Monday, November 07, 2011

The Christmas Shoppe

I finished reading the book of Job last night. I think it's my seventh time through, and while it's not an easy book to read, there is always something new for me to learn. This time is was a lesson about something I've never really associated with Job: forgiveness. Let me give you a little history to catch you up if you aren't already familiar with his story.

Job was a true man of God, upright and righteous and God had blessed him greatly for his faith. Satan told God that the only reason that Job loved God was because God had only allowed good to happen to him. God gave Satan permission to attack Job's life. In one day, all of his flocks were destroyed and all his children killed. Job gave praise to God (proving his righteousness and faith), through ashes over himself and grieved. When he didn't deny God, Satan complained again that he hadn't been allowed to touch Job personally. So God again gave permission, and Satan gave Job a terrible case of boils and harangued his sleep with nightmares. Job was truly miserable, so three of his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to mourn with him. For seven days they sat silent with him as he mourned his losses.

Then Job began a series of speeches crying out about the unfairness of his misery, asking God for a trial, to give him some reason for all of his losses. Each of his friends displayed their complete unworthiness of that title by attacking Job's faith and righteousness. Each man accused Job of hidden sins that God was punishing and exposing. Some of the attacks were awful, listing specific and horrific deeds that Job was completely innocent of. After each of their speeches, Job would defend himself and again beg the opportunity to talk to God about the reasons for the loss.

Finally after 37 chapters of exchanges between the men, including some by a Johnny-come-lately, named Elihu, who also threw in some attacks on Job, God appears and puts them all to shame. God asks some unanswerable questions of Job (and the men) proving His righteousness and the impossibility of understanding all that He does. Then He turns on the three friends (ignoring Elihu) and informs them that Job will have to pray for them to be forgiven for their sins and orders them to bring some animals for sacrifice.

Then comes a line I never really paid attention to before last night: When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Job 42:10. Yes, God restored all of Job's fortunes to him, including giving him the same amount of children as had died, but only after Job forgave his friends! 

What a powerful and important point! God never did answer Job's questions, so he never knew why God allowed him to suffer as he did. And at the end of God's speech, Job asks for forgiveness himself and states that he will sit in his ashes and repent of his insolence. God does not tell Job "If you forgive your friends, I will restore your fortunes." He simply told Job to pray for his friends and that He would accept those prayers in Job's name. Imagine Job's joy and surprise when after he forgave his friends (which probably isn't an appropriate term after how they treated him, but the Bible uses it, so I'll use it as well), God blessed him beyond reckoning!

It makes me wonder if there are people that I have refused to forgive and have therefore blocked off God's blessings in my life. Obviously there is a three step process here that God wants us to see: ask for forgiveness for self, forgive others and ask God to forgive them as well, and receive His blessings. I've asked God to show me any places in my life where I may be holding on to unforgiveness. Consider your own heart today to see if maybe you should do the same.

The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson is a sweet holiday novella with a message of hope for readers. Susanna Elton is still settling into her job as city manager of Parrish Springs when newcomer Matilda Honeycutt moves to town and purchases a building, intending to open a new store. As Matilda begins to ready the store for opening, the whole town is thrown into controversy. A councilman is angry that she outbid him on the building and stirs up trouble against her, but even that doesn't create the trouble that The Christmas Shoppe's opening does. Instead of being filled with Christmas decor or gifts, the shelves are filled with broken  and dirty mismatched merchandise. Newspaperman Tommy Thompson hasn't celebrated Christmas in several years, since his heart was broken, and he's become disillusioned with small town living, especially once the rumors start to fly about The Christmas Shoppe, but when he is interested when Matilda refuses to let him interview her. He's even more intrigued when he begins witnessing strange things happening inside the store, and Matilda's fiercest enemies suddenly become her strongest allies. What is it about this little store that could completely change a town? Carlson's writing is, as always, enjoyable and keeps readers hooked with strong characters and a fascinating concept. The book's message will have readers considering their own hearts and just what gift they need most this Christmas. 

Thank you to Revell Books for providing me with a copy of this book for review. Available November 2011 from Revell, a division of the Baker Publishing Group at your favorite bookseller.