First Thoughts

Author: Scott Connell

The Amazing Grace of Friendship

January 1, 1773 is a momentous date for hymnody. It not only serves as the date that ‘Amazing Grace’ was first presented to the public by John Newton now almost 250 years ago, but it is also the date that William Cowper penned ‘Conflict: Light Shining Out of Darkness,’ based on John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” We know the hymn today as ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way.’ It is hard to imagine a more fruitful single day in English hymnody nor a starker juxtaposition of two texts depicting the nature of the friendship that these compositions represent—grace and darkness. January 1773 was a difficult month for Cowper, a man often plagued by lengthy periods of depression and even moments of insanity. By the winter of 1773, Cowper and Newton had...

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Praying Without Ceasing

Most Christians know that 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we are supposed to “pray without ceasing.” But how are we supposed to start a prayer that never ends? Don’t we have to live life in a way that requires us to say “amen,” then get up and go do the stuff we have been praying about? Recently I have begun to think more seriously about what it means to lead a life of ceaseless prayer. While I believe some aspects of this kind of life will always be “under construction,” I also have begun to delight in how this pursuit can change everything about how we live—in the most beautiful ways! I remember as a child watching the old Batman series with Adam West. Commissioner Gordon had this special hotline to Batman on a pedestal under a glass cover in his office. It was called the Batphone, and...

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Knowing God More!

We used to sing the following words of a worship song written by Steve Green many years ago: Oh, I want to know you more Deep within my soul, I want to know you Oh, I want to know you… During the heyday of the worship renewal movement, words like this seemed fresh and intimate when they arrived on the scene. They described a deep desire that lay beneath the surface of one’s life. But for those paying close attention, this type of language demonstrated a depth of desire that could easily be neglected, if not a complete lie. It is discouraging to be capable of singing such wonderful sentiments with our mouths that are not true of our heart’s actual desire. The Bible indicates there are two types of knowledge of God. There is a head knowledge (James 2:19 – even the demons believe the facts)...

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