Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When The Good News Gets Even Better by Neb Hayden - REVIEWED


Witness the Gospels Through the Eyes of a First-Century Hebrew
New Bible study from David C Cook gives readers a fresh new way to experience the Good News

How is it possible to make the Good News of the Gospel better? How can truth be enhanced? Can Jesus Christ be improved upon? In his new Bible study, author Neb Hayden emphatically answers, “Impossible! The Gospel gets even better only when it’s more clearly understood. The Good News gets even better only when we read the Gospels as they were communicated and in the way they were meant to be seen.”

That’s why in his new study, When the Good News Gets Even Better (David C Cook, June 2009), Hayden gives students of the New Testament the opportunity to walk through the Gospel narratives in Hebrew sandals. This unique Bible study allows readers to see these letters just as their original audience did and provides vital insights into the Jewish culture, customs, and perspectives, giving a fresh and thoroughly relevant context to the life of Christ.

“The Gospels are the foundation of our faith because our faith is built on a Person,” explains Hayden. “He was a Jew, living in a Jewish world, and communicating with Jewish people. This study offers readers the chance to walk the dusty roads with Him, to be there as a participant rather than simply as an observer.”

Using a three-month format, When the Good News Gets Even Better combines all four Gospels into one comprehensive and chronological narrative, allowing readers to focus on the overall themes and truths as they occurred. Among many other subjects, Hayden examines the births and childhoods of Jesus and John the Baptist, Jesus’ public ministry, the training of the twelve disciples, and Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Features also include days sectioned into key points of Jesus’ ministry, suggestions for when to skim or thoroughly read a selection, and interactive questions for individual study and group discussion.

“The Gospels are just the beginning of God’s continuing pursuit of intimacy with mankind,” says Hayden. “These biographies of Jesus are our stories too. Every move Jesus made and every word He spoke has direct implications for our lives in the twenty-first century. I pray that readers will be permanently transformed as they become first-hand witnesses to the Gospels’ miraculous events and times explored in this guide.”


Neb Hayden has done something unique and worthwhile by creating a Bible Study guide that incorporates a historical and Jewish perspective on the events recorded in the New Testament. When The Good News Gets Even Better provides the student tons of Scripture to explore, thought provoking questions to consider, and an explanation of the reasoning that drove the people of the New Testament times to respond as they did to Jesus’ teaching. Truly, this is a very well-rounded study of Scripture, and one that will have you reading and examining the New Testament in an entirely new way.

Hayden gives brief explanations of the different social practices during New Testament times. He also gives good background on major Bible characters and their position and experiences as it relates to their responses to Jesus’ teachings. I am particularly impressed with how many times he has the reader examine Scripture and then write a response to a particular verse. That makes the gospel take on a very personal perspective, because you then begin to see and understand how God was using the people of that time to accomplish great things for His kingdom. You also begin to understand how you can be used of God through the study of His Word to continue to reach others for Christ.

When the Good News Gets Even Better lays some foundational groundwork for believers who genuinely want to understand the people they read about when they read the New Testament. This is a great study tool, and I will continue to work my way through this to gain more knowledge of all that God has done for me through His revealed Word!


Neb Hayden is director of International Student Development at The King’s College in New York City. A former quarterback for “Bear Bryant” at Alabama, Neb has been involved his adult life with the fellowship in Washington, D.C., which works behind the scenes to nurture and encourage the leadership in over 180 nations. The group also works behind the scenes of the National Prayer Breakfast. Neb speaks and teaches extensively at seminars, conferences, and retreats. He and his wife, Susan, live in New York City and are the parents of three grown sons and two daughters-in-law.

When The Good News Gets Even Better by Neb Hayden

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:

When the Good News Gets Even Better: Rediscovering the Gospels through First-Century Jewish Eyes

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Neb Hayden is director of International Student Development at The King’s College in New York City. A former quarterback for “Bear Bryant” at Alabama, Neb has been involved his adult life with the fellowship in Washington, D.C., which works behind the scenes to nurture and encourage the leadership in over 180 nations. The group also works behind the scenes of the National Prayer Breakfast. Neb speaks and teaches extensively at seminars, conferences, and retreats. He and his wife, Susan, live in New York City and are the parents of three grown sons and two daughters-in-law.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767000
ISBN-13: 978-1434767004



How is it possible to make the good news of the gospel better? How can truth be enhanced? How can Jesus Christ be improved upon? Impossible! Then, why the title, When the Good News, Gets Even Better? The gospel gets even better only when it’s more clearly understood.

When I was a kid growing up in North Carolina I fantasized about being a “fly on the wall or some kind of invisible presence that could magically be transported back in time and be there the great moments in history. I wanted to be at the Alamo with Jim, Davy, Sam and the boys. I wondered what it would be like to have been on the Mayflower or to be with the first settlers at Jamestown. I wanted to experience the thoughts and emotions of these people. I wanted to know how it felt to walk in their shoes.

In the mid 1980’s my wife, Susan and I were invited to go on a two-week study seminar to Israel. Dr. Jim Martin taught us as we move from site to site from Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness through the resurrection of Jesus. When we gathered together our first day, Jim said, “I am going to teach you to think like an ancient Jew. You will never truly understand the scriptures as long as you think like a Gentile.” That thought haunted me for several years and two more trips to Israel with Jim.

Meanwhile, my close friend, Bob Warren, a former professional basketball player and outstanding Bible teacher in Kentucky had a similar experience in Israel with a Messianic Jew named Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Bob had been studying the gospels from a Hebrew perspective and he said that the impact it was having on his understanding was astounding. This challenged me to began reading everything I could find concerning Jewish history and culture. I was hooked, and began to live out my childhood fantasy. Through First Century Hebrew eyes and ears, I began to gain a perspective that I had never seen before. I began to see what a Jew would have seen and hear what a Jew would have heard as he witnessed the works of and heard the words of Jesus. I had studies and taught the Gospels my whole life and yet, a new perspective began to wash over me in a fresh, unvarnished way. Gradually I developed a study course that I called The Hidden Gospels. I was eventually encouraged to write this study book that could be approached by an individual or small group.

I wrote When the Good News Get Even Better from the following perspectives:

~ By Studying Through First Century Jewish Eyes: The Bible is a Jewish book, written to Jews about a Jewish Messsiah who came to redeem the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). If you were a Jew living in the Middle East in first century, how would you have heard what Jesus said? How would you have seen the things He did? What kind of culture would you have lived in? How would your childhood training have affected what you saw and heard? The Good news gets even better when we read the gospels as they were communicated and in the way they were meant to be seen.

~ By Studying the Gospel Accounts Autobiographically: By stepping in the sandals of the people in these biographical accounts. They are relational documents; encounters with people who are basically just like you and me. Become the Samaritan woman who had lost hope as Jesus speaks with her. Be the rich, lonely, alienated little tax collector named Zachaeus when Jesus asks to go home to dinner with him. Feel the apprehension of the woman with the hemorrhage as she pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. We can feel what these people felt and understand them if we understand the circumstances of their Hebrew lives. Then what Jesus says and does comes alive to us.

~ By Seeing Jesus’ Life and Teaching Through the Window of Grace: Most of us were taught a law-based perspective and therefore read the scriptures like a rulebook of impossible demands that we cannot meet. Should, ought to, and must have been a constant companion of most believers. Try harder, do more, and re-dedicate have kept us spiritually fatigued and guilt-ridden. Jesus offers intimacy that transforms duty into desire and obligation into opportunity. Seeing the gospels through the eyes of grace changes everything.

~ Studying Each Gospel Event as it Actually Happened (Chronologically): I used A.T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels as a guideline. To see the events as they occurred brings a new flavor and excitement to the greatest story ever told.

Studying the gospels in this manner is the most life-changing thing I have ever done. Whether you do this study in a small group or individually, I guarantee that you will never again read the gospels the same as before. They are the foundation of our faith because our faith is built on a Person. He was a Jew, living in a Jewish world, and communicating with Jewish people. This study offers you the opportunity to walk the dusty roads with Him, to be there as a participant rather than simply an observer. These biographies of Jesus are your stories too. Every move Jesus made and every word He spoke has direct implications for your life in the twenty-first century.

My hope is that this study will not simply be new information to ponder, but that as re-discover the gospels through Hebrew eyes, you will come to more deeply know, and enjoy the One who wrote The

Gospels. This is when The Good News Gets Even Better.

Getting the Most Out of This Study

Aerial view: We will obviously not be able to deal with every event in the Gospels, but the connection between the events as the happens is critical to understand. We will take an aerial view or brief summary of the passage before moving on.

Through Hebrew Eyes: Understanding Jewish culture and history is critical for a fuller appreciation of the emotions, issues at stake, and reactions of people in the gospels. When you see the Star of David we will try to help you think as a Jew would have thought in the at day based on his background, teaching, history, and culture.

Insight into the Passage: The light bulb indicates my brief commentary on the passage. These are insights I have gleaned over in over 34 years of ministry. They have made a deep impact in my own life and have been the result of my own studies as well as the contribution of many wonderful people along the way.

Snapshot: Context is very important in studying the scriptures. When you see the camera icon, I will give a brief picture of the current atmosphere, the circumstances and issues leading to the passage or event we are about to study. This will help you gain a feel for the atmosphere in which everything is taking place.

Crossroads: This may be a statement or question concerning direction: So what? Where do we go from here? What difference can this make for me right now?

Part I. Beginnings

God’s unique and abiding love for the Hebrew people is unparalleled in human history. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is called the “bride of God.” These nomadic wanderers suffered greatly at the hands of their enemies, and for most of their existence have live under the continual dominance of other nations. Freedom and autonomy is the brass ring they have longed to grasp. They, like each of us have loved God, and yet have disobeyed Him, often trusting in their own abilities rather than in His faithfulness and sovereignty. God’s beloved bide sought other lovers, yet He continues, even to this day, to pursue them with His unfailing love.

But, God had been strangely silent during the four hundred years from the end of the writing of the Old Testament until the beginning of the New Testament. The flow of communication to His people through the Prophets during this period came to a halt, but the Hebrew people continued to anxiously await the coming of “the Prophet” spoken of by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-19) and more specifically by Isaiah, the Psalmist, Daniel and others.

As we begin this fascinating adventure in the gospels, Rome has been in control of Israel since 63 B.C. Bitter hatred exists between the Jews and her captors. In the minds of many, God appears to have abandoned His people. Many Jews quietly echo the sentiment of Job, who, amidst great agony of body and soul, cries out to God in his pain. Symbolically shaking his fist to the heavens, he in essence thunders, “God you know nothing of suffering; you have never experienced the lost of sons as I have. You have never experience shame and rejection, being abandoned by friends. You sit in your heaven surrounded by your holy hosts, but you have no notion of what it is like on this earth. Is there anyone in this vast universe who can identify with my pain? Is there anyone who knows what it’s like to be a man?”

And so, in the fullness of time, God responds to the cries of Job and all of His people. At the right time, He wraps himself in human skin and pitches His tent in the midst of humanity and lives among those He created, identifying with every emotion and every hurt that a human being can know. Never again would a man or woman be able to say, “God, you don’t understand what it’s like to be me.”

-Day 1

Luke Explains His Method of Research

READ: Luke. 1:1-4

During the early 60’s A.D., some thirty years after the crucifixion, a passionate follower of Jesus Christ and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, took pen in hand and wrote a biography about the Savior. Though others already had written accounts by that time (1:2), Luke apparently wanted to make certain that an orderly and historically accurate account was rendered. He was a medical doctor, easily identifiable because he always wore a golf hat. (Just kidding) As a physician, he places great emphasis on the healing ministry of Jesus. Luke was also a meticulous historian who took great pains to record events as they happened. He was the only gospel writer who was not a Jew. He writes to fellow Gentiles, specifically Greeks, who were consumed with the concept of the ideal man. Rather than attack this humanistic flow of thinking, Luke gives great attention to the person of Jesus, as if to say, “you want to hear about a real man… well listen up!” He wants his Gentile readers to see that Jesus’ great message of truth and liberation is now wide open to Gentiles and Jews alike. Luke was not part of the original twelve, but he had interviewed many eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus. Like the no-nonsense Sergeant Friday in the Dragnet Series of the 60’s, Luke wants, “Just the facts, ma’am… just the facts!” He sees the need to record the events of Jesus life in chronological order. (The other accounts record events in keeping with a particular theme that they wanted to underline to specific groups of people.) Luke’s theme is simply, Jesus, the Son of Man.

Luke comes right out of the shoot in verses 1-2 by assuring his readers that he wants to set the record straight through the eyes of those who had actually been there and seen it all happen. He writes specifically to a man named Theophilus, also a Gentile, who was probably a Roman official and a new believer. Based on his meticulous research, Luke wants to reassure Theophilus, and us, that the exact truth is available to all honest seekers who have ears to hear.

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: Matthew was a converted customs agent (Mt.. 9:9) and one of the original twelve apostles. He writes a detailed account of Jesus life. Lies were being spread by Jesus’ enemies and many sought personal gain from this new “movement.” Matthew shows that the events of Jesus’ life were powerfully foretold by the Prophets hundreds of years prior to His coming. Writing to Greek speaking Jews, Matthew shows them that Jesus is the fulfillment of their dreams and their history. Sixty-two times he quotes the Old Testament arguing that Jesus is the completion to their greatest longings. Matthew’s theme is Jesus, The King of the Jews.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK: Mark was also called John Mark in Acts 12:12. Peter refers to him as his “son in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:13). Mark would later accompany Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey. He deserted the team and retuned home (Acts 13:13), but became helpful to Paul in later years. Though he was not among the original apostles, Mark gained much personal insight and information from Peter, with whom he shared a special closeness. Mark writes to Romans with an unflinching sense of immediacy. He wants his readers to get off the beach and dive head first into the waters of life. Mark is an action guy with a great sense of aliveness and enthusiasm. He uses the word “immediately” (Mk.. 1:12) at least forty times in his account, stressing the urgency Jesus felt, knowing that this would appeal to Roman thinking. Probably written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD, Mark’s Theme is Jesus the Messiah, The Servant of Jehovah.

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: John is thought to have written his gospel while in exile on the Isle of Patmos sometime around 90 A.D. He writes much concerning the deity of Jesus. Unlike the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John writes more concerning the things Jesus said (His discourses) rather than what he did (His miracles). As the eldest of the four writers, John probably read the other accounts many times and his maturity and the wisdom of his years may have made him more intent on communicating the heart of Jesus to his readers than His works. Ninety percent of the content in John’s gospel is not found in the parallel accounts. John’s gospel is the only book in the Bible written primarily for the non-believer. John’s theme is Jesus, The Son of God.

John Pictures Jesus as the “Word”

READ: John 1:1-18

John wants his readers to know that Jesus (Yeshua) is unlike anyone who ever set foot on the planet. The Word existed from the beginning of time. In fact, the Word was another way of referring to God. The Word is, therefore, a Person. The Word is not simply information about Jesus, the Word is Jesus. Every created thing finds it’s origin in the Person, Jesus. Within this living, breathing personal Word is the sum total of everything concerning life. This Word even has the ability to scatter darkness and illuminate everything and everyone He touches.

In order to prepare the world for His coming, God sent a Jew named John (Yohnanan) to ready the hearts of people for this new Light that was to follow. This Living Word became flesh and lived among those to whom He came to give life. He came to His own people, the Jews. Most of them rejected Him, but many Gentiles accepted His free gift of life and became Sons of God.

Notice that “Word” is capitalized, indicating a proper name. The Greek rendering is “logos,” a person possessing intellect, emotion, and will. To a Jew, it was a way of referring to God. Therefore, John is saying that God came to earth as the Living Word. Everything the ancient rabbis taught about the Word was fulfilled in this Person, Jesus Christ.

Write a brief definition of the “Gospel” as it is typically used today. (“We left our former church because the minister didn’t preach the gospel.”)

If the Word is a Person, and not simply doctrinal information, can we not properly conclude that the “gospel” is also a Person? Most believers speak of the “gospel” as if it is certain theological principles and doctrinal facts that must be included if we are to be true to the scriptures. Consider the definition you just wrote. Have you left anything out? Have you added something that need not be there? Are you positive? Is it compatible with biblical truth? What about sincere, godly men and women who would render a somewhat different definition than yours? You can see the problem. If the gospel were basically doctrinal information about Jesus (His birth, His life, His teachings, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His return, etc.), all of this and more would have to be specifically stated every time someone spoke or taught. If anything is left out, the gospel will not have been preached according to someone’s or some denomination’s definition. What would your former Pastor have had to actually say each Sunday for you to feel he had “preached the gospel?” We will never all agree on every point, but we can agree that the gospel is this unique, God/man, Jesus Christ, fully and completely, and believe if He is lifted up as the centerpiece, the whole world will feel welcome to gather around Him, explore His free gift of life, and become His companion.

Genealogies Listed by Matthew (1:1-17) and Luke (3:12-38)

READ: Matthew1:1-17 and Luke 3:12-38 (What would possess Luke and Matthew to list all of these unpronounceable names?)

READ: Luke 1:5-25

Matthew lists Joseph’s family line to make a strategic point that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Joseph did not beget Jesus, but was simply the husband of the woman who was his mother. Luke shows in his gospel that Jesus is a descendent of the House of David and could therefore be King.)

The Jews have always stressed the importance of understanding their uniqueness, of knowing where and from whom they have come. Roots have critical importance, for Israel’s faith was deeply imbedded in their history and culture. Knowledge of their Hebrew beginnings is central to Biblical thought. To a Jewish person in the time of Jesus, reading the Holy Scriptures was like reading a family album. The destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was so traumatic, because in addition to the loss of 1.1 million lives, all of the genealogical records stored there were destroyed by fire, and that precious information was lost forever.

Important to know here, is that Matthew and Luke are showing, in different ways, that Jesus was the stepson of Joseph, not a biological son. They both seem to be saying to their readers: Whatever else you may be thinking, let’s agree on this as a beginning thesis: Jesus is fully qualified to be the Messiah. He fits every standard proclaimed by God through the voice of the Prophets. He is the legitimate candidate.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A View from Siri Mitchell's Window! Love's Pursuit Explored

I cannot begin to tell you what an honor it is to welcome Siri Mitchell to my Window! I have always been a huge fan of historical fiction, and Siri has the unique ability to transport my heart and mind completely through her writing! Love's Pursuit was a particularly powerful story to me, and I hope you will help me welcome Siri as she discusses her latest novel!

Please, give a warm welcome to Siri Mitchell!

Love’s Pursuit created a clear and realistic picture of life inside a New England Puritan colony. Their work was unending and exhausting, and while they did attend social occasions, their lives seemed devoid of much joy. In fact, their misunderstanding of God’s grace seemed to create an almost paranoia of others’ intentions. I felt suffocated just reading about it!

How did you come to research this time period and what do you think the Puritan faith left behind as a legacy?

This book is the second of three that were contracted with a fashion element written into the story. The element in this book is the Puritan dress codes which governed what people could and couldn’t wear. I didn’t want to write a book set during the Salem Witch Trials and I didn’t want to write about the founding of Plymouth Colony, but I did want to give readers a full view of the Puritan lifestyle. That gave me the freedom to pick a date between 1620 and 1692. I also wanted to take advantage of the colony’s penal code, so that made me set the book after 1641 when the Massachusetts Body of Liberties was adopted.

I think the Puritans left us a deep and lasting legacy. The idea of The American Dream is based on their work ethic, the idea that if you work hard enough, you can accomplish your dreams. I think our sub-conscious guilt at enjoying pleasure derives directly from their theology. The idea that the ‘right’ thing, the ‘right’ option to choose will, nine times out of ten, also be the most difficult or the hardest to accomplish is also thanks to them.

When I examine my own faith, I find it more like Daniel Holcomb’s faith than anyone else in the story. Why was it so hard for those in the Puritan colony to recognize his faith as real? And why did it make them so afraid?

The Puritan movement was a reaction against the corruption and pageantry of the Church of England. Remember that the C of E was only one step removed from the Catholic Church. Queen Elizabeth had reformed the church doctrine, but the worship and hierarchy of church government were still Catholic in all but name. The Puritans simply wanted to purify the church. They wanted it wholly reformed. They wanted to shift the emphasis away from ceremony and ritual and fancy vestments back to the basics of Christianity. It was so easy for the citizens of Stoneybrooke to discount Captain Holcombe’s faith because he looked like everything they had run away from. His faith probably scared them because it seemed too easy. To the Puritans, everything worthwhile was worth working hard for. The captain came with a message of grace in which no work was required. To accept his faith would have put into question their entire lifestyle (for which they had sacrificed everything).

The malevolent presence of Simeon throws quite a long shadow over the lives of the people of Stoneybrooke. To me, it seemed as if their uncertainty and fear of God’s love and the assurance of their own position in God’s kingdom made them even more fearful and thus easy prey for Simeon’s evil schemes. In your research of this time period, did you uncover any evidence that people like Simeon took advantage of the Puritans? Was it your intent to make the uncertainty of their faith the weak link that bound them to Simeon’s threatening ways?

There is some historical evidence of people like Simeon at that time in that place, although his type wasn’t by any means prevalent. I think in a society which bases worth on what you do and how you appear, it’s relatively easy to project yourself as one kind of person when you’re an entirely different kind altogether. Puritans believed that wealth was a sign of God’s favor. Therefore, Simeon’s position as the wealthiest man in town meant, ipso facto, that he had earned God’s approval. It made it very difficult for anyone in that community to believe the truth about him even when they were faced with evidence.

Even today, we often hear tales of abuse coming from closed communities where compliance is valued over grace. It wasn’t my intent to make the uncertainty of their faith the weak link…but it certainly makes sense. (It wasn’t my intent to create the captain as a Christ figure either, although that seems to be how he turned out J)

How realistic was the portrayal of the marriage situation? Was it possible for something like Susannah’s misconstrued bans to Simeon to happen within that community? Were the women totally at the mercy of their fathers in marriage? Was love that lightly esteemed between a man and woman?

The inspiration for this incident came from a biography entitled The Way of Duty by Joy Day Buel and Richard Buel, Jr. In this book, a family was taken aback by a suitor’s premature publishing of banns with their daughter. Although the couple did get married in the end (with the family’s blessings) it took some weeks to work out his intentions and for the offense his action had provoked to dissipate.

In actuality, love was highly esteemed between Puritan men and women. For the most part, in fact, they married for love. They were one of the only groups in that era to value love as a basis for marriage. And they were the only faith that believed in the equality of the sexes in the eyes of God. They cared very much about the family’s opinion of their betrothed. In Susannah’s case, her father first tried to make a match with a suitor she truly liked. The betrothal to Simeon came about out of fear. Fear, on the father’s part, that Simeon might harm his business. Fear on Susannah’s part that if she questioned the match, she would seem to be questioning her father’s judgment and Simeon’s good reputation. Susannah’s betrothal was an anomaly and it was instigated by Simeon in order to ensure that he would have no rival for her hand.

For further information about Puritan culture, I highly recommend the book Worldly Saints – The Puritans as they Really Were by Leland Ryken. For more information about the lifestyle and role of women in Puritan culture I also recommend Goodwives by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

Illness was something else that these folks feared in a mighty way. Why was it so easy for them to place the life or death of a sick person (in this case an infant) within the sovereignty of God, but so difficult to trust Him with their eternal soul? That seemed a bit ironic to me.

Death was so much a part of life back then. In my first version of this book, the Phillips baby was referred to as ‘babe’ or ‘child’ instead of being named. This would have been consistent with the practice of the time. Mortality rates were so high, that the sex of a child (and sometimes even its name) weren’t really officially recognized until they were 2 or 3 years old. I think the Puritans had to believe that life and death were in God’s hands, that they would see their children and loved ones in heaven. Otherwise, they would have been overwhelmed by grief.

It’s odd, as you pointed out, that the Puritans compartmentalized in terms of others’ deaths and their own souls. I think the concept of God’s grace can be difficult for some people to understand…and even more difficult for some people to believe in. It seems almost too good to be true. The tragedy of the Puritan movement is that they just couldn’t bring themselves to believe that God truly loved them. In some respects, the consequence of their unwillingness to accept God’s unconditional love was their belief that if they did this thing and that thing and made sure to always follow God’s laws to the letter then God would have to save them. He would owe it to them. The concept of Assurance of Salvation was unknown to the Puritans. I hadn’t realized, before I wrote this book, just how integral that idea is to our faith. The Puritans would have given almost everything to know that God loved them – a concept that believers today take very much for granted.

You didn’t touch on anything remotely related to the witch trials that took place in New England, but some of the paranoia alluded to one character being suspect of witchcraft because of their reclusive tendencies. Do you think the Puritan faith was the breeding ground for the Salem witch trials? Their faith seemed steeped in fear and distrust. Were the witch trials a natural outcome of that fear?

That’s a good question! When you don’t live in a community of grace, you don’t have any grace to extend to anyone else. When people focus on their differences instead of their similarities, their individualities instead of their commonalities, communities like the Puritans have no way to accept those who are different. They are very nearly compelled to condemn them.

Can you give your readers a hint as to what we can expect next?

Thanks for asking! I just finished up my edits on She Walks in Beauty, a book set in 1890s New York City. The fashion element is the tight-lacing of corsets. Here’s a quick preview: When Clara Carter is told she’s to debut a year early, her social education shifts to high gear. There’s more than dance skills and manners that she’ll have to learn. There are corsets to be fitted and bosoms to be enhanced, for a girl so tall and gangly as Clara could never hope to attract a man by simply being herself. But the more enmeshed she becomes in New York City’s social scene the more she begins to wonder if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she’s pitted against her best friend for the hand of the most eligible bachelor in town. When she does manage to find a kindred soul, a man who seems to love her simply for who she is, her heart begins to assert its case. But there’s more at stake this social season than just Clara’s marriage and the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

What exciting things is God doing in your life? He’s teaching me to trust him.

Words of encouragement you’d like to leave with your readers? God does know; God does see; God does care.

Love's Pursuit by Siri Mitchell - My Review

“Which were worse? The sins I had committed of those I might have, given the chance?” (p. 297)

To live in the Puritan colony of Stoneybrooke, Massachusetts was to live your entire life in a constant state of uncertainty. For nothing except sin and all of its depravity were certain, and everything else, especially as it related to God and salvation through the death of His Son was circumspect - subject to one’s pursuit of the strict observance of piety and righteousness.

Susanna Phillips is a young woman of marriageable age, and in her heart she longs for the affection of John Prescotte. Her day to day existence, steeped in unending labor, moves forward unchanged until savages are spotted by one of the town’s prominent members. The govenor’s army captain, Daniel Holcomb, comes to Stoneybrooke in response to this report in order to train the militia in proper defense methods. Little does anyone suspect, Susanna least of all, that his presence would also bring profound change into their lives. For you see, Daniel Holcomb would bring to their lives the definition of God’s unmerited grace.

Love’s Pursuit is a profound book in many ways. Siri Mitchell captures the voice of the Puritan villager and recreates the stifling, hopeless, helplessness of much of their existence. Siri’s book encouraged me to search out Puritan beliefs for my own benefit, and I came away astounded that while they were so close to the truth of God’s love, they missed His grace almost entirely. Love’s Pursuit captures the essence of this reality in the life of the Puritan’s, and the reader’s heart breaks for Susannah and her entire family as they become the target of a malevolent man’s selfish desires.

God’s love pursues the hearts of the Stoneybrooke colony – Susannah’s heart in particular. And if your own heart isn’t touched by the truth revealed at the end of this story, then I wonder if you have a heart at all. I was left weeping, rejoicing, and amazed anew at the grace of God poured out upon my own life. I was left with new understanding of God’s unmerited favor and the reassurance of His love and mercy. Love’s Pursuit is all you could ever hope for in historical fiction. I highly recommend this book to everyone!


Siri Mitchell has written six novels, two of which (Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door) were named Christy Award Finalists. A graduate from the University of Washington with a business degree, she has worked in many levels of government and lived on three continents. She currently resides in the Washington DC metro area. Visit www.sirimitchell.com

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo - GIVE AWAY!!

Reeling from a series of attempts on their lives, FBI agents Brady Moore and Alicia Wagner follow a trail of evidence that leads to a conspiracy a thousand years in the making. Finding clues in the dusty tomes of the Vatican's Secret Archives and the paintings of William Blake and Hieronymus Bosche, they plunge deep into a pit of evil ambition.

You can go here to read an excerpt from this story!

And if you think your heart can withstand the excitement, leave a comment on this post! I will be drawing TWO winners for a FREE copy of this great book!

Once again, my oldest son has snatched this book out of my stacks and devoured it! He assures me that it is a great thriller of a read! He also loved the mass market paperback size of the book because it was easy for him to tuck in the car when he left on vacation! I know I can't wait to read it for myself!


Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Wackiest Wildest Weirdest Animals in the World by Jack Hanna

Did you realize that there are many different colors of armadillos? Did you know that an anteater has a blue tongue and is practically blind? And did you even know there WAS an animal called a Bongo? Oh, and ugly….and weird…have you ever seen a naked mole rat? Ewwww!!

Jack Hanna has teamed up with Thomas Nelson to create a very cool book entitled The Wackiest Wildest Weirdest Animals in the World. You will discover weird facts about animals you are familiar with, and, if you’re like me, you’ll discover weird animals you didn’t even know existed! Jack Hanna is a man who has been blessed to dedicate his life to the exploration of God’s vast and varied creation. The passion he has for animals, bugs and aquatic life is evident in all that he does. This latest creation is a beautiful, hard-covered book filled with facts and photos galore.

Young or old, there is something to enjoy for everyone in Hanna’s latest book. Thomas Nelson added an extra bonus, and inside the front cover you will find a DVD filled with blunders, bloopers and behind the scenes experiences from Jack Hanna’s many television appearances. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of The Wackiest Wildest Weirdest Animals in the World and share it with someone today!

You can visit Thomas Nelson's website to learn more about this and many other fascinating books!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Live Deeply and Live Relationally - Bible study guides by Lenya Heitzig and Penny Rose

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 authors are:

and the books:

Live Deeply: A Study in the Parables of Jesus

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Live Relationally: Lessons from the Women of Genesis

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Lenya Heitzig is an award-winning author and popular Bible teacher. After beginning her ministry as a single women’s counselor with Youth With a Mission, Lenya married Skip and together they started Calvary of Albuquerque, one of the fast growing churches in the country. The author of Holy Moments and coauthor of the Gold Medallion-winning, Pathways to God’s Treasures, Lenya currently serves as Director of Women at Calvary, overseeing weekly Bible studies and yearly retreats. Lenya and Skip live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Visit the author's website.

Penny Pierce Rose is the award-winning author/coauthor of several books and Bible studies, including the ECPA Gold Medallion winner, Pathways to God’s Treasures. She has served on the board of directors for the Southwest Women’s Festival and develops Bible study curriculum for the women’s programs at Calvary of Albuquerque. Penny, her husband, Kerry, and their three children, Erin, Kristian, and Ryan, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

Live Deeply:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799867
ISBN-13: 978-1434799869

Live Relationally:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767485
ISBN-13: 978-1434767486

Bible study material is something I guess I'm kind of picky about. I want it to be saturated with scripture, well organized and broken into manageable blocks of time. Guess what? These two books are all of that and more!! If you want a great personal bible study guide or something that you can use in a small group, then please, please check these out! I was very impressed, and I know I will be abundantly blessed and challenged as I work my way through these studies.

I will also be sharing these with the ladies I work with in the rehab center. It's always so exciting to watch the Lord provide for me and these ladies as we seek to learn more about Him! I'm excited about these books!! I hope you will be too!



Root Determines Fruit

Matthew 13:1–23

Lenya adored Mrs. Johnson, her elementary school teacher, because she had the ability to bring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to life. Lenya’s sister would anxiously wait for her to arrive home to retell the story in every detail. Penny loved nothing more than spooky bedtime tales from her granddaddy. She’d lie awake at night, jumping at every sound, wondering whether the boogeyman was real. All our kids loved trips to the library for story hour.

Since ancient times, storytellers have enthralled audiences with tales both entertaining and instructive. In 300 BC, Aesop, the Greek storyteller, featured animals like the tortoise and the hare in his fables vividly illustrating how to solve problems. The Brothers Grimm gathered fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel in nineteenth-century Germany to teach children valuable moral lessons. Baby boomers were mesmerized when Walt Disney animated their favorite stories in amazing Technicolor.

However, throughout history no one has compared to Jesus Christ as a storyteller. Rather than telling fables or fairy tales, He told parables. A parable is a short, simple story designed to communicate a spiritual truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. It is a figure of speech in which truth is illustrated by a comparison or example drawn from everyday experiences. Warren Wiersbe simply says, “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”1 Throughout this study we’ll learn from the stories Jesus told, comparing them to our lives and putting His eternal truths into practice.

Day 1: Matthew 13:1–3 Floating Pulpit Day 2: Matthew 13:3–9 Fertile Parable Day 3: Matthew 13:10–13 Few Perceive Day 4: Matthew 13:14–17 Fulfilled Prophecy Day 5: Matthew 13:18–23 Four Possibilities


Floating Pulpit

Lift up…

Lord, I love to gather with Your people and listen to Your Word. Help me to be a faithful hearer, not only listening to what You say but obeying Your commands. Thank You for being in our midst. Amen.

Look at…

Jesus proved Himself to be the promised King—the Messiah of Israel—through His impeccable birthright, powerful words, and supernatural deeds. Despite His amazing miracles and the many ways He fulfilled prophecy, the religious leaders rejected His lordship. Knowing the religious leaders had turned on Him, Jesus directed His attention to the common people. Matthew 13 tells how Jesus stepped onto a floating pulpit on the Sea of Galilee and spoke in parables to explain how the gospel—the good news of salvation—would inaugurate the kingdom of heaven on earth.

The parable of the Sower is one of seven parables Jesus taught to describe what His kingdom would look like as a result of the religious establishment rejecting Him. This parable was a precursor to the Great Commission that Jesus would give His disciples after His death, burial, and resurrection: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). There is no evidence that the religious leaders stayed to listen to Jesus’ simple stories. Yet after this teaching session, the resentment of the religious leaders only deepened.

Read Matthew 13:1–3.

On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. Matthew 13:1

Explain what Jesus did on this day in His ministry.

Matthew 13:1 is the continuation of a critical day in Jesus’ ministry. Briefly scan Matthew 12; then answer the following questions to learn more about this “same day.”
What day of the week is referred to here?
What miracles did Jesus perform on this day?
Describe Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders.
What did He teach about becoming a member of His family?

According to Mark 3:6, what did the Pharisees begin to do on this fateful day?

And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow.” Matthew 13:2–3

Explain why Jesus got into the boat.
How many people stayed to hear Jesus’ message?
What method of teaching did Jesus use in speaking to the
What types of things did He teach in parables?
Galilee was an important region to Jesus. Fill in the following table to learn more.

Scripture Galilee’s Significance

Matthew 4:18–21
Matthew 17:22–23
Matthew 26:31–32
Luke 1:26–28
Luke 2:39–40
Acts 10:36–38

We’ve learned that many people came to know Jesus in Galilee. Journal about the place where you encountered Jesus and how meeting Him affected your feelings about that location.

Jesus was “moved with compassion” for the multitudes that followed Him. Circle below to indicate how you respond to the many people who are lost and looking for a shepherd.

Eager to share the gospel

Impatient with their ignorance

Anxious to get away

Concerned for their eternity

Frightened by their unruliness

Other __________________

Journal a prayer asking God to supernaturally fill you with compassion for the multitudes that don’t know Him.

The multitudes crowded around Jesus, so He turned a boat on the Sea of Galilee into a floating pulpit. In his book Fully Human, Fully Alive, John Powell tells about a friend vacationing in the Bahamas who was drawn to a noisy crowd gathered toward the end of a pier:

Upon investigation he discovered that the object of all the attention was a young man making the last-minute preparations for a solo journey around the world in a homemade boat. Without exception everyone on the pier was vocally pessimistic. All were actively volunteering to tell the ambitious sailor all the things that could possibly go wrong. “The sun will broil you! … You won’t have enough food! … That boat of yours won’t withstand the waves in a storm! … You’ll never make it!”

When my friend heard all these discouraging warnings to the adventurous young man, he felt an irresistible desire to offer some optimism and encouragement. As the little craft began drifting away from the pier towards the horizon, my friend went to the end of the pier, waving both arms wildly like semaphores spelling confidence. He kept shouting: “Bon Voyage! You’re really something! We’re with you! We’re proud of you!”2

If you had been there as the boat was leaving, which group on the pier would you have been among: the optimists or the pessimists? More importantly, if you had been in the crowds along the Sea of Galilee, would you have joined the Pharisees seeking to harm Jesus or the crowd eagerly listening to the stories Jesus told?

Listen to …

The best leaders … almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols.

—Tom Peters


Eve--Trouble in Paradise

Genesis 2:18-3:24

The first trouble in paradise was man's aloneness. For six consecutive days--as God created light, the cosmos, the land and sea, the stars and planets, the creatures in the sea and sky, and every living thing that moves, including the ultimate creation of man--God declared, “It is good.” But there was one thing that wasn't good: Man did not have a companion. So God created the perfect mate for Adam. She would be the counterpart for him physically, spiritually, intellectually, and socially. She was intended to complete him. She was more than a mate--she was a soul mate.

We know this woman as Eve. Although the Bible does not describe her, there is no doubt that she was the most beautiful woman who ever lived. Why? She was God's masterpiece. The Divine dipped His paintbrush into the palette of dust and clay and breathed life from His wellspring of inspiration to form a portrait of perfection. Just imagine a woman with a face more beautiful than Helen of Troy, a body more statuesque than the Venus de Milo, a personality more captivating than Cleopatra, and a smile more mysterious than the Mona Lisa. She ate a perfect diet, so her figure was probably flawless. Because of an untainted gene pool, she was undoubtedly without physical defect. Due to the antediluvian atmosphere, her complexion was age-defying perfection. She was never a child, daughter, or sister. She was the first wife, the first mother, and the first woman to encounter evil incarnate. That's when real trouble in paradise began.

Day 1: Genesis 2:18-25 Paradise Found

Day 2: Genesis 3:1-6 Innocence Lost

Day 3: Genesis 3:7-13 Hiding Out

Day 4: Genesis 3:14-19 Judgment Pronounced

Day 5: Genesis 3:20-24 East of Eden


Paradise Found

Lift up …

Thank You, Lord, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You have created me in Your image to glorify Your name. May I fulfill Your will in my heart and home. Amen.

Look at …

We begin our study when God made man and woman. Though God created both humans and animals, this does not mean that they are on equal footing. People are made in God's image, setting us apart from animals in a profound way. We possess a soul. The soul refers to a person's inner life. It is the center of our emotions and personality. The word soul is first used in Genesis: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [soul]” (Gen. 2:7). In other words, humans possess intellect, emotion, and will.

For instance, dogs aren't bright enough to realize they'll never catch their own tails; cows don't weep over the beauty of a sunset; and a female praying mantis can't keep herself from chewing her spouse's head off. People, on the other hand, have the ability to acquire knowledge and experience deep feelings. They also have the capacity for self-control. While animals act instinctively, we as humans should behave transcendently. We are God's special creation endowed with the gift of “soul-power.”

Read Genesis 2:18-25.

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:18-25

Explain the problem and solution God first spoke about in this passage.

Describe in detail the task God assigned to Adam.

Compare and contrast Adam to the rest of the living beings.

In your own words describe how God created woman.

a. When Adam met his mate he made a proclamation. What do you think “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” signified for Adam?

b. What did he call his mate and why?

Here we find the first mention of marriage in Scripture. Explain God's intent for marriage.

a. What else do you learn about the man and wife in this passage?

b. Why do you think this is relevant?

Live out …

a. God declared that man needs companionship. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and explain some of the reasons why it is better to have a mate to come alongside you.

Read the sidebar concerning “Threefold Strength” and talk about how you have experienced God's supernatural strength in your life and/or marriage.

Many women today struggle with the way they look, think, and feel. But when God made Eve from Adam's rib, this was not His intent. When He made you, He made you to be the person you are too. With this in mind, journal Psalm 139:13-14 into a personal psalm praising God for making you just as you are.

For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother's womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works. Ps. 139:13-14

Before the fall, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. It's probably difficult to imagine being unashamed about our looks, actions, or thoughts. But Jesus came to free us from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Read the following Scriptures and talk about how we can either stand ashamed or unashamed before God.

Psalm 119:5-6

Isaiah 41:11

Isaiah 49:23

Jeremiah 8:9

It's safe to say that none of us is perfectly content with our frame. We all wish we were better, thinner, richer, healthier, smarter, or younger. We may think that if we were different in some way people would accept us, respect us, or love us more. Maybe we'd even love and respect ourselves more. Like Eve, we would walk in this world unashamed.

A recent University of Waterloo study determined that people's self-esteem is linked to such traits as physical appearance, social skills, and popularity. Research associate Danu Anthony noted that acceptance from others is strongly tied to appearances. Furthermore, the study found that self-esteem is connected to traits that earn acceptance from other people. “People state emphatically that it is 'what's inside' that counts and encourage their children not to judge others based on appearances, yet they revere attractive people to an astonishing degree,” Anthony says. “They say they value communal qualities such as kindness and understanding more than any other traits, but seem to be exceptionally interested in achieving good looks and popularity.” The bottom line is that people's looks and behavior are intimately linked to being accepted by others.3

As women of faith, we know that acceptance from others is not nearly as important as our acceptance of One Man--the God/Man Jesus Christ, the second Adam. Only by accepting Jesus Christ's sacrificial death will you be made whole: “You are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).

Listen to…

The woman was formed out of man--not out of his head to rule over him; not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him; but out of his side to be his equal, from beneath his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved.

--Matthew Henry

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul - GIVE AWAY!

Oh, dear readers, I did it!! I did it!! I read every single word of Donita K.Paul’s latest fantasy, The Vanishing Sculptor, and I LOVED it!! If you want to be enchanted, delighted, entertained and generally swept away into another time and place, then you need to pick up this book and start reading! You will not be disappointed!

The young emerlindian woman, Tipper, daughter to displaced royalty, finds herself in the very difficult position of managing the upkeep of her parent’s estate. Her father has been absent for some time, and her mother is not of sound mind. When her father finally returns – a delightfully astonishing feat! – she finds herself in even more unfamiliar circumstances. She must go on a quest to retrieve three particular art objects - created by her father – and reassemble them so that time and its related gateways can be put right and the world restored to order before it becomes totally engulfed in chaos!

Oh, you will love Donita Paul’s characters! There is a wizard and his librarian who kept me in stitches a lot of the time. I loved their linguistic challenges, their sense of humor, and those creatures that keep falling out of the…oops! I don’t want to spoil that! And then there is Sir Beccaroon….his cracks me up! So haughty, so wise, so loving, so stand-offish. His opinions of the others in his band of questors is hysterical!! Oh, and let’s not forget the artist and the prince…the major dragons and minor dragons…so much to enjoy! There is danger, there is evil, and there is the ever present faith in Wulder – found only among those who have come from Amara.

This sort of reminded me loosely of Lord of the Rings in regard to the quest itself – quite the exciting adventure! - and the ending…well, you’ve a hard heart indeed if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye! Oh, I now understand those who love fantasy – at least Donita Paul’s version of fantasy – so much better! I feel like I’ve learned, grown and expanded my reading horizons!

I am very, very pleased to recommend this book to you, dear readers! The Vanishing Sculptor - share it with your kids – share it with anyone who needs to escape the hum drum of everyday life…just share it! It’s wonderful fun!



Donita K. Paul is a retired teacher and author of numerous novellas, short stories, and eight novels, including the best-selling DragonKeeper Chronicles, a series which has sold more than a quarter million books to date. The winner of multiple awards, she lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she spends time mentoring and encouraging young writers. Visit her online at donitakpaul.com.