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Experiencing God's Presence (Jesus Calling Bible Studies)
Experiencing God's Presence (Jesus Calling Bible Studies)
by Sarah Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.81
76 used & new from $1.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and challenging study that draws you closer to the Lord, July 22, 2016
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Having read a number of Sarah Young's Jesus Calling books I was keen to see how she took that material to studying the Word. This is an 8-week study that can be used in a group and/or individually. Each week has a different theme centred on Jesus' presence which is a key subject in a lot of Sarah's writings.

Each week starts with considering a topic that impacts the theme for the week. So, for example, God's Presence Brings You Peace is one week's theme. The topic of consideration involves anxiety and what robs you of peace. There are a handful of questions to stimulate thought on what robs you of peace. She then uses 2 passages from Jesus Calling to illustrate how the Lord's Presence enables you to receive peace. Then there is a passage of Scripture that you meditate upon. In this example, it's when the disciples fear for their safety on the boat as Jesus sleeps below. The authors encourage you to step into the story so you imagine what it would be like. There are a series of questions for reflection and meditation.

During the course of the next 5 days of that week there is a short passage for each day and 3-4 questions for reflection based around the theme for the week.

I appreciated how each week was set out. The Jesus Calling material was only used as an accompaniment to the verses of Scripture. But what was most appealing about this study were the provocative and challenging questions. They really made you reflect on both the Word and your own situation. I definitely felt a greater sense of Jesus' presence as I worked through each day's activity.

The book comes with a set of notes for a leader so it's all set out for a group study and I expect it would be a great exercise to do it this way.

Definitely recommended.


Close to You: A Novel
Close to You: A Novel
by Kara Isaac
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
59 used & new from $4.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Simply an outstanding debut novel, July 13, 2016
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This review is from: Close to You: A Novel (Paperback)
I've loved the premise of the book since I first read about it a year ago and have been itching to read it. I'm not the typical contemporary romance reader but I loved this story and am so pleased Isaac's second novel is soon to be released.

Allison Shire is a Kiwi, a former academic with an estranged husband due to his being already married. Allie is escaping her life by leading Tolkien movie tours around the gorgeous North and South Islands of New Zealand. Jackson Gregory is an American hunk, a failed entrepreneur who has tagged along with his 80+ year old great uncle hoping to convince him to invest in his next great business idea. Jackson and Louis are members of Allie's touring party.

From the moment Allie and Jackson meet there are sparks. Well, fireworks in fact. There is a combativeness to their connection that reminded me of Lizzie and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Isaac does an excellent job developing both characters so they are at times delightful, other times frustratingly annoying. There's a whimsicalness about Allie that I so appreciated. We see her strength, both in her capability and character, but also her vulnerability in doubts about her worthiness to be loved.

Being a Tolkien fan of both the novels and movies, I loved rummaging through the sites featured in both, the enthusiasm of the fanatics on the tour, plus the snippets of New Zealand, for example, landing by plane in Windy Welllington which I've experienced a few times. However, I believe not being a Tolkien fan nor having visited NZ are any prerequisite for enjoying this outstanding novel.

The writing is excellent. I had to keep reminding myself that this is Kara's first novel - there is a good mix of the comedic and the dramatic.

The spiritual content is subtle and builds quite dramatically in the last quarter. I would have loved to have seen a bit more flesh on it particularly during the first half of the novel to gain a better understanding of their respective 'faith' backstories. The development arc was a bit skewed at the end which was wonderful but made me question slightly its authenticity.

I loved all the New Zealand-ness as I've mentioned previously but wish I'd 'heard' more Kiwi. I appreciate the novel's biggest market is the US which naturally had a role in influencing the dialogue to some extent. Hopefully going forward Kara will be given a little more licence to add some of the Kiwi colloquialisms.

This is a sensational debut novel from a talented author and I so look forward to reading many more of Kara's future stories. Bravo, Kara.


The Forgotten Way Meditations: The Path of Yeshua for Power and Peace in This Life
The Forgotten Way Meditations: The Path of Yeshua for Power and Peace in This Life
by Ted Dekker
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Will open your heart to more of Jesus and His desire for you, July 9, 2016
I am now on my fourth reading of this tremendous addition to spiritual growth writings. I suspect I will simply restart it each time I finish it. There is that much good fruit in this set of 21 meditations that I discover something new on each reading.

This book starts out with Dekker documenting his faith journey. The volume was borne out of his own spiritual epiphany that even though he'd been a Christian for most of his life, there must be something more to really knowing God. So Ted lost himself in the Scriptures and God's Word came alive to him in a deep transformational way where he got to better understand who God is, who we are, and the life God desires for us to experience now.

Over the past couple of years I've found myself at a similar point in my relationship with Jesus: I wanted more, more of Him and a deeper awareness of His Presence. These meditations have certainly opened my eyes and heart bringing alive Scripture in a refreshing and vital way.

The 21 meditations are built around "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" with a series of 5 declarations of who God is, who we are (the Truth), who we are in the Presence of God now and surrendering of our false self (the Way) and finally on the Life we have now in Jesus (the Life).

With tremendous story telling and a foundation based on Scripture each Meditation is 3-4 pages in length and includes the meditation, contemplation thereon, a prayer and some encouragement to remember the meditation.

The back of the book details each Scripture referred to in the meditations with notes provided by Pastor Bill Vanderbush. There is also a separate study guide that helps further consolidate one's reflections on each meditation.

What I've most benefited from the meditations is a better understanding of who I am in Christ. This underpins our experience of Christ and the life we walk with Him. If we don't have a good grasp of what the Word says about who He is and who we are in Him then we'll miss out on fully realising the relationship He desires for each of us. This, in turn, has drawn me closer to Him and I have a greater sense of His Presence each day.

I expect in the future people will refer to Dekker's "The Forgotten Way" in the same way we now refer to the writings of Lewis, Tozer, Nouwen and the like.

I can't recommend this enough and am now giving copies of it away to friends and family. At this time I believe the only way to purchase "The Forgotten Way" is via the website: [...]


Sins Of The Mothers (Texas Romances) (Volume 4)
Sins Of The Mothers (Texas Romances) (Volume 4)
by Caryl McAdoo
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.99
15 used & new from $11.65

4.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous period novel with a cast of fascinating characters, July 9, 2016
This is number four in the series, and having read it I don’t feel in any way disadvantaged by not having read the prior three. Yes, it can be read as a standalone. There is back story throughout the novel that I expect readers of the predecessors would have already been familiar with.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. McAdoo brings a unique 1850’s period voice to the story with all its unique phraseology and colloquialisms. It was a little distracting at first but I soon warmed to it and appreciated its novelty. Not being familiar with the Californian gold rush period I enjoyed discovering the early days of what is now a tremendously cosmopolitan city that I’ve visited a few times.

McAdoo brings to the stage some delightfully relatable characters with all their strengths and flaws. Mary Rachel Wheeler, the heroine of the story, is both a young lady of tremendous strength and at the same time easily seduced by the words of the many men who adore her for her beauty. It’s easy for a reader to judge her for some of her decisions but I do wonder if given the circumstances most of us would have been tempted to do likewise.

But it’s in Jethro Risen that McAdoo excels. His development as a character is excellent. I went from thinking little of him to cheering him on as the novel progressed. I loved his story of redemption from how his buddy Moses spoke into his life for years to his salvation and then a man of strong faith believing in the invincible but personal God.

With plenty of plot twists and adventures and a supporting cast that added depth to the story (what a delight ten year old Francy was!) this was a very good period novel.

What I appreciated the most was the depth of the faith message that was so well woven throughout. Yes, persistence does bring reconciliation and redemption but also God is a forgiving God who loves us irrespective of our mistakes. I also enjoyed how McAdoo demonstrated Jethro hearing God and watching him obey accordingly.

Scenes often moved ahead without a break and the POV changed abruptly at times, both of which often distracted me, however, these were relatively incidental to what was a well developed character-driven story.

If you enjoy the 1800s period of America I’m sure you’ll enjoy Sins of the Mothers.


Sword of Forgiveness (Winds of Change) (Volume 1)
Sword of Forgiveness (Winds of Change) (Volume 1)
by Debbie Lynne Costello
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.43
17 used & new from $9.62

4.0 out of 5 stars A very good debut novel with 2 well developed lead characters, July 8, 2016
This is a very good first novel. The involved story, the well developed character arcs of, in particular, the two lead characters, Brithwin and Royce, and solid narrative.

I found it easy to read and there were sufficient twists in the story that surprised me and continued to engage my interest. The development of Brithwin and Royce’s love for each was delightful. Having been thrown together in an arranged marriage and never having known each other previously, their relationship started out as combative, neither willing to trust the other.

I liked the fact Brithwin was a woman of strength and this was one of the main reasons Royce was so attracted to her. Yes, she was headstrong and at times naÔve, and Costello did an excellent job moulding Brithwin from being a woman who couldn’t trust a man to learning to be loved.

The spiritual content surprised me with its depth and the ease within which Costello portrayed it. Brithwin was a very committed believer and Costello demonstrated both her faith in action and also the intimacy of her walk with the Lord. At no time did I think it forced or preachy. The message of forgiveness underpinned the novel and was powerfully demonstrated at the end. Once again, I thought this realistically portrayed.

What stops me from rating it higher is what some term the “grand misunderstanding” between Brithwin and Royce at the beginning of their relationship. How he could seriously believe that a grieving daughter could have had his family assassinated was too far-fetched for me. The fact this misunderstanding didn’t get resolved until almost halfway through the novel felt a bit contrived. Especially once Royce came to know Brithwin but continued not to believe her. There was also one instance which again was significant of Brithwin taking Clarice at her word which didn’t make sense based on what she knew of Clarice, the very stern request of her husband and her faith. This moment was pivotal to the final third of the novel.

Overall, it was a solid debut novel and Debbie Lynne Costello should be proud of it.


Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy With God in the Busyness of Life
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy With God in the Busyness of Life
by Joanna Weaver
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.62
682 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Practical challenge to prioritising relationship with Jesus, July 7, 2016
This is a useful book for men as well as women as it focuses on juggling busy lives while maintaining a vibrant intimate relationship with Jesus. Weaver uses a simple analogy to contrast the lives of Mary and Martha. Mary occupied the Living Room while Martha, the Kitchen. With a lot of useful practical suggestions, some excellent references from Weaver's extensive readings and research, this book challenges you to prioritise your relationship with Jesus so that everything else pivots around this core essence of our being.

Weaver has a very approachable writing voice that makes it easy to read while delivering a powerful message on devotion.

My copy came with a 12-week Bible study that takes the principles of each chapter and overlays relevant Scriptures. This can be used for either individual or group study.


Home Base (Harbingers) (Volume 14)
Home Base (Harbingers) (Volume 14)
by Jeff Gerke
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.99
14 used & new from $3.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New voice, new super talent, July 4, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is Jeff Gerke's first episode and his voice is a refreshing change. At times blunt, always arrogant and a wandering lustful eye for attractive girls, Chad is an interesting new addition to the team. And he possesses a rather special super talent.

None of our 4 heroes really quite know what to make of Chad and frankly, nor did I for most of this episode. I'm not sure I'm any the wiser having read it. But I'm keen to get the others perspectives when we read their next entries. Friend or foe? Jerk or absent-mindedly brilliant? But that's what I found appealing about meeting Chad. We've all met a Chad before (well, maybe not his super talent!) As I can see from two of the first reviews, he's not everyone's cup of tea.

Some great new creatures to battle and lots of fast paced action, this was an easy read with a number of funny moments along the way.

And the team now have a new Home Base, in a nice hotel that I've happened to stay in, so it was fun recollecting my visit as I read along even though I didn't get to see any fancy suites on my visit.

Looking forward to next madcap instalment.


Of Dubious and Questionable Memory (Herringford and Watts Mysteries)
Of Dubious and Questionable Memory (Herringford and Watts Mysteries)
Price: $2.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Herringford & Watts continue to delight ..., June 27, 2016
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I've read the first two in this marvellous series and continue to delight in McMillan's dynamic duo, the ensemble cast and authorial voice.

Merinda and Jem are employed to solve a crime in Boston, America having spent an unpleasant evening in the lockup as guests of Toronto's Morality Squad having been set up by the latter. Off to explore the wonders of the North East they pay homage to some famous people's places such as Louisa May Alcott. With tremendous attention to detail McMillan takes her reader on a nostalgic journey while her two feisty detectives attempt to solve a missing person case.

Like the previous two episodes I had a smile on my face as I read the madcap adventures of Merinda and Jem. McMillan's turn of phrase continues to be refreshingly playful even though she addresses some pertinent issues that we continue to grapple with today. The role of women, professional equality and marrying for love versus duty are handled subtly as they're woven through the story.

Our two leads continue to grow and their male companions: Ray DeLuca and Jasper Forth play significant supporting roles. DeLuca's lemon jam making revelation and outline of his expectations of Jem were a lovely touch in developing him into a well-rounded hero.

I'm so looking forward to the next adventure.


Thoughts In Solitude
Thoughts In Solitude
by Thomas Merton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.23
127 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and though-provoking set of short devotionals on the solitary life, June 12, 2016
This review is from: Thoughts In Solitude (Paperback)
37 short and eloquent devotions, some that read like prayers, full of food for the soul.

Separated into two parts: "Aspects of the Spiritual Life" and "the Love of Solitude" Merton shares the joys of a solitary life. It is in the solitary life that we learn to understand how much God loves us which helps us to step out into community and love others.

I especially enjoyed the devotions on meditative prayer and one's prayer life in general.


So I Send You / Workmen of God: Recognizing and Answering God's Call to Service
So I Send You / Workmen of God: Recognizing and Answering God's Call to Service
by Oswald Chambers
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.09
77 used & new from $0.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Should be mandatory reading for all believers not just missionaries, June 3, 2016
This review is for "So Send I You". I will update it when I've finished "Workmen of God."

This should be compulsory reading for all believers, not just those called to the mission field. Every paragraph has power and as a result is a book that should be consumed slowly to allow the words to soak into you.

At the heart of the book is the perspective that we are called to relationship with Jesus. We are not first called to people, but to Him. "Our Lord's first obedience was not to the needs of human beings but to the will of His Father, and the first great duty of the Christian is not to the needs of mankind, but to the will of the Lord." (p152). It is through our relationship with Jesus that He leads us into "discipling" others.

Chambers reinforces by much repetition the critical importance of our relationship with Jesus. If we're not right with Him, then we'll struggle in our role to "disciple others". I particularly loved how he mentioned Jesus requested the handful of disciples he took with him to Gethsemane to "keep watch with Me". He requested three times and it challenged me to assess the ways in which I am so easily distracted from 'keeping watch.' Chambers went onto say once we are able to 'keep watch with Him" we will be in a position of having let go of ourselves having determined that we are not our own, but His.

Full of tremendous wisdom and challenging interpretations of Scripture I would recommend this to every believer to read as most significantly it increases your desire to know Jesus even more. In letting go of our self-absorption we are able to 'go forth' being led by the Holy Spirit in all our activities to help 'nourish others knowledge' of Jesus.


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