Amazing Grace

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My Country, 'Tis of Thee

Category: Amazing Grace

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. Psalm  33:12

Moved deeply by the desire to create a national hymn that would allow the American people to offer praise to God for our wonderful land, a 24 year-old theological student penned these lines on a scrap of paper in less than 30 minutes in 1843. Yet even today many consider "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" their favorite patriotic hymn and call it our "unofficial national anthem."

The easily singable words of the song are matched with a popular international melody used by many nations, including England, where it accompanies "God Save Ting/Queen." The emotionally powerful ideas that Smith expressed had an immediate response. The hymn soon became a national favorite. The stirring tributes to our fatherland in the first three stanzas lead to a worshipful climax of gratefulness to God and a prayer for His continued guidance.

Following his graduation from Harvard and the Andover Theological Seminary, Samuel Smith became an outstanding minister in several Baptist churches in the East. he composed 150 hymns during his 87 years and helped compile the leading Baptist hymnal of his day. He was also editor of a missionary magazine though which he exerted a strong influence in promoting the cause of missions. Later he became the secretary of the Baptist Missionary Union and spent considerable time vising various foreign fields. Samuel Smith was truly a distinctive representative of both his country and his God.

My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty , of thee I sing: Land where my fathers die, land of the pilgrims' pride, from ev'ry mountain side let freedom ring!

My native country , the, land of the noble free, thy name I love: I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills; my earth with rapture thrills like that above.

Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song: Let mortal tongues awake; let all that breathe partake; let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.

Our father's God, to Thee, author of liberty, to Thee we sing: Long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light; protect us by Thy might, great God, our King!

For Today: Psalm  33, Mathew 22:21; Acts  10:35; Romans  13:1-7

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Amazing Grace

Category: Amazing Grace

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all tings at all times...you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians  9:8

Calling himself a "wretch" who was lost and blind, John Newton recalled leaving school at the age of 11 to begin life as a rough debauched seaman. Eventually he engaged in the despicable practice of capturing natives from West Africa to be sold as slaves to markets around the world. But one day the grace of God put fear into the heart of this wicked slave trader though a fierce storm. Greatly alarmed and fearful of a shipwreck, Newton began to read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. God used this book to lead him to a genuine conversion and a dramatic change in his way of life.

Feeling a definite call to study for the ministry, Newton was encouraged and greatly influenced by John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. At the age of 39, John Newton became an ordained minister of the Anglican church at the little village of Olney, near Cambridge, England. To add further impact to his powerful preaching, Newton introduced simple heart-felt hymns rather than the usual psalms in his services. When enough hymns could not be found, Newton began to write his won, often assisted by his close friend William Cowper. In 1779 their combined efforts produced the famous Olney Hymns hymnal. "Amazing Grace" was from that collection.

Until the time of his death at the age of 82, John Newton never ceased to marvel at the grace of God that transformed him so completely. Shortly before his death he is quoted as proclaiming with a loud voice during a message, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!" What an amazing grace!

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.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!

Thru many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; 'tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me; His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.

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'd first begun.

For Today: 1 Chronicles  17:16, 17; John  1:16, 17; Romans  5:20, 21

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Am I A Soldier Of The Cross

Category: Amazing Grace

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved n civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy  2:3-4

The Church founded by Christ has been built on the blood of martyrs. It has been estimated that at least 50 million persons have had a martyr's death since the crucifixion of our Lord. Even today, in our 20th century civilized culture, lareg numbers of believers live under conditions of harassment and persecution.

According to historical tradition, many of Christ's disciples and followers were persecuted by enemies of their Master with the following fates:

Matthew: suffered marytrdom by being slain in the city of Ethiopia

Mark: died at Alexandria, after being dragged through the streets of that city

Luke: hanged on an olive tree in the classic land of Greece

John: put in boiling oil. Afterward branded at Patmos

Peter: crucified at Rome with his head downward

James the Lesser: thrown from a pinnacle of the temple, then beaten to death

Bartholemew: flayed alive

Andrew: bound to a cross, where he preached to his persecutors until he died

Jude: shot to death by arrows

Matthias: first stoned and then beheaded

Barnabas of the Gentiles: stoned to death at Salonica

Paul: after various tortures and persecutions, beheaded at Rome by Emperor Nero

In Isaac Watts' time, much persecution was inflicted upon the English Dissenters-those who had split from the official, state Anglican church. Stalwarts such as Isaac Watts became resolute and fearless in their proclamation and defense of the gospel. "Am I A Soldier of the Cross?" was written in 1724, following a sermon by Watts titled "Holy Fortitude or Remedies Against Fears." These words are still a challenge for us today:

Am I a soldier of the cross? A foll'wer of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies on flow'ry beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed thru bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign-Increase my courage, Lord! I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.

For Today: 1 Corinthians  16:13; Ephesians  6:10-20: 1 Timothy  6:12; Jude  3

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All Hail The Power

Category: Amazing Grace

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being. Revelation  4:11

Sometimes called the "National Anthem of Christendom," this is one of the truly great worship hymns of the church. Written by a young English minister, it was published in 1779 and has been translated into almost every language where Christianity is known. The strong exuberant lines lead us to heartfelt worship of God each time we sing them. But what does it mean to worship?

It is a quickening of the conscience by the holiness of God; a feeding of the mind with the truth of God; an opening of the heart to the love of God; and a devoting of the will to the purpose of God.-Unknown

We can be thankful that God moved an 18th century pastor to write this stirring hymn text that reminds us so forcibly that the angels in heaven and ransomed souls from "every kindred, every tribe" on earth are worshiping with us even now. And we will one day all join together in singing "the everlasting song"-when Christ is crowned "Lord of all."

Edward Perronet came from a family of distinquished French Huguenots who had fled to Switzerland and then England to escape religious persecution. He was ordained to the ministry of the Anglican church but was always more sympathetic to the evangelical movement led by John and Charles Wesley. Soon Edward left the state church to join the Wesleys in their evangelistic endeavors. Although he wrote a number of other hymns, this is the only one for which he will be remembered.

All hail the pow'r of Jesus' name! Let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all!

Ye chosen seed of Israel's race, ye ransomed from the fall, hail Him who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all!

Let ev'ry kindred, ev'ry tribe, on this terrestrial ball, to Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all!

O that with yonder sacred throng ye at His feet may fall! We'll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all!

For Today: Philippians  2:9-11; Colossians  1:5-19; Hebrews  2:7-8