Archive for December, 2011
As you grow older and learn about some of the heroes of the Christian faith, you’ll probably not find many people whose conversions were as dramatic as John Newton’s was. Newton was quite a scoundrel in his younger days, and an evil, godless man. He was profane and vulgar, mean and cruel.
He was even an active participant in the slave trade, a horrifying practice in which Africans were captured, taken away from their homes and families and sold to owners in Europe and America. Yes, John Newton was about as bad as they come.
But like so many others, Newton was not out of the reach of God’s grace. The Lord miraculously intervened in his life, saved him from his sins and set him on the path following Christ.
“I stood in need of an Almighty Savior; and such a one I found described in the New Testament,” Newton wrote. “Thus far the Lord had wrought a marvelous thing: I was no longer an infidel: I heartily renounced my former profaneness, and had taken up some right notions; was seriously disposed, and sincerely touched with a sense of the undeserved mercy I had received, in being brought safe through so many dangers.”
Some time after his conversion, Newton became a pastor in England, a role in which he labored faithfully for more than 40 years. He was beloved by his congregations and played a key role in encouraging William Wilberforce to fight boldly against the evils of the slave trade — a profession which Newton himself once readily endorsed. The Lord had indeed changed his life in radical ways.
While many people may not know a whole lot about Newton, they certainly recognize the fruit of his labors. Newton was an outstanding writer of hymns and is best known for “Amazing Grace,” the most popular hymn ever written in English. In it, Newton poetically testifies to the wondrous grace that God bestowed upon him:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me …
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Over the past three years, you have been a tremendous blessing to me, your mom and our family. You’ve made us smile and laugh more times than we can count. We are certainly grateful to God for sending you into our home.
One of the things that your mom and I have enjoyed about you is your love for music. Your brother and sister have always liked music as well, but you’ve taken it to another level. We’ve watched you sit transfixed during concerts and other musical presentations as you listened intently to the beautiful sounds you were hearing. We’ve chuckled when you’ve jumped down from the couch to dance to the music you heard on TV, smiling the whole time.
I hope that your love for music will only increase as you get older. I have no musical skills whatsoever, other than my ability to enjoy it, so that’s one area where I hope you don’t take after me. Music is a tremendous blessing from God, and I hope your life will be filled with the happiness and joy that music can bring.
But my prayer for you, as you celebrate your third birthday, is that God would do more than cultivate your love for music. I pray that he would implant a song of grace in your soul, and that you would be able to echo these words of the great hymn “To Christ the Lord Let Every Tongue”:
A thousand men could not compose
A worthy song to bring
Yet your love is a melody
Our hearts can’t help but sing!
I pray that you would be as captivated by the mercy and grace of God as John Newton was. I pray that the Lord would save you while you are still a child and spare you from so much of the wickedness that characterized Newton’s early years. And I pray that the faith God imparts to you would grow over the years, so that the deepest burning of your heart would be the same thing that Newton wrote about so many years ago:
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Happy birthday, little buddy. I love you so much, and I’m so thankful for the music you’ve brought to our lives.