Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

Lord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
    for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
    like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
    my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
    I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]

Answer me quickly, Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

We celebrated the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, but the nativity story did not finish at Jesus’ birth. There is still another character depicted in the Nativity scene by Thomas Kinkade, the painter of light. Santa is working carefully and skillfully to carve a Magi, a wiseman from the east who would come to recognize and pay homage to the birth of a king. There is only one king being carved, but this one king represents all in the entourage that came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We do not know how many magi came, but tradition suggests three based on the gifts given.

The gospel according to Matthew narrates the account of the Magi. They followed a star and arrived in Jerusalem after Jesus was born. They sought the newborn king in the King’s palace, which certainly challenged Herod the Great’s power and sovereignty. He was so paranoid of protecting his position he would kill relatives if they posed a threat. The prophecy of Micah 5:2-5 said the king would be born in Bethlehem, and so the wise men continued their journey. They again followed the star that moved and stopped over the house where Joseph, Mary and Jesus resided.

It is fascinating to investigate the night sky and see the stars, the milky way, new star clusters developing while viewing others that may be dying. Sailors would plot their journey by the stars, but for the Magi, a star moved and guided them to a specific location. God in his magnificence, ordered the heavenly event and the men prepared and journeyed to find the king. When they arrived at the house, they entered in and ‘fell to the ground and worshipped’ the child and presented to Him the treasures they brought, Matthew 2:11.

In Thomas Kinkade’s ‘The Meaning of Christmas’ there is a painting of a large house over the mantle. The little stable does not compare, nor would the house that Jesus was in when the Magi visited. Jesus is without a permanent residence yet has promised to prepare a room for his disciples down through the generations. John 14:2-3 states, ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.’ But first we must accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and allow Him to be Lord of our lives from this time on. Revelation 3:19-20 tells us how, ‘Those I love, I rebuke, and discipline therefore be earnest and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My Voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with Me.’

Today will we fall to the ground and worship our Lord like the Magi? Will we give Jesus our treasures? Will we give Him a place to reside and rule in our lives? Will we listen to the Lord and follow the signs He provides?  The true meaning of Christmas is Christ becoming our Lord, receiving salvation and journeying in life with Him for all time. Open the door, even the locked ones and enjoy the journey with Christ.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing

Celebrate Jesus! Celebrate!

Glory to God in the Highest and peace among those whom God is pleased – why? Because this is the message given to the shepherds, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,’ (Luke 2:10-11). Did you notice the joy is for us too – for all the people. God has found favor on us and desires that we choose to be saved through Jesus our Christ. Saved from sin! Reconciled with God! Relationship with Jesus! Empowered by the Holy Spirit! Joy – Peace – and ultimate Love!

This was prophesized in Isaiah 9:6-7, ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice
from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.’

This is Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Reflect on the ramifications of his love, birth, death, and resurrection as captured in the lyrics of ‘Who is He?’

Who is He in yonder stall,
At whose feet the shepherds fall?

‘Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!
‘Tis the Lord! The King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him! Crown Him Lord of all!

Who is He in deep distress
Fasting in the wilderness?

Who is He to whom they bring
All the sick and sorrowing?

Who is he on yonder tree,
Dies in grief and agony?

Who is he that from the grave
Comes to succor, help and save?

Who is He who from His throne,
Rules through all the worlds alone?

‘Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!
‘Tis the Lord! The King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him! Crown Him Lord of all!

Merry Christmas. God with Us – Immanuel! Don’t be afraid anymore! Celebrate Jesus today and at his feet humbly fall, crowning Him Lord of all!

And we think we have had a rough year! Today we focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, depicted in nativity scenes with bended knee looking adoringly at Jesus, while in other nativity depictions Jesus is relocated into Mary’s arms. Either way, Mary loves her son and treasures the moments with him, like she has treasured all the events leading up to the birth and beyond. She knew that through it all, God has blessed Mary in being a part of salvation history, giving birth to the one who would bring salvation to the whosoever.

Certainly, she experienced highs and lows, excitement and pain, and everything that comes with daily uncertainties, but she held dear to the promises given her from the heavenly messenger Gabriel. These are the words recorded in the gospel according to Luke, ‘Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you… Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end,’ (Luke 1:28, 30-33). Knowing Jesus would be the King, and his kingdom would have no end, gave hope that no matter what happens will be fulfilled and she did not need to be afraid.

Mary didn’t need to fear being sent away and divorced. She didn’t need to fear the journey to Bethlehem. She could have courage giving birth. She could treasure the visiting shepherds and be amazed when approached by a prophet, Simeon, and prophetess, Anna, in the Temple. She be amazed at the visits from Magi from the east and she would trust Joseph in fleeing to Egypt. She had quite a year, yet her faith and trust in God gave her confidence. She probably recounted the words often, ‘Mary, do not be afraid, you have found favor with God.’

In Mary’s song, the Magnificat found in Luke 1:46-55, we find Mary addressing herself as being of a humble state and yet blessed for all generations. Mary was an everyday person, not born into privilege, but raised to love the Lord her God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. She was available to God, willing to be used by God, and said ‘Yes’ to God for His will to be accomplished.

Today do we have the same conviction to say ‘Yes’ to God for His will to be done? Are we available or only at certain times after we have done what we want? Are we willing to be used by God, or only if His desires match ours? Do we have the confidence to believe, not fear, and say ‘Yes’ to God? We will never be called to be a Mary, but we may be called to Go and preach, Go and offer the ministry of presence, or Go and help those who are hurting, lonely, hungry and afraid. Mary was of a lowly state and used by God, while many times in our society we look at the lowly, the marginalized, the overlooked individuals as if they are only charity cases, and yet remember what God can do through them (and us). Do not fear, God has found favor on you – He saved you. Now let us minister and uplift others in society introducing them to our Lord so they too can say ‘Yes’ to God’s will, and we can ponder God’s grace working in our hearts.

Listen to “Mary Did You Know” and join us on Christmas Dad as we celebrate Jesus, the new born King.

In Thomas Kinkade’s nativity, Joseph is kneeling behind the manger, peering in to look at Jesus. He has his right hand over his heart and with his left, he is supported with a shepherd’s staff. Joseph was a carpenter, perhaps stone mason, in Nazareth and he is described in the gospel according to Matthew as a righteous man (Matthew 1:19). He was a good Jewish man, observing the law and honoring his God. He was devoted to do what was right and acclaimed, therefore, as having good character. You can imagine his delight in being betrothed to Mary, an engagement that was legally binding and would last a year. You can also then imagine his sense of betrayal, disappointment, and lack of understanding when he found Mary to be pregnant. As a righteous upstanding man, what should he do? Mary, if committed adultery would receive a death penalty, but he did not want that to happen, so he designed to secretly have Mary sent away. Mary would then have her baby in secret, but as consequence of the illegitimate birth, he would not be able to marry within Judaism.

We know that Joseph did not send Mary away, but after having an encounter with a heavenly messenger in a dream, he knew the importance and significance of the child Mary carried. Hear what the angel said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins,’ (Matthew 1:20-21). Joseph will give him the name Jesus; God is Salvation!

Joseph was righteous as he always wanted to honor his Lord. Having a personal message from God, changed his plans so God’s will would be done no matter the consequences on his life and reputation. He was secure in himself to face anything for his God. What I find equally amazing is that Joseph recognized the message from the Angel as coming from God, as he did another three times. On the second occasion, he was told to pack and leave Bethlehem for Egypt, and by fleeing, he preserved the life of Jesus. The third dream, Joseph was instructed to return home, presumably to Bethlehem, but during a fourth dream, he was instructed for safety concerns over Archelaus reigning in Judea, to go to Galilee. Four dreams, four clear messages from the Lord, all perceived and obeyed – God’s will be done – truly Joseph was righteous.

Joseph, with his right hand on his heart while looking at Jesus, shows great devotion and love. Today we can reflect on Joseph’s character, how close he was to God and recognizing personal messages from God. Are we so in tune with our God and willing to do anything that is asked of us, even it if means our character would be questioned? Hopefully, we would make decisions that would not bring harm to anyone close to us and whom we love. Thinking of being righteous and doing what is right, we can take Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8, ‘Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.’ Be righteous in thought, word, and deed, for the glory of God.

Listen now to the Territorial Ensemble as they play “Silent Night” and join us next week in this advent series as we reflect on Mary, the mother of Jesus and the one who said, ‘May your will be done!’

A gallop poll in 1996 revealed the most favored Christmas Carol in North America was ‘Away in a Manger.’ You know the song and can probably sing it from memory using either of the two common tunes by Kirkpatrick (1895) or James Murray (1887). The song was originally called, ‘Luther’s Cradle Song,’ however there is no known link back to Martin Luther, instead it is now thought to be written for a church pageant commemorating Luther’s four-hundred-year anniversary of the Reformation. “Away in a manger no crib for a bed … The Cattle are lowing the poor baby wakes …” familiar lyrics and we see both manger and cattle, an ox, represented in almost all nativity scenes today.

The first ox in a nativity scene was recorded in 1415, at a Corpus Christi celebration, where baby Jesus was lying in a manger between an ox and a donkey. The reference to include an ox and donkey in the nativity comes from Isaiah 3:2, ‘An ox knows it owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand,’ as a means of subtly reinforcing Jesus as the promised Messiah. It is doubtful that a first century home in Bethlehem had an ox present but a feeding trough, a manger would be. The animals owned by the family would receive their food in the manger – a cold, stone trough affixed to the floor in the back of the house.

When born, Jesus was placed in this manger wrapped in cloths, not as food for animals, but as a safe place. Even so, there is a symbolism inherent in the act as Jesus is our spiritual food. Jesus declared in John 6:35 ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’ He said these words after he had fed over 5000 individuals, including family units, with just five small barley loaves and two fish. When the leftovers were collected, there were twelve baskets of food left over. God provided for the people, just as manna was provided in the wilderness for his people, and he continues to provide for us today, with his body having been broken on the cross, allowing us to partake of forgiveness of sin, restoration of relationship with God and life with Him forever. God even continues to nurture our spiritual lives in the present, by His grace producing transformation to be more like Christ.

We know that ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4),’ so this Christmas may we feast on God’s word and learn more of God’s love for us. When we look at a nativity, if an ox is represented, then may we say with confidence, unlike the ancient Israelites, that we know God’s word, we know Jesus and he is our Lord and Savior.

Listen now to Michael Stayner as he plays “Away In A Manger” , and join us next week in this advent series as we reflect on the character of Joseph, the man God chose to entrust with the Savior of the world.

There is one chorus we sing in Sunday School that I have difficulty with; ‘I just want to be a sheep, baa, baa, baa, bah.’ I do not want to be a sheep! Have you ever spent time with sheep? Sure, the lambs look cute in the green pastures, but as they grow their true nature shows. They can be dirty, clueless and they are totally dependent – even Psalms 23 highlights that fact. I do not want to be a sheep – well context does matter – so see my response at the end!

In the nativity, portrayed by Thomas Kinkade, a shepherd is kneeling in front of a manger with the Christ child laying therein.  He has some sheep with him too. If you go to Bethlehem today, you can visit the shepherd’s fields just outside of the village heading towards Jerusalem. Here you find pastures and caves where the shepherds would look after their sheep. It is also thought based on Micah 5:2-5, ‘But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore, he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace,’ that this was the location of the Migdal Eder, the tower of the flock, and the sheep that were looked after were for sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple. Shepherds would care for these sheep year-round for when they were needed to atone and offer sacrifice for the people. Such important animals and without blemish.

It was these shepherds that the night sky opened with angels singing ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace among men/women with whom He is pleased’ (Luke 2:14). Peace promised again, especially after the shepherds were terribly afraid of what they were witnessing. As the shepherds faced their fears, they desired to seek the ‘thing’ that had been made known to them, and they hurried to see Mary, Joseph and found Jesus. As a result, they sang and praised God for what they witnessed and heard.

Fear was turned into courage. Normality was turned into hopefulness and worship turned into praise. These shepherds were changed and had a sense of the peace that was promised. Sheep do not need to worry if they have a shepherd that cares for them, because that shepherd will look after their needs. The shepherd knows the sheep and their behaviors and proactively provides for them. The sheep can therefore be at peace. Peace like a baby sleeping. Peace with adoring parents looking at a baby. Peace with shepherds who look at the promised one before them – the Christ.

So, do I want to be a sheep? Not literally, but figuratively! I definitely want to be in the flock of Jesus. He takes care of me as well as you and turns any fears around so we can face our days with courage, joy, hope, praise, and perfect peace. Listen now to the Territorial Staff Band playing  “In Ducli Jubilo” and join us next week in this advent series as we reflect on the cattle and manger.

One of the events that has been held this year is the national census. Every ten years, the total number of individuals are counted where they live. Data from the census provides information for decision making for elections, funding, and long-term planning. This is not something new as even when Jesus was born, a census was taken, and all the residents in Israel had to journey back to their ancestral home to be counted. That meant Joseph had to take his betrothed, Mary, all the way to Bethlehem in Judea as he was from the line of King David.

Joseph and Mary lived in a little village hidden in the basin at the top of a hill in Galilee. It was small, Cana was bigger, and if you were travelling through the Galilee, you could pass the hill Nazareth was located on and not even know the village was there. Naturally, today Nazareth is a pilgrimage site and a large bustling city. Out of this village, Joseph and Mary would need to travel over 70 miles (as a crow would fly and much more on foot) to Bethlehem, probably through the Jezreel Valley to the Jordan river, south to Jericho and then up the very steep climb towards Jerusalem and then south to Bethlehem. Fit people would be able to travel about 20 miles a day, but for Joseph and Mary, even with a donkey, since Mary was nine months pregnant, the journey probably took them 7-10 days. Seven to ten days traveling on foot or on a donkey, without the comforts of home, wondering when the baby would come and dreaming of the place they can rest, be refreshed and potentially have their baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

They were brave and I am sure gave all their energy to make the trip, both physically and emotionally. As they drew close to their destination, they would see the shepherd’s fields, and finally the township. You can imagine them reaching their destination, potentially a relative’s house where the family would live downstairs and guests upstairs or on an elevated platform. The family animals would be in the rear of the house with feeding troughs. Instead of Mary and Joseph staying in the guest room with others when it was her time to give birth, it is conceivable they moved to the main floor. Many women would come in and out to assist Mary, with the men outside or upstairs, allowing the birth mother privacy. When Jesus was born, he would have been wrapped in clothes and laid in the stone manger fixed to the floor, that was across the room by the animals. The manger was a safe place while Mary recuperated.

We typically conclude there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary. A society based on hospitality would have families lodge guests in a designated space in their house. Mary and Joseph would not have stayed at a hotel/inn or put in a stable for animals behind an inn. They were not housed in a stable as wood would be scarce to build a structure, similarly the place of birth was probably not a cave unless the early Palestinian home was built at the front of the cave. Still Mary and Joseph were guests requiring hospitality just as Jesus also stated later in life that ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20b). He was to be a guest with those who invited him in.

We are blessed people who have a home, necessities, and provisions. Sometimes we can get so focused on these material items that we neglect to welcome Jesus into all aspects of our life. Yes, there is room Jesus! You are welcome! Yet we have concerns, worries, and demands upon our time, that we can forget to be with our resident ‘guest.’ Maybe it is time to allow Jesus to be at home as our Lord and Savior in our lives, and not just a guest into compartmentalized areas of our life.

Listen now to “O Little Town Of Bethlehem”, and join us next week in this advent series as we reflect on the Good News announced to the shepherds and how they left everything to go and see the new born baby.

Welcome to our new 7 week series
written by Major Nigel J. Cross, D. Min, Training Principal

Week 1 – November 15, 2020

I wonder what comes to mind as you finish this statement: In the year of our Lord 2020 …

For some individuals significant events happened, for others rite of passage events were marred by the current pandemic, and for all of us, we can all state issues that have brought concern, anxiety, instability and the need to focus on faith, especially for hope. I have even heard that in some countries, people are putting up their Christmas trees early, as they want a symbol of hope in their homes as a distraction to everything else going on.

It seems strange to even consider Christmas before we celebrate Thanksgiving, and yet what better reason to give thanks for our hope found in the Christ of Christmas. The prophet Isaiah stated, ‘The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them’ (Isaiah 9:2). The people in Israel faced darkness. They were under the tyrannical rule of Herod the Great. When Herod was about to die, he also ordered any challengers to the throne to be killed – even newborn babies. The Jews were also in revolt against, not only Hellenistic culture and influences, but also Rome. Political infighting, nationalistic revolts, quelling of situations from Varus all led to dark days. The Jews needed a light, a Messiah to shine and bring promise and hope. The people in Israel, like us felt uncertainty and fragility of life, even facing moments of ‘darkness’ and despair, but in hindsight we recognize the light shining in our darkness, Christ, who brings us hope. Sure, we can buy lights for ‘light therapy’ as an aid to cope with depression or seasonal affective disorder, but in our walk of faith, we have the greater and one true light of Christ.

Thomas Kinkade, the famous ‘painter of light’ produced a figurine that is entitled ‘The True Meaning of Christmas.’ This ornament depicts Santa in front of a fireplace with a stocking on the mantle, a sack of presents behind him with the list of recipients, and a Christmas tree adjacent to the fireplace. Santa is kneeling on one knee in the center of the scene, finishing the carving of a king, a wise man, that would take its place in the nativity scene at the base of the tree. There in the facade of a stable is Mary, Joseph, a shepherd with sheep, cattle and of course baby Jesus lying in a manger. With bended knee, Santa and all that commercialism portrays as the Christmas experience, highlights the birth of Christ.

Isaiah continued, ‘For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will rest on His shoulders. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace’ (Isaiah 9:6-7a). There is promised peace: peace in political environments, peace in our homes, peace in our communities, peace between people of different cultures, ethnicities, and creeds. There is peace promised and realized in the kingdom of God, and Jesus is our hope and path.

This Christmas advent, we will focus on the ‘True Meaning of Christmas’ as portrayed in Kinkade’s Santa and nativity figurine. Each aspect will reveal a truth of Christ to reflect on, to bring hope, joy and the knowledge of God’s love and providential care, that brings peace in our uncertainties.

Listen now to Staff Songster, Captain Michael O’Brien as he sings, “How Far Is It To Bethlehem?”, and join us next week in this advent series as we reflect on the journey to Bethlehem and the lodgings the holy family found.

ORSBORNAGAIN (36)

A devotional series by Major Rob Birks

ORSBORNAGAIN is meant to introduce the poetry of the first Poet General, Albert Orsborn (1886-1967) to a new audience and to reintroduce his works to dyed-in-the-(tropical)-wool Salvationists.

These are not new songs.

However, the lyrics are jam-packed with new life, which may be missed during corporate worship. Re-examined through scripture and experience, Rob Birks intends through an examination of these scared songs to renew the spiritual fervor of believers, and point seekers to their Savior.

Once, on a day, was Christ led forth to die, 
And with the crowd that pressed on him joined I.  
Slowly they led him, led him to the tree, 
And I beheld his hands no more were free. 
Bound fast with cords, and this was his distress,  
That men denied those hands outstretched to bless.  

Sacred hands of Jesus, they were bound for me;  
Wounded hands of Jesus, stretched upon a tree,  
Ever interceding, mercy is their plea. 
Their effectual pleading brings grace to me,  
Redeeming grace to me.  

Hands that were scarred by daily fret and tear; 
Hands quick to sooth the troubled brow of care;  
Hands strong to smite the sins that men enthrone,  
Yet never raised to seek or claim their own:  
Dear hands of Christ! and yet men feared them so  
That they must bind them as to death they go.  

Hands that still break to men the living bread;  
Hands full of power to raise again the dead,  
Potent and healing, eager to reclaim, 
Laid in forgiveness on one bowed in shame;  
Say, wouldst thou bind, by pride and unbelief,  
Those hands that compass all thy soul’s relief?  

Albert Orsborn 
195 The Eternal God – God the Son, the Suffering and Death of Jesus

By now, if you’ve read through ORSBORNAGAIN, it will not come as a shock to you that we once again find the General contemplating Jesus, and the day and the way he died. Christ-centric and cross-centric, Orsborn is true to form. In this piece it isn’t the charm of the cross or the shadow of the cross that draws Orsborn’s attention. Rather, through three verses and a chorus, he focuses in on the “sacred hands of Jesus.” Orsborn contemplated the cross of Christ so often and so intently that he was able to poetically place himself at the scene of the crime (first verse, second line), and zoom in on the hands which were pierced for our pardon, scarred to heal us and bound to make us free. The “sacred hands of Jesus” made quite an impression on Orsborn, and why not? These were the hands that blessed children, restored sight to a blind man, healed multitudes, and broke bread with his disciples in the upper room.  

And speaking of the disciples, they saw the hands of Jesus most every day for three years. They were there on the day of crucifixion, and saw the “wounded hands of Jesus, stretched upon a tree.” And after it was finished (John 19:30), and Jesus had committed his spirit into the hands of his father (Luke 23:46), the disciples huddled together, wringing their own hands behind locked doors. Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and side, and the disciples were overjoyed (John 20:19-20). The disciples could have written and sung a hymn that night focusing on the sacred hands of Jesus. Maybe they did. Or maybe they sang one that was popular at the time. A week later, Thomas joined in, most likely out-singing the others (John 20:24-29).  

My favorite hands in this world are Stacy’s. They are elegant and comforting, and I have been fortunate to hold them since the late 1980s. The ring finger on her left hand is where the symbol of our life-long commitment gets to live. One of the happiest days of my life was the day I asked Stacy for her hand in marriage, and she said “Yes.” A wedding picture in our room focuses in on our hands and our rings. It reminds me of our mutual mission to let our marriage point to the groom who gave his life for his bride (Eph. 5:25).  

By dying on the cross and paying the penalty for the sins of the world, Jesus was, in a very real sense, asking for our hand. He committed himself to us, and asks for our commitment to him in return. Jesus takes the hand of those who say, “Yes,” and leads them into a mutual mission of sacrificial service.  

In this light, it’s not hard to see that much of what Orsborn describes the “sacred hands of Jesus” doing are the behaviors his bride should be about as well. Our hands should be blessing OTHERS, interceding and pleading mercy on behalf of OTHERS, soothing the “troubled brow” of OTHERS, breaking the living bread for OTHERS, and healing OTHERS. This world needs a whole lot more Christians willing to lay hands of forgiveness on OTHERS who are “bowed in shame.” As Mother Teresa said, “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”  

I’m so thankful that General Albert William Thomas Orsborn used his hand to pen these 36 songs, most of which speak of the Savior whose hands “compass all thy soul’s relief.” I pray this new look at old songs of new life has been beneficial to you in some small way. If not, toss it out (i.e., recycle). Life is too short and eternity is too long for us to waste our time here on bad books.  

Here’s praying that you and I will follow Orsborn’s lead in living Christ-centric and cross-centric lives, and using our gifts, talents, passions and position to edify OTHERS and see greater things!