God, Where Are You?

The psalmist David penned the words, “My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?” in Psalm 22:1 (KJV), but they were immortalized when Christ shouted them from the cross in the last hours of His life. It is a universal question that has come from the lips of both devout believers and avowed atheists. It has existed since the beginning of time. Even Job in the midst of his suffering wondered. Interestingly, the question never comes from our lips when things are going well.

  • When did you ask the question?
  • When you lost your job?
  • When your spouse left you for another?
  • When your child wandered off and never returned?
  • When your body was attacked by an unrelenting disease?
  • When your child died?
  • When someone you loved laid suffering for months on end?
  • When, as a child, you were abused by someone who was supposed to protect you?

It is only in the darkest hours of our lives that the question finds its way into our hearts and bubbles to the surface. In those frightening times, our loneliness is so severe that it pushes faith to the side and pulls up doubt to replace it.

Doubt is one of Satan’s best weapons. It’s the one he used in the Garden with Adam and Eve, where the seed of doubt was planted.

If Satan can cause us to doubt God’s Word or His presence in our lives, our hearts will grow cold and angry or indifferent toward God.

Because we have the advantage of reading Job’s biography, we know God was present every step of the way with Job. Job couldn’t see him, but we can see God was there. And while we might not understand why God acted the way He did, it is clear that He was in control of the entire drama.

The same thing happened when God’s children were living as slaves for the Egyptians. As we read their story in Exodus 2:23, we find these words: “But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God.”

And yet 40 more years passed before God sent Moses to lead them out of slavery. God told Moses, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt… So I have come down to rescue them” (Exodus 3:7-8).

God’s children were in Egypt for 430 years. How many generations died with the question on their lips: “God, where are you?” Many died not realizing He was where He always had been– everywhere.

Maybe your response to all this is, “If God is there, then why doesn’t He do something?!”

This brings us to the crux of the matter. This is what it is all about. We want to control what happens in our lives. We want to be the director on the set and bark out the orders to the actors. If we were in charge of things, we could see very clearly what we would do to make things right. If we were in charge, life would be painless, or at least less painful.

Volumes have been written on the value of pain: what can be learned or gained from painful experiences, or why God allows bad things to happen to good people. All of these books are man’s efforts to make sense of this world.

But are we really supposed to make sense of this world? Explaining the how and why of everything requires the mind of God.

Surviving the vicissitudes of life with our faith intact sometimes requires us to ease back and rest in the place we call trust, even though it may feel illogical to do so.

We must remember that in the darkest of midnights, God is still present, and He is still in control.

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By David Johnson

Evangelistic Thrust in Colorado Springs

It was a “Super Sunday” at the Colorado Springs Corps, heralding the coming of summer’s end and the beginning of new fall programs for the entire family.

“This is absolutely a fun day for everyone, both children and parents,” says Crystal Gull, the Red Shield (after-school and summer day camp) director. Crystal also serves as the YPSM (Young People’s Sergeant-Major).

The Sunday schedule on this day departs radically from the normal Sabbath format—but that just added to the electricity felt as the neighborhood surrounding the corps facility seemed to join in the fun.

During the hour or so that would normally be Sunday School, the graduation exercises for this year’s Vacation Bible School was held, and the chapel was nearly standing-room-only as parents witnessed what their children had learned all week long.

“The VBS theme this year was ‘Everest: Conquering Challenges with God’s Mighty Power,’ and everyone learned Bible stories and scripture verses about how God’s power helped so many Bible characters be victorious—and how that power is still available to us today,” Crystal explained.

With the conclusion of the VBS graduation, the rest of the special schedule went outdoors.

“Church on the Green” was held under tents erected in front of the corps facility, and neighbors who had not yet joined the VBS fun were invited to worship and fellowship that followed.

Three stirring testimonies to Christ’s transforming power were offered by Johnnie Ford, Rexalyn Warden, and Brian Veach—and the singing led by the praise and worship team reverberated through the streets. Major Richard Larson (Colorado Springs Corps Officer) delivered a sermon titled “God’s Love.”

From there, everyone was invited to a cookout lunch on the corps playground, where the kids lined up for games and prizes.

“This is our Rally Day as well,” says Major Tammy Larson. “The parents who might be seeing for the first time what we have available here at the Colorado Springs Corps were given the opportunity to sign their children up for our Fall schedule.”

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By Major Frank Duracher

A New Song Book for Today’s Salvation Army

Almost 30 years after the last Salvation Army Song Book was published, and on the Army’s 150th anniversary, a new edition has beeen prepared for release. The Song Book of The Salvation Army, whose North American version is coming out this month, will meet the needs of contemporary Salvation Army worship around the world.

“Music has always played an enormous role in the worship of God’s people,” General André Cox says. “It touches the soul in a unique way and can lift and inspire. God has gifted The Salvation Army with great poets who have a unique ability to express in words some of our deepest emotions, desires, devotion and love for God, which many of us would struggle to do without their special talents. The Song Book of The Salvation Army is a repository containing much of our doctrinal teaching, making it an essential tool for the development of our faith.”

The Salvation Army updates the Song Book around every 25 years. The vision for the latest edition came from General Shaw Clifton, who convened the Song Book Council in 2009, a year before he retired as the Army’s international leader. “Our Song Book has come to mean a great deal to me through the years as a spiritual help and source of inspiration,” says the retired General.

With the project moving forward, suggestions were sought for new songs to include. Not all of the these were written recently; some are 50 or 60 years old. At the same time, the Song Book Council needed to decide which songs from the 1986 Song Book to omit. “Previous Generals had not hesitated to drop about one third of the content of a Song Book when planning for a new edition. Therefore, the Song Book Council felt able to be bold in a similar fashion,” General Clifton says. Work on the new edition, particularly song selection, was well under way when he handed oversight of this task to his successor.

A key goal for the Song Book Council was to make the new edition as user-friendly as possible, using the addition of new features, such as key Bible references above every song. An index to those references is included to further assist leaders in worship planning. In addition to piano and brass music for all songs, guitar chords are included for the first time, along with suggested introductions for every tune. Parts are provided in concert pitch and in the key of F, and some tunes have been brought down in pitch so they are easier to sing.

The previous Song Book contained 994 songs and 251 choruses. The new edition has 1,041 songs. A separate chorus section is no longer included, as many modern compositions are not easily classified as either songs or choruses. Songs in the previous edition were grouped into 12 major sections. The new Song Book has two main divisions, “The Eternal God” and “Our Response to God,” with songs organized into sections and sub-sections.

Four years ago, Lt. Colonel Trevor Davis was given the role of tune book coordinator on the Song Book Council. He has worked closely with Andrew Blyth, assistant territorial music director of the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland, the Music Ministries Unit of that territory, and other musical arrangers. The aim was to provide easier and more accessible accompaniments and to ensure the musical settings did not detract from song lyrics.

As well as his own musical background— which includes serving as territorial music secretary in New Zealand and as national bandmaster, head of music editorial, and territorial music secretary in the United Kingdom— Colonel Davis has a deep personal appreciation of the Song Book. “I love hymnody of all kinds,” he says, “but I also believe the songs in our Song Book have provided me with an enhanced scriptural and doctrinal perception.”

Andrew Blyth’s contribution reflects his long association with music making at The Salvation Army, where he learned to play brass and to sing. Andrew joined the Music Editorial Department in the United Kingdom at 18 and became a member of the International Staff Band the same year. “It was there that I learned harmony and started to compose music for The Salvation Army,” he says. Since then, Andrew has been the leader of the International Staff Songsters and Enfield Citadel Band. Currently, he serves as bandmaster of Peterborough Citadel Corps Band.

All of this has given Andrew a respect for what The Salvation Army stands for—and an enthusiasm for seeing this reflected in the Army’s music. He says that although a number of 1986 arrangements are used in the 2015 tune book, 200 new arrangements were still required, taking around two years to complete. Editing and proofing the music was a mammoth task, with more than 20,000 separate parts to read. “There are some beautiful new melodies that will be appreciated by musicians,” Andrew says.

General Cox recommends the new Song Book of The Salvation Army as a worthwhile investment. “[It] contains songs that point us to the life of faith, inviting us to lift up our eyes and to embrace and rejoice fully in the realization that God is with us no matter what our circumstances or whatever challenges we face.” With the North American version of the songbook, there will once again be a large-print edition, coming out later this year, as well as an electronic version (read the War Cry for updates on its availability).

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By Major Christina Tyson

Humble Forgiveness

Please don’t go. I don’t know what it is, but I have this feeling that whatever is waiting for you will destroy our marriage.” For months, my husband and I fought repeatedly over one core issue: if he should fly to Houston for a few days. It sounded like an innocent request, yet his reasons for going changed as frequently as a model in a fashion show. John had never been so impassioned about anything, nor so greatly conflicted over a simple decision. His months of erratic behavior finally led to my heart-cry, but it was too late. John left the city in southern Mexico we called home and flew to Texas.

Two days later, I learned what was pulling John to Houston: another woman. The person John said he was visiting e-mailed to confirm John’s arrival later that day—a full two days after John landed in Houston. A call to the credit card company revealed charges for a rental car and a hotel in Oklahoma. I called the hotel, was transferred to John’s room, where my husband answered with her in the background.

My heart sank to a depth I never knew possible. At times rage consumed me, while in other moments anguish nearly paralyzed me. But I had to move; not by choice, but because John’s actions violated a covenant of standards we had signed with our mission agency, causing his immediate termination and forcing me to leave the country I had grown to love.

Less than 48 hours later, I had a ticket to the only U.S. city I could fly to directly: Houston. Since I would be there several hours before catching my connecting flight, I met with John. While packing my belongings and sobbing uncontrollably, I didn’t stop to consider what I expected from that encounter.

On the morning of my departure, I asked God what He wanted me to do.

“Humble yourself,” He gently whispered into the very essence of my being.

“No, Lord. I didn’t ask what you want John to do. What do you want me to do?”

“Humble yourself.”

It is the only time in my life I felt God answer so clearly and me wanting to reject His response. In fact, I disliked it so much I ignored it. I pulled out pen and paper and jotted down several questions I’d use to interrogate my husband at the airport. As I was finishing my list, I felt a strange pull to look out the window. I had no desire to see the land I loved disappear, but the pull was so strong I couldn’t resist. I finally looked out the window, only to see in large letters the very concept my maker was trying to teach me…

HUMBLE
How dare God ask me to humble myself now! I am the victim, not the offender! That huge word, written across a football field, angered and petrified me. Humble? What does that even mean in these circumstances?

The plane landed and I went to the arranged meeting spot. John was waiting for me to begin the showdown. He knew I had every right to call the shots. The only problem was I didn’t know what shots to call. Should I obey God or make John pay for hurting me? I wish I could say I chose the former, but I didn’t. I pulled out the list and interrogated him.

“How long have you been involved with other women? How many others are there? When did the sexually explicit web chats start? Here’s a two-page list of cookies left on our computer of pornographic sites you’ve visited in the last few weeks. What do you have to say about that?”

Each answer served to only drive spears into my already aching heart. Although John wasn’t proud of his actions, the crossexamination seemed to hurt me more than him. I couldn’t withstand much more, but I knew I was incapable of heeding the advice written across that football field and communicated by God. Or was I?

Time stood still as I breathed deeply and took the longest, most difficult five steps of my life. As my head screamed I can’t do this, my feet propelled me forward. I looked into John’s eyes, knelt before him and quietly, but assuredly said, “I’m sorry.” There, in the middle of the Houston airport, John and I shared our most intimate moment.

Fortunately, he never asked the reason for my apology, for I didn’t even understand it at the time. In fact, it took years for me to understand why God wanted me to look out that airplane window right at the moment I flew over Humble High School’s football field. It had everything to do with me and very little to do with John. You see, I tend to be unforgiving. I easily recall the ways in which someone hurt me, even years after the fact. That recollection, coupled with bitterness and a need for revenge, oftentimes incapacitates me, stripping me of joy and the wonderful gift of freedom that Christ gave me.

Kneeling before John didn’t alleviate my pain, nor did it provide a quick remedy for our failing marriage. In fact, we divorced a year after I learned of John’s infidelity. However, that event in the airport set me on a path toward forgiving the one whose betrayal was so devastating.

There are still times when I instinctively cry out “I can’t do that,” times when someone hurts me and God nudges me to humble myself. But I’m learning I can’t not do it as I recall the ways a lack of forgiveness damages my soul. So, football field message or not, I place the other’s need for forgiveness above my tendency to hold onto the pain and the desire for retribution.

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By Stacy Voss

Reclaiming Wholeness: Ministry, Discipleship and Sexually Addictive Behavior

As the sexualization of American culture surges forward the need for a scientifically informed and spiritually sensitive voice has grown. This training will provide a basic introduction into wrestling with the issue of Internet pornography and will equip participants with a firm foundation to build upon in addressing the need for sexual purity within our communities of faith.

This training will examine the impact of Internet pornography at the individual, family and community levels, as well as exploring a model for discipleship for those struggling with this problematic sexual behavior.

Webinar Content:

  • NEED FOR DISCIPLESHIP AND EDUCATION: Dr. Mark Laaser says, “The greatest threat to sexual health in the church is silence.” Regardless of religious affiliation, the need to stay abreast of changing sexual dynamics in Western culture and the pandemic of sexual addiction we are facing is a reality we must face if we are to minister to the world effectively.
  • IMPACT OF PORNOGRAPHY: The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers state that one in four (25%) divorces in a given year is due to pornography, cybersexual behaviors, or cyberinfidelity (“The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers”, Stoner and Hughes, eds, 2014, The Witherspoon Institute, Washington, DC).
  • SEQUENCE OF SEXUAL SIN AND ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOR: This webinar will review elements that contribute to sexual addiction and examine causes of problematic sexual behavior, all within the context of hope for restoration and reconciliation through the redemptive power of discipleship.

Presenter:

Dr. Todd Bowman is an Associate Professor of Counseling at Indiana Wesleyan University and the director of the SATP (Sexual Addiction Treatment Provider) Institute, LLC, which offers training in sexual addiction treatment for therapists and pastors. He is the author of “Angry birds and killer bees: Talking to your kids about sex”, published in 2013 by Beacon Hill Press.

Registration:
Click date to register.
September 10th – Noon EDT
September 17th – 8pm EDT

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