Too Many to Jail


Let me start by saying Too Many to Jail by Mark Bradley is available until April 5 for just $.99 on Kindle – and you need to order it now by clicking here.  The book tells the story of the Christian church in Iran – a country where you’d expect the church to be dieing – but to the contrary, Iran is the country with the fastest growing church in the world, growing at a rate of nearly 20% every year!

In the book Bradley provides several chapters that give a brief overview of the history of Iran since the Islamic Revolution, with an eye towards explaining both Christian persecution during that time and the growth of the church.  He goes into detail regarding five house churches, and the book really is a study of the growth of the house church movement in Iran.

Rather that provide you with any further details about the book, though, I’d like to share what the book has forced me to think about – and reminded me of.  Overall, it has led me to reflect on my own witness for Jesus (0r lack thereof) – I’ve had to ask myself, “Why is it there are so many people in Iran who are willing to go to jail, be tortured, or even die for sharing the Gospel and I’m afraid to talk to people here in America?”  The boldness of these believers is both inspiring and convicting.

The book also addresses why people are so open to Christianity (and, honestly, why do I assume they aren’t open to it here?)  The biggest reason?  It’s really simple: the primacy of Jesus Christ.  Bradley writes, “Ask an Iranian why they are attracted to Christianity and the answer is often very simple: Jesus Christ” (p. 104).  It makes me wonder, why don’t people in America say that?  Is it because we’ve done a lousy job of showing them Jesus?  Several times in the book Bradley wrote about how in the house churches Christians told others (evangelized them) simply what God had done in their own lives – it is the story of testimony.  Yet here in the American church we struggle to get people to even see the movement of God in their lives, yet alone tell others about it!  There’s also an emphasis in the book on the practice of church discipline in the Iranian church: “[The church] is particularly string in two areas: sexual relations and gossip” (p. 131).  The process?  People who fall in these areas are first warned and asked to live pure lives, but if they continue they are asked to leave the church.  It’s that simple.  And do you notice the two that have been picked?  Wow!

The other reason the church is growing?  Christians aren’t afraid to share Jesus with people!  Even in the presence of persecution, Christians share the good news:

“The policy for Christians who do not actively threaten the status quo of the Shia state is discrimination, which often leads to the ordeal of emigration…It is true that many hard-line Muslims in Iran interpret the Sharia law as demanding death for male apostates and life imprisonment for females.  Hence, in more colorful publication,s the impression can be given that a Muslim in Iran who becomes a Christian spends every waking moment in fear of being murdered or dragged of to a kangaroo court to be sentenced to death.  However, even Iranian officials can be uncomfortable with this image and there is no record of any Christian facing that sort of treatment in Iran – as long as they are quietist and not active at all…The issue is that many Christians are not quietist” (p. 165-6, emphasis mine).

Read that again – if Christians in Iran would be willing to put up with some discrimination (political, economic, etc), they could live their lives without fear of torture or murder.  But even know that they do not remain quiet but insist on sharing the good news of Jesus with non-believers! Bradley also writes, “One man closely involved with house churches made this striking comment, ‘The people are so open that you can get away with anything in evangelism if you go about it the right way.’  In other words people want to hear about Jesus, and if approached in the appropriate way they will make a commitment” (p. 147, emphasis mine).  Why aren’t the Christians afraid to suffer persecution for the sake of Jesus?  Apparently they actually believe what he said, and they believe it enough to risk it all – but they’ve also found that when they share Jesus with others people actually respond by also taking on the risk of following Jesus.

When was the last time you heard anyone in America talk like that?

Overall I’m giving this book 5/5 stars – if you’re willing to confront your own fears about sharing Jesus with others.   If you’d like to check out an excerpt before spending the $.99 for the book (see link at top of page) you can find one if you click here.

For the record, I did receive a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.

 

 

Advertisements

Citizen by Rob Peabody


Citizen was a refreshing look at what it means to walk as a follower of Jesus.  Peabody directly confronts the me-centered religion that many modern Americans substitute for authentic Christianity.  Having moved from Texas as a pastor in a mega-church, Peabody ended up in London reaching the lost in a post-Christian culture.

While there were many quotes in the book that gave challenged me, perhaps this is the one that spoke most to me:

Back to our earlier statement: citizens of the Kingdom should be the most risk-taking people on the planet.  Why, you ask?  Because we have absolutely nothing to lose.  Citizen, this is your reality: you died with Jesus and were buried with Him.  You were united with Him in His death, and therefore you have already died, and there is no fear of death for people who have already died.  Death has already been dealt with.  What is the worst that can now happen to you? (p. 98-99)

The book challenges us as followers of Jesus to re-examine what it means to live as members of the Kingdom of God, as citizens from one world who live in this one.  And it’s not an easy challenge to ignore.  Peabody doesn’t simply remind us of what scripture calls us to, he models for us what it means to live that way and shares his experiences with us.  While reading the book I found myself not only challenged to live differently but also longing to meet the challenge; it wasn’t just an intellectual challenge but one that tugged at my heart and I found myself changing how I view my own interactions with people now.

One thing I particularly appreciated about the book was the amount of time Peabody spent reminding me of my identity in Christ and his focus on the community of believers, and his application of these truths to my own life; Peabody makes clear that living as a citizen of heaven is the right (and responsibility) of every believer – not just those in professional ministry.  Over the past year, in particular, I’ve been focused on trying to understand and experience what it is to live in community with other believers – both from my own church and from other churches.  Peabody’s words paralleled, in many ways, what I have been learning this year on these two topics.  Read Peabody’s words, again:

The gospel in no way supports a ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ distinction.  In fact, the gospel message is exactly the opposite.  Jesus died, and the veil separating the ‘Holy of Holies’ from the common area in the Temple was torn…The gospel is a proclamation that no longer is there a divide between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’.  Jesus infiltrates all your life and desires to penetrate every sphere in which you are active.  Therefore, Christianity is not simply a set of beliefs to adhere to in order to save your individual soul and escape the world at death or the rapture, but is actually a new way of seeing (and experiencing) everything in the world.

Are we artists, baristas, teachers, electricians, engineers, students, or factory workers who also just happen to be citizens of the Kingdom?  Or are we, first of all, citizens of the Kingdom who happen to serve vocationally in these ways?

Our baseline for living has been changed to a Kingdom baseline.  The gospel and the Father’s Kingdom are now the foundations for the citizen, and all of our other loyalties are to be viewed through this lens.  When this lens is used, we can clearly see that a job as a banker can be just as glorifying to God and just as Kingdom-focused as the life of a missionary out witnessing every day.  For the citizen, it is about who you are and how you live, not about your title or job description.

If that touches your soul, challenges your heart, and draws you in so that you find yourself wanting more, wanting to say, “That’s how I want to live!”, then I would strongly recommend you purchase Citizen and start reading it.  I’m giving this book 5/5 stars.

For the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher in return for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.  For more information on the book, or the ministry of which Peabody is associated, visit http://www.citizenthebook.com/

99 Stories from the Bible


I’ve been on this kick recently of reading and reviewing children’s books, book I got in an effort to find resources to support me in guiding their spiritual development and growing their faith.  Some have been good, and some have been not-so-good; unfortunately, this book falls in the latter category.

The difficulty with reading books that take Biblical stories and water them down to levels kids can understand is that it’s hard to reduce the word of God at all – how do you take the fall and reduce it to just a couple of sentences without loose the truths contained in it?  Not to mention the story of the crucifixion and resurrection.  And that’s the problem with 99 Stories from the Bible – in trying to reduce the stories into “readable” versions for little kids, the truth is water-ed down (at best) or completely omitted (at worst).

238571

If you’re looking for a devotional to do with your kids, this book isn’t it – I would still recommend Sally Lloyd-Jones The Jesus Storybook Bible instead.  Overall I’ll give this book 1/5 stars; for the record, I did receive a complementary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Angelguard


Okay, I admit, when I first saw the book trailer I was both intrigued and a little nervous.  Here was a book about the supernatural.  I’ll be honest and just say I grew up reading Frank Peretti’s Darkness novels, some of my favorite books when I was younger, and I was excited to read something about the supernatural and also somewhat hesitant because I wasn’t sure what to expect.

But I’m glad to say that I was not disappointed.  On the contrary, for whatever reason my expectations weren’t that high, but Ian Acheson’s Angelguard simply blew me away (no pun intended!)  The book , from the very first pages, grabbed my interest and it never let go.  I found myself able to identify with the characters, able to see the supernatural battles that Ian portrayed, and, all-in-all, I just had fun reading the book – I couldn’t put it down.  Most of my reading right now is for school, and the vast majority of my reviews are for non-fiction works.  Angelguard was the exception – and boy was it worth it!  It allowed me to escape into my imagination like no book has in a very long time, and simply enjoy a great story.

The story begins with three devastating explosions in cities across the globe (London, Sydney, and LA), and it never slows down.  Throughout the book we read basically two parallel stories – the story of the humans and the story of the angels and demons – and we see how the two intersect, observing both how the supernatural interacts (and interjects) into the natural, and how the natural interjects (and interacts) with the spiritual.  Granted, you have to remember you’re not reading a theological work on spiritual warfare but rather one author’s dramatization, but I don’t think it’s that difficult to draw that line.

9781782640028

It’s always difficult to read a fictional account of something that is real like this; I remember when Peretti’s novels were all the rage there was also this tendency to see “demons around every corner”, and so I didn’t want that to happen to me when I read this book.  At the same time, I know that there are spiritual forces out there at work – we live in a world at war whether we acknowledge it or not, and, for those of us who are followers of Jesus, we are caught in the middle of it (though we are on the winning side).  We can’t see it, but it’s real.  We can’t necessarily feel it, but it’s real.  And we have a part to play.  Angelguard focuses in on this reality in a modern way.  Suffice it to say I can’t wait to read the next one in the series (whenever it comes out!).

Overall, I’m giving this book 4/5 stars.  If you want to have a good read, particularly this summer when you’re at the beach or in the mountains on vacation, put this one on your reading list – you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s the official book trailer, and if you’d like to read the first chapter, click this link.  I think you’ll find yourself wanting to get the book and read the rest!

If you’d like to read an interview with Ian Acheson, the author of Angelguard, please click here (for Part I) and here (for Part II) of an interview he agreed to do just for my blog.

And, yes, for the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

An Interview with Ian Acheson (Part II)


Today is the second part of my interview with Ian Acheson, author of the book Angelguard.  To read the first part of the interview please visit yesterday’s post.  And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for my review of his book Angelguard.  

19_Ian Acheson_22.05.12_by rasha photography

TF:  Welcome back, Ian!  Yesterday we focused more on getting to know you a little bit as a writer, so today I want to look specifically at your new book, Angelguard….What was the hardest part of writing Angelguard?

IA: Creating multi-layered characters.  I’ve still got lots to learn in this area and it continues to be a challenge as I work through the follow-up to Angelguard.

TF: Speaking of your characters, where did you find your inspiration for your characters?

IA: No single source. My reading obviously helps. I think most authors are great observers. Having my moleskin ever handy is vital as I go about my day.

I find the gaming world (Playstation, etc) a great place for good demons. I’m not a gamer at all but posters and such for new games are great for stirring my imagination.

TF: Do you have a favorite character in Angelguard?  Least favorite?

IA: Jack would be my favourite. He has a lot of qualities I admire. I don’t think I have a least favourite. Sure I wouldn’t choose to spend time with some of those demons, but it’s hard not to appreciate characters that one’s brought to life on paper.

TF: Let’s talk a little about the process of writing… How has the research for and the writing of this Angelguard affected you in any way?

IA: What became clear to me quite late in the piece was that Angelguard is God’s story and He asked me to write it.  Why? I’m not exactly sure but as you’ll see on my blog, Angelguard took 10+ years to evolve. That journey (sorry for the cliché) mirrored my return to a deeper relationship with the Lord. For that, I’m forever grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to write Angelguard.

TF: You mentioned you’ve been working on this book for over a decade – what did you learn from writing Angelguard?

IA: Plenty, including the above aspect about characters. It was through the process of writing Angelguard that I learnt to write. I was fortunate to have the services of two wonderful editors, both of whom taught me how to write and self-edit. In the 10 years it took to produce Angelguard, there’s been a lot of editing and re-writing.

TF: So what can we expect from you in the future?  Any new projects?

IA: I’m presently working on book 2 in the series. The series is “The Chronicles of the Angelguard” and book 2 is titled “Wrestling with Shadows”. In this novel I explore the battleground for where spiritual warfare is conducted: the human heart. Some of the key human and supernatural characters will return. But it will introduce a few new ones including a particularly well-connected couple who have revenge on their minds.

I also try to write blog posts twice a week. I’m new to blogging so these take me a reasonable about of time to produce as I seek to establish my blogging voice.

I do want to give a special thanks again to Ian for agreeing to participate in this interview – especially since it took place over email and I’m trying to edit the wording and arrangement of the questions here to make it seem a little more natural!  If you want to check out his blog, it can be found at http://ianacheson.com

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for my review!

An Interview with Ian Acheson (Part I)


I can not tell you how excited I am about the blog posts over the next few days!  On Friday I’ll be posting my review of Angelguard, the first book in the Angelguard Trilogy by Ian Acheson.  Ian and I have been emailing back and forth over the past week and he has agreed to be interviewed on the blog, so today’s post is part one of that interview.  Check back tomorrow for part two, and then on Friday I’ll post my review of the book!

To prep for the interview, I’ll start by sharing some information about the book.  Taken directly from Ian’s blog, the sneak peak of the the book says, “Within a period of weeks, three horrific bomb blasts devastate areas of London, Los Angeles and Sydney. No explanation is offered, no victory claimed for these acts of terror. Yet behind the scenes a Machiavellian European businessman is planning to bring the G8 nations to their knees for his own larcenous purposes, aided by the dark forces to whom he has sold his soul. Jack Haines, an Australian academic, is grieving the loss of wife and children in the Sydney blast. Against his will he finds himself thrown into a war that transcends the physical world, a conflict in which angelic guards have a special mission for him. This is a gripping novel of the unseen forces that throng our world.”  And here’s book trailer for Angelguard:

Part one of the interview will focus on helping us get to know Ian as a writer a little bit before venturing into the specifics of the book.  So here we go!

19_Ian Acheson_22.05.12_by rasha photography

TF: First, thanks so much for agreeing to do this – I’m very excited to be participating in this blog tour.  Can you tell us a little about yourself, like what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

IA: I’m a self-employed strategy consultant so I am seeking new opportunities, clients, etc most weeks whilst completing engagements.

I read a lot and a lot and even some more. I read widely besides what I mentioned above on business, faith and writing.

Fiona, my wife and I spend a lot of our down time together hanging out. We enjoy movies, theatre and food. Fi’s a great cook, which is a blessing.

TF: So what books have most influenced you?

IA: Wow, Thomas where do I start? Fast action based novels have been a key influence. The Left Behind series, Joel Rosenberg’s “Last Days” series, to Ted Dekker’s early thrillers like Blink and Three. Obviously Peretti’s novels. Many other great Christian authors like Mike Dellosso, Tom Pawlik, Mark Andrew Olsen, Tosca Lee, Erin Healy. Probably like most of us there’s a long list. We really are spoilt with the depth of quality authors.

 Further, I read a lot of secular suspense thrillers from Daniel Silva’s “Gabriel Allon” series, I’m an old Clive Cussler fan, to Australia’s Matthew Reilly. I read a lot of Biblical commentaries and what I call Christian self-development books too.

TF: Alright, well if you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

IA: I grew up reading the classics: Dickens, Austen, Eliott, Shelley, etc. If there was one novelist I’d like most to write like its Australia’s Tim Winton. His mastery of the English language and ability to create evocative scenes are extraordinary.

TF: You mentioned that you like to “read a lot”.  What book(s) are you reading now?

IA: Fiction: Mike Dellosso’s soon to be released “Fearless” and Danielle Trussoni’s “Angelolopis”

Non-Fiction: Henri Nouwen’s “The Way of the Heart”, Judith MacNutt’s “Angels are for Real”,  Sol Stein’s “Stein on Writing”

TF: You go into some detail on your blog about your inspiration for the book, but can you tell us what inspired you to write Angelguard?

IA: We live in a world where so much evil occurs. It fascinates me that the Bible talks a lot about spiritual warfare but we as a Christian community tend not to.  In writing Angelguard I hoped to highlight this battle.

All my life I’ve loved stories of good and evil. Super heroes, to Tolkien, CS Lewis, Ted Dekker and on. Frank Peretti’s  “Darkness” books had a big impact on me 20 or so years ago when they came out.  Since I was a kid, I’d always visualized angels and demons in the common way I think most people do, that is, human-like with wings. Other than Lewis’ work, the “Darkness” novels were the first Christian novels I’d read that provided a visual picture of this spiritual battle.

Come back tomorrow for some specific questions about the book and characters, and don’t forget to check out my review on Friday (and if you’ve got questions you want me to ask or you want to ask post a reply to this post and maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll find out – no promises, but it can’t hurt to ask :))