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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1) by Mike Hamel

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It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! This is the very last Teen FIRST tour as Teen FIRST has merged with FIRST Wild Card Tours. If you wish to learn more about FIRST Wild Card, please go HERE.

and his book:

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


Mike Hamel is a seasoned storyteller who has honed his skill over theyears by telling tall tales to his four children. He is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles.

Mike and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado Springs, CO. Their four children are now grown and their two grand children will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

From His Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with sixteen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed (Broadman, 2001), Executive Influence (NavPress, 2003), and Giving Back (NavPress, 2003). I also edited Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by Bill Pollard (Collins, 2006).

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 34 years, Susan.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

BTW – I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive but treatable form of cancer.

Mike's Blog, Cells Behaving Badly, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please visit the Matterhorn the Brave Website!

Product Details

List Price: 9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Jesus Who Never Lived: Exposing False Christs and Finding the Real Jesus by H. Wayne House

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It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)

The feature author is:

and his book:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)


H. Wayne House (ThD, JD) is a Distinguished Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Faith Evangelical Seminary (Tacoma, WA). and Adjunct Professor of Law, Trinity Law School of Trinity International University. He is the New Testament editor of the Nelson Study Bible and Nelson Illustrated Bible Commentary, and the General Editor of Nelson Exegetical Commentary (42 vols), Israel: the Land and the People, and Charts of Bible Prophecy, among the 30 books that he has authored, co-authored, or edited.

Dr. House has been a professor of biblical studies, theology or law for more than thirty years at such places as Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon; Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas; Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim, California; Michigan Theological Seminary, Plymouth, Michigan, and Trinity Graduate School and Trinity Law School, Santa Ana, California, California campus of Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL. Through this internet office we hope to help those who are interested in several topics within apologetics, including Christianity and culture, law, science, cultism, philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. Dr. House also leads Bible study tours to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Turkey.

Visit his Website:

Product Details

List Price: 13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736923217
ISBN-13: 978-0736923217


What’s It All About?

In the Broadway play and later film Jesus Christ Superstar, Mary Magdalene asks, “What’s it all about?” as she tries to figure out who this man called Jesus really is. Certainly there are aspects about the song she sings, and suggestions made in the play, contrary to what we know from the canonical Gospels about the relationship of Mary and Jesus. But she does pose some important issues. She is puzzled about how to relate to Jesus as she has with other men, and this association with Him has made major changes in her emotions, actions, and thoughts. The reason she struggles is her perception that “he’s just a man.” If Jesus is just a man, then why does He captivate her so and cause her to evaluate herself to the depths of her soul? Such questions about Jesus and the impact of His ministry, death, and resurrection have been asked for two millennia.

Every year around Christmas and Easter the news media show an interest in Jesus. Rarely do they speak to people who believe in the Jesus who has been worshipped by the church since its earliest period until now. Rather, the fascination is with a Jesus re-imaged by people who have little interest in the historical record preserved in the New Testament.

This interest in Jesus, unconnected to the earliest tradition and history we have of Him, is not a new phenomenon. Toward the end of the first century of the Christian era, perceptions of Jesus began to arise that were different from what He said about Himself as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and proclaimed by the apostle Paul. Jesus has become the favorite of ancient heretics, founders of various world religions, modern novelists, Hollywood and documentary filmmakers, New Age teachers, adherents of popular religion, and over-the-edge liberal scholars. He is by far the most popular, and possibly most distorted, figure of history.

When Christianity was less than a hundred years old, we find two groups at different ends of the spectrum in their views of Jesus. One Jewish group, known as the Ebionites (late first century), accepted Jesus as the Messiah from God, acknowledged His humanity, but rejected His deity. On the other side were the Gnostics (early second century), who accepted Jesus as a divine figure but denied His true humanity. This rise of Gnosticism coincides with the demise, though not extinction, of Jewish Christianity, toward the end of the first century and beginning of the second century. Such views of the Christ were rejected by the apostolic church, and the view supported by the New Testament was finally put in creedal form, in a number of creeds, by the end of the fifth century.

Since those early centuries various religions have been enamored of Jesus. Eastern religions see Jesus as one of the avatars, or manifestations of God, and Islam considers Him a prophet (see chapter 8 for both topics). In the former, Jesus is an Eastern mystic, sometimes even viewed as having been trained in India, and in the latter as one who promoted Islam.

Muhammad was a pagan who had contact with Jews and Christians from Arabia and finally became monotheistic, in the first quarter of the seventh century after Christ embracing one of the over 300 Arabian deities: Allah, the moon god. In his limited investigation into Christianity, he came to believe, as is recorded in the Qur’an, that Jesus was born of a virgin, was sinless throughout His life, performed miracles, ascended to God, and will come again in judgment. He acknowledged all of these things about Jesus, considering none of these to be true of himself. Nonetheless, Jesus is never considered more than one of the prophets of Islam; He is not God in the flesh. Inside the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the walls are inscribed with statements that God does not have a Son, specifically addressed against the Christian doctrines of the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. As we shall see in a later chapter, Muhammad and his followers misunderstood the Christian doctrine of God.

In the eighteenth century, with the Enlightenment came skepticism about Christianity and absolute truth in religion. Biblical scholars and philosophers began to scrutinize claims that Jesus was more than human, and for over 200 years a search, or “quest,” for the historical Jesus has been pursued. We have now entered the third quest. While many within the second quest remain skeptical, there is growing support among some in the third quest for the credibility of the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament. In contrast to those who have little regard for biblical and extrabiblical history, scholars of both liberal and conservative persuasion now agree that within a couple of years following the death of Christ, the church preached a consistent message about His death and resurrection. Christ’s followers considered Him both God and man, Lord and Savior. And those who became believers in the latter part of the first century and early second century continued to accept Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels. The church’s belief in Jesus’ deity and humanity did not begin with the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, as encouraged by the Emperor Constantine; that belief was present from the church’s very beginning.

The Importance of Jesus

Though contemporary novelists and media sensationalists never tire of trying to find some new angle on Jesus to attract an audience, most serious historians and biblical scholars are impressed with the evidence in the Gospels for the Jesus who lived, taught, performed miracles, died, was buried, and rose again from the dead. An early twentieth-century composition by a devoted believer captures the wonder of Jesus:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.

But believers in the divine Jesus aren’t the only ones who admire Him. Marcus Borg, a member of the Jesus Seminar and distinguished professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at Oregon State University, speaks as a skeptical historian about the significance and uniqueness of Jesus:

The historical Jesus is of interest for many reasons. Not least of these is his towering cultural significance in the nearly two thousand years since his death. No other figure in the history of the West has ever been accorded such extraordinary status. Within a few decades of his death, stories were told about his miraculous birth. By the end of the first century, he was extolled with the most exalted titles known within the religious tradition out of which he came: Son of God, one with the Father, the Word become flesh, the bread of life, the light of the world, the one who would come again as cosmic judge and Lord. Within a few centuries he had become Lord of the empire that had crucified him.

For over a thousand years, thereafter, he dominated the culture of the West: its religion and devotion, its art, music, and architecture, its intellectual thought and ethical norms, even its politics. Our calendar affirms his life as a dividing point in world history. On historical grounds alone, with no convictions of faith shaping the verdict, Jesus is the most important figure in Western (and perhaps human) history.

These words of exuberant praise from a historian who does not accept Jesus as God in the flesh further indicates the amazing manner in which a human being was able to draw devoted followers by the magnetism of His life and teachings. Jaroslav Pelikan, noted historian of Yale University, has said of Jesus,

Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of supermagnet, to pull up of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left? It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that millions pray.

The world would be a considerably different place, with far less progress, peace, and hope than we possess today, had He not lived.

Liking Jesus Without Knowing Him

Just about everyone likes Jesus. How could they not, in view of the outstanding reception He has received throughout history, right? Not really. Much of the fascination with Jesus comes from those who really don’t know much about Him. Were He to confront them with His teachings and call them to a life of obedience to His will, they might be part of the recalcitrant crowd crying out, “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21).

Today a large number of people say they are attracted to Jesus but dislike His church. They see within the church people who are inconsistent in their practice of Christian ethics and fail to follow what they understand to be the teachings of Jesus. The church is viewed as judgmental, whereas Jesus said not to judge. The church speaks against sins such as homosexual relationships, whereas Jesus loved all people regardless of their sin, such as the woman caught in adultery. The church has interest in political matters, but Jesus did not involve Himself in politics and worked only to ease people’s burdens. (Whether these notions are true or not will be briefly discussed in chapter 12.)

This attempt to understand Jesus is often done without any reference to what we really know about Him. We simply guess who He is and how He acted—most often, how we think He ought to be and act to be acceptable to the twenty-first-century mind. Apart from the appeal to divine revelation, this is the manner in which He has been viewed over the centuries, including the century in which He lived on earth.

“Who Do People Say That I Am?”

As Jesus traveled with His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, He posed an important question: “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). The response to this question divides light and darkness, death and life. The disciples said that some believed Him to be an important prophet, but the apostles—specifically Peter—proclaimed His deity, a truth revealed to him by the Father. It is this authentic Christ, based on credible biblical and extrabiblical sources, whom we must encounter.

Each of us is confronted with important questions and priorities in this life. Some are of minor importance, but others have lasting, even eternal significance. The most important issue we must squarely confront is our relationship with God and, consequently, our final destiny. This is true not only for people today, it was also important in the first century when Jesus the Messiah came to earth. This is evident in the words of Christ that if people did not believe that He was “from above” (heaven), they would die in their sins (John 8:21-24).

Jesus the Prophet of God

In general, people liked Jesus Christ, as is true even today. The Scripture says that “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Saying this, however, does not mean they always understood His message (Matthew 13:10-17) or understood who He was:

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17).

The people during that time enjoyed what so many of us greatly desire—personal communication with the Son of God—yet they failed to understand Him. Many of them were miraculously fed and healed by Him. They heard His word with their own ears and saw Him with their own eyes. No doubt many also touched Him with their hands. To have the opportunity these people enjoyed seems too wonderful to imagine.

But when Jesus asked the disciples who the people thought He was, they cited many important figures of Jewish history, from John the Baptist (apparently thought to have been raised from the dead) to Elijah, who was to be forerunner of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5), to Jeremiah, who confronted the Northern Kingdom of Israel for its sins, or to some other prophet, as seen below:

John the Baptist. John the Baptist would have been a natural choice for the identification of Jesus, particularly by those who had not encountered John personally and maybe hadn’t heard the news of his death. John spent his ministry in the desert, baptizing in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, whereas the people in view here are in Galilee or maybe the Golan. Otherwise it seems unlikely they would have made such a connection, unless they believed that Jesus was the resurrected John, which is what Herod Antipas thought: “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him’” (Matthew 14:1-2). In the words of D.A. Carson:

His conclusion, that this was John the Baptist, risen from the dead (v. 2), is of great interest. It reflects an eclectic set of beliefs, one of them the Pharisaic understanding of resurrection. During his ministry John had performed no miracles (John 10:41); therefore Herod ascribes the miracles in Jesus’ ministry, not to John, but to John “risen from the dead.” Herod’s guilty conscience apparently combined with a superstitious view of miracles to generate this theory.

Though Herod’s superstition may be the cause for his comments, such a view is not unheard of in literature that precedes the New Testament. Albright and Mann say, “)The reappearance of dead heroes was a well-known theme in contemporary Jewish thought…[Second Maccabees 15:12-16] speaks of Jeremiah and Onias appearing to Judas Maccabaeus, and [2 Esdras 2:18-19] refers to the coming of Isaiah and Jeremiah.”

Elijah. Identifying Jesus as Elijah may appear surprising, except that Jesus’ ability to do miracles and the expectation of Messiah’s coming might have caused the people to believe He was preparing the way for the Messiah in agreement with Malachi’s prophecy:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet

Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

—Malachi 4:5 nkjv

The disciples had similar expectations about Elijah, whom Jesus connected to John the Baptist as His forerunner (Matthew 17:10-12).

There are indeed many similarities between Elijah and Jesus. Elijah exercised control over the forces of nature, telling Ahab his land would have no precipitation for several years (1 Kings 17:1-2).

In the midst of this judgment against Israel, God sent Elijah to the Phoenician city of Zarephath of Sidon, to a widow and her son who were facing starvation. To test her faith, Elijah asked her to make him some bread from the handful of flour and the little oil she had left. After she complied with Elijah’s request, the jar of flour and the jug of oil did not become empty until the famine ended (17:14-16).

Later, the woman’s son died, and the prophet of God brought him back to life (17:17-24). These spectacular miracles performed for a non-Israelite mother and her son reveal not only the power of God but also the love of God for all people.

Those people who saw the ministry and attitude of Jesus no doubt considered Him to be like Elijah because He also controlled the forces of nature. On the mountain near the shore of the Lake of Galilee He multiplied bread and fish (Matthew 15:29-38), and He raised a widow’s son who had died (Luke 7:11-17).

Jeremiah. The last prophet to whom Jesus is likened is Jeremiah. What in the life and character of Jeremiah served as a basis for comparison with Jesus?

Donald Hagner says there are a “number of obvious parallels between Jesus and Jeremiah, such as the preaching of judgment against the people and the temple, and especially in suffering and martyrdom.” The message of Jeremiah was God’s judgment against an unfaithful people (Jeremiah 1:16). Jesus presented a similar kind of message when He pronounced woe against Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:20-24).

Jesus offered healing and solace to the sick and downtrodden, but to the proud and rebellious, the words of this “prophet from Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11) were sharp and powerful. Another point of similarity may be Jesus’ cleansing of the temple and His indictment of those there (Matthew 21:10-13), and Jeremiah’s rebuke in his famous temple sermon (Jeremiah 7:1-15). Both texts even accuse the unfaithful of making God’s house a “den of robbers.”

One of the prophets. Even if there was disagreement among the people about Jesus’ identity, one thing is certain: They knew He was special, for He was viewed at minimum as a prophet. Just listening and watching Jesus revealed that He was powerful and insightful. This testimony—that the people identified Jesus with the prophets—demonstrates they held diverse eschatological expectations but there was no mass acknowledgment of Him as Messiah. The occasional reference to Jesus as the Son of David, found several times before Matthew 16, does not contradict the lack of recognition of Him as Messiah.

Fortunately, we also see among some non-Jews a different response. The Samaritan woman at the well first viewed Jesus as a Jewish man, then a prophet, then the Messiah, and finally the Savior (John 4:4-42).

Whether they believed He was God’s Messiah or one of the great prophets of Israel, all thought He was a person of great importance with divine authority and a powerful presence and message.

Messiah, Son of God

After the disciples responded to Jesus’ question about how the people viewed Him, He asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Would the disciples have a more accurate perception of their master than the general populace? You would think that their intimate relationship with Jesus would have made His identity clear in their minds. Yet this is not what we find. Though Peter correctly says that Jesus is the Messiah (christos, Greek translation of Hebrew mashiach, “anointed one”), the Son of the living God (16:16), Jesus says that the knowledge that gave rise to this confession came from heaven rather than from human insight (Matthew 16:13-17).

Is this confession true? Or is Jesus no more than a man, as the character of Mary sings in Jesus Christ Superstar? The Jesus who came to earth 2000 years ago has spawned a myriad of ideas about who He was and is. No more important subject than this confronts us today. Even among those who do not embrace the bodily resurrection of the crucified Messiah and His claims to deity, there is considerable praise. As Borg said of Him, “On historical grounds alone, with no convictions of faith shaping the verdict, Jesus is the most important figure in Western (and perhaps human) history.”

But is He only this—or is He, as Peter confessed, the Messiah, the Son of the living God? Our crucial quest in this book is to discover the true Jesus among the various visions of Him that have been constructed since His death and resurrection.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Leave it to Chance by Sherri Sand

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It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his/her book:

Leave it to Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)


Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799883
ISBN-13: 978-1434799883


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”


The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.

After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.


“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”


“She’s noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.”

He shrugged again. “Can I have my game back?”

“You lied to me, son. Again.”


“You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?”

His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. “No.”

She touched his leg. “What’s bothering you, honey?”

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasn’t it. “You can have it tomorrow.”

But would tomorrow be any different?