Amazing Grace - 31 July 2014

Xanthe Hancox


But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4

It seems fitting to end this month’s Verse-a-Day pieces with one of the best-loved hymns of all time – Amazing Grace. The story behind one of the most recognisable songs in the English-speaking world is also, quite simply, amazing.

Born in London in 1725, John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, was pressed into service with the British Navy, but he deserted, was recaptured and flogged. After that, he worked as a slave buyer in West Africa before moving to the position of captain on the slave ships. He spent his twenties dodging every danger, toil, and snare imaginable; at one point he found himself the slave of a slave in Sierra Leone.

In March 1748, aged 23, Newton was working aboard a slave ship, the Greyhound, when a violent storm came up. He made a pact with God, survived, and started to wonder if perhaps, there wasn’t some truth to the Bible stories his mother had told him as a child.

Although Newton himself remembers that night as the moment of his conversion, the next several years were ones of slow, halting progress. He began to read the Bible, gave up gambling and drinking but he continued to work in the slave trade. He later said that his true conversion did not happen until some time later, "I cannot consider myself to have been a believer in the full sense of the word, until a considerable time afterwards.”

Newton eventually left slave-trading and, at the age of thirty-nine, entered the ministry. It was during his years in the ministry that he wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.

Newton became an ally of William Wilberforce, leader of the Parliamentary campaign to abolish the African slave trade. He lived to see the British passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807, which enacted this event.

What a life! What an incredible testimony to the greatness and the constancy of God’s grace! John Newton’s life story serves as a wonderful reminder that God never gives up on us, and he never stops working in us. From the hour we first believed, we are forgiven, justified, made alive in Christ. But it doesn’t stop there –the Holy Spirit works in us, enabling us to say no to sin and yes to godliness, sanctifying us so that we may live lives that glorify God. 

Prayer:  Lord God, I cannot fully understand your grace, it truly is amazing. I do not deserve it. I pray that your grace would continue to sanctify me, teaching me how to live according to your will. Amen

You can listen to the Soweto Gospel Choir singing Amazing Grace here:

What a friend we have in Jesus - 30 July 2014

Xanthe Hancox


Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:13

Irish-born Joseph Scriven (1819-1896) was 25 years old, in love and to be married. The day before his wedding in 1845, his fiancé died in a tragic drowning accident. Heartbroken, Joseph sailed from his homeland to start a new life in Canada. There he again fell in love, was due to be married when young woman suddenly fell ill of pneumonia and died.

In 1855, while staying with companion James Sackville, he received news from Ireland that his mother was terribly ill. He wrote a poem to comfort his her called "Pray Without Ceasing", you might recognise it:

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Almost 30 years later, a friend was sitting with Scriven who was very ill. During this visit, the friend was impressed to discover Scriven’s poems, including a copy of the one he sent to his mother. As a result of this visit, Scriven’s poems were published in a book called Hymns and Other Verses. Soon thereafter, Charles C Converse put music to one of those poems to give us the hymn we know today as ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’.

Joseph Scriven faced real tragedies in his life. He never married, and his later life was plagued with loneliness, poor health, meagre finances and depression. But he could write with conviction, “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” He knew that God could bring peace to troubled hearts who seek him.

Instead of becoming discouraged when we face trials, temptations, or troubles, Scriven wrote that we simply should “take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Today, remember that Jesus is your friend. Take your problems to him, no matter how insurmountable they may seem. Talk with him. Spend time with him. He loves you so much that he died for you!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for being my friend. I want to know you more, and serve you with my life. Thank you for laying down your life for me. Amen

Listen to the hymn here:

Genade onbeskryflik groot - 31 Julie 2014

Xanthe Hancox


Maar God is ryk in barmhartigheid en het ons innig lief. Deur sy groot liefde het Hy ons wat dood was as gevolg van ons oortredings, saam met Christus lewend gemaak. Uit genade is julle gered! Efesiërs 2:4

Ek dink dit is gepas om hierdie maand se Vers-'n-dag dagstukkies af te sluit met een van die mees geliefde liedere van alle tye  – "Amazing Grace" (Genade, onbeskryflik groot). Die verhaal agter hierdie lied is ook, om die minste te sê, onbeskryflik wonderlik.

John Newton, die skrywer van "Genade onbeskryflik groot" is in 1725 in Londen gebore. Hy is gedwing om in die Britse Vloot te dien, maar hy het gedros. Hy is gevang en 'n loesing gegee. Na sy ontslag het hy as 'n slawehandelaar in Wes-Afrika gewerk en daarna het hy die kaptein van 'n slaweskip geword.  In sy twintigs het Newton al wat gevaar is beleef; op een stadium was hy selfs 'n slaaf vir 'n slawehandelaar.

In Maart 1748, het die 23-jarige Newton aan boord die slaweskip die Greyhound, gewerk toe 'n groot storm uitgebreek het.  In sy angs het Newton 'n ooreenkoms met God gesluit, hy het oorleef en toe begin wonder of die Bybelverhale wat sy moeder hom as kind vertel het, nie dalk waar is nie.

Newton het altyd na hierdie nag as die oomblik van sy bekering verwys. Hy het begin om die Bybel te lees, opgehou dobbel en drink, maar het egter steeds met slawe handel gedryf. Hy het later vertel dat hy nie op daardie stadium na homself as 'n Christen kon verwys nie en dat sy ware bekering eers later plaasgevind het.

Newton het uiteindelik sy slawehandel gestaak, en op die ouderdom van 39 jaar ist hy tot die bediening toegelaat. Dit was in hierdie deel van sy lewe dat hy die lied "Genade, onbeskryflik groot" geskryf het.

Newton het 'n bondgenoot geword van William Wilberforce, die leier van die Britse parlementêre veldtog om slawerny af te skaf. Newton het die goedkeuring in 1807 van die Britse Wet om slawerny te beëindig, beleef.

Wat 'n lewe! Wat 'n ongelooflike getuienis van God se onbeskryflike genade! John Newton se lewensverhaal herinner ons daaraan dat God ons nooit vergeet nie, en dat Hy voortdurend in ons werk. Van die oomblik dat ons ons lewens aan Hom oorgee is ons volkome vergeef, met God versoen en lewe ons in Christus. Dit eindig egter nie daar nie – die Heilige Gees werk voortdurend in ons en stel ons in staat om nee te sê vir die sonde en ja vir dit wat goddelik en reg is. Die Heilige Gees lei ons op die pad van heiligmaking en help ons om tot eer van God te leef.

Gebed: Hemelse Vader, ek verstaan u genade nie volkome nie, dit is onbeskryflik groot. Ek verdien dit nie. Ek bid dat U deur u genade my verder op die pad van heiligmaking sal lei en my sal leer om volgens u wil te leef. Amen

Luister hier na 'n opname van Genade, onbeskryflik groot:

Wat 'n vriend het ons in Jesus - 30 Julie 2014

Xanthe Hancox


Niemand het groter liefde as dit nie: dat hy sy lewe vir sy vriende aflê.  Johannes 15:13

Joseph Scriven (1819-1896), 'n Ier, was 25 jaar oud, verlief en het op trou gestaan. In 1845, 'n dag voor sy troue, het sy verloofde in 'n trageise ongeluk verdrink. 'n Gebroke Joseph het besluit om 'n nuwe lewe in Kanada te begin. Daar het hy weer verlief geraak en het op trou gestaan toe die meisie skielik longontsteking kry en sterf.

In 1855, terwyl hy by 'n vriend, James Sackville, gebly het, ontvang hy die nuus uit Ierland dat sy moeder ernstig siek is. Hy skryf 'n gedig, "Bid sonder ophou" om haar te bemoedig. Jy mag dit dalk erken:

Wat 'n vriend het ons in Jesus,

Hy wat in ons plek wil staan;

wat 'n voorreg om gedurig

tot Gods troon deur Hom te gaan!

hoe verbeur ons tog die vrede,

ag, hoe dikwels ly ons smart,

net omdat ons nie ons node

uitstort in Gods vaderhart.

Byna 30 jaar later besoek een van sy vriende 'n ernstige siek Scriven. In sy kamer ontdek hy Scriven se gedigte, insluitende 'n kopie van die een wat hy aan sy ma gestuur het. Die gevolg van die besoek was dat Scriven se gedigte in 'n bundel, Hymns and Other Verse, gepubliseer is.

Kort daarna komponeer Charles C Converse een van die gedigte wat ons vandag ken as "Wat 'n vriend het ons in Jesus".  

Joseph Scriven het ware tragedies in sy leeftyd beleef. Hy is nooit getroud nie, en in sy latere jare was hy baie alleen, sy gesondheid swak, sy finansies karig en hy het aan depressie gely. En tog kon hy met oortuiging skryf: “wat 'n voorreg om gedurig tot Gods troon deur Hom te gaan!”  Hy het geweet dat God vrede kan skenk aan diegene wat Hom soek.

Instede van om mismoedig te word wanneer ons versoekings of probleme beleef, is Scriven se raad dat ons dit eerder deur gebed na die Here toe moet neem.

Onthou vandag dat Jesus jou vriend is. Neem al jou probleme na Hom, maak nie saak hoe groot of onoorkomelik dit vir jou lyk nie. Praat met Hom. Spandeer tyd met Hom. Hy het jou so lief dat Hy vir jou gesterf het!

 Gebed: Here Jesus, dankie dat U my vriend is. Help my om U elke dag nog beter te leer ken en U beter te dien. Dankie dat U ook vir my gesterf het. Amen

Luister hier na 'n pragtige Afrikaanse weergawe:

Everything has its time - 11 November 2013

Riélle Heine

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens … He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:1,11a

The concept of time always crops up somewhere in our daily conversations. What is shocking is that it is mostly mentioned in a negative context.  Something along the line of "I'm so busy, I did not have time" or "Everything is so rushed " or "Look how the time has flown!"

Time, which was intended as a gift from God, has become our boss. Instead of being in control of our time, it feels as if time is a skateboard under our feet that we’re desperately clinging to, trying to stay on top! Many things we plan down to the last detail, but when it comes to time, we carry on indifferently.

Too often we think like this about time:

Everything can wait until later,

Everything in this world can be postponed

- until I feel like doing it

- until I feel better

- until my children are older, or out of the house

- until I’ve worried myself sick about it

... until it's too late.

Maybe there’s a letter, an email, a phone call or a visit you’ve been putting off for weeks - maybe now is the time to do it. Maybe today is the time to encourage, to forgive, to speak or to remain silent. Perhaps the time has now come to go back and make amends.

The other day I found this English poem tucked away between some cards I had stashed away (I wish I knew who the author was):

When I have time

there is a poem to be written,

a song to be sung

When I have time

there is a child to be led

a prayer to be said.

When I have time

I’ll tell you a story,

I’ll visit a friend.

Alas, time is gone –

The poem’s unwritten,

The song unsung

The child is a man

grown up unled

The prayer, ah! the prayer,

it went unsaid.

The story is ended.

Prayer: Lord, let me realise anew each day that time is a great gift from you. Help me not to postpone things. Help me to plan my time, to grab hold of the hours and use them. Amen


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