Friday, December 24, 2010

The Gift of a Fellow Saint

A wise and godly woman once said, "the greatest miracle you will ever see is a life transformed by the gospel". This truth resonated with my soul, as I have longed to see so many people in my life saved by the grace that has transformed my own life. It's been about a year since I've heard that quote and many years of praying for unbelieving friends and family.

This Christmas, I have seen that miracle in the life of someone I love dearly - my brother.

My brother, Todd and I didn't grow up in the same house. He is 17 years older than me and though we share the same mother, we don't share the same father. Despite these circumstances, Todd has always been my brother, not my "half-brother" and I've always loved him like we had grown up together. But there's more to the story. Todd had been a slave to addiction since he was 12 years old until the time he was 41. To be specific, until around the exact time he turned 41 which was not quite 2 months ago. Most of my life he has spent behind jail and prison bars, in court-ordered rehab facilities, or high or drunk. I've seen him bottom out and I've seen him want to change his life and then bottom out again.

But over the past year, I began to see something different in him and I began to pray more that what I was seeing was God's hand in his life, drawing Todd to himself in His own timing. Around October of 2009, we had a lengthy conversation in which I shared the gospel with him for the first time and told him my own testimony of the gospel. As we spoke, I knew it was God giving me the words to speak to him. His eyes longed to hear the Truth, to believe that he could stop living in addiction and be a new creation. But on that day, his heart was not ready to receive it. God had more plans for him, but I have no doubt He was working in his heart even then, a year before he would receive grace.

After that day, God gave me more of a desire to pray for his salvation. I prayed God would break his heart of stone and show him his sin and that he would repent and be cleansed and have joy in knowing his Creator and Savior, just as He had done for me. God began to show me the hope of what could be - a beautiful testimony of a life so full of sin yet so calloused to it gone and a new creation in Christ in it's place. It became my heart's desire and though Satan tried his best to make me believe this was a foolish hope, God reminded me each time that He hears and blesses my prayers and that no one is beyond His grace.

In August of this year, Randall and I received an invitation from our friends, the Millers, to a dinner benefitting a ministry called His Steps. As I was reading the email invite, I began to see that this ministry was created for men struggling with addiction and immediately thought of Todd. Randall and I both felt like this could be the place where Todd would receive the gospel so we wanted to find out more at the dinner. Before the dinner had even begun, I looked across the large banquet hall and saw my cousin Brian, who is a solid believer that loves Todd and has fought addiction in his own life. When I finally made my way over to talk to him, I found out that he had been in communication with Tim, the founder of His Steps, and that he was scheduling a time for the family to sit down with Todd, have Tim tell him what the ministry was about, and have us ask him to go there. It seemed surreal. A few days before I had been pondering the idea of talking with the family about Todd going to His Steps and here I was finding out it was already in the works. I was nervous but excited at the possibility and overjoyed to see Brian loving Todd with the love of Christ. My heart was encouraged.

A few days later, this family meeting took place, but it almost never happened. It was my task to get Todd to the meeting and I was unwilling to do this under false pretenses. I had told Todd the day before that Brian and I were going to take him to breakfast and talk about his plans and jobs. Todd had recently been released from jail and looking for some direction. I felt convicted that I couldn't lie to him so the morning I picked him up, I sat down and told him that the whole family was going to be there and we all wanted to help him figure out a plan to help him stay on track. I didn't tell him about Tim and His Steps because I thought he might automatically shut down and think of it as rehab, so I left it at that. He was really flustered at the idea of having the whole family there and didn't understand the point of it. I could see millions of things running through his mind as I told him about the meeting. I told him I thought it would be good for him and I hoped he would come with me, but it was up to him. I simply asked that he tell me yes or no and that if he didn't want to go that I would leave. After probably 20 minutes of internal debate, he got up from the table and said "let's go".

The meeting took place and just like the previous October, I saw a desire in his eyes to believe what was being told to him and this time by so many more people who loved him. He didn't decide to go to His Steps that day or the next day and in fact he bottomed out again over the next couple of months. But this time when he hit the bottom, God opened his heart to see his brokenness. Desperate for freedom with tear-filled eyes, he called our Aunt Donna and asked to come to her house. She let him right in and told him to get some rest. The next day Todd expressed his desire for a new start and decided to go to His Steps. He has been there since early November.

Sometime over the course of the short time he has been at His Steps, God has truly created a new heart in him. He is learning God's word and praying for more enlightenment. Yesterday was one of the best days of my life because I spent all afternoon listening to his account of God's work in his life. This man who had once alienated himself from the family during Christmas due to shame was sitting at my kitchen table enjoying fellowship with us. We serve a mighty God.

This Christmas, I have received the best gift of all, the gift of seeing my brother become more than just a blood relative. This year he is a fellow saint of Christ.

 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation... God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5: 17-19; 21

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