published Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Cooper: Old West novel has religious message

There's a new sheriff in town, and he's out of this world.

Sheriff Adonai is the title character in the soon-to-be-released allegorical novel by Keith Jones, senior pastor of Rock Pointe Church in Fort Oglethorpe.

"Adonai" means "the everlasting God" and is a Hebrew name for God, he says.

"Sheriff Adonai: The Gift of the Stranger's Necklace," written in the allegorical style of "The Shack" or "The Chronicles of Narnia," tells the story of a young man, Misief, and his journey through the Old West to stay one step ahead of a sheriff, a stranger and a broken past that are constantly pursuing him.

The novel, which Jones plans to be the first of a trilogy, is somewhat autobiographical in that Jones initially ran from a ministry career he knew at 18 that God wanted him to have.

He had great parents and a great upbringing, he says, "but I was not impressed with what I witnessed from [other] Christians. I had some pain in my life. I told [God] what he could do with" the idea about a career in ministry.

Jones says he eventually "had to make a decision" and began to understand how God was working with him -- not about other people but on what God wanted him to do.

"It's one thing to believe in God," he says. "It's another thing to surrender your will to him."

As to the book, Jones says he was awakened one night four years ago and felt God was giving him a way to present the gospel through a Western story of a man on the run.

"I had written [play-length] dramas," he says, "but never a book."

Jones self-published the manuscript three years ago and says he gave away more than he ever sold. Some 350 went into the Georgia prison system, he says.

Occasionally, he heard stories like the one from the soldier whose family had stuck a copy in his luggage when he was posted to the Middle East. The soldier, on guard duty one day, picked up the book and found it spoke to him, Jones says. In turn, he gave his life to Christ.

"That's what we're after," he says. "Our hope is that people reluctant to pick up the Bible might pick up the book. We're not trying to trick them. We're just using it as a ministry tool," hoping it will facilitate "breaking through the next layer."

Feedback on the book, Jones says, is that it's a "really great story," one of redemption and forgiveness, one that "will speak to your heart."

Last March, he says, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, a self-publishing book company in Mustang, Okla., picked up his manuscript and offered him a contract. Some changes were made, but the story remains, he says. That's the book that will be released on Tuesday.

What's as exciting as the book release, Jones says, is the plans for proceeds from the book, which will go to a new ministry, "Adonai's Stepping Stones," which is focused on helping at-risk teens and married couples.

Such a ministry, which would be a separate nonprofit from the church, would be offered -- at least for teens -- to help them find direction in life, to give them life skills and to provide mentoring, he says. Eight adults are already deeply committed to the ministry, he says.

The church, Jones says, had provided 100 to 150 teens with clothes, hygiene products and other things at Christmas through its Teen Tree program, but he felt there was more to be done.

"I felt challenged that what we were doing was admirable," he says, "but was not changing their lives."

The future, Jones says, might even include a working ranch to accommodate the program.

In the meantime, because "I want to the world to know about God," two of his old Corvettes -- "they look good at 20 miles an hour, 20 feet away" -- have been emblazoned with the words "SheriffAdonai.com" as a means of marketing, he says. There are also T-shirts, hats and necklaces to hammer home the theme.

"We're hoping to develop the term 'Adonai' as a marketing label," Jones says. "The Corvette is a tool to witness, an attempt to let the world know about our heavenly father. It was just part of blue sky thinking to create some buzz. If you see [one] going down the road, [it's] doing the job. We use them to draw attention."

The draft of a second Sheriff Adonai book is already finished, but he figures God gave him the idea for the book and will guide whatever is to come next.

"It's all in God's timing," Jones says. "I'm excited about the potential."

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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