Sunday, August 31, 2008

Book Review: The Life and Times of The Lord Jesus Christ: A Harmony of the Gospels by Peter E J Smith

If you are looking for an easy way to review or study the life of Jesus Christ then The Life and Times of the Lord Jesus Christ: A Harmony of the Gospels by Peter E J Smith may be just what you're looking for.

In this 155-page book, Smith has taken the events written about in the four Gospels and put them in chronological order so that the reader gets a full understanding of the events of Christ's life as they occurred. Hailed by the author as "...something of a fifth gospel" this book begins with John 1: 1-18, which says, "In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then moves quickly through the ancestry of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew, the announcement to Zacharias of the upcoming birth of his son--who he is instructed to name, John [the Baptist], the annunciation to Mary, Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and John's birth--which are all found in the first chapter of Luke. We briefly hear of the announcement to Joseph and him taking Mary as his wife from the Gospel of Matthew, then return back to the the Gospel of Luke for the birth of Christ and other events that occurred within his infancy. The reader travels along through the various gospels from Christ's infancy up to his Resurrection and Ascension.

Meant to be a companion volume to Ellen Gould White's Christian classic, The Desire of Ages, The Life and Times of the Lord Jesus Christ can be helpful to new Christians who want to explore Christ's life easily. It would also work well for Bible study groups who are interested in studying the four Gospels as a unit rather than exploring them separately. It could be a helpful resource to writers whose fiction or non-fiction stories revolve around the life of Christ or the times in which He lived.

I did, however, have a couple of concerns regarding this book. Smith states that he has spent over 20 years as an avid student of the life of Jesus Christ, but provides few sources. I found the Comparison a bit confusing because it contains so many numbers, and perhaps the reader would have been better served if Smith only discussed the reasons for the size of his book as he did in the last few paragraphs of this section.

I know I will find The Life and Times of the Lord Jesus Christ helpful in my research and I believe others will find this chronological telling of the life of Jesus Christ easy to understand.

Title: The Life and Times of the Lord Jesus Christ: A Harmony of the Gospels
Author: Peter E J Smith
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4327-0939-6
SRP: $13.95

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: Ten Thousand Charms by Allison Pittman

Ten Thousand Charms by Allison Pittman is an outstanding and powerful novel of love and redemption.

A mining camp certainly isn't the place for someone as young and pretty as Gloria. But when you're a pregnant prostitute trying to decide how to get out of your predicament, a mining camp where you know someone isn't such a bad thing. Taken in by Jewell, the closest thing to a friend she knows, and the owner of the local brothel, Gloria pays her way by taking care of things around the place...that is, until her time comes and then she'll be expected to work like the rest of the girls.

John William McGregan is desperate. His wife died in childbirth and he is forced to seek Gloria's help to nurse his newborn daughter. They enter into an agreement where Gloria will tend to his daughter if he raises her son. No marriage, just taking care of the kids together until Gloria feels it's time to leave--she's not the motherly type.

After moving to the new Oregon Territory things begin to change. John William's faith and the doting of a neighborly widow leave Gloria longing for the love she's never known. But she's not worthy of a man of great faith like John William McGregan and certainly God couldn't want anything to do with her. When tragedy strikes, Gloria turns to the God she's never trusted. Can He save her new found family?

Kudos go out to Pittman for delivering such a powerful and inspiring story right out of the gate. Ten Thousand Charms is Pittman's debut novel and now I am eager to read the next two books in her Crossroads of Grace series.

A story of unanticipated love and redemption, Christian fiction and inspirational romance fans are certain to be moved by Ten Thousand Charms. Pittman has thrust two characters from distinctly different points of views together out of necessity and brings them to where they discover God's plan for their lives.

Gloria is at times crass, but her childlike eagerness to learn from John William and Maureen (the neighborly widow) about God endears the reader to her. It is easy to relate to the helplessness that Gloria feels as she wanders through life believing she has no future and doubting that she could ever be worthy in John's or God's eyes. The unfolding love story between John and Gloria is heartwarming and beautifully done, especially when it comes so unexpectedly for both of them.

Pittman's research and attention to detail make this story come to life as much as her realistic and all too human characters do. This story is set in the 1860's--a favorite time period of mine--which is why I wanted to read the book in the first place. And the discussion questions at the end make this the perfect book club selection.

I can't imagine how Pittman will top such a strong introductory novel, but since she sent me books 2 and 3 in this series to review, I eagerly anticipate sitting down with a cup of tea and finding out.

Title: Ten Thousand Charms (Crossroads of Grace series)
Author: Allison Pittman
Publisher: Multnomah Books
ISN: 1-59052-575-2
SRP: $12.99

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Interview: Michelle Sutton, Author of It's Not About Me

Joining us today is author Michelle Sutton. Her debut novel, It’s Not about Me is scheduled for release in September 2008 from Sheaf House.

Welcome to my blog, Michelle. It’s wonderful to have you with us. Let’s get started by finding out a bit about you. How long have you been writing and what genres do you write?

I started writing in August 2003 hoping to sell a novel to Steeple Hill. The first story I wrote was a romance.

It’s Not about Me is your debut novel. How does that feel?

It feels incredible and so far it has been well-received, so the reviews have been encouraging.

Can you tell us a little about your book?

It’s about a young woman with a safe and fairly perfect life who is trying to please her boyfriend who has become increasingly pushy in regards to physical intimacy. When she is alone and attacked by a vicious person (she is NOT raped) her life is totally blown apart. Her boyfriend can’t handle the guilt and goes on a drinking rampage and his older brother who had been in love with her for years (from a distance) steps in and befriends her. Then the war between the brothers begins…with her stuck in the middle.

Where did you find the inspiration for this story?

In regards to what happened to her that blew apart her life…the same thing happened to a friend of mine, only the details were changed, of course.

Tell us about your main characters. Why will readers relate to them? What will they like about them? Is there anything they will dislike about them?

So far the feedback has been that they were anxious for Annie and cared about her from the beginning because they understood her dilemma. The older brother is the one the readers swoon over because he’s a great guy even with some character flaws. Most people want to slap her boyfriend around numerous times throughout the book, but in the end most people feel for him, too. He is pretty much a jerk through the first 2/3 of the story.

How long did it take you to bring this book from the first draft to the final published product?

I wrote the story fast and completed it in about four months. However, I have reread it to death and tweaked things here and there, but it’s essentially the exact same story as my rough draft. It’s just more polished now.

Were there any obstacles or challenges you faced during the publishing process?

Editors said the story was too intense for YA and too YA for women’s fiction or romance. I do have a “caution” on the top left hand corner of the back cover that says “Due to mature content, recommended for mature teens and young adults.” However, I’ve had people as young as 12 and as old as 70 read it and they enjoyed the story.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Barnes and Noble, – these are online. However, you can walk into a Barnes and Noble store and order it as well. As far as other stores goes, readers will just need to ask them to order it. There shouldn’t be a problem. Some stores will stock the book. I don’t know where they are all located but I know some are in Arizona, New York, Minnesota, and Tennessee.

Do you have a website where readers can find out more?


What’s up next for you?

I’ve sold the sequel to It’s Not About Me and I’m fine tuning that one for final edits. It’s called It’s Not About Him.

Thanks for joining us today Michelle. Best of luck with your book!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Guest Blogger: Kathi Macias, Author of Beyond Me

Our guest blogger today is Christian author Kathi Macias. Kathi's latest release is titled Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World (New Hope Publishers). Today Kathi shares with us how we, too, can answer the call of true discipleship.

Moving “Beyond Me” to Freedom by Kathi Macias

My 4-foot 10-inch German grandma was famous for saying, “Good things come in small packages”—a true statement, particularly in her case.

But here’s another true statement, one that most of us wrestle with at some point in our lives: “When we get wrapped up in ourselves, we make very small packages.”

We all do it, don’t we? We may not mean to, but life is busy—and sometimes it’s hard. In addition, we live in a society that bombards us with the message that “it’s all about us.” This message really hit home with me the day I took my pre-teen granddaughter shopping. We’d no sooner gone inside the store than she headed for the cosmetic counter, where she quickly became enamored of a perfume called “It’s About Me.” As I watched her open the sample bottle and sniff the contents, I knew I had my work cut out for me to try to counter that all-about-me message.

Of course, we’re not surprised when our young people get caught up in that self-centered, self-serving message, but what about us? Do we do any better? Do we even recognize it as it inundates our daily lives?

We hear songs that brag about doing it “my way” or declare that it’s “my life” and I can do what I want with it. We see commercials on TV that entice us with “you deserve it” come-ons and “treat yourself” temptations. It’s easy to get sucked in and start believing that—and living accordingly.

What the world doesn’t need is one more “it’s all about me” poster child. What it does need is Christians who are willing to move beyond serving self and start living like the One we claim to follow—the One who came to serve, rather than be served, the One who laid down His life…for us. Why? Certainly not because we deserved it, but rather because His love was so great and His humility so real that He put “self” aside to fulfill God’s purpose for His life here on earth.

God has a purpose for each of us, but we’ll never fulfill it so long as we buy into the world’s “it’s all about me” message. But if we willingly lay down our lives—daily—in service to God and others, that small package of self will begin to blossom and bear more fruit than we can ever imagine.

A pastor friend of mine once said, “So long as I consider it my life and my ministry, my influence will never move beyond where my arms can reach. But when I lay it down to partner with and serve others, there’s no end to what God can do in and through me.”

That’s the message we want to live out ourselves, as well as convey/model to others. It is the message that spurred me to write my newest book, BEYOND ME: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World, which is full of illustrations and teaching about “beyond me” living. Here are a few practical ways you might consider living and modeling that sort of living to others:

• First, does your church have an outreach ministry to the homeless? Maybe your entire family could commit one day a month to going to the park and handing out sandwiches and blankets or ladling out soup to those less fortunate. This is an especially meaningful way to spend Thanksgiving, and countless ministries in nearly every city welcome volunteers for such occasions.

• Second, does your church sponsor or participate in a short-term mission project, such as going to another country (or a poverty-stricken area in our own country) to help build homes or offer medical or educational assistance? Though this is the type of ministry we often send our young people to do, how much more effective might it be if we went with them so our children could see us actively involved in giving ourselves away to others?

• Third, are there hospitals or nursing homes in your community that would welcome regular visits from you and your family? This type of ministry not only blesses the patients and residents of these facilities, but those ministering often develop close and loving relationships with those patients and residents that equally bless all involved.

Finally, how can we model beyond-me living right in our own homes? Do those closest to us see us willingly and lovingly giving of ourselves to our spouse and the rest of the family? Do they view us as cheerful givers—or grumbling complainers? Ultimately, regardless of the words we speak, the actions we display will have the deepest impact.

If the package that represents your life seems small and insignificant, try moving “beyond me” and giving yourself away for the sake of the One who has “bought you with a price.” Why not live your life for Him and experience the true freedom for which you were created?

Kathi Macias, popular speaker and prolific author, is an Angel-award winning writer who has published twenty-one books and hundreds of articles. Whether keyboarding her latest book, keynoting a conference, or riding on the back of her husband's Harley, Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias is a lady on a mission to communicate God’s vision. Her insightful words—filled with passion, humor and soul nourishment—refresh audiences from all walks of life. To book Kathi for your next event, email kenbarry(at) For more information, visit