“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.

“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.

“Stranger Things”, Erin Healy

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Nelson website

This is my new favourite Erin Healy novel. It has all the hallmarks of what we’ve come to expect from Healy: gripping suspense, characters grappling with their external world but also with what’s in their heart, and an insider’s perspective of the “thin places” where the natural and supernatural intersect. However, added to this novel is an especially powerful story line drawing the reader into the dark sinister world of human trafficking.

The novel starts fast and doesn’t let up. Healy’s descriptive powers make this novel a highly visual experience. We get multiple points of view which I enjoyed as it enlightened the experience in my mind.

The story demonstrates how human trafficking is able to proliferate due to systematic abuse, deceit and corruption. For much of the novel we’re not exactly sure whether the heroes are actually villains and vice-versa. As the story unfolds the layers gradually peel away to reveal some very courageous people and sinister bad guys.

Serena Diaz and Amber Larsen are two very gutsy women, both survivors of this heinous industry, and marvelously crafted. They are drawn together, coincidentally, by Amber’s brother, Christopher. Embedded in both ladies is his passion and energy to rescue those in need and shine light in the darkness of the industry that has played such a role in their lives since their youth.

The bad guys are creepy in their arrogance, abuse of power and complete disregard for the lives of the many they destroy. Healy reveals the far-reaching tentacles of structured corruption that pervades the industry.

This is an effortless read that was hard to put down and I was sad it ended.

Reflections on Lent – It’s all about Jesus

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Photo courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

As longer time readers may recall, I observed Lent last year for the first time. You can read about my experience in a series of posts I wrote, starting with this one.

So I thought I’d do it again this year. Why? Well, any practice that gets me to think more about Jesus and The Father is a pretty good thing I reckon. But in saying that I don’t want to get too religious about it which in this case means I’m doing something for the sake of doing it, rather than truly seeking Him. Often less is more, if that makes sense.

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“Draw the Circle,” Mark Batterson

circle-makerThis is a series of 40 separate devotionals on focused on the power of prayer. Each chapter is only 4-5 pages in length so can be read quite quickly. However, most of the chapters have much to chew on and so I found myself meditating on many of the chapters throughout the day.

I believe Mark Batterson wants to encourage us to pray more and believe, trusting that God is indeed faithful. Each devotional contains a short story, Biblical references and many wonderful soundbites that are useful for journalling. The chapters don’t really build on each other rather address a separate aspect of prayer.

The final devotional is a beauty about the fact the only way to get better at prayer is to keep doing it. It’s not meant to easy, just like learning a new language, but there are fruits to be experienced every time we surrender to the Father in prayer.

This is incredibly encouraging and has helped stimulate my prayer life.

Highly recommended.

“Water Walker”, Ted Dekker

18143692I read the 4 separate episodes on ebook and provided reviews on each but I wanted to summarise my overall thoughts on the complete novel. BTW, I love the episodic method of reading a novel and hope it plays a big part in the future of fiction.

Alice Ringwald (or is her name Eden?) is kidnapped from her foster parents by Wyatt, the nicest kidnapper one could ever want to meet. Wyatt was acting on behalf of his wife and Eden’s mother, Kathryn.

The search starts at pace and we meet Olivia Strauss, the agent in charge, who has her own story of losing a daughter.

Kathryn and Eden are reunited and the rest of the novel including a jump of five years in the future revolves around their relationship. Kathryn has a mentally handicapped son, Bobby, who is a delightfully written character reflecting an innocence that has managed to survive much abuse.

The home the family of four live in is really a compound of sorts with the Jim Jones-type character, Zeke, controlling everything they do in the name of Jesus. We soon meet Stephen, the Outlaw, who first appears in Eden’s dream, and plants a seed of freedom within Eden’s mind. Not a lot happens and a good third of the book is spent hearing what’s going on in Eden and Kathryn’s minds.

It is when Stephen reappears for a second time, in another dream (or was it?) and helps Eden realise how bound she is by her fears and the affects of the abuse inflicted upon her and Bobby. She “walks on water” by stepping beyond that that binds her and in forgiving Kathryn, she both frees her heart and enables Kathryn to confront her fear of Zeke.

Letting go and letting God is a powerful message. Further, letting go of all the offence we may have been subjected to through forgiveness breaks the chains around our heart and shatters the scales that cover our eyes. I especially liked how Dekker used Eden’s forgiveness of Kathryn to demonstrate this power.

I enjoyed Eden or is she Alice Ringwald? Might be time for me to re-read “Showdown” once again. She’s a good character but there’s lots of opportunity to further develop her. My favourite character was Olivia Strauss and so hope we see her again in a future production as her role in this one is quite minor after the initial first few scenes.

And then there’s the Outlaw, Stephen. I’m not quite sure what to make of him. Interesting how his love contrasted so radically to that of Zeke, both of whom sought to represent the love of Christ. We don’t have to be as blatantly evil as Zeke to be out of sync with the love of Jesus, a good warning for us all.

Stephen shares the message in words and Eden as a good pupil listens and responds. I do wonder, however, that it’s a little unrealistic for an eighteen year old who has had such abuse be able to so quickly let go and respond so maturely. This is why, as I’ve mentioned, Eden’s love changing Kathryn’s heart truly reflects the miraculous power of accepting Christ’s love.

Every Dekker fan should read this and for those new to his work this continues on this new path his work has taken starting with “Eyes Wide Open”. These last few novels have had much stronger messages than previous ones, messages that are so important for we fiction readers to soak in.