Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Children of Angels by Kathryn Dahlstrom

Life isn’t easy for seventh-grader Jeremy Lapoint. Dad’s in prison and Mom can barely afford garage-sale clothes. Everything changes when Jeremy discovers that he can fly, pass through walls, and see angels and demons. He is chased by a demon through school hallways, but his guardian angel, Asiel, fights it off. The angel explains that Jeremy is a Nephilim—a human-angel hybrid—but Asiel doesn’t know exactly how that happened. Jeremy then discovers other Nephilim teens.

The Nephilim teens later find a report that details the source of their unusual genetics. They are about to take the report as evidence, but a gorilla-sized demon and his soldiers challenge them. When Asiel announces that the Lord of Hosts has deemed Jeremy a Battle Leader of Angels, the boy is not happy. Can heaven really expect a thirteen-year-old loser to turn into a mighty warrior?


My review:

This is not the first book I have read about half angel/half human beings, but its totally different from what I have previously read. Although I am not of the intended audience age, I enjoyed the book. The author came up with a very likable main character and also had a great plot for the book. I read the book in one setting, and could see a teenager doing the same. There is a lot of action in the book and it is fast paced for most of the book.

Writing about this subject matter could be tricky, but the author did a great job of doing so. I am looking forward to more in the series, even though I am an adult. :-)

Sample chapter here.

About the author:

When Kathryn Dahlstrom’s husband was transferred to Los Angeles, she traded Minnesota’s black-bear country for the inner-city and taught children at a Child Evangelism Fellowship Good News Club in Watts. She also began her writing career. In addition to writing six titles in the Good News Club children’s fiction series published by Child Evangelism Fellowship Press, the author is also a screenwriter and film producer.

Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocal Music Education, and a certificate in Elementary Education. She and her husband, Tim, live on wooded acreage north of Minneapolis/St. Paul where they care for her mother. They also have an adult daughter, Kristina.

Dahlstrom is a member of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild, the Screenwriter’s Network Worldwide, the Screenwriting U Pro Series Alumni, and the American Screenwriters Association. 


Children of Angels is available from Winepress Publishing.

Thanks to Winepress for the review copy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Anniversary Waltz by Darrel Nelson


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Anniversary Waltz
Realms (May 15, 2012)
by
Darrel Nelson




ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Word from the author:



I am a schoolteacher by profession and have taught school for (thir—ahem!) years. I grew up in Raymond, Alberta, and attended the University of Lethbridge after graduating from high school and serving a two-year mission to Japan. During university, I met and married Marsha Smith, and we are the parents of four children, which has grown to include their spouses and our ten grandchildren.



I have always loved to write. I started writing stories before I was old enough to realize I was writing stories. It seemed a natural thing to pick up a pencil and paper and create a world simply by using words—worlds of adventure in steaming jungles (Tarzan was an early influence on me) or realms of adventure in outer space (Buck Rogers). But as I have grown older, I have discovered that the real inspiration for me is exploring the theme of love and how it can make such a difference in the world.



I’ve had an article published in Lethbridge Magazine and have written several dramatic plays, two of which won provincial recognition and were showcased at a drama festival. I won the CJOC radio songwriting contest two years running, and have had one of my songs receive international airplay. I have written four novels intended for the juvenile market. They are unpublished as yet, but I read them annually to my fourth grade students and my students tell me they love them, the darlings.



ABOUT THE BOOK



At their sixtieth anniversary party, Adam Carlson asks his wife, Elizabeth, for their customary waltz. After the dance they gather the family and share their story—a story of love and courage overcoming adversity and thriving in the face of overwhelming odds.



It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. At a town festival he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.



When Adam and Elizabeth share a waltz in a deserted pavilion one evening, their feelings begin to grow and they embark on a journey, and a dance, that will last a lifetime.



If you'd like to read the first chapter excerpt of The Anniversary Waltz, go HERE.

This sounds like a great book. They have not shipped though, so I have not been able to read it yet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I Didn't Sign Up For This by Aaron Sharp

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!




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








Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Discovery House Publishers (April 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to
Susan Otis, Creative Resources for sending me a review copy.***




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Aaron Sharp lives in Little Elm, Texas, with his wife, Elaina, and their son, Micah. He is a Master of Theology graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently employed in the Information Technology department of the ministry Insight for Living.



I Didn’t Sign Up for This is Aaron’s first book. Previously his writing has been seen in The Odessa American newspaper and the magazines Learning Through History, Discipleship Journal, Leben, Marriage Partnership, In Touch Magazine, and multiple issues of The Lookout Magazine.





Visit the author's website.




SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Without the least bit of notice, life can take a sudden turn down a road we never anticipated or never would have chosen to travel. I Didn't Sign Up for This! Navigating Life Detours offers insights from the life and times of the prophet Elijah to encourage readers who have suddenly veered off the road into a wilderness experience. It provides guidelines and tools to help readers align their expectations with God's plan, fuel their lives with faith to overcome their fears, and find their way home. It offers fresh perspective on the need for God's direction throughout life's journey.






Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Discovery House Publishers (April 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1572935138

ISBN-13: 978-1572935136






AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:






The Story of Elijah

Late Ninth Century B.C.

Mount Carmel, Israel

Three groups of people made their way up the mountain.

In the first group were thousands of regular, everyday people.

They were making the short trek, ready to see one of the ancient

world’s greatest pieces of theater—a showdown between rival

prophets. Many of them were trying to decide exactly what to

believe and just who to worship. These people were not royalty,

nor were they priests. They were shepherds, farmers, and fishermen.

If nothing else, these Israelites anticipated a good show.

Interspersed within the first group was another group, this

one numbering 450 strong. The colorfully adorned men in this

second group were prophets of the Canaanite fertility god Baal.

Worship of Baal, who was typically pictured as a bull, had been

practiced in this area long before the Israelites had conquered the

Promised Land. Now with the worship of the one true God at

an all-time low in Israel, these priests had done much to lead the

Israelites astray.

Worship of this pagan god revolved around fulfilling the

desires of the worshipper. The ultimate act of worship was when

the worshippers worked themselves into a frenzy of passion, with

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 9 2/1/12 11:33 AM

10 / AARON SHARP

the prophets and priests functioning as sacred prostitutes. Worshipping

Baal meant excitement, thrill, and feeding one’s own

appetites and desires.

The third group of people was not really a group at all. It was

one single, solitary man. As was his custom, the man wore a hairy

garment and a leather belt. He was not only the underdog in that

day’s contest, he was also the reason for the gathering. Every step

that his sandals took crackled on parched ground. And every

crackle reminded him and everyone else that he was the one who

had caused all of this trouble. He had prophesied that it would

not rain in the land of Israel until he said that it would. Then

God commanded him to leave the land of Israel. Now, three

years later, he had returned, and the dry and barren mountain

was testament to the authenticity of his prophecy.

The prophet Elijah made his way up the formerly beautiful

Mount Carmel to take on the prophets of Baal, one versus four

hundred fifty. So much had changed during the three years that

Elijah had been gone. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had murdered

God’s prophets, and the drought had brought on a severe

famine that was felt heavily in Ahab’s capital city of Samaria.

When the prophet had reappeared, King Ahab had called him

the “Troubler of Israel.” Elijah challenged Ahab to gather the

nation and the priests of Baal to meet him on Mount Carmel.

The meeting would show, once and for all, that God was allpowerful

and that Baal was an empty shell of a dead and uncaring

idol.

Once Elijah, the king, the prophets of Baal, and the assembled

crowd had settled in on a plain just below the mountain’s

peak, Elijah began to speak. The prophet’s voice bellowed across

the natural amphitheater created by the mountain’s features as he

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 10 2/1/12 11:33 AM

The Story of Elijah / 11

challenged the people of Israel to choose whom to follow, Baal

or the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He directed that two

oxen be brought and that the 450 prophets of Baal be given their

choice of cattle to sacrifice. Each would prepare their own ox for

sacrifice. Then whichever deity sent fire from heaven to consume

the sacrifice would be the one true God.

The prophets of Baal went first. A careful observer of the

priests slaughtering the bull and placing it upon the altar would

realize that they already had a major problem. They worshipped

a god of fertility, the one responsible for thunder, rain, and agriculture.

Yet the priests were performing their sacrifice after three

years of drought and famine. In fact, the very mountain on which

they now stood had been a national symbol of vibrant beauty

(Song of Solomon 7:5; see also Isaiah 35:2), but now, after three

years without rain, it was an icon of futility. The prophets performed

their rituals with much music, dancing, and gyrations,

but the entire morning passed without any word from Baal, or so

much as a spark from heaven.

By noontime, with the act of Baal’s prophets growing tiresome

for the assembled crowd, the lone prophet of Yahweh

became more and more openly adversarial. Despite the fact that

this large contingent of colorfully adorned priests had continuously

chanted, “O Baal, answer us” for several hours, they had

seen no evidence of their deity. Elijah heckled them, saying, “Call

out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or

gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs

to be awakened.” Elijah had the audacity to suggest that Baal was

asleep, or possibly even away on a trip. No doubt this taunting of

the prophet’s theological nemesis both shocked and delighted the

crowd that was by this point bored.

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12 / AARON SHARP

The priests of Baal responded to the eccentric prophet’s ridicule

by taking their worship to extreme measures. Since their

deity was not responding to their chants and calls for actions, the

prophets now began to slash and cut themselves. Cries rang out

and blood gushed over their vividly colored outfits as the prophets

grew more and more desperate for Baal to act. This disturbing

behavior continued until the middle of the afternoon when Elijah

finally had had enough.

Against a backdrop of his opponents’ pitiful cries for action,

bloody and beaten by their own desperate hands, Elijah called

the people to gather around. He took the time to choose twelve

stones and to construct an altar, which he promptly surrounded

with a trench. After the painstaking process of constructing his

altar and digging the trench, Elijah killed the ox. After the animal

had breathed its last, he cut the ox into pieces and laid the

bloody pieces on the altar to be sacrificed. Then, in a move that

shocked the crowd as much as his earlier taunting, Elijah commanded

that twelve pitchers of water be poured on top of the

ox and the altar. After a three-year drought, the spectators must

have gasped when so much water was used that it even filled up

the trench.

Then Elijah prayed. Though his prayer was relatively short, it

must have felt like he prayed for an eternity. There was no delay

in what happened next. Unlike Baal, whose priests had sought his

help for hours, Elijah’s God saw no reason to delay.

Fire exploded from heaven and streaked across the evening

sky. The fire blazed closer and closer until it impacted Elijah’s

makeshift altar as if God had punched the earth with a fiery fist.

The fire completely consumed the ox, the water, and even the

stones. Where once had stood an altar, was now just a smolder.

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The Story of Elijah / 13

The solitary man in the hairy garment wasted no time in

completing the triumph. Elijah turned from the smoking ashes

that proclaimed his God’s victory and commanded the people to

seize the bloody and defeated prophets of Baal. He then meted

out the punishment God had decreed for false prophets—all 450

prophets were slain. There was no trial. They were all guilty and

they paid the price.

As an encore, Elijah told King Ahab, the most prominent

worshipper of Baal, to take his chariot down the mountain

because it was about to rain, for the first time in a very long time.

A great rain did come, but not before the prophet outran Ahab’s

chariot down the mountain.

Few human beings in history have ever had a better day than

Elijah did on Mount Carmel. Words such as legendary, historic,

and awesome only begin to tell the story of the showdown on

Mount Carmel. Had newspapers existed at the time, editors

would have had strokes trying to come up with a headline that

would do it justice. With apologies to a young shepherd boy who

one day slew a giant and eventually became king, the feat brought

about by Elijah was only rivaled in Israelite history by Moses’

parting of the Red Sea. Years later young Jewish boys would urge

their fathers, “Tell me about the day with Elijah on the mountain

again!”

But the prophet’s great day quickly turned into a very dark

night. In a stunning turn of events, fire from heaven became a

distant memory for the prophet almost before the embers of that

blaze had grown cold.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 13 2/1/12 11:33 AM

15

Introduc tion

A few years ago my girlfriend (now wife) and I spent a Fourth

of July weekend with her family at their lake house on Eagle

Mountain Lake. We had not been dating long, and it was my

first time to visit them at the lake. Much of the weekend was

spent on WaveRunners, objects almost as unfamiliar to me as the

members of my wife’s family. We were out on the WaveRunners

one morning when I was told to take the WaveRunner I was on

and follow someone else, also on a WaveRunner, to a dock across

the lake.

At the time I was more than a little distracted talking to my

girlfriend, and so I did not pay close attention to the person I was

supposed to follow, or even where my destination was. After a

minute or so I took off across the lake, chasing the person to the

dock. I could see him in the distance, and so I followed, and followed,

and followed, until finally, after having crossed the width

of the lake, I arrived at a marina and realized, much too late, that

I had followed the wrong person.

I was now alone on an unexpected detour on a lake as unfamiliar

to me as the Sea of Galilee. Actually, I might have known

the Sea of Galilee better, because I had at least seen pictures of

it in the back of my Bible. I did not know even the basic shape

of Eagle Mountain Lake. I had no cell phone, and I had not

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 15 2/1/12 11:33 AM

16 / AARON SHARP

memorized my girlfriend’s phone number on the off chance I

could find a phone.

Despite the predicament in which I found myself, I thought

that I could find my way home. I remembered that I could see

the lights of a baseball field from their back porch. Surely I could

find a baseball field along the shore somewhere. Once I found

that, it would be a breeze to navigate the rest of the way. Besides,

this was Texas—how big could the lake be, anyway?

Minutes turned into hours. I traversed the lake trying to find

my way back with little success. At one point I ran out of gas and

had to dock my vessel at the home of a nice couple who helped

me as much as they could. I did not know what city my girlfriend’s

family house was in, as several bordered the lake, so they

gave me a full tank of gas and I headed back out onto the lake.

The hot July Texas sun had turned my usually pale skin into a

shade of tomato red. My sunburn hurt, I was exhausted, I was

embarrassed, I was frustrated, and with the sun slowly beginning

to descend, I had no idea where I was or what lay in front of me.

Eventually, however, I found my way home. They had sent a

search party out for me, but I managed to find my way back on

my own, saving a tiny (very, very tiny) sliver of self-respect. To

this day, her family still talks about my afternoon on the lake,

and I laugh about it now, telling everyone that I know the lake

better than all of them put together. But, if I am honest, that is

not the only time in my life that I have been on a detour. The

other times did not involve lakes, WaveRunners, or sunburn, but

the change in my course was just as unexpected, just as fearful,

and just as frustrating.

There was the time that I got the call from my parents telling

me that my mother had cancer. There was the year after coldidn'tsignup_

2nd.indd 16 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Introduc tion / 17

lege when I struggled to discern God’s will for my future. There

was the time in seminary when I hurt my knee, requiring a surgery

that took all of my savings for school and then some. There

was the huge conflict in my extended family that may never be

resolved, my graduation from seminary with no job prospects,

my wife’s miscarriage, and the unexpected loss of a close friend.

There was my layoff, then my wife’s, and then mine again.

All of these circumstances left me feeling much the same as

I did that day on the lake. At least with my aquatic adventure I

can look back on it and laugh, but I cannot say that about all

the other detours. Nor can I explain why these difficult times

occurred, or what God was doing in my life through them. Some

of them are, at least this side of heaven, unexplainable. I could

make up a reason for their happening, but I do not truly know.

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we all

end up on these unexpected detours from time to time. Maybe

it is bad news from the doctor, a pink slip, an argument, or any

number of things, but we can easily find ourselves in situations

where we feel like I did that day on the lake. Often we begin to

question ourselves, God, and life itself when our planned course

changes direction. We wonder why our problems seem to get bigger

by the minute and worry about how long it will be before we

can find our way home.

Fortunately for us, the characters of the Bible are no strangers

to detours. Job’s detour—the sudden loss of his children, possessions,

and health—was quite possibly unlike any before or since.

Abraham’s detour of being unable to produce children left him

feeling so out of sorts that he slept with his wife’s servant in an

attempt to accomplish God’s will on his own. Joseph went from

being his father’s favorite child to a slave, sold into slavery by his

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18 / AARON SHARP

brothers, and then to a falsely accused prisoner. David experienced

detours that left him so exacerbated that he exclaimed:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?

How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul,

Having sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

(Psalm 13:1–2)

The list of detoured lives that grace the pages of Scripture

could go on and on. It includes men and women, Jew and Gentile,

old and young. This is important for us to note because often

when we are in the midst of a detour we feel like we are the only

one who has experienced anything like the heavy fog in which

we are living. If you are not careful, you can conclude that you

must be the only person who has ever felt like life is closing in

on you and nothing is going right. The question of the prophet

Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will

not hear?” (1:2), will be on your lips, and it is important to know

that you are not the first person to have thought those thoughts

and said those words.

Perhaps no biblical figure has taken a more disappointing

detour than the prophet Elijah. Elijah bursts onto the stage of

biblical literature from out of nowhere. After the death of Solomon,

the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms, with the

northern nation of ten tribes going by the name of Israel and the

southern two tribes, Benjamin and Judah, going by the name of

Judah. As you read about these events in the book of 1 Kings, you

see a pattern develop in Israel. The kings “did evil in the sight

of the Lord,” and they got progressively worse. By the time you

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Introduc tion / 19

read about King Omri, who “did evil in the sight of the Lord,

and acted more wickedly than all who were before him” (1 Kings

16:25), you are convinced that this nation must have hit rock

bottom. Then you read about Omri’s son, Ahab:

Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the

thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son

of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.

Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more

than all who were before him. It came about, as though

it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of

Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the

daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve

Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal

in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also

made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord

God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before

him. (1 Kings 16:29–33)

Chapter 16 of 1 Kings ends with a summary of the depravity

of King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel. Between the two of them,

they were the most wicked monarchy in Israel. They openly

defied God and His laws for the nation.

Chapter 17 then begins with an unexpected contrast: “Now

Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to

Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand,

surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by

my word’” (1 Kings 17:1). From out of nowhere, in the midst of

deep wickedness, Elijah storms into the story proclaiming that

there will be no rain for three years. His appearance is sudden.

We had no evidence that anyone was willing to stand for God,

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20 / AARON SHARP

much less openly oppose the most wicked of kings, but that is

exactly what Elijah does.

Elijah follows up this prophecy by obeying God’s directions

to live near a stream, with ravens bringing him bread and meat to

eat each morning and evening. After this he travels to the town

of Zarephath where he works miracles, including the raising of a

widow’s son from the dead. Then, when the drought is in its third

year, God instructs Elijah to go back to Israel and confront King

Ahab. Elijah obeys God and what results is a famous confrontation

between Elijah and 450 prophets of the false god Baal. By

the end of the confrontation, Elijah has called down fire from

heaven, the 450 prophets of Baal have been executed, Elijah has

outraced Ahab’s chariot down the mountain, and the storms are

rolling in.

One would expect after such powerful acts that Elijah’s

encore would be out of this world. Yet, in the words of A. W.

Pink, “In passing from 1 Kings 18 to 1 Kings 19 we meet with a

sudden and strange transition. It is as though the sun was shining

brilliantly out of a clear sky and the next moment, without any

warning, black clouds drape the heavens and crashes of thunder

shake the earth. The contrasts presented by these chapters are

sharp and startling.”1

Chapter 18 is a tremendous victory. The sun is shining, birds

are singing, and God has shown himself to be powerful and

mighty. It looks as though Elijah, through God’s power, can do

anything. Chapter 19 is a hasty retreat. Storm clouds litter the

sky, and suddenly God seems to have disappeared. It looks as

though Elijah, God’s formerly powerful servant, is weak and vulnerable.

It is in the black clouds that drape the heavens, the story

of Elijah’s detour in 1 Kings 19, that this book resides.

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Introduc tion / 21

It is important to understand that this book is not a howto

manual. It is not “Seven Steps to Finding Your Way Home.”

As anyone who has been on one of life’s detours will tell you,

formulas do not always work. Our culture is fascinated with formulas

and programs, but God doesn’t work that way. His Bible

isn’t filled with steps to follow to solve every problem, and this

incident in Elijah’s life is not a road map for getting to your destination.

I cannot guarantee that by reading his story, things in

your life will get better. Instead picture Elijah, and his troubles,

as a friendly couple at the lake giving someone in the midst of an

unexpected detour an extra tank of gas—and sometimes a tank

of gas is all you need to find your way home.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 21 2/1/12 11:33 AM

23

ONE

Detours

and Unmet

Expectations

I was in my third year of seminary when I met the woman of

my dreams. I still remember what she was wearing the first

day we met. We did not even speak that day when we both sat

at the same cafeteria table with a group of mutual friends, but I

was determined to find out more about her. Over the next few

months I slowly got to know this beautiful lady, taking careful

mental notes of what kind of a person she was, how she acted,

and what she liked. The more I got to know her, the more I found

to like. Thankfully, she did not seem repulsed by my presence,

so I finally decided the time had come to ask her out on a date.

Despite accidentally hitting her in the face with a door earlier in

the evening, her answer was yes!

My friends were sure that this was a match made in heaven.

She seemed to enjoy my presence, we flirted constantly, and we

had much in common. All signs pointed to this being the first of

many dates. My friends and I agreed: if there was ever a man whose

success on a first date was assured, it was on this date for me.

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24 / AARON SHARP

Once she agreed to go on the date, the work began in earnest.

I carefully chose a restaurant for dinner that would be fun, not

cheap but not too expensive, with an excellent variety of dishes.

I then came up with after-dinner activities that would allow us

to talk and get to know each other. The plan was flawless unless

I did something stupid, which, let’s face it, is always a possibility

with me.

I picked her up that evening and we headed to the restaurant

for a fantastic dinner. I had pasta while she had crab cakes. At

some point in the meal she suggested I try the crab cakes, which

I did despite my complete aversion to eating just about anything

that comes out of the ocean. To this day she remembers the agonized

look on my face as I got my first and last taste of crab cakes.

Our dinner conversation was smooth and we discussed one

of the classes we had together—Old Testament History. I mentioned

a project that I was considering for the class, and before

I knew it we were discussing the possibility of undertaking the

project as a team. There could not have been a clearer sign that

this date was a home run. Surely, if we were talking about spending

dozens of hours together on a project, then she must like me

too. I was most definitely on my way to having a girlfriend soon.

After dinner we went to a bookstore where we each picked out

books that we would like to read and told the other person why

we found those particular books interesting. From the bookstore

we made our way to another restaurant where we each ordered

a piece of cheesecake and continued our lively conversation. All

night long I was the consummate gentleman, opening doors and

being attentive. As our night drew to a close, I prepared to return

to the dorm to tell all my buddies how I was such a thoughtful,

romantic guy and that we would soon be going on a second date.

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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 25

We pulled up to her apartment building and I walked her

to her door. On the way, I casually told my date how much fun

I had and how much I would enjoy being able to take her out

again. I uttered these words and then waited for the “Sure, that

would be great” that I was sure was coming. Instead of agreeing

to a second date, however, this lovely woman told me that she was

not interested in going on a second date and would really prefer

to remain friends.

We arrived at her door. I thanked her for the evening, and

then made my way back to my car. Once inside I looked in

the mirror—did I have something in my teeth, or something

hanging out my nose the whole night? I checked my breath and

my armpits—did I smell bad? I mentally replayed the night’s

events—did she not have fun? I started reviewing our entire history.

Did she ever really like me? Was there something wrong

with me? Was I a bad date? These and many more questions

flew through my mind as I drove back to my dorm. Despite the

fact that everything had seemed to go so well, my expectations

proved to be the exact opposite of what came to pass. I expected

a second date, but instead I found myself watching basketball in

the men’s dorm by myself. A little less than two and a half years

later I would marry that same girl, but at the time I knew nothing

of that. All I knew was that real life had veered far off course of

my expectations.

Pretty much every human being who is old enough to walk

has experienced the disconcerting feeling of unmet expectations.

From the first time that another child played with the toy that

you wanted, you began to get the concept. You may have been in

a room full of toys, but that other kid had the one toy you desperately

wanted. You asked for the toy, you demanded the toy, and

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26 / AARON SHARP

finally you tried to just take the toy. But instead of getting the toy

that you so prized, you got in trouble with an adult.

These first few experiences prepared us for the realization

that the world does not revolve around us and that more often

than not our expectations will be unmet. Yet, even as adults, we

still struggle mightily to remember this concept. This concept is

particularly foreign when we are, in our minds, living rightly. We

understand that if we live outside of the will of God, bad things

will happen to us. Those who choose to live a life of sin will

pay the consequences of that sin, and at times their lives will be

full of nothing but despair and tragedy. That part of life makes

sense to us rationally. Expressions such as “Garbage in, garbage

out,” “You play, you pay,” and “You get what you pay for” are all

evidence that humans comprehend the concept that if you live

dangerously, then dangerous things can and will happen to you.

We have the same expectation for living rightly—we expect

that good living will give us good results. Most of us operate as if

the number-one rule for living the Christian life is to do our best

to do the right things in the right way. Our to-do lists look like

this: go to church, read the Bible, pray, try to be a nice person,

love your family, pet the dog, put some money in the plate, pay

your taxes, buy lemonade from the little girl on the corner, and

try not to get too angry at other drivers (although the occasional

scream is perfectly acceptable). We do all of these things and

expect that because we have stayed on the straight and narrow

path, we will be okay and our good expectations for our life will

be fulfilled.

Unfortunately this “play it safe” philosophy does not protect

us from disappointment over unmet expectations (nor does it

necessarily equate to a healthy, vibrant life for a believer in Jesus

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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 27

Christ). It may make perfect sense rationally: good life = good

expectations fulfilled; bad life = good expectations not fulfilled,

but the path that the Bible presents to us is a far more rugged.

For instance, take the events that befell the prophet Elijah in the

beginning of 1 Kings 19:

Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how

he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel

sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me

and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of

them by tomorrow about this time.” (vv. 1–2)

Chapter 18 of 1 Kings closed with Elijah as God’s ultimate

champion. He was victorious over the idolatrous prophets of

Baal, outran a chariot down a mountain, and even kept running

seventeen more miles to the town of Jezreel. The biblical record

does not tell us what his thoughts were as he ran well over half

a marathon, but judging by his reaction beginning in verse 3 of

chapter 19, it is probably safe to assume that he did not expect

what came next.

Elijah was not the only one to return to the fortress city of

Jezreel. King Ahab also returned and was quick to inform Queen

Jezebel about the day’s events on Mount Carmel. Unlike Ahab,

who seemed to be in fear and awe of God’s prophet, Jezebel sends

a message to Elijah saying, “So may the gods do to me and even

more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by

tomorrow about this time.” To the modern reader this was the

equivalent of Elijah coming home and finding a severed horse’s

head in his bed, or seeing his face on Israel’s most wanted list.

Instead of being a hero, Elijah found himself as public enemy

number one, at least as far as the queen was concerned.

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28 / AARON SHARP

One would expect that the man who just killed 450 prophets

of a false god would laugh at the threat of one woman. Elijah had

just called down fire from heaven; surely he feared no one and

nothing. If anything, we would expect more fire from heaven,

but the exact opposite happens. Before we get to Elijah’s reaction,

we must first consider one of the most frequent beginnings of a

detour—unmet expectations. Most scholars agree that Elijah’s

reaction is due to events not playing out as he had envisioned

them. Consider a summary of the situation by Ron Allen:

There are indications in the Elijah narrative that he

hoped to eradicate Baal worship and reestablish a united

monarchy under the pure Yahwism of Moses. The celebrated

contest on Carmel (1 Kings 18) actually began

three-and-one-half years earlier in the palace of Ahab,

when Elijah said there would be no more rain (17:1). Baal,

the fertility god of Canaan, was principally pictured as

the deity responsible for rain . . . Surely by all [Elijah’s]

actions an utter defeat of Baalism had been anticipated.

The extermination of the prophets of Baal in mock and

grisly sacrifice at the Wadi Kishon (v. 40) seemed to be

the final stroke . . . But when Ahab witnessed it and

returned to his palace at Jezreel, did he depose his wicked

queen? No! He told her of Elijah’s victory and did not

prevent her from ordering Elijah’s execution in reprisal.1

Elijah had anticipated that the incredible force with which

Yahweh, the one true God, had shown himself to be would bring

forth a true and long-awaited revival among God’s people and

their wicked leaders. After all, had not people fallen on their

faces and shouted, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God”

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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 29

(18:39)? Surely Elijah expected that the northern kingdom of

Israel would turn to God, and possibly the kingdoms of Judah

and Israel would be reunited.

Sadly, Elijah’s expectation of what was to come could not

have been more different from what actually happened. Instead

of revival, Jezebel declared vengeance. Instead of becoming a

national hero, Elijah became a hunted man. Instead of a king and

a queen turning to the one true God in repentance, they stubbornly,

rebelliously, and violently lashed out at God’s prophet.

Like the prophet Elijah, often our unexpected detours start

with unmet expectations. Life takes us in a direction that we did

not anticipate and did not desire. The more we look around and

try to find somewhere familiar, somewhere that we thought we

would be had things been different, the more despairing we can

become. Our best attempts to solve the problem of a detour often

leave us with a bigger problem rather than a solution.

Understanding that unmet expectations may play a role in

our detour is not a solution to our problems. Just knowing this

fact will not help you see the situation clearly, but for the fog to

lift even a little, we must spend some time thinking about our

expectations.

The Problem with Ou r Expectations

There are three problems with our expectations. First, our

expectations are uninformed, if for no other reason than because

they involve the future. It is not that we should never consider the

future, but that we must realize and anticipate that our expectations

may not, and likely will not, be met. Consider the following

people and their expectations of the future:

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30 / AARON SHARP

• In 1969 a little known member of the British Parliament

named Margaret Thatcher said, “It will be years—

not in my time—before a woman will become prime

minister.” Yes, this is the same Margaret Thatcher who

was elected prime minister ten years later.

• In 1943 Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM

said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five

computers.”

• In casting for the 1964 movie The Best Man, about

two leading candidates for the presidency of the

United States, a young enterprising actor named Ronald

Reagan was rejected for the part. Reportedly he

was rejected for “not having the presidential look.”

This is the same Ronald Reagan who took the real

oath of office in 1980.

• In 1918 Tris Speaker, a baseball Hall of Famer, felt the

need to comment on a move by the rival Boston Red

Sox, telling anyone who would listen that, “Taking

the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting

him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things

I ever heard.” The player Speaker was referring to—

George Herman “Babe” Ruth—finished his career

with 714 home runs, a record that stood for nearly

four decades.

• Lieutenant Joseph Ives, tasked with studying the

Grand Canyon by the U.S. War Department,

reported, “Ours has been the first [expedition], and

doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.”

Today nearly five million people visit the Grand

Canyon every year.

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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 31

We may laugh at these obviously far-off predictions, but if

we are honest with ourselves, our expectations for our own lives

are just about as inaccurate. Take these expectations, for example:

• I will not have health problems.

• All of my loved ones will live long and fruitful lives.

• I will know when to make a career change.

• I will meet my spouse and fall madly in love by the

time I am twenty-four.

• We will have four children.

• My spouse and I will always see eye to eye.

Now some of these expectations may seem a bit silly, and

some may be a little more serious, but any one of them can go

unmet. Those with some spiritual maturity or life experience will

look at the list and say, “Well, obviously those things may or may

not happen.” And it is definitely true that most of us understand

that bad things might happen to us, but the point is that even

those of us who are not new to the faith or how the world works

do not expect them to happen. Our expectations are for good

health, vibrant relationships, and sunshine in our lives. So, when

God allows something tragic or disappointing to come into our

lives, most of us are knocked off our feet by it. Our expectations

deal with the future, and the future is the one thing that we know

very little about.

Second, our expectations are selfish. Pause for a moment and

think about your perfect world and what the future would be like

if that world happened. Next think of not your perfect world,

but a reasonable expectation of life in five to ten years. Now consider

how many of your expectations revolved around yourself.

Odds are 100 percent of them. Even if you were thinking of the

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32 / AARON SHARP

perfect

marriage partner, you were thinking of the perfect marriage

partner for you. You might have thought of the future for

your children or grandchildren, but you thought of the future for

your children and your grandchildren. More than likely, nowhere

in your imaginings of your perfect world did you think about

what life would be like for your friends, much less acquaintances

or total strangers. This is a big area where our expectations fail—

our expectations revolve around ourselves, but God’s plans do

not. Our expectations are so often frustrated because while we are

focused on ourselves, God is focused on His purposes.

Third, often our expectations are unmet because we have a

false perception of who God really is. Our failure to understand

exactly who God is and what His priorities include is often one

of the biggest factors in our unmet expectations. Consider the

following popular, but false, ideas of God and His attributes:

• God is a slot machine whose sole purpose is to give me

what I need or want. How often do we become frustrated

with God because He has not given us what

we believe He should have? On this issue, it is easy

to point the finger at others, particularly those whose

theology disagrees with ours, but all too often this

view of God is a problem for all of us. God does desire

to give His sincere children the desires of their hearts

(Psalm 37:4), but He is not a genie granting our every

wish.

• God is (only) love. Now, the Bible very clearly states

that God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is not simply an

attribute of God; it is also part of His essence. Yet we

err when we look at God as being only love. Theolodidn'tsignup_

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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 33

gian D. A. Carson explains, “Our culture has been

purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable.

The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and

above all sentimentalized . . . Today most people seem

to have little difficulty believing in the love of God;

they have far more difficulty believing in the justice

of God, the wrath of God, and the noncontradictory

truthfulness of an omniscient God.”2 The prevailing

view today is that God is a kind, gentle, grandfatherly

being who delights in handing out candy and blessings

to people. Unfortunately this is not the God of

the Bible. The God of the Bible is love, but He is also

holy, righteous, and just.

• God wants me to be happy. Happiness is a funny thing.

It can come and go so easily. People today, particularly

Americans, live their lives in pursuit of happiness.

After all, are not we guaranteed the right of doing just

that by the Declaration of Independence? Yet God has

more important things to accomplish in and through

us than mere happiness. God’s purpose of using the

apostle Paul to spread the gospel was more important

than his happiness when he was executed by

the Romans (2 Timothy 4:1–8). God’s desire to provide

for His chosen people was more important than

Joseph’s happiness when he was sold into slavery and

falsely imprisoned (Genesis 45:1–8; Psalm 105:17–19).

God’s desire to proclaim the truth to His people was

more important than Jeremiah’s happiness when the

king became angry and threw him in a muddy pit

(Jeremiah 1:1–10; 38:1–13).

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34 / AARON SHARP

• God will not give me more than I can bear (alone). Often

when we feel like life has taken a detour it is because

we are completely overwhelmed by circumstances. So

we cling to the idea that we can make it through these

trying times all by ourselves because God would not

put more on our shoulders than we can carry. That

sounds right, but it misses a large part of God’s truth.

God routinely puts more on our shoulders than we

can carry alone, which is how we realize just how deep

our need for God and other people truly is.3 If we were

able to bear the weight ourselves we might never properly

acknowledge God, or our brothers and sisters in

Christ who are able to bear our burdens with us (Galatians

6:2).

• God wants Christians to be happy and joyful (always).

This is similar to “God wants me to be happy,” but

with a slight twist. Some people are under the mistaken

impression that God requires that we always

present ourselves as happy and joyful, without exception.

It is true that we should be full of God’s love and

the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge of God should give

us noticeable joy (Philippians 4:4). However, everyone

will experience times of sadness, fear, doubt, and

depression, and hiding these emotions is not spiritual.

The Word of God reveals that plenty of God’s servants

had hard times, not the least of which is the instance

in Elijah’s life about which this book is written. Job

experienced severe trials, and his reaction to them was

what one would expect: pain, frustration, and anger.

We might anticipate that God would respond to Job’s

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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 35

negative emotions with a fireball like the one that

consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. However, the Scriptures

tell us that even after Job’s emotional outpouring God

still accepted him (Job 42:7–9).

Dealing with Unmet Expectations

We have learned that when life takes an unexpected detour,

our first step should be to check our expectations. At this point

you may be thinking, “If that is true, then what is the solution

for dealing with these unmet expectations?” This is an excellent

question and one we will discuss, but first let’s change the question

around just a bit.

People on detours tend to look for directions and answers,

and what they really want is a map that shows the way back

home. But I would suggest that God’s primary purpose in allowing

your journey to take an unexpected detour is not just a lesson

in finding your way back to the interstate. As we progress

through 1 Kings 19, we will see that this was true of Elijah, and

I believe that it is true for most of us as well. Having said that,

let’s answer a different question: “If it is true that detours are

about more than simply finding our way back to our desired

path, then what are some guidelines for dealing with these unmet

expectations?”

The difference in that question and the one posed previously

may seem slight to you, but it is important. On a detour we

tend to become even more frustrated and disillusioned looking

for solutions. We are focused on the conclusion of the journey,

rather than the journey itself. In this circumstance, rather than

directions to our final destination, what we really need is extra

fuel to continue the journey.

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36 / AARON SHARP

We are unique individuals, and what God is attempting to

do in our detours will never be exactly the same from one person

to another. Rather than a one-size-fits-all answer, the following

principles are meant to function much as additional fuel to keep

you going even if your unexpected journey is a lengthy one.

First, when you find yourself on a detour and dealing with

unmet expectations, take the time to look for God’s purposes

instead of your best interests. As fallen creatures, we are inherently

selfish, and we live in a world that caters to our desire to

fulfill our own desires. So the idea that we should put God’s

purposes at the forefront is not one that comes easily to us. Certainly

it is not our first inclination, but the truth is that what we

think are our best interests are not God’s top priority. Anyone

who has been on a detour for any amount of time has probably

gotten tired of having sincere people quote Romans 8:28 to them:

“We know that God causes all things to work together for good

to those who love God, to those who are called according to His

purpose.” The verse can be a great encouragement, but often we

misread it. The verse says that God “causes” everything to work

for good, but it does not mean that only good things will happen

to us. Very bad things will happen to us, but God has a purpose

and at times my best interests, at least as I understand them, must

take a back seat to that greater purpose.

Consider the story of the blind man in John 9. Jesus and His

disciples were walking together, and they passed a blind man on

the road. The disciples asked what they thought was an insightful

question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he

would be born blind?” (v. 2). They thought his physical impairment

must have been tied to a sin, and they wanted to know

whose sin it was that caused the blindness. Jesus’ answer to His

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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 37

followers, however, turned their theology upside down: “It was

neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that

the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3).

Imagine, if you will, the disciples’ shock. This man had been

unable to see for his entire life (that is one whale of a detour).

He had never looked into his mother’s or father’s faces, or seen a

sunset. He had been unable to play with other children as a boy

and had struggled with his lack of vision into adulthood. This all

happened solely so that God might perform a miracle in His life

for all to see. He had done nothing wrong, and his parents had

done nothing wrong, yet God allowed this disability so that He

could show everyone His power and glory.

If you are on a detour today, you are probably asking yourself

and God the most simple of questions: “Why?” You may receive

an answer to that question, and you may not. One sure thing is

that sometimes God allows our life’s path to take tremendous

detours so that He can be glorified and we can be equipped to

minister to others. If your detour has to do with sickness, it may

well be that God wants you to know and understand sickness to

minister to others experiencing the same pain. Maybe God has

allowed you to feel the pain of depression to help others who

struggle with depression. Or it may be that the relational conflict

that is causing you such angst may enable you to counsel and

minister to others who are going through or will go through similar

circumstances. Whatever it is that you are going through, do

not discount the impact that your experience can have on others.

Second, even when you are in the midst of a detour, keep

your expectations flexible. Too often our expectations are firmer

in our minds than is realistic. The apostle James stresses this

point in the fourth chapter of his epistle:

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38 / AARON SHARP

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go

to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage

in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what

your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that

appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead,

you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do

this or that.” (vv. 13–15)

Here, James is not condemning planning for the future, but

he is reproaching the attitude of believers assuming that they

were able to carry out their plans. They were treating their expectations

as if they were a sure thing, when it was all subject to the

mind of God, which no one can know.

Though we all have expectations, we must remember that

we cannot write our expectations in stone. If we are honest with

ourselves, we would have to agree with James’s point that we can

do nothing on our own. The only reason we make it from one

day to the next is because God has provided the breath and life

for us. We must approach our expectations with the understanding

that we have not been promised tomorrow.

In 2010 the United States military released a Joint Operating

Environment report that was commissioned as a look into the

future, an attempt to make educated guesses about environments

and challenges the military would face over the next twenty-five

years. However, the United States Joint Forces Command, which

published the report, placed the following statement at the front

of the study:

The Joint Operating Environment is intended to inform

joint concept development and experimentation throughout

the Department of Defense. It provides a perspective

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Annie's Truth by Beth Shriver


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Annie's Truth
Realms (May 15, 2012)
by
Beth Shriver




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Childhood memories of her grandfather's ranch came alive as Beth wrote her first Amish story. Her parents grew up in the country, so she understands pastoral life and respects those who make a living off the land. She frequents a nearby Amish community just south of Fort-Worth for an occasional church service or brunch with the bishop and his wife. And on the way home she stops at the community store to get some plum jam!



In 2003 Beth began writing her first book. A couple of years later it was published and she has been writing ever since. Beth received a degree in social work from the University of Nebraska and was a case worker before starting a family. Beth followed her passion and has written in a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction.



ABOUT THE BOOK



After learning the truth about who she really is, can this prodigal daughter be accepted back into the safety and security of home?



Annie Beiler seems to have it all—a loving family in a tight-knit Amish community and the affections of an attractive and respected young man. But when she learns that she was adopted after being found as an abandoned newborn, she sets out on a journey to find out who she is.



Her father is strongly against her decision to leave, as it could mean Meidung, or excommunication from the community and even her family. But Annie knows she must find “the path that has her heart.”



As Annie’s search brings her into the fast-paced world of modern life, she is confronted with all of the temptations she was warned of. Can she make her way back to the order and security of her family? Or will she remain an outsider—torn between her two worlds?



If you would like to read an excerpt from the first chapter of Annie's Truth, go HERE.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman

A life-changing journey begins with a single step



After Paul Stutzman lost his wife to breast cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart--the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life--and can change yours as well.


In Hiking Through, you'll join Paul on his remarkable 2,176-mile trip through fourteen states in search of peace and a renewed sense of purpose. Along the way, you'll meet fascinating and funny people, experience trail magic, and discover that every choice we make on the path has consequences for the journey. More than that, you'll come away with a new understanding of God's grace and guidance--even in the smallest things.


My review:

I read too much fiction. I admit that. And all too often when I pick up a non-fiction book, I have to force myself to read it. That didn't happen with this book. Just like some of the suspense novels I enjoy so much, once I started reading this book, I did not want to put it down.

The author talks a lot about his adventures on the trail and of many of the different and unique people he met while hiking the Appalachian Trail, and reading about it almost made me want to experience it. But the book is also about the spiritual journey he made while taking the physical hike. That part of the book really ministered to me and made me envious to know God like that. The author presents a good point that we have so much distracting us from God. He told a story of a young hiker listening to his Ipod that kept walking, unaware that a storm was approaching and his hiking companion had sought shelter, but he walked on, paying attention to only what he was listening to.

This is a book worth reading. I have never married, so I can't relate to his losing his wife to cancer, and I have no great desire to hike 2000 + miles, but the book was an enjoyable and convicting read, and I recommend it to anyone to read.

About the author:

Paul Stutzman is a former restaurant manager who left his career after his wife's death from breast cancer. He hiked the Appalachian Trail in search of peace, healing, and freedom. His passion and mission is to share what he learned on that remarkable journey. Paul grew up in the Mennonite church. When he is not hiking or on a cross-country bike ride he makes his home in Berlin, Ohio.

Check out his website at www.hikingthrough.com

Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

A Quick Overview of the Bible by Douglas A. Jacoby

Moses’ world would hardly be recognizable today. David and Solomon, Isaiah and Nehemiah, Peter and Paul...all the biblical authors wrote to people whose mind-sets were very different from readers’ today. Add to that the immensity of the Bible story...no wonder the Scriptures can be difficult to understand!



Bible scholar Douglas Jacoby has taught Bible survey courses for more than 25 years, bridging the gulf between the biblical world and the twenty-first century. He uses clear, easy-to-understand language to explain the big picture of the Bible and show how the pieces fit together. Among the many compelling issues covered, readers will discover...


•the basic chronological outline of the Bible


•the most important themes of the Old and New Testaments


•how the Bible relates to a twenty-first-century worldview


Perfect for personal or group use, this survey removes many of the barriers that keep people from understanding and enjoying the Bible.

My review:
Although this book would be great for newer Christians, no one can know too much about the Bible, so it would be good for the most mature Christian.

This isn't a long book, coming in at only 264 pages, but the author packed a lot of information into those 264 pages and covers a lot of different topics. There are three sections: Getting Started (the shortest section), The First Testament, and The Second Testament.

Some books of this kind can be tedious reading and often a bit boring, but I had no trouble staying interested while reading this one. Jacoby does a great job of presenting and explaining information, while keeping it interesting and brief. Although I have been in church for years and read and learned a lot of the Bible, I still learned some new things and got a refresher course in a lot of other things.

I'd recommend this book to be in every library, and a book to pass out to new converts to give them an interesting yet good overview of the Bible.

About the author:
Douglas Jacoby is a Bible teacher and professor and the author of A Quick Overview of the Bible, Compelling Evidence for God and the Bible, Your Bible Questions Answered, and The Ultimate Bible Quiz Book. A graduate of Duke University (history), Harvard Divinity School (New Testament), and Drew University (ministry), Dr. Jacoby has taught in more than 100 nations around the world.


Check out his websites:
www.douglasjacoby.com


www.jacobypremium.com

A Quick Overview of the Bible is available from Harvest House Publishers.

Thanks to Harvest House for the review copy.

No We Can't by Robert Stearns

The world is shifting. It is dissatisfied, baffled and craving transformation.



Religious tolerance is prized more than truth. From clever slogans to celebrity endorsements, we are bombarded with seemingly peaceful messages of coexistence.


But beneath the bumper stickers and T-shirts is buried this truth: Coexistence is a myth. Instead, a war for world domination is raging--between radical Islam, secularism and Judeo-Christianity.


What does it mean for you as a believer and why should you care?


From years of global outreach, Robert Stearns predicts a coming perilous culture clash. With clarity and astonishing depth, he shows you the power of radical Islam to reshape Western culture, why Judeo-Christianity is losing strength, what believers can and must do, and more.

The ultimate dominance of any of these worldviews will create a tipping point in global culture. What role will you play?

My review:

The full title of this book is No, We Can't: Radical Islam, Militant Secularism, and the Myth of Coexistence.

The whole Muslim situation worries and actually scares me, so I grabbed this book to review since it is a subject that interests me.

The book isn't just about the threat of Islam on our country and the world, though the author does discuss that issue. The author also covers secularism and subjects like Environmental issues, and the threat of things like that against Christianity.

The book is an interesting read, and the author really knows his "stuff." He makes his case that Christianity is the only way and that we cannot peacefully coexist with these ideologies and religions that are so against what we believe, and what we can do.

About the author:
Robert Stearns is founder and executive director of Eagles' Wings, a global movement of churches, ministries, and leaders; the publisher of Kairos magazine; and founder of the worldwide Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. Stearns consults regularly with high-ranking government, international, religious, and business leaders and is a frequent columnist in Charisma and Ministries Today magazines. He has been featured on WABC in New York City, GODTV, The 700 Club, 100 Huntley Street, TBN, and many others. Robert and his family live near Buffalo, New York, and spend a great deal of time in Jerusalem.

No, We Can't is available from Chosen Books, a division of Baker Books.

Thanks to Baker for the review copy.

Everybody's Daughter by Michael John Sullivan

What if you had a chance to ask a loved one for forgiveness – after they died? What would you say?



Would you give up your own lifetime of happiness for someone else?


Michael Stewart confronts these questions as he travels back in time through a mysterious tunnel in an old church when the Romans ruled with brutal violence and Jesus preached his peaceful message.


His teenage daughter Elizabeth soon follows Michael, but is surprised to discover that her father is nowhere to be found. Little does she know that Michael has returned safely to the present, leaving her to battle a vicious Roman soldier.


Separated by centuries, Michael is trapped to fight his own battles in the present day. Elizabeth’s disappearance, and the discovery of her blood in his car ignites a rush of judgment as the FBI focuses on him as a person of interest. Michael’s only hope for saving his daughter rests in the hands of his best friend – a local pastor with secrets of his own – and a mysterious old journal containing tales of miracles within the walls of the old church itself.


Thrilling and suspenseful, Everbody's Daughter takes readers on a miraculous journey of their own, where salvation can be found in acts of sacrifice and hope remains forever eternal through the passage of a tunnel.

My review:After I requested this book to read, I discovered that it was a sequel to another book, so I ordered the other and read it first. This is not a review of the first book, but I did enjoy it.

This book (and the first) involves time travel to the time of Jesus. I feel the author did a great job portraying that time period and what it would be like for someone from this time period to step into that time.

I enjoyed the book. It was suspenseful - not in the mystery way, but there was drama and the sense of not knowing what was coming next. Plus there were bad guys trying to chase the hero and heroine of the story down.

One thing that bothered me about the book, is to me it was kind of up in the air as to the spiritual condition of the main character, and I would have liked to have seen more development in that area. Nevertheless, the book was a great read and was one I did not want to put down until I had finished it.

About the author:

Michael John Sullivan is the author of Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness. It was published by Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint in April 2010. The Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreak as one of the year's best in Christian fiction for 2010. He recently finished the sequel, Everybody's Daughter, featuring more memories from his young adult life, including the day he walked to Forest Park as he contemplated taking his own life. Only the strains of a song prevented him from doing the unthinkable. Sullivan lives with his family in New York. He is a nominated board member for the Long Island Coalition of the Homeless.


 
Thanks to B&B Media for the review copy.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Must-read books from the recent past Part 1

I was going through my storage unit last week, trying to find things to sell at our garage sale and found several of my boxes of books. A couple of the boxes were on the floor near the door, and had got wet and some of the books were damp, so I brought home two boxes of books to dry them out and re-box them. While doing so, I started looking through and re-reading a few of them, and parts of others. I had forgotten how good some of them were, so here are some of my favorites:

Newpoint 911 Series: Terri Blackstock has written some awesome books in the Christian suspense genre', but this seris is by far the best, in my opinion. Great writing, plots, and characters. It was originally four books, but after the events of September 11, 2001, she wrote the fifth one.

Interweaving suspense, romance and the role of redemption in human relationships, the Newpointe 911 series is Terri's salute to firefighters, paramedics and police officers--"who put our lives before their own."




Suncoast Chronicles Series: Also by Terri Blackstock, this was her first series on the Christian market. The first book, Evidence of Mercy was totally awesome, and one of the first, if not the first, Christian adult suspense/mystery novel, and got me hooked on that genre' for life.




The Forgiving Hour: Not of the suspense genre', but one of the best books I have read in the Christian fiction genre'. A great story of forgiveness. I think this was Robin Lee Hatcher's first novel on the Christian market, and I wish she still wrote books like this and the next one I will mention. (Her books mostly are romance anymore from what I can see)

Book description:After years of bitterness and anger over her ex-husband’s betrayal, Claire Conway’s life finally seems to be on track. She has raised a fine son, Dakota. Her work is going well, and for the first time in years she finds herself attracted to a man once again!



Then Dakota brings home his fiancĂ©e, Sara Jennings, and everything falls apart. For Sara turns out to be the same woman Claire’s husband had an affair with twelve years before. Forgiving Sara seems impossible. Yet only in that hour of forgiveness can the three of them be truly set free.


Filled with real-life issues like bitterness and self-protection interwoven with a beautifully written story of one woman’s search for peace, The Forging Hour dramatically illustrates the power of supernatural healing and how transforms lives when we allow God to work in our hearts.

The Shepherd's Voice: also by Robin Lee Hatcher. Totally different story from the previous, but it also deals with forgiveness and other themes.

A Man with a Past...

For ten years, Gabe Talmadge languished in prison, convicted of a horrible crime. Now, he is free once again but unable to find work in the midst of the Great Depression. In desperation, Gabe returns to Ransom, Idaho, hoping that his uncaring father will give him food and shelter, if not love. But the prodigal son is not welcomed home. Hudson Talmadge, who virtually owns the town of Ransom, despises his youngest son as much as ever-and Gabe is as powerless to win his father's approval as when he was a child.


A Man with a Future...
Hungry and hopeless, Gabe is rescued by the owner of a sheep ranch south of Ransom. Incredibly, Akira Macauley gives him a place to live and work to do. More than that, she gives him hope that he can receive forgiveness for his past-and perhaps even love.


A Man with a Choice...
But just as Gabe comes to believe that happiness may be within his grasp, tragedy strikes Ransom once more. As his life begins to unravel, Gabe must either sink again into an abyss of hopelessness or cling to a hope, faith, and love stronger than any he has ever known.

Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers. This series was my introduction to Francine Rivers, and her first foray into Christian fiction. It was a terrific series, especially the first two (the third didn't have a lot to do with the other two). I wish I had waited until book two was out to read book one, as it ends with a major cliffhanger.

Description:
Travel back to the crumbling Roman Empire and meet Haddassah, a young slave girl; Marcus, a handsome aristocrat; Atretes, a brave gladiator; and Rizpah, a beautiful young widow. The gospel of Christ is the only weapon they have to battle the immorality that surrounds them---will they be wise enough to use it?

The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers. This book really impressed me, and still does. It has a great pro-life message that many Christians may not even agree with, but it is a great story with a great message. The pictured book was the first edition, which I have.

Description:
Dynah Carey knew where her life was headed. Engaged to a wonderful man, the daughter of doting parents, a faithful child of God, she has it all. Then the unthinkable happens: Dynah’s perfect life is irrevocably changed by a rape that results in an unwanted pregnancy. Her family is torn apart and her seemingly rock-solid faith is pushed to the limits as she faces the most momentous choice of her life: to embrace or to end the life within her. This is ultimately a tale of three women, as Dynah’s plight forces both her mother and her grandmother to face the choices they made. Written with balance and compassion, The Atonement Child brings a new perspective to the most controversial topic of our times.


Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. To contradict my earlier statement, this book was actually Francine Rivers' first book classified as Christian. It was published under a secular publisher and was pretty graphic. After she had a few other books published on the Christian market, she cleaned this one up and had it published on the Christian market. Some have still criticized it as a bit too graphic, but it is a great story. A retelling of the story of Hosea and Gomer from the Bible.
Description:
A Story of Love That Won't Let Go - No Matter What!



California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.


Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.


Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.


But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does…the One who will never let her go.


A powerful retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.

If you enjoy Christian fiction and haven't read any of these books, then you should.
 
I mean none of these authors disrespect, but it seems their best works are in the past. They may still be writing good books, but they are different from what they used to write. But then, these books mentioned here are top-notch and hard to follow.