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Face to Face with Christ My Savior

Posted: October 20, 2013 - 22:24 CT

In the June 2013 issue of Turning Point magazine, Pastor David Jeremiah relays a story about pastor and author Robert J Morgan’s visit to Vietnam.  During the trip, Pastor Morgan met a local elderly pastor who had been previously imprisoned for his faith.  When asked how the pastor endured those many years of hardship, he stated “My two 333's got me through”.

He then explained that the first 333 was Jeremiah 33:3, in which God promises “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (NKJV).  The other comfort was song number 333 in the Vietnamese hymnbook.  The elderly pastor didn’t know the English title so he began singing it in his native language.  Pastor Morgan immediately recognized the tune as “Face to face with Christ my Savior” written in 1898 by Carrie Elizabeth Ellis Breck (1855-1934).

As told in Pastor Morgan’s book, Then Sings My Soul, Volume 1, the tune that he recognized was originally meant for another hymn.  Its composer was Grant Colfax Tullar who was named after Ulysses S Grant and Schuyler Colfac, the president and vice-president of the US in the year of Tullar’s birth (1869).  Years later, Grant was leading the music at a revival in Rutherford NJ.  One afternoon, he sat down at the piano in the local pastor’s house and penned a song and music, “All for me the Savior suffered; All for me He bled and died.”  The local pastor, Rev Charles Mead reportedly sang the song at the evening service.  Due to the events of the following morning however, “All of Me” would never be published.

Ms Breck was born in Walden, Vermont on January 22, 1855 and lived much of her life in New Jersey.  After marrying Frank Breck, the couple moved to Portland, Oregon in the 1910s.  Carrie was a very devout Christian and blessed with a gift for writing poetry.  Despite being a busy wife and mother of five daughters, it is reported that she penned over 2000 poems.  She once said, “I’ve penciled verses under all conditions; over a mending basket, with a baby on my arm, and sometimes even when sweeping or washing dishes, my mind moved in poetic meter”.  Due to her frail health, she would often have to rest between chores, so she would also write poetry in her rocking chair with a baby in her lap and her other daughters playing at her feet.

Despite Ms Breck’s poetic talents, she self-admittedly could not carry a tune in a bucket, so she occasionally sent some of her poems to composers of gospel hymns in the hope that they would be set to proper tunes.  As providence would have it, a package of her poems was received by Grant Tullar the very next morning after the aforementioned evening revival service.  As Grant glanced through the package, one poem in particular caught his eye.  As he read “Face to face with Christ, my Savior, Face to face what will it be” over and over, he realized that it fit perfectly with the music he had written the day before.  Sensing the Hand of God in this “coincidental” timing, he discarded the words to “All of Me” and replaced it with Carrie’s poem based on 1Corinthians 13:12, For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

Although Ms Breck ultimately published many other poems and songs, “Face to Face with Christ My Savior” remains a favorite that has inspired, encouraged and comforted an untold number of people… including one particular elderly pastor in Vietnam.

Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
Face to face—what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkened veil between,
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.

What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
Death is swallowed up in vict’ry,
And the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face—oh, blissful moment!
Face to face—to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.

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