Looking For Norm Searching Out the Definitive Christian copyright Doug Blair, Waterloo, ON, 2015
“Oh I’m No Saint”
He used to say that when he was confronted with some knotty point of scripture or personal challenge. Then he would hit the Book and his knees in delightful private until some Light arrived. It would be a considerable time thereafter before I would twig to the fact that he had gained this new spiritual currency.
Stuffy? Removed? Impractical? Never.
He spoke of Jesus always in the tone of getting down to exciting business. His Elder Brother. His Best Friend and Champion.
In ordinary places and in ordinary conversation he would speak out that Name. Those nearby often stopped what they were doing and stretched an ear out to the utterances of this “saint in shoe leather”.
A saint? A hallowed, blessed, sanctified one. Set apart from a lot of common or base interests and conversation. Set apart to bring the magic of the noble Carpenter/Healer onto the scene.
He never thought in terms of a Saint Patrick or Saint Francis; rather he likened the relationship to a trusted implement ready for use and tempered in the Master’s toolbox. Going on the Master’s journeys.
And whenever I suffered and he learned of it, there would be an offer of silent companionship and a gracious listening ear. Comments would take a while in coming. And oh how I valued the outflow.
Nasty Christians Need to Know
I shouldn’t need to change you I shouldn’t need to pound. Perhaps you’ve been mistreated And left with hurts profound Perhaps you met a Christian Who cut you to the core Or left you feeling dirty And second-rate for sure.
My job is not the doctrine To cram into your heart. My job is dauntless loving
That sets His Church apart. The kind that walked the seaside And bid the hurting near The kind that healed the wounded And took away death’s fear.
He didn’t need agreement He didn’t need to win He simply showed a kindness That made men loathe their sin. And He is all my pattern And He is all my pride. And He is waiting near you To put His Love inside.
The Abundant Life
Some of the “things go better with Christ” testimonies disappoint me. Their perception of blessing is so shallow; is so geared toward what is going on with other people in fellowship. Jesus said that He had come to bring life more abundantly. The devil had only come to steal, enslave, deceive and destroy. (John 10: 10, 11) What is this abundant life? I remember the Abundant Life Conferences in Kitchener of years ago. They were a tremendous blessing! The initiative of Mahlon and Pearl Roes assisted many people into the Kingdom of God, myself included. Before going any further I would urge each reader to consider Paul’s account of the life in 2 Corinthians 11. He started his Christian experience being stricken blind, being lowered out a window in a basket to escape capture and being hounded from city to city by Jewish brethren who saw him as an affront to the God of Moses.
The list in chapter 11 includes beatings, stoning, derisions, shipwrecks, exposure to elements, bandits, betrayal, floggings and fastings. His life will conclude on the chopping block of Emperor Nero. So what was it in this champion’s life that was abundant? He knew his destination of joy. He knew his Elder Brother and Forerunner Jesus as a present friend. He knew that his pardon was assured by grace bringing an end to draining self-doubt. He had experienced the intimate fellowship of suffering for Christ’s sake. His associations were all free of the handicaps of judgment, competition or bitterness. He saw the marvelous out-workings of Providence so many times and had absolutely no doubt as to God’s benevolence. He rejoiced in the birthing of new believers and never tired of proclaiming the Good News. He rested in a magnificent singleness of purpose. All of these blessings were certain whether or not he was experiencing material comfort or social acceptance. He said that he had learned to be content in any set of circumstances. Probably the high point comes in his exclamations in Philippians 3. Read the chapter. We must also learn that in the New Testament, life is not a passage or experience; rather it is a commodity discovered in the True Vine (John 15) and imparted by the Saviour. Enjoyed forever.
We are told Just to trust in a man Not a code Or a rite or a plan. And that He Will be all we require To come through Both the flood and the fire. Like a rock Who defies shifting sands Solid friend With the kindest of plans. Let the heat Try to parch; He is shade And a draft
Of cool drink Heaven made. And I know He has tasted the worst And come through Even death, He ranks first. So relax Desert wanderer, stand On this Rock Of Salvation, Love planned.
I come a-courting Once again Within your hallowed halls But this time Not with pressing needs Nor puzzlement, nor falls. I only come to Think on you And all your mercy shown To one so frail And faltering But still your child, your own. And all around Your handiwork In nature's shapes and hues The big and small You made them all Your breath of life infused. These halls are still They offer rest And insights rich, divine And in this peace The sure release That such a God is mine.
Grace and Supplications
Perplexity The mothers of new life Blessings strangely wrapped When all the time We want to hold the key To open a new path We will think it through Earn it through Sweat it through Not so Says the Lord of Zion. Those in David's train Messiah's train Have a threshold Inglorious. A breaking to self To see God the giver The rescuer The reconciler As sufficient indeed And oh so yearning For His children of promise To graduate. He shows His wounds The product of their blind thrashings. He marks them With Spirit of initiation And Spirit of urgent requests And they are never after the same. Adopted. Growing in family likeness. Ever fond of Tokens of deliverance Visions of Glory In the bud.
Traverse it Like the well-worn lane For the tractor To the south acreage Like the fence For jumping
Into the favourite woodlot Like the path through the dunes To that special beach Long summers ago Like the last three blocks To Mom's house Where the smile and wisdom Always wait. Traverse it Like the words so specially composed On the night you asked her Like the gleam in her eye As she held that first child Newborn Like the little girl's Sweet voice of song Standing front and centre At the recital Like the flyway of the boy's First hit over the fence At the schoolyard diamond Like those special words of comfort Pronounced from the heart As one boyhood friend Was laid to rest. Can you traverse it? Just so? What did Jesus establish in Matthew five How did He serve in John thirteen What story told in Luke ten What prayers uttered in John seventeen What standard set in First Corinthians the thirteenth What hope presented in the fifteenth What tough test in Hebrews the twelfth? What shining image in the nineteenth Of the Revelation? This is your road map I have established it Not Pastor with the flashy Projected overhead Not wordy teacher With her seven DVD offer On the television. I, even I, have put this map In your very own hands With specialties For your very own heart. Traverse it Take it to your inmost sanctum
And memory. Treasure it. Keep plumbing its depths. Be ye not conformed to this world But be ye transformed By the renewing of your mind That you might prove What is good and acceptable And perfect in my will. To yourself And to others With the need to listen. This commandment you have heard From my mouth. Never stale. Ever compelling And current.
The promises have raised us up And made us look ahead And blessed with holy fellowship And new life from the dead. They set apart a special folk Who know that God is real Who lean on what He says and does And not just how they feel. They've seen Him clear the path for peace When all seemed bent on strife And food and drink in desert drought As parched land burst with life. Such promises will stay the course And show us mercy's plan And honour, giving, gratitude To dignify each man. And One Man nobly leads the way And meets this life head on And triumphs through a Cross and Tomb 'Til Heaven is fully won.
Sunday afternoon On a bench in the park Friendly breeze Moderating September heat. She been to church But it was nothin Except people and practice. God was almost silent. Not the same With Lloyd gone He used to sing Big and bold With the tenors And she sittin Across an alto And smilin at her man Midst the songs of Zion. Hardly seemed like Sunday The rush all round. But here in the park Half way to the apartment There was Church. Laughter of children Old men bangin at the dominoes Bright colour waking in the trees Robin and goldfinch Singing and stretching For the coming trek. Jessica with eyes closed Felt His warm Hand On her face And began to speak out â€œI was glad When they said unto me. Let us go into The house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand Within thy gates O Jerusalem.â€?
Story Most Treasured
Oh to walk by Galilee See the crowds and what they see Hear their laughter; feel their thrill Learning of the Father’s will. Hearing tales from where they live Learning how to pray, forgive How to walk the second mile How to make the outcast smile. Watching sickness turn and flee Watching sinners saved and free. This a pilgrim’s frequent wish Camp with Him, and share His fish. Then there was that other phase Shadows came in threatening days Cold religion sought to snare Empire muscle everywhere Politics and schemes of men Shutting down the love again Making plans to catch the Son See His following over-run See Him shackled, whipped, defamed Brought to bar with no just claim. Bring Him to a horrid Hill All to serve His Father’s will. Treasured fare to feast upon Matthew, Mark And Luke and John. Take it to my quiet place Learn His love And seek His face. Take to heart the Gospel’s peace Tell a friend of faith’s release. Christ is risen Death’s great loss Christ within me Through the Cross.
Try as we might It eludes us; Too great and too grand For our frame. This mortal flesh Given to passions And sin, ill-befitting Your Name. But still it’s our hope To come closer. You’ve said that we might Through your Son. For His is A perfect obedience What Law said “This do” Now is done. Yes, done By the Friend of all sinners, And “Father forgive” Was His plea. And blood was His ransom and rescue, Sufficient to save Even me. What confidence comes With the knowing, That all faults and foibles Are past. And prayer and performance Gain power
In Christâ€™s righteousness. Now that lasts!
I Was There
Had I seen the torment And ridicule you suffered Had I seen the demons Behind the cast of men. Had I seen the lashings And piercings rake your body Could I ever lightly Regard your Cross again? Could I go on living As if the sin were trivial? Could I enter worship With casual thoughts in mind? Would I rather fall down And plead the Father's mercy Knowing in that foul crowd My leering face I'd find. Yet you uttered 'Father Forgive them in your kindness. They do not yet fathom The awesome thing now done.' Scarce could I believe that God heeded your petition Washed my record clean In the bleeding of His Son. Morbid, some will say at My point of view now altered 'He's one of us And we try to live aright.' Jesus, there's yet time For the breaking and the blessing Visit these dear loved ones And give them Gospel sight. (image by James Tissot, The Earthquake at the Crucifixion)
Keep These in Your Quiver
That God is always Love. That man is by nature a stubborn self-serving troublemaker. That sin can be identified. That only blameless blood sacrifice will make good out of that sin. That Christianity is consistently a “beggar’s lot”. That the analogy of flock and Good Shepherd is right on the mark. That Something from without will essentially change your within, if requested. That community in love is an essential laboratory from timeless Trinity to present day Church to the New Jerusalem. That Heaven and Hell are God’s recompense for everything.
Sound Hope in the Bleating
Would to God I knew the answers Save you from this present pain
We are damp And risking footing Up this slope despite the rain. I have watched you Bow to others While they butt and bleat out scorn I have not The plan nor power To reverse such days forlorn. But the Man Up at the forefront Knows the way to peace and rest Once He held me On His shoulders Broke my leg to know His best And for days I sensed His heartbeat Saw Him calmly help the flock I will never Stray rebellious He has cleansed my hope and walk And He will So shepherd, help you As you gain your dearest Friend Truth, these wet And woesome dark days Count so little at the end.
Two Kinds of Lost
Imagine a sinking ship in the darkness. Life-boats have been dispatched onto the cruel waves. Survivors huddle together in the cold, and the noise of the ship's creaking death-descent drowns out all voices. A man has been tardy in the evacuation response and he remains on deck alone. His cries cannot be heard. He has missed the opportunity of rescue. He is lost to his associates and he is lost to any hope. A most tragic wrap-up to life's journey. This seems a fitting metaphor for the one who dies without hope in Christ. Over the years I have often come across an arresting piece of scripture in the first chapter of Ephesians: 6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. It would appear here that the individual has been “lost” in the collective. A process of grace worked out entirely by God has caused the believer to be accepted in the beloved. All sin-debt has been paid. The holiest of blood-lettings has accomplished the transaction. And that word “beloved” is a tender reference to Christ, who took obedience to the will of His Father all the way to a self-offered death by crucifixion. We have been incorporated into the beloved, osmosed if you will. God never looks upon the believers without seeing the finished work of His delightful Son. The favour that He extends toward Jesus, He now extends toward us. We call upon His name, His authority, His mercy, help, wisdom and guidance. We are told in Romans 8 that we are joint heirs with Jesus. The challenge in the whole picture is to eradicate, to “lose” self and the desire to have one's own way. Think of all the unfortunate references to self: self-righteousness, selfvindication, self-absorption, self-seeking, self-serving, self-important, selfindulgent, self-opinionated, self-reliant, self-satisfied. Jesus in His earth-walk for us showed the path to victory and contentment: For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (John 6: 38) A wonderful book has been written by Roy Hession entitled The Calvary Road (1950). In it he explores this process of self-emptying as the threshold to revival, both personal and corporate. He explores Paul's words “Not I but Christ”. He gives the image of the proud, erect, stubborn “I”. This is contrasted to a submitted, stooped, attentive “I” turned into a “C”. Indeed our glorious Saviour condescended, stooped and submitted all the way to His Cross. And how glorious were the results. And how amazing the out-flow of resurrection power.
'Til the Branch (Isaiah 11)
No great Leader Impartial and compassionate Rescuing the poor Uniting all men’s hearts Setting down weapons Of avarice and bigotry
Giving words of holiness And Heav’n the focal part. No great Standard To gather all in confidence No great City Where gates are open wide No great Highway Of passage safe and singing Drawing the nations To plenteous peace inside. No great Justice That crushes wicked scheming Granting the verdict To diligent and true. No great Banquet Where hunter and the hunted Feast royal provender Their chase- and- kill now through. Wait for the promise Yes, just around the corner. Started with David The man who knew God’s heart. Ends with Messiah The Righteous Branch of wisdom Ends with the Family Who sing “How great Thou art.”
Oh Yeah, I Heard You took the job Didn’t have much choice you thought Way out of your league New work-mates snickered
Made it awkward at break times. Homeward bound you prayed That I would make a way Make my will clear. (You were chafing at my choice in this. Oh yes you were.) You even asked â€œWhere was I?â€? Son, had I been in hiding? Did I have other things of greater importance? Hear me now! There is nothing more important. Those men on the job-site Knew you were different Took stock of your moderation Your steadiness, your language. They knew you were in the wringer But not grousing. Just trying harder And finding some satisfaction In the new skills The new stamina and spring to your step. You were coming through, Son And coming to me more often. That was my delight. And I would pour more in Stuff that your satisfied self In earlier days Never would have caught. Then the job slowed.
Pink slips handed out. Thankful, respectful men Shook your hand. One…guy by the name of Harvey Wished you Godspeed Said he had been praying all along. (Another one of my men. A little shy, that one.) Seemed like a firing, didn’t it? Well, it was a graduation of sorts. And other doors opened. And you get it now, don’t you. My hand never left your shoulder.
To listen to God in one ear and to the trends and wanderings of a hell-bent world in the other; to be consistently unsure of self; to miss the Lord’s smile; to sense the pollution of traitor in one’s being; to dodge repeatedly any serious considerations of the end game; to lack the revivifying dynamic of righteousness; to be miserable.
And all the while we thought that we were just being well-informed.
Love of Christ
I can't contain this thing inside It grows with each new morn And helps me see the needs so real Of lonely and forlorn Of hurting and self-loathing In town, at work, next door Of all the ones in need of Christ I never saw before. It makes no sense to plead the case Of those I never knew But pray I do, and comfort too For truly Lord, it's You. You walk these streets and offer smiles And help the old to cope You hug a child and calm the wild And give the hungry hope. It's not a job; a life instead To serve the Man of Peace So use this clay, yes e'en today In wondrous Love's release.