Wednesday, May 29, 2013

CSFF Tour - Merlin's Blade Day 2

The CSFF Tour is featuring our own Robert Treskillard and his debut YA novel Merlin's Blade, just released.

I have been excited to read this book ever since I heard that he got his publishing deal. Unfortunately, this month was full of training and certification at work, so I will be reading it a little later in the summer and posting a review at that time. In the meantime, I have arranged for a guest reviewer to share his thoughts on Merlin's Blade.

My twelve year old son Nathan.

He is an avid reader who finished the Lord Of The Rings set and The Hobbit earlier this year. As a young adult who is the target audience, I thought he'd be the perfect stand-in for me and this tour. So here are his thoughts. He's not quite done, but here's his straight forward thoughts.

Merlin's Blade
A stone hypnotizes people and the druids try to use it to control people.  Merlin may be the only person to be able to stop them.
First off I want to say that it has been a very fun book to read.
And I really like the dynamic of Merlin being blind, and seeing him grow as a character because I really like what the author did with him. The fact he is blind makes it a big conflict for him. It’s not something you usually read.
But I do wish that Garth was used more; he seemed to be a fun character.

I also like the romance with Merlin and Natalya, and the relationship with Merlin and his father.
So I really want to keep on reading to find out the secret about the druidow stone.
And I keep on wondering what those visions mean so it’s definitely a book that you want to keep on reading.   

There you go. You can see other tourmates below for more on Merlin's Blade. I'm excited for more to come from Robert.

Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Keanan Brand Jeff Chapman Laure Covert Pauline Creeden Emma or Audrey Engel April Erwin Victor Gentile Ryan Heart Timothy Hicks Jason Joyner Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Nathan Reimer Chawna Schroeder Kathleen Smith Jojo Sutis Robert Treskillard Steve Trower Phyllis Wheeler Shane Werlinger Nicole White

I received a promotional copy from the publisher, for which I'm grateful but will not guarantee a good review. Chocolate on the other hand may help things along...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

CSFF Tour - Merlin's Blade Day 1

Welcome to medieval England for the May feature of the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour. We are featuring our own member Robert Treskillard and his debut YA novel, Merlin's Blade

Robert's been with us a long time, and I've enjoyed interacting with him throughout the years. More importantly, I'm so excited that we are able to feature him after so much hard work.

From Amazon:
In Robert Treskillard's take on the Arthurian legends, young Merlin is faced with the challenge of saving his country and those he loves when a mysterious, and dangerous, stone falls from the sky. 
Partially blinded years ago, Merlin is a timid swordsmith who wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and win the hand of Natalenya, the beautiful and kind daughter of a magistrate. But after he and his friend Garth encounter a strange stone in the wood, one protected by druids, Merlin receives a series of visions and prophecies that he is to save his land and his Christian faith from a dark force. As the power of the stone grows and threatens his family and friends, Merlin is forced to embrace his calling---for he may be the only one immune to the stone's power.
Touching on multiple elements of the classic Arthur story---from the Lady of the Lake, the creation of Excalibur, the sword in the stone, and the rescue of Arthur himself---this fantasy tale will appeal to young adults looking for adventure and a hint of romance, as well as adults who enjoy the classic tale this series is based on.

I'll have more on the book tomorrow, but I want to point you to his blog for a special contest he's having. The grand prize winner gets a sword created by Robert himself. Wow. I might have to learn how to spin cloth or something. Oh, you'll have to see this post for the rules.

You can find more information at his blog or author site, and see my tourmates below for their thoughts as well.

   Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Keanan Brand Jeff Chapman Laure Covert Pauline Creeden Emma or Audrey Engel April Erwin Victor Gentile Ryan Heart Timothy Hicks Jason Joyner Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Nathan Reimer Chawna Schroeder Kathleen Smith Jojo Sutis Robert Treskillard Steve Trower Phyllis Wheeler Shane Werlinger Nicole White

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Is Missional "The New Legalism?"

There's a post from World Magazine making the rounds in Christian circles by Anthony Bradley entitled, "The New Legalism." He wrote it in response to a tweet he sent out that said:
“Being a ‘radical,’ ‘missional’ Christian is slowly becoming the ‘new legalism.’ We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).”
 He goes on to decry the people that call for Christians to live missional lives and to walk in a radical Christianity. He makes a case that it comes from Millenials disdaining the suburbs they were raised in and the narcissistic world we live in now where everyone is special and needs to do grand things for God in order to be fully walking as Jesus walked.

I saw it posted by Mike Duran and Jaime the Very Worst Missionary, both mentioning it as an interesting read. It is a thought-provoking piece, but I think it is a flawed premise that misleads by focusing on a few points in exclusion to the whole context.

There are some areas where I agree with Anthony. I came of age in Christianity in the Charismatic/Third Wave movement of the 80s and 90s. Well-meaning preachers would call us the Joshua Generation (Psalm 24) and proclaim how we would do great things. Prophecies were made (it was Charismatic after all) and I was encouraged that I could be a leader/teacher/missionary and so on. I believed I had a call to missions, and I did two stints with Youth With A Mission in their Discipleship Training School and School of Biblical Studies.

Something happened in Bible school. God told me to get a skill. I went into medicine, thinking it could open doors for the mission field. Except...I got married. Now, I married my best friend who had also been in missions, and she taught school which would be another great tent-making opportunity. Except...we started having kids. And I had school loans. We bought a house.

All of a sudden I was settled down into a suburban life. I went to church on Sundays, tried to establish my career, coached kids in soccer, and wondered when I would get into missions, my real call.

This is where I agree with Anthony. In the Charismatic stream I came from, greatness was the promise we were told God had for us. I could see myself traveling and teaching, ministering in different countries. There was some narcissism there. Prophets never seemed to say, "You're going to live a boring life in the town you grew up in." There was always more suggested.

The problem was that basic commitment to serve the Lord in whatever way He called us. I was always willing to do whatever, or at least that's what I said. Still, I had my idea what that meant, and I struggled when things didn't go that way. If I had a heart for missions, why was I still in the U.S.?

Then last year things were turned upside down in our lives.

We found ourselves in a like-minded group that didn't have expectations of going to a regular church and doing the "typical Sunday things." We asked God what we could do. He gave us the Outreach Saga, where we met locally in the midst of a low-income housing area and worked with people that felt on the outside of church.

In the midst of this upheaval I've started following people like Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch, Francis Chan, and David Platt, people associated with groups like the Verge Conference. Verge talks a lot about missional, radical Christianity. And Anthony wonders if too much pressure is being placed on young Christians, teens and college students, to do something extraordinary in their lives. If they don't do certain things, they aren't being the best Christians they can.

Anthony creates a straw man argument here. Yes, if leaders are telling people that you can only live for God if you do a certain set of things, it is a form of legalism just like the Pharisees. The problem with this is that it is an extreme and not the norm, as far as my perspective goes. I think Anthony has a particular theological slant against David Platt as evidenced by his review of Platt's book. I don't know all of Platt's teachings, so there may be more here than I realize.

However, Anthony's article makes it sound like every Christian is being told by the missional/radical movement should move to the inner city, do social justice and artistic work, and give up worldly possessions to proclaim the gospel.

You know what. Why not?

I think it comes down to being obedient to what God calls you to do. If it is to work in a successful law firm and make money so you can support other ministries and causes, that is great. If it is to volunteer your law skills to help victims of trafficking, great.

Anthony seems to be asking for a corrective. Americans are very into themselves, and I know that some of the theology and teaching/prophecy from my early years tickled my ears more than spoke of true discipleship. But doesn't the church in America need awakening?

I have many friends that give up so much for the sake of the gospel. I have other friends that love God but segment their lives and don't live in the fullness I believe God has for them. They travel out of town to a large, fancier church with a gifted teacher as the pastor to worship and get fed...and that's it. I know they go there so it can be no muss, no fuss. They don't have to get involved with the church, because it is large and they are anonymous. They don't have to get in the midst of people's messy lives if they don't want to.

I fear this is a large segment of American Christianity. Thus I believe a call to discover missional living, where people are intentional in all they do in order to be used for the Kingdom, is sorely needed. I see the need for Christians to be called to "radical" Christianity. The issue is that it shouldn't be radical in the first place - it should be common-place of a disciple of Christ.

The intro to Anthony's article states:
Is Paul’s urging to live quietly, mind your own affairs, and work with your hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11) only for losers? Do you feel that you’re wasting your gifts if you “settle” into an ordinary job, get married early and start a family, or live in a small town or suburb?

I did struggle with this for a time. I knew God was an extraordinary God, and I wondered if I was missing out. I was faithful serving in my local church, and walked with Him the best I could. Slowly I realized there are seasons of testing or training, and there are seasons of adventure. I knew in my head that we are all missionaries wherever we are, but now I am living it in my heart as I work among the people at the housing complex. I don't have to travel or speak to large groups. I am allowing God to use me to target a small, specific group of people, and it is right where I am supposed to be. I don't worry about not fulfilling my call, because I know I am now.

God can use us in so many ways. But "living quietly" in the above verse also must be alongside "take up my cross and follow Me."

I'm glad I read the article. It sharpened my thinking in this arena. But I disagree with the premise that a missional or radical emphasis is inherently legalistic. My blog is called Spoiled For The Ordinary. We may live an "ordinary" life. But our God is anything but ordinary, and I believe all Christians would do well to see the crazy love He gives us and then go and do likewise. 

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Special Offer From Frank Viola

Hey, I've been following a lot of stuff by Frank Viola in the last year, and I've been tremendously blessed by his work. His latest book just came out. Check out below for more information and a special offer if you order it before May 7th.
Frank Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, has just released. If you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also receive 25 FREE books from over 15 different authors.
Click to ordering information and easy instructions on how to get your 25 free books.
“In Frank Viola’s hands, the story of Lazarus—like Lazarus himself—once again comes to life. In a world where hope is battered and life can so easily beat down the human spirit, we are reminded once more of the possibility of becoming a host of Life.”
John Ortberg, pastor and author of Who Is This Man?
God’s Favorite Place on Earth realigned my heart toward Jesus and His mysterious, confounding, surprising, beautiful ways. It’s not often I learn something new when reading a book, but Frank Viola’s sharp storytelling and insightful interpretation made me hunger for more of the real Jesus.”
Mary DeMuth, author of Everything: What You Give
“God’s Favorite Place on Earth is the kind of book I’ve discovered I need to periodically find and read. Frank Viola’s pen and voice are consistently both penetrating and trustworthy. Beyond his invitingly beautiful writing skill—which makes reading a joy and a sight-seeing tour that brings God’s Word into 3-D when he relates narrative passages, I’m grateful for the depth of his themes.”
Pastor Jack Hayford, Chancellor of The King’s University, Los Angeles
“This is a masterfully engaging book that distills the vision of the Christian life into one focused quest: To be God’s favorite place on earth today. I recommend this little volume to all Christians and Christian leaders.”
Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker
“Combining masterful storytelling, historical knowledge, biblical insight and practical wisdom, Frank artfully uses the Gospels’ depiction of Lazarus and the small town of Bethany to lay out a beautiful and compelling vision of a God who longs to make every human heart and every church ‘His favorite place.’ This is a beautifully written, timely, prophetic work all would benefit from reading!”
Greg Boyd, pastor and author of Benefit of the Doubt
“A lot of people write books, Frank writes stories and in this one we once again see why he’s such a master. Honored to call him a friend, excited to call him an author I love to read.”
Jon Acuff, bestselling author of Start, Quitter, and Stuff Christians Like 
“Frank Viola surpasses himself in his best book yet—a work of serene, soaring magnificence. Part novel, part biography, part theology, part Bible study, Frank’s imaginative touch and command of prose haiku leaves the reader resolved more than ever to be a Bethany—God’s favorite place on earth.”
Leonard Sweet, Drew University, George Fox University,
“Reading God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola, my soul began to burn from Chapter One. To delve into Lazarus’ heart and thoughts … I received a beautiful glimpse into the life of Christ on earth. Lazarus’ stories make a perfect foundation for God’s truth, God’s intimacy. I can’t wait to share this book!”
Tricia Goyer, USA Today best-selling author of 35 books
“In spite of my Ph.D. in Theology, I had never considered the importance of Bethany in the life of Jesus.”
Phil Cooke, media consultant and author of Unique
“The best thing I can say about Frank Viola is this: When I read his books—and I read them all—I don’t think much about Frank Viola. I think about Jesus. And I learn to love Him more. This book is no different. Read it, and you’ll find yourself thinking, if you’re like me, ‘I knew Jesus was great, but… Wow!’ And that, at least from me, is as good as it gets.”
Brant Hansen, Radio personality and blogger 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Write Now

Ah, the best laid plans.

I've been trying to do Monday and Wednesday posts on the blog. They haven't worked out that well lately.

I'm looking at how to work that out. Today I wanted to give a little blurb about how my fiction project is progressing.

I am almost done with my second revision. I have to write a new chapter and revise two more and then I'll have finished. My plan at this point is to find a freelance editor to go over it and help me refine it more. Hopefully there will be enough time to do a third revision before I go to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis in September.

If you don't see me around here, I'm working on writing. Like, right now. Write now? I'm getting a little confused...