Belief And What We Put Our Faith In – A Reprise


skydivingI believe that skydiving is safe. However, you aren’t going to see me getting into a plane with one of those flimsy parachute contraptions strapped to my back! πŸ˜‰

Clearly, belief is not the same as putting our trust in that thing we say we believe. For example, see what James said to Christians: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (Jas. 2:19)

Believing and trusting are not the same thing. That’s a good principle to keep in mind when we look at extra-Biblical encounters with God. Yes, extra-Biblical.

God makes Himself known first in His creation.

Some time ago, I passed this liquid amber tree in full autumn colors (yes, here in SoCal, we do have the occasional tree that turns into gold and red and yellow and brown). As I slowed to admire the beauty, a woman walked by, never looking up, apparently oblivious to the glory swaying over her head. How sad, I thought, that God is so present and people can completely miss Him.

Because of His great love, of course, God went farther than simply showing Himself through creation; He revealed Himself through prophets, His law, His word, and His Son.

But that’s not all. He also revealed Himself through dreams and visions and angel visitations. The Bible records any number of these, and we’re especially reminded of them at Christmas time. Angels appeared to shepherds, wisemen discovered the birth of the King of Judea by studying the stars, Mary learned she would become pregnant from an angel, Joseph too, and then he had a dream warning him to take his family and escape to Egypt.

There’s more. The wisemen were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. The Holy Spirit revealed to a man named Simeon that he would not see death until he beheld the Messiah–which he did when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple on the eighth day. More amazing, the Holy Spirit also communicated something to Jesus’s cousin John, while he was still in the womb, and as a not-yet-born baby, he “leaped” when Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth, his mother who was carrying him.

So, yes, God reveals Himself in many ways. Some believe He no longer does so, but I find this position a stretch that doesn’t fit either Scripture or reports from various parts of the world today. From any number of sources, I’ve heard recently of people coming to Christ as a direct result of a dream or vision.

And yet . . .

I think a look at the Apostle Paul’s life in regard to visions might be instructive. Certainly he had an extra-biblical encounter with the living Christ. It’s why he made an about-face and stopped persecuting Christians to become one himself.

He also had a vision of what he referred to as the third heaven, though he left open the possibility that he’d actually been transported there bodily (see 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). But here’s the thing. Paul did not formulate his theology based on his vision.

His encounter with the living Christ was consistent with Scripture. Apparently his vision of the third heaven was just something for him—not something extra that informed Christians what to believe or do.

In fact, in his letter to the Colossian church, Paul was clear that visions were not a sound basis for deviating from Scripture.

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind (2:18 – emphasis mine).

Paul believed in visions. He had them. And yet here he is saying that things not consistent with Scripture—self-abasement and the worship of angels—were not to become part of the practice of the Church simply because someone had a vision that said those applications should be included. Visions weren’t enough in and of themselves to become the basis of doctrine.

That approach to extra-Biblical information is a good rule of thumb, I think, and a means of escaping much false teaching.

This post is an edited version of one that originally appeared here in December 2012.

Published in: on October 18, 2017 at 4:54 pm  Comments Off on Belief And What We Put Our Faith In – A Reprise  
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Peace On Earth


Red_Christmas_candlesWeek two of the Advent season, and my church is focusing on Peace.

When Jesus was born, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds and announced that a Savior, Christ the Lord had been born that night. A host of angels then joined him saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

The KJV skewed the angelic praise by translating it, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.” The logical conclusion was that Jesus would bring an end to conflict on earth, that God would treat humankind with good will. And of course, history is filled with war and any number of “not good will” kinds of circumstances.

The hope of the Jewish people at the time was that the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom and rule as David had during the golden age of Israel’s history. He conquered their enemies and brought peace. He brought the ark of the covenant to his city, Jerusalem, and set in motion the construction of the great temple, the house of God. He instituted sacrifices and the appointed feasts before the LORD, in accordance with the law, blessed his subjects, and gave them each a gift.

When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house (2 Samuel 6:18-19).

This was the kind of Messiah the Jews were looking for.

People in more recent times haven’t done much to change the false idea perceived about the angels’ blessing. Granted, we recognize that Jesus didn’t come to establish His kingdom in the here and now. Instead we either ascribe His peace to the future or to an internal peace each person can achieve in the midst of the turmoil around us.

I do think God wants us to have peace in our hearts regardless of the circumstances that can throw life into confusion, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the peace to which the angels referred.

The peace inside us depends to a degree on us, as we’ll see later in the week, but the peace the angels announced came as a result of the birth of this Messiah. So what peace did Jesus bring, what peace does He give?

The peace of Jesus is the result of reconciliation with God. Without Jesus, a person is in rebellion to God. But Jesus rescues us from the dominion of darkness. He makes possible peace with God—not just a truce, but full-blown peace. We are no longer at enmity with Him if we have become those with whom He is well pleased.

Yikes! What do we have to do to please God? Well, nothing.

This well-pleased position is also something that comes to us from Jesus. In fact, the word used in Matthew 3:17 translated “well-pleased” which God declared about Jesus at His baptism is the same word used here for those God will favor with peace.

It is Jesus with whom the Father is well-pleased. Through Jesus we are reconciled to God—brought into relationship with Him, afforded peace with Him.

That above all else is the peace of Christmas. Yes, there’s more, but without that life-changing peace that ends our determination to go our own way and puts us in right standing with God, there is no peace, only temporary truces.

Published in: on December 8, 2014 at 6:24 pm  Comments (1)  
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Winning And Losing


Clayton_Kershaw_2010This past week has been filled with sports for someone like me who follows most sports and cheers for the teams in the LA area. Oh, and a Denver Broncos fan, too.

We had two teams in the Major League Baseball playoffs, USC football played on Saturday and a few hours later UCLA played as well. Then on Sunday the Broncos played in the afternoon.

The results of the eight games were mixed. First the Angels, after losing the opening game of their series against Kansas City in overtime, got swept out of the playoffs. Next the Dodgers, after taking a 6-1 lead behind the probable Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, ended up losing their opening game, 10-9.

At the same time, USC lost the game against Arizona St. after leading most of the way when they gave up a “hail Mary” touchdown as time ran out. UCLA, having crushed Arizona St. last week, faced Utah. They trailed most of the game, took the lead late in the fourth quarter, then gave up a field goal in the last seconds and lost.

So when does the winning start? Well, the Dodgers came back in their game two and won to even their series with St. Louis. Then the Broncos came through yesterday to hand the Arizona Cardinals their first loss of the season. Still, that’s a lot of losing in just a short period of time.

But here’s the truth about winning and losing: it’s transient. The team that wins in February will begin a new season in September and have to do it all over again. There is no permanent winner—at least not when we’re talking about sports or business or the lottery or contests or anything else you might expect to find a winner.

The Heisman Trophy winner receives the accolades for his accomplishment, but the next year either returns to school or starts a career as a rookie football player or as a newbie in a different field. In other words, people won’t pay him for life because he won the Heisman Trophy in 2014.

In that respect, wins and losses are equal. Once they are over, they are memories. Sure, wins are most likely happy memories and losses may be painful, but here’s the truth. What lasts is what a person learns through the experience.

Players can learn more through the experiences of winning and losing then can fans, I would think. Fans are emotionally invested but incapable of affecting the outcome of a game. Maybe the greatest lesson for a fan is to hold games loosely. After all, only one team will walk away as the World Series champs.

Most teams when they celebrate with a parade down their city streets end up making some sort of statement about the next year—usually something like, Let’s do this again next year. In other words, they understand another season awaits in which the just-completed championship win will mean nothing.

So why do we try to win video games or chess matches or employee-of-the-year prizes or bridal-shower games or . . . you name it? Winning validates our abilities or our emotional connection or city association with a team. But because of the nature of winning and losing, we’re quickly right back where we were, wondering again if we’re good enough, smart enough, talented enough.

As the fans of the New England Patriots. After getting blown out by Kansas City a week ago, fans and media pundits were questioning whether or not their highly touted coach and quarterback could still get it done. Was Tom Brady over the hill, they asked? Would the coach consider a change at that position? Of course all those questions went away when the Patriots dominated Cincinnati Sunday night.

So what’s the point? Winning and losing are both temporal. They need to be held with an open hand. A false view of winning leads to pride and a false view of losing leads to despair, which is really the flip side of pride. Both are exaggerated views of self.

The only thing that lasts is what we do for the kingdom of God. The rest ends up being the wood, hay, and stubble Scripture says will burn up. The eternal things are good works as simple as giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty stranger.

Those things God promises to reward, and His “well done, good and faithful servant, last for eternity.

In the end, the only winning that matters is that which Jesus Christ accomplished in His work at the cross where He triumphed over sin and death, over His enemies, over guilt and the law. As Corrie ten Boom loved to say, Jesus is Victor.

Being His follower is the only sure thing out there. We can’t be sure if we’ll have a job tomorrow or if we’ll arrive home safely after work or if we have cancer cells growing in our body or will get bit by a mosquito with West Nile Virus or will fall and break an ankle or a wrist trying to stop our fall. We expect things to go the way we consider “normal”—without glitches or interruptions or anomalies. And God graciously gives us what we need day after day, even as He gave manna to the people of Israel six out of seven days for forty years!

But there are those days when we’re out of water or a river separates us from where we’re going or giants are in the land or thick walls obstruct us from what we plan to accomplish. In those instances, we need to keep our perspective. God is still the Victor. The circumstances that appear daunting or even “terminal” do not change who God is or what His Son has done.

Winning and losing both, even in things as trivial as MLA playoff games, give us an opportunity to remember what’s eternal, what real winning looks like (that would be the sinless Son of God hanging on a cross for our benefit).

And you thought watching sports was just a fun thing to do! πŸ˜‰

Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm  Comments Off on Winning And Losing  
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Quiz – The First Christmas According To The Bible


christmas-1412789-mOver the years, a popular post during the Christmas season, has been this quiz. Consequently, I’m dusting it off and bringing it front and center once again.

We know all about the first Christmas, right? I mean we hear about the details in Christmas carols and programs and sermons, see them depicted on cards and church bulletins and manger scenes. But do we know the Biblical version? Here’s a fun little quiz to find out. (Feel free to print it out and pass it along if you’re interested). Answers at the bottom.

Directions: based on what the Bible says, decide if the following statements are true or false. (Hint: for the sake of this quiz, if the Bible is silent on the matter, it should be considered false).

1. Jesus’s birth was predicted to Joseph by an angel in a dream.

2. Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus’s birth.

3. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph’s place of residence.

4. The innkeeper told Joseph there was no room in the inn

5. Jesus was born on a cold winter’s night.

6. The stable was a wooden structure.

7. There were kings from the east who visited Jesus after he was born.

8. There were three of these visitors.

9. These visitors followed a star from the East to Jerusalem in search of the Christ child.

10. The star which the visitors saw was an especially bright star.

11. The visitors arrived on camels.

12. Herod told the visitors to go to Bethlehem.

13. These visitors came to Jesus and saw Him in the manger where he had been placed after birth.

14. These visitors were joined by shepherds who came to worship Jesus.

15. The shepherds also saw the star which had guided the other visitors.

16. A host of angels appeared to the shepherds and sang praised to God.

17. In a dream God warned Mary that Jesus’s life was in danger.

18. Mary and Joseph took Jesus back to Nazareth to escape the danger.

19. Mary remained a virgin and never had any other children.

20. God can do the impossible, which makes belief in the Christmas miracles possible.

Answers alert!

– – –

Answers:
1. true – though His birth was also predicted to Mary
2. true – see Matthew 1:24-25
3. false – they were from Nazareth and only went to Bethlehem because it was required by the government
4. false – the innkeeper doesn’t make an appearance in the Biblical account
5. false – the Bible doesn’t say what kind of a night it was
6. false – the Bible doesn’t describe the stable
7. false – the eastern visitors were magi or wisemen specializing in such studies as astrology
8. false – the Bible doesn’t specify how many magi there wereβ€”only that they presented three types of gifts
9. false – they saw a star in the East and went to Jerusalem where they would expect to find a king; they then followed the star from Jerusalem to Bethlehem
10. false – the Bible never refers to the star as bright
11. false – the Bible doesn’t mention camels
12. true – after learning from the scribes where Messiah was to be born, Herod told the magi
13. false – the magi came to a house.
14. false – the magi didn’t arrive the night Jesus was born; the shepherds who were already in Judea went immediately after they heard the birth announcement
15. false – the Bible doesn’t mention that the shepherds saw the star
16. false – Scripture doesn’t say these angels sang
17. false – God warned Joseph, not Mary
18. false – they went to Egypt, not Nazareth
19. false – Mary had a number of other children, among them James who wrote the book of the Bible that bears his name.
20. true – Gabriel stated this to Mary when she asked how she being a virgin could give birth to a son (Luke 1:37)

Questions? Read Matthew 1:18-2:15; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20. Or feel free to ask them here.

Published in: on December 4, 2013 at 6:28 pm  Comments Off on Quiz – The First Christmas According To The Bible  
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CSFF Tour – Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, Day 3


Broken Wings coverI don’t know if I’ve actually come out and said it before in my posts about CSFF’s January feature, Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, but here it is: I love this book! And in a few short weeks, book two of the trilogy, Broken Wings, is scheduled to release. I can hardly wait!

As I mentioned in my Day 1 post for this tour, I was fortunate enough to have received Angel Eyes earlier, so reviewed it then. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to recommend the book and series to those interested in a supernatural story written from a Christian perspective.

Here are my top seven reasons, in reverse order, for liking Angel Eyes:

7 The writing is excellent. It drew me into the story immediately. Here’s the opening:

The knot in my throat is constant. An aching thing. Shallow breaths whisper around it, sting my chapped lips, and leave white smoke monsters in the air.

6 The storytelling–the way the events unfold and the presentation of the characters–is equally strong.

5 The main character has a quirk and believable motivations that make her seem unique, not a plastic cutout of an angsty teen.

4 Our protagonist develops in a gradual, realistic way.

3 Intrigue pulls the reader forward into a plot that grows much larger than the opening might suggest.

2 The supernatural elements, rather than contradicting Scripture as so many angel/demon stories do, uses Scripture to undergird them, starting with a fictionalized account of Elisha opening the eyes of his servant so that he could see the army of God’s angels ready to protect them from the enemy surrounding the city (See 2 Kings 6:15-17).

1 And the number one reason I love this book: God wins! And He does so in a believable way, properly foreshadowed, and without any preachiness. What some call preachy is reality, given who these characters are. They act and speak naturally, based on their beliefs, doubts, fears, faith, or whatever, prompted by the demand of the circumstances.

Our tour is bringing out some interesting discussion. Megan opened with a thoughtful article about brokenness: What does broken mean? And what does the Bible say about broken people?

Shannon McDermott gave a thorough comparison of the angels in Angel Eyes with angels in the Bible.

Several people addressed the comparison of Angel Eyes with the Twilight books, none better than Jason Joyner: I do not believe Angel Eyes is the Christian Twilight. It stands on its own, with some shared conventions since they are both YA, both romance, and both supernatural in nature.

Jeremy Harder concludes that Angel Eyes “has it all”: I totally love well-written books that feature scenes of good colliding with evil, angels battling demons, and, of course, happy endings, and fortunately Angel Eyes has it all!

Phylis Wheeler, like me, enjoyed the book so much she gave a second endorsement after having reviewed it months ago.

And perhaps my favorite so far, Beckie Burnham highlights the truthful theme of Angel Eyes: The message of Angel Eyes is profound. God exists, His plans are eternal, and our choices and circumstances matter to Him and His economy. Dittemore doesn’t pretty up the evil in this book. Its real and real scary. But neither does she downplay the ultimate victory that will be God’s.

Of course, not everyone sees books the same way, so I suggest you stop by the other participating sites (list available, with check mark links to the articles, at the bottom of my Day 1 post) and see what each of them has to say.

You can also visit Shannon Dittemore’s Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.

Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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CSFF Tour – Angel Eyes By Shannon Dittemore, Day 2


Angel Eyes coverThis month CSFF is featuring Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, and as you might guess, it can be classified as an angels book. Or supernatural. I don’t think those two are the same or that angel books are a subset of supernatural, but Angel Eyes would fit into both.

These classifications are significant, I believe. Supernatural stories encompass a broad range–pretty much anything that isn’t “natural.” Generally speaking, however, the supernatural elements are central to the story. This category includes fictitious supernatural creatures such as vampires and zombies as well as real supernatural agents such as demons and angels. Ghosts fit here, too–whether a person views them as real or pretend.

Other supernatural creatures such as faeries, witches, and wizards generally fit into the fantasy category rather than the supernatural category because they are viewed, as most stories use them, as make-believe.

Of course witches and sorcerers do exist, but usually stories with these creatures are not referencing beings that claim power from an evil source. Rather, they can, like regular humans, choose good or evil (e.g. the witches in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the wizards in Lord of the Rings and in Harry Potter). Their power is most often innate, though they can learn to use it more effectively.

I mention this particularly because angel books have the same issues as witch and sorcerer books–angels do actually exist, but writers can, and have, treated them as mythical beings with their own tropes.

Anne Rice may have started the latest surge of angel books when she declared at the beginning of her Songs Of The Seraphim series back in 2009 that angels were the new vampires. At any rate, following in the tradition of such films as It’s a Wonderful Life and TV programs such as Highway to Heaven, books have popped up with angels that bear little resemblance to the actual, factual beings mentioned in Scripture.

As a result, I’ve become … shall we say, cautious, about angel books. I have less trouble with those that bear no resemblance to Biblical angels than I do with quasi-accurate ones. The former I simply write off as make-believe creatures, little different from elves or hobbits or faeries.

Imagine my surprise when I read Angel Eyes and discovered a story that represented angels in a way consistent with Scripture.

Of course, there is still speculation–this is fiction, after all. For example, in one interview, author Shannon Dittemore said she developed the idea for the story by thinking, what if angel halos were actual solid objects? [And I’d add, what if angels actually had halos? πŸ˜‰ ] From this key piece of pretend, the Angel Eyes story grows.

There’s more coming, too. The second book in the series, Broken Wings, is scheduled to release next month, and the third, Dark Halo is due out in August, I believe.

Take time to visit other CSFF tour participants and see what they’re saying about the book. You can find the entire list (with check marks providing links to the posts) at the bottom of my Day 1 article.

Belief And What We Put Our Faith In


skydivingI believe that skydiving is safe. However, you aren’t going to see me getting into a plane with one of those flimsy parachute contraptions strapped to my back! πŸ˜‰
Clearly, belief is not the same as putting our trust in that thing we say we believe.

That’s a good principle to keep in mind when we look at extra-Biblical encounters with God. Yes, extra-Biblical.

God makes Himself know first in His creation.

Yesterday as I was driving to church, I passed this maple tree in full autumn colors (yes, here in California, we don’t have lots of trees that turn into gold and red and yellow and brown, but the ones we have stay around a long time). As I slowed to admire the beauty, a woman walked by, never looking up, apparently oblivious to the glory swaying over her head. How sad, I thought, that God is so present and people can completely miss Him.

Because of His great love, of course, God went farther, revealing Himself through prophets, His Law, His Word, and His Son.

But that’s not all. He also revealed Himself through dreams and visions and angel visitations. The Bible records any number of these, and we’re especially reminded of them at Christmas time. Angels appeared to shepherds, wisemen discovered the birth of the King of Judea by studying the stars, Mary learned she would become pregnant from an angel, Joseph too, and then he had a dream warning him to take his family and escape to Egypt.

There’s more. The wisemen were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. The Holy Spirit revealed to a man named Simeon that he would not see death until he beheld the Messiah–which he did when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple on the eighth day. More amazing, the Holy Spirit also communicated something to Jesus’s cousin John, while he was still in the womb, and as a not-yet-born baby, he “leaped” when Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth, his mother who was carrying him.

So, yes, God reveals Himself in many ways. Some believe He no longer does so, but I find this position a stretch that doesn’t fit either Scripture or reports from various parts of the world today. From any number of sources, I’ve heard recently of people coming to Christ as a direct result of a dream or vision.

And yet . . .

I think a look at the Apostle Paul’s life in regard to visions might be instructive. Certainly he had an extra-biblical encounter with the living Christ. It’s why he made an about-face and stopped persecuting Christians to become one himself.

He also had a vision of what he referred to as the third heaven, though he left open the possibility that he’d actually been transported there bodily (see 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). But here’s the thing. Paul did not formulate his theology based on his vision.

His encounter with the living Christ was consistent with Scripture. Apparently his vision of the third heaven was not because he made no claims based on that vision–no special standing before God or position in the church, nothing new Christians were to believe or do.

In fact, in his letter to the Colossian church, he was clear that visions were not a sound basis for deviating from Scripture.

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind (2:18 – emphasis mine).

Paul believed in visions. He had them. And yet here he is saying that things not consistent with Scripture–self-abasement and the worship of angels–were not to become part of the practice of the church simply because someone had a vision that said those applications should be included. Visions weren’t enough of themselves to become the basis of doctrine.

That’s a good rule of thumb, I think, and a means of escaping much false teaching.

CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 3


Without a doubt, the CSFF tour for Book two of the Angeleon Circle, Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, is one of the more controversial ones in some time. How are we to understand angels? Is the book Christian? These are big questions for fantasy readers and Christians. In so many ways the discussion touches at the heart of the Harry Potter debates–but with angels instead of wizards.

My Review

The Story. Trevin, an orphan who used to steal for a living and served an evil lord who tried to assassin the legitimate ruler, is a young man newly trusted by his king to shoulder the role of comain, or protector of the crown and country. The story of his transformation to one so favored apparently is told in the first book of the Angeleon Circle, Breath of Angel.

There are only a handful of comains, and in fact those are missing. The king wishes Trevin to find them, starting first by traveling to the Oracle to receive a sign or prophecy. He also wants Trevin to act as an ambassador to the country in the north, seeking to strengthen or renew their alliance.

The king’s daughter, newly discovered to be the princess (also part of the first book), wants Trevin to help her in a task she believes to be more important than anything the king has asked–a task her mother died trying to accomplish. She wants to find the three kyparis harps and reunite them. This alone will restore the Wisdom Tree and the ladder to heaven, making it possible for the angels trapped on earth to return and renew their work of leading souls of the dead to their destination.

Trevin sets out reluctantly. A prince of their rival kingdom is offering peace if he can but marry the princess–the girl who has vowed to marry no one else but Trevin. But with the good of her land at stake, and the possibility of finding one of the harps in the rival kingdom, how can she refuse?

Trevin determines to find the harps for her, acquire the alliance with the northern kingdom, and a sign from the Oracle, so his king won’t have need of a peace treaty with the rivals. But even if he’s successful, he may be too late. The royal house is preparing for a wedding.

Strengths. The thing that impressed me the most about Eye of the Sword was how interdependent it is upon book one and book three and yet how complete it felt as a story in its own right. Ms. Henley did a masterful job weaving in the details of the previous story–the cause of much of the internal conflict and some of the external conflict of this story.

The main character has clear goals from the beginning, and although he feels overwhelmed, pursues them in a logical, believable way. Unexpected events happen that keep him from achieving what he hoped, but each setback also leads him into further adventure. In other words, I had every reason to cheer him on.

In addition, he has secrets. His past haunts him and even though the girl he loves has forgiven him, he hasn’t told her everything. His struggles with guilt and self-recrimination are believable. They make this character someone I cared about.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but think, this guy needs a Redeemer. He needs his past washed clean. I have no way of knowing if the story will take this kind of direction, but some events mirror elements of a Christian’s new life, so I would certainly not be surprised if this came to the forefront in book three.

The story was fast paced and exciting; the writing was crisp and concise; the characters, flawed but noble.

Weakness. Unlike some of those participating on the tour, I wasn’t looking for overt Christianity in this story because I quickly identified the angels of the Angeleon Circle as not Biblical angels. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting a depiction of God. I wish there hadn’t been one. While there isn’t much, there is one reference to “the Most High” as the β€œfather-mother of the universe.” That one cut too close to false teaching. It’s hard to think of “the Most High” as anyone but God making the description non-Biblical at best–which is pretty bad, to be honest. However, this was an “in passing” reference, and certainly the Most High is not a main player in the story. Consequently, while I cringed when I read that line, it did not become a constant thorn in my reading side.

Recommendations. I loved Eye of the Sword. It’s my kind of fantasy–I think. I do want Christian parallels in Christian fantasy, even though they may not be obvious. I see potential, so I want to give this one the benefit of the doubt because it was well written and exciting. It is, after all, the second third of the entire story, so I have reason to believe there may be more depth to the final installment. Highly recommend to readers who love high fantasy, angels not withstanding. πŸ˜‰

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 3  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 1


Take a look at the cover of Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley. To me it shouts FANTASY! I mean, eye of the sword? Swords don’t have eyes. And look at that character. Long hair, decked out in armor, leather gauntlets–all quite old world or other world.

On the inside, just behind the title page is a MAP! At once, I decided I was in love. I mean, what’s a fantasy without a good map. And this is a good one. But there’s more. Behind the map is a cast of characters. That says “EPIC” to me. I mean, any story that has enough characters to necessitate a list of them to remind you who’s who, in case you might accidentally lose track, has to have a fairly broad scope.

At this point I’ll admit I checked my enthusiasm. The book isn’t thick, so I did a quick check of the page length. Two hundred thirty-three. I’ve read fantasies that are more than twice that size. Was this book being pretentious? I mean, would such a slender volume really necessitate a glossary?

I glanced at the cover again. At the top: “Angeleon Circle, Book Two.” So the cast of characters encompasses an earlier book. Pretentious concern alleviated. But … larger concern, confirmed by another glance at the cast of characters. This book is about angels.

Generally speaking, I don’t like stories that feature angels. They so rarely live up to the Biblical record or else they are flat and unrealistic. Except, I read a terrific angel story earlier this year.

Besides, if I tell concerned readers that wizards such as those in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are imaginative creatures, not the historical and very real beings the Bible warns against, shouldn’t I be willing to consider angels in the same vein? Must they be real in stories? Reluctantly, I set that concern aside and forged ahead.

How happy I am that I did so! A few pages in, and I was engrossed in this story. I’ll give my full review later in the tour, but for now, I wanted to elaborate a little on fantasy angels.

Granted, I haven’t talked to Ms. Henley about this. I should have taken up her offer to do an interview, but since I didn’t I’m left to surmise what she intended. (At her web site she has a page on Angelology which confirms my conclusions, however.) There is so much inventive material in this story, I have to believe the angels of the Angeleon Circle are equally inventive.

First, the map I mentioned shows readers a wholly other world made up of three kingdoms: Eldarra, The Dregmoors, and Camrithia. In this imaginative world, readers learn that a once-existent stairway to heaven has been closed, cutting off a group of angels from returning. Yes, there is a hint of Jacob’s dream of angels in that element, but in the Angeleon Circle, the stairway to heaven emanated from the Wisdom Tree which has been destroyed. This is not Biblical fiction! These angels–not fallen ones–live like men and intermarry with humans. They are trapped, after all, in the Three Kingdoms world.

At any rate, I treated the various types of angels in Eye of the Sword as purely pretend beings, not intended to show readers what real angels are like. As such, I enjoyed the story immensely and could focus on what was happening and what the theme was saying.

Mine is but one view. See what other participating members of the CSFF Blog Tour are saying. Note, the check marks below link to
articles that have been posted featuring Eye of the Sword.

Angel Eyes – A Review


I rarely do reviews apart form blog tours, but from time to time, I make an exception. Angel Eyes is one, and I am so, so happy with that decision. Angel Eyes, officially releasing tomorrow, is the debut novel by Shannon Dittemore.

If you frequent Speculative Faith, Shannon’s name may well sound familiar. Besides being an occasional commenter there, she wrote last Friday’s guest post.

    The Review

The Story. Brielle, short for Gabrielle, is a talented dancer. An opportunity arose for her to study in the city and pursue what she hoped would be her dream job, but tragedy forced her to return to the shelter of her home.

Now, back in the little town where she grew up, she meets Jake, and he helps her to see the world through different eyes. Some of what she sees is glorious, but then there is the sticky black tar of fear. And danger.

OK, I’m keeping it cryptic because I don’t want to spoil the story. The action unfolds like a rose, each petal pushing outward a little at a time until the whole flower is in view. I have no intention of taking your corsage and yanking the petals apart.

Strengths. What isn’t a strength in this book? The language is beautiful, the setting poignantly realistic. The characters are authentic, down to their fears and sacrifices, their motives and heartaches, their hopes and struggles. There is such gentle (the flower image comes to mind again) character development–believable, gradual change that’s revealed through action.

Speaking of action, there’s plenty of it. Some is anchored in the mundane world of the every day, and that is typically teen and interesting. Most of the action, however, involves the interconnection of the here and now with the eternal. I guess you’d have to call this a spiritual warfare book.

That being said, this is one God-glorifying story, consistent with the Bible. It is faithful to Scripture whenever Scripture speaks of such things as you’ll find between the covers of this book.

At the same time, Angel Eyes is imaginative and unpredictable. About the time I thought I knew what the issues were, like Brielle, I found out things weren’t as they appeared to be.

Yes, there is tragedy and sadness and a look at hard things. As both Brielle and Jack acknowledge, sometimes the hero doesn’t make it. But this book faces the hard parts and asks the harder questions. No easy answers here, but thoughtful, truthful ones.

Weaknesses. I don’t really have anything for this section. The worst thing I can say is, the parts from Brielle’s point of view are written in first person, present tense.

Generally I find that voice annoying, and I thought at first this book would be all about teen angst like so many young adult books seem to be these days. It’s sort of the flip side of chick lit–same tense and person but the snarky, flippant tone has been replaced with the cynical, fatalistic tone of youth that has grown up too fast.

In truth the beginning of Angel Eyes had a bit of that tone, but there was more lurking around the edges. In addition there were occasional chapters from other characters’ points of view that gave a different voice. I appreciated the change. And as the story unfolded, Brielle’s voice mirrored her character development. It was masterful. (I told you I didn’t really have anything in “weakness.”)

Recommendation. I hope Frank Peretti endorses Shannon’s next book. He should. She is marvelously contributing to the supernatural/spiritual warfare genre he established with the Darkness books years ago.

Although this book is directed at young adults, all-the-way-grown-up adults can enjoy it just as well. A must read for Christians. I highly recommend Angel Eyes to anyone who loves a good story.

One last thing: keep your eyes on Shannon. I have a feeling you’re going to be hearing a lot about her from now on.

And yes, the publisher provided me with an advance reader’s copy of the book, though I made no agreement to give a favorable review. That was solely my decision.

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm  Comments (6)  
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