“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.

 

“Invitation to a Journey”, M. Robert Mulholland Jr.

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Photo courtesy of InterVarsityPress.

“The process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” is how Professor Mulholland defines spiritual formation. I’ve read a number of books on “how” to do this but this one perhaps provides the best outline with quality Biblical references.

What I particular appreciate about this book is the recognition that God has made us all uniquely different so our journeys of spiritual formation are similarly uniquely different. Mulholland explores these differences and provides guidance on how each broad personality type (think Myer Briggs or at it’s most basic extrovert vs introvert) engages spiritually. I’ve never explored it like this and have tended to pigeon hole myself into a particular form of worship and service that is very individualised due to my introversion.

But what Mulholland stresses is to develop true holistic spirituality we all need to incorporate elements of the individual, corporate and social dimensions into our walks. I needed to read that as increasingly I’ve become frustrated with my “walk” but now realise that the personal dimension far outweighs the other two and hence, I have an imbalance which limits my growth.

I most appreciated the second last chapter on “Corporate Spirituality” where Mulholland provides wonderful Biblical teaching on Jacob and then Nicodemus to demonstrate how we can only truly “grow” when we relinquish control of our relationship with God to God. That was a lightning bolt moment for me – I’m the boss, not Him. Mulholland then demonstrates through silence, solitude, prayer and accountable communion with others we can gradually let go and give control over to God.

I expect I’ll be diving back into this book many times in the future.

“Making All Things New,” Henri Nouwen

9780060663261This is short at 96 pages and is written in three sections, all of which are easy to read. But there is such powerful insight in the words Nouwen uses.

I can read his work every day as there is such wonderful clarity around the understanding of the human condition plus he writes in this wonderfully melodic style that is non-judgemental and peaceful.

The book starts with identifying busyness as a key enemy to a spiritual life. However, he highlights the fact that busyness doesn’t necessarily lead to fulfilment. He then leads us into outlining the importance of the two disciplines: solitude and community. And it is in these two disciplines where a true spiritual life begins.

I particularly appreciate how he emphasises that prayer is about entering into God’s presence so we can understand His purposes. God is always talking so it is only in solitude that we are able to hear God outline His plans and purposes. Jesus was an active listener and Nouwen encourages us to develop the same habit.

Highly recommended.

A few things …

Some of you may have missed three  “media” pieces that I’ve participated in recently, so I thought I’d share them here.

1. Blogtalkradio Interview

This was my first ‘live’ interview. Carla Hoch, my host, was most gracious and I enjoyed the experience immensely. I hope I get a chance to do more in the future.

My spot starts around the 90 minute mark.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rrradio/2014/03/20/gate-beautiful-radio-show-thursday-march-20th-2014

2. Four Tips for Preparing for a Radio Interview

Soon after I wrote a piece for the International Christian Fiction Writers (ICFW) on what I learnt from the interview. One of my tips is the importance of listening to the interview and learning from it. I cringed listening to most of it but as I say learnt some valuable lessons. Here’s the link.

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