I had a "Giant Cavernous Aneurysm" behind my left eye. I went to Dallas for surgery and it was killed...however post op my eye is unresponsive. It is if I am looking out of a steamy shower door. Some days it is better than others. Please pray that my sight will be restored. God has been putting words on my heart that I feel I must put on paper. The following thoughts are those I feel that the Lord is speaking to me lately. Enjoy.

January 29, 2007

Grace Defined

In the red corner- the Pharisees. In the blue corner- Jesus. Once again, the high-minded Pharisees do all that they can to land a right hook to the face of our Lord. And, once again wisdom and righteousness prevails.

Being caught in the act of adultery a woman was pulled from the sheets and placed in utter humiliation before Jesus. What a perfect time to preach to her, telling her that her eternal life hangs in the balance…pending her decision. And as Christ does numerous times in the Bible, Christ responds in a very Christ-like manner.

Instead of berating the woman Christ replies, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Grips loosened leaving the only sound in the Temple being that of stones hitting the floor. One day, perhaps we will meet this former adulteress in Heaven because Jesus took the occasion to love her instead of condemning her.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus never avoided the hard conversations. Prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, thieves and yes, perhaps the worst of them, Pharisees…they were all willingly engaged by Jesus. His life shows us that he spent very little time with the “church goers.” Instead, he spent his time in the trenches…getting down and dirty with the sinners.

We found ourselves in the trenches this past Sunday morning. A practicing gay escort came to my church. The audacity. He hasn’t even pretended to renounce his current lifestyle.

And like Jesus himself, Christ’s body worshipping at New Life Church had a decision to make. How would we treat him? Just as Jesus did, we stared an adulterer right in the eyes.

What mucked up the water is that this prostitute was the same man who had a homosexual relationship with our longtime Pastor. His testimony lead to the firing of Ted Haggard, and the beginning of a long and sometimes dark road we now travel.

Mike Jones came to New Life Church Sunday because he had been invited. Many of those in our church invited him down, not to throw stones, but to tell him “thank you.” You heard me right. “Thank you.”

Pastor Rob Brendle saw Mike in the foyer and approached him. His hands were free of stones and full of grace. Rob said, "Mike, I believe God used you to correct us, and I appreciate that. One of the wonderful and enduring truths of Christianity is to love the people that the world sets up to be your enemies."

Grace defined.

Rob’s boss, spiritual mentor and best friend was fired because of this man who stood before him. I love how Rob puts it. We as Christians are set up to be the enemy of the Mike Joneses of the world. What part of the conversation in the Temple sounded as if Christ was the enemy of the half-dressed adulteress? None.

Throngs of people gathered around Mike and expressed similar sentiments. “Thank you.” “God bless you.” “We are a stronger church because of your honesty.”

Does this excuse Mike’s past and current behaviors? No. But does this seem to mimic the attitude of our Lord. I believe so. I’m not so sure that we have heard the last of this man, Mike Jones. I continue to pray that he, like his predecessor in adultery, meets Christ.

I am proud of the body of Christ. It once again teaches me that grace is the battering ram to destroy the walls of legalism. Grace, you are amazing and welcome in my house anytime.

January 27, 2007

Levi and the Boys

January 19, 2007

Saving Levi, You and Me

Tonight I came face to face with Jesus.

Not in a conceited way. But in a way that made me understand His unconditional love for us, unlike anything that I have experienced in a long time. I watched my 4, 6 and 8 year old sons morph into the likeness of Christ…right before my very eyes.

Lisa Bentley and her 4 year old son Levi are in town from Beijing, China. They were in the United States to celebrate the release of Lisa’s new book, Saving Levi. I was excited for my family to spend time with them at dinner. And like an idiot, when she asked where we were going to eat, I responded, “How about Chinese?” Dummy. She politely accepted and we were soon off to eat the brand of food that she eats every day for every meal. Sometimes my lack of originality blows me away.

Young Levi is the most amazing child that I have ever met…ever. He was found lying in the middle of a rice field in China in his burial clothes saturated with body fluids from burns on over 75% of his body. His 6 month old body was left for dead. It was only by the grace of God that a villager found him and rushed him to John and Lisa Bentley’s orphanage. Through many surgeries and multiple brushes with death, Levi is alive…perhaps the understatement of the year. He is FULL of life. After many years of red tape, their adoption is final.

The fire took its’ toll. Levi’s left arm was amputated and his right hand only has 4 partial nubs. His face and body is quite disfigured with burns. Apparently, he doesn’t seem to understand his limitations.

With tears running down my cheek, I watched as Gabe, Luke and Nate embraced this child that looked like no other child they had ever seen. Never mind the fact that they had never played with a little boy from China. They have never laid there eyes on a child whom the world would see as unlikable and perhaps unattractive as Levi. Not these kids. You would think that they were brothers from the first second they met. At one point I looked over to see them playing some form of “ring around the rosie.” One problem…the object of the game is to hold hands. Luke didn’t miss a beat. He grabbed the stub of Levi’s left arm and continued the circular motion.

At dinner I looked over and saw Levi patiently showing my boys how to use chopsticks. And yes, he works them marvelously.

I watched intently as Luke and Nate noticed Levi’s hidden left amputated arm come out of his shirtsleeve. It was as if it happened in slow motion. I once again was moved to tears as Luke reached over and gently rubbed the end of his stub…as if to say, “It’s gonna be alright, buddy.”

I was reminded of a God who looks at me with all of my flaws, and constantly reminds me of His unwavering love. My God really looks at my malformations and loves me in spite of them? Can He really look past my scars? Is it possible that the same God who threw the stars into the sky is the same God who cares about my pain?

Absolutely. He even knows the number of hairs on my head…although I’m making it easier and easier for Him to keep up with.

Remember that. Just as my boys were able to see past the obvious, and instead concentrate on Levi’s heart…your God does the same for you. He loves you for who you are, not what you or the world thinks you should be.

We, too were that child laying in the field. Without a miracle and the grace of God, we would be dead. Instead, God reaches down, scoops us up and adopts us into His family. What an amazing family it is!

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