Amazing Grace

        Dad led the way, up the steps of the white church. There were so many steps, each time I climbed the stairs it seemed I approached heaven. We sat in the shorter pew in the back of the church. My brothers sat on either side of Dad, who propped up one leg to make a convenient desk to hold the brown Favorite Hymns songbook.  I watched the words where he pointed one finger. His singing was slightly off key but fervent. This wondrous world of music for me became alive at the age of six years and Dad led the way. Mother taught me to play the piano. Music and Faith were closely entwined in Jesus Christ. I learned about ‘choir practice’ by listening to the rehearsal each week. Mother played for the choir.

         One by one, I learned to play the hymns in the Favorite Hymns book.  Plus a plethora of other songs was added to my list of favorites. While visiting Grandpa Suderman, we listened to a recording of John Charles Thomas and Madame Schumann-Hienk, and other great singers on a ‘crank-up’ victrola.
         Slowly through the words of each hymn, I learned the testimonies of faith by those who wrote the lyrics and composed the melodies.  The book of Psalms is filled with testimonies of the greatness of our Lord God. Wherever pain and suffering come – there is a Song of Victory describing faith and deliverance in Him.  It often takes a storm in life for us to seek the safe harbor of our Lord’s Arms of Love.  One young man put it this way – If I don’t believe in God, what can I believe in that is sure?
         Our lives are filled with twists, turns, and choices. John Newton’s life was no different.  His father was an aloof man, often away from home, the Captain of a sea-faring vessel. John’s Mother died at the age of twenty-seven.  During her years with her son, John, she taught him about faith in God. After reading about John, I see a boy who realized who God was, but the choices he made or were thrust upon him and took him in other directions. 
         He was conscripted into the Royal Navy for a time. While on a walk, he was ‘pressed’ (kidnapped) to work aboard a Slave Trader. At the age of twenty-three, a horrific storm arose while at sea. It was then John realized who he is without God and cried out to the One Who can calm the sea.  It wasn’t until he is 47 years old that he pens the words of his spiritual journey back to God.  He left the Slave Trading scarred by what he had seen and heard. A the age of thirty-nine, he became an ordained clergyman.  The words to Amazing Grace were written for a sermon entitled, “Faith’s Review and Expectation”.
         In the biography written by Jonathan Aitken, we find this note, “Thou has given an apostate a name and a place among thy children – called an infidel to the ministry of the gospel. I am a poor wretch that once wandered naked and barefoot, without a home, without a friend and now or me who once used to be on the ground, and was treated as a dog by all around me, thou prepared a house suitable to the connection thou hast put me into.” 
         Is this the end of the song? No.  When John Newton turned 63, he published a book – ‘Thoughts on the African Slave Trade’. William Wilberforce used Newton’s thoughts later in the fight against slavery in the English Parliament.
         God often uses storms in our lives to call us to Him.  He prepares us for a lifetime to serve Him in many different ways through many different avenues. John Newton died at the age of 82, after encountering storms and setbacks in his life.  When we come to the close of life, will we understand the greatness and mystery of God and why He loves us?
         These lyrics touched my heart last Lord’s Day.  “You give life, You are love, You bring light to the darkness, You give hope, You restore Every heart that is broken – Great are you, Lord… It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You Only… (Great Are You Lord)  
         John Newton tells of his faith in God and his journey to Him as he penned the lyrics of Amazing Grace.   
         Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, Was blind, but now I see.  So often we walk in blindness to Who God is – and our beliefs are not placed in our Lord God.  Jesus came to bring us light for He is light in the darkness of this world. “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus. Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” John 9:38-39
         ‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear. And grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.
The gift of Grace is priceless and clearly explained in John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
         Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.
‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead us home
. Life is never easy. We encounter so many temptations and pitfalls all around us.  We search a lifetime for safety and a way to go to our Heavenly Home.
Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. 2 John 1:3
         The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures
God’s Word will never be revoked or taken away in this world. Jesus is our Shepherd, God is our shield as we worship and live for God the Father and Jesus the Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. 1 John 5:12-13
         When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun
This Grace is not for this generation, or the ‘old days’, it is for eternity.  There is no end to God’s Glory and His Love and Grace.  What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.  Psalm 84:4

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