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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Butterfly (photo by Greg Schneider)
This photo was taken in Centre County PA by our friend Greg Schneider.
Click here for larger version.

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"Once An Infidel And Libertine"

"Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD" (Isaiah 26:10).

John Newton wrote his own epitaph. He summed up his brief stay on earth which enabled him to speak long after he had drawn his last breath. It continues to speak over 200 years later and perhaps it will prompt you to consider what you would like written in your personal epitaph.  Maybe this would be a good spiritual exercise that you could write while you have the presence of mind.  A great place to write out your epitaph would be the inside cover of your Bible.

John Newton tombstone inscription (1725-1807)John Newton, clerk,
Once an infidel and libertine,
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Preserved, restored, pardoned
And appointed to preach the faith he
Had long labored to destroy.

John Newton's great hymn "Amazing Grace" is a song that I am sure practically anyone reading this has been blessed by many times. Most would list it among our favorite songs.

John Newton (1725-1807)As John Newton aged his memory began to fail him. This is demonstrated in a poignant scene from the film "Amazing Grace" when Newton is shown in his aged condition declaring, "Although my memory is fading I remember two things very clearly. I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."  His sight was also fading leading him to quote a line from his own hymn, "I once was blind but now I see", He then asked, "Did I write that?" He was assured that he had and Newton said, "Now at last it's true." 

Today I would like to consider Newton's self-description on his tombstone that states, "Once an infidel and libertine." Now these are two words that we use quite infrequently these days. The first "infidel" means unbeliever and is used in the KJV of the Bible in such passages as 2 Corinthians 6:15 and 1 Timothy 5:8. However at the present time this word is most often used sneeringly by Muslims to describe all non-Muslims.

The second word is so rarely used that it needs defined. A libertine is one devoid of moral restraints, which is seen as unnecessary or undesirable, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals and forms of behavior sanctified by the larger society, a dissolute person; usually a person who is morally unrestrained.

Far too many people in our "good is evil" and "evil is good" framework have rejected the Bible and live under a libertine attitude which is seen as a desirable virtue.  They proudly live as libertines free of moral restraints and sadly the libertine outlook has even infected the church. But to John Newton it was something that was radically changed at his time of conversion to Christ. It was important to him that his tombstone bear this witness.

Our daily verse presents an interesting and often overlooked Biblical truth. "Grace is shown to the wicked." The grace of the almighty God of the universe is abundantly demonstrated in His loving care to our world. Theologically speaking this is referred to as "common grace."  This demonstration of grace goes on moment by moment in a multitude of ways to all, even the vilest offender; the air we breathe, the livable climatic conditions, food and water. 

But there is the special demonstration of grace extended to us through Jesus for our eternal salvation: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). This grace is available exclusively for those who earnestly believe in Jesus and accept His gift of salvation.  This gift far exceeds the worth of all other gifts given to us by God!

Unbelief and ingratitude have blinded many to this marvelous grace so that the vast majority of the world's peoples "do not learn righteousness" which is evident in those walking in His grace. In our New Testament understanding they reject God's grace through Jesus Christ. "They go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord."  Is this not a picture of so many? 

How do we, as God's chosen people, regard the grace of God today? The Scriptures state, "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:11-14).  That is the nature of the amazing grace transformation from an infidel and libertine to one "preserved, restored, pardoned."
  • Let us thank God for His amazing grace and never cease to be amazed by it.
  • Let us "learn righteousness" and live our life in a manner that pleases Him. 
  • Let us regard the majesty of the Lord and reverently declare His praises daily. 

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Your abundant grace is poured out on humankind like showers of blessings, both for believer and unbeliever alike.  Yet it is only as we appropriate Your saving grace that we turn away from evil and walk in the ways of righteousness. Many leaders and rulers have come and gone, but You, Father, are the eternal One whose kingdom knows no end.  We humble ourselves in the light of Your majesty as we bring honor to Your holy name and live as a people who are eager to do what is good.  Amen.

Some butterflies
from around our place

Yesterday as I walked about our lawn I see that the butterflies are in abundance. These are photographs we have take over the years of one of our favorite photo subjects!

Monarch butterfly
Monarch (up close) on Silky Butterfly Weed

Monarch butterfly
Distant view of Monarch on Silky Butterfly weed

Monarch butterfly

Injured Monarch on Lantana

Black swallowtail butterfly
Black swallowtail butterfly on phlox

Black swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail on Day Lily

Black swallowtail butterfly
Monarch butterfly on Autumn Joy Sedum

Baby butterfly
Baby black swallowtail on Autumn Joy Sedum

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Amazing Grace"  Video  Chris Tomlin version

"Amazing Grace"  Video  Brief segment from the movie "Amazing Grace" that includes the quote from John Newton.

"Your Grace Still Amazes Me"  Video  Phillips, Craig and Dean

"Grace Greater Than All Our Sin"  Video  (Sounds like a local church)

"Majesty"  Video  Michael W. Smith

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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