Beautiful Savior: Songs of Praise and Adoration

A devotional series by STB Chaplain  Captain Michael Harris based on the pieces from the Southern Territorial Band recording.  

Beautiful Savior

And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Luke 1:46-48a) NIV

The story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is really a story of submission. Imagine how she must have felt as the angel Gabriel broke the news that God had chosen her to be the mother of the long awaited Christ. I think we would understand if she had tried to run away.  If she had simply said no, I believe we would sympathize. We may have forgiven her if she heard the news and saw herself as something special.  But she did none of these. Instead she humbly said, “I am The Lords Servant.”

As God searched for the perfect parents to raise His Son, He was looking for humble, selfless people. They had to be obedient people of faith and they had to humble themselves before both God and man. After all, they were to raise the Son of God whose first bed would be an animal’s feeding trough, who would learn the trade of a simple carpenter, who would live as a homeless wanderer and who would be tortured and executed in front of a jeering crowd. Humility was to be a central theme of Jesus’ life, and it all started with Mary and Joseph.

Have you ever considered how Mary might view her son? After all, His conception was far from conventional and she knew that this child would be beyond exceptional. Yet Mary, while acknowledging the position of privilege she held as the mother of the Messiah, praised God for her Savior. Her beautiful Son, her beautiful child was also going to be her Beautiful Savior.

Mary shares a wonderful heritage with all believers who followed her because we too can look at Jesus as our Beautiful Savior. It is a kind of beauty that might be better defined as excellent because Jesus is beautiful in every way. We typically define beauty as pleasing to the eye, while the beauty of Christ is His absolute completeness, His absolute excellence, His absolute…and it is here where words fail and the soul is stirred. The Psalmist David writes, “My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul” (Psalms 108:1 NIV).

The desire of the USA Southern Territorial Band is to humbly use our God-given talents to help God communicate with your soul. Please don’t view this music with a critical eye, but see it as music with a unique message for you.

1. Marching Along (Nick Simmons-Smith)

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.     (1 Timothy 6:12) NIV

The life of the Christian is a walk of complete faith. We put out trust in what the Apostle Paul describes as an “invisible” God who is at the forefront of the battle between good and evil, truly believing that we will be victorious. At risk are the spoils of war which are the soul of the warrior and the freedom from sin for those who have been taken in by the devil.

For William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, there was only one thing that mattered – the souls of men. His entire life and ministry were based on the Salvation of the soul and he expected no less from his followers. One such follower, William James Pearson, became one of Williams Booth’s closest associates.  Joining Booth’s Christian Mission in 1874, Pearson embraced the vision and mission of Booth’s Army and, using his ability as a writer, Pearson was able to help rally the troops in the midst of the battle.

In his song, “Marching Along,” Pearson gave all Salvationists a call to arms. The commitment of all Salvationists, indeed all believers, should be so absolute that we are prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice – death - and to this end, Pearson writes, “Soldiers of Jesus (must) be valiant and strong.”  Early-day Salvationists were prepared to go into a world that hated them and to stand firm in their faith, making this melody a fitting backdrop to the march, “Marching Along,” written by Bandmaster Nick Simmons-Smith on the occasion of the Chelmsford Citadel Corps 125th Anniversary. The history books tell us that, in August 1886, the Chelmsford Citadel Corps moved to new barracks marked by three days of worship and celebration. They marched from their temporary residence, a cattle market, to the new barracks followed by some “hundred of the enemy”. This group, known as the Skeleton Army, had declared The Salvation Army as a bitter enemy and would do all it could to stop the testimony of those early converts. Indeed the new barracks, which was full and overflowing that night, had three policemen on the door to protect the brave worshippers inside.

I think this kind of image should make all believers ask the question, “How valiant and strong am I.” To be valiant, the dictionary says we must be “boldly courageous,” yet for most believers our days are spent sitting well within our comfort zone and far from the dangers these valiant Salvationists faced. Perhaps, therefore, we people of faith need to consider the words of William James Pearson as a call to action.

Come, join our Army, the foe we defy,

True to our colors, we'll fight till we die;

Saved from all sin is our war cry and song;

The Salvation Army is marching along.

2. This I Know (William Himes)

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

There can be no name in the history of the universe that is as important or as impactful as the name of Jesus. For the believer, the name represents everything that has value - salvation, hope and life. Through this name we are saved, sanctified, and justified so it is no wonder that the song writer, Lela B. Long, wrote this song of love:

Jesus is the sweetest name I know,
And He’s just the same as His lovely Name,
And that’s the reason why I love Him so;
Oh, Jesus is the sweetest name I know.

This is one of two songs that form William Himes tribute to his dear friend, James (Jim) B. Anderson. Jim was well known by Salvationist musicians all over the world for his many compositions, especially his excellent and often played marches.  Yet many associate Jim for his earliest of works, a simple and beautiful hymn tune arrangement of “Jesus Loves Me”, the second song that forms the backdrop of this lovely setting.

The song, “Jesus Loves Me,” was written by Anna Bartlett Warner, the unmarried daughter of a prominent New York lawyer who lost his fortune during the 1837 depression. Eager to supplement the family income, Anna and her sister Susan turned to writing novels and children's books. Among the 18 books that they wrote together was “Say and Seal”, the book in which, "Jesus Loves Me"- written by Anna - first appeared in 1859. In the story, one of the characters comforted a dying child by singing, "Jesus Loves Me".

When Jim was told he had 3 – 6 months to live due to a rare and aggressive form of cancer, his absolute trust in the name of Jesus became more evident than ever. Jim was famous for his holistic view of Salvationist musicianship, and all who knew him saw Jesus in him. But throughout his illness his absolute faith was never more apparent. He leaned on the name of Jesus more than ever, and those of us who looked on saw an unwavering belief in the ultimate step of faith – death.

As believers our absolute fundamental belief is that, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we have the hope of eternal life. We have read often, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55), a completely fearless verse that is easy to quote when we are strong and healthy.  But what about when we are ill? What about the moment we are told our earthly life is about to end.  For Jim, it was an opportunity to praise His Jesus more than ever, and that he did for the next two years.

In her original book, “Seal and Say”, Anna Bartlett Warner had written an additional verse to the song that was being sung to the dying child, and perhaps, in this context, it was the most important of all. Certainly for Jim Anderson it may have been the greatest comfort of all.

Jesus loves me! Loves me still
Tho' I'm very weak and ill
That I might from sin be free
Bled and died upon the tree.

For Jim, Jesus was the sweetest name he knew and, following his diagnosis, Jim’s faith gave him what he later described as the “two most wonderful years of my life.”  For those of us who call upon that wonderful sweet name of Jesus, let us live our lives with the absolute certainty of eternity with Jesus. That means we must put aside the accolades of this world and focus only on the eternal reward promised us in God’s word.

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so.

3. Songs of Exultation (Norman Bearcroft)

With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. (Psalms 108:13)

There is no Bible character that fought more wars than King David. David was a great warrior who was acutely aware of who his enemies were, and he was not afraid to tackle them head on. His confidence came from his relationship with God who wanted the Israelites to drive out all Canaanite nations and their foreign gods from the land God had promised the descendants of Abraham. In our modern world, war is seen as a desperate last resort. For David, however, it was a case of obeying God’s command to subdue the surrounding nations who might jeopardize the inheritance God had promised the children of Israel. David knew that if he was fighting God’s enemy, God’s people would win.

The modern day believer is also fighting an enemy of God. Satan made himself an enemy of God and, as such, does all that he can to destroy God’s greatest creation – mankind. Satan desires to destroy us because he hates God, therefore, he hates us. Satan knows how much God loves us, how much God wants to protect us, and how much God has done for us. Satan knows that God has loved us from the beginning of time and, therefore, works to confuse the world into thinking that God is the author of evil, that God is intolerant, and that God hates mankind even though nothing could be further from the truth.

In the cornet solo, “Songs of Exultation,” Norman Bearcroft uses three songs that tell the true story of God, His enemy, satan, and what God has truly done for us. These song writers were certain of victory over their enemy and confidently praised God. “I hate the devil and the devil hates me,” writes one, certain of the eternal enemy of God. “Satan goes about, but he can’t get at me,” continues the believer who knows about God’s power over sin. That power is described in the words of Sarah Graham as she writes, “On the cross of Calvary Jesus died for you and me. There He shed His precious blood, that from sin we might be free.”  The song writer is joining David as he says, “With God we will gain victory” (Psalms 108:13a).The victory has already been attained and there is no need for us to fight because He has trampled down our enemy. What we must do is claim the victory and sing, “My Gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; if ever I loved Thee, My Jesus tis now.”

Too often we live our lives as though they are one trial after another. We look at our problems and tackle them in our own strength hoping for small victories when we can get them. To do this is to minimize God and all that He has done for us. We must be like David and be certain of Gods ability to defeat our enemies. In this certainty we recognize that He is fulfilling His promise of an inheritance to all who believe in His name so that we can sing in confidence;

In mansions of glory and endless delight,

I’ll ever adore Thee and dwell in Thy sight.

I’ll sing with the glittering crown on Thy brow;

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus tis now”

4. The Army Chariot (Andrew Barrington)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)

For every believer, there is one command that gives direction to everything that we do – and that is the Great Commission. When Jesus said to His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations” He was not offering a request but giving a command. The beauty of this command, however, is the promise that goes along with it – “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” For the Salvationist, the Great Commission is part of our DNA.

The song Poor Old Joe was written as a ‘parlor song’ by Stephen Foster. His inspiration for the song was his Father-in-laws servant, and it was a song about a faithful, docile broken man who has no personal ambition left. In truth, he was little more than a broken slave.

In 2 Peter 2:19b the author writes, “…people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”  So, what is it that has mastered you? What is it that drives you every day? Who is it that you most want to please? What habit might you be a slave to? You see, one way or another, we are slaves to something or somebody. Our hope, however, is in the Master who created us, who loves us and who wants to free us from our chosen bondage.

William James Pearson, who joined the Christian Mission in 1874, was part of The Salvation Army when that name was adopted in 1878. He witnessed those early exciting days of the Army as it lived the Great Commission and spread the word of God to numerous parts of the world. Pearson, a renowned contributor to The Salvation Army publication, “The War Cry,” also wrote several Salvation Army songs. One song, known to Salvationists as, “All Round the World, the Army Chariot Rolls,” uses the tune of, “Poor Old Joe.”  Utilizing the Army tradition of using popular secular melodies, he penned words of victory and hope, in stark contrast to the original words of, “Poor Old Joe.”  Pearson writes:

All round the world with music and with song,

All round the world we'll boldly march along,

All round the world to free each sin-bound slave,

We'll wave our Army flags for Jesus,

Wave, soldiers, wave.

As followers of Christ we must wave our flags for Jesus. This is no option for the Salvationist, and we must never lose sight of our need to evangelize. The ‘Great Commission’ is a command given to all believers in the midst of a world full of people dying without any sense of hope. While we rejoice that the gospel has been spread to each corner of the world, we must not forget our neighbor who does not know Christ or the family member who has wandered away or the friend whose habit is leading to their eternal destruction. These are people in our part of the world, and that is the harvest that has been placed before us, “therefore …GO….”

All round the world redeeming grace shall flow,

All round the world we will to battle go,

All round the world the universe to save,

With blood and fire, with faith and feeling,

Wave, soldiers, wave.

5. Daystar (Ray Steadman-Allen)

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts (2Peter 1:19) KJV

In His letter to those who “…have received the faith…” (2 Peter 1:1), the Apostle Peter talks about the prophesy of scripture. Being one of the privileged 12 disciples who were at Jesus’ side during His ministry years, Peter could talk with great authority when it came to Christ. In the first chapter of this letter to the faithful, Peter recalls the Baptism of Jesus and how God the Father called down from Heaven saying, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (1 Peter 1:17).  Essentially Peter is saying, “Jesus is the perfect Son of God and I bear witness to that fact.”

As a witness, Peter assures us of the reliability of The Bible as a book of prophesy bearing good news to which we would do well to pay attention. He then likens scripture to a “light that shineth in a dark place.”  Here, Peter is talking about the human heart which he describes as a dark place. As with any dark place, light is required for us to be able to see otherwise we stumble around with no idea of where we are or where we are going. Scripture, however, is like the Daystar, a light that illuminates the sky both before and while the Sun is shining. Scripture allows us to prepare for Jesus and, when He truly illuminates our hearts, we experience both spiritual light and comfort.

In his piece, “Daystar,” Lt-Colonel Ray Steadman-Allen uses the 17th century tune, “Ascalon,” which traditionally accompanies the hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus.” The origin of the hymn is unknown, but the message behind it is very clear – Jesus is more lovely and precious than anything on earth. As beautiful as the meadows and woodlands are, as glorious as the blossoming spring season is, as awesome as the sun and moon might be…Jesus is even more beautiful. Indeed, there is nothing on earth that comes close to the beauty of Jesus

All fairest beauty, heavenly and earthly,

Wondrously, Jesus, is found in Thee;

None can be nearer, fairer or dearer,

Than Thou, my Savior, art to me.

Can you see the world through the light that is Jesus Christ? Is He the most beautiful thing in the world to you? If not, it’s probably because you’re not in His word. Scripture is at the very center of our faith and, in order to get a clear picture of Christ, we must continue to be in His word. Let God’s word illuminate your heart and, when it does, you will join the hymn writer in saying:

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!

Son of God and Son of Man!

Glory and honor, praise, adoration,

Now and forever more be Thine.

6. Hallelujah! (James Curnow)

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

The most basic purpose of a Salvation Army band is participation in corporate worship. A rousing song of praise with a brass band playing and a congregation singing at the top of its lungs is a marvelous experience for all concerned. One of the great songs of Salvationist worship is James Montgomery’s, “Stand up and Bless The Lord,” to the tune, “Falcon Street,” which serves as the backdrop for James Curnow’s exciting offering, “Hallelujah.”  The words of the first verse conjure up a wonderful image of corporate worship as we are instructed to;

Stand up and bless the Lord,

Ye people of his choice;

Stand up and bless the Lord your God

With heart and soul and voice.

In Hebrews 10:24-25, the writer is both affirming and warning us concerning corporate worship in five simple words, “…not giving up meeting together.” Clearly the writer sees corporate worship as of fundamental importance to love, good deeds, and the encouragement of one another. It is the kind of togetherness that the early Church experienced after the ascension of Christ as we read,  “All the believers were together and had everything in common” (Acts 2:44). That sense of oneness is to be united with a common cause which is, to stand up and bless the Lord.

The Psalmist tells us to, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord,” (Psalms 134:2 KJV). The prerequisite here is to be in the sanctuary or, if you will, to be part of a congregation in corporate worship. It is a call to put God above all things and honor Him with your worship, thereby blessing Him. This then bodes the questions:  “Is it possible to bless The Lord if we don’t attend corporate worship?”;  “Is it possible to honor God without the fellowship of fellow believers?”  To answer these questions we must consider our motivation for not attending corporate worship. In order to bless The Lord, we must give all of ourselves and our worship becomes a form of sacrifice. Paul tells us to “…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1b).  But if we choose to hold anything back, including corporate worship, we are no longer offering a sacrifice to God as much as fitting God into our schedule. God is not a God of convenience; He is a God of great inconvenience. He wants to disrupt our earthly wants and replace them with eternal needs. He wants you to fight your personal desires and ambitions and follow a path that the world will tell you is absurd. He wants you to look away from yourself and look only to Him for guidance and sustenance and, in order to do this, we must have our minds fixed only on pleasing Him now…and forever.

Stand up and bless the Lord;

the Lord your God adore;

stand up and bless his glorious name,

henceforth forevermore.

7. The Light Of The World (Dean Goffin)

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

So often when the believer reads scripture that hints at redemption, we think of the salvation of the non-believer. It is so quickly assumed that the one in need is the one who has nothing while we, who call ourselves Christians, have a safe and secure path to eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This, however, could not be further from the truth as illustrated by this verse taken from the letter to the Church of Laodicea.

The Church of Laodicea had replaced Christ with other Gods and idols. The Church was the wealthiest of the seven Asia Minor churches that were addressed in the early chapters of Revelation and took pride in its great wealth, its lucrative textile industry and its famous eye salve. God was angry with this “lukewarm” Church and warned them of rebuke and discipline that was to come their way in order that they may repent.

Holman Hunt, when he painted the famous “Light Of The World”, was divinely inspired by Revelation 3:20. The painting, which shows Christ preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, shows a door with no handle; therefore it can only be opened on the inside. It represents the heart of the believer who has made the invitation for Christ to come and then refuses to let Him in. It is the believer whose heart is so preoccupied by other things that he simply cannot hear the knocking of His Savior.

Sir Dean Goffin, who was, in turn, inspired by Holman Hunts painting, brings arguably the most inspired selection of Salvation Army music in his interpretation of the “Light Of The World.”  He uses Fanny Crosby's words:

Behold me standing at the door,

And hear me pleading evermore:

Say, weary heart, oppressed with sin,

May I come in? May I come in?

This image of Christ knocking and calling from the outside of the door of our hearts is a constant theme throughout the music. At times there is a beautiful patience about the music as Christ persistently calls, “May I Come in?, May I Come In?”  But the deaf believer’s heart is not changing. The heart is so cluttered with other things that the sin makes it impossible to hear. The heart may be calloused by anger or hatred, it may be filled with other Gods such as wealth and power, or the heart may be confused into believing it is righteous because of a gift or talent that makes us stand out.  We are so busy saying, how good am I, that we fail to hear the gentle chiding of Christ.

It is possible that, right now, Christ is knocking at the door of your heart. Please silence your heart that you might hear Him calling, “May I Come in,. May I Come in”, and then…let Him in. Let Him bring light to your darkened heart.  Let Him heal you where it hurts.  Let Him give you confidence and assurance where there is none, let Him tell you how valuable you are.

I bring thee joy from Heaven above,

I bring thee pardon, peace and love;

Say, weary heart, oppressed with sin,

May I come in? May I come in?

8. Fanfare and Flourishes (Martin Cordner)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

It has been said that peace of mind remains the most sought-after matter in life. The anguish of life, relationships, economics, guilt, regret – part of an exceptionally long list - can torment the soul to death. So often it seems as though there is nothing we can do about it so we are left at odds with the world and, very often, with God.

A Biblical character that was struggling with peace of mind was Peter. Peter had denied Christ three times before he watched Jesus be taken, beaten and crucified. After Jesus’ death and resurrection He has an encounter with some of His disciples. At this point in history the resurrected Christ has already appeared to His disciples once but He still had some unfinished business to conduct. Scripture tells us that 7 of the disciples, led by Simon Peter, were fishing when Jesus came to the shore and called to them. After asking how productive they’d been, He told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat which produced what we call, “the miraculous catch of fish.”  Until this moment they had not recognized Jesus but when they did, “(Peter) wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water” (John 21:7b).   Peter, who was completely shamed by his denial of Christ, was so relieved to see his resurrected Savior that it caused him to want to get to Jesus as soon as possible. Peter had been immensely burdened by his denial of Christ, but now he had the chance of forgiveness, for restoration, for peace of mind.

In his exciting piece of music Fanfare and Flourishes, Martin Cordner uses the wonderful words of Geoff Bullock;

Lord I come to You
Let my heart be changed, renewed
Flowing from the grace
That I’ve found in You
Lord I’ve come to know
The weakenesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of Your love

This is a wonderful song of restoration, but the music hinges heavily on the first five words of the song, “Lord I come to you.”  There is great insight to this emphasis because when problems come our way we are quick to say, “Where is Jesus?” while Jesus is standing on the shore saying, “come to me…all who are weary and burdened…come to me.”  When we, in our rebellious state, realize that Jesus is calling us to Him, we must then be like Peter. We must fall to our knees and humble ourselves before God. We must believe that a chance of redemption is at hand, and we must come to Jesus who will change our heart, and renew our spirit as we say;

Hold me close
Let Your love surround me
Bring me near
Draw me to Your side
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your Spirit leads me on
In the power of Your love

If you are burdened, if you are weary, if you have lost sight of God, then turn around for He is calling you right now with the absolute desire to love you, forgive you, and reinstate you as a child of God. Jesus wants to offer you the gift of The Holy Spirit who will then guide you in life, a life that will have absolute peace of mind.

9. I Surrender (Laeger. arr Nick Simmons Smith)

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7)

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to power and wealth. Seen as a man on his way up, Paul, then known as Saul, was the enemy of early day Christians. We first meet him at the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Scripture goes on to tell us, “…Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3) Who knows how far this young man might have gone but for a truly miraculous conversion.

After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus Paul’s entire life changed. Gone was the authority that had been given to him by the High Priest and in its place was complete submission and servitude. Gone was the well paid job and, in its place, was the life of a traveling evangelist with no place to call home. In order to follow Christ, Paul turned his back on everything he had once placed value in as an act of full surrender. In his letter to the Philippians Paul wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

In his song, “I Surrender,” Phil Laeger is following Paul’s example by turning his back on the comforts of the world in favor of a life of servitude and faith. Leager writes, “In a way, this is my own fleshing out of Philippians 3:7-10, in which the Apostle Paul says that he considers everything he once valued to be worthless compared to the joy of knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord.” Through this process of “fleshing out” we have been given this wonderful prayer of surrender.

I surrender my life to Your blood
I surrender my name for Your glory
I surrender my heart to Your will
I surrender my dreams to the plans You have for me
Thank You for showing me the emptiness of all I held onto
I surrender it all
I surrender my everything for you…

The example of Paul is one we are all called to follow. We must release our grip on the things that give us comfort such as our time, talents and treasures in favor of a Savior who can offer us so much more. We must give up all of our ambitions and dreams of a better life to a God that promises eternal life. We must stop putting our faith in the things of the world in favor of a Master who is completely faithful. We must realize the emptiness of the things we hold dear and, only then, will we truly appreciate how complete we can become when Jesus is in control.

10. Lord, Lord, You’ve Sure Been Good To Me (Eric Alexander)

I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. (Psalms 13:6) NIV

I was 27 years of age and visiting a Salvation Army drug & alcohol rehabilitation center the first time I ever heard anybody say, “I thank God for waking me up this morning” As many times as I had sung the song, “Count your blessings” and thanked God for His goodness, I had never taken time to consider the gift of the very day I was living. While I might pray to God for His healing power and other miracles, I have often neglected to thank Him for days of health and comfort.

We can often become blinded by the issues of life and wonder, “where is God?” Even King David, the man after God’s own heart, would look to heaven and cry out;

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?  (Psalms 13:1-2) NIV

I think we’ve all been here. We feel downtrodden, defeated by life and its issues, trying to figure our problems out by ourselves. But it’s what we do next that is important. Do we turn away in frustration blaming God, or do we turn towards Him trusting in His promise to never leave us nor forsake us. To turn away is to deny God and to judge His ability based on our human perspective, while turning to Him is to believe in Him and to lean on His promises. David chooses the latter as he writes;

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.  (Psalms 13:3-4) NIV

As David pleads for an answer, God gives one to him. It is not the outcome to David’s immediate problems, it is a reminder that David reiterates in his prayer;

But I trust in Your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in Your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

for He has been good to me. (Psalms 13:5-6) NIV

At times life can get us down and it seems that God is nowhere to be found. Perhaps your health is failing, perhaps a relationship has fallen apart, perhaps you cannot find work and the financial crisis you are in is coming to a head. As you cry out to God, trust that He is listening to you and allow Him to change your heart. Let Him remind you of His faithfulness.  Let Him remind you of His love and, if you do this, you will soon you will be singing;

          “Lord Lord, You’ve sure been good to me”

11. Charlotte Celebration (Stephen Bulla)

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.(James 5:19-20) NIV

To God, the most precious thing on earth is the soul of man. We read in Genesis that when God created man He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7 KJV).  The soul is the eternal part of man, a part of us that God desires to keep pure while Satan works to corrupt.

In his epistle, James reminds us that the soul of the believer can be corrupted causing us to wander from the truth. We live in a world where the truth is often relative and very little seems to be absolute. Many of us can be guilty of creating our own truth based on what we want and what makes us happy. Everybody is searching for happiness – a noble pursuit – but they are looking in all the wrong places.  If our search simply takes us to the things of this world, then we are doomed as true happiness cannot be found in the things of the world, but in the truth that is Jesus Christ.

In her poem, “The Story Wanted,” Katherine Hankey writes words that were later set to music by William H. Doane.  They are powerful words of testimony, a testimony that is echoed by all who have found the secret of true happiness, that is, a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Her testimony is clear, absolute and convincing.

A convincing testimony is a mighty weapon in the Salvation War. It consists of a genuinely changed life, a grateful heart and a willing soul. It shows itself in both words and actions and it has the ability to turn a sinner from the error of their ways and save them from death.

How is your testimony? Is your love of God so great that you want to shout it from the rooftops, or are you a little more subdued? Would people be convinced of your salvation by the way that you live your life, or does your happiness depend on your circumstances? Let us remember that the most precious thing on earth is at stake here – the souls of mankind – so we who claim Christ must be convincing.

I love to tell the story; 'tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God's own holy Word.”

12. Sufficiency (Erik Leidzen)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul famously talks about a thorn in his flesh which he describes as a “messenger from satan” (2 Corinthians 7) There is no clarity as to what this thorn in the flesh is, except it was inconvenient and painful. It may have been a person, it may literally have been a pain, but whatever it was Paul pleaded to God to take it away. Three times Paul asked, and three times God said no.

Very often we come before God and ask for the inconveniences of life to be taken from us. We might be suffering with a physical condition, perhaps a financial situation, or a conflict with our neighbor. We get down on our knees and ask God, “please free me from my inconvenience, please free me from the thorn in my flesh”…but things don’t change. We offer God our concern and expect the answer to be given on our terms, but that’s not the way God works. He knows what is best for us, and He knew what was best for Paul. God says, “My grace is sufficient for you”.

Early day Salvationist Commissioner William Elwin Oliphant adopts this concept in his song, “I Kneel Before The Sacred Cross,” in which he explores the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

I kneel beside Thy sacred cross,
And count for Thee my life as dross;
O satisfy my soul this hour
With Thy dear love, my healing power.

Thou art enough for me,
Thou art enough for me;
O precious, living, loving Lord,
Yes, thou art enough for me!

This song, which serves and the melody of Erik Leidzen’s, “Sufficiency,” urges us to consider what we truly need as distinguished by what we want. We want a trouble free and pain-free life. We want a life that is easy for us to manage and then, when we die, we want to live with Jesus eternally. In these verses, however, Paul turns this concept around by reminding us that we don’t have to wait to live with Jesus eternally, we can do it now and it is our problems that allow this to occur. Instead of God taking the thorn in our flesh away, He desires to support us through the pain. In the case of emotional pain, He wants us to come before Him for His peace which surpasses all understanding (see Philippians 4:7). When we are in physical pain we can focus on the need for physical comfort rather than see an opportunity to “share in His sufferings that we might also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17b). After all it was the physical suffering of Christ that freed us from sin, and so God uses our attitude towards physical suffering to be convincing to the non-believer.

We must adapt the attitude of Paul in all things of life. This life will let you down, it will fail you and problems will come. At all times, however, we must stay focused and see the big picture. We must put our faith in the Savior who sacrificed His own life in our place so that we, in our sufferings can say, “His grace is sufficient”…

At times 'tis hard for flesh and blood
To say: Thy will be done. my God;
But if my grief means others' gain,
O what to me are loss and pain!

Thou art enough for me,
Thou art enough for me;
O precious, living, loving Lord,
Yes, thou art enough for me!


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

(Hebrews 11:1KJV)

It is very easy for us to put faith in the things we experience every day. When I get out of bed in the morning my faith tells me that there is a floor underneath me. I know this because I can see the floor and my experience tells me that the floor is reliable. I also understand that gravity, a force I learned about in school, will take effect and will keep my feet firmly on the floor. I cannot see gravity, but without it I know I would be flailing aimlessly in space. The existence of gravity is proven to me with every step I take, and my faith in it is absolute.  

Faith is the foundation of Christianity. It is a belief that is based on the complete reliability of Gods promise of eternal life for all who put their faith in Him. It is a hope that is shared by the body of Christ, which is the Church, and it rests upon our experience as people of faith.

The writer of Hebrews gives us a wonderful definition of faith. This definition will make little sense to the non-believer, but to the Christian it makes complete sense. Hope in and of itself is nothing but a wild dream, a foundationless whim and to the unbeliever the hope of the Christian seems to be just this – a wild ideal. For the believer however, it is something completely different. It is not based on an ideal, but on experience. It is not based on a dream, but on a solid foundation on which we can base our entire future. As the world leans on the things the eye can see, so the person of faith leans on the things of the soul. It is an expectation that God will do all that He has promised to us in Christ, and the persuasion is so strong that it changes our entire personality. True people of faith are filled with unspeakable joy and optimism.

The true person of faith is the most convincing argument this world can offer the non-believer that God exists. We must live every moment of our lives based on faith and hope. We must live this way when things are going well, and we must live this way when things are tough. Indeed, our reaction to the sorrows of life can be the most compelling argument of all. When disaster hits we are expected to fall, but when we don’t, people will want to know why. Let us live the answer – my faith is not based on what I see before me, but it is based on what I know inside of me. I am not flailing aimlessly because my feet are firmly planted on the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. I have complete faith in my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I am certain that an eternity in paradise awaits me.


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