Book Review: “Getting Jesus Wrong” by Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson presents a very frank and honest assessment of his own walk with the Lord over the past 20+ years. I appreciated the fact that he wrote this book as a means of documenting his own journey and experiences as a believer making it very readable and relatable.

The book has 2 Parts:

Part 1: Life Coach Jesus and Other False Gods,
Part II: The Antidote to Pride and Despair.

Part 1 addresses some of the ways he and, therefore we, may get Jesus wrong. This also includes looking at certain church scenarios that he experienced: the Life Coach Jesus, Checklist Jesus, Movement Leader Jesus, Visionary Jesus and Pride & Despair. I saw myself having experienced each one of these throughout my own walk both the different church situations and the drivenness to achieve, to mark off my checklist and the resultant pride and despair.

Johnson came across a little cynical in this section but I may not be familiar enough with his sense of humour. In saying that I recognised myself in much of what he covered and opened my eyes to some aspects of my own faith that I have perhaps taken for granted which I’m very appreciative of.

Part II then seeks to outline how we can journey through life with a “correct” perspective of Jesus. These 3 chapters are the most powerful and are full of great truth supported with relevant Scripture plus a number of references to a number of influential thinkers including Martin Luther who in particular, appears to have had a great impact on Johnson’s reflections. Dependence on Jesus is the only way but this can take a lifetime for us to work out. Letting go of our humanness is such challenge simply because it comes naturally to us.

There are many things to like about this book and I would encourage people to read it. My only concern is I felt it leaves a slightly sour view of the church. Yes, the church is full of people and therefore is always going to make mistakes. However, the church is pivotal to Jesus’ mission and He is passionate about the church. We all have a role to play in helping bring more of Jesus into the church.

I received a complimentary copy of Getting Jesus Wrong from Litfuse with no expectation of a positive review. If you’re interested in reading more about the book please visit the Litfuse Blog Tour site.

Book Review: “The Dog who was There” by Ron Marasco

As a dog lover, I was intrigued to read a story about a dog who experienced first hand the life of Jesus. I didn’t really know what to expect and now having read it I have a mix of thoughts as regards reviewing it.

I appreciated the grittiness of the story. We see the times of Jesus from the ground level so we get a taste of the dirt and squalor of certain areas of Jerusalem and other nearby locales. We get a view of the violence of the period, in particular, the ruthless and callous disregard the Romans had for life, both human and canine. For some readers this may be a bit confronting.

Barley is a rescue dog in the true sense of the description (we have 2 at home) and has a delightful spirit even though for much of his life he is poorly treated. But we do get to see him being loved by a married couple and later by a petty criminal, Samid, which Barley responds well too.

Jesus, or the Kind Man as Barley describes Him, doesn’t really enter the story until about halfway and then it’s not until the last 30% of the book when Barley gets up close to Him in His last days. And the crucifixion scene is tremendously portrayed from the eyes of Barley.

What I found challenging about the novel is that not a lot happens in the first half and I struggled to get through to it. I kept wondering when Jesus was going to become more prominent as that’s what the title alluded to. I was confused by the POV quite a lot. The author jumped between Barley and 3rd person narrator frequently to the extent they almost meshed. I felt Barley often saw things through a human and not, a dog perspective.

The last third of the novel was very good to read with a couple of very clever twists which amped up the emotional connection I had to the story. However, there is so much quality reading material available I’m not sure I’m able to recommend this one.

Note: A special thank you to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

You can discover more about “The Dog who was There” on the Litfuse Blog Tour site.

Book Review: “Waiting for Wonder” by Marlo Schalesky

waiting-for-wonder-pkWe’re all familiar with the story of Abraham and Sarah … how they were blessed by God to be the blessing for future nations and generations. Of how Abraham, the great man of faith, on hearing God’s instruction to leave home, grabbed his family and did just that, not knowing where the Lord was leading them. But in Marlo Schalesky’s marvellous book we hear from Sarah, we gain insight into her perspective, on being Abraham’s wife and being wholly favoured by God not because she was a wife but because she too was the Lord’s beloved.

I liked how Ms Schalesky set out each chapter: we start with a Scripture from Genesis which sets it up, then a short introduction before we “hear” from Sarah herself, well, the author’s thoughts on what may have been going through Sarah’s mind at the time, then a section “Waiting for Wonder” where the author explores what’s to be discovered in the waiting and then finally “Who is this God?”, a short section bringing back to the greatness and goodness of God.

Yes, there is some repetition across 14 chapters of exploring “waiting”, however, there are some outstanding insights to be gleaned from the author’s interpretation of Sarah’s story that makes this book such a worthy resource on the subject. As Sarah and Abraham journeyed through many years of waiting the Lord drew them increasingly towards Himself, to a deeper intimacy and new devotion. This is what He calls each of us too. And that’s the wonder of “waiting”: our Creator woos us. To Himself in order that we discover our Lord in ways we could never have imagined and in so doing fresh perspectives on ourselves and His beloved.

I also appreciated the point that even when they received the blessing (yes, Sarah received it specifically too) from God of a child in a year’s time, they were again tested. And again they initially struggled because of their inherent fears that had always inhibited them. “Sometimes we must go back in order to go forward. We must face the sin, the lies we live, those in ourselves and in the people close to us.We cannot receive the fulfilment of promises to bless the world when we are stepped in old fear, old deceptions, old sins.”(loc 1357)

This so spoke to me. The Lord has something more for us but first of all we need to let go of the past and all its muck, whatever form it may take.

If you’re presently in a season of waiting then buy this book. Ms Schalesky wrestles with Scripture and overlays aspects of waiting in her own life to provide an excellent insight into the wonders that can be gained from waiting.

Note: A special thank you to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

You can discover more about “Waiting from Wonder” on the Litfuse Blog Tour site.

Erin Healy discusses her latest novel, “Motherless.”

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Photo courtesy of Erin Healy

Erin Healy’s latest novel, “Motherless”, was released a few weeks ago. Being a keen supporter of Erin and her work I was delighted she was willing to respond to a few questions I posed her.

There is also the opportunity for two readers to win a copy of Motherless. More on that at the end of this post.

Introducing Motherless

The tale of two young adults trying to solve the mystery of their mother’s seventeen-year-old suicide.

A whispering voice at the back of my mind reminds me that I’ve been this way for some time. Dead, that is.

The dead have a very broad view of the living, of actions performed out of sight, of thoughts believed to be private. I would know. Losing both parents is a trial no child should endure, and Marina and Dylan have endured enough. They deserve the one thing I could never give them: a mother’s love.

A mother’s love, and the truth.

My children have believed a lie about me for years and years. After all this time I can still feel their hurt in my heart. But the tether holding me to them is frayed from years of neglect . . . and I have to find a way to make my confession before it snaps.

But when the truth comes out, what other beasts will I unleash?

“Why do we lie to the children?” someone asked me once.

“To protect them,” I answered.

How terrible it is that they need protection from me.

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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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My virtual chat with Ronie Kendig plus an awesome Giveaway

roniepicI had the pleasure of featuring Ronie Kendig on the blog in May last year when Talon, the second instalment in the “Breed Apart” series released. Beowulf: Explosions Detective Dog, the final piece in the puzzle, has recently launched. Ronie was kind enough in her very busy schedule to answer some questions I posed her.

I loved Trinity and Talon. Beowulf is staring down at me from my bookshelf waiting to be read (“pick me, pick me”). I’m sure it’s another cracking good read.

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Erin Healy discusses “Stranger Things”

erinhealybooks_1367526975_600Erin Healy’s latest supernatural thriller, Stranger Things, comes to stores on New Year’s Eve. Most of you will know I’m a big fan of Erin and when she asked for some bloggers to help promote Stranger Things I was delighted to get the opportunity to feature Erin once again.

*** There is also the opportunity to win one of 10 copies of Stranger Things by using the Rafflecopter link below. You can enter every day this week until Sunday 8 December by visiting the other bloggers during the week.***

Here goes. Let’s start with a brief blurb about Stranger Things.

Introducing Stranger Things

Library Journal says: “Serena Diaz’s teaching career came to an abrupt end when a student falsely accused her of sexual misconduct. Seeking solace in the woods, she discovers that a gang of sex traffickers has taken over a vacant house. Serena is almost captured by one of the criminals but is saved by an unknown man who has been shadowing her. He is shot, and Serena escapes with her life. But she is drawn to know more about this stranger who died for her. What follows is a suspenseful story of danger and pure evil. Whom can Serena trust in a world that seems intent on serving its own self-interests? VERDICT Healy (Afloat; coauthor with Ted Dekker, Burn and Kiss) has written an edgy, fast-paced spiritual thriller that will please Dekker fans.”

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Introducing Melissa Tagg with a chance to win her debut novel: Made to Last

mtagg-pic1I first met Melissa Tagg at ACFW Conference in Dallas last year. Well in fact I was sitting amongst 700 odd others as Melissa shared a devotional. She was instantly engaging in her passion for Jesus, her sense of humour and willingness not to take herself too seriously.

(As an aside I understand Melissa’s devotional has now gone down in ACFW folklore due to her enthusiastic mention of a certain well known Christian quarterback with the initials TT.)

I had the good fortune to bump into Melissa later that day. I congratulated her and introduced myself most likely with a “G’day”. On returning home I soon started following Melissa’s blog. Melissa posts regularly during the week and has established a large following. Melissa’s blogs read like she spoke that morning in Dallas: full of passion and good humour.

Melissa is now a published author. Her first novel, a romantic comedy, Made to Last, was released at this year’s ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. Now only a few weeks later, the book has 72 reviews on Amazon (wow!) and averages 4.6 out of 5. (Wow and more wow!) So the novel and, I daresay Melissa, have captured the hearts of an immediate audience.

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My chat with Jim Rubart plus a special giveaway

James headshot 8 '13 for IanI first stumbled across Jim Rubart’s speculative fiction three years ago when I read Rooms. Jim’s clever use of supernatural allegories woven through fast-paced suspense grabbed my attention.

I soon devoured Book of Days and last year The Chair.

Jim’s novels have become a must read for me. He challenges me to reflect on my walk with Christ as he weaves a story of faith throughout page-turning suspense. Further, I love how Jim describes the ‘everyman’ experience. He has a beautiful gift of being able to share what’s going on in a man’s heart and mind.

Jim released the second in the “Well Spring” series of novels last week: Memory’s Door. I’m currently reading Soul’s Gate, the first in the series, and am struggling to put it down. Great when a story has that effect.

Enough of that, let me hand over to Jim. He was kind enough in his busy launch schedule to answer a few questions I posed him. So without further ado, it’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Jim Rubart:

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Barren Seasons

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Photo courtesy of franky242/freedigitalphotos.net

It’s been eight and a half months since the first stroke. Dad had admitted himself into emergency advising that he believed he’d had a stroke. Being a doctor, he was able to self-diagnose.

Things got worse an hour later. We all received the call you never want to receive: get to the hospital and fast.

The first stroke was only minor. It was the second one that nearly took him from us and caused all the complications. Two days prior Dad worked a full day at the practice. Not bad for an 83 year old.

In those few moments in hospital Dad’s world had been turned upside down. His career ended, his speech severely impacted, short term memory jolted and ability to concentrate impaired.

Devastating.

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