This week’s Thought is written by Peter Hodson.
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Many of us are familiar with the name John Newton. A former slave trader, John Newton came to faith in Christ and, deeply encouraged early in his faith by the preaching of, and personal conversations with George Whitfield and John Wesley, he went into the Church of England ministry and became a curate at St Peter & St Paul's, Olney, Buckinghamshire.
Later, John Newton took up a post in St Mary's, Woolnoth, London, where he became acquainted with the young M.P. William Wilberforce. It is said that if Newton had not encouraged Wilberforce to fulfil God’s call as an M.P., he would have gone into the church ministry and the Abolition Movement against slavery would not have taken place.
While in Olney, John Newton had a practice of composing a poem for a special prayer meeting held on each New Year’s day. Late in 1772 he composed a poem he entitled “Faith’s Review and Expectation”, read out on New Year’s day 1773. It was a testimony of his journey from a recalcitrant, insubordinate blasphemer, to a compassionate preacher of God’s grace. The poem didn’t have any particular tune but was compiled as one of many poems and hymns into ‘Olney Hymns’. This poem of around 150 words only had 21 words of more than one syllable, so was much appreciated at the time by his mostly poor and illiterate congregation. However, in a short time, it fell into obscurity.
John was known by many who had been slaves, and in the southern states of America, his poem was picked up, given a tune and became perhaps the most famous and well loved hymn in the world, sung frequently during America’s Great Awakening and was considered a pioneer of ‘evangelical hymnody’.
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.
His epitaph in his own words, as inscribed on a memorial plaque in St Mary’s church reads:
“JOHN NEWTON. Clerk. Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.”
What wonderful grace God had shown to John Newton and what amazing grace He has shown to each of us and what a story we each have to tell of God’s rich grace!
We can echo the words that John Newton wrote in the last verse of another of his hymns, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds”:
Till then I would your love proclaim
With every fleeting breath;
And may the music of your name
Refresh my soul in death.
This week's thought is written by Peter Hodson.
I will steady him with my hand; with my powerful arm I will make him strong. (Psalm 89:21)
I once remember a young policeman giving an account of an occasion when he had to be a part of a police line, facing a ferocious crowd of rioters. He said that he had begun to tremble with fear until an older policeman by his side said in his rich calm voice, “steady lad”. In looking back to the incident, the young policeman told how that voice had brought a calm over him and galvanized him to face the crowd alongside his comrades with courage.
It is uncertain who wrote the beautiful hymn ‘How Firm a Foundation’ but apparently it was published in 1787 in Dr John Rippon's ‘Selection of Hymns’. Rippon had a very fruitful ministry in London and was predecessor to C.H. Spurgeon. The hymn takes two of its verses from the book of Isaiah:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
Whether it is facing the bombardment of ungodly world views, or other of life’s challenges, it is as though we are standing together in line facing the enemy of our souls BUT with our Commanding Officer by our side, in whom we see courage, strength and victory, and who’s voice we hear saying:
Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed
For I am your God, and will still give you aid
I'll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
God, who created and sustains the universe, strengthens us. Christ said to Paul when troubled with his ‘thorn in the flesh’, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
If we are prone to ‘wobble’ when called to make a stand, or when faced with life’s challenges, it is at that very point we can look to the One who has promised:
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to His foes
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake
I'll never, no never, no never forsake.
This week’s Thought is written by Sharon Healy.
In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all people… (Acts 2:17)
In 1904 God poured out his Spirit in Wales. It was one of the most phenomenal outpourings since Pentecost. The effects spread across the churches throughout Wales. People who attended revival meetings were used powerfully in their homes and churches to bring the sense of God to others. The fire was burning so strong that sinners repented and believers were radically changed as the Holy Spirit touched them.
Some lives affected became ‘sparks from the Welsh revival’ that subsequently spread to many parts of the world.
Watkins Roberts who was born in Caernarfon, Wales, was one who caught the fire. He went as a missionary to North East India, aged 22. He was stationed in a particular mission, yet felt called to reach out to the Hmar tribe who were known as savage headhunters. Compelled by the Holy Spirit to go, in February 1910 he defied the orders of the mission he was assigned to, and sneaked into the hills without a permit. Armed with a copy of the New Testament, he explained the gospel to the Hmar people using the Gospel of John. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he found a way to share the gospel message.
Watkins spent five days with the tribe. Five tribal men including a chief were born again. On returning to his mission, Watkins was expelled by them and never knew what had become of the seed he had planted. However, Chawnga, one of those saved carried the salvation message all across the tribe. Later, his son Rochunga was an instrument in God’s hand to bring the Bible to the Hmar tribe in his own language. He created a Romanised script for the Hmar tribe and translated the Bible into the language of the Hmar tribe. Tribes of North East India and further afield were effected and won for Christ through his ministry. Within 30 years every village of the tribe was evangelised.
Decades later, Rochunga managed to track down Watkins Roberts who was, by this time, an elderly man, living in Wales. Watkins had always thought that his missionary efforts had ended in failure. He learned from Rochunga how far from that was from the truth.
In Greenock, Scotland, a lady called Elizabeth Taylor, one of the founders of the Struthers Memorial group of churches, as a young girl was deeply effected by the ministry and preaching of the Jeffery brothers who came to preach in the Greenock Town Hall. These meetings were also filled with fire from the great outpouring in Wales 1904. As the Holy Spirit moved upon her, she was convicted of her sin and met Christ very deeply that night in her bedroom. She became born again and was subsequently a mighty instrument in the hand of God. Hundreds, possibly thousands of lives have been won for Christ, set free and baptised in the Holy Spirit directly and indirectly as a result of her life.
We see in the Jeffreys’ brothers, Watkin Roberts, Chawnga, Rochunga, and Elizabeth Taylor the effects of the Welsh revival and how these ‘sparks' have ignited many other fires. Watkins Roberts had no idea what would become of the seed he had planted. The Bible tells us to go and tell. The increase is not ours but His.
This week’s thought is written by Pauline Anderson.
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
I was reminiscing recently about some of the rules that were forced upon me as a young child. For example, there was the one that barred me from putting my tiny fingers into electric sockets!! As a three year old, I found these fascinating and wondered what would happen if I slipped my fingers inside. Thankfully, because of a watchful mother and strict rules, I never found out.
Then there was the rule about how and where to cross a road!! For goodness sake, why did my mother have to keep banging on about this one? Although I didn’t fully understand then, it kept me alive long enough until I did understand.
I didn’t like the rules, but, then again, I don’t think that I was too different from most children who probably shared my antipathy to rules. I found them restrictive.
I recently came across a man who loved rules. He consistently spoke in glowing, even passionate terms, about them. I don’t know his name, but he was the writer of the longest Psalm in the Bible, Psalm 119.
Here are some examples of what he wrote:
Psalm 119:5 Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!
Psalm 119:15 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.
Psalm 119:20 I am always overwhelmed with a desire for your regulations.
Psalm 119:30 I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.
Why was the Psalmist so passionate about obeying the rules? Well, let’s look at some of the benefits he discovered from obeying God’s commands.
Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. (Psalm119:1,2)
I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments. (Psalm 119:45)
I meditate on your age-old regulations; O Lord, they comfort me. (Psalm 119:52)
Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words! With all my heart I want your blessings. (Psalm 119:57,58)
Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide. (Psalm119:98)
Friend, the next time you are tempted to side-step something God is asking of you, just remember what you could be forfeiting as a result of that. The Psalmist understood that God’s rules were a sign of His great love and concern for him, just as my parents’ rules were for me. Meditate on them as the Psalmist did and let them be a lamp to guide your feet and a light for your path that will lead you into a deeper revelation of the great love of our great God.
Copyright © 2014 Struthers Memorial Church All rights reserved
Struthers Memorial Church is a registered Scottish Charity No. SC 006960 | Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee incorporated in Scotland Company No SC335480 | Registered Office: 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, PA15 1SH.