Category Archives: People of God

Faithfully Following Our King

Lead On, O King Eternal[1]

Dislike for authority is in the nature of every person. Ever since humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden, people have not wanted to be told what to do. A 1965 television commercial for a headache remedy called Anacin featured a younger woman (with a headache) saying irritably, “Mother, I’d rather do it myself.”  Sounds like the words – or at least the thoughts – we direct toward God. No advice needed. I know better than you what is best for me. The conclusion about ancient Israel that resounds through the Old Testament book of Judges is telling both as to the root problem and the crying need of people and societies then and now. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 ESV).

Thankfully, God has not rejected mankind even though mankind rejects him. “Does their [our] faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!” (Romans 3:3-4 ESV). “. . . If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV). Instead of rejecting us, he chooses to help us love and reverence and obey him. “I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7 ESV). What God promised through Jeremiah is the lived-out experience of every person who has turned from their rebellious ways and yielded control of their lives to THE King of kings.

Lead on, O King eternal, the day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest thy tents shall be our home;
Through days of preparation thy grace has made us strong,
And now, O King eternal, we lift our battle song.

The hymn Lead On, O King Eternal speaks to the omnipotence and eternality of God. It also pictures the Christian life as the spiritual battle that it indeed is. In living faithfully for God in this fallen world, our home becomes where God and his people are. Our ability and strength to live for him and serve him comes from his grace given freely to us. But the hymn also pictures the Christian’s “warfare” – and the way in which the Kingdom of God comes, grows, and expands – with language that does not sound like warfare.

Lead on, O King eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace;
For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
By deeds of love and mercy, the heavenly kingdom comes.

By deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.”  One who vibrantly lived out the truth of those words was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She lifted people out of garbage dumps and sewer drains, affirming the inherent dignity of every human being because they were image bearers of God. By her humble service, she called the world’s attention to the poor and abandoned. She made significant personal sacrifices to follow her calling to the “poorest of the poor.” One of those sacrifices was her family. When she left her home in Albania to become a nun, she never saw her sister or mother again. According to David Aikman in his profile of Mother Teresa, her brother Lazar had been stunned by her decision to become a nun and wondered whether she was throwing her life away. He wrote to her, suggesting that his life as a military officer in the court of a European king was more exciting and rewarding than her life as a nun. Her reply? “To you it seems something very important to be an officer in the service of a king with two million subjects. Well, I’m an officer too, but I serve the King of the whole world. Which of us is in the better position?”[2]

Lead on, O King eternal, we follow not with fears;
For gladness breaks like morning where’re thy face appears;
Thy cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in its light;
The crown awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might.

Mother Teresa had no struggle with God’s authority in her life. When asked “Who is Jesus to you?” she replied, “Jesus is my God; Jesus is my spouse; Jesus is my Life; Jesus is my only Love; Jesus is my All in All; Jesus is my Everything.”[3]  Who is Jesus to you? To me? Who is the “king” that we serve each day? What “kingdom” does our life and labor help to advance? The “kingdom” of this world, or the “. . . Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ?” (Revelation 11:15 ESV). May today – and everyday – find us following as loyal subjects of the King of kings, serving loving and tirelessly as ambassadors of the Kingdom and the King who “. . . shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 ESV).

[1] TEXT: Ernest W. Shurtleff (1888). TUNE: LANCASHIRE, Henry Smart (1836).

[2] Lush Gjergji, Mother Teresa: Her Life, Her Works (New Rochelle, NY: New City Press, 1991). Quoted in David Aikman, GREAT SOULS: Six Who Changed the Century (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003), p. 209.

[3] Aikman, GREAT SOULS, p. 248.

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Filed under Christian Living, Daily Living, God the King, Hymn devotional, People of God, Power of God

So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

For All the Saints[1]

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus . . . (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

People put a lot of effort into cultural observances and celebrations. Halloween seems to be one that tops the “effort” list, given the decorations, costumes, parties, and the annual “trick or treating” of kids (small and large) going door to door. According to one source, Halloween’s origins date back to an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain which was held on November 1, a date when it was believed the souls of the dead returned to their homes. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to hopefully keep the ghosts away. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as “All Saints Day,” a time to honor all followers of Christ who had passed from this life to the next.[2]

God condemns calling on dead spirits and other occultic practices (Leviticus 19.31; 20.6; 20.17; Deuteronomy 18.10-12), but He does call us to remember those who lived faithful lives and left a godly legacy as a lasting testimony. In fact, an entire chapter in the New Testament – Hebrews 11 – calls to remembrance the lives of “saints” who lived and died “in faith.”  To the Jewish recipients of the letter to the Hebrews, the names Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and Moses would remind them of what it meant to live a life of faith and trust in God.

At the end of Hebrews 11, the writer makes this interesting statement: “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:39-40 NKJV). It seems that there is a connection between the people of God in the past and those living in the present; between the work God has done in the past and what He is doing now and will do through believers in the future. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that the people of God in the past are “. . . so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV) who should serve to motivate us to faithful and godly living.

Bishop William Walsham How’s hymn “For All the Saints” helps us celebrate the memory of the lives of our forebears in the faith and make the connection between their experiences and ours. The first stanza simply affirms the God-honoring lives they lived.

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The “saints” of old left an example of looking to God and trusting in Him whenever they encountered troubles or trials.

Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one True Light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The people of God – past and present – have a common destiny and form a “blessed communion” and “fellowship divine.”  Those in the past are now enjoying the great reward of being in the presence of their Lord and hearing his “. . . well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV). Such is the hope that the people of God in every generation have – “the calm of paradise the blest.”

Oh, blessed communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine,
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

But there is more. There is coming a day when the glory of King Jesus will be on full display. “And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him” (Daniel 7.13-14 NKJV).

But yonder breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

These saints “triumphant . . . in bright array” will form “. . . a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hand, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7.9-10 NKJV).

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The ancient Hebrews remembered Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Elijah, and many others. Today, we remember Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and Wesley. We remember those whose witness for Christ affected us personally and profoundly. For me, I remember my grandmothers Leota Neely and Ada Rabon. What a glorious hope! What a wonderful destiny! Let us live today and every day following the notable example of those who have gone before us, keeping our eyes on King Jesus and the prize that waits ahead for us.

Enjoy this video which gives a compelling visual illustration of each of the verses of this hymn.


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[1] WORDS: William Walsham How (1864, 1875). MUSIC: Ralph Vaughn Williams, 1906.


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Filed under Church, Hymn devotional, People of God, Praise