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Amazing Grace

am fairly certain that most people are familiar with the song, Amazing Grace. Let me give you a little background on this hymn. John Newton was the writer of this great classical hymn in 1799 and the hymn was originally called, “Faith’s Review and Expectation.”

Pastor Ray Sherwood
Special Contributor

It has been sung in churches, on the radio, television, the internet, etc. down through the 200+ years of existence. I can think of perhaps only one other hymn that has possibly been heard or sung as often and it is called, In the Garden.

I shared a bit about the hymn because to tell you the truth I am totally amazed at God’s Amazing Grace. As you read this article, we are close to the half way point of Lent and when I think of this season before Easter it totally reminds me of God’s grace! In pastoral and theological circles, we use this definition for grace: God’s unmerited favor. You might question what that means so let me try to answer that with a story from the Bible.

The story of the prodigal son is one that you may or may not be familiar with but let me briefly share with you this great story of grace! It is found in Luke 15:11-32. I will give you the short version and it goes this way: The youngest son of a rich man asked for his share of his father’s property and the father gave him his portion. The son decided to move to another part of the country and in his eagerness to be his own boss he blew all his money. The Message puts it this way in v. 13, “There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had.” To make things worse a famine went through the land and many people were hurting, including himself. He had no money, so he hired on with a farmer who let him care of his pigs. Times were so tough that the son would have eaten the food the pigs ate if someone had given him some, but no one gave him anything!

The son finally came to his senses and realized that his father’s workers ate good meals and here he was starving to death. The son decides that he will make his way home and see if his father will accept him back as a hired hand.

Max Lucado writes this about his trip back home in his book, Come Thirsty: “The prodigal son trudges up the path. His pig stink makes passersby walk wide circles around him, but he doesn’t notice. With his eyes on the ground, he rehearses his speech…He rehashes the phrases wondering if he should say more, less, or make a U-turn to the barnyard. After all, he cashed in the trust fund and trashed the family name…How could his father forgive him…He’s so focused on penance planning that he fails to hear the sound of his father…running! The dad embraces the mud-layered boy as if he were a returning hero. He commands the servants to bring a robe, ring, and sandals.” The prodigal son was experiencing his father’s grace – his unmerited favor!

God’s deeply flowing grace is extended to us because each of us has lived the life of the prodigal…indignant, undisciplined, selfish and unlovable. Ephesians 2:4 says, “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor [grace] that you have been saved!)” (NLT)

In this Lenten season please don’t forget that just like the prodigal son your Heavenly Father still loves you…no matter what you have done. The Lenten season that leads to Easter is expressed in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NIV) I hope and pray you will experience God’s Amazing Grace today!