Once asked if he was a Calvinist, Newton plunked a lump of sugar into his tea, stirred the hot liquid, and said, “I am more of a Calvinist than anything else; but I use my Calvinism in my writing and preaching as I use this sugar. I do not give it alone, and whole; but mixed, and diluted…(1) I think these doctrines should be in a sermon like sugar in a dish of tea, which sweetens every drop, but is no where to be found in a lump – tasted everywhere, though prominent nowhere…(2) The views I have received of the doctrines of grace are essential to my peace. (3) I could not live comfortably a day, or an hour, without them.” (4) Continue reading
As many of you know, I have been suffering with a kidney stone for over three weeks now. However, last Friday was my last day of significant pain, so I feel that I am over the worst of it. Thanks to all of you have been in prayer for me during this time. I first began my travail with this tiny stone the day before Easter. I was fasting on that Saturday and I had asked the Lord to help me to identify with Him in his sufferings. The Lord answered my prayer, but not in the way that I imagined. I remember, at one point last week, weeping in the middle of the night. I asked the Lord, “Is this really what it takes to humble me? Am I so calloused that I need such pain to buffet me?” I sat in the dark whispering. Defeated. “You know best, Lord. You know exactly what I need. I am yours. You know best.”
Yesterday, I was eating lunch with a friend – Iain Boyd – an episcopal priest who serves at Trinity Episcopal in downtown Myrtle Beach. He’s a really great guy whom God had been prodding me to get together with. As we sat in Cracker Barrel, Iain began to share with me a hymn written by John Newton called “I asked the Lord that I might grow.” I had never heard it before. Iain recited it to me by heart – and as he spoke the words across the table, God’s Spirit impressed me with the magnitude of this hymn. It was my experience. I had asked the Lord for something – thinking that I knew best how to receive it. I asked the Lord to help me grow. I wanted a deeper intimacy. My plan was a day of fasting in exchange for a closer identification with Christ. But that was not Christ’s plan. He chose another, significantly more painful way. Yet, I am learning to thank God for his way over mine. He knows exactly what I need. Only he truly knows how to pour contempt on all my pride. Only he knows how to arrest my wandering heart and press his ancient love into my soul.
Much thanks to my friend Iain who pastored me yesterday. Also, thanks also to John Newton for writing such a powerful and true hymn. I would like to share that hymn with you now. Again, John Newton wrote “I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow” and published it in the Olney Hymnbook in 1879. It is sung below by Indelible Grace. Please take the time to listen to it prayerfully. It is wonderfully dark, beautifully rich, and absolutely true to the Gospel. It is a spiritual steak set to music. I encourage you to contemplate its deep meaning so that it feeds your soul the way that it has fed mine this morning.
Lyrics – “I asked the Lord”
1. I asked the Lord that I might grow, In faith and love and every grace. Might more of His salvation know, and seek more earnestly His face
2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray, And He I trust has answered prayer. But it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair
3. I hoped that in some favored hour, at once He’d answer my request, And by His love’s constraining power, subdue my sins and give me rest
4. Instead of this He made me feel The hidden evils of my heart And let the angry powers of Hell Assault my soul in every part
5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed Intent to aggravate my woe crossed all the fair designs I schemed, cast out my feelings, laid me low
6. “Lord why is this?”, I trembling cried “Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?” “Tis in this way” The Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith”
7. “These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me, That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”