Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chasing Christmas – Steven Hunt

Chasing Christmas
©2012 Harbour Lights, Aztec, NM

I want to get the review for this year’s Christmas read up before Christmas. That way, if you are interested in a good book that’s set during the Christmas season you’ll have time to snag a copy and read it during the holidays. I know, I know, Christmas is just around the corner. But you can do like I did and get an e-copy (they deliver immediately from all over the wwweb). I must also admit that I have a special reason for touting this particular book this particular Christmas. The author was my very first college roommate. Yes, before either of us knew anything we roomed together in an early-enrolment summertime program at Oklahoma Baptist University (shout out to all our Academy ’80 buds). Since those days, both Steven Hunt and I have grown up and had a variety of careers. Steve’s latest endeavors have brought him to the arena of Christian fiction. And he’s pretty good at the stuff.

One week before Christmas a despondent and down-hearted Teddy Whitaker decides the best way for him to handle life is to make his disappear. He’s lost his parents, his business, his daughter, his wife and his best friend all in a matter of months. So the story opens with a very discouraged hero aiming his vintage Camaro for the local ‘Dead Man’s Curve’ for one final ride. What he gets is the ride of a lifetime.

Miraculously spared from his impending doom, Teddy must learn three lessons from three unlikely teachers and make it home before Christmas morning or he will be dead and never see his family again. Accepting the stakes through a fog of doubt, Teddy decides to give it a try. After all, he really has nothing to lose.

This story, along with the fact that it is a Christmas tale, is a story of homage. In the vein of Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” and Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” our hero interacts with otherworldly beings that help him to move beyond himself and learn the most important lessons in life. Hunt even pays special homage to some of these timeless classics in the telling of the story, although the angel characters have no knowledge of them. The book is also an honor to the author’s preacher uncle (to whom the book is dedicated, whom I have met, and who makes his own appearances in the story from time to time) who taught Hunt the very lessons that Teddy learns over the course of a week. Finally, the greatest homage is paid to the King of kings about whom the original Christmas story revolves.

This book has everything a good Christmas story should have: action, suspense, romance, conflict, and a spiritual side as well. Thanks for another good story to read by the Yule Log, my friend. You’ll be glad to receive the four and one-half out of five reading glasses, and your readers will want to get copies of this book to stuff all the Christmas stockings with. For my readers, get a copy of this book for yourself and one for a friend, and hop on over to the American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) bookclub, join and vote for this book.

Merry Christmas—Benjamin Potter, December 20, 2012

[This is a review of the ebook version (for Nook; also available for Amazon's Kindle). The book is also available in trade paperback.]

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Year with G.K. Chesterton – Kevin Belmonte, editor

A Year with G. K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder©2012 Thomas Nelson, Nashville

G.K. Chesterton. That great Christian author from England who gave us the Father Brown mystery stories was also the prolific writer of philosophy and apologetics. He was one of the influencers of C.S. Lewis in his own personal journey to Christianity. Is it any wonder that when I found a devotional based on Chesterton’s life and writings I grabbed at it?

This book holds a full year’s worth of writings and anecdotes from Chesterton’s life to provide devotional reading on a day-by-day basis. In addition, the editor has included some extra readings in the back of the book which he labels “Supplemental Readings: The Main Festival Days of the Church.” Of course these would specifically be related to the Roman Catholic Church of which Chesterton was a member.

With little variation, the reader will find a Scripture for the day, a short writing (it is unclear in the book whether this is by Chesterton or an observation by Belmonte), then an excerpt from one of Chesterton’s essays, stories, or other writings. Most days will also include a verbal snapshot of what happened “On this day” in the life of Chesterton.

It gives a quick overview of the man and his writing. Each day is filled with inspiration or as the subtitle of the book suggests “Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder.” Because I needed to get this review done in a timely manner, I’ve based it on a hurried perusal of the pages. I can’t wait to take the time as designated by the book’s design and spend “A Year with G. K. Chesterton.”

I would recommend this for anyone who has enjoyed Chesterton’s prose, or for faithful readers of Lewis and Tolkien. Readings only require a few minutes daily and the uplifting one gets is worth the moment. Four out of five reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter December 6, 2012

[This book was provided free of charge by the publisher for purposes of this review. The opinions are my own.]

Judas and the Gospel of Jesus – N. T. Wright

Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity? 

©2006 Baker Books, Grand Rapids

The name of N. T. Wright is fairly familiar in the arena of theological thinkers. Modern Christian ministers, if they haven’t read some of his writings or about him in places like Christianity Today, have at the very least heard the name or seen it on the spine of a book or two when they were looking for the latest pop culture influenced book at their local Christian bookstore. Wright is not only a bishop in the Church of England, but is a Biblical historian and teacher of New Testament at institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge.

In recent years when another “new” gospel started creeping into theological circles, he half-heartedly ordered a copy of the translation and began piecing together what this so-called “Gospel of Judas” had to add to serious theological study. What he found was an authentic third century document that attempted to discredit and/or “correct” the New Testament account found in the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Lauded by modern-day Gnostics, the document in question is part of a larger find which was discovered in the 1970s but was not finally studied and translated until thirty years later. The text of the document, while not considered a forgery and hoax (as many Believers would hope), turns out to be an early Gnostic tale about how Judas Iscariot was really the hero of the New Testament story because he was acting in obedience to Jesus in His conspiracy to rid Himself of the earthly body in which He was trapped.

This and several other heretical Gnostic teachings are addressed in this book of historical apologetics. Wright takes time to explain some of the basics of Gnosticism and contrast them with what has been taught as orthodoxy throughout the centuries. Ideas like the Creator-God is evil and should not be worshiped as should the greater gods than He. Wright does two things in this short and readable book that are well worth the reader’s time to see:
  1. He sets aright the true Gospel in contrast to what proponents of this “new gospel” have tried to topple—namely, the Biblical record of Christ.
  2. He addresses issues that seem to sidetrack modern-day Christians who get caught up in one tangent or another in their faith-walk. In doing so, he reminds readers that they need not fear what intellectuals with big vocabularies are spouting when we have Truth on our side.

Conservative Evangelicals will thrill and cheer as Wright discredits the Gnostics and the supporters of this new “Gospel of Judas.” But then we begin to understand the audience of the Old Testament prophet Amos when he was proclaiming the oracles against all the nations surrounding Israel. You might recall that each nation was called down for their sins against God. Finally, the prophet narrowed the focus to Judah and then to Israel herself—and the proclamation against Israel was far more serious than that of her neighbors because of the depth of her transgression. Israel, after all, as a nation was “the people of God” and should have known better.

In this same manner, Wright after setting the scene for the dismissal of the Gospel of Judas as authoritative (even if it is an authentic third century document) and Gnosticism in general (either the early New Testament era version or the more modern variation), he levels his sights on the modern evangelical movement (American Protestantism in particular) to call us on our propensity to amalgamate certain teachings of the Gnostics into our own instruction just to keep from having to take part in debate over issues we’d rather ignore. The last chapter of the book is a bit harder to take, but its truth cannot be denied. We as Christians ought to be less defensive over our man-made traditions and more concerned with living as the Scriptures dictate.

Even though I feel a bit scathed having read the last pages, I can’t help but give Wright four and one-half reading glasses. This defense of the True Gospel in light of late archeological discoveries which would try to disprove that Gospel is one that will be helpful to both the academic and the layman alike. It will help you know more why you believe what you believe about the Passion of the Christ.
—Benjamin Potter December 6, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time for a Christmas Special

Are you looking for a great stocking stuffer? Well here's just the thing. You can order my little Christmas story from Or, you can cut out the middleman and just contact me directly (I'll be glad to sign the book with a dedication to whomever you want.) And if you order five or more copies direct from me (sorry can't say what Amazon would do) I'll throw in shipping. (Cover price: $7.00 plus $4.00 s/h; Amazon price $6.00 plus $3.99 s/h; Direct order from me: $5.00 + s/h; orders of 3 or more price is $4.00. Orders of 5 or more receive discounted price plus free shipping. I can fulfill orders through PayPal.)

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