Sunday, March 22, 2009

Solid Joys and Lasting Treasure

Today I was moved by some verses that John Newton wrote. He is probably most famous for writing the words to the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Newton lived an immoral and ungodly life in the 1700s on the crew of several ships, and at one point was the captain of a ship carrying slaves away from Africa. His life was so completely changed when he believed the Good News of Jesus Christ, that he became a pastor in England. As a pastor Newton had great influence in the life of William Wilberforce, the Member of Parliament known for driving slavery out of the British empire. Here is what Newton wrote to be inscribed on his gravestone:

Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.”

That struck me with the beauty of what God does – taking something totally evil and transforming it into great good! I cried many tears of joy over these words. Here are some verses to another hymn Newton wrote in 1779:

“See! the streams of living waters,
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst t’assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Savior, if of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy Name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.”

What can I say?

Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s (heaven’s) children know !!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 5

I remember telling my brother “Brad” I wanted to make sure his life and suffering were not wasted. I asked him if he had anything he learned that he wanted to communicate to others to help them. He said to tell anyone who is thinking of playing just a little with sexual sin this scripture:

“Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” - Proverbs 6:27-28

Brad and I had talked when we were children about what would happen if we were sick and could not speak. We agreed that if that ever happened, we could communicate by a hand signal. Grabbing tighter meant yes and letting go meant no. The night before he died, Brad’s breathing changed. I asked him if he wanted me to pray and he could not speak, so he grabbed my hand, then my wrist, then up the arm to my elbow. I remembered our childhood conversation. I understood perfectly. He was saying yes, YES, YES!! I prayed that God would be with him and help him through this. Brad grabbed my arm again in agreement. I cried. I knew God would go with him in death, helping him where I couldn’t help right now. The following day I was helping a nurse turn him over and he moaned in pain and took his last breath. His heart stopped. It was over....

A few days after Brad’s funeral my parents got a call from Tiffany, Brad’s high school “girlfriend”. She said she was recently divorced and wanted to know how Brad was doing. They told her he had just died. She burst into tears and hung up. She had NO idea that he was gay and sick from an HIV infection. We never heard from her again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 4

A few years after college my brother "Brad" (not his real name) found out that not only was he infected with HIV, but also it was an extremely aggressive form that did not respond well to treatment. He was an assistant manager of a retail store and his doctor called him at work to tell him. Knowing he was dying soon, Brad closed the office door and cried for about one minute, until store employees kept banging on the door demanding his attention. He told himself, “I’ll think about that later” and calmly went back to work. Can you imagine his pain? The next year Brad was in and out of the hospital with one nasty infection after another. He was living in an apartment with a male prostitute who would even bring guys into the bedroom while I was there visiting Brad in the living room. There were condom wrappers on the floor. Not exactly a healthy Christian environment.

I invited Brad to move in with me, and he accepted. Many people from my church came to the house and helped him out when he was sick. After one near death experience in the hospital, Brad turned to God. God changed his heart so he turned away from his sin and believed. He told all his gay friends that he was a Christian now, and they promptly abandoned him. I remember sitting next to him, hugging him and asking him if he knew that I loved him now. He said yes! That meant a lot. I couldn’t help but see the change from his previous “unloving Christians” comment. I thanked God.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 3

Brad’s “girlfriend” Tiffany dropped out of college and moved back to our home town, and Brad started getting concerned about his sins and his need for a savior, so he joined Maranatha Campus Ministries (MCM). Soon, one of the leaders there discovered that Brad was having sex with another guy in that group and also having anonymous sex with many guys at gay meeting places on campus. If any of you know the history of MCM, you are cringing right now. You can guess what happened next. Brad was outed in a very painful, public way. He was thrown out of the group and his sins were told to all the members. It wasn’t pretty. One of the leaders made sure to tell me all the details, even though I was not a member of MCM.

It finally hit me that I needed to show Brad a little compassion. As you can imagine, he was bitter at Christians at that point. For him, the painful way he was treated by Christians motivated him to differentiate himself from Christians. At the time, being gay-identified implied someone was anti-Christian, so he expressed his disgust with Christians by flaunting his homosexuality in some contexts. I asked why he was “hanging around gays”. I will never forget his answer. He said, “They love me, and that is more than I can say about Christians!” All I could say to him was that I actually loved him and that I am a Christian. This memory still brings tears to my eyes years later.

To be continued…