Musings and Memories
By Doug Dezotell
An 18th century English clergyman wrote: “I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the Great Apostle, ‘By the Grace of God I am what I am.’”
That gentleman-writer was the Rev. John Newton, a former Captain of ships that brought slaves from Africa to England.
Newton also wrote these well-known words: “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.”
God changed that sea-captain’s life; and the one-time slave runner, became a devoted abolitionist, fighting for the end of slavery in the British Isles and beyond.
Newton wrote: “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 Apostle that Rev. Newton quoted also wrote these words: “For by Grace you have been Saved through Faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the Gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Newton and the Apostle Paul were both forever changed by the Grace of God; not by working for it. They were changed by the Grace of God, the unmerited, unearned, freely given Grace of God.
Paul was a 1st century persecutor and murderer of Christ’s followers, who himself became a Christ-follower; and Newton, the 18th century slave-trader, who became a Christ-follower and abolitionist. Both men were completely changed by the Grace of God through their faith in Jesus Christ.
Both Apostle Paul and Pastor Newton faced all kinds of troubles in their lives, before and after meeting Christ. In fact, it was on board a storm-tossed ship in the Atlantic that Newton initially cried out to God asking Him to save him.
The Apostle experienced the stormy waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and a shipwreck, but by the Grace of God, Paul and all aboard that ship were saved.
Newton wrote: “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ’Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far, And Grace will lead me home.”
Like the Apostle, the Pastor looked to the future… to the Coming of the Lord riding on the Clouds with the Angel Army advancing at the blast of the trumpet. All the Saints of God, those who declare Him as Lord and Savior, will be gathered together and brought Home… Home.
Newton wrote: “Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease, I shall possess, within the veil, A life of joy and peace.”
As a young man in Bible College in the mountains of Colorado I learned about the Second Coming of Christ. I was raised in church but I didn’t remember ever hearing about the Second Coming. So I was fascinated by this Truth in God’s Word.
I knew about Heaven and Life-After-Death, but it was in my early 20s that I first heard that Jesus was Returning, Coming to Get Us. I leaned that He’d be riding on the clouds accompanied by an Army of Angels to take us to the Home He prepared for us in Heaven.
In the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus is quoted as saying: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.
“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
“His disciple, Thomas, said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to Thomas, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
The writer of the Book of Hebrews penned these words about “The Heavenly Hope” that all of Jesus’s disciples knew lay before them, that includes both Apostle Paul and Pastor John (and you and me):
(Taken from Hebrews 11:13-16): “All of these Believers died in faith, having seen the Promises afar off, they were assured of them, and they embraced them, and they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Those who testify of such things declare plainly that they seek a Homeland… But now they desire an even better homeland then the one from which they came, that is, a Heavenly Homeland, a Heavenly Country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a City for them.”
John Newton looked forward to that Heavenly Homeland, the City with Golden Streets, the Place that Jesus has prepared for all those we believe that He is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life;” those who believe that no one can come to The Heavenly Father but through Jesus our Savior.
Newton wrote in his hymn: “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.”
As we await the Second Coming of Christ we need to be busy doing what the Master did, doing what Jesus did.
We need to be moving Forward, Advancing with our eyes on the Goal, and Learning and Living the Word of God every step of the way… Loving God every step of the way… and Loving People every step of the way.
On the Australian “Commonwealth Coat of Arms,” there are two animals—an Emu and a Kangaroo. They are holding up a Shield which is emblazoned with symbols of the Six States of Australia.
I know that the Kangaroo and the Emu are animals that are common creatures when we think of Australia. But what was their significance on the Coat of Arms?
I discovered that the Kangaroo and the Emu were chosen because they share a characteristic that appealed to the Australian citizens. Both the Emu and the Kangaroo can move forward easily, but not backward.
The emu’s three-toed foot causes it to fall if it tries to go backwards, and the kangaroo is prevented from moving in reverse by its large tail.
The original Coat of Arms had the word “Advance” below the animals holding the shield. It was meant to encourage Australians to move forward, Advance into the future and not get stuck in the past.
Those who choose to follow Jesus become like the Emu and the Kangaroo, Advancing Forward, never back.
Jesus is quoted in in the Book of Luke as saying:, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
I want to encourage you to keep your eyes on the Goal that’s set before us.
Let’s move Forward.
Join me in The Advance… with our eyes on the Prize… with our eyes on Jesus.
Doug Dezotell serves as the pastor of Cannon UMC in Shelbyville, and he’s a columnist for the Bedford County Post. Doug can be contacted by phone at 931-607-5191 or by email at email@example.com. Thank you for reading Doug’s “Musings and Memories;” and for reading the Bedford County Post.