“Spirit Bridge,” James L Rubart

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Image courtesy of James L Rubart’s website

Spirit Bridge is the third and final episode in the Well Spring series. And wow, it sure finishes in a mighty way, so much so I’m very sad that it has now ended.

I’d suggest all readers read the first two in the series: Soul’s Gate and Memory’s Door, not just because they are fabulous novels but they provide a valuable introduction to this final episode.

This one starts where the last one ended, the Warriors Riding hoping to take some time out to rest and convalesce after the battle with Zennon and his demonic warlords. However, the Spirit has other ideas and it isn’t long before the battle is renewed and with tragic circumstances.

Two additional characters play pivotal roles. Simon, who we’ve met previously, and are never quite sure whose side he’s on. Rubart manages this ambiguity brilliantly. The second, Miyo, is in fact a new character and she plays an important leadership role in discerning the insidious plot of Zennon.

Brandon and Dana’s characters are well developed in this episode and I especially grew to like both of them. The romantic tension between them continues as an undercurrent but doesn’t distract the reader in developing empathy for them both.

What I particularly appreciated about this episode is how Rubart presents spiritual warfare in the context of the daily battle we all have in surrendering our desires and hopes to God. He explores it through Reece, Brandon and Dana demonstrating how each of them unknowingly allows the enemy to infiltrate through some form of self-glorification.

This culminates in a fantastic final battle scene that is magnificently described allowing the reader to visualize it effortlessly.

This is a wonderful series that so powerfully demonstrates spiritual warfare in a fictional context that is uplifting, challenging and thrilling in its suspensefulness.

I can’t recommend it enough and so look forward to reading Rubart’s next creation.

“Extreme Prayer,” Greg Pruett

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Photo courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers

This short book took a different approach to a lot of prayer books I’ve read. It focuses on the “whatever you ask” passages in the Bible that Jesus promises to answer. By providing specific examples from his own ministry Pruett was able to demonstrate how his prayer life developed over the years where increasingly he was able to relate answers to specific prayers he and his team had prayed.

Pruett introduced me to a new prayer acronym: ACTIVE, that is an extension to one many of us know: ACTS. It stands for:
A doration
C onfession
T hanksgiving
I ntercession/Supplication
V anquishing Satan
E xtreme Prayer

In outlining the elements of “Extreme Prayer” with practical examples, both Biblical and from his own experience, Pruett demonstrates prayer’s power. He suggests too many of us impose our own strategies to achieving certain outcomes and minimise prayer when venturing out. As prayer is a dialogue with God if we walk through our days with unceasing prayer we are far more likely to produce God-inspired outcomes.

I particularly appreciated Pruett’s emphasis on the power of unity in community (‘when two or three are gathered…”), specificity of our prayers and actively listening with pen in hand.

Highly recommended. This book gets you praying with added fervour and specificity.

“Can you Drink the Cup?” Henri Nouwen

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Photo courtesy of HenriNouwen.org

There’s something very soothing about Nouwen’s writing. His humility, wisdom and love for God are always reflected in his words. This small book is no exception.

Even though it’s easy to read, it’s important to allow his words and the messages he brings to percolate in your heart, so don’t rush this one.

The book reflects on the question Jesus asked James and John who perhaps answered a little too quickly in the affirmative. They were grappling for prominent positions within the disciples ranks and wanted to demonstrate their willingness to do anything Jesus asked.

Nouwen explores the question and the significance of the Cup using the three stages of drinking something: holding the cup, lifting it and, finally, drinking from it. It is a symbol of life that comes full of joys and sorrows.

In using examples from his own life caring for the disabled, Nouwen provides a wonderful outline to what drinking the Cup means and how to go about fully experiencing it.

Highly recommended.

“The Book of Acts, A Commentary,” C.Peter Wagner

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Photo courtesy of ArsenalBooks.com

At the time Wagner wrote this commentary by his records there were already 1,398 commentaries on this magnificent book of the Bible. So he approached his version by way of emphasising two key elements of the book:

1. Power ministries, that is, supernatural acts of healing, prophecy, etc, and
2. Missiological issues involved in the cross-cultural expansion of Christianity.

Therefore, it’s not a verse-by-verse commentary and in fact skips through some major sections of Acts particularly the final third. However, Wagner has clearly studied many of those other commentaries and there is repeated reference to a number of key ones almost on every page. Hence, this is a very comprehensive study when taking into account it’s two primary focuses.

Wagner’s study gives us a powerful picture of the worldliness of the major cities in that time: Athens idolatry, Corinth’s immorality, Ephesus’ emphasis on magic and Rome’s dominant political persuasions. In particular, the study in chapter 19 when Paul was in Ephesus was enthralling especially when one reads his epistle on Ephesians and emphasis on spiritual warfare. I now plan to study Ephesians and incorporate Wagner’s insights.

As far as commentaries go this reads easily in layman’s terms. It is a long study and requires plenty of deliberation and meditation but is an enlightening reference tool.

“Living in Christ’s Presence,” Dallas Willard

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Image courtesy of InterVarsity Press

I find it difficult to fully express my appreciation for this wonderful book. It’s a summary of a series of talks that Willard gave in his final conference before his death in 2013 and features a number of conversations with John Ortberg who participated in that particular conference.

Willard (and Ortberg) always leave the reader with much to stew on. Ortberg describes Willard’s way of communicating the Gospel so aptly when he writes: “… every word is used with a precision that most of us don’t have.”

The authors cover a number of different topics about how to live experiencing the Kingdom including: the power of the Trinity, the importance of knowledge and how spiritual disciplines equip us with power. I particularly enjoyed the discussion around spiritual disciplines. They outlined the difference between “training” and “trying” re: adopting spiritual disciplines in our lives. Many of us think we “try” to incorporate them when we should more think it’s about “training” in running the race of life. We need to train so we gain the power to live well in the Kingdom.

This relatively small book left me wanting more of Willard’s teaching. I doubt it will be long before I start another one of his much loved books.

Highly recommended.

“Hacker (Outlaw Chronicles),” Ted Dekker

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Image courtesy of Worthy Publishing

My name is Nyah and I’m a hacker. I know things most people would never believe. Things that shouldn’t exist, but do.” 

Seventeen year old Nyah Parks is a genius hacker whose world is unraveling. Desperate and with no other choice, Nyah turns her programming skills to cracking the firewalls of the world’s largest corporations. She exposes their weaknesses, and then offers her services to secure their systems from hackers.

But when the most dangerous job of her life backfires and forces her to go on the run, she encounters an impossible reality that shouldn’t exist, but does.

A hack unlike any other. A hack that will take her beyond the firewall of the human brain itself. A hack, which may be the only way to save her mother now.

What if there was a way to tap into the unseen reality that surrounds us all? Would you hack in? How far would you go to find the answers to your deepest questions? The answer lies deep beyond the firewall.

As part of the FirstLook Blog Tour Worthy Publishing provided a Q&A with Ted Dekker which adds good background to the above teaser.

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Q&A with Ted Dekker – Blog Tour for “Hacker” (Outlaw Chronicles)

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Image Courtesy of Worthy Publishing

I was given the opportunity to participate in Worthy Publishing’s First Look blog tour for Ted Dekker’s latest novel: “Hacker”.

Hacker is the third installment of the “Outlaw Chronicles” which Dekker describes as follows:

“THE OUTLAW CHRONICLES consist of EYES WIDE OPENWATER WALKER and HACKER. Although related through one common character, Stephen, they can be read in any order.

Written in the vein of Ted’s thrillers like Thr3e and Blink, these are transformational stories that take the reader on an intense ride full of twists that unravel the deep mystery or reality in ways rarely seen.

To discover the profound origin story of how Stephen came to live out of the law of darkness, read Ted’s novel by the same name: Outlaw.”

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“Soul Keeping,” John Ortberg

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Image courtesy of JohnOrtberg.com

I believe we reflect less on the soul these days, however, as Ortberg outlines, the Bible talks a lot about it.

This beautifully written book helps the reader to understand the soul’s significance and how to care for it. It starts with an important and revealing analogy, one I’ve heard a few times, The Keeper of the Stream. It is with this backdrop that Ortberg soon jumps to the core of the book: “Your soul is what integrates your will (your intentions), your mind (your thoughts, feelings, etc) and your body (your face, body language, and actions) into a single life” and hence, “It’s the most important thing about you. It is your life.”

The book is split into three sections:

1. What the Soul is
2. What the Soul Needs
3. The Soul Restored

I found greatest benefit in the first two sections and particularly appreciated the sections that dealt with sin and how it wages war against the soul: “Sin fractures and shatters the soul.” It is in our fallen natures that our soul’s are needy, needy for God, but often we seek other alternatives which constitutes idolatry.

Ortberg shares his own struggles with keeping his soul set on God and provides some pointers through his own daily experience of how he has developed the habit of walking through his day interacting with God. Dallas Willard has played a pivotal role in Ortberg’s life and understanding of how to care for one’s soul. Throughout the book we are given the opportunity to share in many of their conversations on the topic which I enjoyed immensely.

Ortberg has a very readable style, however, this is a book that challenges and provokes the reader to draw closer to the Lord as it is only “with God” that we can find true contentment.

Highly recommended.

 

“Raptor 6,” Ronie Kendig

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Image courtesy of Shiloh Run Press

This first instalment in “The Quiet Professionals” series has everything we’ve come to love about Kendig’s writing: thrills a plenty, heart-pounding pace, solid character development, great military heroes, some crazy mad bad guys and a love story in a war zone.

But in this novel, it’s wonderful to see how Kendig has excelled in upping the ante so everything I’ve mentioned is even better.

What I’ve always loved about Kendig’s writing is her tremendous craftsmanship in drawing the reader into her war zone. In Raptor 6 it is no exception. She takes us right into the thick of it. We can feel the tension, hear the guns being fired, smell the sweaty testosterone within the cramped confines of the military vehicle and taste the grittiness of the dust.

And then there’s the love story. A young military leader passionately responsible for leading his small troop go where very few dare but emotionally wounded by events of the past. Torn by serving his nation and opening his heart to what has only led to heartbreak in his past.

The soldier soon meets a striking American but with Afghani blood and an absolute ripper of a name: Zahrah Zarrick. The daughter of a military hero who has returned to her mother’s homeland to bring hope to the children who know no other life than living in a war zone.

Zahrah falls hard for her soldier hero, he reminds her of her father, the decorated General. But it’s her faith and willingness to die serving God that attracts me the most to Zahrah. Kendig handles this well in demonstrating the challenge it can be when faced with terrible consequences for one’s faith.

I’ll stop there before I start giving too much of the engrossing story away.

This is a great start to the series and I can’t wait for next one.

Angelguard wins 2014 Selah Award

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I woke to some very exciting news this past Saturday with an email advising that Angelguard had won the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction.

The award was a great surprise and one that I am very honoured and humbled to have received.

The Selah Awards are held annually as part of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference that was established by author, Alton Ganksy.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists. A list of the winners can be found at this link.