tongue wishes that he could stop cursing. Time and again he has embarrassed himself in public, or sullied his private thoughts with an obscene or irreverent phrase. He tells his friends that he has "this foul mouth".

The woman with the excruciating lower back pain wakes up afraid of the day's demands. She has had months of interruption of activities because of sudden paralyzing attacks. She wishes and she prays that the affliction would leave. In conversations she constantly refers to 'her bad back'.

In attending to the problem, in possessing it, these people have effectively established a dwelling-place for the sin or suffering. What is needed is something more compelling to captivate their thoughts and attention.

I can think of nothing more beneficial than the four Gospels and the noble Elder Brother, Jesus, therein portrayed. Time and again in the story, mercy triumphs over judgment, loneliness, need, despair and affliction.

The heart and mind of blind Bartimaeus had become occupied with the reports of the sympathetic, powerful, healing rabbi, Jesus. (Mark 10: 46-52). When he heard that the Galilean was passing by, he cast off his beggar's cloak, his public badge of disability and need, and approached Jesus. His love and hope in the report of the man of mercy would not be disappointed.

This is what Paul means in Philippians 4 when he says, "Rejoice in the Lord always."

I remember the testimony of a man I knew in Chatham who had vision problems and crossed eyes requiring glasses. He was a Christian and a solid student of the Word. He entered into a season of prayer, fasting and receipt of ministry with the specific intention of getting his eyes healed. Nothing happened. After absorbing his initial disappointment, he resolved to keep on his program of praise and study of Jesus. The intimacy and the affection grew. The scripture promise in 1 Peter 2 became more and more real:

24Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes (wounds) ye were healed.

Months later, one morning he was late for his factory job and rushed out of the apartment and down the highway to the neighbouring town. During a break in work he went to wash up, and noticed in the mirror that he had forgotten his glasses and that his eyes were 20/20 and completely straight!

Throughout the trial he had maintained the right focus, the right confession and the right affection. He had ignored his problem to death. Paul tells us in Colossians 3 to "mortify" the things in us which tend toward sin and handicap. We are to undergo a change of raiment:

8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

(Picture by Laurie Homan)


The Heart Bursts Forth


Praise for the Incarnation

Sweeter sounds than music knows
Charm me in Immanuel's name;
All her hopes my spirit owes
To his birth, and cross, and shame.

When he came, the angels sung,
"Glory be to God on high;"
Lord, unloose my stamm'ring tongue,
Who should louder sing than I?

Did the Lord a man become,
That he might the law fulfil,
Bleed and suffer in my room,
And canst thou, my tongue, be still?

No, I must my praises bring,
Though they worthless are and weak;
For should I refuse to sing,
Sure the very stones would speak.

O my Saviour, Shield, and Sun,
Shepherd, Brother, Husband, Friend,
Ev'ry precious name in one,
I will love thee without end.

John Newton (1725-1807)

Psalm 84:

11For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.


Love Has Come





I thought that I knew
What you’re going through.
I thought that I knew…
I was wrong.

I once had a bout
Of similar vein,
Of similar pain.
But not yours.

I sensed that the world
Had turned on me,
A cruel destiny,
Without hope.

And even my prayers
Met brazen skies.
The tears, the cries.
Where was God?

But one day the blue
Returned above.
I felt His love,
And it passed.

I now see the test
Had made me grow;
Christ’s heart to know.
I was changed.

And this was to be
My providence,
Of little sense,
‘Til I learned

That God has a plan
Which must use loss,
To show the Cross
To each child.

So I will not dare
Say what to do,
‘Til His work’s through,
And you’ve won.

But I will be here,
A needed friend,
An ear to bend,
Like the Son.

I thought that I knew
What you’re going through.
I thought that I knew…
I was wrong.

Note: We have been reminded that Job's friends did their greatest service when simply sitting in the sufferer's corner and keeping their mouths shut.

"Providence" has been defined as follows:
(initial capital letter) God, esp. when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.




Trials Leading us to Christ

“When he heard that Jesus was come … he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son:”

John 4:47

The trouble in his home sent this man to Christ. Perhaps he never would have gone at all had it not been for his son’s sickness. Many of those who went to Christ in the olden days were driven by their distress of heart. They tried everything else first, and then at the last moment they hurried to Jesus.

The same is true in these days. Many persons who have never prayed before have gotten down upon their knees by the bedside of their sick and dying children and cried to God on their behalf. Many persons have first been sent to God by their own troubles. It was not until the prodigal was in sore want, and every other resource had been exhausted, that he said he would arise and go to his father. Many sinners never think of Christ until they are in despair under the sense of guilt. Not until they see the storm of wrath gathering do they seek the shelter of the cross. But what a comfort it is that even going so late to the Saviour He does not reject or cast away those who come!

We ought to remember always that when any trouble comes to us, whatever other purpose it may have it is certainly intended to send us anew to Christ. Perhaps we have drifted away from Him, or grown careless, or lost our first love. The trouble that touches us is the merciful hand of God laid on us to lead us back to our place of safety and blessedness at His side. A man was travelling and was hungry, but did not know where to go to find food. There came up a sudden and violent storm, compelling him to seek shelter. Fleeing under a tree for refuge, he found not shelter only, but food. for the storm brought down fruits from the tree’s branches for his hunger. Those whom trouble drives to Christ also find both shelter from the storm and food to meet their cravings.

(Taken from Come Ye Apart by J. R. Miller)


But Still...


I have bottomed out.
I have lost the day.
I have pain within;
I can scarcely pray.
I have watched dreams pale
In the time's harsh gale.
I have few to help.
I am gaunt and pale.
But still I have the Lord...

But still I have the Lord,
And He picks me up
With the thought of Him.
And He brings His light
Where before 'twas dim.
And He makes me see
With new eyes of grace;
As His Kingdom comes,
And I find my place.
So sufficed, I have all.

James 5:

11Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

The Yoke


In the eleventh chapter of Matthew Jesus invites followers to take upon themselves his yoke. That they might learn of Him. That they might discover, surprisingly, the lightness of the burden.

The burden referred to is the life ethic developed by Him in the Sermon on the Mount. It is one of service, generosity, patience, free from judgment or retaliation, strengthened in prayer, fasting and honest religious exercise. It is sincere and guileless. It attests to a heavenly citizenship, although civic duties are to be honoured as a testimony.

A Jewish audience had been trained to look for temporal well-being as a consequence of adherence to the Law. Jesus could not guarantee this. But He could guarantee the abiding attention, love and ultimate victory flowing from the Father. He spoke of God as Father. He spoke with authority. Unprecedented.

He described himself as meek and lowly. The perfect leader rubbing shoulders in the task with His followers. Let us remember that meekness suggests controlled strength and not some sort of frailty or timidity. This was also a man who could captivate the crowds in public address or berate the authorities for their inconsistency or calm the tempest with a word.

He drew men to Him by His kindness, candour and sterling features. The connection seemed natural, not strained. The yoke-fellow so attracted would soon discover Who was bearing the lion’s share of the load. The job got done.

I am reminded of a passage in Isaiah where God the Father also attributes meekness to Himself:

Isaiah 57:

15For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.


Hillside Message


Up on the hillside on that clear day
Jesus told us secrets of life;
Blessings in faith and right ways to pray,
Ways into peace, ways out of strife.

How my poor heart rejoiced when he spake,
“Bless’d are the poor; Bless’d are the meek;
Bless’d are the hungry for righteousness’ sake.”
These blessings I wanted to seek.

Worship he showed as intimate time,
Time for the Father to meet me.
Prayer and fasting in secret were mine,
Mine an appointment with Deity!

Never would I have reason to fear
How in the months yet ahead,
How in the passing of year after year,
I would be clothed or be fed.

Father would manage all of my need
Just as the wee birds are blessed.
Better I strive my spirit to feed,
And trust in him for the rest.

Some of his words, though, have troubled me;
How I must heed all the laws,
How I must out-do the Pharisee
In righteousness for God’s cause.

Can it be true in my mortal state
That I can dominate sin?
That I can rise above lust and hate,
Not just without, but within?

Must I refrain from judging my peers
Every time I see them err?
Though their mistakes have brought me to tears,
Meekly, their faults must I bear?

Can I find special grace to forgive
Even my worst enemy?
Can I surpass mere “live and let live”
To love the one who hurts me?

Only the one who follows these ways
Will build his house on the rock.
Acting by faith in what Jesus says,
Nothing is gained by mere talk.

Give me the means to please you, oh Lord,
Power to walk in this light.
Strength of your Spirit, and life of your Word;
Then we will manage it right!


Fragile Flower in India



I knew of the name of Amy Carmichael from having read a number of her inspirational poems. I did not know of her solid Ulster Christian upbringing. Her repeated attempts to enter missionary work compromised by fragile health. Her ultimate settling in the Tinnevelly District of southern India. Her establishment of the orphanage and school known as the Dohnavur Institute. Her adoption, almost entirely, of Indian culture. Her rich sense of family, though remaining unmarried. The rescue of many very young local girls from the practice of Hindu temple prostitution and servitude. The thorough and seemingly strict program of lessons, chores and religious exercise. The frequency of disease and untimely death for the children. The number of rescues proving the diligence of their attending "angels" (fevers, delirium, choking accidents, cobras, returning influences of the old dark life). The falling accident which through complications rendered Amy bed-ridden for the final twenty years of her life. The change in assignment from meals, maintenance, lessons and admissions to writing, counselling and communing.

For all of this information and many more stirring words from Amy (1867-1951) I am indebted to Elizabeth R. Skoglund and her book Amma: The Life and Words of Amy Carmichael, 1994 Baker Book House Company.

What profound questions were asked by the rescued children, girls and boys! Where do the dead go? Is it a place of comfort or confusion? What is love? Is it only that which was offered to me by Hindu masters? Does the God Christ have power to change my angry ways? Where are all the flowers, music, parades and excitement in your religion? Such were the challenges faced by Amma and her dedicated staff, many of whom were orphans at Dohnavur in the first instance.

The author Skoglund makes very clear the understanding which motivated Amy in rendering comfort, "to come alongside and strengthen". There was to be no coddling or leniency, no unconfessed sin, no missed Hour of Prayer. But there were occasions of fun involving music, crafts, readings, outings in nature, swimming and the celebration of each child's Coming Day (the day of admission, birthdays often remaining unknown).

Of comfort, Amy made the following comparison:

"Who can tell how the parakeelia plant of Central Australia can resist wind, frost, heat, and in a tract of country where there is no surface water, remain green after three years' drought; so green, so full of life-giving water that horses and cattle feeding upon it need no water. We have a wonderful God, the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. He can turn the least of us into a parakeelia-or better, far better, for a parable cannot show everything, He can comfort us so that we know how to discover to others the parakeelia's secret Spring."

It is noteworthy that in preparing for her life of toil, hardship, care-giving, stamina and ultimate submission, Amy Carmichael drew heavily from the thoughts of Samuel Rutherford, Hudson Taylor, Geraldine Taylor, Charles Spurgeon, F. B. Meyer, H.C.G. Moule and Andrew Murray.

Closing now with one of her poems:

Thou art my Lord Who slept upon the pillow,
Thou art my Lord Who calmed the furious sea;
What matter beating wind and tossing billow
If only we are in the boat with Thee.

Hold us in quiet through the age-long minute
While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill;
Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, art in it?
Can the heart faint that resteth in Thy will? (Edges of His Ways, London, S.P.C.K. 1955)

I think yet one more would be appropriate:

Not that He doth explain
The mystery that baffleth; but a sense
Husheth the quiet heart, that far, far hence
Lieth a field set thick with golden grain,
Wetted in seedling days by many a rain.
The End, it will explain.

 Feel free to email a comment or contribution to the following:

Doug Blair,
Dec 3, 2011, 3:10 PM
Doug Blair,
Feb 11, 2012, 1:16 AM