This weeks 'thought' comes to you from a recently published book entitled, "Red Like Blood," by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington. The subtitle is "Confrontations with Grace" -- and that's exactly what the book is about -- the uncanny nature of God's grace as he works in the life of a pastor's kid and a prodigal who strayed far from God.
Derek Thomas of Reformed Theological Seminary sums up this book well when he writes: "It is difficult to exaggerate the usefulness of this book in communicating what grace means in the lives of individuals." And I would add, there are few books as candid and real and transparent as this one -- which may make some Christians a bit uneasy if they prefer a more sanitized expression of faith and trust in Christ.
Yet, if you have an unbelieving friend who wants to see if Christianity is real, and wants to know if Christians will jump down into the trenches of life with them and get a little mud on their clothes in order to rescue the lost or straying, this is the book for them. Likewise, after you read the book, the authors would like to hear from you on their blog, which you can access by going to: www.RedLikeBlood.com Enjoy.
"I have found that I am like a balloon. I inflate quite easily, meaning it doesn't take much to make me feel like I am better than everyone else. It never has. And I am never more dangerous than when I am feeling good about me.
was flying high in the sixth grade because of school and sports and mostly because I had the cutest girlfriend on the face of the earth. One day our bald and muscular gym teacher, Mr. Boyle, picked me as his partner to take on the entire sixth grade in dodgeball. That alone started my balloon inflating. And when we actually beat them three times in a row, my balloon couldn't have possibly held more air.
I proceeded to the locker room, found the weakest kid in the school, and repeatedly snapped him with a towel while the other kids laughed. He was naked and wet from the shower. That kid was known for only one thing -- a very bad case of psoriasis or eczema or both. Scaly brown skin covered most of his body. Ironically, he also had the misfortune of having a matching name, Mark Weltyde. When I was done tormenting him with the towel, I christened him, Marks of Welted Hyde.
As soon as I walked out of the locker room, Mr. Boyle called me into his office. I cringe when I think of how cocky I was in this next part. I actually sauntered into his office, saluted, and said, "Bob Bevington reporting for duty, sir!" I must have thought he wanted to talk about us taking on the sixth grade in a tug-of-war. Instead, he told me he was ashamed to find out how I treated Mark. My balloon instantly popped and my body went limp. He told me to think about it, and I've done so for more than forty years. But amazingly I still inflate almost as fast as ever.
I have never forgotten Mark or Mr. Boyle or what an ass I can be. I apologized to Mark within the hour, but not the way I would today. For the next couple years, I attempted to make up for the locker room episode by treating Mark like a brother. I protected him from all lurking dangers. And I grew to like him. He was gentle and kind. And he could be funny. I wish I could find him. If you can help me with that, I'd appreciate it..."
Then he goes on to speak of one of his regular patients who was distraught over the fact that her grandson was in prison (a Christian man who had never really done anything terribly wrong) for shaking his baby son to death. He continues:
"I immediately had a flashback. The wee hours of a night twenty years prior when, exhausted and sleep-deprived and angry because Rita refused to get up, I stormed into the nursery and found myself within a hair's breadth of shaking my own son.
I exchanged letters with that young man while he was in jail awaiting his sentencing. He said he didn't mean to do it. He said he was ready to accept the consequences, which was a good thing, because he got life in prison with no chance of parole for fifteen years. His wife divorced him, sued him, and swore he would never see their two other children. There, but for the grace of God, go I. And I shudder to know it's true.
The world is broken and you and I are broken for the same reason: sin. Our sins fly under the banner of a Declaration of Independence from God. They are acts of cosmic treason in which we disregard God and put other gods in his place. I began consciously worshipping other gods at eleven and have been rotating gods in ever since.
Ultimately our displays of sin reveal the fact that although we say we love God, we love ourselves more. We fail to uphold his glory because we want it for ourselves.
Our default mode is self-centeredness and not God-centeredness. Our sins throw us out of tune, out of touch, and eventually out of joy and out of hope because we are not doing what we were created to do. We're sad and disappointed, and our relationships are messy. Our happiness, pleasure, and contentment are either artificial or short-lived or both. And collectively we account for the brokenness of the world.
Only Jesus lived a sinless life, so only Jesus was perfectly whole. Jesus never failed to love the Father. Jesus never hid any secret objects of worship in the rafters of his basement. He never inflated like a balloon. He could look his enemies in the eye and say, 'I always do the things that are pleasing to the Father.' Jesus hung on the cross where his body was broken so that our souls could be made whole. Not only was his body broken for us, his relationship with the Father was broken as well. Why? So that our relationship with a holy God could be restored forever. We are accepted, approved, and blessed by God on behalf of another -- Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man. He's my Savior. He's my hope. Even if I had shaken my son to death and spent the rest of my life in prison, he's my hope."
The Good News is that He can be your Savior and your hope, as well. You can be "accepted and approved and blessed by God," not because you deserve it (no one does) but because the Sinless One bore the guilt, and took upon Himself both the condemnation and punishment of all who would ever believe in Jesus.
"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree," says I Peter 2:24, "that we might die to sins and live to righteousness -- by His wounds you have been healed." (See also Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved," says the apostle Paul in Acts 16:31. Look to Him, lean on Him, trust in Him, cast the full weight of your lost soul upon Him alone to save you and all that He purchased for the ungodly will become your personal and eternal possession. Your past will be erased, and your future secured, regardless of what that past may include.
In the Service of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff