Wednesday, October 6, 2010

God's Promise of Comfort

Psalm 23:4 "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."

My last Psalm 23 post was about the promise of God's presence. Even with he was fleeing for his life, David found comfort in knowing that God was with him, fully armed with His rod and staff. "For thou art with me" shows the omnipresence of God. Jehovah~Shammah, "Jehovah is there".

The history behind Jehovah~Shammah is found in the book of Ezekiel. God chose the prophet Ezekiel to announce to the nation of Israel that they have been taken as captives because of their sins. At one time, they were a proud nation, but chose to reject God over and over again. God allowed the Babylonians to attack and destroy Jerusalem. Their beloved Solomon's temple lay ransacked and in ruin. Those that survived were taken away as captives. No longer stiff-necked and prideful, the survivors felt as if God had abandoned them and were genuinely sorry for their sin.

Mrs. George writes, "In fact, their sorrow was so deep that they could not even sing their beloved songs about the beauty of Zion, of Jerusalem, but instead hung their harps on the willow trees... and wept. (Psalm 137).

God, Who is "I Am that I Am" and is always there, spoke to Ezekiel and told him that He would restore the land of Judah and return his people to it!

Mrs. George talked about what makes our God unique. Throughout history, He's always been with his chosen people. They didn't have to be in a particular place to have His presence with them.

That got me to thinking:

Adam walked with God in the cool of the day in the Garden. Noah found grace in His eyes and knew God was with him as he took shelter in the ark for well over a year. Abraham talked with the incarnate Christ at an impromptu meal in front of his tent and at the top of Mt. Moriah . Jacob wrestled with Him. Moses heard His voice in a burning bush and saw the back of His glory. He led the Children of Israel through the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. His Shekinah glory dwelt in the newly constructed tabernacle for 40 years of wandering as well as throughout OT history. Joshua saw him as the Captain of the Host, ready and armed to fight for Israel. Gideon saw him on the threshing floor. He was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego. Finally, He came as the promised Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God ~ Redeemer, Savior, and Friend ~ and now resides within those of us who know Him as our Savior!

Isn't that SO cool?

Comfort is There:

Remember that valley of the shadow of death? It's a place of constant danger, but take comfort because our Shepherd is armed!

The Rod is There:

Sheep have no defenses. They completely rely on their Shepherd to protect them. This rod/club is made from oak and is about 2 feet long. They carve a hole into it and thread in a loop to either be tied to the shepherd's belt or so that it can hang from his wrist. Sometimes metal spikes are driven in so that it can be used to kill an attacking animal.

The rod is an instrument of protection and death. The shepherd uses it to swing before him through the tall grass, preparing the way for the sheep. It can frighten away enemies, and can be used to kill any enemies of his flock, from animals to robbers.

The Staff is There:

Not only does our Shepherd defend and protect us, He directs us and points out the way. That's what the staff is for. In comparison to the rod, the staff is about 6 feet in length. It helps the shepherd climb up and over rocks, checking for their stability before he leads his sheep to there. He can check out crevices that snakes and scorpions can hide in that can harm his flock. His staff prods loitering sheep and can separate those that are fighting.

The crook on the other end of the staff can be used to restrain or guide a sheep as well as keep it from falling. And, of course, we've all seen the picture of the Shepherd rescuing a sheep that's wandered away from the fold.

The staff draws the flock together and keeps them from wandering. He counts the sheep with it by lightly tapping each one on the head as it enters the sheepfold. "A touch of the staff becomes a gesture of intimacy while walking, even though the shepherd towers over the sheep." The staff also coaxes the sheep to follow. "For instance, a tap on a back legs brings a sheep into position, and a tap on the head of the lead sheep makes it lie down so that the others will follow."

So, during difficult times, remember:

The place ~ the valley of the shadow of death.
The proclamation ~ I will fear no evil.
God's presence ~ for thou art with me.
God's protection ~ thy rod and thy staff.
God's promise ~ they comfort me.

"He's still there, and He sees all my sorrow.
He's still there when everything goes wrong.
He hears me when I cry in desperation.
He feels the pain of all my deep frustration.
He's still there. He sees beyond tomorrow.
He's still there, His love is ever strong.
He'll sustain through every care,
My lonely hours He'll share.
For beyond the shadow, Jesus is still there.
Yes, beyond the shadow, Jesus is still there.
He's still there."

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Redemption Series

If you like contemporary Christian fiction and aren't acquainted with Karen Kingsbury yet, you've got begin with her Redemption series!

Karen wrote this series with Gary Smalley, who is a well-known relationship expert. This series of five books begins with "Redemption" and introduces the reader to the Baxter family.

Dr. John Baxter and his wife, Elizabeth have 5 children ~ 4 daughters, Brooke, Kari, Ashley and Erin ~ and a son, Luke. Brooke and her husband are doctors and have 2 young daughters. Kari is a fashion model and her husband is a professor at the local university. Erin and her husband have recently moved to Texas. Ashley, who has returned home from Paris, considers herself to be the "black sheep of the family" and is a single mother. Luke is still living at home and is unforgiving to Ashley because of the choices she's made in life.

Redemption revolves around Kari and her husband, Tim. When Kari finds out that Tim has been having an affair with a student, she returns home to sort things out. However, when Ryan, an old flame from her past shows up, and Kari is more confused than ever. How can she forgive her husband? What about her renewed feelings for Ryan? What will she do? This is a story of love at all costs.

Remember is about Ashley and what happened to her in Paris. She returned home pregnant and jaded ~ unforgiven by her brother, Luke. She considers herself hopeless, so why doesn't Landon Blake leave her alone? Can working in a nursing home facility somehow help her come to grips with her past? This story is a journey from tragedy to healing.

Return is the story of Luke. The much-loved youngest and only son of John and Elizabeth is quite the golden boy. He seems to stand firm in his faith, but is judgemental toward others, especially his sister, Ashley. However, in the span of one day ~ September 10-11, 2001 ~ his life completely changes. Luke leaves his faith and his family. This is a story of tenacious love and longing for a lost son.

Rejoice is the story of Brooke and her husband, Peter. They are already struggling in their marriage when they are faced with the single worst moment ever. What was supposed to be a pool party for their two daughters ends in disaster leaving their three-year old, Hayley, fighting for her life. Peter, who blames himself for the accident, withdraws from his family and tries to find ways to ease his pain. This is a story of unspeakable loss and the overwhelming miracle of new life.

Reunion is the story of John & Elizabeth. In this final book of the Redemption series, plans are being made for a family reunion. Nearly all the adult Baxter children have a reason to celebrate ~ except one. As the preparations get under way, a deadly diagnosis sends shock waves through the Baxter family and threatens to tear them apart. This is a story of God's grace and redemption, his victory even in the most difficult times.

I liked these books because the characters were "real" Christian people who struggle. All Christian men & women struggle with lust, pride, guilt and fear. It's how we deal with it that makes us different from the world.

Although some aspects of the books are a little typical ~ the characters are wealthy, attractive, popular and talented ~ it doesn't get in the way of the story. Karen delves into their souls and you see a real person.