These are the stories that cause knots in my stomach, and bring tears to my eyes. I sit here in Panera, drinking coffee, reflecting on a completed first semester in a new university. But my mind returns to the stories of redemption, easy to find on a daily basis, and the reminder of how great God is despite my weaknesses.
Attached here find another tale of tragedy and hope. http://beaconnews.suntimes.com/news/9439604-418/court-redemption.html
If there is any fruit to be produced, or any glory to be found, it is in a reflection of God’s redemptive work in the lives of many people, because of His great love demonstrated through His mission to come to earth in the form of an infant to die in our place for our sins.
Here is the story. It is exciting to read each one, but they are all the same – someone messes up royally. There is so much potential to be reached, and they continue to fail. And unlike the movies, where the protagonist reaches a certain point and then turns things around (insert Tom Cruise here), our stories all have the main character continuing in their aberrant behavior. There seems to be no hope…and we may even forget about them. They are so low that they are out of sight and out of reach. But not for God. He is ever present with them. David wrote this after reflecting on one of those dark time:
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12 NLT)
So why are these stories so exciting to read, if they are all the same? Because these stores represent each of us. As the scripture says, “In those days you (us – my emphasis) were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13 NLT).
Don’t you just want to jump up-and-down when you read that, and when you think of what God has done for us to get us off this roller coaster of sin, loneliness and despair? I start bouncing in my chair at the thought of all this…and I suddenly remember that I am sitting in Panera. The lady next to me in the other booth is looking at me and my coffee. Maybe it’s not coffee, lady.
OK, big finish: here is my favorite Christmas verse –
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child, and since you are His child, God has made you His heir. (Galatians 4:4-7 NLT). Sounds like there’s more under the tree than another i-something or other.
Do you see it? Jesus Christ is born! OK, it’s not Luke’s story or Matthew’s account. But it is the Christmas account. Jesus came just at the right time: for all of humanity in Bethlehem; and for all of me when I was 20 years old, lost in sin and desperate for meaning. Now I am no longer a slave, but God’s child! Halleluia! And each and every redemption story that I read reminds me of how good God is, and how He has done the same for hundreds of other lost souls. This gets me even more excited – redemption is here! That lady is staring again. Just let her stare. Jesus came for her as well. Maybe this is the right time for her!