John Grisham’s “Calico Joe”

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Heart Warming Story of Forgiveness and Redemption

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

Two of my favorite subjects are addressed in this book: Baseball and Redemption. Two definitions for redemption are as follows: (1) the action of being saved from sin, error, or evil; and (2) the action of regaining possession of something in exchange for a payment, or clearing a debt.

In this well-written short story by Grisham (I read it from cover to cover in one sitting), tells a gut wrenching story of an abusive alcoholic father (who happens to be a professional pitcher for the New York Mets); the story of his eleven year old son; and a rookie phenom nicknamed Calico Joe who is setting records left and right coming up to the majors with the Chicago Cubs.

From the three perspectives: alcoholic abusive father; young impressionable son; and talented young phenom Graham develops the story over what happens to each of these key “players” over the next thirty years. Without giving away the plot – the story keeps you gripped as you hope for a great ending. Grisham delivers (as usual) on developing a great plot that does not disappoint.

The reader is drawn in to the story from the get go, and Grisham continues to draw the reader into the story. It’s as if you are involved emotionally, spiritually, and at times, even physically with the characters of the story. The story is one of great lessons: the wasted or  unexamined life isn’t worth living; death is approaching fast – so make your life and relationships count; second chances are available; redemption and forgiveness are possible for everyone. I highly recommend this book as a terrific read that with an ending that is insightful, wise, and full of hope.

What Can We Learn About the Resurrection of Jesus from the Life of Job? By Dr. James M. Boice

 *“He Lives!”

I do not know if you have had the experience of gaining an insight or receiving a revelation so important that you wished it could be preserved forever. If you have, or if you have even experienced that in a partial way, you will understand the tone in which Job spoke his most widely quoted lines, beginning, I know my Redeemer lives.” We hear something said in a particularly vivid way, and we say, “If I could just remember that!” Or we have an insight and say, “If I could just get that written down so I won’t forget it!”

That was the feeling that Job experienced. He had suffered a great deal, first by the loss of his possessions, then by the loss of his ten children and eventually his own health. His friends came to comfort but actually abused him, charging that his misfortunes were the result of some particularly outstanding sin in his life. In the midst of one reply Job gave vent to the insight to which I am referring.

Job perceived that his story was not being told completely in this life and that a later day would vindicate him. In fact, he perceived that there was an individual who would vindicate him, even Jesus Christ, whom Job calls “my Redeemer.” This individual would stand on the earth in some future day, would raise Job from death, and would enable him to see God.

Can you imagine Job’s excitement as he gave expression to this hope? There were many who shared it in Job’s day; few understood it. So Job said that he wished his words might be preserved. “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!” (Job 19:23-24). Fortunately for us, Job’s wish was fulfilled. Not only were his words preserved in a book; they have been preserved in the Book of books, the Bible.

A Kinsman-Redeemer

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

The first thing we shall look at in Job’s statement is its key word: “Redeemer.” This is a rich and particularly illuminating term. In Hebrew the word is goel, which refers to a relative who performs the office of a redeemer for his kin. We must visualize a situation in which a Hebrew has lost his inheritance through debt. He has mortgaged his estate and, because of a lack of money to meet the debt, is about to lose it. This happened in the case of Naomi and Ruth so that, although they had once possessed the land, they had become impoverished. In such a situation was the goel’s duty, as the next of kin, to buy the inheritance; that is to pay the mortgage and restore the land to his relative. Boaz did that for Ruth.

That custom is what Job refers to in his expression of faith in a divine Redeemer, and it is why this passage must refer to Job’s own resurrection. As Job spoke those words he was in a dire physical condition. He had lost his family and health. He must have imagined that he was about to lose his life, too. He would die. Worms would destroy his body. But that was not the end of the story. For his body, like the land, was his inheritance; and there is one who will redeem it for him. Years may go by, but at the latter day the Redeemer will stand upon the earth and will perform the office of a goel in raising his body. He will bring Job into the presence of God.

I recognize that there are different ways of translating the phrase “Yet in my flesh I will see God” (19:26). Some versions read, “Yet without my flesh.” But those fail to make full sense of the passage. What is redeemed if it is not Job’s body? Not the soul or the spirit certainly, for those are never forfeited. And not Job’s physical possessions, for the passage is not even considering them. It is the body that will be redeemed. Consequently, it is in this body and with his own physical eyes that Job expects to see God.

A second duty of the goel was to redeem by power, if that should be necessary. Abraham performed this duty when Lot had been captured by the four kings who made war against the king of Sodom and his allies. Abraham armed his household, pursued the four kings and their prisoners, and then, attacking by night, recovered both prisoners and spoil. That is what the Lord Jesus Christ did, was it not? He attacked in power—we speak rightly of resurrection power—and broke death’s hold.

Finally, the goal had a duty to avenge a death. Imagine that an Israelite has been attacked and is dying. The goal learns who has struck his relative. He snatches up his own sword and dashes off to avenge his own sword and dashes off to avenge the murder. Our Christ is likewise our avenger. We are dying people, but we have a Redeemer. We read of Him: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death…Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26, 55-57).

A Living Redeemer

As we think about his words in greater detail, we discover next that Job took confidence, not only in the fact that he had a Redeemer, but that he had a living Redeemer. That is important, because a redeemer must be living to perform his function.

If Job had been able to say merely that he had a Redeemer, that would have been wonderful. If he could have said further that the Redeemer of whom he was speaking was the Christ, that would have been even more wonderful. To have known such a one, to have been related to him, to have been able to look back to what he had done—all that would have been both pleasant and comforting. But so far as the present need was concerned it would have been inadequate. A person in that position could say, “I had a Redeemer, and I value that.” But he would undoubtedly add, “But I wish I had him now.” A redeemer must be living if he is to buy back the estate, recover the prisoners, and defeat the enemy.

Job does not say that he had a Redeemer. He says that he has a Redeemer and he is living. We too have a living Redeemer, the same Redeemer, who is Jesus.

That is the thrust of our testimony on Easter Sunday. And indeed on every other Lord’s Day. We testify that Jesus rose from the dead and that he ever lives to help all who call upon him. The evidences for this are overwhelming. There is the evidence of the narratives themselves. They are quite evidently four separate and independent accounts, for if they were not, there would not be so many apparent discrepancies—the time at which the women went to the tomb, the number of angels and so on. At the same time, it is also obvious that there is a deep harmony among them—not a superficial harmony but rather a detailed harmony that is increasingly evident as the accounts are analyzed. In fact, the situation is precisely what we would expect if the accounts are four independent records of those who were eyewitnesses.

One writer summarized the evidence like this:

It is plain that these accounts must be either a record of facts that actually occurred, or else fictions. If fictions, they must have been fabricated in one of two ways, either independently of one another, or in collusion with one another. They cannot have been made up independently; the agreements are too marked and too many. They cannot have been made up in collusion…the apparent discrepancies are too numerous and too noticeable. Not made up independently, not made up in collusion, therefore, it is evident they were not made up at all. They are a true relation of facts as they actually occurred (R.A. Torrey, The Bible and Its Christ: Being Noonday Talks with Business Men on Faith and Unbelief, New York: Revell, 1904-1906, pp. 60-61).

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is also proved by the transformed lives of the disciples. Before the resurrection two negative charges could be made against them; and these by their own confession. First, they had failed to understand Jesus’ teaching about the crucifixion and resurrection. Second, they were cowardly. Peter had said that he would defend Jesus to the death and never deny him. But on the night of the arrest he did deny Him. He abandoned Him, as did the other disciples. On the day of the resurrection, but before Jesus had appeared to them in the upper room, we find them hiding in fear of the Jews. Yet hours later they were standing up boldly in Jerusalem to denounce the execution of Jesus and call for faith in Him. Moreover, when they were arrested later we do not find them cowering in fear of the future but rather giving full testimony to Christian faith and doctrine. What made the difference? What made cowards bold, a scattering body of individuals a cohesive force, a disillusioned following evangelists? Only one thing accounts for it: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are many evidences, but I cannot help but mention a third—the change in the day of worship. Before the resurrection the followers of Christ worshipped, as did all Jews, on Saturday. The need to do this would not even have been questioned—it had been practiced for centuries. Yet from that time on we find the newly formed body of Christians meeting, not on Saturday, but on the first day of the week, Sunday. Clearly it was because of Jesus’ resurrection.

A Personal Redeemer

There is a third point to Job’s statement. Not only does Job declare that he has a Redeemer, not only does he affirm that He is living Redeemer—he adds, quite properly, that He is his Redeemer. “My” is the word he uses. “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Do you know that “my” in relationship to Jesus Christ? It is a reminder of the need for personal religion.

This is what we desire, is it not? We are persons, and we desire personal relationships. We are made in God’s image, as persons; so we desire a personal relationship with God.

In my church I notice that the young people often have a great deal of appreciation for one another. There are young women, for instance, who greatly appreciate certain young men. And there are young men who appreciate certain young women, even though they sometimes fail to say so. That is a wonderful thing. I am glad that virtue and good looks are noticed. But I have observed that in addition there are also many young women who would like to be able to say, not only, “Look at that fellow; how handsome he is!” but also, “Look at my fellow.” And some of the young men would like to say, “Look at my girl.” Admiration is good, but personal involvement is better.

That is our privilege in relation to Christ. It is good to admire Him. He is the risen Lord of glory after all; it would be foolish not to do so. But how much better to know Him personally, as Job did. Jesus came to earth to die for sin and to rise again. Can you say, “My God came as my Redeemer to die for my sin and to rise again for my justification? You give no real evidence of being a Christian until you can.

Do not delay. Do not say, “I’ll do it next year.” I can give no guarantee that you will be here next year. On the contrary, some who read these words will not be. Even tomorrow may be too late. The Bible says, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Assurance

I would also like you to possess Job’s assurance. That is the fourth point. Not only does Job refer to his Redeemer and declare that he is both a living and personal Redeemer, he also says that he knows all these things: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.”  You should possess such assurance if you are a Christian.

I do not know why some people think that it is meritorious to express doubt in matters of religion. They think that it is somehow vain or impolite to be certain and that it is humble and therefore desirable to say, “I do not know…I hope so…I would like to believe…I think…” Nothing could be more faulty. The humble person is the one who bows before God’s revelation and accepts it because of who God is. It is the proud man who thinks he knows enough about anything to doubt God. Besides, God says that doubt is the equivalent of calling Him a liar; it is as much to say that His word is untrustworthy (cf. 1 John 5:10). Jesus lives! Believe it! Declare it! Act upon it! Say with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, we shall live. His resurrection is the pledge of our own.

Then, too, we shall see God. This is the second benefit. We shall live again and in that living form shall see God. What a wonderful thought. And how much more wonderful than anything else that might be said. Notice that Job did not say, “I shall see heaven.” That was true, but it was relatively unimportant compared to the fact that he would see God. Spurgeon wrote, “He does not say, ‘I shall see the pearly gates, I shall see the walls of jasper, I shall see the crowns of gold and the harps of harmony,’ but ‘I shall see God’; as if that were the sub and substance of heaven” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “I know that My Redeemer Lives,” in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol.9, Pasadena, Tex.: Pilgrim, Tex.: Pilgrim Publications, 1969, 214.) Nor does he say, “I shall see the holy angels.” That would have been a magnificent sight, at least it seems so to us we look through the eyes of John the evangelist, who wrote the book of Revelation. I find  few scenes more thrilling than John’s description. But that too pales beside the gaze of the soul on God. Notice, finally, that Job did not even say, ”I shall see those of this world who have gone before me,” even though that would be a great joy and his departed children would be among them. Job would see all these things: the pearly gates, the holy angels, and his children. But over and above and infinitely more glorious than any of those, he would see God.

Do not think that this is a narrow vista, wonderful but small, like looking at one of those old-fashioned pastoral scenes within a candy egg. God is infinite. To see God is to experience perfect contentment and to be satisfied in all one’s faculties.

 Living Memorials

Our conclusion is this: If Job, who lived at the dawn of recorded history, centuries before the time of the Lord Jesus Christ—if Job knew these things, how much more should we know them, we who are aware of Christ’s resurrection and have witnessed his power in our lives. Job lived in a dark and misty time, before the dawning of the Lord Jesus Christ, that sun of righteousness. Job lived in an age before Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. If he had failed to understand about the resurrection and had failed to believe in it, who could blame him? Nobody. Yet he believed. How much more than should we?

Can you say with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God”? If so, then live in that assurance. Do not fear death. During the next twelve months death will certainly come for some, but there will also be a resurrection. Besides, Jesus is also coming; and if that should happen soon, He will receive us all.

I add one more thought. We believe these truths, yes. But let us not only believe them; let us pass them on so that others may share in this resurrection faith also. What was Job’s desire after all? It was that his words might be preserved and that his faith in the resurrection might be saved for coming generations. The resurrection hope has come down to us through many centuries of church history. Let it pass to our children and to our children’s children until the living Lord Jesus Christ returns in His glory. Jesus Christ lives. He lives! Then let us tell others, and let us shout with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.”

*”He Lives” is an Easter Sermon excerpted from Chapter One in James Boice, The Christ of the Empty Tomb, Chicago, Moody Press, 1985; reprinted in 2008. James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Book Review: Salvation Accomplished By The Son by Robert A. Peterson

Brilliant and Balanced Account of Christ’s Work on Our Behalf

 Dr. Peterson gives four reasons for reading this book in his introduction: 1) The current debate over the meaning of Christ’s death; 2) The abysmal failure of evangelicals’ to teach that not only the death of Christ saves sinners, but also the significance of the resurrection in relationship to salvation (Scripture teaches that a literal bodily resurrection is absolutely ESSENTIAL to Christ’s saving work); 3) Jesus’ death and resurrection do not stand alone – but are part and parcel of the GREATEST STORY ever told – “His becoming a genuine human being and living victoriously are essential prerequisites for his death and resurrection. If he had not become one of us, he could not have died in our place. If he had sinned, his death could not have rescued others; he would have needed rescue himself.” And 4) Events (Christ’s death and resurrection) do not interpret themselves; they need words to explain them.

I would like to add a fifth reason to read this book: Christians need to go deeper in our understanding of the gospel and integrate this into our worldview of everything. Dr. Peterson’s book is not an easy read, it is lengthy, but well worth the effort because you will come out of reading this book with a greater appreciation of the central message of the Bible, of the depth of God’s love and work on our behalf, and you will have a greater appreciation of the person and work of Christ – especially how aspects of His present work (post-resurrection) impact our lives in the here and now. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it is simply outstanding. He brilliantly integrates Systematic and Biblical Theology and balances this out with its practical ramifications for all of life with Christ at the center. My prediction is that it will be the new standard textbook replacing John Stott’s – The Cross of Christ – for 21st century students of the Person and Work of Christ.

Book Review: After You’ve Blown It by Erwin W. Lutzer

Helping You Reconcile With God and Others

In the opening chapter of this concise book (less than 100 pages) *Lutzer writes, “Strictly speaking, of course, not one of us deserves redemption. God owes us nothing, but He nevertheless offers His undeserved grace. Though we deserve damnation, He invites each of us to be redeemed. Worthy or not, we come to Him to receive forgiveness and the assurance that God still has a plan for our lives.”

Using Biblical stories and modern applications to those stories this is a book about how there is hope for anyone, no matter how bad they have blown it, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I highly recommend this book especially for the following types of people:

1)    Those who think they are too “bad” to be saved.

2)    Those who think they are “good” and don’t need to be saved.

3)    Those who are enmity with God and know it – and aren’t sure how to remedy it.

4)    Those who are at enmity with others – and aren’t sure how to remedy it.

5)    Those who need to be reminded that God has a plan for them, and that no matter how bad you’ve blown it – there is hope for you because of the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

6)    Those of you who help others in counseling ministries.

It’s a fantastic little book – concise, full of Biblical wisdom, a clear gospel presentation, and leads and will encourage and give you hope. I also recommend it highly as a gift to give to those who are confused, discouraged, and broken over their sin.

*Since 1980, Erwin W. Lutzer has served as senior pastor of the world-famous Moody Church in Chicago, where he provide leadership to Chicago pastors. Dr. Lutzer earned his B.Th. from Winnipeg Bible College, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, an M.A. in philosophy from Loyola University, an LL.D. from Simon Greenleaf School of Law, and a D.D. from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary.

Dr. Lutzer is a featured radio speaker on the Moody Broadcasting Network and the author of numerous books, including The Vanishing Power of DeathCries from the Cross, the best-selling One Minute Before You Die and Hitler’s Cross, which received the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (EPCA) Gold Medallion Book Award. He speaks both nationally and internationally at Bible conferences and tours and has led tours of the cities of the Protestant Reformation in Europe.

Dr. Lutzer and his wife, Rebecca, live in the Chicago area and are the parents of three grown children. (Courtesy of Multnomah Publishers)