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Showing posts from March, 2011

Through Brier and Bush

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Soft nature seeks a path of ease
Secure from strange alarms;
Borne through the troubled scenes of life
In Christ's protecting arms;
Yet nobler far our strength to draw
From grace to call His will our law.

For Christ who knows our feeble mould
Ordains that here below
Through brier and bush to heavenly ground
His bairns wet-shod must go;
Past hostile thorn His steps to trace
And follow still with steadfast face.

Our heav'n is in the bud and soon
Must to a harvest grow;
For time's brief span shall eat away
And root out every woe.
Then watch in hope till sorrows end,
And Christ appear — our living Friend.

Faith Cook

This poem appears in the beautiful collection entitled Grace in Winter. Various letters of Samuel Rutherford have been presented as poetry. I treasure this volume by Faith Cook (Banner of Truth Trust) and have referred to it since I first discovered the wealth of counsel and encouragement in Rutherford. Many a weekend I would resort to the Library at Waterloo University to re-visit …

Crown of Thorns

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" Of all the features of the scene the one that has most impressed the imagination of Christendom is the crown of thorns. It was something unusual, and brought out the ingenuity and wantonness of cruelty. Besides, as the wound of a thorn has been felt by everyone, it brings the pain of the Sufferer nearer to us than any other incident. But it is chiefly by its symbolism that it has laid hold of the Christian mind. When Adam and Eve were driven from the garden into the bleak and toilsome world, their doom was that the ground should bring forth to them thorns and thistles. Thorns were the sign of the curse; that is, of their banishment from God's presence and of all the sad and painful consequences following therefrom. And does not the thorn, staring from the naked bough of winter in threatening ugliness, lurking beneath the leaves or flowers of summer to wound the approaching hand, tearing the clothes or the flesh of the traveller who tries to make his way through the thicket…

Moving Into the Prophetic

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In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul gave a listing of spiritual gifts distributed among members of a fellowship as the Holy Spirit might determine (faith, miracles, healing, prophecy, wisdom, knowledge, tongues and interpretation, discernment of spirits}. They were and are God given and cannot be drummed up by simple desire and application, no matter how earnest.

In their zeal to have manifestation of God's power in their midst the Corinthians were tripping over themselves in disorder looking for opportunities to serve and to be seen serving in the perceived gift or gifts. Paul admonished them to do things decently and in order. He made a suggestion that for general blessing of the gathering nothing would prove more beneficial than the prophetic. He told them to covet the "best gift".

He then went on to stipulate that none of these gifts could surpass the simple blessing of love and compassion of the Godly sort (1 Corinthians 13)

It troubles me that we now see gathe…

Listen to that Dry Shoulder!

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Lake* had spent considerable time "preparing the soil" at this auditorium in Pretoria. He had focused on declaration and thanksgiving rather than praise in the early part of the meeting. His spirit was quick with the expectation of God's arrival in power.

How different this night had seemed from other village engagements outside the City. There simple faith without distraction had reached out to "touch Jesus" and had been more than amply blessed. Restored hearing. Restored eyesight. Restored sense of smell. A stiff leg made supple and strong.

Tonight things were going to happen. He knew it. Scriptures of healing had been shared in all sincerity. Mark. Luke. James' epistle. First Peter. These were promises of Almighty God without expiry date. Lake's references to the compassion of Jesus seemed to be saturated with love and expectation.

But then he had noticed a half dozen men entering the back of the room. Smirking expressions. Furtive movements. Trouble p…

Harmony in Truth

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(Taken from Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon, Psalm 85)

Verse 11. Truth shall spring out of the earth. Promises which lie unfulfilled, like buried seeds, shall spring up and yield harvests of joy; and men renewed by grace shall learn to be true to one another and their God, and abhor the falsehood which they loved before. And righteousness shall look down from heaven, as if it threw up the windows and leaned out to gaze upon a penitent people, whom it could not have looked upon before without an indignation which would have been fatal to them. This is a delicious scene. Earth yielding flowers of truth, and heaven shining with stars of holiness; the spheres echoing to each other, or being mirrors of each other's beauties. "Earth carpeted with truth and canopied with righteousness, "shall be a nether heaven. When God looks down in grace, man sends his heart upward in obedience. The person of our adorable Lord Jesus Christ explains this verse most sweetly. In Him truth …

We So Much Want to Get Along, But...

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The battle cry of the Emerging Church is that doctrine divides and that the Church should be more about relationships enhanced in the love and example of Christ. I would refer people considering a move to this populist, pick-and-choose phenomenon to Psalm 85 which I consider to be a message about revival. They will see in that message a meeting of the priorities of mercy and truth; righteousness and peace; an intersection, if you will...a cross.

We can never shelve the concepts of sin, judgment, atonement, mercy, love, reconciliation, heaven and hell, and still operate in victorious truth. We must not stumble at the word. (1 Peter 2:6-8)

And the more liberal "emergers" will respond, "Oh, but who will ever know the truth. Wars and divisions of dreadful proportion have come out of that Book.Do you know the truth, honestly?"

And one answers, "Yes, a little bit more every day, with a sincere hunger, a holy fear and the Spirit's help."

Psalm 85

1Lord, thou has…

Floods Come

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Matthew 7:

24Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

25And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

26And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

27And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Rains. Floods. Winds. Jesus is saying that in a fallen world such disasters may befall the careful or the careless, the faithful or the faithless, but the foundation will determine whether the man has truly won or lost.

There is no guarantee in his insightful ethic (Sermon on the Mount) that the obedient one will be spared trials or tempests. But eternally the "wise man" is secure.

The term "acts of God"…

Giving of One's Need

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Many will remember the story of the widow's mite, a church donation by a poor widow which impressed Jesus more than all the rest. He said that others had given of their plenty, while she had given of her penury, of her need.

It may be said that this principle is far reaching. Want a friend? Be friendly. Want fair treatment? Make sure that you are always equitable. Want reconciliation? Be kind and considerate to those who persecute you. Doing all, of course, in honesty of heart.

Reading through Matthew, I have been struck by another example (chapter 11). Jesus has just commissioned his disciples to go out in the 10th chapter. They are to preach, heal and deliver. They are to go trusting that their needs will be met along the way. They are to distribute their "peace" to those who will receive. They are to expect adversity as they have seen their Master encounter it.

Then we read the following:
1. And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciple…

Tale of Three Monks

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It was set at the top of a winding dirt road edged with orderly grapevines and mounded plots of vegetables. The province's monastery with over two hundred years of history, solid stone walls, simple design, adjacent pottery shop and hourly exhortation of the steeple bell.

Candidates for this solitary life adjusted after much prayer to the industry, meditation and silence, broken thrice daily by the Morning Prayer, Mid-day Message and Evensong. Contact with the village was limited to market days, relief to the poor and sick and collections for the beautification of the village church.

Only once in every ten-year interval did the monks get to crystallize and express independent thought to the Father Superior. This was on a rotating basis and occurred on the "Day for Speaking Out". Always the Monday following Easter. Two words only to be spoken per candidate, after much deliberation.

The Father in private prayer had been told that the progress over the years of three particula…

Frederick, You Have Set the Bar

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(Taken from the link Our Daily Homily by F. B. Mayer)

Consider . . . Jesus - Hebrews 3:1

Who are to consider Him? - "Holy brethren." Because we are the brethren of Jesus, we must consider our Brother. Because we are brethren with all, whom He brothers, we should emulate the saints of all ages in their eager gaze at Christ. We must possess the holiness without which none can see the Lord, and we must live in holy love with all who bear the name of Christ. Do you lack either of these? This is the reason why your eyes are blinded. Step out of the mist into the clear prospect : -

"a step,
A single step, shall free you from the skirts
Of the blind vapor, and open to your view
Glory beyond all glory ever seen
By waking sense or by the dreaming soul."

What right have they to consider Him? - Because they are "partakers of a heavenly calling." They have turned from the world, from the fascinations of the sin and the flesh; they are seeking the heavenly city, the New Jerus…

Life-Style or Christ's Smile?

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Much effort from the pulpit is directed toward putting a Biblical slant on issues of everyday life. Relationships and families. Finances. Child rearing. Dealing with conflict. Dealing with low self-esteem. Forgiving oneself for past stumblings. Dealing with satanic attack. Problematic attitudes. Establishing a balanced work ethic.

The intention is to make the sermon "now" and relevant and helpful to the life priorities of the audience. Giving them what they want. The epistles of the New Testament come in handy. The how-to lists are drafted with their alliterated sub-headings. The whole thing has the tone of a lecture.

BUT IT IS NOT BREAD!

Christ is the Living Bread. He must always have the pre-eminence as the preacher delivers his burden. The Four Gospels must be the staple (and perhaps the Letter to the Hebrews). They portray the most compassionate, patient, helpful, authoritative and hope-inspiring of all lives. They put flesh on the concepts of Elder Brother, Rescuer, Shephe…

Three Year-Old with a Clipboard

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Today at the grocery store I noticed a father talking business with his little daughter in the grocery cart. He had given her in large letters a simple shopping list on a tiny clipboard which he was following with her help. I don't think that she could read the words but she was paying particular attention to the quantities, the numbers. She was also chastising Dad when he appeared to deviate from the plan.

It was a pleasure to observe this little skit and to realize that the child was truly keen to offer help. Dad was milking it for some fun and interaction with his cute little treasure.

I commented with a smile, "She really seems to be taking charge here."

The father responded, "No question about that. She has more power than the Boss!"

My next comment, "Such is the power of love".

The father looked at me quizzically and smiled, "Yeah, that must be it."

Altogether Lovely

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I found it interesting that after posting the article about Crissy Moran's new beginning I read today's entry in the devotional In Green Pastures by J.R. Miller. The brief message was as follows:

The Beauty of Religion


While Christian life is firm and unflinching in its integrity and uprightness, it is yet beautiful in its amiability and gentleness. The immutable principles of uprightness, like mountain crags, are wreathed over with the tender vines and covered with the sweet flowers of grace and charity. True religion is never meant to dry up the life and make it cold, hard, and dead. It is meant to bring out ever-new beauties, to clothe the soul in garments of loveliness. It insists on the development of every power of body, mind, and soul to the farthest possibility. It presents the strongest motives. It points to the finest examples. Its ideal includes not only “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just,” but also “whatsoever things are lovely.”

Crissy is Clean

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A weekly entertainment magazine (In Touch) got me looking into the following article. The title of the release was "From Porn to Reborn" and it featured Crissy Moran, 35 year-old former porn star, telling of an encounter with Christ and a total change in life's direction.

The decision was made in 2007. A Jacksonville newspaper article tells of the earlier journey into darkness:

"It began in a hotel room in Jacksonville. The pretty girl took off her clothes in front of a stranger for the first time and posed for the camera.

It was the fall of 1999 and Moran was desperately searching for something. A string of bad break-ups left the 23-year-old office clerk depressed. She'd worked at The Jacksonville Landing's Hooters for a while but found it degrading, after being chastised for not jumping rope or throwing Frisbees to entice customers.

"I was probably the only one there who wore glasses," she said.

She jumped to a string of jobs at a local retail s…

Cherith Needful

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(Today's entry in Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles Cowman)

Hiding Place

"Hide thyself by the brook Cherith" (1 Kings 17:3).

God's servants must be taught the value of the hidden life. The man who is to take a high place before his fellows must take a low place before his God. We must not be surprised if sometimes our Father says: "There, child, thou hast had enough of this hurry, and publicity, and excitement; get thee hence, and hide thyself by the brook--hide thyself in the Cherith of the sick chamber, or in the Cherith of bereavement, or in some solitude from which the crowds have ebbed away."

Happy is he who can reply, "This Thy will is also mine; I flee unto Thee to hide me. Hide me in the secret of Thy tabernacle, and beneath the covert of Thy wings!"

Every saintly soul that would wield great power with men must win it in some hidden Cherith. The acquisition of spiritual power is impossible, unless we can hide ourselves from men and from our…

Weaning

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(Taken from Psalm 131 in Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon)

Verse 2. I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned. Weaned from what? Self sufficiency, self will, self seeking. From creatures and the things of the world—not; indeed, as to their use, but as to any dependence upon them for his happiness and portion...Yet this experience is no easy attainment. The very form of expression—"I have behaved and quieted myself", reminds us of some risings which were with difficulty subdued. There is a difference here between Christ and Christians. In him the exercise of grace encountered no adverse principles; but in them it meets with constant opposition. The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and when we would do good evil is present with us; hence the warfare within. So it is with "the child that is weaned." The task to the mother is trying and troublesome. The infant cries, and seems to sob out his heart. He thinks it very hard in her, and knows not wh…

Your Name

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How I love the simplicity of this song! Heard it the other night on the The Christian Link radio broadcast, Faith FM 94.3.



Acts 4:
10Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

(See also earlier post "Not Negotiable" of May 16, 2010)

Rizpah

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(Consider 2 Samuel 21: 1-14)

Wailing, wailing, wailing, the wind over land and sea -
And Willy`s voice in the wind, "O mother, come out to me!"
Why should he call me to-night, when he knows that I cannot go? For the downs are as bright as day, and the full moon stares at the snow.
We should be seen, my dear; they would spy us out of the town. The loud black nights for us, and the storm rushing over the down, When I cannot see my own hand, but am led by the creak of the chain, And grovel and grope for my son till I find myself drenched with the rain.
Anything fallen again? nay - what was there left to fall?
I have taken them home, I have number`d the bones, I have hidden them all. What am I saying? and what are you? do you come as a spy?
Falls? what falls? who knows? As the tree falls so must it lie.
Who let her in? how long has she been? you - what have you heard? Why did you sit so quiet? you never have spoken a word.
O - to pray with me - yes - a lady - none of their spies -
But the…

Because You're Here, Cal

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Years ago Cal Bombay viewed the bombing devastation of southern Sudan with a civic leader named Manasseh. He was close to the situation of the horrendous civil war between north and south and had played a significant role in raising funds to free Christians who had been enslaved. (I remember hearing appeals on the television broadcast of 100 Huntley Street that freedom could be purchased for 75 dollars Canadian per individual. At that time I thought, Wow, a life negotiated at that price!)

But here on this landscape of churned earth Bombay could only present to his friend one question:

"What does it mean to you, Manasseh, when you read in the scriptures that my God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus?"

Without hesitation the man replied, "It means , my friend, here and now, that God will do as He says and provide... because you're here."

In the intervening years that conversation has proved both a stimulus and haunting challeng…

I'm Gonna Rock Yo' World

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Japan's earthquake. Haiti's earthquake. North Africa's revolts. American financial debacle. Iceland's volcano. Coalition of world's stock exchanges. Fall of General Motors. Bankruptcy of Ireland, Iceland and Greece. Aids rampant in tropical Africa. Warlords tried for crimes against humanity. Abortion on demand. Honour killings. Massive oil spills. Politicians campaigning on inconsequential platforms. Women enslaved or ritualistically mutilated. Baby girls left in the gutter. Children pressed into commando service.

We appear "lost at sea" with a world of shakings, fear, violence, insincerity, duplicity, greed and godlessness. In casual conversation, neighbours and workmates admit that "things are getting worse, aren't they".

This morning, and quite randomly, I turned to the last chapter of Revelation (22) and read the following:

11He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteou…

False Guilt

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A recent radio broadcast by Charles Stanley was provocative. He was attempting to help listeners who are debilitated by condemnation and guilt which are not from God. The kind of inner message which suggests, "Ah, you will amount to nothing. You are really of no value. Living a sham. Unlikely to attract any real friends. Nasty. Can't get ahead. Wasting your days."

This kind of message is a total put down without specifics. The work of Satan and not of God. Any rebuke from the Father will give you specific ground from which to repent. Weren't the Old Testament prophets always specific? Wasn't Jesus? (Look at Matthew 23)

In the case of any such true correction, the proper response is Godly repentance. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 7:

9Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

10For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be rep…

Surrender, But Sparingly

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(Today's entry in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers)

Total Surrender

Peter began to say to Him, ’See, we have left all and followed You’ —Mark 10:28

Our Lord replies to this statement of Peter by saying that this surrender is “for My sake and the gospel’s” (10:29). It was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves would get out of it. Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result. For example, “I’m going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy.” Being delivered from sin and being made holy are the result of being right with God, but surrender resulting from this kind of thinking is certainly not the true nature of Christianity. Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself. But I do want You to c…

Like a Dog in the Park

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Don's wife had asked him how the Men's Study Group had gone. She knew that they had just polished off the final chapter in some topical book. Job, she thought. He had come home week after week for ten weeks, saying very little.

Don was now being called upon to summarize, and he was finding it difficult. Being with the guys was always good, but it seemed that there was never any room in the evening for spontaneity. The role of facilitator was passed around from chapter to chapter, but the underlying agenda was always to get through the assigned pages. His attention had been drifting this time around and he found that he could not accurately report to Becky, although she was truly interested. Some author that everybody said was good, but still second-hand information when compared to the Book of books.

Why did they persist in doing this? Running to some study guide with one man's spin on things? Considering that in this fashion they were "doing their duty"? Was thi…

Three Acres and Two Containers

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Harry and Sylvia Armoogan are about to do it again. Leaving Waterloo for western Kenya and a small village where they have ministered to the people and encouraged local pastors.

The land is very fertile and right beside both the major highway and the village watering spring. Everyone comes by their property and curiously examines their pre-fab cottage and the most unusual church structure.

Two forty foot containers were shipped from Ontario full of very practical supplies and helps. These containers are placed parallel to each other with a roof super-structure mounted in between. It is here that the people worship.

For months before the spring of 2010 these missionaries had been collecting food, building materials, a vehicle, tools, a brand new portable sawmill, sewing machines and other helps for the containers. Plans for use of these items are very practical and workable. Perhaps even a sewing school for women.

Harry is ordained with the Open Bible Church (a founding member from Trinida…

Weathers

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This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly;
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at 'The Traveller's Rest,'
And maids come forth spring-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.

This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
And so do I;
When beeches drip in browns and duns,
And thresh and ply;
And hill-hid tides throb, throe on throe,
And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.

Thomas Hardy

He Must Increase

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"Not I but Christ." (Galatians 2:20)

This simple phrase succinctly answers the following questions:

1. Whose will governs?
2. Whose righteousness counts?
3. Who suffers God's wrath?
4. Who gets the glory?
5. Who gets the work done?
6. Who shakes Satan's kingdom?
7. Whose strength overcomes?
8. Whose inheritance lasts?
9. Who has wisdom?
10. Who shows from the pulpit?
11. Who is the Judge?
12. Who blesses the Father?

Our capability and satisfaction are in Christ. No where else.

Though It Tarry

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(Today's entry from In Green Pastures by J. R. Miller)

Answers That Wait


The day may come to us, as life’s meaning deepens, when we shall cry to Christ and he will not seem to hear. Whenever this experience may come, let us remember that Christ’s silence is not refusal to bless. There may be some hindrance in ourselves, and a work of preparation is needed in us before the blessing can come. Instead of doubting or blaming the Master, we should look within ourselves and ask what it is that keeps the answer waiting. When we are down lower in the dust of humiliation, when our weak faith has grown stronger, when our self-will is gone and we are ready to take the blessing in God’s way and at his time, the silence will be broken by love’s most gracious answer.

Pity, Standing Still

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One of my favourite Gospel expositions is He Came to Serve: The Gospel of Mark by Alexander MacLaren (1826-1910)

It is as if a random opening at any page will yield a true gem of insight on the life and purpose of Jesus. Take for example, this morning, opening at Mark 7:33, 34:

"Let me remind you, too, that still more dangerous than the pity which
is not based upon, and corrected by, the look to heaven, is the pity
which does not issue in strenuous work. It is easy to excite people's
emotions; but it is perilous for both the operator and the subject,
unless they be excited through the understanding, and pass on the
impulse to the will and the practical powers. The surest way to
petrify a heart is to stimulate the feelings, and give them nothing to
do. They will never recover their original elasticity if they have
been wantonly drawn forth thus. Coldness, hypocrisy, spurious
sentimentalism, and a whole train of affectations and falsehoods
follow the steps of an emotional religion, which d…

A Mother Fondly Remembered

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I appreciated the invitation to Jim's 60th birthday gathering. It was certainly well planned and pleasant and full of JWC remembrances. It has dawned on me that none of the Carson grandsons had any real contact with grandmother Marj. That is a pity. An early but heroic death.

Marj was one of my Mother's three best friends. Initially Bev Roberts (Blair) had been close to sister Betty Creasy. But the onslaught of kindergarten at Ryerson Public School for Jim and Doug brought on a new alliance.

I can remember how hospitable Marj was at the arrival of any of Jim's friends, for TV or a game-board game or hockey in the back rink. Invariably she would have a treat and an uplifting kitchen table talk. Marj made the best lasagna in my estimation.

I can recall a couple of extended visits at the Bayfield cottage with complete freedom to enjoy the household, frequent hikes down to the beach, eighteen holes of golf at the local drive and put and occasional neighbourhood movies in the open…

Quiet Doing

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(Taken from In Green Pastures by J. R. Miller)

Greatness in God’s Sight


The greatest men are but fractions of men. No one is endowed with all gifts. Every one has his own particular excellence or ability. No two have precisely the same gifts, and no two are called to fill precisely the same place in life. The lowliest and the humblest in endowments is just as important in his place as the most brilliantly gifted. The great life in God’s sight is not the conspicuous one, but the life that fills the place which it was made to fill, and does the work which it was made to do. God asks not great things; he asks only simple faithfulness, the quiet doing of what he allots.

Speaks Against These

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Of the Old Testament Major Prophets, Isaiah may be considered the comforting one, Jeremiah the weeping one, Daniel the interceding one and Ezekiel the warning one.

In the 22nd chapter of his prophecy Ezekiel soundly rebukes the people for the sins found in the midst of Jerusalem which were leading to her overthrow:

2Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? yea, thou shalt shew her all her abominations.

3Then say thou, Thus saith the Lord GOD, The city sheddeth blood in the midst of it, that her time may come, and maketh idols against herself to defile herself.

4Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed; and hast defiled thyself in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years: therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries.

5Those that be near, and those that be far from thee, shall mock thee, which art infamous and much vexed.

6Behold…