Friday, November 30, 2007

Whats so Amazing about Amazing Grace, part 5

We have come to verse 4 in my commentary on the song Amazing Grace by John Newton. If you would like to start at the beginning, click here.

Verse 4
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures

The Lord has promised good to me,

There are great promises in the bible; one of the greatest is that of salvation. In John 3: 16 the bible says: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

His Word my hope secures

Note that " Word" here is capitalized. Jesus Christ is called the Word in the book of John. John 1: 1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Our only hope of salvation is in Jesus Christ, the Word. Christ secured that salvation once and for all on the cross of Calvary.

He will my Shield and Portion be, as long as life endures

Both shield and portion are biblical terms. Ephesians 6: 16 "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." Our faith in Jesus Christ truly is our shield, he is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12: 2).

Psalms 73: 26 "My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."

Our flesh and heart will eventually fail. Each of us will die (unless Christ returns first). But if you are born again, then it hardly matters, because as it says in 1 Corinthians 15: 55-57 "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Whats so Amazing about Amazing Grace, part 4

Continuing on with my series of posts on the song Amazing Grace, I would like to take a look at verse 3 and some of the sound doctrine found in it. If you missed the start of this series, you can find it here.

Verse 3
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares I have already come

Have you ever noticed that many of the Christians who you meet will tell you how often they came close to death in one way or another before they were saved? I could relate a number of instances from my own life in which I could just as easily died as remained unscathed. Was it just luck that I lived long enough to become a Christian at the ripe old age of 44?

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

No, I really don't believe in luck. Proverbs 16: 33 says: "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD." That's right, according to the book of Proverbs, "chance" is not an issue. God truly is sovereign!

and grace will lead me home

It is the free and unmerited gift of God that sanctifies the Christian. As Phillipians 1: 6 states: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" It is God who begins the good work in the Christian in saving him, and it is God who continues that good work in the Christian in sanctifying him. God does not save us and then leave us to our own devices to "keep" our salvation by our own right acts. No, it is he that continues to work in us to cause us to persevere.

But is it possible to lose your salvation? Certainly, if it depended upon our own weak flesh, it would not only be possible, but it would be inevitable. But as this song states (and more importantly the Bible teaches), it is grace which keeps us, and leads us home.

In John 10: 27-29 Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."

It is God’s grace that keeps his elect safe through those dangers, toils and snares before salvation, it is God’s grace that saves us, and it is God’s grace that will keep us safe through the dangers, toils and snares after salvation. It is God' grace that leads us safely home to heaven.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Whats so Amazing about Amazing Grace, part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about the song Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. In the first post I told a little about Newton's life. In the second , I started to examine some of the biblical doctrine contained in verse number one. Today I would like to continue to do the same with the second verse.

Verse 2
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear

comes from God, and by definition it is a free unmerited gift of God. This verse states that it is a gift from God that we fear him. Proverbs 9:10 states: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Job 28:28 says: "And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."

The knowledge of the holiness of God should lead us to understand our sinfulness as well as how much we are deserving of judgement. This should cause us to fear God! And it should cause us to depart from evil, in other words to repent! When someone tells you that they do not believe in a god that you have to fear, then they likely do not believe in the same God that the bible speaks of. They have not received that first grace of God teaching them the beginning of wisdom.

And grace my fears relieved

The free and unmerited gift (in other words, grace) of salvation is what will finally releive the fear of judgement that the law instills in us. 1 John 4: 17-19 tells us: "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us." The fear of Judge has been replaced with the godly fear of a loving Father.

How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed

If God’s grace is not precious to you above all else, then its likely you never saw yourself as a wretch deserving hell, and never were a partaker of the grace of the fear of God. I find that the longer I have been saved, the more precious grace is to me, because the longer I have been saved, the more I see how short I fall!

By God's grace I will continue with verse 3 of Amazing Grace in my next post.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Whats so Amazing about Amazing Grace, part 2

In my last post I spoke a little about John Newton, the author of the beloved song "Amazing Grace". I told a little of his early life, how he became a Christian, and even the epitaph that is on his tombstone. Today I would like to look the lyrics of the first verse, giving biblical support for the doctrine that I see there, and with a little luck continue with the other verses soon after.

Verse 1
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Grace is indeed amazing! But what exactly is it? A common easy to remember, simplified explanation which you may hear in many churches is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Not bad, but perhaps a little over simplified.

Webster’s defines grace thus: the free unmerited love and favor of God - unearned and undeserved. I think that really nails it! The bible talks much of grace, but one of my favorite verses about grace is Ephesians 2: 8-9 "For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."

How sweet the sound

Anyone who is truly saved knows how sweet the sound of the word grace is. But the reason it is so sweet is deeply tied to being "a wretch like me" which we’ll look at in a moment.

That saved

Simply put, a person is saved when he is born again. John 3: 3 says "....except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." In Matthew 1: 21 it says "....and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." You see, when Jesus saves you, it is not just from the penalty of sin, but also from the bondage of continuing in sin!

A wretch like me

Wretchedness speaks of the total depravity of man. Once you have seen yourself in the mirror of the ten commandments, you will start to get a view of your wretchedness. Romans 7: 13 says in part: "....that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." In fact, if you are having a hard time seeing yourself as a sinful wretch, keep in mind that Isaiah said in chapter 64 verse 6 that "....all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags". That’s right, as if our sins were not bad enough, God views our good deeds (outside of Christ) as filthy rags!
What is amazing about grace is that it should be bestowed upon me! I am that wretch who has neither earned nor deserves grace.

I once was lost, but now am found

This may chafe against some that may claim to have been a Christian their whole life, but it is quite biblical. In fact I can only think of two people mentioned in the bible who were not once lost. One, of course, was Jesus Christ himself, who was to do the finding. The other was John the baptist, who scripture states was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (and that is not to say he was not a sinner in need of salvation).

1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. "

You see, even if you find yourself on the list mentioned in 1 Corinthians above, there is still hope for you through Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour. The terms saved, born again, and converted are all found in the bible and they all speak of a change. While one cannot base their salvation on the fact that their lives have been changed, the lack of a lasting change should certainly be cause for alarm.

Of course when we hear the phrase "once was lost but now am found" it likely brings to mind the parable of the lost sheep as found in Luke 15: 4-7; "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."

In the passage above, I would just ask; who did the searching, the Shepperd or the sheep? The fact that it is Christ that seeks out the lost, and not the lost who seek out Christ shows the irresistible call of God. Though from the human perspective it may seem that it is man who seeks salvation, scripture makes it clear that "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Was blind but now I see

Before being born again, each of us is blind, and it is because we have been blinded by the god of this world as 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6 states: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. "

If, as it says in the passage above, that our minds have been blinded by the god of this world, then something needs to take place in order to give us sight. We need a miracle! We can see a picture of that miracle in the story of Jesus giving sight to a man blind from birth (John chapter 9). So too, are each of us helplessly blind until Jesus has performed a miracle upon us in giving us spiritual sight!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Whats so Amazing about Amazing Grace

This hymn has been a favorite of many Christians for decades, particularly of those of us who have experienced God’s amazing grace. The story behind the song is nearly as inspiring as the song itself.

The song Amazing Grace was written by a man by the name of John Newton. John was born in the year 1725, and by age 11 he went to sea. Eventually he worked his way up to the point where he captained his own ship which was involved in the slave trade. Hardly a promising start for a man who would write one of the most beloved songs in the history of Christianity.
In 1748 while Newton’s ship was at sea they found themselves in a terrific storm. Things looked very grim and John despaired of his ship or anyone aboard surviving. For the remainder of his life, this event is the time that John Newton pointed back to as the time of his being born again.

You may be surprised to learn than Newton did not immediately quit the slave trade. What he did do immediately, was to make sure the slaves were treated humanely; a trait quite uncommon for the time. Such is the way of God, for that even as salvation may be an immediate thing, sanctification certainly is not. Soon God worked on Newton’s heart in regards to his involvement in the slave trade so that by the year 1755 he had completely given up seafaring, and learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; eventually becoming a minister.

One of John’s early influences in the religious realm was George Whitefield, a leader of the Calvinistic Methodist Church (I was quite surprised to learn that there ever had been a Calvinist branch to the Methodist faith). The song Amazing Grace was probably composed by Newton between 1760 and 1770.

Newton’s tombstone, which I also find inspiring, reads:
JohnNewton, clerk, once and infidel and a libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.

Now that we know a little more about the author, in the next few days I would like to look at the text of the song, and some of the biblical truths that are to be found therein.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back to School

So, what’s new at Lee’s Speeds Shop? Funny you should ask that. I recently finished up a 3 day, one on one, advanced cylinder head porting class for Harley Davidsons at Mondello Technical School. The opportunity to spend the time with the legend, Joe Mondello, fine tuning my porting skills was something I am very glad I did not miss out on.

sign at the entrance to the Mondello Technical School

When I call Joe a legend, I mean Legend with a capitol L. The list of those who have used Joe’s porting work reads like a who’s who of every type of racing. Don Garlits, Carrol Shelby, Andy Granatelli, A.J. Foyt, Connie Kalleta, Grumpy Jenkins, Eddie Hill, Don Prudhomme, John Force, Mickey Thompson, Smokey Yunick to name just a few of the most recognizable (and there are a boatload more who anyone with more than a passing interest in racing would likely know) Some of the major milestones set with Joe’s heads are: first to run 200 mph at the drags, the first to go 7, 6, and 5 second E.T.s in Top Fuel, the first 200mph runs in Top Fuel, Injected Fuel, Top Gas, and Fuel Altered. Like I said; Legend with a capitol L.

Now, why would a guy who has been porting Harley heads for 18 years and done more than 750 sets in that time (such as yours truly) need to go back to school? The obvious answer is "re-read the list above". Joe Mondello has been porting heads for over 50 years. The not so obvious answer is "new technology". You see, Joe, working with Lloyd Creek of Creek Flow Management, have developed "wet flow testing" to the point where it can fill in some of the blanks as to why some heads that show good flow on a dry flow bench do not make as much power as other heads with similar dry flow.

Besides bringing a couple sets of stock Twin Cam head castings to port under Joe’s tutelage, I also chose to bring along a sample of my "Bare Bones" ported heads as well as one of my top of the line "R-Port" heads. The first day at the school, while Joe was going over some theory with me, he had one of his guys do a dry flow bench test on the heads I had previously ported. I was happy, though not totally surprised, to hear from them that they were impressed with the flow numbers. (after all, I have a dry flow bench, so I already knew they had good flow numbers). The real test though, and a big part of why I was there, was to find out how they measured up in the wet flow bench testing.

In the mean time Joe and I went to work on the stock castings I had brought along. I have to admit I was unsure whether this part would be a waste of time, since I had plenty of experience porting. In retrospect, I must admit that the techniques, procedures and tricks that Joe taught me just in regards to the actual porting and polishing made the trip worthwhile! Not only are my ports looking better than they ever have, but I am able to accomplish the work in less time. That means I will be better able to keep the cost down for you, the customer.

the crew at Mondello's
L to R: Bret, Dave, Joe, and Mike

Wet flow testing did show that the heads I had previously ported had more fuel falling out of suspension in the combustion chamber than the heads Joe and I did together. That is not really bad news, since I now know that despite making very good power, my heads can still be improved.

The last head that Joe and I worked on was a quick job on one of the new Screamin’ Eagle 110 heads. Since I had previously ported a couple sets of these also, I knew we could get the flow figures up, but I was also curious how they would come out in the wet flow testing. As it turns out, the ported 110 heads have pretty decent wet flow characteristics providing one particular procedure is followed. What is that, you ask? Well, I’m afraid you’ll just have to send your heads to me for porting to find out.

Bottom line; armed with more knowledge and better techniques I fully expect to see even better results where the rubber meets the road, or more accurately where the rubber meets the dyno.