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Psalm 107:

2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

 3And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.



Tell a Neighbour


Can you see it?
Will you do it?
You are useful where you are.
And may be a living witness
To the bright and Morning Star;
With a harvest just as precious,
As on mission fields afar.
Share the Gospel,
Tell a neighbour – Jesus came.

Many suffer
Without knowing
That there is a ready cure,
For the discontent they’re feeling,
And the guilt they can’t endure.
Once they cleave unto the Saviour,
He gives peace, complete and sure.
Share the Gospel,
Tell a neighbour – Jesus saves.

There is Good News
In this message.
He has risen Lord and King;
With the strength and right and wisdom
To unravel anything.
Priest Eternal, He still bids us
All our prayers and praise to bring.
Share the Gospel,
Tell a neighbour – Jesus reigns.

But be gentle
With the message,
Lest a hardening set in.
Do not hurt them in your boldness.
Do not judge them in their sin.
Meekly, show the Lord’s compassion,
That disciples He might win.
Share the Gospel,
Tell a neighbour – Jesus cares.


Palm Tree Gospel


John Williams was dispatched by the London Missionary Society to French Polynesia in the Pacific (@1827). Eventually he died at the hands of cannibals.

He relates one incident where he came across a farmer peasant, named Buteve, who through trauma had lost both his legs. Garden farming was a tedious matter of crawling around with the aid of some rudimentary assist. When assemblies were called by Williams, Buteve could only make it as far as the pathway by his lot, where he would inquire of passers-by as to a song, a scripture or any short message shared.

Williams heard of this simple, devoted man and paid him a visit in which he asked of the nature of his faith exercises:
Answer: “Oh yes, I very frequently pray as I weed my ground and plant my food, but always three times a day, besides praying with my family every morning and evening.”
Question: “What do you say when you pray?”
Answer: “I say, Oh Lord, I am a great sinner; May Jesus take my sins away by His good blood; Give me the righteousness of Jesus to adorn me, and give me the good spirit of Jesus to instruct me and make my heart good, to make me a man of Jesus, and take me to Heaven when I die.” (John Williams, The Martyr Missionary of Polynesia, by James J. Ellis, 1889, S.W. Partridge and Company)

The gardener got it! Simply by prayer, song, bits of scripture, meditation and dialogue. How much other “stuff” seems to occupy our pulpits these days. How many commentaries, testimonies and DVD’s keep us from the purity of this man’s experience of Christ?

The Gospel of John (narrated by Christopher Plummer)


This Man Receiveth Sinners


Luke 15

1.Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2.And the Pharisees and scribes murmered saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

That's just it. The Lord has come to minister to those who have a real sense of their deficit. If they attempt to bluff and claim self-righteousness, then He moves on. He says that the Physician has come to minister to the sick, and to those who will acknowledge that they are sick.

Consider how Jesus dealt with the woman who came to the well in mid-day heat as recorded in John 4. Presumably she chose that time to avoid numbers of other women. She had had many husbands and was the subject of much gossip. Presently she was living common-law. All this Jesus knew by the gift of knowledge. When he stated these facts to her, there did not seem to be condemnation in his countenance or a roadblock to the interview. He was there to dispense "living water" regardless. He was there for her alone.

There is a famous painting of this incident showing the Lord seated by a small well-lid at the base of a flight of stairs. His head appears cocked to hear the sound of one approaching from above. It is this woman of shame. He is there for her. He knows that she is coming.

The woman is so impressed with his willingness to bless that she accepts what he is there to offer. She runs off to tell neighbours that she has found the "promised One". A revival ensues in the community. Many come and listen to His teaching for themselves. He does receive sinners. They sense that he holds a certain optimism for their redemption.

If you can come to some quiet place, and lay yourself bare for His healing, and welcome Him to make His presence known, you will not be disappointed. You will find Him friendly, and more than a match for your sin. A new life awaits.

John 6:
37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

(Painting by William Hole)


A Most Needful Message


Keith approached the pulpit, looked at all the familiar faces and gulped:

"Brothers and sisters, I was moved profoundly by something which I read last night about the priesthood of all believers. I am going to speak now from the heart. I love you. I want to see Jesus glorified in you. You will probably be upset by the following, but I am not deterred.

A comfort has set in around here. A luke-warmness. A busy-ness without fruit. I see faces repeatedly which seem to say 'Pastor, pray for me. Pastor teach me what I must know. Pastor affirm me and reassure that I am in the heavenly flock. Pastor show me what I must really know from John's Gospel, or Romans, or Daniel, or Proverbs, or Revelation. Smooth out all the knotty points. Pastor win souls for me. Pastor bring in God's presence for me.' I can entertain this sort of thing no longer.

I assure you that things are going to change. A coach demonstrates strategies, conducts fitness drills and then lets the team go out on the field... AND PLAY! I am going to release you to play ball. Basic Bible study. Yours. Regular use of concordance, dictionary, commentary. Yours. Extended study hours in our Church Library. Yours. Regular burdened corporate prayer in the services. Yours. Regular testimonies of challenge and victory in our gatherings. Yours. Exercise of spiritual gifts for the edification of the Body. Yours. Regular efforts to invite the unchurched to more relaxed gatherings. Yours. Street witness teams on an ongoing basis. Yours. The training of such witnesses. Yours. The mentoring of new believers. Yours.

So, lovingly, I repeat that things are going to change. Expect now to see in me more of the coach or conductor, and less of the surrogate. You are going to become increasingly a conditioned force for righteousness, comfort and truth in this community. Henceforth we will leave many of the other programs to the theatres, restaurants, gymnasiums and social clubs which abound. We are going to make the Body of Christ a vital issue which offers help and hope. We are going to make our Master smile. God help us."

A Walk in the Bush

So many of the Christian blogs that I sample show a regret on the part of the writer that he/she does not give a testimony often enough. They believe that they lack the boldness or that they do not seem to find the time.

This restlessness to be “doing something for the Lord” is not His plan.

I know a man who goes every Thursday noon hour to the same street corner near the City Hall to distribute Gospel tracts to complete strangers. That is ‘his thing”. I don’t believe that it is for me, although I spent an entire summer with a friend doing the same on Wednesday evenings. It seemed that we were more of a bother than a help. Some would smile acknowledging that our hearts were right in the venture. Some were irritated, but that was really with God and His Word and not with us. Friends have told me that the word of God never comes back void. Yeah, that is in Isaiah 55.

What if we were to regard witnessing for Christ as if it were bird-watching in the bush? I do some of that with great pleasure. The fresh air, the sun, the sounds and the exciting prospect of a discovery. If I come across an interesting specimen, I make the most of the moment and delve into the details. If the feathered guy sticks around we have a little exchange, and together enjoy God’s creation and our harmony in it. If I come up against one that seems to have me stumped, I refer to the Guidebook on Birds.

I am in no way minimalizing here any of the people I might meet with a possible word of witness for Jesus. I respect them and their experience of life. I am simply suggesting the sense of adventure, freshness and spontaneity of it all. Jesus walked this way throughout Galilee.

He said in Acts One that we were to be ‘witnesses unto Him’ in all places. That involves more than the speaking of portions of scripture or the handing out of literature. It is you, the total package, a living epistle for the Lord, saturated in His ethic, wafting His aroma, and apparently enjoying it. Savvy?


Jesus Army in Coventry

Jesus Army in Coventry



To Him That Believeth


The note read briefly, "Pastor Keith, may I see you in your study for a few moments at 5:00 P.M. on Monday? Bruce Benton" It had been given to Keith by staff on Monday morning. Dropped into Sunday's collection plate.

Keith had spent a most painful twenty-four hours since his rebuke from the pulpit. Imagine, calling out luke-warmness; the crippling routine; denouncing many programs; turning a good forty percent of his responsibilities back over to the congregation. Wow! Had he heard God accurately on all of this?

But he had not been able to get an image out of his thoughts. It was in Mark's Gospel. Jesus coming into Jerusalem on the Monday morning of Passion Week. Hungry, and seeing a fig tree in His path. Although this tree showed leaves, it bore no fruit. To the surprise of His disciples Jesus cursed the tree. Later that same day he whipped the sellers and money-changers out of the temple. Two seemingly destructive acts Jesus. Keith had examined the church for days in light of this image.

Throughout the day, Keith had imagined many troubling scenes. His associate pastor asking if he had really meant all of that. Fred and Sarah, co-chairs of the Board of Elders, meeting him with pained looks after their many hours of organization and stirring up the people. Martin, the Missions chair, reminding him of the big cheque recently sent to field workers at the school in Kenya. Harvey the Pre-teen Sunday School Superintendent coming in for another Saturday afternoon of preparation, laden down with children's magazines, videos and felt-board figures. His own wife shaking her head at his discounting of his own tireless service to date. He was, in a word...miserable.

And it was ten minutes until Bruce's hastily called visit. But here is what Keith did not know. Bruce had been with the church some eighteen months. A corporate accountant transferred from Mississauga. His wife, Karen, once an elementary school teacher, had been staying at home recently for the benefit of eight year-old daughter Martha and four year-old Brendon. The couple were still sensing something missing in the oft-repeated term "church family". They had attended programs, received smiles and small-talk and offered some efforts in last year's Easter Pageant. But they were dissatisfied with the lack of real engagement with other parishioners, the lack of transparency, the handicap to real burdened prayer one for the other, the low-bar messages of basic redemption time and again from the pulpit, the evident spiritual gifts in the pews lying dormant, while staff did it all and grew weary.

After much consideration and talk, Bruce and Karen had decided to leave the fellowship, and Bruce felt strongly that he should give an account. But then Keith had dropped the bomb on Sunday in his remarks. That sounded like real church, real growth, real forward movement into Christian maturity, real burden bearing, real evangelism, real service in-house and at large. Could the people be ignited in this fashion? A desperate call indeed, but a worthy call.

The intended ten minute apology blossomed into an hour's talk between brothers of the faith, stirred with the same vision and hope, zealous for the glory of the same Saviour.

Bruce's parting words: "Thanks Keith for all of this. Consider my thoughts. Get back to us...and soon. We really want to help. This thing will work!"
(Taken from the ebook "Church on the Hoist".)


An Ounce of Heart


(Today's entry in Come Ye Apart by J. R. Miller)

Finding Christ

“We have found the Messias.”

John 1:41

We must notice the kind of argument Andrew used with his brother. He just went to him with a great joy in his heart, ‘the joy of discovery and of satisfaction,’ and told him about it. An English preacher gives in a sermon this illustration, showing how much more convincing power there is in a little bit of real Christian life than there is in a large amount of apologetics.

A minister delivered in his pulpit a very fine course of lectures in refutation of some form of infidelity. He delivered the course chiefly for the benefit of one man that attended his place of worship. The man was sceptical, and the preacher hoped to remove his doubts. Shortly after the close of the lectures this man came and declared himself a Christian. The minister was very glad, and said to him, “Which of my discourses was it that removed your doubts?” The answer was, “Oh, it was not any of your sermons that influenced me. The thing that set me to thinking was a poor woman that came out of the chapel beside me one night and stumbled on the steps. I reached out my hand to help her, and she said, ‘Thank you;’ then she said, ‘Do you love Jesus Christ, my blessed Saviour?’ I did not, and I went home and thought about it; and now I can say, I love Jesus.”

An ounce of heart is worth more than a ton of head in winning souls.

When we have really found Christ ourselves, the best way to bring others is just to tell them what Christ is to us. One word of genuine and hearty confession of Christ by a person whose soul is full of the new-found joy, is worth more than the most eloquent sermons to lead others to believe in Christ. Let us be sure that people know from us that we have really found Christ; then they cannot but be impressed. It will surely be a sad pity if we should so live that they will not suspect that we are Chrstians.
Note: I have received much benefit from a year's study of the life of Christ in J. R. Miller's devotional "Come Ye Apart". It is shown in the sidebar as a Helpful Link.

“Just take the elevator to the third floor. Hang a left and walk to the end of the corridor. You will find the hospital chapel and the Pastoral Care Director’s office right out front.

Wayne found it with no difficulty. Roman Catholic hospital was bound to have a good one. Empty. Quiet. Gentle pastel tones on the walls. Sunday Missals in each pew. Fourteen stations of the Cross around the room; each a picture in bas relief about 14 by 18 inches. (Jesus is condemned; given His cross; drops it several times; acknowledges his Mother; receives Simon’s help with the burden; speaks to the women of Jerusalem about the coming days; receives Veronica’s face washing with the cloth/traditional; Jesus expires; rests in His Mother’s lap on Golgotha; is buried in Joseph’s tomb.)

Wayne coughed and the room echoed resoundingly. Marvelous acoustics! Not supposed to cough in here, Buddy. He spoke a word or two and was surprised at the near microphone effect in the room.

Time to try a song. Sunday afternoon. No one here. Let ‘er go.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely still

In the light of His glory and grace.”   (Fanny Crosby, a blind poet)

A couple more selections:

It is finished…the end of the conflict

It is finished and Jesus is Lord.”

And then…

I will sing unto the Lord

For He has triumphed gloriously

The horse and rider fell into the Sea…” (Exodus chapters 14 and 15)

Somewhat spooky but delightful. One person in sincere worship in this small historic gathering place. A place where healing was often in question. Wayne thought back to the visit just finished with his friend Lydia. General medicine ward. Respiratory complications. Had approached the visit with some hesitation. But it had just flowed. Catching up. Reading Psalms 40, 41 and 103. A prayer for God’s merciful comfort and healing had followed. Lydia remained quiet but could muster the occasional “Amen”.

Wayne, with hospital gown and surgical gloves in place, had given her forearm a jocular squeeze. Her eyes twinkled as if to say “Thanks friend”.

Chaplaincy…civvy style, he thought. Much more needed in this sterile place.



Sons of Thunder


He doesn't seem to hurry. Yet He has told us that many villages must be visited during his allotted time. Allotted? Does that mean that he foresees some abrupt end to this marvelous circuit?

He leaves us most nights, from  hospitable quaint home or makeshift roadside camp. It would seem that prayer is so very much more important to him than sleep. But the following day no signs of lagging or fatigue. The crowds never let up. They press in smiling; straining to hear or watch. Becoming almost rude in their eagerness

At the most unpredictable times he will step off to the side, seat himself upon a wagon or boulder and tell one of his stories. Straight out of where they live. Challenging them to forgive, to share, to seek no haughty posture, to approach the Almighty as a father, involved and merciful and in the commonplace.

He knows the prophets, but does not swing such knowledge around as a hammer of condemnation or of authority. The bunch of us try to clear the way for him, village to village. To organize the people into manageable audiences. To keep the children's noise at a distance. But he will not countenance the splitting off of the little ones; neither does he have any reservation that his messages are beyond them. They scramble for place in his lap, at his feet, within reach of those hands of comfort and healing, under that gaze so approving and hopeful.

There have been times when we have felt the need to apply a firm hand. He is worthy of great respect, but so often he demonstrates that it is the farthest thing from his mind. Not like any of the other rabbis. Strangely, in such a posture, he tells all that the Kingdom of God has come. Not like a thunderstorm; rather like the early morning dew.

Thunder. I had my day on that one. I can hardly understand what came over me and my brother. Something ignorant, imperious and indignant. Back there, one of the villages of the Samaritans. Completely rejected our offer to visit. Imagine! Making light of the Master, the God-sent mission , the Good News! At that moment, seemed like time for the rod. Like time for vindication and reprisal. Like time for fire from heaven upon the contemptuous.

A short while earlier, three of us had been up on the Mount, dazed by the visit of holy men of old, hearing in our stupour the voice of God Himself, "My beloved Son. Hear him". I still don't know what it all meant.

Jesus had called James and I the Sons of Thunder. He had said that our outburst was of a spirit completely different from His. We felt His disappointment. What can be done? What are our chances? He is so far beyond us.

(See Luke 9: 46-56)


Thanks For the Flag


Thanks for the flag, saints.
You ran once with Him.
Touched His clothes.
Placed hands of camaraderie
Upon those shoulders.
Saw the lame walk,
The outcast relieved,
The fretful calmed,
The dead raised,
The deaf ears opened.

To His message of love
And of Father's
Constant reaching.
Of the prize in
Absorbing the blow;
Going two miles;
Listening with grace;
Facing the grave.
Proclaiming at hand-off,
'Him, Risen Indeed!'

To other keen runners,
In different times,
In different struggles,
In different climes.
But all with
The Spirit and
Joy reinforced,
To herald the message
And finish their course.
The flag still clean.

And true to its purpose.
No never gone stale,
Nor broken, nor bested,
Nor picayune, nor pale.
Maintaining rich colour,
Its drapery white,
And crimson its message,
'Begone dreadful night
Of death and despairing.
Our Lord makes things right!'

So carry the standard
When passed on to you.
Its olive-wood handle
So straight and so true.
And look for new runners
Who reverence God's Son,
Who range to the by-ways
As you just have done.
Carry it high, saints.
For soon He will come

Not a Churchgoer

Not a Churchgoer: Doug Blair Reads


Alive with Natalie Grant

Passing the Food
I had a delightful talk recently with a seasoned brother in Christ; one who has been pastor, church planter, denominational head and missionary. His current thrust is in missions and it will not be long before he arrives again in Africa. He was excited about the message in a very recent book by Larry Stockstill entitled The Surge (2012).

He looks at the major responsibility of the Church in terms of reproduction, the bringing of light into darkness.

He reminded me of the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Mark's Gospel describes how He had His disciples sit the people down in orderly groups of fifty or so. Then they distributed from the loaves and fishes to the first row of each plot; then the second, and so on. In this fashion it was assured that all were fed and that no one received too much or too little. Compare this to a group continuing to mill around, where it would be easy for the gluttons to come forward several times or for the shy ones to hold back.

My friend's suggestion was that today in North America the front row keeps getting fed. With the next bit of 'work for the Lord' being that same front row. But the second row of each plot is the Ukraine, and the third is the Amazon and the fourth is the Solomon Islands, and so on. We don't see past our own!

How much unlike the ministry of Paul the Apostle is this agenda. He would spend some time with a fellowship; deposit the good seed of the Gospel account and righteous living, and then move on to the untouched. He would trust the powerful work of the Spirit to protect against error, strife or imbalance in those left behind.

We have eaten...and eaten well. Time to push away from the table and deliver meals. If we stay, then the lethargy and the ennui will soon bring on the strange and dangerous foods of excess, distraction and indulgence. Sadly, they have already come.

Let's Sing Together

Come now, together,
Let’s sing for the joy of it.
Gather with brothers
And sisters of grace.

Tell of the stories
Of Jesus the marvelous
Captain of courage
Who died in our place.

Whate’er the trouble
Preceding the glad refrain
Soon it will vanish
Like mists of the morn.

Saints with new vistas
Of God in the commonplace.
Shaking the tambourine,
Sounding the horn.





The quivering age rings of doubt;
The fuzzy aura of social norm;
Of grandmother’s fables
On how good comes;
Of past hurts and yearnings
Wrenching head and heart
Periodically upward.
Now collect and condense into
A single point of certainty
And gladsome focus.
Christ has come.
Christ has served,
And brought the good report.
Blood and death have served their purpose.
His Father…Our Father.
Is love.
Entirely to be trusted.
And oh, how the good comes!



The World's Laughter


I love to listen to Steve Brown and the Key Life radio broadcast. He often pokes fun at religious pomposity in himself and in the church.

Yesterday he was giving anecdotes of new believers who were behaving unreasonably in the eyes of their friends and neighbours. A new-found faith had appeared to establish such certainty in the big issues of life. The convert felt himself to be a valuable providence for others. Such fanaticism. Such half-cooked reality! Such unapproachable self-assurance. It deserved the world's laughter.

He spoke of an old friend who with embarrassment told the following story: She had just gotten saved. The Holy Spirit had turned on some of the lights concerning Christ's finished work of redemption. She wanted to impact some of her neighbours. (She couldn't bear to see them go to Hell, or so she thought.) Written invitations were sent out for a Bible study. She cleaned up the house. Scattered around open Bibles. Put away all the secular magazines and novels. And baked fish-shaped cookies! Fish-shaped, like the ancient secret symbol of believers in the catacombs of Rome! Yeah team.

The scheduled evening came and not a single neighbour arrived. In the silence of her "sanctified" living room she thought she could hear laughter. The world's laughter. Clearly this was not the way to get to know strangers; to affirm them; to help them; to gain their trust; to represent the riches of belief.

The remembered barb which came from that ill-conceived outreach stayed with this woman throughout her Christian walk. In Brown's words the world's laughter had been a "severe mercy". It had been inevitable.

Steve Brown is often one to warn that the Christian does not have it all together. The healthy church is honest about its short-comings. The scriptures contain many mysteries and half-contradictions which will only be half-understood this side of Glory. To represent a stiff certainty and smugness in the face of all the world's problems is to render no service at all. Scripture delivered in such a spirit comes across like snowballs packed with pebbles.

Chris had secured the blowhorn from the army surplus. He had thought long and hard about location. Not speaker's corner in the Downtown. Not the university campus. How about the boulevard in front of the busiest Canadian Tire he could think of? Not on their private property; rather by the road allowance. And Saturday morning in the thick of home renovation and gardening trips. Yeah, that would do just fine.

The sandwich board message on legs read "Jesus sent me here". Nine o'clock he would start and for no more than two hours unless there was a development of discussion with interested inqurers. He had prayed about tracts. Nope, no tracts. Too impersonal. Too masked by religiosity. Too compromised by other street corner messengers who had no real burden of a message; simply a restlessness to be "doing something for the Lord".

Friday night he had taken about a half-hour in prayer: "Lord I am doing this as an offering. Not because you need my input in particular. There are many others. But I sense an urging to represent your Son out there in the everyday, and in the midst of bustling people without any thought of Church. I truly believe that Jesus is most worthy of common respectful discussion in the open streets; not just behind the bricks and mortar of a church. This is the way I will present Him. Conversational. No direct scripture reading. I will have to speak a little slower than normal. The loud speaker distorts things.

I will tell people that I am not out there plugging any particular church. I realize that I might be mistaken for a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon. They seem to be the only ones systematically on the streets. Pity. They have no idea who your Son is. They are earning big blue stars on a big glitzy tally board somewhere. Grace is entirely foreign to them.

I will abbreviate a testimony, and will move right into one of the fascinating stories of Jesus' kindness and authority by the Sea of Galilee. I desire to show your nobility, courage, compassion and courtesy, Jesus. They have all heard about the blood and gore of Calvary; about the prospect of Hell which results from their basic disinterest as well as from their known wrongdoings. I want to show how you could always identify with the hurt, awkwardness and loneliness, and then offer just the right solution. The people out there will be encountering nothing but strangers who do not want to engage or to consider anyone else's pain. Society is getting just that blunt and dispassionate.

But you Lord, never change. Send a few tomorrow morning who are ready to make contact. Give me the peace and composure to deflect any heckling or naysaying, and not to joust. You Lord never jousted with the common folk."

David Wilkerson Warns on Strange Manifestations
 Prayer Uttered on the Supernatural
I have seen it. Men frozen in trance. A preacher falling down repeatedly while trying to take the microphone. Holy laughter or interminable moaning and grabbing of one's abdomen. People attesting to the appearance of angel dust. Missionaries purportedly receiving manna on their open Bible while celebrating communion. Large assemblies milling about in conversation and "fellowship" even after the preacher has commenced the message.
And the warning gets issued: "We must respect the working of the Holy Ghost, even if we do not understand."
These are also people who have often grown tired of their Bibles, and of tarrying or breathing in the silent presence of the Lord. In their thirst for something new and fresh they have left behind their yardsticks of scripture and of holy fear to venture into wasteland.
A considered rebuke gets labeled as faithless and judgmental. Pity.
But I have also seen shining new babes in Christ; invalids with most evident restoration of body strength, vision or hearing; tear-washed faces calling down the mercies of heaven in prayer with unlearned articulation and poignancy; prophecy which touches the heart of a congregation on a difficult issue needing the direction of "the finger of God". Lord Jesus help us to see the difference. Help us to SEE YOU...Doug


Oh, I'll Be Alright Chile...


I have often been reminded of all the good Gospel music enjoyed in the 80's with the signature of Andrae Crouch on it. It was a time when we lived close to Detroit and frequently went over for concerts or revival meetings. Names such as Swaggart, Copeland, Cerullo, Price, Bonnke, Jenkins, Grant, Schambach.

Crowds were always of mixed colour and mixed expression. It was a learning time of comparative worship. We timid little Canadians were received warmly. Our teenage recollections of the race riots in the 60's evaporated under the sun of the Son.

I remember one crusade in particular at Cobo Hall where the praise was rich and unashamed. Hilary and I could hear a delightlful alto voice close behind us joining in all the songs without hesitation and with interspersed exclamations of "Praise ya Lode, Thank ya Jesus." At a break in the meeting we had a pleasant conversation with this black grandmother in her upper 70's. She was a frequent attender and familiar with many of the evangelists. Clearly she knew her Bible and she knew her Jesus.

After the "seventh inning stretch" the meeting continued for another hour or so and we lost sight of our new acquaintance until dismissal with the milling crowds exiting to the riverside streets of Detroit. She was standing by a pillar out front and "was jes goin' to wait for her grandson for a ride". All alone. Late at night. Dark city streets. Crowds of strange people. Clutching her purse.

"I be awright. The Lode is here. Thank you for carin'. See you folks again mebbe. God bless."

Her sort of testimony given wherever and to whomsoever, with that fragrance of love, calm, sincerity and faithful expectation beats all the hype which the mega-churches pile onto the record of Jesus to coax an altar call or enthusiastic round of worship. Scores of grandmothers and other little ones of witness will reap great rewards from their humble input into the Harvest.



Move of God

I remember seeing a painting of George Whitefield (1714 - 1770) preaching to a crowd in an English village. The faces of those in attendance registered every possible reaction – mild interest, polite boredom, awkward smirks, heckling, distraction toward the activity of others and some in heavy conviction and mourning for sin.

The face of the preacher showed only severe focus on the Word being preached. He was not scanning the crowd for their reaction or trying to tailor his presentation for sake of persuasiveness. He modeled the dedicated, humble messenger of the simple seed of the Word. I saw nothing of debater, salesman or distinguished celebrity.

How often do we hear of the ministries of “great men or women of God” wielding some “mighty anointing”. It is as if the sweet ministry of the Holy Spirit and His fruit have been reduced to a commodity like baking powder available for better effect.

I am convinced that we are seeing the eclipse of “great personalities” in ministry. God is jealous for His glory. One of a messenger’s greatest fears in service or testimony should be the fear of the praise of men and its debilitating effect. The sower simply, obediently and faithfully scatters the seed. God gives the increase.

I am expecting a groundswell of grass-roots love and sharing to be in the next outbreak of revival. We must all be prepared to give the glad report and to offer hands of help.



Valley of Tears Beatitude


Again yesterday I received a blessing from Psalm 84:

5Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.

6Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

7They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.

Apparently there is a community of faithful ones who have encountered the valley of Baca (tears) for whatever reason, and have come through victoriously, and have stored up in their heart empathy for the suffering ones, and resources and encouragement for these fellow pilgrims. They understand the ways of those who traverse that Vale. Their faith, example and counsel provide supernatural refreshment and "wells" long before God sends relief in the natural realm with the "rains". They appropriate joy in all circumstances because their inevitable destination is Zion.

Are there tears in your present or past? Have you come THROUGH that valley? Are you endued with a resource and audacity not acquired by the untried, by the ones who appear always to breeze through? Thank God for such a blessing, such a resource, which may very soon become a "well" for others.

Always be on the lookout, and prepared to be surprised by simple opportunities to minister. This was Jesus' way from day to day. He too was a "man of sorrows" and "acquainted with grief".


Ready to Give the Reason


Allan needed this break. Time to stretch. Check the tires. Load security. Last time here was about six weeks ago. Good food. Always full of drivers. Probably would recognize some. First name basis. Easy discussion about loads. Different fleets and working conditions. Police from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

This part of Pennsylvania was beautiful...particularly in autumn. Rolling hills. Small well-kept farms. But treacherous with the lowering of the sun. Lengthening shadows. Sudden steep down-slopes or curves. He felt his eyes strained and his frame tense.
Thankfully no bothersome "lot lizards" getting in his way as he did his walk-around (pathetic young prostitutes cruising the service stops in vans).

Once inside he immediately appreciated the warm lighting, cozy temperature and delightful smells. Waitress with the poofy hair and knowing smile gave him a grin and pointed to a few empty tables in the far corner by the mural with all those beautiful painted Kenworths.

What would it be this time? Breakfast? Hearty dinner? On the road daily regimen was cast aside when it came to eating or sleeping. Sleeping. Yeah, that had been the topic of conversation last time here, with a couple of drivers from Quebec. They had heard of a casual acquaintance who had fallen asleep at the wheel on these hills and missed a hazardous turn. Dead. Perhaps the trucker's greatest enemy. That and the usual squeeze faced by broker drivers in their company arrangements. Mileage allowances. Weight and hazard adjustments. Inter-state licencing. Fines. Fuel prices. Maintenance and repairs. The little guy's tab seemed endless.

Waitress with a badge stating "Marge" arrived offering menus. "Good evening Stretch. Haven't seen you for a while. Where you from again?"..."Kingston. Got a big load of steel coils coming back from the mill. Been hittin' the stop-and-go pretty heavily on these hills of yours."... "Yeah, but they're beautiful, aren't they?"

"I guess I'll have your hot roast beef sandwich with mashed, mixed vegetables, side salad with French and a pot of tea."

"Right away Stretch, uh Allan. I'll bring that tea and a paper."

Allan rubbed his eyes. He knew that he wouldn't be straining at the newsprint. Most of the drivers had teamed up in twos or threes at the tables. Craving company. Conversations were up and running on the Penguins, local election issues, activities of sons and daughters, gadgets and equipment to help with the job.

From behind and above he heard a familiar voice: "Allan. Remember me? Jerry?"

Allan did remember. Two visits ago they had sat and talked. "Hey Jerry. Sit down I've just ordered." Marge was quick on the uptake. Jerry opted for breakfast and coffee.

Their previous encounter was sifting through Allan's memory. Jerry was driving a loaner. His rig was in the shop. Serious accident in a light snowfall. Problems with insurance adjustment. Loan payments. Imposing fuel bills lingering on. Company threatening to replace him. Not enough time at home. Tension developing with his wife Stacy. One boy starting high school and getting grades well below his potential.
Yep, Jerry had really wanted to unload. And he had chosen Allan.

Good choice. For years Allan had been a member of Transport for Christ. Monthly meetings. Phone network. Frequent literature. Women's groups for the wives left at home. Allan had even considered chaplaincy work full-time, but eventually opted to stay in the field "speaking words in season to those who were weary".

Again Allan could remember his part of the conversation. "Jerry, I've seen a lot of it. Booze. Pills to keep awake. Crazy scheduling. Picky highway officials. Tricky loads. Expenses juggled frantically. A mess once with another woman. Near divorce...I finally had to concede that I did not have all the answers. At a certain point I had to let go. I needed a steady helper. I needed Jesus. I was never going to be perfect. Jesus didn't expect that, or wait for it. He just wanted a partner. I have become that partner, and prayer and study of the Bible have taken on a completely new place in my life. Jesus is close. I know it. These battles I continue to encounter are the Lord's battles."

Jerry had been quiet, respectful and appearing somewhat puzzled. They had talked back and forth for a good ninety minutes.

And now, here was Marge arriving with the food. From the look on Jerry's face and the tone of his voice, Allan expected that he was about to hear something good...

(1 Peter 3:
15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:)


All Stiff in Starched Sheets


Beth awoke with a yelp. What a horrible nightmare! She longed to reach over to Keith for a comforting hug. But no, she was in a hospital, remember?

The doctor had told her that the recent trauma might produce some crazy things in the sub-conscious. Not to mention the drugs for pain. She felt that she must present an odd picture. Upper body casts. Unsightly purple bruise on the left temple. Stitches at the eyebrow.

The young woman in the bed opposite had been trying to hide the fact that she was staring. From what Beth had gleaned, Crissy was in for a broken hip from a fall from a second story balcony. Standing on a chair to water some plants. Lost her balance, or so the official story went. Beth suspected that there was some other real scenario.

"Must have had a bad one, eh?" Crissy looked genuinely concerned, but conversation had been strained. In the two days of Beth's treatment thus far Crissy had had only one visitor, a boyfriend named Steve. He had brought her up-to-date on his employment search. Presumably they shared the apartment and things were strained financially. Her parents were out of province and had phoned twice offering small comfort.

"Yes Crissy I don't usually have nightmares. This one was a doozy. Lost and alone in a strange community. People suspecting that I had done something terribly wrong. Nightfall setting in. The rest is kinda fuzzy."

"Nurse popped in about twenty minutes ago with those flowers on your table."

They were a beautiful surprise. The card was from Bruce and Karen Benton. For some reason she opted to read it aloud: "Hang in there Girl. We are so thankful that you were spared any greater danger. Pretty sore now though, right?"

A scripture portion had also been included:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Crissy did not respond to that, but looked down at the movie magazine in her lap. Thirty seconds later: "What's it like...being a preacher's wife I mean?"

"Oh it's not so very different. Two kids. School. Shopping. In-laws. House work. A lot of phone calls for my husband from people I hardly know. Two weeks' holidays in the summer. We like to camp. Endless laundry. Women and kids needing a friend to talk to or to pray. And some of the wildest ideas right out of the blue in my conversations with Keith. New ways formulated to express rich timeless truths. In short. I love it. I love him, and I love God for His constant goodness. Every now and then we feel that we make a difference."

"That all doesn't sound too unusual. My parents were Catholic. Gradually slipped right out of the routine. My boyfriend thinks the churches are all about getting your money."

"Perhaps he'd be interested in a place like ours. We are presently finding ways to turn things back over to the people. That they might have the joy of discovery, of testifying, of helping in simple ways. Sometimes, though, it feels as if we are going one step at a time through the darkness."

"Really? A preacher and his wife who don't have all the answers. I kinda like that."



With God, Enough...


The stakes had been driven in Karl's field following a paltry yield of barley. The benches had come from the assembly hall down the town-line road. The posters had been tacked to the post office bulletin board. The preachers in no less than four denominations had announced the special week from their pulpits. And now Brother Fuller was in town, and the opening Friday night just hours away.

That afternoon Fuller had brought together two dozen pillars of prayer in the tent and for 90 minutes they had importuned God's visit and power upon their struggling, recession-weary community. He said that the Master in Mark 6 had called His followers out of the everyday into a desert place, a dry place, and there He had performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Not in the city but out in the desert places. And this is where these faithful people of Oklahoma had found themselves for the last four years.

Dusk with its cooling realization had come, and my wife and I, together with another young couple, had secured seats in the front third of the benches under the canvas. All of us felt the weariness of the day drifting away in the anticipation and good cheer of the gathering. The sawdust was underfoot. The banners on the tent wall: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Our friends were new to this experience, but it had not taken much courteous coaxing. A poor second crop. A part-time job disappearing with the closing of the lumber yard in town. A teen-age son in rebellion and mixing with some undesirables after school.

The music began complete with fiddles, banjo, drums, accordian and trombone. The old favourites brought a comfort and an encouragement. "Got Any Rivers? You think are uncrossable. Got any Mountains? You can't tunnel through. God specializes in things thought impossible. He'll do for you what none other can do."

And then the message from Brother Fuller. Parts of it remain still now, clear in the memory, filled with promise, and filled with the thrill of our young friends stepping forward in response to the call of Jesus:

"Enough, friends, to be in His family;
To relish in the engagement of real, caring prayer;
To know that His Testament bequeathes us
Life, unburdened conscience and new spiritual power.
To sense foretastes of Heaven.
Enough, to see His artistry at break of day;
To hear His serenade in the turtledove;
His optimism in a youngster's laugh.
To thrill at His power in the thunderbolt,
In the stinging wind over dry fields,
In the deluge that fills the watercourses
In mere minutes.
Enough, to hear his words of rebuke
To the Enemy, the Slanderer,
And his underlings who whisper, threaten or foreclose;
To understand His assurance that no man, no devil
Shall take a child out of His hand.
This is our Father,
As represented by our Elder Brother.
This is salvation, and
This is forever."

The gathering and the ushering away of new converts. The singing of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee". The dismissal of the assembly out from the tent to the clarity of a sparkling late-summer night sky. The scenes remain vivid and awe-inspiring to us, some thirty years later.


The Shantyman


It is good to toil
With the men I know;
And to trim the trees
And to lay them low;
And to haul their bulk
To the stream below;
I am glad that the Lord sent me here.

And from time to time
When the mood is right,
In the vaulted wood
With its dappled light;
Where the blue-jay’s flash
Quickens shrill and bright;
I can sense that the Lord meets me here.

There’s a constant strain
From the whistle call;
As we scale the heights
Making giants fall;
And we swing our steel
And our chain and maul.
And I know that the men test me here.

But the dusk does come,
And the campfires burn;
And the grub is good,
And our thoughts will turn
To the ones at home,
And for those we yearn;
But for weeks we must still labour here.

Yet another time
The alarm will sound;
That a trunk has split;
That a man is downed.
And like mother birds
We all gather ‘round.
And I sense they are glad I am here.

Then the Sabbath day
Brings some extra rest;
And a few will come,
And by that I’m blessed;
And we search the Book,
And I share Christ’s best;
For the Lord of the harvest is here.

Oh shantymen sing!
In the golden field;
In the fishing hull;
In the mineshaft’s yield;
In the factory’s pulse;
Sing of grace revealed;
And the joy of the Lord finds us here.

Note: Canada recalls many work situations in which humble servants of the Gospel got into the workplace, rubbed shoulders, earned trust and simply prayed and helped.


Incredible Journey


Call her "Joyce". I met her while visiting a chapel service at the Senior's Home. Well preserved. Beautiful skin. Firm, controlled posture and movements. Standing with others in conversation after the service, smiling and apparently enjoying the day.

At one point she piped up to me, "I know Dad and the kids are really going to enjoy what I tell them about all of this."

(Dad and the kids? Am I missing something here?)

Deb, the part-time chaplain, just looked at me and shook her head. Alzheimers. Lost in the loops of the past.

"Joyce" became interested in our little Monday night reading and discussion group. I would often find her seated at table in the dining room on her floor with friend "Pauline", smoothing down the corners of a magazine, or patting her upper legs with both hands in nervous habit. But the face remained poised and youthful. "Pauline" had taken up the practice of bossing her around, but clearly enjoyed the company. Not every time was I successful in enticing her to come to our little talk.

But last week was different. The book which met with general approval in the group was "The Incredible Journey" by Sheila Burnford. It would take several sessions to be digested. Many remembered the Disney movie of decades ago. Three pets are separated from their cottaging novelist caregiver. Weeks are spent in rugged wilderness experience in far northwestern Ontario. A Lab retriever, strong but somewhat agitated. A battle-worn slant-faced old bull terrier. A sleek Siamese.

I am told by staff at the home that residents will be stressed by long sessions. It was apparent however that my friends were traveling with the pets. Living it all in their mind's eye. Escaping the monotony of their environment and condition. Such is the blessing of a "good read".

And no one getting more out of it, or more appreciating the nuances of fine writing than "Joyce". For a little while back with us.

In retrospect I suppose that I see in her a bit of the lab; in "Pauline" a bit of the bull terrier; and perhaps in Lynn, in wheelchair, a hint of the Siamese.

Lynn is, after all, the one who feeds the residence cat "Little Friskies".


On My Case


I remember a night in early summer when I was called as a solicitor to meet with a number of men at a Board meeting for a Christian retreat property near Wallaceburg.

The facility had a large main lodge and dining hall, numerous cabins, playing fields, expansive grounds and boat docks for small craft looking out toward Mitchell's Bay (some of the best bass fishing in all of Canada).

They were considering a change in day-to-day leadership of the camp and some of the outgoing participants had gotten legal counsel, so my friends thought that they should follow suit.

The issues at the meeting were pretty straight-forward and business was concluded early. Discussion soon turned to men's topics and got 'round to Christian faith. I was involved in the Anglican Church. Most of these men were Baptists.

I remember the Treasurer, an acountant by profession, and seemingly proficient in business, bringing it to the topic of the Second Coming of Christ. This surprised me, a successful businessman with a beautiful young family apparently eager to leave a promising known present set of circumstances for something unknown and mystical. Or did he know about it?

In my church the Bible books of Ezekiel, Daniel, First and Second Thessalonians and Revelation were considered to be mostly symbolic. I had never once heard a homily on the return of Jesus to this planet. These men went on to use terms like "saved" and "born-again". I was dumbfounded.

Then the accountant turned to me and used words something like the following:
"Doug, I love my family and want only the best for them. If God bestows blessings in this life, and he certainly does, then I have been richly favoured in home, privileges and loved ones. But it is still a fallen world reeling in pain, violence and disappointment stemming from Adam's rebellion in the Garden of Eden way back at creation. The ultimate community which God promises has no strife, sickness, death, loneliness or fear. The Heavenly City will be full of purpose, love and praise. I would go tonight if He called. I pray that my family would be included."

This dear friend had taken a risk. He had spoken the seemingly ridiculous to his lawyer acquaintance. But his earnest face and words, and the picture which he painted accompanied me all the drive home down Highway 40 under a beautiful starlit summer country sky.

This is one of the many influences then turning my attention toward Jesus. The Holy Spirit has been crudely described as "the hound-dog of Heaven" giving people a convicting sense of their sin and need. He was working on me. I cannot give reasons. I can only give thanks. (for another incident read the post entitled, "He Comes Near")

My friend had heeded the words of Peter in his First Epistle, chapter three:
15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Eugene Peterson in "The Message" puts it as follows:
Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.


The Man with the Book


I remember borrowing from the University of Waterloo a tiny, dusty volume entitled “The Man with the Book: John Ross of Brucefield” (1821 to 1887).

Brucefield is little more than a rural corner in Huron County west of Seaforth. This citizen was a hard working, neighbourly son of Scotland whose family had emigrated to Ontario after the Great Disruption which birthed the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

His was an agrarian life with many a hike or buckboard ride down long country roads in all sorts of weather to help neighbours. He was known for always carrying with him a pocket New Testament and Psalms. He would often stop to ask a stranger whether he might offer a word of scripture providing special blessing. The testimonies of hearts touched by such simple witness were numerous.

John Ross was privileged to offer homespun sermons in many country churches. One quote of his I copied in the margin of my Bible:

“The Lord was heard to say, ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ What are you thinking about this free gift? What is the answer you are sending back to Heaven about Him? Here is the answer the Father is watching to hear from every one of us: 'This is my beloved Saviour (Jesus) in whom I am well pleased.' Can you say it? Will you say it? He is God’s free gift to the world. If you will have Him as your Saviour, take up God’s words and send them back to Him...God and you are at one; You have come to an agreement about the most important matter in the universe; You are both well pleased with the Son of God; There is peace between you.”

John Ross, rugged forefather, perhaps another wandering soul will hear your words today.

Scripture portion offered______________________________________

Note: This posting is meant as a tract to be freely distributed. Doug Blair.


Holy Ghost Power



Acts 1:

8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

The following is taken from "Secret Power" by D. L.Moody:

There were some men burying an aged saint some time ago, and he was very poor, like many of God's people, poor in this world, but they are very rich, they have all the riches on the other side of life - they have them laid up there where thieves can not get them, and where sharpers can not take them away from them, and where moth can not corrupt - so this aged man was very rich in the other world, and they were just hastening him off to the grave, wanting to get rid of him, when an old minister who was officiating at the grave, said, "Tread softly, for you are carrying the temple of the Holy Ghost." Whenever you see a believer, you see a temple of the Holy Ghost.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, we read again: "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own for ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." Thus are we taught that there is a divine resident in every child of God.

I think it is clearly taught in the Scripture that every believer has the Holy Ghost dwelling in him. He may be quenching the Spirit of God, and he may not glorify God as he should, but if he is a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost dwells in him. But I want to call your attention to another fact. I believe today, that though Christian men and women have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, yet He is not dwelling within them in power; in other words, God has a great many sons and daughters without power.

Nine-tenths, at least, of the church members never think of speaking for Christ. If they see a man, perhaps a near relative, just going right down to ruin, going rapidly, they never think of speaking to him about his sinful course and of seeking to win him to Christ. Now certainly there must be something wrong. And yet when you talk with them you find they have faith, and you can not say they are not children of God; but they have not the power, they have not the liberty, they have not the love that real disciples of Christ should have. A great many people are thinking that we need new measures, that we need new churches, that we need new organs, and that we need new choirs, and all these new things. That is not what the Church of God needs today. It is the old power that the Apostles had; that is what we want, and if we have that in our churches, there will be new life. Then we will have new ministers - the same old ministers renewed with power; filled with the Spirit. I remember when in Chicago many were toiling in the work, and it seemed as though the car of salvation didn't move on, when a minister began to cry out from the very depths of his heart, "Oh, God, put new ministers in every pulpit." On next Monday I heard two or three men stand up and say, "We had a new minister last Sunday - the same old minister, but he had got new power." and I firmly believe that is what we want today all over America. We want new ministers in the pulpit and new people in the pews. We want people quickened by the Spirit of God, and the Spirit coming down and taking possession of the children of God and giving them power.

Then a man filled with the Spirit will know how to use "the sword of the Spirit." If a man is not filled with the Spirit, he will never know how to use the Book.


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