ORSBORNAGAIN (24)

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.

When wondrous words my Lord would say,  
That I unto his mind may reach, 
He chooses out a lowly way, 
And robes his thoughts in childlike speech.  

He came right down to me,  
He came right down to me, 
To condescend to be my friend,  
He came right down to me.  

The voice divine, those accents dear  
I languished for, yet had not heard  
Till Jesus came with message clear,  
And brought to me the living word.  

Nor could I see my maker’s face, 
Veiled from my sight his far abode, 
Till Christ made known the Father’s grace,  
And shared with men their heavy load.  

O Vision clear! O Voice divine!  
Dear Son of God and Son of man!  
Let all thy gifts of grace be mine;  
Complete in me thy perfect plan.  

Albert Orsborn 
157 The Eternal God – God the Son, The Life and Teaching of Jesus

Cell phones are so much a part of our lives these days. If you’re like me (hope not), you feel like something is missing should you happen to leave the house without it. Of course, like any other form of technical gadgetry designed to make our lives easier, cell phones have the potential to do us harm as well. We must subdue them! Still, here we are. There’s no going back to two cans and a string, no matter how cool those are. Depending on the type of phone you have, you have either limited communication ability (phone, texting, ringtone choices and maybe pictures and email), or nearly unlimited ability (phone, texting, pictures, email, internet, document viewing/editing, music storage, coffee making, teleportation, and one ring to rule them all).  

These devices are not essential for living (after all, they can’t really make coffee—yet). However, used responsibly (insert Angry Birds, Words With Friends or Fruit Ninja joke here), cell phones can help us in a few important areas of our lives: communicating with OTHERS, keeping ourselves organized and on track, and staying up on what’s going on in the world. These are all important aspects of life, and cell phones can help us to do them well.  

I’m not a techie (or a Trekkie, but I do want that transporter phone), but when I get a text, call or a picture from Stacy, one of my kids, or my close friends, it makes me happy. I’m sure you feel the same way when you get a text, or a call, or an email, or see that little red number at the top of your Facebook feed. There’s something right and reassuring about getting word from someone who knows and loves us, isn’t there?  

Now, multiply that feeling by a million and we get close to what I think Orsborn is getting at in the song we’re considering here. “When wondrous words my Lord would say.” God wants to text message us in the most biblical sense. “The voice divine, those accents dear.” God is trying to get through, so we can hear his voice. “Nor could I see my maker’s face.” God sent us a living picture, revealing his nature to us in Jesus Christ. Orsborn’s chorus is poetically simplistic, even while he’s simultaneously describing the incarnation of Jesus and the revelations of his Spirit. To get a word from the one true living God, to hear his voice clearly, to see his Son’s face, it doesn’t get any better than that! Can you hear me now?  

So, what’s your vision and voice plan? Many people spend a lot of time and money and effort making sure they have the best voice and data plans. How much thought do we give to our vision and voice plan? Do we expect to hear from and see God as we go through our day? Are we looking? Are we listening?  

In the Old Testament, when God wanted to get through to a people who had either put him on hold, wouldn’t pick up, or whose lines were busy (often chatting with other gods), he sent prophets to speak for him. One of those prophets was Jeremiah. He had a particularly tough word to give: I remember the good times we had when you were young, but because you refuse to listen to me or even acknowledge me, we’re through (RWP*).  

As my friend and Bible scholar Bruce Power said about this prophecy: “Nice little note from the Lord.” If someone posted that on our Facebook page, we would most likely de-friend them. Here’s the thing though—that’s what God’s people had done to him already. They dropped him and chose another carrier, several in fact. At one point, God calls them “foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear” (Jer. 5:21). In essence, they had become the lifeless idols they worshipped.  

The good news is that even though the messages God sends through the “weeping prophet” (they were most likely God’s tears, though the recipients should have joined in) were tough, they were not without hope (Jer. 29:11). He “came right down” to them over and over again with return messages: “Return! Return!”  

“Complete in me thy perfect plan.” What’s your vision and voice plan? What are you doing to see and hear from God regularly? With our cell phones, we are either in range or we’re roaming. And you know for a fact roaming can be costly! Can you hear me now?  

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3). 

* Rob’s Weak Paraphrase  

ORSBORNAGAIN (23)

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.

On every hill our Saviour dies,  
And not on Calvary’s height alone;  
His sorrows darken all our skies,  
His griefs for all our wrongs atone.  

Present he is in all our woes, 
Upon a world-wide cross is hung;  
And with exceeding bitter throes
His world-embracing heart is wrung.  

Go! Cry the news from every hill; 
Go! Ring the earth with sacred flame;  
To pardon is the Father’s will, 
And Jesus is the Saviour’s name.  

In us his love invested is, 
God cannot pass a suppliant by;  
For heard in God’s eternities 
Our prayers repeat the Saviour’s cry.  

And for the sake of that dear name  
With which all hope of good is given,  
Our heavy load of sin and shame  
The Father clears, and cries: Forgiven!  

Albert Orsborn 
470 Our Response To God – Salvation, Forgiveness

As I write this, the race for the presidency of the United States is on. By the bitterness and brutality of the political ads, it seems to me they should change the terminology from race to cage match. I’m also currently reading a book called The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs, which chronicles the relationships between many of the men who formerly held the position.  

It’s a strange juxtaposition: following the current battle and reading about late night amicable phone calls of the past between guys on totally different ends of the political spectrum. It actually gives me hope for the two men currently in the cage. Maybe someday one will call the other from the Oval Office to reminisce about the good old days of the campaign. Speaking of hope, when these guys aren’t slinging all kinds of stuff at each other to see what might stick, they can both be heard using the word hope in stump speeches and interviews. If we believe the polls and pundits, no matter who gets elected, half the country will feel hopeful about our country’s future—the other half, not so much. Hope can be elusive.  

If you don’t (or didn’t) know the good news of the gospel, the first two verses of this Orsborn song can read a bit gloomy, and give the impression that hope is lost and it’s all our fault. Listen to the language: “his sorrows darken all our skies,” “his griefs for all our wrongs,” “he is in all our woes.” Yikes! It’s about time for a political ad hawking hope, right? Wrong! It’s about time for the work of a Christ-centric, cross- centric artist to remind us that just when all seems hopeless, our hope is in Jesus—our hope:  

And for the sake of that dear name 
With which all hope of good is given 
Our heavy load of sin and shame 
The Father clears, and cries: Forgiven! 

Once, while some friends and I were spending just a brief amount of time with, and hoping to offer hope to, some of Seattle’s homeless, I got hope-schooled. It was one of those moments that slap you in the face, and the only appropriate response is; “Thanks, I needed that,” like the old after shave commercial that I’m almost too young to remember (almost).  

It was raining, like it sometimes does in that city, and we had brought food and some toiletries to share with those with whom we came in contact. I had a talk with one guy in a doorway. I was really new at that kind of ministry, and I didn’t quite know how to engage him in conversation. I stumbled over myself and said something like, “How do you stay warm out here?” He told me he had a place. “Are you safe?” I asked. “Yeah,” he mumbled, looking away from me. Clearly I was getting really good at this very quickly. Anyway, determined to offer him hope, I pressed on.  

“What gets you through?” He didn’t miss a beat. “I think of better times,” he said. OK! Here I go. This is where I can tell him that even though he messed up his life to this point, there’s hope for him in Jesus. In my sincere ignorance I said, “Oh, like when things were going well for you?” I have for- gotten many things in life and will forget many more things (in some instances, thankfully). But I can’t imagine ever for- getting his response that night. He looked at me as if I had a lot to learn (spot on) and said, “No! Better times in the future!” Thanks, I needed that!  

Mercifully, my foolishness didn’t dissuade him from talking with me further. In fact, I think it lightened and loosened things up a bit. Ignorance may not be bliss, but it can be freeing, and it sure beats the heck out of being a know-it-all. Turns out he had a strong faith in the same God I worship, and he genuinely placed his present and future hope in Jesus Christ. Like I said, I got hope-schooled. That man didn’t need political ads, pious platitudes or poems. He needed some food and a friend. I think I went one for two that night. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t get his name. He didn’t ask for mine either, but he knew “that dear name” Orsborn mentions.  

People need hope. No matter who the president, queen, chief or prime minister is, hope will always and only be found in Jesus, our King. Even though we often go about it awkwardly, it’s up to those of us who have hope in Jesus to share hope in Jesus. “In us his love invested is.” And God is looking for a return on that investment. You can do it. You’ve got to be better at it than I was in that Seattle doorway.  

Go! Cry the news from every hill; 
Go! Ring the earth with sacred flame; 
To pardon is the Father’s will, 
And Jesus is the Saviour’s name. 

ORSBORNAGAIN (22)

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.

Army flag! Thy threefold glory  
Greets the rising of the sun;  
Radiant is the way before thee,  
Rich the trophies to be won;  
Onward in the cause of Jesus!  
Witness where the dawning glows,  
Flying on the wings of morning,  
Follow where the Saviour goes.  

Slowly sinks the reign of darkness, 
Yielding to the Saviour’s day, 
When the slaves of sinful bondage 
Cast their evil chains away. 
Upward, Christward, homeward, Godward!  
Millions who are now afar  
Shall be brought into the Kingdom,  
Where the Father’s children are. 

Army flag! We too will follow,  
Follow as with willing heart,  
Honored in the cause we fight for,  
Glad to take a soldier’s part,  
Until men confess Christ’s Kingdom  
Vaster than the world has seen,  
Crown with glory and dominion  
Christ, the lowly Nazarene.  

Albert Orsborn 
914 Our Response to God – Life and Service, Worldwide Witness

I have a confession to make. It’s not something I’m proud of. Then again, it’s not something I’m ashamed of either. It will make some of you think less of me, and I’m OK with that. This thing I will confess is not something I tell everyone (confessions tend to be like that, don’t they?). Not because I am embarrassed, but because, like you, I don’t want to be judged. Upon hearing my confession, some will ask, “Is it his mother’s fault?” Others will suggest, “His father should have done a better job raising him.” Let me say here and now that my mother is nearly faultless, and my father did a fine job raising me.  

If my parents are let off the hook, some will place the blame directly at the doorsteps of the training college where, as a lad of just 22, I went to be taught the essentials of Salvation Army officership. That would be tragic, since the 1990- 1992 College for Officer Training staff was exemplary. Some of them may even read this and feel as though they some- how failed me or the Army. You didn’t do either.  

I’m OK, and rest assured that our movement suffered nothing due to this thing. So, what is this thing? What could be so potentially devastating to some that I would feel the need for so many qualifiers and disclaimers before revealing it? Are you ready? Brace yourself. Here goes … I’m not much of a flag waver.  

There, I said it. What a relief.  

So far, I haven’t received any letters from reprimanding readers, or any phone calls from my leaders asking for my commission and epaulettes. In case you’re thinking you read my confession incorrectly the first time, or you’re hoping it was a misprint, here it goes again … I’m not much of a flag waver.  

It’s not that I haven’t tried it. I have tried it. I’ve been up there in the balcony during the commissioning weekend, and have reached for the flag I was offered. I gave it a few flicks (it’s all in the wrist I’m told), but it just didn’t take. I think, maybe it’s not all in the wrist. I think a good flag waver (and some of my best friends are flag wavers) feels it deep inside. Waving their flag is one more way of expressing their thankfulness for the fact that God’s unmerited favor has saved them and keeps saving them. I get it. I even admire it. It’s just not me.  

Before some of you go judging, I do raise my hands of- ten in worship, which doesn’t work with how some of you are wired. I’ve also been known to shout “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!” during a worship service, without even being prompted by someone imploring me to “Fire-a-something!” I mention this just in case you were beginning to think I was anti-demonstrative in my expressions of worship.  

I don’t know whether Orsborn was a flag waver or not. I would imagine that at some point all Generals have to partake in the practice, whether or not they lean that way (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Regardless, even while seeming a flag fanatic, Orsborn’s art remains Christ- centric: “onward in the cause of Jesus,” “follow where the Saviour goes,” “upward, Christward,” “until men confess Christ’s Kingdom,” “crown with glory and dominion Christ, the lowly Nazarene.”  

Orsborn makes it clear that flag waving is all about worshiping and witnessing. Not movement-worship and motto- witnessing. It’s all about Jesus! Throughout his work, while writing about a variety of topics, Orsborn is not distracted from his view of the Christ, and is not dissuaded from getting to the heart of the matter. So good! And don’t miss the poetic value of “greets the rising of the sun” in the verse one, contrasted with “slowly sinks the reign of darkness” in verse two. Sweeeeeet!  

Lord, save us from waving flags vigorously without living victoriously. Lord, save us from ever lifting our banners higher than the Son of Man is to be lifted (John 12:32). Lord, save us from praising you with the waving of our arms (flags or no flags, branches or no branches) and proclaiming you as King, only to disclaim you a short time later (John 12, 19). Thank you that your banner over us is love (Song 2:4). In the name of “Christ, the lowly Nazarene,” amen and hallelujah!  

May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God (Ps. 20:5a).  

ORSBORNAGAIN (21)

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.

Life is a journey; long is the road, 
And when the noontide is high 
Souls that are weary faint ‘neath their load,
Long for the waters, and cry:  

The well is deep and I require 
A draught of the water of life, 
But none can quench my soul’s desire 
For a draught of the water of life; 
Till one draws near who the cry will heed, 
Helper of men in their time of need, 
And I, believing, find indeed 
That Christ is the water of life.  

Life is a seeking, life is a quest, 
Eager and longing desire; 
Unto the true things, unto the best,  
Godward our spirits aspire.  

Life is a finding; vain wand’rings cease  
When from the Saviour we claim 
All we have longed for, solace and peace,  
And we have life in his name.  

Albert Orsborn 
430 Our Response to God – Salvation, Invitation and Challenge

Back in the day, when I worked at camp most summers, I used to look forward to the nightly campfires. I worked with some of the funniest, most creative people. We did our duty during the day, but even then we were planning what we would do at night, by the glow of the fire created by the maintenance staff, to make each other (and maybe even the campers) laugh. I am so thankful the summer camp ministry is focused on more important things these days. (Having said that, my son does currently hold the title of “Pop-n- Sock World Champion” at Camp Arnold in Washington.)  

Anyway, several of the old camp skits incorporated the use of water. It was rarely ever used for drinking. It was usually thrown on an “unsuspecting” staff or guest staff member who “volunteered.” At the opening campfire of the 2012 music and worship arts camp at Camp Redwood Glen, I was happy to see that this tradition is still being observed (in this case, a “fire” was put out).  

Water was sometimes used in a crude fashion, as was the case in the “Herman the Caterpillar” skit. But it was also used creatively and classically, like when the Grecian water dance was performed to the strings of Pachelbel’s Canon, (OK, the participants wore togas, drank water from dining hall pitchers and performed a sort of synchronized spitting routine—not so classy, but still creative).  

Then there was the skit that everyone has seen in one form or another. Before the skit begins, a glass of water is placed on one end of the stage. An actor crawls onto the other end of the stage crying out in a weak voice: “Water!” This one line is repeated more dramatically, as the excruciating crawl continues toward the glass. “Water!” The audience is meant to get the impression the actor is dying of thirst, and must make it to the water in time. Finally, just before (almost) everyone loses interest, the water is reached. The actor cries out something like: “Water! At last! I’m saved!” He then produces a comb from his pocket, dips it in the water, and exits the stage combing his hair to the giggles and groans of the camp crowd. Nothing life changing, just some good, clean, harmless fun.  

The picture Orsborn paints with the words we’re considering here is a bit different. Water is definitely the answer in this scene, but this is no camp skit. This is real life. It’s a journey down a long road, with the blistering heat of the day beating down on humanity. Weary souls fall, crawl, nearly die and cry: “Water! Water!”  

This song is definitely inspired by Jesus’ encounter with a woman in the fourth chapter of John (clues: noon, well, water). Jesus was sitting by Jacob’s well when a Samaritan woman came to draw water from it. Jesus asked for a drink, which shocked the woman, since there were all kinds of earthly reasons he shouldn’t be talking to her. Jesus, who had all kinds of heavenly reasons to talk to her, said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).  

Then, to answer a few more questions she posed, Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).  

This woman was “weary.” Her “load” was heavy. We aren’t told a whole lot about her, but what we do know is that hers was a life of “longing desire” and “vain wand’rings.” She most certainly needed to find “solace and peace,” but none could “quench” her “soul’s desire.” Then one drew near who heard her cry. The “helper of men” and women “in their time of need”—Christ, the water of life. Her journey from thirsty to satisfied is my journey. Orsborn recognized it as his journey. I pray you have found “life in his name.” Jesus, who knew thirst on his own journey (John 19:28), said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37).  

Because of the testimony of the woman in John 4, many thirsty people in her town were satisfied that day. This fact should remind us that we can’t bottle up this life-water and keep it all to ourselves. Neither should we throw this water on unsuspecting passersby, or just cleverly spit it out to musical accompaniment to entertain ourselves. Humanity is not dying to comb its hair. It is dying of thirst. Those of us who have been to the well, and have met with and received life-giving water from Jesus, should be all about bringing OTHERS back to the well—carefully, compassionately, and creatively.  

BTW—draught = drink, gulp, swallow  

ORSBORNAGAIN (20)

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.

O, God, if still the holy place  
Is found of those in prayer,  
By all the promises of grace
I claim an entrance there.  

Give me a self-denying soul,  
Enlarged and unconfined;  
Abide within me, and control  
The wanderings of the mind.  

Give me the strength of faith that dares  
To die to self each day, 
That bravely takes the cross, nor cares  
To find an easier way. 

Help me to make more sacrifice,  
To walk where Christ would lead,  
That in my life he may arise 
To hallow every deed.  

Albert Orsborn 
778 Our Response to God – Holiness, Means of Grace, Prayer

There are so many lyrics that are hardwired into my brain. I know them so well, and have sung them so often: “Jesus loves me! This I know,” “What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?,” “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,” “All you need is love.” The list is endless. Every once in a while, though, I come across a lyric that I’m sure I’ve seen (if not sung) before, but it hits me in a new way. I’m usually drawn to a lyric initially for its poetic value. Then there’s the piercing value. If it’s really good, it nails me.  

The third line of the first verse of this song did just that: “all the promises of grace.” Orsborn is gloriously aware that he needs grace in order to say grace (or any other kind of prayer). Don’t you and I as well?  

Of course there are at least two ways of understanding this lyric. Is the writer referring to all of the Scripture passages that promise us God’s grace? Or is he referring to all that we are promised because of the promises of God’s grace being fulfilled? I was struck by the possibilities of the latter. Grace is a gift that keeps on giving. Take some time (don’t rush) to contemplate just a few of the promises of grace found in Scripture:  

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).  

So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders (Acts 14:3).  

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Rom. 5:15).  

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:14).  

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).  

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 Cor. 12:9).  

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:7).  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).  

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thess. 2:16-17).  

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Tim. 1:9).  

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people (Titus 2:11).  

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the an- gels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9).  

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb. 4:16).  

Now “claim an entrance” in “the holy place,” and make this prayer of Orsborn’s your own.  

ORSBORNAGAIN (19)

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.

Believe him! Believe him! the holy one is waiting 

To perfect within you what grace has begun; 

God wills for this people an uttermost salvation; 

To sanctify you wholly the Spirit will come. 

Surrender! Surrender! Reject the gift no longer, 

But say: Blessed Master, thy will shall be done. 

I cease from my striving, thy love shall be the conqueror; 

To sanctify me wholly, make haste, Lord, and come. 

Salvation! Salvation! O tell to all the story, 

The thraldom of evil is broken and gone! 

My sun and my shield, the Lord gives grace and glory; 

He sanctifies me wholly; the Spirit has come. 

Albert Orsborn 

698 Our Response to God – Holiness, Wholeness 

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).  

You know that show “MythBusters”? It’s pretty cool, right? The idea of taking something many people believe to be true, and putting it through a series of tests to either verify or debunk it is appealing to me. In fact, I think I’ll give it a go here.  

“We don’t preach holiness anymore in the Army.” 
Have you ever heard someone say that? Maybe I should ask how often you have heard someone say that? Let’s see if it’s the truth, or a myth that needs some bustin’.  

The Salvation Army has a set of 11 beliefs/statements of faith/doctrines. The 10th states: “We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

That’s a whole lot to unpack, but I know you’re up for it. Simply put, The Salvation Army believes in holiness. That explains it, right? No? Maybe some of these terms, which have been used over the years as synonyms for holiness, will help—sanctification, entire sanctification, full salvation, infilling of the Holy Spirit, baptism of the Holy Spirit, second blessing, blessing of a clean heart, perfect love, pure love. That’s still not a clear picture? Maybe we don’t preach holiness anymore in the Army. Or, maybe, we don’t give or hear explanations of what the term holiness means to those of us in this movement of holiness.  

Here are some words The Salvation Army’s Handbook of Doctrine (chapter 10, surprisingly) uses to describe holiness: “set apart,” “victory over sin,” “mature Christian living,” “becoming like Christ,” “discipleship,” “fellowship with God,” “trust,” “obedience,” “dying to the old self,” “transforming commitment to love for God,” “reflecting Jesus,” “fulfilled human life,” “wholeness in Christ,” “Spirit-led journey,” “freedom from the power of sin.” Have you ever heard any of those topics mentioned in sermons? Of course you have (or you haven’t been listening).  

So, maybe we don’t hear a lot of sermons on the doctrine of holiness. But I submit that if the preacher is preaching total love for God and total love for OTHERS, if the preacher is preaching victory over sin and Satan, if the preacher is preaching radical obedience to the words of Jesus, if the preacher is preaching Christlikeness (my favorite term for holiness), then she or he is preaching holiness. If none of that is happening in any sermon you hear, run away! Better yet, start studying your Bible and preaching holiness sermons.  

MythBusted, thanks to all the officers and soldiers who are preaching biblically.  

I’ve gone a long way to say that this song is about holiness. We know that, of course, because the section of the song book where it can be found is called “The Life of Holiness.” We can also tell from Orsborn’s awesome description of a holy God, who desires (and expects) his people to be holy, and has graced us with his Spirit, since he knows we can’t make it there on our own striving. What’s required from us? A belief that God can make us holy, and a full surrender to the Holy Spirit.  

To borrow more lines from the second Poet General, John Gowans: 

To be like Jesus! 

This hope possesses me, 

In every thought and deed, 

This is my aim, my creed; 

To be like Jesus! 

This hope possesses me, 

His Spirit helping me, 

Like him I’ll be.

(SASB 328)

Two more quick thoughts on holiness:  

  1. Holiness is not a list of rules; it’s not reserved for an elite group, or an excuse to be a boring believer.  
  1. Holiness, like all of God’s good gifts, is to benefit OTHERS, not just ourselves.  

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).  

For a more comprehensive explanation of holiness, I suggest Chapter 10 of The Salvation Army’s Handbook of Doctrine and Colonel Richard Munn’s article, “Time To Be Holy” (Journal of Aggressive Christianity, Issue 69, armybarmy.com/JAC/jac69.html).  

BTW—thraldom = bondage, slavery  

ORSBORNAGAIN (18)

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.

O Lord, regard thy people, 

Whose love designs to frame 

This house of glad remembrance, 

And here inscribe thy name. 

To thee, the sure foundation, 

Our witness would we raise, 

Her walls to speak salvation, 

Her gates to tell thy praise. 

We thank thee for our birthright, 

Secured at such a price; 

Forbid that we despise it, 

Or shrink from sacrifice. 

Inspire our hearts to serve thee, 

Thy chosen path to tread, 

That we may follow boldly 

Where nobler hearts have led. 

Albert Orsborn 

821 Our Response to God – Holiness, Means of Grace, the Church

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:19-21).

Of the 36 Albert Orsborn songs included in The Salvation Army Song Book, this is the only one that is found in the “Special Occasions” section. I don’t think we need to infer from this fact that the first Poet General was averse to or un- inspired by parties, dedications, weddings, corps anniversaries and other celebrations, or that he was not a supporter of self-denial or harvest efforts. Having said that, he does only have one song in this section.

For some reason, Orsborn seemed to be more interested in Calvary discipleship than in calendar dates. However, even in this song, written for a building dedication, Orsborn masterfully moves the focus from The Salvation Army property’s edifice to the singer’s personal experience. In fact, right off the bat Orsborn is really asking God to remember his people who will be worshipping in community and witnessing out in the community. Words like “witness,” “salvation,” “praise,” “sacrifice,” “serve” and “follow” get right to the heart of what the church is meant to be: not a sound building, but sacred beliefs and sanctified behavior.

Not that there is anything wrong with dedicating a building to the glory of God. That practice has been a part of humankind’s worshipful expression to the Creator since the Old Testament days. Heck, piles of rocks were dedicated as a monument to God’s presence, provision and protection. Not only is there nothing wrong with dedicating our buildings to God, we would be remiss if we didn’t do so. Of course, we could get into a long, drawn-out discussion about whether or not we even need buildings, or at least whether or not we need to own buildings (and I would love to have that conversation with you).

We could also get all snarky and ask why, if we are in fact dedicating the building to the glory of God, any officer’s name needs to be on the cornerstone plaque (we can work that topic into our future communication as well, if you’d like). But neither of those discussions has much, if anything, to do with this song or the Savior it extols.

Chances are you weren’t present at the dedication of the building where you join (hopefully) regularly with other Christ followers to corporately worship the chief cornerstone. But you didn’t have to attend that ceremony to understand the significance of that sacred ground. That’s the place where marriage covenants have been signed, sealed and delivered, babies have been dedicated, and disciples (young and old) have made public professions of their love for Jesus and OTHERS. It’s the place where God’s Word has been proclaimed, God’s name has been praised, and God’s Spirit has come in power. It’s where fights have broken out over stupid things that don’t matter in light of eternity. You know what I’m talkin’ about. It’s the same place where sins, when brought into the light of eternity, have been forgiven and forgotten. You don’t have to love the paint job, the pews, or the praise band* to appreciate the fact that God’s desire is to join the “whole building” together in order that it may rise “to become a holy temple in the Lord.”

May the words of this dedication song cause us to rededicate ourselves to Christ, his church, and the community in which he has placed us. Amen.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands” (Acts 17:24).

*Actually, you do have to love the praise bands—stringed or brass (even if you don’t love their music).

ORSBORNAGAIN (17)

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.

Earnestly seeking to save and to heal, 

Working for thee, working for thee; 

Grant me, O Saviour, the marks of thy zeal, 

Earnestly working for thee. 

Working for thee, working for thee, 

Earnestly, constantly, faithfully working for thee. 

Constantly working, I will not delay, 

Working for thee, working for thee; 

Keeping my trust through the whole of the day, 

Always and only for thee. 

Faithfully working, my life’s purpose claimed 

Wholly for thee, wholly for thee, 

That of my work I may not be ashamed 

When I am summoned to thee. 

Albert Orsborn 

484 The Life of Holiness – Consecration and Service 

(Reference to 1987 Songbook – not in 2015 edition)

Okay, let’s get a few things straight – straight away: 

  1. We are not saved by our good work (Eph.2:8-9)! 
  1. There is important work to do, and not enough people doing it (Matt. 9:37-38). 
  1. We are not saved by our good work (Rom. 3:28)! 
  1. The work of God is to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:28-29). 
  1. We are not saved by our good work (Gal. 2:16)! 
  1. Faith without works is dead (James 2:17)! 
  1. We are not saved by our good work (Gal. 3:1-3)! 
  1. We were created for good works (Eph. 2:10). 
  1. We are not saved by our good work (Rom. 9:31-32)! 
  1. We are to work with all our hearts, as working for the Lord (Col. 3:23). 

All clear?  Good.  I thought it would be. 

If I am to be honest (and I am to be), I would have to say that this is not one of my favorite songs penned by Orsborn.  My lack of enthusiasm for this song could be due to the fact that the word “working” is used 10 times (16, if you sing this through with the chorus each time).  Don’t get me wrong; I am not averse to the idea of working, or even doing actual work.  While I have been accused of working smarter, not harder, I still consider myself to be a hard worker. 

Here’s the thing.  It is easy for anyone in ministry, doing the “Lord’s work,” to feel that work is where it’s at.  We have created a culture in the church equates a good, Protestant work ethic with a good, Christian life.  Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying.  I firmly believe the truths stated in points 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 above.  It’s just that I also firmly believe the truths stated in points 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 above. 

If I am to be honest again (this is getting to be a habit), I would suggest that the even points above are over-stressed in the church (institution), which tends to over-stress the church (individuals).  The odd points above are given brief lip service, and then it’s back to work.  In other words, if we’re not careful, we can give the impression that we have faith that we are saved through faith, but we work as if we are saved through work. 

Here are two questions to help prove my point:  

  1. When was the last time you said or heard someone in ministry say, “Oh, man, I have so much work to do today/this week/this month?” 
  1. When was the last time you said or heard someone in ministry say, “Oh man, I only have one thing on my “to do” list today/this week/this month.  It’s to believe in the one God has sent”? 

I’m pretty sure each of us has to figure this faith and works thing out for ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit and some wise counsel from Scripture and other believers, of course.  If this song can help us out at all, it’s the fact that Orsborn was sure of a few things regarding his work, all of which are in agreement with the “Top 10”” list above. 

  1. His desire was that his work would benefit OTHERS (v.1). 
  1. He wanted his work to be marked with Christ’s zeal (v.1). 
  1. He was working for Jesus (v. 1, 2, 3 & chorus). 
  1. His work was purpose-full (v.3). 
  1. He wanted to do good work (v. 3). 
  1. He knew where his eternal Sabbath would be spent (v.3). 

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. – Martin Luther King Jr. 

ORSBORNAGAIN (16)

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.

O Lord, how often should we be 

Defeated, were it not for thee; 

Cast down, but for thy grace! 

When all the arts of Hell oppose, 

We find a refuge from our foes 

Within the holy place. 

We dare not boast, O Lord of light, 

In human wisdom, or in might, 

To keep us pure within. 

Do thou assist, we humbly pray, 

Lest in our blindness we should stray 

Into the toils of sin. 

Thee will we serve, and thee alone, 

No other ruler will we own, 

But with a godly fear 

Redeem the time at thy command, 

Then, with the saints at thy right hand, 

Triumphantly appear. 

Albert Orsborn 

268 The Eternal God – God the Son, the Power and Glory of Jesus

The thrill of victory is something we are taught to pursue from a young age.  The agony of defeat is something nobody has to teach us.  When we lose, we know it.  As I write this, the 30th Summer Olympic Games are in full swing (I shouldn’t use a baseball there here, I guess – too sad) in London, England.  For the first week of the games, I was in the states, and whenever I could fit it in, I kept track (that’s a more appropriate term for this piece) of how the young Americans were doing.  It was exciting watching those amazing athletes really dive into it (OK, that’s the last one) with everything they had. 

Now I am in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the home of The Salvation Army’s Booth University College.  I am working on completing a degree here.  However, I have yet to experience the thrill of victory in that event.  Today, several of us were huddled around the TV (on a break, of course) sneaking glances at the Canada vs. U.S. semifinal women’s soccer match.  At that time the game was tied, 3-3.  Being the only student from the U.S., I felt a bit awkward.  I stopped watching and went to class.  The game ended 4-3, giving the U.S. team an opportunity to go for gold.  Needless to say, I kept a low profile the rest of the evening. 

Regardless of what country you’re from or what country you’re cheering for, the Olympics never fail to show us clear pictures of what the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat look, sound and feel like.  Young athletes who have trained since they were much younger athletes give it their all.  At the end of the event we are given a front row seat to watch how they process their performances.  When they are standing on the podium, we witness their pride and patriotism.  When they are standing alone, we witness (if we can bear it) their defeat and disappointment. 

What Orsborn seems to be getting at in this song is that, were it not for the grace of God, we would be defeated repeatedly.  “When all the arts of Hell oppose,” we would be cast down, lost in sin, blindly looking for a refuge which wouldn’t exist.  But God is there for us.  He does offer grace to us.  The “Lord of light” does save us from our blindness, and offers to “keep us pure within.”  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9) 

With this in mind, “we dare not boast … in human wisdom, or in might.”  The Olympic athletes can boast a bit over accomplishments (and some of them excel in this area).  After all, they are the ones putting in so many hours, days, weeks, months, and years of training to get the chance to compete on the worldwide stage. 

But even gold medal Olympians can’t take all the credit for the thrill of victory they get to experience firsthand.  The most wise and humble of them never forget to thank their parents, trainers, coaches, country and their God.  In a pre-Olympics interview with Chad Bonham on Beliefnet, U.S. Swimmer Missy Franklin said, “God is always there for me.  I talk to him before, during and after practice and competitions.  I pray to him for guidance.  I thank him for this talent he has given me, and promise to be a positive role model for young athletes in all sports.”  Four golds and one bronze – not too shabby, Missy. 

So the grace to dodge defeat comes from God alone.  He provides a refuge from our foes.  He provides the assist when we humbly pray.  And it’s his light that keeps us from getting lost in sin now and forevermore.  So while there may be nothing wrong with a bit of national pride every fourth summer and winter, boasting for our spiritual victories belongs to Jesus. 

While it is patriotic to pledge allegiance to the flag, our prayer must be that of Orsborn’s: “Thee will we serve, and thee alone, / No other ruler will we own.”  Most of us won’t make it to the Olympics (even as spectators).  But we don’t not want to miss that day when, with Jesus, we will know the thrill of triumphant victory, and the artist of hell will finally and forever know agony of defeat. 

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Cor. 9:25). 

ORSBORNAGAIN (15)

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.

The Saviour of men came to seek and to save 

The souls who were lost to the good; 

His Spirit was moved for the world which he loved 

With the boundless compassion of God. 

And still there are fields where the laborers are few, 

And still there are souls without bread, 

And still eyes that weep where the darkness is deep, 

And still straying sheep to be led. 

Except I am moved with compassion, 

How dwelleth thy Spirit in me? 

In word and in deed 

Burling love is my need; 

I know I can find this in thee. 

O is not the Christ ‘midst the crowd of today 

Whose questioning cries do not cease? 

And will he not show to the hearts that would know 

The things that belong to their peace? 

But how shall they hear if the preacher forbear 

Or lack in compassionate zeal? 

Or how shall hearts move with the Master’s own love, 

Without his anointing and seal? 

It is not with might to establish the right, 

Nor yet with the wise to give rest; 

The mind cannot show what the heart longs to know 

Nor comfort a people distressed. 

O Saviour of men, touch my spirit again, 

And grant that thy servant may be 

Intense every day, as I labor and pray, 

Both instant and constant for thee. 

Albert Orsborn 

626 Our Response to God – Holiness, Devotion

Jesus movement singer/songwriter Larry Norman was one of the founding fathers of what is now referred to as contemporary Christian music.  Whether he deserves the blame or credit for that depends largely on your view of that particular genre and industry.  Still, in the 70s at least, he had a knack for weaving biblical truths into songs that could’ve received radio airplay alongside his contemporaries in the mainstream music market. 

I grew bored and suspect of his work as I entered adulthood, but in my formative years, his songs provided a Monday-to-Saturday soundtrack to my faith journey.  (Sundays were reserved for Fanny Crosby, Charles Wesley and Albert Orsborn, among others.). Here’s an example of his songwriting from the 1976 song “Righteous Rocker #3”: 

You can be a righteous rocker or a holy roller, 

You can be most anything. 

You can be a child of the slum or a skid row bum, 

You can be an earthly king. 

Without love, you ain’t nothing, without love. 

It’s not Shakespeare, right?  But in the spirit of Shakespeare, Norman did attempt to speak of lofty truths in earthly terminology.  In essence, this song is a retelling of the apostle Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 13. 

In that iconic portion of Scripture, Paul makes it crystal clear that it matters little (i.e., nothing) what any of us speak, have, give or do – unless LOVE is behind it, in it, through it and all over it. 

It seems to me that this is precisely what Orsborn is saying here.  Considering the Christ-centric poetry of Orsborn, it’s no surprise that he begins this song with a reminder that Jesus’ ministry was motivated by the love of God (as is our ministry, according to The Salvation Army’s mission statement).  He then masterfully brings Christ’s purpose in our world from the past to the present: “O is not the Christ ‘midst the crowd of today, / Whose questioning cries do not cease?”  Of course it’s a rhetorical question, but the answer has to be YES!  Not only is he “’midst the crowd,” but his deep desire is to answer their cries and offer them peace.  And what is one of God’s main strategies to be present in and offer peace to the “crowd of today”?  Right.  You and me.  But that won’t happen if we aren’t reaching out to others out of an overflow of being IN LOVE.  And that will only happen if our spirits are touched again by the Spirit of love. 

I currently serve in the city in Northern California named after St. Francis.  I have the opportunity every day to walk “’midst the crowd of today.”  In fact, today, while walking back to the office from lunch, I saw a man lying right in the middle of the sidewalk.  He was sleeping soundly, if not securely.  I wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew that walking by wasn’t the right response.  Plus, I didn’t want Jesus to use me as a bad example some day in a story about neighbors. 

I tried to wake him by saying, “Sir, is there anything I can do to help you?”  He snored his reply.  I tried again, but as I mentioned, he was sound asleep.  As I walked away (knowing I was going to write about this Orsborn classic today), I was struck by the realization that in most cases, it’s often those of us who claim membership in the 2,000-plus-year-old Jesus movement who need to be woken up. 

The “souls without bread,” the “eyes that weep” and “staying sheep,” the “people distressed,” they are wide awake – often through the night.  To borrow a phrase from Keith Green, another musical missionary from the Jesus movement, it’s those of us “asleep in the light” that need to wake up: 

Open up open up 

And give yourself away 

You see the need, you hear the cries 

So how can you delay? 

Incidentally, the “burning love” Orsborn is praying for in his chorus should be be confused with “hunk of, hunk of burning love” Elvis popularized in 1972.  (Orsborn was promoted to glory five years prior to this Presley hit.). The world has no shortage of that type of “love.”  Orsborn is describing the kind of love that emanates from a different king, the one true king – a love that can appear to be in short supply these days.  It’s the “Master’s own love,” the “boundless compassion of God” that must mark our Army, our ministry, our lives.  If not, if we forsake our first love (and those he loves), our lamp stands will be removed (Rev. 2:4-6). 

Fortunately, Orsborn’s writings point us to Jesus.  Jesus’ love points us to OTHERS! 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13)