A Sweet Twist of Grace

265 years ago John Newton sailed into the port of Charleston and unloaded 150 African slaves (October 1747).

242 years ago Newton wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” for his church in England (December 1772).

227 years ago Newton formally became an abolitionist to end the Atlantic slave trade (January 1788).

Friday in Charleston:

Politics aside, it was, for one moment in America, a sweet twist in our shared history. It was a work of God in overcoming multiple layers of sin. It is grace — God’s unmerited favor.

The Films David Powlison Assigned


Bible counselor extraordinaire David Powlison used literature to teach his course, The Elements of Biblical Change.

His students were asked to chose from novels (Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; Albert Camus, The Plague), drama (Eugene O’Neill, The Iceman Cometh; Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman), and short stories (Anton Chekhov and Raymond Carver).

Students were also required to read Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country. I recently posted a short clip of Powlison from a dinner with him in 2009, explaining why he loves Cry, the Beloved Country.

Near the end, Powlison mentions assigning films in the class, too, and that led a number of you to email me for his list. So I asked David and he sent it:

  1. The Great Santini” (1979). With this film, students were asked to do a personal application study on anger (grumbling, resentment, conflict, judgmentalism, etc.)
  2. Wit” (2001). With this film, students were asked to do a personal application study on anxiety (preoccupation, obsession, fear, control, etc.)
  3. Ordinary People” (1980)
  4. Il Postino (The Postman)” (1994). With this film, students were asked to do a personal application study on escapism (addictions, avoidance, love of pleasure, etc.)

Here’s a clip from Wit:

There you have it.

My new book launches tomorrow

jnxl-11After nearly three years of planning, researching, writing and re-writing, tomorrow I launch my new book into the world: Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ. It is the latest addition to the outstanding series from Crossway Books: Theologians on the Christian Life, edited by Justin Taylor and Steve Nichols. And I could not be happier with the final product.

As the book launches, there will be more details to share all week. Already, the first major review of the book was published today (reformation21). Tomorrow, Tim Challies will interview me, and Westminster Books will launch a special promo sale (details forthcoming). I will keep you posted as launch week unfolds.

At the beginning of my book I chose these words from one of John Newton’s personal letters as an epigraph over the entire project: “I thank the Lord if he makes my writings useful. I hope they contain some of his truths; and truth, like a torch, may be seen by its own light, without reference to the hand that holds it.” I love those sentences — and they are my eager prayer and hope.

Some readers have emailed to ask how they can pitch in to help spread news about the new book, and here is one valuable way you can help. Over the coming weeks please use the hashtag #JNXL when you post quotes on Twitter, or when you talk about the book on Facebook, or when you Instagram pictures of the book or quotes from it. Using #JNXL will help draw together the collective interest online and help your friends listen in to a bigger conversation.

(And if you need some good Newton tweetables to get you started, see my stash here.)

Finally, this is a moment for me to thank all of you who follow me on this blog and on social media and who are eager to encourage me over the years. Thank you for reading my books and cheering me on. I am honored to serve you, and I am grateful to God to be the recipient of years of kindness from you.

Very gratefully,