Antioch, Idaho has a stranger in town. His name is Brandon Nichols, but if folks want to call him Jesus, Lord, or God, he's okay with that.
When Brandon's not providing handyman services on the local widowed-millionairess' ranch, he's saving souls and delivering miracles to his quickly developing congregation of disciples.
This new messiah of Antioch even has his own prophet. He's Michael, from Chicago. He wears sandals and a long robe. Carries a staff. Prepares the way.
Brandon's fairly traditional in a loose and bent sort of way. He gathers his people for worship services. They sing the right songs. Stand, shout and testify and pass the offering plate.
In church and on the streets, Brandon can produce miracles with a mere touch from his fingertips. Once they receive healing, his disciples are never the same. Most will do anything to please him and maintain their healing, even if it pushes them over the edge of integrity and morality, or ravages their sanity.
They consider it a small price to pay because for the most part, their new messiah is easy to follow. He's got a great sense of humor. He wears a beautiful smile. He's energetic and handsome. He's positive, kind, charming and affectionate (especially with the ladies) and he's promised them that it's his mission to make everyone's lives better. He can divine their past, bless their present and foretell their future.
What's not to love?
Surely no one in their right mind would refuse to follow him, much less consider standing against him...
Trouble at Antioch's round table
The local ministerial alliance gathered. Lines were drawn and tempers flared. Ultimately, unity gave way to enmity and chaos erupted over whether or not to join up with or reject the new guy in town, the dude passing out the miracles as easily as a Benihana-chef flips food to diners.
Many of the pastors ended up siding with Brandon. Droves of curiosity and need-driven visitors were pouring into Antioch every day. They brought money and there they're spending it. They're buying their groceries at the town's only Sooper Market. When they eat out, they do it at the town's only restaurant. They're washing their clothes at the town's only only laundromat, getting their fuel at the town's only gas station and they've packed out every room at the town's two, small hotels.
Yup, supporting Brandon Nichols was worth it. Their congregations (though dwindling in number) rely on local business to support themselves and their churches. Thanks to Brandon-the-miracle-dispenser, business had never been better.
What they don't know can hurt them...
Unfortunately for Antioch, their savior has a shrouded history. It's being carefully hidden for a reason. It's origin is diabolical and if people knew it they'd be running away from Brandon rather than letting him lay hands on them.
The more Travis Jordan (not long widowed, and burned-out former pastor of the Antioch Pentecostal Mission) discovers about Brandon Nichols' past, the more concerned he is for Antioch's future. Grim outlook doesn't quite cover the veracity of what's in store for the town if their new and improved shepherd isn't relieved of his crook and defrocked.
Travis has discovered that Brandon's a long way from home, and during his travels from there to Antioch, he's been a very, bad, bad boy.
Nichols lingered in several places along his route to Antioch. Travis and his side-kicks have been trying to interview people in those places. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes their questioning is shut down before it even gets started. They keep encountering the same reaction when they show folks Brandon's picture and ask if they know him.
Those who agree to talk to them often do it in hushed whispers, with tell-tale expressions of worry and fear. Some offer reassurances of what a great guy he is, and stating with intense conviction that they love him and want it to be known they'd never be a threat to him. This is said as they hurriedly back away and close their doors. Conversation's over. Be gone and don't come back, especially if the visit is to discuss Brandon Nichols.
As Travis and his small cadre of ministers work under the radar as quickly as possible, the messiah's army of disciples is growing larger and becoming more demanding. Yard by yard, business by business, church by church, they're taking over the town.
The pressure is on and time is running out. They have to discover the source of Brandon's power and what he plans to do it with. His threat is looming larger, and has been focusing on Travis via secret phone calls and private meetings.
Travis may be a former pastor, but he still cares deeply for the congregation he worked with for fifteen years. Together they learned and fused into more than pastor and parishioners, but as brothers and sisters of a family-by-choice and bound by love.
Brandon hates that, and like any maniacal leader, considers it a threat. He's warned Travis to give up and align with him or face the consequences. But, Travis can't do that. He's already met the real Jesus and Brandon's not Him.
Another for your list of favorites...
This is yet another novel in my library of awesomeness by internationally-best selling author, Frank E. Peretti,
A movie was made of this story, and there are some copies circulating on DVD here and there, but while putting this together, I checked for it on amazon.com, and they have it listed as currently unavailable.
That's okay. The book is better. The movie cuts significant parts out that crucially enhance the story, much like hanging a picture with gaping holes in it.
Like all of Peretti's work, this book is free of adult language and content, providing a great read for young-adults and up.
It'll make a fantastic birthday present, Christmas present or part of a backpack donation to your local homeless shelter or even your local library, or maybe volunteer to read it to someone who can't read it for themselves. That way you get to literally share the adventure.
It's true that I prefer to promote the lesser known artists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists, but Peretti is one of the very few exceptions. Once you're acquainted with his work, you'll understand why.
That's it for this one! Hope to see you back again on Thursday at femme's Desk.
In the meantime, God bless you! Thanks for the read and please don't forget to thank a veteran at your next opportunity!
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