Two Christian (“murder”) Novels

I finished both of these books a little while ago.
I hadn’t thought it necessary to write anything about them until I received an email that inferred I shouldn’t have read this type of “death and  murder” book.
The email came from someone who had sought out details of them from a secular review site.

These two books, written by Christian authors and purchased from a Christian book shop, remained unread for some time after I’d bought them, and when I did read them it was to see whether they’d be suitable to give to an elderly disabled woman who had been struggling with the isolation of the current lock-down. She’d been unable to obtain any new reading material.

While having very different stories, Strands of Truth by Colleen Coble and Living Lies by Natalie Walters touch upon the importance of family, obsession, loss and mental illness.
Both do include a murder as part of their story background, but at the centre of the books are relationships with committed Christians who help the protagonists to overcome the difficulties they have been facing.

Here are the promotional details taken from the bookstore website.

Strands of Truth:

strndsHarper Taylor is used to being alone-after all, she grew up in one foster home after another. Oliver Jackson finally took her under his wing when she was a runaway teenager, and now Harper pours her marine biology knowledge into Oliver’s pen shell research. But she’s never stopped wishing for a family of her own.

So when a DNA test reveals a half-sister living just two hours away, Harper is both hopeful and nervous. Over warm cinnamon rolls, Harper and Annabelle find striking similarities in their stories. Is it just a coincidence that both their mothers died tragically, without revealing Harper and Annabelle’s father’s name?

Oliver’s son Ridge still sees Harper as a troubled teen even all these years later. But when Oliver is attacked, Ridge and Harper find themselves working together to uncover dangerous secrets that threaten to destroy them all. They must unravel her past before they can have any hope for the future.

Living Lies:

lies

In the little town of Walton, Georgia, everybody knows your name–but no one knows your secret. At least that’s what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son.

Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.
Lane must work with Walton’s newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she’ll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.

Divine Healing

hayesAfter doing my own Bible study on the subject of healing, to discover for myself whether God’s desire and will to heal could be confirmed, I have followed up by reading several books on the topic.

I have a personal need to be certain about God’s regarding health and healing, and how to seek God for it.

The Bible has a lot of promises related to prayer, that if we believe we WILL receive WHATEVER we ask for in prayer. I saw the main condition here was BELIEF, so the important question is, how can we believe with total certainty that we will receive.

For me the key is shown in another prayer promise.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5) NIV.

To have the belief required to receive we need the assurance we are asking for something within His will. Hence my need to determine God’s will when it comes to health and healing. I was surprised how quickly I found my answer, something I wrote about on my other blog, here and here.

Divine Healing by Norvel Hayes is the most recent book I’ve read after doing my study. Hayes belonged to the same theological camp as the previous author, Gloria Copeland, so I approached book with a degree of caution, however I found it seemed basically sound.

He illustrates the biblical aspects with a lot of personal experience and testimony so it’s up to each reader to consider the strength of that anecdotal evidence.

He writes about various paths to healing revealed in the Bible. All of them require the exercising of faith, and therefore the understanding that God genuinely WANTS to heal, but expects to be approached in faith.

Uncertainty about God’s will, or doubt, often instilled through traditional church beliefs and poor theology, is identified as the major hindrance. In particular, tagging the phrase “if it be You will” to a prayer.

The different methods of seeking healing help to cater for the different levels of spiritual maturity and understanding of the one needing healing. If someone’s faith hasn’t been developed sufficiently, they can be helped by others, such as calling on the elders of their church to pray the prayer of faith for them. The Bible states that such a prayer will make them well.

I don’t know whether I’ve learned anything new from all of these books, but I have had the conclusions I came to in my own study confirmed.

 

 

And Jesus Healed Them All

healedKenneth and Gloria Copeland have a very successful “faith ministry”.
I have found their teaching to contain a mixture of good and way off-track.

This book is on the better side of that equation giving an excellent summary of Jesus’ healing ministry, showing uncontestably that sickness and disease are never God’s will. Health and healing are no less available to humanity than the forgiveness of sin, through faith in Jesus and His sacrifice.

A very easy read with only 50 pages of text, no one needs to be left in any doubt about God’s will regarding healing.  Knowing God’s will is the foundation of the faith needed when we pray for anything.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5) NIV

Also, see my own investigation into God’s will and our health on my other blog.

The Cull

My book collection has now been brutally reduced after taking 5 or 6 car loads of books, DVDs, CDs, LPs and magazines to Lifeline in Canberra.

They can make good use of them to raise money for their charitable work.

They hold a few very popular book fairs each year.

What I like about them is that they separate special books and sell them separately at a relevant price. I had many special books: including limited signed editions, as well as autographed general release books.

One particularly special book (in my opinion) was the biography of an esteemed Australian artist, who had not only signed the book, but had drawn a simple sketch with his signature: basically an original art work.

We now have plans to do one more trip next week, which should help reduce my stockpile even more.

Hopefully my one time collections of paper and plastic will go to good homes, and raise a good amount of money for charity.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matt 19)NIV

 

Prayer and Healing

pawsonFor some reason David Pawson has been a controversial figure in Christian circles.
That controversy is clearly demonstrated by the popularity of an article I posted on one of my other blogs, asking Is David Pawson a False Teacher?

I wrote the article because that question has been the most common ‘search term’ drawing people to my blog. (It has had almost 29,000 views to date).

I see that Pawson is interested in what the Bible actually teaches and tries to address that rather than just pass on traditional teaching and theology.
It’s an approach with the capacity to offend those who are addicted to their church traditions.

For the most part this book takes a biblical look at prayer, through adapting content of some Pawson sermons into written form.

Overall it is a very readable, and interesting look at what scripture reveals about prayer. What it is, how it’s done and with whom and to whom we need to pray.

Pawson gives a lot of food for thought, maybe challenging some naïve ideas.

My one quibble with the book, and it seems out of character for Pawson, is that he takes the traditional, non-biblical, line regarding the apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”. (see 2 Corinthians 12: 1-10) By doing that I think he compromises an otherwise well presented, clearly taught book on prayer.

(I have written about what the bible says regarding Paul’s “thorn”  as well as posting other material on my Onesimus Files blog).

murrayAndrew Murray’s Divine Healing is the first of two books I’ve read recently regarding “divine healing”. I read both of the books after doing my own study on the topic, and it was satisfying to note that both authors confirmed a lot of the findings of my own studies, as well as giving more insight to ponder.

Murray’s book suffers at times from outdated language and turns of phrase. (Murray died in 1917). Like so many from his era, he occasional resorts to an Olde English style using thees and thous, when addressing God; as if God speaks Elizabethan English and requires His followers to do likewise.

The surprising thing about this book is how much it reveals the extent that God’s desire to heal has been buried by the church. So much of what Murray teaches in this book would be dismissed today as extreme, and yet he comes from a very conservative theological background, and not some group promoting a modern “health and wealth gospel”.

The second book on healing was Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth, a healing evangelist from the early 20th century.

bosworthIt’s a book I recall owning many years ago, but had long since lost.
I bought a new copy a few weeks ago, in an updated edition in which the language of a century ago has been given a more present day appeal.

Not long after it was delivered, Gloria claimed it and has been reading it ever since, making notes and highlighting significant sections. Instead of waiting for her to finish with it, I chose to get another copy for myself, one I could easily pass on to someone else later.

Bosworth starts with a very astute observation.

Before people can have a steadfast faith for the healing of their body, they must be rid of all uncertainty concerning God’s will in the matter.

It was that same realisation (that faith is impossible without knowledge of God’s will) that led me to my own Bible study of His will regarding healing.

After expressing that foundational reality, Bosworth proceeds to address the matter of God’s will and desire to heal, mostly from scripture but also from personal experience.
He himself had been healed of a terminal case of tuberculosis as a young man before going on to preach and heal around the world for many decades afterwards.

Three excellent books addressing vital issues of Christian living that sadly seem to have been pushed aside in modern Christian experience, expectation and practice.

Vanished by Irene Hannon

vanished.jpgI came across this book while browsing in my “local” Christian bookshop in Canberra.

The author has written many books, most of them seem to be romance novels, but several lean more to mystery and crime, or as the author describes them “romantic suspense”.

The latter titles belong to a few different series of stories such as “Heroes of Quantico”, “Guardians of Justice”, “Men of Valor”, Code of Honor” and “Private Justice”.

Vanished is the first of the “Private Justice” series.

I’ll confess that the other series titles don’t really appeal to me.

“Private Justice” seemed to have a more down to earth sound to it than the almost super hero sounding labels of the others.

Vanished launches straight into the action, with reporter Moira Harrison suffering a car accident during a late night storm. She crashes after trying to avoid a woman who appeared on the road in front of her.
A man seems to come to her aid, promising to call emergency services and to attend to the possibly injured woman somewhere out on the road. The reporter passes out, and when she regains consciousness it is clear that the apparent good Samaritan didn’t fulfil his promise.

No one believes her story about the woman she is sure she ran into, or the man who failed to help.

How does she find the truth and bring it to light?
She enlists the help of private investigator Cal Burke, a former homicide detective. Not surprisingly, considering the “romantic suspense” genre, a growing attraction between the two develops.

While the writing style and the authorial voice didn’t personally appeal, the story itself was compelling enough to help me enjoy the book.

Not surprisingly, considering this is a book by a Christian writer, sold in a Christian bookshop, belief in God plays a significant part in the lives of the major characters. Each of them has their own faith struggles and the ways they resolve those struggles is not always beneficial to them or those around them. It becomes clear that religious belief, and even devotion, can be a destructive force if its foundations are faulty, but can be a vital help when based on something legitimate.

One interesting dilemma I found within the story was the extent to which characters could justify their actions by appealing to a sense of greater good, or the pursuit of justice. The bending of truth is portrayed as an acceptable necessity in the case of the “good guys”, because their actions are in the name of pursuing justice. But in reality I have a problem accepting their end justifies the means outlook is any more acceptable than the same kind of mindset applied to the “villain” of the story.

 

More about the author and her books here:

Irene Hannon Official site

Cold Shot, Dani Pettrey

cold shotA Christian friend brought this author to my attention.
After frequently expressing concern about me reading “crime fiction”, he told me about Dani Pettrey’s books: crime fiction by a Christian author.

Cold Shot was my personal introduction to her work, and I don’t think I’ll be following up with any more of it.

She seems to have a strong following (no author would have published more than ten books without a devoted readership) but based on this book I won’t be joining that readership.

On the positive side, the story kept me reading, wanting to find out how it would be resolved. It was also refreshing to have prayer included as an ongoing feature.

Not so positive, was finding the characters and their dialogue unconvincing. To me they didn’t ring true. One case in point concerns the murder of a co-worker of a major character – something that seems to have no emotional impact at all on that major character who discovered the body.

To this non-American reader, there was also the issue of guns. While it was understandable that a murder by shooting was at the centre of the book, there was a disturbing reliance upon guns by (Christian) law-enforcement personnel, with a number of shooting deaths at the hands of those “good guys” before the case is finally resolved.

And also on the issue of guns and gunmen – it is established quite early that the killer being pursued is a sniper. One hurdle to finding him is the fact that snipers are apparently numerous within that community and they need to determine which one of them is guilty of the crime.

I suppose for an American crime story the prominence of guns should be expected – one only needs to have seen a few American police dramas to be aware of that.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Re-blogged from my Onesimus Files blog. Please click on “view original post” to access complete article.

Onesimus Files

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is the testimony of former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi.

I’d come across Qureshi several times over the past year or two, mainly seeing that he had some YouTube videos. For some reason I didn’t pay any attention to him or his videos when I was looking for testimonies of Muslims turning the Jesus.

seeking findingThe book is excellent. It covers his early life growing up as a Muslim, his attempts to prove the truth of Islam to a Christian friend, and then how his own studies led him to consider the truth of Jesus.

He faced a difficult struggle before he could finally turn away from his life-long religion to embrace and accept the gospel, but God was patient and revealed Himself to Qureshi, over time.

I don’t think I’ve come across anyone else’s testimony in which they spent years of diligently searching and studying everything they could to…

View original post 304 more words

Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus

fleeing finding.jpgThis book wasn’t exactly what I expected.
I thought it would be about Muslims who fled from ISIS controlled areas, and in the process of fleeing to safety, found faith in Jesus.

That in escaping extremist Islam, their experiences not only made them question their own Islamic faith, but through that experience they came to know the love of God through Christ.

At first I thought the title was misleading because it didn’t fulfil that expectation. However, about halfway through I recognised the title had a different kind of application. That recognition came when reading the story of a man, an Iraqi Christian from a Christian community. He tells of experiencing a change:

“…it was as if someone took away all my sadness and gave me another light shining on me. I started a new relationship with Jesus, and I felt like a new man, a new person. I found my hope in Christ. I began to see that in some ways I lost everything when ISIS came to Qaraqosh, but really I found Jesus.”

A related, significant reality I found expressed in this book, is the gaping disconnect between the lives Christians in the west, and those of believers elsewhere.

The man mentioned above didn’t have anything like the prosperity that the west takes for granted, but when he lost what he had, he found something much more valuable; something he thought he already had –  and then with the loss of everything else he recognised a sufficiency and wealth only available through closeness to Christ that he’d not experienced before.

There is a vital lesson to be learned by Christians in the west. A lesson that will challenge the seeming obsession with maintaining and protecting a perceived quality of life that is often attributed to God’s blessing. The price of protecting those “blessings” is often a denial of help to people in need, a failure to share those “blessings”.

The author writes of the generosity of the nation of Jordan, who welcomed so many refugees from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, that refugees now made up one in four of the population.

“If that were the United States, it would be like half of Mexico and all of Canada moving in”

Is it necessary to say anything else to address the difference in attitude displayed by western nations with an alleged strong Christian foundation?

The author continues, describing the hardships that have been created,

“…the influx of people looking for cheap accommodations had caused both rents and the prices of staple goods to rise sharply, making life even harder for Jordan’s population. And yet still they open their doors and invite refugees in.”

On questioning a local about the inconvenience of this, he received the reply “What else can we do? Wouldn’t you do the same?”

Sadly most in the west clearly wouldn’t. And neither would many western “Christians”.

I wonder what it will take for THEM to find Jesus.

 

 

Dangerous Love by Ray Norman

Ray Norman was national director for World Vision in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania where he worked with his wife Helene.

His book Dangerous Love looks at the challenges and cost of mission work, where Christian witness requires the casting aside of a lot of “western” preconceptions.

As well-educated and comparatively wealthy foreigners, we easily succumb to the notion that we are somehow higher in the pecking order, that our important objectives and busy schedules should take precedence because “we know best”. And too often our image among the poor is tainted, and our actions reflect a sense of entitlement and thinly veiled arrogance (in spite of our good intentions…

… In much of the world outside of Europe and north America, people are less achievement-oriented and place significantly higher value on relationships. On days after an unexpectedly long exchange with farmers, I might glance at my watch and mumble something to the effect that there was still much I had not accomplished that day. I would often hear words such as, ‘Yes, but those things can always get done tomorrow. At least today we have done the important thing and gotten to know each other better.’

During his tenure in Mauritania, an act of extreme violence against Norman and his daughter Hannah challenged the family’s resolve to continue the work they felt called to do. They were also made aware of inadequacies in the way fellow believers reacted to them in the aftermath of that violent incident.

It seemed that even our own pastor in France, a man who, along with his spouse, had been a source of support and encouragement to us over the years, seemed to strufggle with how to respond to us. He had been informed of what had happened, and once we arrived in Calais we expected to hear from him or his wife but never did. I eventually called him on our third or fourth day there. He told me that he’d heard our news, and he listened quietly as I chatted. But it seemed our situation was beyond him…

Eventually, the healing process began when the family chose to return to their work in Mauritania, and the greatest help came from those intended to be the recipients of the Norman’s ministry work. A clear example of this came from the women of Arafat, a nearby poverty stricken township, who invited Helene Norman to their community.

We understand because we too are women. And we want you to know that we are here to walk with you, to support and encourage you in this experience in which you have suffered deeply. So please know, Madame Norman, that we have brought you here among us to let you know you are not alone on this journey. We are here with you.

Ray Norman reflects on this as his wife tells him the full story:

I stood there in stunned silence , and between her sobs, she began to explain in halting words how the women of Arafat had provided for her, in her deepest time of need, what no friend or gathering among her many Christian acquaintances across three continents (Africa, Europe, or America) had been able, or had the insight to provide. How in the most unlikely of places, she had found common ground with those who suffer, and how God had touched her heart and demonstrated his promise of faithfulness in a remote land through ‘the least of these’ (Matt. 25:40)

I haven’t found this book to be an easy read, although there are many interesting parts within it. At times I considered putting it aside and returning to it later after reading something different for a while. However, perseverance paid off.

It starts off “well”, taking the reader up to the life-changing act of violence that frames the subsequent events in the Normans’ lives; and then I felt things got bogged down in uncertainty for a time while the family came to terms with the after effects of their experience and how it could impact the viability of their ministry.
The “payoff” comes in the last few chapters when they decide (Ray reluctantly) to contact the perpetrator of the violence against Ray and their daughter, and in doing so set in motion life changing consequences that only God-inspired compassion and forgiveness can bring about.