Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Shadow of Colossus

Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


T.L. Higley holds a degree in English Literature and has written three previous novels, including Fallen from Babel, and more than fifty drama productions for church ministry. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece and other myth systems, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and four children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080544730X
ISBN-13: 978-0805447309

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Rhodes, 227 bc

Seven Days Before the Great Quake


In the deceitful calm of the days preceding disaster, while Rhodes still glittered like a white jewel in the Aegean, Tessa of Delos planned to open her wrists.

The death of her body was long overdue. Her soul had died ten years ago.

Ten years this day.

Tessa took in a breath of salty air and shivered. From her lofty position outside Glaucus's hillside home, she watched the populace's torches flicker to life in the dusk. Across the city the day's tumult at the docks slowed. The massive statue of Helios at the harbor's frothy mouth caught the sun's last rays as it slipped into a cobalt sea. The torch he thrust skyward seem to burst aflame, as though lit by the sun god himself.

He had been her only constant these ten years, this giant in the likeness of Helios. A silent sentinel who kept vigil as life ripped freedom and hope from her. Painful as it was, tonight she wanted only to remember. To be alone, to remember, and to mourn.

"Tessa!" A wine-sodden voice erupted from the open door behind her.

The symposium had begun only minutes ago, but Glaucus was already deep into his cups. Bad form in any company, thought Tessa, but Glaucus rarely cared. Tessa inhaled the tang of sea air again and placed a steadying hand against the smooth alabaster column supporting the roof. She did not answer, nor turn, when she heard her fat master shuffle onto the portico.

"Get yourself back into the house!" Glaucus punctuated his command with a substantial belch.

"Soon," she said. "I wish to watch the sun god take his leave."

A household servant crept out and set two torches blazing. An oily smell surged, then dissipated. From the house floated harsh laughter mingled with the tinny sound of a flute.

Glaucus pushed his belly against her back and grabbed her arm. The linen chitôn she'd taken care to arrange perfectly fell away, exposing her shoulder. She reached to replace it, but Glaucus caught her hand. He brought his mouth close to her ear, and she could smell his breath, foul as days-old fish.

"The others are asking for you. `Where is your hetaera?' they say. `The one with more opinions than Carthage has ships.'"

Tessa closed her eyes. She had long entertained Glaucus's political friends with her outspoken thoughts on government and power. While his wife remained hidden away in the women's quarters, Glaucus's hetaera was displayed like an expensive pet with sharp teeth. Tessa had once believed she led an enviable life, but the years had stripped her of her illusions.

She stroked the polished filigree of the gold necklace encircling her throat and remembered when Glaucus fastened it there, a gilding for his personal figure of bronze.

"Now, Tessa." Glaucus pulled her toward the door.

Her heart reached for the statue, clinging to her first memory of it, when Delos had been home and innocence had still been hers.

When I open my wrists, I will do it there.


Ω


The andrôn, central room of the men’s quarters, smelled of roasted meat and burning olive oil. Glaucus paused in the doorway, awaiting the attention of those who had curried enough of his favor to be invited tonight. When the small crowd lounging on low couches at the room’s perimeter turned his way, he pushed her into the lamp-lit center. “Tessa, everyone,” he shouted. “Making a grand entrance!”

The room laughed and clapped, then returned their attention to the food and wine on the low tables beside them. In the corner, a young girl dressed in gauzy fabric blew thin streams of air into a small flute. Tessa’s eyes locked onto the girl’s for a moment. A private understanding passed between them that they were both objects of entertainment, and the girl looked away, as though ashamed to be seen so clearly. A desire to protect the girl surfaced in Tessa, a maternal feeling that of late seemed only a breath away.

Glaucus pulled her to a couch and forced her down onto the gold-trimmed red cushions. He lowered himself at her right and leaned against her possessively. A black bowl with gold designs waited in the center of their table, and Glaucus ladled wine from it into a goblet for her. To the room he said, “To Tessa—always the center of attention!” He raised his own cup, and his guests did the same.

Tessa’s gaze swept the room, taking in the majority of men and the few women reclining against them. The moment was suspended, with cups raised toward her, drunken and insincere smiles affixed to faces, lamplight flickering across tables piled with grapes and almonds and figs, and the flute’s lament behind it all.

Will I remember this night, even in the afterlife?

“To Tessa!” Shouts went round the room, cups were drained and thumped back to tables, and the party quickened around her.

Glaucus reached for her, but she pushed him away. He laughed. “It would appear my Tessa is a bit high-spirited tonight,” he said to the others. “And what shall be done with a mischievous hetaera?” His thick-lipped smile and raised eyebrow took in the room and elicited another round of laughter. He nodded, then turned his attention to the man on his right, resuming a conversation whose beginning she must have missed.

“Your objections earlier to the naturalization of the Jews are noted, Spiro. But to extend citizenship to the foreigners among us can often be expedient.” Tessa could not see Spiro, his frame completely blocked by the bulk of Glaucus beside her, but his voice poured like warm oil. Yet underneath his smooth tones, Tessa heard the cold iron of anger. He was one of few among the strategoi to contradict Glaucus publicly.

“Like-minded foreigners, perhaps,” Spiro said. “But the Jews make it no secret that they despise our Greek ways. They disdain even our proudest achievement, our Helios of the harbor. They must be expunged, not embraced by weak-willed politicians who—”

Glaucus raised a pudgy hand. “You presume an authority not yours, Spiro.”

“Only a matter of time, Glaucus.”

Glaucus snorted. “Again you presume. The people of this island are too clever to choose seductive charm over solid leadership.”

Spiro laughed quietly. “Why, Glaucus, seductive charm? I didn’t realize you had noticed.”

Glaucus shook his head. “Perhaps the women are affected, but it is the men who vote.”

Tessa sensed Spiro lean forward, his eyes now on her. “And we both know where men find their opinions.”

Glaucus snorted again and swung his legs to the floor. It took several tries to raise his ponderous body from the cushions. “Get drunk, Spiro. Enjoy your delusions for one more night. But next week I sail to Crete, and I expect them to fully support my efforts.”

He nudged Tessa with a sandaled toe. “Don’t go anywhere. I will be back.”

Tessa watched him leave the room, relief at his temporary absence flooding her. She was to travel to Crete with him next week, though she had no intention of ever stepping onto the ship.

The previously unseen Spiro slid to her couch now, an elbow on the cushion Glaucus had just vacated. He was older than she, perhaps thirty, clean-shaven like most of the others but wore his jetblack hair longer, braided away from his face and falling just above his shoulders. His eyes, deep set and darker than the night sea, studied hers. A smile played at his lips. “What are you still doing with that bore, Tessa? You could do better.”

“One slave master is as another. To have something better is only to be free.” She was not truly Glaucus’s slave in the usual sense, and Spiro knew it, but it made little difference.

Spiro smiled fully now, and his gaze traveled from her eyes, slowly down to her waist. He took liberties, but Tessa had long ago become heedless of offense.

“That is what I like about you, Tessa. One never meets a hetaera who speaks of freedom; they are resolved to their place. But you are a woman like no other in Rhodes.”

“Why should I not be free?”

Spiro chuckled softly and inched closer. “Why, indeed? Ask the gods, who make some women wives and give others as slaves.”

Spiro’s hand skimmed the cushions and came to rest on her thigh. “If you were mine, Tessa, I would treat you as the equal you deserve to be. Glaucus acts as though he owns you, but we all know he pays dearly for your favors. Perhaps it is you who owns him.” Spiro’s fingers dug into her leg, and his eyes roamed her face and body again. Tessa felt neither pleasure nor disgust, a reminder that her heart had been cast from bronze. But a flicker of fear challenged her composure. Spiro, she knew, was like one of the mighty Median horses: raw power held in check, capable of trampling the innocent if unleashed.

A shadow loomed above them, but Spiro did not remove his hand. Instead, he arched a perfect eyebrow at Glaucus and smiled. Tessa expected a flash of anger, but Glaucus laughed. “First, you think to rule the island, Spiro, and now you think to steal Tessa from me, as though she has the free will to choose whom she wants?” Spiro shrugged and moved to the next couch.

Glaucus plopped down between them again. “She will never be yours, Spiro. Even when I am dead, her owner will only hand her to the next man in line to have paid for her.” He waggled a finger at Tessa. “She is worth waiting for, though, I can tell you.” Another coarse laugh.

Something broke loose in Tessa then. Caused perhaps by the vow taken while drinking in the sight of the harbor’s bronze statue, and the assurance that soon nothing she did now would hold consequence for her. Or perhaps it was ten years of bondage, commemorated this night with nothing more than continued abuse.

Whatever the reason, she rose to her feet. The room silenced, as though a goddess had ascended a pedestal. She lifted her voice. “May the gods deal with you as you have mistreated me, Glaucus of Rhodes. I will have no part of you.”

Glaucus grabbed her arm. “Your heart is not in the festivities tonight, my dear. I understand. I will meet you in the inner courtyard later.”

He did this to save face, they both knew. Tessa wrenched her arm free of his clutches, glanced at Spiro, and felt a chill at the look in his eyes. She raised her chin and glided from the room.

In the hall outside the andrôn, she looked both directions. She had no desire to stay, yet the world outside the house was no more pleasant or safe for her. She turned from the front door and moved deeper into the house.

The hallway opened to a courtyard, with rooms branching in many directions. Along the back wall, a colonnaded walkway, its roof covered with terra-cotta tiles, stretched the length of the courtyard. A large cistern gaped in the center. Beside it stood a large birdcage; its lone inhabitant, a black mynah with an orange beak, chirped in greeting.

Glaucus had said he would meet her here later, but from the sounds of the laughter behind her, the party raged without her. She should be safe for a few minutes at least. She crossed to the bird she had adopted as her own and simply named Mynah. Tessa put a finger through the iron bars and let Mynah peck a hello.

Her head throbbed, as it always did when she wore her hair pulled back. She reached above her, found the pin that cinched her dark ringlets together, and yanked it. Hair loosed and fell around her, and she ran her fingers through it in relief.

A sharp intake of breath from across the room startled her. She whirled at the sound. “Who’s there?”

A soft voice in the darkness said, “I am sorry, mistress. I did not mean to startle you.”

Tessa’s heart grasped at the kindness and respect in the voice, the first she had encountered this evening. She put a hand to her unfastened hair. Somehow she still found it within herself to be embarrassed by this small impropriety.

The man took hesitant steps toward her. “Are you ill, mistress? Can I help you in some way?” He was clean-shaven and quite tall, with a lanky build and craggy face, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant, Simeon.

“No, Simeon. No, I am not ill. Thank you.” She sank to a bench.

The older man dipped his head and backed away. Tessa reached out a hand. “Perhaps—perhaps some water?”

He smiled. “I’ll only be a moment.”

She had disgraced Glaucus tonight, in spite of his effort to laugh off her comments. How would he repay the damage she had done him? His position as a strategos of the polis of Rhodes outranked all other concerns in his life, and he would consider her disrespect in the presence of other city leaders as treasonous.

In the three years since Glaucus had paid her owner the hetaera price and she had become his full-time companion, they had developed an unusual relationship. While he would not allow her to forget that she was not free, he had also discovered her aptitude for grasping the intricacies of politics, the maneuvering necessary to keep Rhodes the strong trading nation that it was, and to maintain Glaucus’s hold on leadership within this democratic society. Power was a game played shrewdly in Rhodes, as in all the Greek world, and Glaucus had gained a competitive edge when he gained Tessa.

Rhodian society had declared her to be a rarity: beautiful, brilliant, and enslaved. But the extent to which the decisions of the city-state passed through her slave-bound fingers was unknown to most. And in this she held a measure of power over Glaucus. She recalled Spiro’s astute comment earlier: Perhaps it is you who owns him.

Simeon returned with a stone mug in his hands. He held it out to her and covered her fingers with his own gnarled hand as she reached for it. His eyes returned to her hair. “I—I have never seen you with your hair down,” he said. He lowered his gray head again but did not back away, and his voice was soft. “It is beautiful.”

Tessa tried to smile, but her heart retreated from the small kindness. “Thank you.”

He didn’t look up. “If you are not ill, Tessa, perhaps you should return to the symposium. I should not like to see Glaucus angry with you.”

Tessa exhaled. “Glaucus can wait.”

Another noise at the courtyard’s edge. They both turned at the rustle of fabric. A girl glided into the room, dressed in an elegant yellow chitôn, her dark hair flowing around her shoulders. She stopped suddenly when she saw them.

“Simeon? Tessa? What are you doing here?”

Simeon bent at the waist, his eyes on the floor. “The lady was feeling ill. She requested water.” His eyes flicked up at Tessa, their expression unreadable, and he left the room.

Tessa turned her attention to the girl, inhaling the resolve to survive this encounter. At fourteen, Persephone hovered on the delicate balance between girl and woman. Glowing pale skin framed by dark hair gave her the look of an ivory doll, but it was her startlingly blue eyes that drew one’s attention. In recent months, as she had gained understanding of Tessa’s position in her father’s life, Persephone had grown more hostile toward her.

She raised her chin and studied Tessa. “Does my father know you’re out here?” Her tone contradicted the delicacy of her features.

Tessa nodded.

“So he let his plaything out of her cage?”

Tessa’s eyes closed in pity for the girl, whose mother had abandoned her for the comfort of madness.

The girl flitted to where Mynah cheeped inside its bars. She picked a leaf from a potted tree and held it out to the bird. “But who am I to speak of cages?” she said. She raised her eyes to Tessa. “We are all trapped here in some way. You. Me. Mother.”

“Cages can be escaped,” Tessa said, surprising herself. She had never dared to offer Persephone wisdom, though her heart ached for the girl.

Persephone turned toward her, studying her. “When you find the key, let me know.”

"Tessa!" Glaucus's voice was thick with wine and demanding.

Tessa turned toward the doorway. The girl beside her took a step backward.

"There you are," he said. "I've sent them all away." He waddled toward them. "I am sick of their company." He seemed to notice the girl for the first time. "Persephone, why are you not in bed? Get yourself to the women's quarters."

Tessa could feel the hate course through the girl as if it were her own body.

"I am not tired. I wished to see the stars." She pointed upward.

Glaucus stood before them now, and he sneered. "Well, the stars have no wish to see you. Remove yourself."

"And will you say goodnight to Mother?" Persephone asked. The words were spoken with sarcasm, tossed to Glaucus like raw bait. Tessa silently cheered the girl's audacity.

Glaucus was not so kind. "Get out!"

"And leave you to your harlot?" Persephone said.

In a quick motion belying his obesity, Glaucus raised the back of his hand to the girl and struck her against the face. She reeled backward a step or two, her hand against her cheek.

Tessa moved between them. "Leave her alone!"

Glaucus turned on Tessa and laughed. "And when did you two become friends?"

Persephone glared into her father's corpulent face. "I despise you both," she said.

Glaucus raised his arm again, his hand a fist this time, but Tessa was faster. She caught the lowering arm by the wrist and pushed it backward. Glaucus rocked back on his heels and turned his hatred on her.

Tessa kept her eyes trained on Glaucus but spoke to the girl, her voice low and commanding. "Go to bed, Persephone." She sensed the girl back away, heard her stomp from the room.

The anger on Glaucus's face melted into something else. A chuckle, sickening in its condescension, rumbled from him.

"High-spirited is one thing, Tessa. But be careful you do not go too far. Remember who keeps you in those fine clothes and wraps your ankles and wrists in jewels. You are not your own."

But I soon will be.

Glaucus reached for her, and she used her forearm to swat him away like a noisome insect. "Don't touch me. Don't touch her. Take your fat, drunken self out of here."

The amusement on Glaucus's face played itself out. The anger returned, but Tessa was ready.

Glaucus's words hissed between clenched teeth. "I don't know what has come over you tonight, Tessa, but I will teach you your place. You belong to me, body and spirit, and I will have you!" His heavy hands clutched her shoulders, and his alcohol-soaked breath blew hot in her face. Every part of Tessa's inner being rose up to defend herself.

It would all end tonight.



Here is my review of this incredible novel:

From the beautiful cover to the last word of this poetic story, T.L. Higley takes the reader captive in her novel, “Shadow of Colossus.” This excellent book is nearly impossible to put down. Some situations transcend time and space. Tessa’s tragic tale of human bondage is told beautifully against the historical backdrop of ancient Greece around the time of the earthquake that destroyed the Colossus of Helios. Romance, intrigue, and suspense are woven together in this non-stop epic that will transport the reader straight to Rhodes. I hope there will be more books of this sort from this incredible author. I also appreciated the mini-lesson in ancient Greek at the beginning of the book.

In The Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett

MASTER, AWARD-WINNING HISTORICAL NOVELIST QUESTIONS:
WAS ANNE BOLEYN A DEVOUT, MISUNDERSTOOD MARTYR?






(COLORADO SPRINGS, CO) Ginger Garrett is a recognized expert in ancient women’s history, having received much critical acclaim for Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther and Dark Hour. Yet Garrett has now turned her attention from biblical women to that ill-reputed, oft-hated woman of history, Anne Boleyn. And the story Garrett weaves is anything but the story you’d expect.



What if Anne was simply a frightened girl sent to make amends for her
family’s soiled name? What if her refusal to succumb to the king’s sexual
advances wasn’t borne of manipulation for the crown but of obedience to
the demands of her faith?



Remember, Anne was an enemy to the religious establishment of her time,
espousing the virtue of reading the scriptures for oneself rather than paying
the priests of the Catholic church for Biblical counsel and absolution. Was
her staunch belief in the personal relationship with God instead of The
Church the reason history has painted her with such a broad, evil stroke?
Garrett believes this is the case. “One worry that did stay with me during
the writing of the novel was that Anne Boleyn’s story has become familiar
to many readers. What encouraged me to push through, however, was all
the research that told me the other versions had her quite wrong. They paint
her as a scheming seductress, a master manipulator...but her crime, as they
put it, was ‘manipulating’ Henry by refusing to sleep with him until she was his wife...It might just prove she took her Christianity more seriously than anyone else in that age.”
At a time when people were scourged, beaten, and burned at the stake for being caught with a personal copy of the Bible, Anne Boleyn brought one into the royal chambers and dared to tell the King to read it as well. This September, readers just might see that Ginger Garrett has finally shown a light on the true Anne Boleyn, a woman of staunch faith and searching soul.






Who is GINGER GARRETT?



Ginger Garrett is an expert in ancient women’s history and the author of several
critically acclaimed books. Ginger’s first novel, Chosen: The Lost Diaries of
Queen Esther, was a finalist for the Christian Book Award, recognizing it as one
of the top five inspirational novels for 2006. Ginger was also nominated for the
Georgia Author of the Year Award for her novel Dark Hour.



Her nonfiction Beauty Secrets of the Bible reveals how biblical women viewed
beauty and the natural foods, perfumes and cosmetics that complemented their
spiritual beauty.



In the fall of 2008, Ginger will release In the Shadow of Lions, the first of a
three-part fiction series fro David C. Cook. In the Shadow of Lions focuses on the
untold story of Anne Boleyn and how guardian angels may help shape human
history.



Ginger is a popular speaker at women’s events, and a frequent radio and television guest. Ginger Garrett has been interviewed by media across the country including Fox News, The New York Times, FamilyNet Television, National Public Radio, Billy Graham’s Hour of Decision, Harvest Television, and more.




Here is my review of this incredible work of historical fiction:

Ginger Garrett’s “In the Shadow of Lions” grabbed my attention with the first sentence! This incredibly creative delivery of historical fiction tells the tragic story of Anne Boleyn in a way that it has never been told before. Ginger Garrett writes in such a thoughtful and thought-provoking way. She does justice to the historical account while bringing an emotional level to the story that draws the reader to invest herself fully in the tale.

I can’t wait to read the next “Chronicles of the Scribe” story by this wonderful author. In the meantime, I may have to check out her novel, “Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther”. The “after words” pages are an informative and enjoyable added bonus to this book.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In The Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!






Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



IN THE SHADOW OF LIONS


David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ginger Garrett is the critically acclaimed author of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, which was recognized as one of the top five novels of 2006 by the ECPA, and Dark Hour. An expert in ancient women's history, Ginger creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women.

On September 11, Ginger's non-fiction book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible, based on the historical research that began in her work on Chosen was released. The book explores the connections between beauty and spirituality, offering women both historical insights and scientific proofs that reveal powerful, natural beauty secrets.

A frequent radio guest on stations across the country, including NPR and Billy Graham's The Hour of Decision, Ginger is also a popular television guest. Her appearances include Harvest Television, Friends & Neighbors, and Babbie's House. Ginger frequently serves as a co-host on the inspirational cable program Deeper Living.

In 2007, Ginger was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award for her novel Dark Hour. When she's not writing, you may spy Ginger hunting for vintage jewelry at thrift stores, running (slowly) in 5k and 10k races, or just trying to chase down one of her errant sheepdogs. A native Texan, she now resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Paperback: 311 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448875
ISBN-13: 978-0781448871

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




And Job said unto God:

I admit I once lived by rumors of you;

now I have it all firsthand…

I’ll never again live

on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.

Job 42, The Message




CHAPTER ONE


Tomorrow, someone else will die in my bed.

Someone died in it last month, which is how it came to be called mine.

The infernal clock moved confidently towards 1 a.m., and I turned my head to look at the window. The window of this room is a miserly gesture from the contractors, producing more fog than visage. I watched the gold orbs—the lamps on the lawn of the hospice sputtering off and on in the darkness—that dotted the fogged glass.

That was the last moment I lived as an iver, one whose eyes are veiled.

One orb did not sputter but moved, gliding between the others, moving closer to the window, growing larger and brighter until the light consumed the entire view. I winced from the searing glare and tried to shield my eyes, but the IV line pulled taut. Wrestling with the line to get some slack, I saw the next movement out of the corner of my eye. I bit down hard on my tongue, my body jerking in reflex, and felt the warm blood run back to my throat.

Outside, a hand wiped the fog away from the glass, and I watched the water beads running down the inside of my window. There was no searing light, only this mammoth hand with deep creases in the palms wiping down the window until we both could see each other. A man’s face was against the glass, but no breath fogged his vision. He was a giant, grim man, with an earring in one ear and dark glasses, and he was staring in at me. Even through the morphine, fear snaked along my arms, biting into my stomach, constricting around my throat. I tried to scream, but I could only gulp air and heave little gasps. His expression did not change as he lifted his hands, curling them into fists. I flinched at the last moment, thinking him to be Death, expecting to receive the blow and die.

Then I grew suddenly warm, like the feeling you get stepping out from an old, dark city library into the busy street and a warm spring sun.

Death didn’t even hurt, I rejoiced. I could slip into it like I slipped onto that street, eyes down, my thoughts my own, and simply turn a corner and be gone. I lifted my fingers to beckon him. Yes, I thought. I saw the beautiful Rolex on my birdlike wrist, and saw that it had stopped. It is time.

When I looked back up, he was beside me, staring down, not speaking. I wasn’t dead. His frame was monstrously large, hitting what must be seven feet tall, with a width of muscle strapped across it that was inhuman. As he watched me, his chest didn’t move, and his nostrils didn’t flare, but heat and warm breath radiated from him. When he laid his hands across my eyes, I was too scared to move my head away. His palms covered most of my face, and a sharp buzzing drilled into every pore. He began to move his hands elsewhere, touching and bringing to life every splintered inch of my body. When he got to the cancer, with one swollen lymph node visible even through my stained blue gown, he rested his hands there until the swelling sighed and he swept it away with his hand.

“Wait!” I screamed.

I didn’t want to live. I hadn’t known that was going to be an option. I deserved to be damned. To return to my life was too much to ask of me. I was finished.

“You’ll still be dead by morning,” he reassured me. His voice was deep and clean, no tell-tale dialect or inflection. Taking off his glasses, I saw he had enormous gold eyes, with a black pinhole in the center that stayed round and cold. There was no white in them at all, and they were rimmed all the way around the outside with black. I stared at them, trying to remember where I had seen eyes like this. It was years ago, this much I remembered.

I had to shake myself back to the moment. Clearly, morphine was not setting well with me tonight. I wanted to die in peace. That’s what I paid these extravagant sums for. My hand moved to the nurses’ call button. Mariskka was just down the hall, waiting for her moment to steal my watch. I knew she’d come running.

He grabbed my hand and the shock seared like a hot iron. Crying out, I shook him off and clutched my hand between my breasts, doing my best to sit up with my atrophied stomach muscles and tangled IV.

He leaned in. “I have something for you.”

“What?”

He leaned in closer. “A second chance.”

Second chances were not my forte. As the most celebrated editor in New York City, I had made a killing. I loved the words that trembling writers slid across my desk, those little black flecks that could destroy their life’s dream or launch a career. I bled red ink over every page, slashing words, cutting lines. No one understood how beautiful they were to me, why I tormented the best writers, always pushing them to bring me more. The crueler I was to the best of them, the more they loved me, like flagellants worshipping me as the master of their order. Only at the end, lying here facing my own death, did I understand why. They embraced the pain, thinking it birthed something greater than themselves. I saw how pitifully wrong they were. There was only pain. This is why I was ready to die. When you finish the last chapter and close the book, there is nothing but pain. It would have been better never to have written. Words betrayed me. And for that, I betrayed the best writer of them all.

“Burn any manuscripts that arrive for me,” I had ordered my nurse, Marisska. “Tell them I’m already dead. Tell them anything.”

“I’ll let you write the truth,” the man whispered.

“I’m not a writer,” I replied. My fear tumbled down into the dark place of my secrets.

“No, you’re not,” he answered. “But you’ve coveted those bestsellers, didn’t you? You knew you could do better. This is your second chance.”

It caught my attention. “How?”

“I will dictate my story to you,” he said. “Then you’ll die.”

Taking dictation? My mouth fell open. “I’m in hell, aren’t I?”

He tilted his head. “Not yet.”

I pushed away from the pillows and grabbed him. Blisters sprang up on my palms and in between my fingers, but I gritted my teeth and spat out my words. “Who are you?”

“The first writer, the Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world. The stories are forgotten here and the Day draws close. I will tell you one of my stories. You will record it.”

“Why me?”

“I like your work.”

I started laughing, the first time I had laughed since I had been brought to this wing of the hospice, where the dying are readied for death, their papers ordered, and discreet pamphlets on “end of life options” left by quiet-soled salesmen. I laughed until I was winded. He rested his hand on my chest, and I caught my breath as he spoke.

“Let’s go find Marisska.”




Watch for my review of this wonderful book on tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Walk The Talk: Happy Thanksgiving!

I've been toying with the idea of a "walk the talk" blog for quite a while. And when MyFriendAmysBlog.com began her Saturday Christian Fiction Carnival where she asks a question and those who want to participate blog their answers and then visit each other's sites to comment, I thought it would be a great form of online fellowship to do the "walk the talk" idea that way.

As Christians, we're supposed to set an example for each other as well as non-believers. We're supposed to uplift and encourage, and I believe that sharing our stories will do just that! So, let's "Walk the Talk." Post your answer to the following question on your blog and insert your information in the window below. Then visit others who have posted an answer and comment on their posts. I pray that this activity will be an encouragement to all of us.

The Question:
Although it sounds cliche, what are you thankful for this year?


My Answer:
This was a challenging year. I was laid off from a job of more than ten years in October 2007, and I've spent nearly every minute since looking for work. It's been very discouraging, but God has taught me so much about Himself in the last 12+ months. As the economy has worsened and the unemployment rate skyrocketed, I just KNEW God was getting ready to show up...and HE did! And it happened to coincide with a Bible study lesson that included Exodus 17 where the Israelites are battling the Amalekites and Aaron and Hur have to help Moses keep his hands raised over the battlefield so that the Lord will give them victory. My hands are raised as well...in praise: I am scheduled to start my new job next Monday. Hallelujah!


Your Turn:
Remember to link back here!


The Mission Minded Family by Ann Dunagan



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Mission Minded Family

Authentic (July 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ann Dunagan lives with a passion for the LORD and the lost. She is a homeschooling mother of seven (ages 7 to 21), an author, and an international minister alongside her husband, Jon Dunagan. In 1986, the Dunagans founded Harvest Ministry, focusing on remote city-wide outreaches, church planting, National Evangelism Team Support (NETS), training orphans, and motivating others for missions. Ann has personally ministered in 29 nations: speaking to women, preaching in villages, training children and youth, and encouraging parents and teachers. She enjoys fervent worship, time with family and friends, and writing. The Dunagan family is based in Hood River, Oregon.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 188 pages
Publisher: Authentic (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068438
ISBN-13: 978-1934068434

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Releasing Your Family to God’s Destiny

God has a destiny for your family. He has an individual plan for each member, as well as a “corporate” purpose for you as a family unit. God will help you, as parents, to train each child toward God’s mission for his or her life, and He will help you to focus your family toward making a strong impact for His kingdom—in your community, in your church, in your children’s schools, and in the world.

The Bible says in Psalm 127:4, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” This verse recently “hit” me in a new way as I was attending a graduation party. During the evening, a group of church leaders, led by the graduate’s father, gathered to pray for this young man. He had been raised to have a fervent heart for God and for world missions, and we prayed for God’s purposes to be fulfilled. As I laid my hands on the graduate’s mom (my dear friend Karen), I could sympathize with her mixed feelings: happiness and pride combined with a sad realization that this season in their family’s life was coming to an end. As we prayed, I “saw” (in my mind’s eye) her eighteen-year-old son as a straight arrow in a bow. Afterward, I leaned over and whispered in my friend’s ear, “You know, Karen, it’s not enough just to aim our arrows; to hit the target we’ve got to release the string!”

As our children grow, there will be repeated times of releasing each one to God: letting go of a little hand as a baby takes that first wobbly step . . . letting go of total educational control as a child steps onto that school bus or enrolls in that first college course. Or what about that moment when we let go of the car keys and an eager teenager plops into the driver’s seat of our car and takes control of the steering wheel?

Sometimes it’s very scary.

As I write this chapter, my husband and I have a nearly twenty-year old son climbing a dangerous mountain and then the following week heading to Oxford, England for a summer-long study-abroad program. Our eighteen-year-old son just graduated from high school and will soon be moving to a university two thousand miles from home. Our nearly sixteen-year-old daughter is just about to get her driver’s license.

No matter how many times I have released my children, I continually need to rely on God’s fresh grace for today’s particular moment. Whether it’s dropping off a little one into the arms of a church nursery worker or dropping off a young adult at an international airport, I need to trust God.

Just like Hannah released her little Samuel, I have surrendered each child to the Lord; yet I still have times when God convicts me that I need to rely on Him even more. At a deeper level, I need to continue to trust Him. With faith, I need to trust that God will direct each of my kids to fulfill His purposes (without me pushing them to do what I want). I need to trust that God will bring just the right spouse for each of my sons and daughters (without me trying to make something happen). And I need to trust God that He will protect my children as they begin to step out to fulfill His destiny (without me worrying or trying to figure it out).

As I have thought about this need to totally release each of my children to God’s purposes, I have tried to imagine—in my own finite way—what our heavenly Father must have experienced when He released His Child. God never struggles, but I believe He can relate to my feelings (and yours). He too had to release His Son—His only Son—in order to fulfill His plans for this earth.

Imagine with me:

What if someday God called one of my children . . . let’s just say, for an example, to go on a summer mission trip to Calcutta, India?

Would I be able to send him or her with confidence and joy?

If my husband and I prayed about the particular outreach and God gave us His peace about it, I know I would. My husband and I would uphold our child in prayer, and we would trust God’s direction. And as a mom, I would rely on Him for grace.

But the sacrifice God made was far greater . . .

What if someday a child of ours decided to move to Calcutta, India, for perhaps ten months . . . or ten years . . . or even longer? Could I handle that?

That would be much harder.

Although it would be difficult to live so far apart, I would do my best to support him or her through regular prayer and communication (and I would definitely hope for e-mail access!). If my grown child had a family, I would really miss getting to know my child’s spouse and his or her family; and I can hardly imagine how much I would yearn for time with those future grandchildren. Yet, if God was calling my child, I would let my child go . . . and rely on Him for extra grace.

But God’s sacrifice was still far greater . . .

So, to take the analogy one step further, what if my husband and I, back in time about twenty years ago, were expecting our first child, and God told us that He wanted us to surrender this precious newborn—right from birth? What if God said He had chosen a poor couple in Calcutta, India, to raise our baby? What if He said our little one would grow up in some obscure squatter village . . . would live among filth and poverty . . . would spend his life helping people . . . and, in the end, would be rejected, hated, and brutally killed by the very people he was sent to help?

Would I send my son to do that? How could I?

But (perhaps) that is a glimpse of what God did for us.

If we are going to raise a generation of world changers, it is likely that we will need to surrender our children into areas that may make us uncomfortable. He could call our child to pioneer a megachurch in a crowded inner city or to raise a large, God-fearing family in a quiet rural town. He may want our child to impact a corrupt political system or to redirect a greed-motivated business. He could call our precious son to enlist in the military or our pure daughter to have an effect on the media. He could call our child to Cairo, Egypt . . . or to New York City . . . or maybe even to Calcutta, India.

As mission-minded parents, will we “let go” of those arrows and encourage each child to fulfill the Lord’s plans? Or will we be God’s greatest hindrance?

It’s a heart issue, and it’s big.

Just as God released His Son for us, we need to totally release each of our children—again and again, every day—for His eternal purposes.


Pursuing God’s Purposes

An excerpt from The Missions Addiction, by David Shibley.

We whine, “I just want to know my purpose; I’ve got to reach my destiny.” We race all over the country to attend “destiny conferences,” and we devour tapes and books on “reaching your full potential.” It would be amusing if it were not so appalling. Even cloaking our self-centeredness in Christian garb and jargon cannot cover the nakedness of this cult of self that has infested much of the church. How can we ever hope to discover our purpose in the earth with little or no interest in His purpose? How will we ever know our destiny when we have so little identification with God’s destiny for the nations? It certainly is good to pray, “Lord, what is Your will for my life?” But even this can be a self-absorbed prayer. It is far better to pray, “Lord, what is Your will for my generation? How do You want my life to fit into Your plan for my times?”

Pursuing God’s purposes, not our own, is the path to personal fulfillment.


We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations

A missions hymn, by H. Ernest Nichol (1862–1928)

We’ve a story to tell to the nations,

That shall turn their hearts to the right,

A story of truth and mercy,

A story of peace and light,

A story of peace and light.

Chorus:

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright,

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.

We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,

That shall lift their hearts to the Lord,

A song that shall conquer evil,

And shatter the spear and sword,

And shatter the spear and sword.

We’ve a message to give to the nations,

That the Lord who reigneth above

Hath sent us His Son to save us,

And show us that God is love,

And show us that God is love.

We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,

Who the path of sorrow hath trod,

That all of the world’s great peoples

May come to the truth of God,

May come to the truth of God!

Chorus:

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright,

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.



“I have seen the Vision and for self I cannot live;

Life is less than worthless till my all I give.”

Oswald J. Smith


Q&A with Ann Dunagan, author of The Mission Minded Family

Q: How would you describe a mission-minded family?

In a mission-minded family, there’s a God-infused energy. There’s a focus on God’s worldwide purposes, and there’s a passion for the lost. There’s a spiritual depth and hunger that reaches beyond the maintenance mode of cultural Christianity. A mission-minded family emphasizes leadership, calling, and destiny. There’s a prevailing attitude of self-sacrifice and an emphasis on total surrender to God’s will. And there’s an unmistakable and contagious joy.

As you focus on God and His Great Commission, everything will be radically altered—including your thoughts about the world and those in need, your prayer life, your eating habits (including what things you’re willing to “try”), your disciplines in health and fitness, your family’s stewardship of faith and finances, and your decisions regarding your children’s education. A missions mindset will impact—for eternity—your focus on the future.

Q: What led to your writing of The Mission Minded Family?

In writing The Mission-Minded Family, my heart is to help families to discover God’s potential. God doesn’t want our families to be self-absorbed. He created us to glorify Him. All of us want happy families, lasting marriages, and good kids; but what I propose in The Mission-Minded Family is that in order for our families to truly be successful in God’s eyes, we’ve got to focus on God’s purposes. It’s not enough to merely “look good” in our yearly Christmas photo, or to raise super-smart, scholarship-winning kids. It’s not enough to just make money or to live in a cute clean house.

For over 20 years, our family’s been active in international missions. Although we’ve always lived in the United States, we’ve ministered around the world; and we’ve seen – with our own eyes – some heart-wrenching situations, as well as some thrilling opportunities for outreach. All along the way, we’ve been raising our seven kids... loving babies, training toddlers and teens, and sending big-kids to college. Having a missions perspective has impacted all of us; and for my husband and me, this viewpoint has definitely influenced our parenting.

Q: Do you think every Christian family is called to be mission-minded?

Every Christian, and every Bible-believing Christian family, is called to participate in God’s Great Commission to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15). Obviously, we won’t all be called to live overseas as long-term foreign missionaries; but we’re all called – 24-7, 365-days-a-year, to be fulltime mission-minded believers. Regardless of our current location or occupation, we are all called to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5:20) and God’s light in a dark world. Our next generation will need godly leaders in every realm of society: in the media, education, government, business, and in ministry – both locally and internationally.

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, once said, “The Great Commission is not an option to consider, but a command to be obeyed.”

Q: As mission-minded families, how can we balance our passion for missions with our hearts for our homes? Do we have to choose between “raising our kids” and “reaching the lost”—or is it possible to do both?

As parents, we’re called to raise our kids; and as Christians, we’re called to reach the lost. We really can’t fulfill one of these callings, if we choose to neglect the other.

As I was writing The Mission-Minded Family, I felt especially led to evaluate the homes and family-lives of well-known missionaries. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that many missionary heroes with families were not heroes of the family. Some of the most prominent names in mission history had horrible problems at home; while other leaders (such as William and Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army or Hudson and Maria Taylor) found a powerful ministry-family balance.

As I began to delve deeper into these examples, I searched for clues and common-denominators for those godly world-changing leaders who had God-glorifying homes. And I believe I found the key. It’s PRAYER. The men and women of God who focused primarily on seeking the Lord and their personal devotion to Him (rather than focusing on a merely a successful ministry) seemed to find God’s divine balance for each day. As a result, not only did their ministries glorify God, but their families did as well.




Here is my review of this inspirational and educational book:


“The Mission Minded Family” by Ann Dunagan is the coolest book! It has everything: hymns, stories of missions, mini biographies of missionaries, skits, a calendar of international holidays and suggestions for how to pray on those days, tools for teaching mission-mindedness, and even practical tips for missionary travel. This is an educational and informative book whether you’re planning to be a foreign missionary, a local missionary, or just learn about the field.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Enoch by Alton Gansky



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Enoch

Realms (October 2, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Alton Gansky is the author of twenty-one published novels and six nonfiction works. He has been a Christie Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies and has served as senior pastor for three Baptist churches in California, with a total of over twenty years in pulpit ministry. He and his wife live in the High Desert area of Southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 307 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159979344X
ISBN-13: 978-1599793443

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


He first thought of his feet.

It seemed an odd first thought, but there it was. His gaze drifted to a pair of soft-topped shoes, each with a symbol stitched to the side.

"N." He wondered why anyone would stitch a letter on footwear.

He raised a foot, then wiggled it. The shoe felt good. He dug a toe in the sandy dirt, then raised his head. A field surrounded him. No crops, no buildings, no people. Just a wide expanse of rugged scrub that shivered in the cold wind.

A full-circle turn revealed nothing but the same: miles of empty land. He blinked against the wind and the bits of dirt and dust it carried. To the west the sun lowered itself to the horizon. In the opposite direction, darkness crawled up the sky, keeping pace as if the descending orb pulled a curtain of night behind it.

Turning to face the sun again, he saw a break in the expanse of near-barren ground. At its edge ran a thin fence. He moved toward it, amused at the soft crunch the earth made with each step of his N-shoes.

Something scampered to his right. A covey of quail sprinted away and then took to the air, flying a short distance before making contact with the earth again. The sight made him smile.

Henick wrapped his arms around himself to ward off the chilling breeze. The material of his multicolored shirt felt soft against his arms and palms. He kept his gaze down, protecting his eyes from the sun's glare and looking up only long enough to get his bearings and check for holes or rocks that might cause him to stumble.

The fence was a simple series of metal stakes supporting four strands of metal wire punctuated with evenly spaced barbs. He extended a finger, touched one of the points, and frowned. The knife-sharp tip drew a drop of blood. He stuck the offended finger in his mouth. A quick scan of the fence's length revealed no gate.

A short distance from the fence ran a wide, smooth, black surface with a series of white dashes down the middle. He marveled at its unerring straightness.

He returned his attention to the fence. He wanted to be on the other side but preferred to arrive there with skin and clothing intact. Placing a hand on the top strand, he pushed down. The metal wire moved, but not enough to make straddling the thing acceptable. He tried again, this time using both hands. The wire fence gave more but still too little.

Henick decided on a different approach. He stepped to the nearest metal upright and tested it. It looked old, as if it had spent a lifetime stuck in that one spot. Seizing it with both hands and careful to avoid the stinging wire, he shook the thin metal pole. It wiggled. He leaned into it and then pulled back, repeating the motion twenty or thirty times. The metal felt cold against his bare hands, and gritty rust tinted his flesh.

When he had worked the pole loose, he lifted its base from the ground, then moved to the next upright and reenacted the procedure. With two posts loose, Henick could step across the barrier without injury.

Once on the other side, he replaced the posts, stomping the surrounding dirt with his foot until the soil was as compact as he could make it. In time, weather would reseal the posts to their original strength.

The exertion had warmed him enough to raise a film of perspiration on his brow and beneath the black hair that hung to his shoulders. The breeze found each moist area and chilled it. He could expect a cold night.

Stepping to the middle of the black path, he bent and touched the surface. It appeared smooth but felt coarse beneath his fingers. The black material radiated gentle warmth. He straightened and looked up and down the long road. It seemed to have no end in either direction. Deciding that one direction was as good as the other, Henick began to walk, choosing his course so the wind would be at his back and not in his face.

When the last of the sun's disk fell beneath the horizon, Henick had made two or three miles. He passed the time by counting the white dashes in the middle of the strange path or wondering about the letter N on his shoes. He liked the shoes; they made walking easier.

A quarter moon replaced the sun in the sky but offered little light. Soon the final light would follow its source below the distant horizon. If he had remained in the open field, he would have had to stop his journey. Walking over uncertain and irregular terrain with no light would be foolish, but the hard path with its white lines made it possible for him to continue.

Just before the sun said its final good-bye, Henick saw a black and white sign with a puzzling, irregular shape and the words Ranch Road 1232. Sometime later he saw a sign that read Don't Mess with Texas.

The air moved from chilly to cold, but the breeze had settled.

Henick kept moving.

Lights and a rumble approached from behind. The light split the darkness and gave Henick a shadow that stretched impossibly long before him. He stopped and turned, raising a hand to shield his eyes against the glare.

The roar grew louder. The lights neared.

A sudden blaring assaulted his ears, but Henick stood his ground.

"What are you? Nuts?"

The voice came from behind the glare. A large metal device pulled alongside. The words pickup truck entered Henick's mind.

The vehicle stopped. "Have you plumb lost your mind, boy? I coulda run you down and not even known I hit ya. What are you thinking?"

In the dim light, Henick could see two people seated in the truck: a man in his sixties and a woman of the same age.

"Go easy on him, Jake. He looks confused. Maybe he's lost." The woman's voice rode on tones of kindness.

"That it, boy? You lost?"

"I am just walking," Henick said.

"In the dark? Where you headed?"

Henick thought for a moment. "That way." He pointed down the long stretch of road.

"Ain't nuthin' that way but Blink, and there ain't much reason for going there unless that's your home. I'm guessin' it ain't. Pretty small town; I think I'd have seen you before."

"I don't live there."

The man the woman called Jake exited the truck and eyed Henick. "It's a bit cold to be out in nuthin' but blue jeans and a flannel shirt. It's supposed to drop into the forties tonight."

"It is true. I am cold."

"Give him a ride, Jake." The woman had slid closer to the driver side door. "We can't leave him out here. He's liable to step in some pothole and break a leg."

"More likely he'd step on a rattler. They like the warm asphalt."

"Either way, Jake, we can't leave the man out here."

"All right, all right, just keep your shoes on." Jake looked at Henick. "Turn around."

Henick raised an eyebrow.

"Turn around, boy. I jus' wanna make sure you ain't packin'."

"Packin'?"

"Totin' a gun. You sure you haven't wandered off from some kinda home for the slow?"

"Jake!"

"All right, Eleanor, I don't mean no disrespect." He motioned for Henick to turn in place. Henick did. "OK, here's the deal. I'll give you a ride, but that's all. Me and the wife were going into town for a meal. Friday night is our evening out. Been doing that for thirty-five years."

"I would like a ride."

"Yeah, well, don't have no room for you up front, so you'll have to ride in the back. I got some blankets to keep the wind off you. It's the best I can offer."

"Thank you." Henick climbed into the bed of the truck and leaned against the cab.

"Blankets are behind my seat. I'll get 'em."

A few moments later, Henick, snug in two wool blankets, turned his face heavenward, gazed at the stars, and wondered what a "Texas" was.



Here is my review of this incredible suspense read:

Alton Gansky has another hit on his shelf with his latest novel, “Enoch.” Based around the Biblical persona who never tasted death, this incredibly suspenseful read is meticulously crafted with a multi-strand plot that finds a common thread in a message from a mysterious herald that appears in various forms to alert the characters to “look for the one I am sending you.” Meanwhile, a just-as-mysterious hitchhiker is picked up by a kindly older couple. And does he have some surprises in store for those he encounters. I thoroughly enjoyed this character! Gansky develops him with brilliance. This book made my heart race and took my imagination to surprising places. As I turned each page, the plot twisted and turned and kept me guessing until I devoured the final word. WOW! What a book!


Check out Janna's review at Cornhusker Academy...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Unity in the Body of Christ

It has always bothered me that Christians spend so much time defending their denominations to each other that we’re missing out on the great commission that Jesus bestowed upon us to spread the good news throughout the world. Shouldn’t we put greater emphasis on what binds us together? You know, Jesus! Can’t we all just get along?

So when I was approached by Thomas Williams to help him promote unity in the worldwide body of Christ after I reviewed his book “Knowing Right From Wrong” for his blog tour in October, I had to say, “Absolutely.” He sent me a couple of his other books and asked me to review them, so here are those reviews.

“Greater Than You Think” by Thomas D. Williams, LC, ThD systematically and intellectually refutes several objections to the Christian faith, God and organized religion voiced by well-known atheists. These 27 questions are comprehensively grouped by topic: Religion; Religion and Society; Faith – Science – Reason; Christianity; and Atheism. The questions and answers offer food for thought and opportunity to formulate our own responses to these questions so that we may “always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15-16) The author beautifully ends this book with that very scripture verse and the same Biblical advice, making this a worthwhile read, although I would have appreciated Biblical references in the answers to the questions, themselves.

“Spiritual Progress” by Thomas D. Williams is my favorite of his books! Although there is a distinct Catholic flavor due to quotes from and references to prominent figures in the Catholic church, this non-fiction work transcends denomination. Pertinent scripture begins most of the chapters and Jesus Christ saturates these pages. Contemporary references are also used to reinforce the chapter topics that inspire the reader to live their Christian faith out loud for others to witness. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

In Charge: Finding the Leader Within You By Myles Munroe



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


In Charge: Finding the Leader Within You

FaithWords (November 10, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Myles Munroe is the founder of the Bahamas Faith Ministries, a network of outreaches and churches headquartered in Nassau, Bahamas. He is a gifted orator and speaks to audiences around the world as both a preacher in church and parachurch settings and as a motivational speaker at large business gatherings and for other non-church organizations. He's authored more than a half-dozen books.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (November 10, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446580465
ISBN-13: 978-0446580465

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter 1


“I’m In Charge”: The Battery and the Wire

Who’s Got the Power?

“The value in each human is the gift they were born to deliver to humanity”




Which one of these is the most important part of a car: the battery or the terminal wire? You’ve probably never heard of the little red wire that connects the battery to the rest of the engine in the car. If you’re like most people you will say, “The battery. It has the power.”

Your car has about 60,000 parts. The battery says, “I’m in charge of all of them. Nothing starts without me. I’m the battery. I have the power. Power! Power! Power! I’m the one who starts everything. Nothing starts until I arrive. I’m the power. I’ve got the power to start the engine.”

Does that sound like some people you know?

Well, if the battery is the most important part of the car, let’s disconnect the wire. The battery costs about $150. The little red wire missing from the car costs about $10. You have 59,999 working parts and only a $10 wire missing. Without it, the car will not start. Your car may be worth $40,000, $50,000 or $100,000, but it can be immobilized by this $10 wire. You want to go somewhere. You have something to do! The car says, “I’m ready, but there’s a little $10 wire missing.”

The battery says, “I’ve got the power.”

A spark plug says, “I’ve got the fire.”

“The engine says, “I run the car!”

That little wire is very quiet. He does not have to say, “You need me. You can’t start without me.” All the other parts soon realize it, and they say, “Go find the wire.” The terminal wire was created to transmit electrical current from the battery to the generator and to the engine to ignite the spark plugs that provide the fire to turn the pistons and turn the engine over. In essence, the little terminal wire was designed to be the “leader” in the area of electrical transmission. In the domain of the terminal wire, the terminal wire is in charge. It might be just a little wire, but it could shut down the engine.

If that spot is empty, the car shuts down.

Each one of the car’s parts is a leader. A spark plug can never be a battery. A battery can never be a manifold. A manifold can never be a generator. Therefore, in the domain of the battery, the battery is in charge. It is unique because only it can be the battery — no matter how jealous the battery or the spark plug gets, no matter how much the steering wheel wishes to be a battery.

Each part is important. Every component of the car was designed to lead in a specific area and to serve a purpose or function in the context of the whole. Each one is a leader!

This concept of leadership contradicts the philosophy that leadership is reserved for a small, elite group of individuals “chosen by providence” and entitled to lead the masses of incapable subordinates in need of guidance by those of superior status. It is a direct challenge to what I was taught in the colonial experience of my childhood.

My view of leadership is this: each of us has an inherent gift and must serve that gift to the world. You are a leader. You have power. Your gift is your power. You are in charge in your area of gifting, your domain. You have a leadership spot to fill and a function to carry out. Your gift determines that spot and that function. Just as the value of the terminal wire is determined not by size or cost but by function, your value is not determined by anything but your gift. Someone needs your gift, and you must serve it to the world. You also need the gifts others bear to live.

So who’s in charge? You are! Who’s got the power? Everyone of us.


Here is my review of this educational and inspirational read:

“In Charge” by Myles Munroe is an insightful non-fiction read about servant leadership. The perspective is refreshing. These short, inspiring chapters are designed to help the reader discover that we’re all created to serve and to lead. Systematically divided into three sections, this wonderful book begins by teaching us about that destiny, moves onto the principles of servant leadership and finishes with practices of servant leaders. I would recommend this book to anyone regardless of their current leadership role.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Infidel Graphic Novel by Ted Dekker



It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!




and his book:



Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. To see a complete list of Dekker's work, visit The Works section of TedDekker.com.

Here are some of his latest titles:

Chosen (The Lost Books, Book 1) (The Books of History Chronicles)

Adam

Black: The Birth of Evil (The Circle Trilogy Graphic Novels, Book 1)

Saint


Product Details

List Price:$15.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546049
ISBN-13: 978-1595546043


AND NOW...THE FIRST TWO PAGES:

(Click Pictures to Zoom!)








Here is my review of this incredible graphic novel:

Ted Dekker’s graphic novel “Infidel” reminded me how much I enjoy reading a comic book format. The artwork is terrific and the story is engaging even thought I haven’t read book one. I had a hard time putting this down. I have long been a fan of Ted Dekker’s horror novels. Now, he has gained me as a fantasy fan.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pure Gold by Pam Davis



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Pure Gold

Authentic (September 15, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


PAM DAVIS is an author and motivational speaker who views her charge as bringing the timeworn truths of Scripture to life. Pams candid teaching style not only enlightens but also entertains, leaving her audiences with a refreshed desire for the living Word of God. She lives with her husband, Steven, and three children in Fort Worth, Texas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Authentic (September 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068640
ISBN-13: 978-1934068649

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Gold and Grace

I remember a time in college when I headed to the beaches in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for spring break. No, I wasn’t there for something honorable, such as being part of a missionary team doing beach evangelism. In fact, I was more like the prodigal son in the company of swine about to come to my senses.

I sat in my car, thinking, I can’t find you, God. I’ve tried everywhere, good places and bad, but I can’t find you. I’ve tried church, seminars, books, even Bible college.

Then I said out loud, “Running in circles, where to start?” And in my heart, an answer followed: “The answer lies within your heart.”

Hmmm. So I put my hands on the steering wheel and continued out loud, “Running in circles, where to begin?” And again in my heart I heard, “Quit seeking outside and seek within.”

This was such a novel thought. As a child, I had asked Jesus into my heart to save my sinful soul. So where did I expect to find him, except in my heart? As a confused college student, I suddenly realized the extent of my disorientation. Looking for God and his grace out there was like driving the wrong way on a highway. I’m doing everything right—foot on the gas, hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. And yet something’s terribly wrong—I’m causing one crash after another, and I have the dings and dents to show for it. Not to mention the fact that my anxiety is off the charts.

This reminds me of the story of a woman driving down the highway when her cell phone rings. It’s her husband, and frantically he shouts, “I just heard on the radio that a car is driving the wrong way on the highway you’re on. Please be careful!”

“Dear, it’s not one car,” the woman responds. “It’s hundreds of cars!”

We can easily be like that—disoriented. We can easily be disoriented from the truth that if we’re saved by God’s grace—through Christ Jesus—then he’s not merely out there as a transcendent reality. But he also lives immanently, within our spiritual hearts, guiding and equipping us from within. Maybe we become disoriented so easily because we live in a culture so foreign to this biblical truth of a God-within reality. So that there is no confusion as to the term God-within reality, let me quote the words of Bible teacher Arthur W. Pink: “The great mistake made by most of the Lord’s people is in the hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone.”1 If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, then indeed within you is Christ’s nature, and within him is the God-within reality.

Whether you’re driving on a highway or trying to find God, disorientation can be deadly. Jesus knew this. He sent a messenger to a group of Christians to point out their disorientation and to reorient them. No wonder these believers were disoriented. Look at the foreign environment where they lived. Their society focused on freedom so much that they named their city “Rights of the People.” They built their city in honor of a woman; so if a statue stood at the edge of town, it would have been a woman. These people, richest among their neighbors, established an elaborate banking system. Their textile industry made their citizens among the most finely dressed of their era. Their sophisticated medical school boasted advanced treatments.

No, this isn’t a city in your country! It was Laodicea, the home of a church Jesus sent a messenger to. Listen to his words: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich” (Revelation 3:17–18).

Could Jesus be talking to us? Could our environment be so similar to that of the Laodicean Christians that we’ve also become disoriented, claiming we do not need a thing? His words are addressed to the “church.” Could we—the church—be in a state of spiritual bankruptcy even though we’re saved? If so, what did Jesus mean that we can buy gold from him and become rich?

Let’s find out together—just in case we’re the ones driving the wrong way.


The Commodity: Grace That Yields Life

My friend Laura2 was a worker ant, or so it seemed. When she got up each morning, she organized her day, her husband’s day, and their four children’s day. Efficient, organized, and with a mind that worked at lightning speed, she was a vital member of her church, Parent-Teacher Association, and her husband’s business. I felt tired just listening to her schedule, and I often sighed in amazement at all she seemed to accomplish every twenty-four hours.

Yet this worker ant, who was part of God’s kingdom, grew unresponsive spiritually. Instead of the once-glowing and enthusiastic woman I loved to laugh with, my friend grew uniform and almost militant in her pursuit of productivity. Her spiritual life seemed to exist in a hole that she dug deeper and deeper away from the light. I remember praying, “God, she doesn’t have to be a worker ant. You recreated her to be a queen—one who has wings and can leave the hole she’s digging herself into to visit the heavens. You’ve transformed her and made her capable of breeding spiritual life.”

An opportunity arose in God’s divine timing. One day Laura came over for coffee and noticed a sticky note on my refrigerator that reads, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” As she read it, she became deeply irritated and cried out, “If I don’t plan things, they won’t happen!” I countered, “Then what? You fail?”

After a moment, tears spilled from the corners of her eyes. Happiness, satisfaction, and joy had subtly been linked to productivity instead of to a relationship with Christ. That was okay for a worker ant. But not for a queen.

As we worked our way through a box of tissues together, we talked about the “have to’s” of life: have to take care of her family, have to fulfill what she felt God wanted to do through her in her church, have to be a helpmate in her husband’s business. Then the challenge surfaced: If she didn’t plan, how would she accomplish all the have to’s? What resource could she draw on?

I told Laura that God had been teaching me how his grace is a resource that yields life. We can accomplish our activities as a manifestation of that life. Each day we can experience joy instead of the slow death of a numbing routine. I knew because I had experienced it both ways. Like Laura, in my attempt to be an obedient Christian, I had somehow missed the message that we not only begin our salvation by grace but also live it out by grace. In fact, I had found a verse that said this perfectly: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3).

It took some time, but Laura began to yield to God. As she saw him working within her each day, his grace brought excitement and childlike anticipation to her life. Somehow, she still accomplished all the necessary tasks—not always in the order or the ways she anticipated—but they got done. This new way of living surfaced another, more powerful, force behind Laura’s need for productivity: her desire to be in control. Slowly and intentionally she discovered that when she yielded her control to Christ, she experienced his divine grace—the spiritual sweat of God’s diligent work in and through us.

In addition, like a queen ant, she hatched “eggs”—eggs of life. Because Laura possessed grace, other people she came into contact with were dusted effortlessly with life. The worker received grace by faith to be a queen.


Disgustingly Lukewarm Believers

Each of us must receive from the Holy Spirit the very real spiritual commodity of grace to live Christ’s life deposited within us. Receiving this grace comes through faith—faith in God instead of faith in self. Jesus desires that we possess all his riches: “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:15).

However, most of us are like Laura used to be. We get so wrapped up in getting through each day in an orderly fashion that we forget to put our faith in God. As we gradually transfer faith in him to faith in ourselves, we become lukewarm.

Jesus addressed this phenomenon in his message to the Laodicean Christians: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:14–16).

Jesus used strong language with these followers. He said, “I am about to spit you out.” Actually, that’s a nice way of saying, “I want to vomit you out”! Why did these Christians sicken Jesus so much?

In the ancient world, the master of the feast served cold beverages to refresh and revive or hot beverages to soothe and comfort. However, a lukewarm beverage—like drinking warm salt water—can make you sick. The Laodicean Christians knew this well, because they piped their drinking water from a city a few miles to the north. So by the time it reached their city, it was often lukewarm and even sickening to drink.

Yet instead of vomiting out these apathetic believers, Jesus offered them gold! This isn’t gold as we usually think of it. It wasn’t a tangible treasure. In fact, the Laodicean Christians had that. They paid more than twenty pounds in gold to Rome for taxes each year, yet Jesus called them “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Instead, Jesus offered gold that the Old Testament prophet Malachi described this way: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3).

God’s pure gold is his grace. Only this kind of gold can make us truly rich. Instead of us being wretched and afflicted, his grace enables us to endure troubles. Instead of us being pitiful, God’s grace supplies us with the power to perform. Instead of us being poor and empty in satisfaction, his grace gives us wealth of significance. Instead of us being blind, the Lord’s grace enables us to perceive eternal reality. And instead of us being naked, impoverished morally, and dishonoring of our purpose for existence, God’s grace allows us to be clothed in right standing with him and able to offer righteous acts that will revive and comfort our disoriented world. All this will happen as we buy gold from Jesus.

The word buy is interesting (Rev. 3:17–18). Isn’t God’s grace free? Should Jesus have said, “receive” instead of “buy”?

Jesus is specific and intentional, and he indeed does say, “Buy.” Why? Because when you buy instead of receive, your heart moves toward what you desire at a cost. In essence, Jesus was saying to these Christians who lived in a materially abundant society, “Don’t just desire to be rich in God’s grace; take action at a cost to yourself to receive grace.” Let’s examine what that looks like.


Physical and Spiritual Gold

Even though God’s grace is spiritual gold, we can understand it better by comparing it to physical gold. For example, we know from artifacts of ancient civilizations that physical gold has been treasured since the beginning of history.3

Grace—spiritual gold—has also been treasured since the beginning of history. Philo, a first-century Jewish philosopher asserted,

The just man seeking to understand the nature of

all existing things, makes this one most excellent

discovery, that everything which exists, does so

according to the grace of God, and that there is

nothing ever given by, just as there is nothing

possessed by, the things of creation. On which

account also it is proper to acknowledge gratitude

to the Creator alone. Accordingly, to those persons

who seek to investigate what is the origin of

creation, we may most correctly make answer, that

it is the goodness and the grace of God, which he

has bestowed on the human race; for all the things

which are in the world, and the world itself, are

the gift and benefaction and free grace of God.4

Physical gold is also rare and beautiful. Even primitive people greatly desired this precious metal. However, they didn’t value gold for its beauty alone. They thought gold was divine—the sweat of the gods.5 When the ancient Egyptians discovered gold nuggets in riverbeds, they concluded that the gods had been working in Egypt and that the nuggets of gold provided evidence of the gods’ sweat. They also believed that this rare commodity held magical power to cure illness and give knowledge.

Grace, spiritual gold, is certainly rare and beautiful—so rare that we can only find it in one source: Jesus Christ. Grace is also mystical, because we can’t explain how grace given by Jesus Christ can cure illness, give knowledge, and impart life. The apostle Paul expressed it this way: “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! . . . For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ”

(Romans 5:15, 17).

Further, grace is truly divine. We could say that God’s grace is the spiritual sweat of his diligent work. Jesus said, “My Father has worked [even] until now, [He has never ceased working; He is still working] and I, too, must be at [divine] work” (John 5:17 amp).

I like this summary of God’s grace: inexhaustible, unmerited benefits that give us joy, pleasure, goodwill, thanksgiving, and the essential benefit—spiritual life.


A God of Grace

Almost everyone knows the Old Testament account of Noah and the ark. But in the many retellings of these events, we often miss the point. God revealed his abiding presence, provision, and authority, showing himself to be a God of grace, to Noah and his entire family and to generations that followed.

When I think about the story of Noah, I envision it like this:

In Noah’s time, lust had replaced love. The lust

for wealth led to murder. The lust for sex led to

beastly unions. Noah tried to remind his friends

and coworkers that they were fortunate to have

life in their bodies, to have food in their bellies,

and to have children in their arms. All this

provided evidence of the goodness of their God.

But they wouldn’t listen. They didn’t care. Their

evil thoughts and actions vilely betrayed the love

of their unseen God.

Alone, with his eyes toward heaven, Noah

searched for God’s formless face. Silently, he

declared his devotion to righteousness, knowing

in the pit of his being that this pleased God. And

God responded, “Noah, I’m going to put an end

to all people, for the earth is filled with violence.

All the people of earth have corrupted their ways.

I am surely going to destroy both them and the

earth.” The words sent a shock through Noah’s

body. But before Noah could respond, God

added, “But you, Noah, have found grace in my

sight.”

Of course, the rest of Noah’s story is well

known. God instructed him to build the ark,

to gather pairs of every kind of animal, and to

prepare for the flood. Noah and his wife, and

their sons and their wives, along with the animals,

were the only survivors of the flood.

After the floodwaters subsided, Noah stood

with the grass moist beneath his feet and his

sun-kissed face toward heaven. He beamed as

tears streamed down his cheeks. Birds fluttered

overhead. The jackrabbit and kangaroo seemed

to race. Horses galloped by as bears rolled in

the grass, scratching their backs. With his hands

clasped behind his back, Noah felt a fragile hand

in his own. He turned and again was enraptured

by his own mate’s eyes. “God has made a new

home for us,” she whispered tenderly.

At that moment, voices they’d heard a

thousand times registered in their ears: “Mom!

Dad! Look!” Turning toward their children, Noah

and his wife saw the heavens as a brilliant canvas

cascading with vibrant colors. A new home, a

new land, love, harmony, blessing. Fixed on the

glorious sky, Noah declared, “This rainbow is a

sign of God’s grace toward all life on the earth.”

(author’s summary of Genesis 6:9–9:17)


Eternal Drudgery or Eternal Dynasty?

Even today God testifies that he a God of grace. Yet we often fail to stake our claim on the gift of grace in Jesus Christ. Like my friend Laura, we face a choice of what we want to participate in. We might call it eternal drudgery or eternal dynasty. So often we choose the drudge—and we end up feeling lost, hopeless, useless, numb, stale, and even obsolete.

God, however, wants us to choose the dynasty and that is why Jesus warns: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

What keeps us from making the obvious choice—the lifegiving choice of God’s grace? I believe for most of us it is a fundamental misunderstanding of grace. Jerry Bridges wrote, “I suspect most of us would say we declared permanent bankruptcy. Having trusted in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we realized we could not add any measure of good works to what He has already done. However, I think most of us, actually declared temporary bankruptcy. Having trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we have subtly and unconsciously reverted to a works relationship with God in our Christian lives. We recognize that even our best efforts cannot get us to Heaven, but we think they earn God’s blessings in our daily lives.”6

For most of us, just trudging through life day to day blinds us from seeing our need for God’s grace. Look at the following areas of life, and think about how each of these can challenge your need for God’s grace.


• Spiritual life: Do you feel barren or empty? Or do you sense that you’re growing and even reproducing life in others?

• Physical life: Do you constantly sense a decrease in force or energy? Or are you alive with energy provided by your relationship with the Holy Spirit?

• Mental life: Do you feel like you’re regressing from a state of stability—maybe feeling lost or even having perverse thoughts? Or do you feel vivid, charged, and stable, with your experiences creating pleasant and fulfilling memories?

• Emotional life: Do you go through most days feeling numb, lacking power to respond? Or do you feel passionate about your relationship with the Lord—having a relationship that you could describe as glowing or on fire?

• Appearance: When you look in the mirror, would you describe yourself as lacking radiance, cold, or even steely? Or would you say that you’re bright, glowing, and animated because of your relationship with Christ?

• Activities: As you go through each day, week, month, and year, do you see the things you need to accomplish as decreasing in quality or as too uniform and listlike in nature? Or do you find a variety in your activities that allows you to approach them with a sense of vigor and a satisfaction that you’re accomplishing tasks out of your love for God?

• Relationships: Do you find yourself easily offended or sense that your relationships with others are stale? Or would you describe your relationships as pure, vital, and functioning because of who you are in Christ?

If the first question in each of these areas describes you more often than the second, you might sum up your feelings by saying that your physical existence is more an experience of death than life.

But is that really what you want? Instead, most of us would rather answer yes to each area’s second question. Those questions describe true life when we embrace God’s precious treasure of grace.

How conscious are you of God’s desire to extend his grace to you each day? Maybe your image of God is one of a detached king in an air-conditioned heaven, feasting on grapes and wine. But that’s not who God is at all! Instead, he is working, creating you in Christ to be a work of grace and to do his works of grace. God is a hands-on God, who works efficiently, extending grace with his hand of Light—Christ. God touches us with the Holy Spirit, causing us to grow, have life, and bear fruit for him. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16).

“I chose you.” Those three words alone illustrate how God actively works in our lives. Pastor and teacher Oswald Chambers commented on those three words: “That is the way the grace of God begins. It is a constraint we cannot get away from; we can disobey it, but we cannot generate it. The drawing is done by the supernatural grace of God, and we can never trace where His work begins. Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; the salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Himself.”7


The King’s Throne: God’s Throne of Grace

I will never forget one of the most dramatic examples of God’s grace at work that I have ever witnessed. In October 1996 Yankee Stadium was filled with people on their feet. The roar was deafening. The pitch was thrown, and the home crowd went wild as the pop-up was caught, and the New York Yankees won the World Series. John Wetteland, the thirty-year-old closing pitcher, was swept up in the air by his teammates. My husband, Steven, and I sat in front of our television set with tears streaming down our cheeks as we watched John scan the stands, searching for his wife, Michele.

I first met Michele in the spring of 1990, when both of our husbands were in major league spring training camp with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yet I’d heard of Michele much earlier. Before either of us got married, our future husbands, Steven and John, were roommates during winter ball in Puerto Rico. Apparently, the women pursuing John in his single days were notorious, and the other ballplayers teased John about his pursuers, referring to them as a harem.

Michele was busy pursuing God’s will for her life, attending college and working part-time. When John, the renowned “king of the ladies,” visited her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, for a series of games, Michele was certainly intrigued and fascinated, but not captured. Michele already considered herself part of a harem—she was a bride of the Lord Jesus, and she resided in his court, respecting his kingdom’s rule.

This posed a problem for John, who indeed was captured by Michele. Instead of being lured by John’s gold and the prospect of more gold, Michele turned away. Like the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas, John was struck with amazement: What’s this? No cards? No calls? No boxes? No bows?

Intrigued and fascinated by whatever commodity could compete with his own, John met the lover of Michele’s soul—the Lord Jesus Christ. Admitting that he’d been trying for years to fill a void in his life that he never could fill, John surrendered himself to God’s kingdom and received an overabundance of grace—the spiritual gold that really satisfies.

Steven and I watched as John stood beside Michele and their twin daughters to receive the trophy for the Most Valuable Player in the World Series. Emotion-filled words choked from his lips: “I would first like to thank Jesus Christ—my point man. Then my wife, Michele, who is my rock.” John was correct with this declaration, because the Rock of Jesus Christ is inside Michele Wetteland. Her spiritual grasp was stretched in her courtship with John, and now she’s richer in every way for choosing to possess God’s grace, instead of merely the world’s gold.


Thrones of Gold

All of us must make the same choice that Michele faced. Will we place ourselves or the world or a myriad of other things on the throne of our lives? Or will we become royal children of God, placing him on the throne to rule and make us rich with his grace? As followers of Christ, each believer becomes part of God’s royal spiritual kingdom. Since we are his royal children, God doesn’t withhold any good thing from our spiritual life. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord God . . . gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right” (Psalm 84:11 nlt).

Of course, the false thrones of the world certainly look attractive. This was true even in ancient civilizations. The pharaohs and high priests of Egypt sat on gold thrones, and their palaces and temples sparkled and gleamed with gold. They sat on hammered gold-sheathed furniture surrounded by golden statues. Gold thread shimmered in draperies, tapestries, and clothing. The very walls shone with gold. At night royalty slept on gold beds. When Queen Hatshepsut rose from her morning bath, she powdered her body with gold dust. The Egyptians buried their royalty in gold, wrapping their bodies in yards and yards of linen strips with golden jewels placed in the wrappings. The coffins that held the wrapped bodies and the jars that held their vital organs were covered in gold. We could say that a royal Egyptian’s journey through life to afterlife was a path of gold.8

In contrast, God offers us his true throne of grace. He and Jesus are seated on this throne of grace. Yet God’s grace also pervades every part of his kingdom. He purchased his royal children’s salvation with grace. We, his heirs, are covered with grace. We display his grace, and we sit with him by grace. Because we are royal children of God, our journey through life to eternity is a path of grace.

The writer of Hebrews described the Lord’s throne this way: “We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. . . . Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14, 16).


God’s Grace: Spiritual Wealth

You might recall the Old Testament account of Sarai and Abram. God gave this husband and wife an opportunity to exercise their faith and to increase their capacity to receive spiritual wealth—God’s grace. God initiated his grace by calling Sarai, and by faith she received grace when she obeyed God by following her husband.

Sarai was stunningly beautiful. Living in the excitement of a metropolitan city, this woman had looks, wealth, love, and servants. Even her name was a blessing: “my princess.” Yet for all the things Sarai had, she lacked one thing—a child. In her day, nothing she possessed compared with what she lacked.

Then God told Sarai, through Abram, to leave her familiar surroundings and travel with Abram to an unknown land that he would show them, promising that it would be worth their while. The land they journeyed to was occupied by another nation, and the people there were experiencing a famine. This meant that Sarai and Abram faced famine as well when they arrived. What were they to do? Trust in self-rule or God’s rule? God had placed them on the road, and they would learn that God would preserve them on the road. They would learn to follow, not lead.

Fearing for his life, due to the famine in the land, Abram decided to take an independent journey, traveling from the land of God’s choosing down to Egypt and right out of God’s perfect will. Then, fearing that the pharaoh might kill him and seize Sarai for his harem, Abram stepped further out of God’s will and hatched his own plan.

Abram said to Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you” Genesis 12:11–13).

The choice Sarai faced didn’t appear to be a grace-laden path at all. Instead, it appeared to be a dead end, where she would lose her chastity, her honor, and her promise for a happy and fulfilled life. She found herself at a crossroads of two kingdoms: not Egypt’s or her husband’s, but self-rule or God’s rule. Certainly, self-rule seemed reasonable, because Sarai thought she would lose everything. Assertiveness, as we will see later, wasn’t something she lacked. Yet God promised her what self-rule could never give her: a child.

So Sarai trusted God, yielding to her husband and obeying his wishes. This placed her right in the gold-adorned court of Pharaoh, Egypt’s ruler. The Egyptian courts at this time were lavish in golden décor. The Egyptian goldsmiths were experts at combining different colors of gold in their patterns. Adding iron gave gold a purple hue, copper made it red, and silver made the gold pale yellow.

Draped in an array of physical gold as part of the king’s harem, Sarai remained obedient to God. Although she was physically trapped in Egypt, she had not ventured spiritually from the court of the King of Kings. God rescued this royal child and, consequently, her husband and their entire entourage, sending “great plagues” on Pharaoh and his household. This all happened before Egypt’s king could violate her in any way. Abram, her husband, was shamed for his lack of faith in attempting to sustain his life apart from obedience to God.

With Sarai’s spiritual grasp stretched by exercising her faith, she possessed more grace/gold than when she arrived; she left Egypt as a wealthy woman spiritually as well as materially. Pharaoh treated Abram well for Sarai’s sake, and Abram acquired sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and servants.


The Golden Path of Grace

Sarai chose the path of grace. This golden road leads away from trusting in self-rule toward complete reliance on God. As Christ’s followers, we all face this choice. Will we place ourselves or Jesus Christ on the throne of our lives? If we choose to let Jesus reign, God promises that we will experience the richness of his grace in our present life and in eternity. The apostle Paul eloquently described this great gift of grace: “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]” (Ephesians 2:10 amp).

Did you catch that? God has prepared paths for us, and we should walk in them! Yet we so often stumble on the path, failing to live the abundant life God has for us. Paul addressed the reason for our stumbling: “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 9:30–33).

How interesting that Paul described Jesus as a stumbling stone. Think about that. You don’t stumble over a mountain or even a huge boulder. You stumble over a nugget that’s right under your nose, because you didn’t see it. That’s the way it is with God’s grace. His grace is right under our noses, there to meet our every need throughout each day. But instead of realizing it, and instead of kneeling down and receiving it, we stumble along in unbelief.

Walking the golden path of grace isn’t a scurry through the mall or a race measured by speed. It’s a deliberate, intentional climb up the jagged face of a mountain with stones mixed in with hard dirt.

When we think about the consequences of stumbling while climbing a mountain compared to stumbling on a flat terrain, we understand why the psalmist declared, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). A light on a dark and dangerous mountain, pointing out nuggets that when overlooked would become stumbling stones, would be the difference between a steady assent and a bloody heap of broken bones.

In the same way, as we travel up the golden path of grace, God’s written Word is the light that points to who Christ is and the grace we can receive. When we see and receive nuggets of truth of who he is on our individual, prearranged path and trust him completely, we are never put to shame. “I want those already wise to become the wiser and become leaders by exploring the depths of meaning in these nuggets of truth” (Proverbs 1:5–6 lb). Possessing his spiritual richness and abundance sounds better

than a bloody heap of broken bones!


—————————— Nuggets——————————

G od’s

R iches

A t

C hrist’s

E xpense

——————— A Prayer of Grace ———————


Lord God, we acknowledge we exist only because of your grace toward us. You are our Creator, and we praise you for our very existence, our planet, and all that spans beyond our universe. We acknowledge the rarity and beauty of your grace given to us in Jesus Christ, and we know that no one can come to you apart from him.

Father, we acknowledge that you are always working in and around us, pouring out your grace as you re-create us in Christ Jesus to do the very works of grace you have preplanned for us. We acknowledge that two roads exist in life. One we walk by our natural resources that lead to destruction. The other we walk intentionally as a spiritual road of grace that leads to life. Thank you for providing this golden road of grace and the gate, Jesus Christ, by which we gain access.

Help us, Lord, to slow our pace, to take our steps cautiously, so as to live the abundant life you have prearranged and made ready. Amen.


——————— Questions for Reflection ———————

• Reflect on a time when you or your family was lost. How did it make you feel?

• What were some of the reasons you lost your way?

• If walking the golden path of grace isn’t a scurry through the mall or a race measured by speed, how conducive is your lifestyle to carefully walking the golden road of grace? Is your goal to keep pace with grace or pace with the world?

• Consider a time when you have stumbled in unbelief in difficult circumstances. How did God show you he was present and there for you?


Notes

1. Arthur W. Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1955), 200.

2. Not her real name.

3. Richard B. Lyttle, The Golden Path (New York: Atheneum Books, 1983), 15.

4. Philo Judaeus, The Works of Philo (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), CD-ROM.

5. Lyttle, Path, p. 21.

6. Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 17.

7. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1935), 73.

8. Lyttle, Path, p. 10.



Here is my review of this amazing read:

“Pure Gold: Embracing God’s Grace” by Pam Davis is a wonderful, timely non-fiction title that will minister to many Christian hearts. We have such a difficult time forgiving ourselves that we often turn our back on God’s grace convinced that we don’t deserve it! Well, we don’t. That’s exactly why we need to embrace God’s grace. This would be a wonderful Bible study or reading group pick.