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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 

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Saturday, 12 January 2019

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Sunday, 6 January 2019

The Homecoming Tree by Bruce Hennigan


Roy Anderson is about to make the worst decision of his life and leave his family for selfish reasons on Thanksgiving day, 2001. But, thanks to the prayers of his son, an angel sends Roy back in time to 1941 with no memories. There, he will experience the true meaning of family, sacrifice, love, and commitment when he is taken in at the Collinsworth boarding house. For a U. S. Army Corps pilot, Frank Collinsworth has not been heard from since the attack on Pearl Harbor and the family waits anxiously to see if he will return home by Christmas. Daniel, the younger Collinsworth, must decide if he will have to become the man of the house while everyone prays around the Homecoming Christmas Tree for his father’s return. Will Roy revert to the ruthless businessman he has become, or will his time spent with the Collinsworth family give him a second chance?

The Guru's Review: 


Bruce Hennigan has a new fan! This is the first novel by this author I have now read. I have 4 of his other novels in The Chronicles of Jonathan Steele waiting to be read. Having now read The Homecoming Tree, I am very impressed with Hennigan's writing, his imagination and his spiritual elements.

I was taken by the description on Amazon when I saw it was about to be novelised from the play version, I contacted the author on Facebook and asked if there would be a kindle version. He stated there would be in the near future and based on this, I volunteered to review it for him. I was sent a review copy for my Kindle but ended up buying it when the Kindle version was released.

I added this novel to the Christmas fiction list that I now read every December. I can see that this novel has the potential to become a Christmas classic and there is one movie that was brought to mind while reading this that it is similar to, and that is, "It's A Wonderful Life" (released in 1947). Despite having only seen only snippets of this movie, I picked up the similar plot lines, themes and the way of life depicted in the 1940s. Then at the end of the novel, Hennigan confirms this in his notes after the novel's ending that this movie was the inspiration for this novel. While I am not a fan of the movie, (I cannot take to Jimmy Stewart and that style of movie), I reckon The Homecoming Tree would make a great movie and one I would enjoy watching in that era!

This novel has an interesting and unique evolvement. It started out as a play called "The Night Gift". In it, a character, Mr Collinbird, was introduced and later became the character of Daniel Collinsworth in this novel. The Night Gift had Mr Collinbird tell of his most memorable Christmas where he told a very poignant story of being thirteen and going into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree because his father had not yet returned from the attack on Pearl Harbor. It proved to be one of the most powerful scenes in The Night Gift.

What followed was testimonies from Veterans for the poignancy of the plotline involving Pearl Harbour especially from one of them who was a Pearl Harbor veteran. Another was from a lady whose brother died at Pearl Harbor and she had been angry at God over his death. The play allowed her to say goodbye to her brother and find peace with his death and God for the first time since.

Hennigan's friend, Larry Robison then asked when would he be telling the story of the boy who cut down the Christmas tree. It was the events in Hennigan's life that followed from this request that formed the basis of the foundation for the telling of Mr Collinbird's story that became this novel but it is too long here to account but I encourage every reader to read these details in the Preface of the novel. These details outline that this novel is based on real events both personal, family and otherwise. It culminated in The Homecoming Tree being performed as a play in November 2005 to a "fabulous reception" and then the author spent from then until now to release it in October 2018 as a novel with some changes from the play.

On this latter point, I am so glad he did. Now this story is able to get a wider audience who will be exposed to the miraculous nature of God, the power of prayer, the affirming nature and importance of family and its dynamics that lead to a stable well-functioning society. Hennigan set this play and novel in this war-torn era as it was after WWII that everything changed from this standard. Hennigan states in the Preface that he set it in this era for the story to be

"....a breath of fresh air. This story reminds us of a time when good and evil were clearly defined; when sacrifice meant something far different from having to turn off your cell phone during dinner, when men and women rose to the challenge of ridding this world of the heinous evil of totalitarianism and genocide. It is a story of the "Greatest Generation," and I have learned much from that story. I hope you do too."
All those elements Hennigan has embedded in this story arcs. It is very noticeable and you can see how different the way of life was compared to this modern age. Successful authors recreate the era and time of the novel's time period and transport the reader there where they feel part of this setting. I definitely felt like I was there and could quite easily identify with the attitudes and behaviour of the people despite my birth being 20 years later. Like Daniel, I imagined myself as a superhero and used to play out scenes from comics and the TV shows (although there was no TV depicted in this era in this novel as this was introduced in 1948 in America).

From Hennigan's quote above, I could see another reason why he set this play and novel in the 1940s. It has to do with the spiritual climate and attitude of Americans (and probably other parts of the world too). Belief in God was more prevalent and practised in life prior to WWII. Hennigan explains in the Final Note at the back of the novel,

Someone asked me why I didn't put a more direct Christian message in this play.....I didn't have to. In......1941, the vast majority of American citizens believed in a God who had direct control of their lives and the events that were unfolding around the world. Rather than wonder where God was, they prayed to God to intervene and bring peace to the world. Prayers were said around the dinner table every night in millions of homes across the country. Entertainers routinely appealed to the intervention of God and His goodness and mercy in their radio programs, movies and personal appearances. We were a country steeped in reverence to the God of the Bible.
Things have changed. Belief in God is an exception, not the rule. Mention of God is no longer allowed in public places, and we are in danger of losing the name of God in all of our government documents, historical and current.
Hennigan's message behind the play and now the novel is from the same Final Note, 
....as you enjoy The Homecoming Tree, try and recall a time when it was okay to believe in God. A time when it was ok to talk about God and pray to (Him) in public. We need more heroes for God now than ever before in the history of this great country.
This heartfelt sentiment is not just that, we need to see it as a wake-up call not just for America but worldwide.

I can see readers becoming endeared to Frank, Ann Lee and Daniel Collinsworth, Ray Castle, these being the main characters while the opposite being true for Esau and Lazarus Cheatwood. The former representing the good of this era and the latter two being the evilness and typical of the evil that was taking over society's standards at that time and one that has only continued and gained more footing and influence in this modern age and becoming the norm.

Despite the evilness and the deceptiveness of Esau and Lazarus and the nefarious scheme that would adversely affect the Collinsworths, I found their antics rather comical! Not sure if this was intentional on Hennigan's part but they reminded me of two bumbling wanna be thieves who believe they will hit the jackpot from their efforts far and above anyone else in the past and who will use the War to further their cause including the disappearance of Frank Collinsworth.

But this story is not just about these two characters. Running alongside and with this plot arc is the effects on the Collinsworth family as they attempt to deal with the disappearance of Frank, notably how Daniel deals with his father's absence. It is here that Hennigan interweaves the theme about the Homecoming Tree, being the man of the house in the absence of his father, about honour, respect and sacrifice. It is also about Ray finding out who he is, why he has been transported back in time, and mentally and spiritually fighting the Shadowman (his alter ego being and a link to who he used to be, one who was corrupt, selfish, deceptive and destructive who has lost all respect for himself, his wife, his son and his business) and one whom God has sent back to this era for him to realise what being an honourable man is, father and businessman is and then to chose which man he will be in the future.

It is also about how a country prepares and reacts to their inevitable entry into a war they were reluctant to enter but whose hand was forced when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

All these elements intersect to make for one intriguing and engaging story that pulls on you on all levels.


You want to see how Daniel copes with his father's absence, does he give up hope that his father is alive, does he live up to his father's heritage and legacy to become the man of the house, does he allow himself to go through this coming of age tradition by chopping down the tree planted by his father at his birth and it to become their Christmas tree. It is here that this tradition takes on a deeper and more significant meaning and a symbol of hope for his father's return for Christmas.

You want to see if Ray/Roy finds out who he is, does he overcome the Shadowman, does he learn the lesson that God has set for him by returning him to this era, does he choose the man he wants to be from what he has learnt from living in 1941 and suffer or benefit from the consequences of this decision? Does he learn about family, love, integrity and loyalty?

You want to see if Esau Cheatwood succeeds in deceiving the Collinsworth family and achieving the rewards of his nefarious scheme. You want to see if justice will prevail even in this innocent era before a society-changing war that will see life take on a path of no return. Will the Collinsworth family stand up to the Cheatwoods and defend their family values and their faith?

You want to see if Roy is the man you hope he chooses to be when God returns him to the present time. Will his son's prayer to restore him have been answered? Who really is Mike in the future and Mickey of 1941?

Once all these questions are established by the second half of this novel, you cannot give up reading, you have to see this novel through to the end. And it is very rewarding and satisfying. All the loose ends, plot arcs are tied up very well, and there are some plot twists towards the end as Hennigan skillfully does this. It is a great ending. It resulted in me having tears of joy, of victory over evilness, of who God is, how all things work together for the good of those who love God; for those who are called according to His purpose.

Hennigan provides the headlines of the era covering what was newsworthy in the various areas of life in 1941 at the beginning of each chapter. I could relate to some of it as these were part of my upbringing, even 20 years or more later. I especially loved the inclusion of the song, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" by the Andrew Sisters. My mother had this song on a special Reader's Digest compilation collection and I was hooked as a teenager when she bought this collection. I still love this song, an iconic song of WWII! These headlines not provide more of the background of the current history of the era but add credibility and a realistic quality to this era. Great insights into how life was then. I loved Hennigan's inclusion of other background information on some of the War events that he describes in the novel. Some poetic licence has been added for the story. It would enhance the enjoyment for the reader to read all of these appendices that contain the information regarding the history of Shreveport (in the section called Sources), Afterword which contains details of the inaugural play of The Homecoming Tree, list of facts about life in 1941, research on the town of Shreveport's role in the War effort. 


This is a great novel and one I will fondly look back on. It would be worthwhile re-reading this again. Hennigan shows a great passion for the supernatural acts of God, the Gospel of Christ and not comprising our faith or anything relating to God.

Hennigan is now an author to follow and support. 


Highly Recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building: 5/5

Characters: 5/5

Story: 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level: 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level: 3/5

Overall Rating: 4.4/5

To buy or preview this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icon below:

Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Epic of Marindel: Chosen by Nathan Keys

Chosen.

Long ago, the Kingdom of Marindel governed the realm with justice and harmony. But when a great evil was unleashed, the Era of Peace came to a tragic end. Thousands of years passed, and Marindel was all but forgotten. Conner, a young farmer with a wild imagination, always longed for adventure. When strange events cause him to realize his role in the greatest story of all, Connor embarks on a quest to rescue the Great King's daughter for a wicked sorcerer whose darkness grows with every passing day.

Connor is joined by Tarento the Samurai, and a company of colorful characters. Together they will travel across the realm, uncover the mysteries of Marindel, and face unimaginable odds as they fight to survive. Will they discover the hope of redemption before it's too late? 

The Guru's Review: 

I discovered this author and his novel from his GoFundMe advert on my Facebook feed. When I read the campaign, the blurb for the novel, and the Vision he has for it, I was very impressed. This encouraged me to review it for him so I contacted him for a review copy. 


I am so glad I volunteered to do this. After reading this novel, I am more than impressed. It is described as epic fantasy and it definitely lives up to this description. It is one of those novels where you become so engrossed you are lost to reality and have a hard time returning to this.

The more I read this novel, the more it reinforced the first impression I had and that was WOW! I was hooked and immersed in this world Keys creates. It became a highlight of my day to return to reading it.

For a debut author, this is novel is very well constructed. Not perfect (no novel is), but has a solid foundation. At the time of writing this review, Keys' manuscript needs a professional edit, hence the GoFundMe campaign. This will no doubt improve the manuscript and enable a much-improved and enjoyable reading experience. 


It does not take you long to become immersed in the plot, the characters and the action. All are firmly intertwined. Connor, the main character, is one you centre on and become endeared to. And I guess, you should as he is the main character and everything centres on him until at least he is introduced to his quest of finding Melody and helping her be restored to the Great King. Then everything is expanded and the reader gets a wider view of the plot, much like a camera pans out during a movie shoot and the viewer sees a much wider view.

It is from here that this novel really takes off. And it is here that Keys introduces more of the superb world building of the realm this novel is set in. Fantasy and science fiction will fall flat if there is not any depth and a firm foundation for the world-building to manifest as credible and realistic. Keys have mastered this well. Even if part of his inspiration has come from The Lord of the Rings, he has done it well and it undergirds this novel well and for the rest of the series.

This world-building consists of a pronunciation of the many names of the various parts of the realm, the character names, and those of the various events and histories. There is a map of the realm which I found very beneficial. A timeline is explained and applied to each chapter. The prologue sets the stage at the beginning of the novel where Connor is introduced to his quest to restore Melody to the Great King. Keys shines describing the history of the Great King, His undersea world, his son Eli, the special powers and gifts He has bestowed on Melody. Keys describes the various histories of the different kingdoms outlining their origin and the characteristics of their people including any special powers they have. It is a good depiction here that Keys has a member from each of these kingdoms as part of the team the Great King assembles to restore Melody to Him, defeat the Serpent and evangelise the realm about the Great King and His Son, Eli and restoring the Kingdom of Marindel. This means that each of the team has a special ability, talent or power to be used in the quest. It becomes clear that as the Great King has brought them together for this, these attributes are not based on the dark arts or originate from the Serpent but as a normal part of the creation of these people by the Great King. The only exception is the Offspring of Sisesa as these originate from the Serpent.

Another part of this world building is the histories of the kingdoms in this realm. This is explained in the accounts of how the Great King led each team member to become part of Connor's company. While this adds length to the novel (it is 500 plus pages), it does also add depth and much-needed background to the plot and to what defines these characters and what they contribute to the King's quest to restore Marindel and Melody.
 

The account of The Great Story is another important history. This describes the kingdom of Rhema set up by Melody as a utopia but became corrupted by her pride leading to her pronouncing herself as its Queen. It is here that the Great King sends Eli to this kingdom and it is a wonderful allegory of the Gospel message including the Crucifixion and God's plan of salvation. Keys has depicted this beautifully and his writing of it is superb. Despite its length, it is a necessary part of the plot and placed in the second half of the novel, it builds and adds to the finale of this instalment, laying important themes that will be developed and explored in future instalments of this series. It here in this account that Keys shines in the use of allegory but this is also evident in many other parts of the novel. Keys has definitely depicted Eli as the Jesus of the Bible and for me, this was very convincing. Keys has portrayed the Jesus I have read and experienced from the bible. I imagine that any author depicting Jesus in their novel would find this a challenging feat. Keys has succeeded well here and has done this with ease!

The spiritual aspects of this novel are very unique. I have not read a novel where there is a direct interaction from God to the characters. The Great King speaks directly into the minds of his followers and even to those who do not know Him yet. With the former, it is to give further instruction to thwart the attempts of the various antagonists, namely the Serpent and those under his control and to encourage, uplift their faith and relationship with Him and with the latter, it is to draw them to Him. Keys also has the believers respond freely to the Great King's interaction. I found this direct interaction between the Great King and His followers a breath of fresh air. It resonated with me that this is how our relationship with God should be. We should be and need to be free with Him in our prayer and relationship with Him. We are encouraged as Christians in our prayer relationship to speak to God as if we are talking to a fellow human, so Keys does this well here. How many times do we complicate this by thinking and speaking to impress Him or to hide what we are really feeling, the good, the bad and the ugly? This is not what we should be doing or need to be doing.

Keys has included two members of the Trinity, the Great King as God the Father, and Eli as God the Son. I at first considered that the Spirit of God could be construed as the voice of the Great King speaking in the minds of the "Christian" characters but the more I read these instances, the more it is apparent that it is the voice of the Great King and not of the Spirit of God. I hope that the Spirit of God is included in future novels in this series. So far we have the allegory of these two members of the Trinity so it would seem appropriate to have the third as we have in real life. 


For those characters who have accepted Him as their King and Saviour, there is no sinner's prayer that so many of us are used to in our conversion. Keys has made it so simple that they just need to believe Him to be who He says He is and call on Him or his name for salvation. This is similar to the many Bible references that support this that to be saved, you need to call on the name of the Lord and to believe He is who He is. In this novel, this is tied back to the Great Story that outlines Eli's mission to draw Melody to Himself and was willing to die for her, despite her many flaws and rebellion through her disobedience to the King. Here Keys' allegory has Melody's rebellion representing sin and Melody representing fallen/sinful mankind. When Eli died and was resurrected He then extended this saving grace to everyone and not just Melody. 

These redemptive features are counterbalanced by the allegorical symbolism of evilness so well described and depicted through the character of the Serpent. I am sure readers will grow to despise and dislike him and the level of his despicableness, evilness and deceitfulness. Keys has done a great job here seeing as the Serpent represents Satan and his rebellion against God. What Keys has not shown is the backstory as to why the Serpent was imprisoned in the area of the Castle that we are introduced to at the beginning of the novel. This needs to be explained and will make a great plotline in a future instalment. It is the only plot line that is left undone.  

One other aspect that Keys has done well is the characterisation. These are characters that you can relate to and become endeared to including rooting for them in their quest. Keys successfully develops this team not only through the events and obstacles they have to overcome but through their interactions and how they get to know each other that then develops into their relationships. Keys have depicted the team with diverse personalities, each with different gifts and abilities and this adds to the team building and dynamics.

These characters are very memorable. I am looking forward to journeying with them in future novels in this series and seeing how they all develop further as a team and individually and how the Great King will transform them more into His likeness as the Bible instructs. There is already the beginnings of this in this volume.

This novel is yet another that has a profound effect on me and meets the criteria I like to see in Christian fiction. This is from the "Why Christian Fiction?" tab of this blog: 


Generally, I hope at the end of the novel: 

  • it has entertained me immensely, 
  • it has encouraged my walk with God, 
  • it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • it honours God, 
  • it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God). 
I applaud Keys for including all the elements in this novel that I have mentioned throughout this review. It is such a joy to read! For a debut novel, he has done well in all its aspects and allowed the Spirit to be present.

I pray that Nathan will succeed in his GoFundMe campaign to have this novel edited to a professional level and a suitable publisher. This novel needs to be published and for its message to be delivered as the Spirit sees fit.


Highly Recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5

Overall Rating: 4.6/5

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Epic of Marindel: Chosen contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, (click on the title below to see what this is based on), I bestow unto Nathan Keys with the

Reality Calling Christian Redemptive Fiction Award



Congratulations, Nathan!

If this review and description have piqued your interest in this novel, please consider contributing to the GoFundMe campaign so it can be professionally edited and published for you to be blessed on many levels like I have. I have contributed to this campaign.


Click on the link below: 


Sunday, 16 December 2018

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor by Patrick Higgins

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor

What if angels really did come from the most unlikely of places? That’s exactly what happens in this heartwarming story, set in a homeless community in Anywhere USA. Sent to Planet Earth by his Maker, disguised as a homeless person, Enoch was on a mission: to rescue a man whose life was slowly but steadily spiralling out of control. Inspired by Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it,” this story will stir your soul like never before, guaranteed!

The Guru's Review: 

I bought this novel two years ago after the author recommending it to me after reading one of his other novels. The description inspired me to not only buy it but start my own Christmas fiction "collection" and that I would read in this genre during December every year. I have read in many genres and this was one that I had not. For the past two years, I had intended to read during December and every year I mentioned to the author that I would do so! But as we all experience, our plans get re-directed or changed. Life gets in the way! This is the third December that I have only read Christmas fiction during this month. This year, I was determined to read the novel that started this new trend in my reading.

Since then, I have read some wonderful, inspiring, uplifting and award-winning Christmas fiction. And I applaud the Christian authors who write in this genre. I have never been blessed so much regarding the true meaning of Christmas and the Gospel and it has definitely challenged and strengthened my faith in God. 

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor is now the novel that has challenged me and blessed me the most out of all the Christmas fiction I have read over the last 2 years. 

This is a truly Spirit-filled story! It is powerful on many levels. The reader will be challenged, convicted, outraged, disgusted and infuriated. This is written by one author who is very much focused on God and is under His direction and guidance. Higgins shows an in-depth understanding of what it means to be homeless and society's attitude and behaviour towards it and to those who are. Maybe what is more shocking in this regard is how some Christians take this attitude to the next level of judgement and disapproval and appear worse than those who do not know Jesus. It was here and the scenes that depicted this that both challenged and infuriated me. I have seen similar in my church life in both these two areas. And it is here that Higgins allows the Spirit of God to challenge the reader, especially those who are Christian to check their attitude and see in what areas of their mind and heart they need to change and have it replaced with the heart of God.

Higgins depicts the various aspects of the Christian's attitude and behaviour through the members of the Jensen family and their church family. Lydia, the mother is the one who shows more of the heart of God in her discernment of the attitude towards Enoch, the homeless man who attends church and of those in the Church who display such a judgemental and disapproved attitude towards him. What struck me here, with Lydia's character was that this is reflective of the fact that women are more spiritually sensitive to men so it did not surprise me that Higgins depicted her this way seeing that her husband had lost his focus on God and had allowed himself to be spiritually oppressed by humanistic attitudes of those around him and the influence of his upbringing.

We have one of Lydia's friends who has no direct contact with Enoch but who shy away from her because of her interaction with Enoch and how this makes her feel uncomfortable. We have the couple who contribute large sums of money to this megachurch who "evict" Enoch from the front row of the church solely due to their exaggerated importance and the fact that they believe vagrants have no place in the church. We have the ushers who are seemingly powerless to act on their own and follow the "orders" of this couple in placing Enoch at the back of the church. I related to Lydia's reaction to these people and events as she questions if she was really in the House of God and that her church family were not behaving as if they have the heart of God towards Enoch. I was saddened, disappointed, and infuriated here more than she was!


This novel has been criticised for its long sections of preaching by the character Enoch. I have come across this many times in novels, but I cannot understand the validity of this criticism. If the reader, Christian or not, wants to be just entertained, then they have chosen the wrong novel. Not all Christian novels solely entertain. Most Christian authors write because they have a message from God that He has encouraged them to include into their novels. This novel is a classic example.

I found these "long" sections of "preaching" necessary to the very essence of this novel. Sure, it did seem as if the plot and pace were on temporary hold while Enoch discussed with John about his spiritual state, what it meant to be homeless, the spiritual aspects towards this, and how he tied it all in with the heart of God. It is here that this novel is powerful and packs a great impact. I was challenged, inspired, encouraged and convicted during these instances of long narrative. It is this that I find and welcome in Christian fiction that it has this effect on the reader to not just entertain, but to minister more of who God is, how we are to live out the Gospel and be a willing vessel for His use to a hurting and fallen humanity. Higgins shines here. I was awestruck at how he composed these sections. The author may have been writing but the Spirit of God was speaking in these narratives. If the reader has a teachable spirit, then this novel will impact and influence them greatly. It will change the reader's heart and mind toward this topic of homelessness, hopelessness and how Christians judge and disapprove of anything that places us outside our comfort zone or especially when their heart attitude and behaviour is contrary to what and how the Spirit and the Bible encourage and instruct us to live. But what breaks through here is the message of hope, redemption and restoration that only God can provide. 


The way the author depicted this through Enoch, Lydia, Matthew, John, Grace and even the homeless characters was brilliant. I came to love the latter, Leroy, Suzie, Rocky, Troy, Dillon, Pedro, Wanda, Tiwanna and by the end of the novel, I had stopped seeing them as homeless and hopeless but as people who are not defined by their homelessness or their circumstances but as people who are striving to be more than this. It was a classic example of how the Spirit works in and through us, however different we are to each other and how He is able to work all this together to achieve His aim of breaking down barriers and attitudes that close us off from the situations others are in and our response to them so He can have His way and save us from our sin.

Spiritually, Higgins is spot on with his inclusion of biblical theology and doctrine as depicted through Enoch. One could view the counsel of Enoch as true biblical counselling especially in his dealings with John's spiritual state. It really does show that the work of the Spirit is the correct way here as long as the person affected has a teachable spirit and has no hardness of heart and wants to change. I was so impressed with Higgins' dealing with this issue, his knowledge of the Bible and how he applied all this to the specifics of John's emotional, mental and spiritual state.

I loved the narrative of Enoch about the biblical references of the Nativity and accounts of Jesus' birth. Again, Higgins ties this exceptionally well together into a cohesive "story". I found this to be an effective Bible study on its own.


I need to make mention of the character of Enoch. Yes, that Enoch, the Biblical Enoch! If Enoch is anything like Higgins has depicted him, I can hardly wait to meet him in Heaven! So many times, I kept thinking, "Is this really Enoch, or is it, Jesus?" I would not have been surprised if it was Jesus! So Christ-like was Enoch! It really impressed upon me how much I would love to attain the many behaviours he had developed from his relationship with God. Higgins has depicted him as seeing clearly, figuratively speaking, in full understanding and knowledge now he is with God and this is a great encouragement for us to cherish once we are united with God in Heaven. 

As with any novel, or most, the plot has been developed to reach a peak where all the plot arcs come to a head, where everything is tied up for the ending. This novel has a very satisfying finale. It is uplifting, inspirational, emotional and joyous. I cried for such a long time. Not only for the joyous ending but for the way this novel has changed me, for what the Spirit of God has impacted on my heart and challenged me in my relationship to others and to Him. I came out of this with such a worshipful attitude and a sense of gratefulness and thankfulness for what He has done for myself and mankind.

Looking back on this novel, it is evident that to write such a story like this, the author has to be in tune with the Spirit and to also be writing what he lives. I am so encouraged by Higgins as a man of God and author. This is one novel that will have a special place in my library and in my heart. 

Highly Recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Unannounced Christmas Visitor contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-filled  Fiction outlined in this booklet, (click on the title below to see what this is based on), I bestow unto Patrick Higgins with the

Congratulations, Patrick!

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Friday, 30 November 2018

Primordium (Prophecy of the Heir, Book 1, Chronicles of Time Saga) by J.C. Lamont


Plotting the overthrow of a power-hoarding King, Commander Haylel trains the Malakim in the art of war…until an omen forewarns that his fate rests in the loyalty of his favored lieutenant, Michael. Wielding a sword that can slay an immortal, Haylel must decide whether to remain subordinate to an oppressive tyrant or kill Michael and usurp the throne. 

Biblical fiction reads like fantasy in this high-stakes drama where a Prince gives up his immortality to be killed by the one he loves, a King must slay his son in order to ransom his daughter, and a warrior is forced to decide between protecting mortals or upholding his allegiance to the crown.

The Guru's Review: 

The author asked for readers to provide feedback so I jumped at this opportunity. I have been following her updates for this saga for years on Facebook. 

From her background as a literary apologist, I knew that the novel would be epic. She has definitely achieved this. With the plot based on the Genesis account of Lucifer's rebellion against God, this epic status works well. I know the author has researched this novel extensively. Lamont has then applied it in such a way that it forms part of a strong foundation for the plot to unfold. The appendices at the end of the novel show the sources and extent of her research. Her explanatory notes of these are invaluable and enable the reader to understand and appreciate this novel better. The included definitions and terminology are worth referencing either during the read or once finished reading. As much as I love poetic licence, having research content that forms the basis for worldbuilding makes for a better constructed and credible plot and overall enjoyable reading experience. 

There are some novels in this genre that seem to be superficial, lacking detail and appear to be solely an array of chronological events outlining the Biblical account. Rather dry and unappealing. Not so with the world building that Lamont has created. I can only compare this to one other author who has done this well and that this Donovan Neal's The Third Heaven: The Rise of Fallen Stars. Yet, this comparison is only from that novel as I have not read the other two novels in Neal's series. Both of these authors have done this genre/theme justice. Both of them show their passion for this theme in their writing. Both have remained faithful to the Biblical account of this rebellion depicting it in an entertaining way. Any poetic licence from both does not detract from the Biblical account but actually supports it in this fictionalised platform. Being faithful to the Biblical account would, therefore, demand this.

Lamont's worldbuilding is extensive. It forms another part of this strong foundation. It is all engrossing. It keeps you coming back for more and to keep reading. This is also not due to the action and suspense of the plot, which is another pillar of this novel. I found this novel much more than just engaging fiction. Lamont's motivation for this novel seems to shine here, to quote her, 
"......Years later, after accidentally discovering the God of love in the pages of the Old Testament, I bought a Bible and read it in 6 months. Reading it that fast made me realize it was ONE story, and a love story at that. Wanting others ot discover this same truth, I've spent the last 15 years researching and writing The Chronicles of Time, a fantasy inspired version of the Bible that reflects how I now see it — a suspenseful, action-packed, battle-ridden love story."
and from Appendix A,
“The intent of this novel… is to show that coincidences between the biblical account and the archaeological, historical, and scientific evidence are far too numerous to be discounted as myth by people of sound reasoning.”
The development of Lucifer's empire once banished to Earth was impressive. It was almost comical his efforts to interact with the corporeal world, this made me chuckle somewhat! But Lamont shows him to have mastered and manipulated physics, genetics and crossed other boundaries to create an evil empire to deliberately thwart, mock and imitate all the things of God that he has been deprived of wrongly (in his view). If he cannot rule in Heaven, then he would rule on Earth and subjugate everything under him. 

Infused and underpinning this empire is his arrogance, pride and deceptiveness. It is his motivating force. It overtakes him and defines him. Repentance is not found in him. He believes he has nothing to repent of as he believes his attitude and behaviour are correct and God is an incompetent and finite Being. His pride blinds in seeing God for who He is. His hatred for God's humanity is another motivating force. He sees them as the outcome of God's betrayal of him and his fellow angelic creation. 

I pray that any reader, Christian or not, will see how this arrogance, pride and deceptiveness is also infused in the attitudes and behaviour of man. The Christian would know and identify this as a component of our fallen/sinful nature while the non-Christian may not understand until they identify it as truth and accept the solution outlined in the message of this novel, what this Prophecy of the Heir means; the Heir (Jesus), the Prince in this novel, would die on the Cross as the propitiation of the sin of mankind. Propitiation being, 
the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. It turned away the wrath of God so that He could pass "over the sins previously committed," (Rom. 3:25). It was the Father who sent the Son to be the propitiation (1 John 4:10) for all (1 John 2:2). (CARM/protitiation)
Lamont thoroughly entertains through all the events that outline the training of the angels to warfare, the different methods they use, Michael learning to become the Commander of the warrior angels after Lucifer is banished, how some of the angels become better warriors than others, the angel/scribe Gavriel recording all events and reporting to God.  Also described well are the various creatures that habitat Heaven, the Glass Sea, and the Tree of Immortality.

In other novels whose plot is similar to the war in Heaven and Lucifer's rebellion against God, the authors have depicted the angels getting on very well with each other. In this novel, however, Lamont has added a different dynamic to their relationships. Michael is not trusted by his fellow angels and are wary of him. There is tension between Gavriel and Michael. Michael takes his new position of Commander seriously. However, it seems the final confrontation between the angels and Lucifer turns the tide in the relationship between all of them and Michael (excluding Lucifer, but that is a foregone conclusion!). While I found this a bit much sometimes, it does give the angels a more credible and relational persona. It did not detract at all from the plot or seem out of place. I guess I was just used to the depiction from previous authors where everything was peaches and cream between the angels. 


This novel has had an interesting evolvement. It was originally published as a single volume as Prophecy of the Heir about 6 years ago. The reviews of that first edition are currently on Amazon. Since then Lamont decided to expand the series and revisit this novel as well. Hence this re-release of the novel. This new edition is now called Primordium, Book 1 of Prophecy of the Heir. From her website, Bogging History, she has outlined how the series will be. It is now called Chronicles of Time and will have 5 volumes:

Vol. I: Prophecy of the Heir (4000 BC to 2 BC)
Vol. II: Covenant of Blood (2 BC to 33 AD))
Vol. III: Sacrament of Fire (33 AD to 135 AD)
Vol IV: Hallowing of the Realm (135 AD to 610 AD)
Vol. V: War of the Strongholds (610 AD thru Apocalypse)


Primordium is Book 1 in Volume I: Prophecy of the Heir. The other 3 books will be released over the next 6 months:

Book 2: Unbreakable Vow, January 2019

Book 3: Anathema, March 2019
Book 4: Reckoning May 2019

Volumes II to V will also have other books that make up these volumes. This is shaping up to be one epic series that will be completed over many years to come. 


I always investigate the author's website(s) when I review their novel. I visited Lamont's website, Blogging Hisstory [(yes, spelt correctly, this spelling is a play on the words Blogging History, the extra S making it read as Blogging His Story (God/Jesus' Story)]. This site was a pleasant surprise. Lamont outlines what the Chronicles of Time Saga will be based on and supported by, this being Hermeneutics, the methodology of interpretation (of the Bible). It has two interpretations, Exegesis (the interpreter makes the Scripture says what God has to say) and Eisegesis (the interpreter makes the Scripture says what he believes it says). I became fascinated by this and realise its importance and relevance to both Christian and non-Christian alike. I invited the author to be a guest blogger to discuss this practice. It can be found here.

Having read Primordium, I can now see how Hermeneutics has formed a large part of the foundation for this novel and Saga. It also adds credibility and strength to this foundation as well. This can only enrich this epic tale and it does.

I firmly believe that Lamont has created something compelling, uplifting, educational and very entertaining. 


Highly recommended. 5 Stars.

To buy this novel or investigate it further, click on the image below: 

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Hermeneutics by J.C Lamont

My guest today is JC Lamont talking about Hermeneutics. I invited JC to my blog when I was given a review copy of her novel, Prophecy of the Heir: Primordium (The Chronicles of Time Book 1), released Nov 16, 2018. I was fascinated with her website, where I found she bases all her writings and therefore her novels on Hermeneutics. This topic is something that is very important for all Christians to know and use and it is not just for the serious Bible scholar. It is open to everyone and is a powerful tool to understanding God's Word through its correct interpretation and therefore God's message to us. So without further ado, let JC Lamont impart some of the basics of hermeneutics so you can see how when applied to the Word of God, it can then elucidate the truth of His Word. 

Hermeneutics

So, there is actually a science behind the study of interpretation. It's called: Hermeneutics.

If Hermeneutics is the methodology of interpretation then Exegesis (good) and Eisegesis (bad) are the actual interpretations.

Good Hermeneutics: Exegesis (ex-ih-Jesus): The interpretation of the Bible by way of the original, intended meaning by the author and which ascertains what the original hearers/readers would have understood it to mean.

Bad Hermeneutics: Eisegesis (eyes-ih-Jesus): The interpretation of the Bible by way of doctrinal presuppositions, life experiences, anecdotal testimony, and unconscious biases and prejudices which is ascertained by the subjectivism of the present-day reader.

But....

EVERYONE recognizes that Eisegesis is bad methodology (even if they don’t know the term).

And EVERYONE believes they are right, therefore they MUST be using Exegesis.

Thus, eisegesis is usually relegated to those TV evangelists trying to get your money while they sail away on their yacht. In other words, we are usually taught that those using eisegesis are doing it on purpose.

So you see a lot of definitions of eisegesis such as this:


But that doesn’t explain our list of opposing doctrines, does it? 

Your average Methodist (who believes in free-will) and your average Calvinist (who believes in pre-destination) can't both be right. But neither one is making the scripture say "what he wants it to say."

He's making it say what he honest-to-God believes it says.

So...

It's much fairer to explain it like this:


Let me give you an example that might just blow your mind. Before we go any further, let it be clearly known that I believe that Jesus is:

100% God and 100% Man

So with that understood, let’s look at the titles Son of God and Son of Man in the context of both a Jewish and a Greek cultural.

We’ve heard it preached a million times that the Son of God title speaks of Jesus’ divinity, and the Son of Man title speaks of Jesus' humanity.

(Now remember, I believe in Jesus’ divinity. John 1:1 is probably the clearest verse supporting Jesus’ divinity.)

But…

Son of God in Judaism is NOT a divine title.

Son of God is a divine title in Greek and Roman mythology.

Hercules and Perseus being two well-known examples (of demigods), but let’s take Ares, the god of war, son of the god Zeus and the goddess Hera.

Now realize that you are living in a time where Zeus and Hera are just as real to people as Jesus and God the Father are to you. They weren’t just characters in fantasy movies and TV shows.

If Ares came up to someone and said, “Hear me, Ares, Son of God, fight with me in this war,” he is claiming authority by invoking his divinity.

So it would be completely natural for a Greek or Roman reading the New Testament to come to a conclusion that Jesus’ referencing himself as Son of God meant he was claiming divinity.

Note that the Greek or Roman Christian is not making the text say what he wants it to say for any personal gain or to justify sin – he is simply unconsciously bringing his beliefs (subjective to his culture) to the text.

But in the Old Testament, Son of God is a title for Adam, the angels, David, and then every king after him (son, grandson, and great-grandson, etc of David) until the coming of the Messiah.

So in Judaism, Son of God is a messianic title for the Messiah in His role as King.

This brings us to the Son of Man title.

In Second Temple Judaism, the Son of Man is a messianic title for the Messiah in his role of judge on Judgement Day. Its first mention is in the book of Daniel, as a phrase describing the Messiah in his role of judge. During inter-testament times (the four hundred years between the Old Testament and the New Testament), it was used as a title in the Book of Enoch.

(The Book of Enoch was a very popular book during Second Temple Judaism, and is even quoted by Jesus’ brother in the biblical book of Jude—the last book before Revelation).

You may be asking, if Jesus was 100% God and 100% Man why does it matter if pastors’ preach that the Son of God is a title of divinity and Son of Man is a title of humanity??? Who cares if that’s eisegesis, it’s harmless.

Perhaps.

But you'd miss out on the true meaning of a REALLY kick butt scene: 

Jesus is standing before the High Priest, Caiaphas, on trial for treason and blasphemy. Caiaphas, as head of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court), is questioning Jesus and growing frustrated that witness testimony is too contradictory for him to pronounce a guilty verdict.

Caiaphas: “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?”

Jesus: “I am. And you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds.”

Uh…ok.

That’s a really cool scene? you ask. Jesus’ answer barely even makes sense except for the “I am” part.

Well, let’s put on our Jewish (exegesis) glasses.

We already know Son of God means Messiah as king, and Son of Man means Messiah as judge.

Further study into Judaism would reveal that Christ is the Greek (Gentile) word for Messiah,

And “coming on the clouds” is a Jewish phrase for God’s judgement.

So let’s read that bit of dialogue again.

Caiaphas: “Are you the Messiah, who will one day rule over me as King?

Jesus: “I am. And you will see me again, when, as the Messiah, I am the judge at your trial."

So, if you’re not grounded in Judaism, you miss out on Jesus biotch-slapping Caiaphas. In front of the entire Sanhedrin.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s kick butt cool.


Blogging Hi§tory: What it IS and What it is NOT

This is a journey through history, not just the Bible. And not all history, but history as how it relates to God's over-all redemptive plan for mankind. While the Bible is my FIRST source, and the only source that can be relief upon for 100% accuracy, other ancient texts, archaeological finds, and scientific discoveries are also examined.

It's basically a journey through the first 15 years of research that I did for The Chronicles of Time. In other words, this is the non-fiction counterpart to The Chronicles of Time. So if The Chronicles of Time has whet your appetite for more, this journey is for you.

I am not Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Messianic, or Evangelical.

I am Sola Scripture...with a caveat.

Here are just a few examples of OPPOSING doctrines whose adherents all claim Sola Scriptura:
  • Young Earth Creationism vs Old Earth Creationism 
  • Penal Substitution vs Christus Victor 
  • Infant Baptism vs Repentance Baptism Only 
  • Baptism Required vs Baptism not a requirement 
  • Grace-Only vs Lordship Salvation 
  • Annihilation vs Eternal Torment 
  • Pre-Trib Rapture vs Mid-Trib Rapture vs Post-Trib Rapture 
  • Free Will vs Predestination Premillennialism vs Amillennialism
  • Assuming the Holy Spirit is not schizophrenic, the Bible is not as contradictory as we finite mortals make it out to be. So really, Sola Scripture comes down to interpretation.
So how does one decide whose interpretation is correct?

The following are my personal guidelines for determining accurate interpretation:
  • No interpretation can contradict the CLEAR meaning of any other verse 
  • No New Testament verse can contradict the Old Testament. 
  • All passages must be interpreted through the lens of Judaism* NOT the lens of Greek philosophy (After all, it was written by Jews not Greek philosophers) 
  • All verses and passages must be interpreted through the lens of the culture in which it was written (i.e. Jewish culture, not American culture) 
  • The original intent of the author (and the original interpretation of the hearers) takes priority over later doctrinal biases 
  • No interpretation should be based on a verse(s) or passage taken out-of-context 
  • The interpretation does not require New Revelation (in other words, the correct interpretation was not hidden from the early church fathers and "revealed" in the 1800's or any other time) 
  • The interpretation does not impose a modern or English definition onto the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. 
*That is to say, Second Temple Judaism (also known as Inter-Testamental Judaism), which is not the same as Modern-day / Rabbinical Judaism

There are very few verses where a clear interpretation does not emerge when applying these criteria.

With that being said, who wants to learn about hermeneutics as it is applied to the Word of God...because this absolutely fascinating, action-packed, battle-ridden love story is dying to be told?


If your answer is Yes, then go here for an introduction to Blogging Hi§tory on JC's website, Blogging Hi§tory, then continue here for the first lesson that continues each week. The lessons are not long, just a page almost!
And if you want to see hermeneutics applied to JC's novel, check out the new release Prophecy of the Heir: Primordium (The Chronicles of Time Book 1). Click on the title to buy/preview. Here is the cover and description: 


Where the Dead Breathe and the Immortal Die 

The Chronicles of Time 

To escape an eternity of flame, Lucifer Haylel, god of Mortal-earth, seeks to overthrow Jehuva El Elyon, God of Shamayim. With rule of Elyon’s ethereal realm comes the power to create worlds, and a sword that can slay immortals. All Lucifer must do to break Elyon’s power is prevent one of his prophecies from coming true…thus begins the ultimate war between good and evil that has raged unseen since the dawn of time. 

Prophecy of the Heir: Primordium 

Plotting the overthrow of a power-hoarding king, Commander Haylel trains the Malakim in the art of war. Then an omen forewarns that his fate rests in the loyalty of his favored lieutenant, Michael. Now Haylel must decide whether to remain subordinate to an oppressive tyrant or kill Michael and usurp the throne.

I pray your interest in Hermeneutics is whetted now and you embrace this important tool and practice in understanding God's Word. 

Thank you, JC Lamont for being my guest and for this fascinating and important introduction into Hermeneutics.

About JC Lamont: 


JC Lamont is a literary apologist and historian specializing in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. She is a student of Koine Greek, and a former contributor for the Christian Apologetics Alliance. She hosts an online chronological Bible Study, Blogging His Story, a nonfiction companion to The Chronicles of Time series.

JC Lamont can be found on social media: