Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Advent of Murder by Martha Ockley

The Advent of Murder (Faith Morgan Mystery #2)

The Advent of Murder by Martha Ockley

From Good
Faith Morgan, former policewoman and vicar of the small English village of Little Worthy, goes to visit one of her parishioners at his farm, only to discover the house surrounded by police cars. A body has been found in the local river and farmer Markham is charged with murder.

Though busy with preparations for Christmas, Faith is called on to investigate when it's found out that the victim is also a member of her congregation--Lucas Kemp, a member of the choir.

Faith's informal inquiries lead her to uncover a hotbed of tensions and romantic rivalries in the choir, questions about drugs, and a run-in with an unsavory uncle--which leads to a dramatic rescue by Ben, Faith's former detective partner and ex-boyfriend.

In the tradition of Father Brown and Miss Marple, The Advent of Murder brings readers an authentic picture of English rural and church life combined with a satisfying mystery that will keep readers guessing until the end.

My Take:  I must make a confession.  I don't like Mysteries that are set in England.  I just find them a bit stuffy and hard for me to enjoy.  This book is a mystery that is set in England.  But I did enjoy it.  And even though it is the second in the series and I haven't read the first book, I didn't find it hard to follow.  I do intend on going back and reading the first book in the series The Reluctant Detective.  

I like to read books that have a holiday theme around this time of year and this book seemed to scratch that itch for me.  

This book has alot of unexpected turns and once you get into the book you will be surprised at how much you enjoy this book.  So if you are like me and don't really like mysteries set in England I would suggest trying this one.  This one will keep you guessing to the very end. 

I received a review copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for my honest opinion.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter

Book Info
About the book: When Laney Carrigan's adoptive parents encourage her as an adult to seek out her birth family, her only clue is the Lokelani quilt in which she was found wrapped as an infant. Centering her search on the Big Island, she battles fears of rejection from a family that abandoned her once before while her faith struggles to embrace God's love.
Along the path to her true heritage, she meets Hawaiian cowboy/helicopter pilot, Kai Barnes. Kai is determined to protect the people he's come to regard as family against a woman he suspects of being nothing more than a gold-digger, but he finds himself drawn to Laney in spite of his reservations. He's spent his entire life seeking forgiveness from past mistakes and longs for a second chance at happiness. 

Laney's painstaking journey to find restoration and a place to belong among the breathtaking allure of the Big Island will lead her closer to her past and maybe even something more.

Purchase a copy:

Meet the author: Lisa Carter has been published in MomSense and Christian Parenting Today. Lisa is currently teaching music at a preschool and enjoying the enthusiasm and joy for life for which preschoolers are famous. She and David have two beautiful daughters.

Find out more at:

My Take:  I have been really enjoying the Quilts of Love series.  Even though the books are not related it is interesting to see how each author fits a quilt into the story line.  My mother is a quilter and I enjoy reading about the various quilts.  

The story in this book is a sad one in many respects when it comes to the main characters as they each have been hurt in the past and are afraid to let others in because of feeling that they may be hurt again.  I like reading about Hawaii as I have always wanted to visit there.  I like that these aren't just cookie cutter characters and you can't predict what will happen next.  An enjoyable book that had me wanting to read more by this author. 

I received a review copy of this book from Litfuse in exchange for my honest opinion. 

A Wild Goose Chase Christmas by Jennifer AiLee

A Wild Goose Chase Christmas

Upon her grandmother's death, Izzy Fontaine finds herself in possession of a Wild Goose Chase pattern quilt that supposedly leads to a great treasure. Of course, once the rest of the family finds out about the "treasure map," they're determined to have a go at the treasure themselves. And, if that weren't enough, Max Logan, a local museum curator, contacts Izzy and says that Grandma Isabella promised him the quilt.

What is it about this quilt that makes everyone want it? Is Izzy on a wild goose chase of her own, or a journey that will lead her to the treasure her grandmother intended?

My Take:  This book was a delight from beginning to the end.  It is part of the Quilts of Love series but can be read alone.  It is center around the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas but you could read this anytime of the year and still love it. 

Like with a lot of families now a days Izzy's family is bit dysfunctional.  they come together because they think that the quilt the their grandmother left will somehow lead to monetary gain.  There is a mystery that keeps them looking for the treasure.  And of course there is romance and all the mixups that many times go along with that.  This book will give you that bit of peace you may need during this time of year when you just need to be carried away for a short time to unwind and decompress.  This book is just the ticket you need.  

I received a review copy of this book from Abingdon Press ins exchange for my honest opinion.  

Book synopsis of A Simple Amish Christmas by Vanetta Chapman

A Simple Amish Christmas

Annie Weaver always planned to return home, but the 20-year old RN has lived in Philadelphia for three years now. As her time of rumschpringe is about to come to an abrupt end, bringing for Annie an overwhelming sense of loneliness. She returns home and finds herself face-to-face with a budding romance with an Amish farmer and important choices to make.

Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. She has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving more than two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania.

Her novel, Falling to Pieces, was a 2012 ACFW Carol Award winner for best mystery. All of her books have been Christian Book Distributor bestsellers. She currently writes Amish fiction for Abingdon Press, Zondervan, and Harvest House. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

For more information, visit her or blog with her at She can also be found at

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Synopsis of An Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson

One Imperfect Christmas

Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she s allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she s one Christmas away from hitting rock bottomJunior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit s end. Nothing he s done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa s adolescent rebellion isn t helping matters. As Daniel s hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear

Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, but after surviving five Oklahoma winters, she now enjoys the milder climate of the Carolinas. Empty-nesters, Myra and her husband share their home with two loveable (and very spoiled) dogs. Her debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas, was a September 2009 release from Abingdon Press. She also writes for Heartsong Presents. Her November 2009 release, Autumn Rains, won the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript and was named a 2010 ACFW Carol Award finalist.

Myra is currently at work on a 3-book historical romance series for Abingdon Press. Book 1,When the Clouds Roll By, releases September 2013.

Myra’s writing career was launched in 1985 when she sold her first short story while taking a course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. Myra later joined the ICL staff as a magazine writing instructor, teaching hundreds of students the fundamentals of story and article structure, plotting, character development, and market analysis. She now writes full-time and is active in her church as well as local and national writers groups. Myra and her husband have been married since 1972. The Johnsons have two married daughters and six grandchildren.

The Christmas Star by Ace Collins

The Christmas Star

The Christmas Star by Ace Collins

Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Each Christmas the final decoration Madge Reed hangs on the family s tree is that medal. Rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed that shining star represents loss, pain, and suffering. Yet a letter delivered by one of Robert s fellow soldiers and a mystery posed in that letter put a father s sacrifice and faith into perspective and bring new meaning to not just the star hanging on the Christmas tree but the events of the very first Christmas. Then, when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that Jimmy has never known
My Take:This is the kind of book that I like to read around the holidays.  Jimmy is a young man that is hurting (just like many people hurt around the holidays when they lose their loved ones).  Jimmy makes a few bad decisions when he thinks that these decisions will help with how he is feeling but when he learns how his father really dies and when he reads a letter written by his dad it helps him to have a truly Christmas Miracle.  
This is a great story for this time of the year but also for any time of the year. 

I received a review copy from Abingdon Press in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book synopsis of Blame it on the Mistletoe by Joyce Magnin

Blame It on the Mistletoe

Is There Really a Fountain of Youth in Paradise?
Welcome back to Bright’s Pond, where strange happenings are afoot at the Greenbrier Nursing Home. Strange even for Bright’s Pond.
The residents suddenly act like kids again—riding trikes, climbing trees, and—of all things—falling in love. Some of the townsfolk blame it on the crooked new gazebo, or its builder, a quirky little man who quotes Don Quixote, collects water from the fountain at the Paradise trailer park, and disappears on a regular basis.
While Chief of Police Mildred Blessing investigates the mystery, Griselda and her friends deal with a luau Thanksgiving, preparations for the Christmas pageant, and maybe even an upcoming wedding.
Only, in Bright’s Pond, nothing ever really goes as planned . . .

Um, I like cross stitch, baseball, my children and grandkids, but not elevators or laundry. I've been known to run from mayonnaise and I play RPG video games. I don't have a favorite author although I read a lot.

Book synopsis and review of The Christmas Quilt by Vanetta Chapman

The Christmas Quilt

Annie's life is deliciously full as the Christmas season approaches. She helps her husband, Samuel, attend to the community's minor medical needs. She occasionally assists Belinda, the local midwife, and most days, she finds herself delivering the buggy to her brother Adam. Annie s sister-in-law Leah is due to deliver their first child before Christmas morning, and Annie is determined to finish a crib quilt before the "boppli" arrives. With six weeks to go, she should have no problem . . . but God may have a different plan. Leah is rushed to the English hospital when the infant arrives early, and Annie discovers the Christmas quilt may hold a far greater significance than she ever imagined.

About Vanetta Chapman3506785

Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. She has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving more than two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania. 

Her novel, Falling to Pieces, was a 2012 ACFW Carol Award winner for best mystery. All of her books have been Christian Book Distributor bestsellers. She currently writes Amish fiction for Abingdon Press, Zondervan, and Harvest House. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

For more information, visit her or blog with her at She can also be found at

My Take:  I really enjoyed this book and I was delighted to revisit the characters from A Simple Amish Christmas which I read last year.  This is a good book to read this time of year as it is just the right length and just light enough that you can read it when you just have short snippets of time (which face it we all only have short snippets at this time of Year).  You can read this book as a stand alone but I think you would really enjoy this book more if you read A Simple Amish Christmas first.  This book is also in the Quilts of Love series which you can read each title alone.

It is about a year later after the events of A Simple Amish Christmas and Annie is content with her life with her husband.  She is trying to help with her Sister in Law who is very pregnant with twins.  Her brother and sister in law have grown apart during the pregnancy and neither can figure out why.  Then the unthinkable happens and Leah goes into early labor.  The Christmas Quilt is the Quilt the Annie is making for Leah's babies.  She takes it with her to the hospital to work on and then she and Leah decide to tell stories to go along with each of the parts of the quilt.  This is a great book that helps you to dwell on other things about this time of year and not just the commercialism and I want of the modern holiday.

I received a review copy from Abingdon Press and Litfuse in exchange for my honest review.

First Chapter Peak of Healing Grace by Beth Shriver

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms (October 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***


Beth wrote her first novel in 2002 and a year later it was published. She was a caseworker before starting a family, grew up in Nebraska, and now lives in Texas.

She became interested in writing about the Amish when researching her family history and found she was related to the the Glick families in Europe. Beth also freelances for the local papers in her area, writes columns, devotionals, and novels in a variety of genres in both fiction and nonfiction. Beth followed her passion and now writes full time.

Beth has plenty of company when she writes, with her two cats and a beagle. She visits Amish communities in her area and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When not spending time with her family or friends she helps feed the homeless in South Dallas.

Visit the author's website.


Can Abby overcome the pain caused by her father and find acceptance among the Amish? Abby finds more than love and safety when she meets Mose, as she struggles with the faith she left behind after the death of her mother. After time spent with Mose and his family she knows she has to make a choice. Will Abby stay with Mose or go back to her sick father who needs her.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Series: Touch of Grace (Book 3)
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1621362973
ISBN-13: 978-1621362975


"This is all I have.” Abby flashed the money at the horse trader. It was more than she had planned to spend, but the filly was worth it. Did this man know the value of what he had, or did he just feel sorry for her? It hadn’t been all that long since her mother passed away, but he and everyone else in town knew her dad was a swindler. He wouldn’t be empathetic.
“That’s what they all say.” He grinned. “You know your horses.” He leaned back against a wooden post by the stall.

She studied him for a moment, trying to decide if she trusted him. Abby did have a knack for picking horses. Focusing on conformation, temperament, and breed, she also had a good eye to go with her knowledge and experience. All of this told her that this equine had bloodlines for excellent breeding. Abby had learned the process from her father, Jim, who once was one of the best breeders around. But Abby’s dream was to train them for shows, something Jim thought was ridiculous. With a horse like this, they could make it happen.

The last bit of sunlight disappeared, darkening the old barn. She didn’t like this part of town, and she was still unsure about this dealer, but he had the horse she wanted. She flipped her long blonde ponytail behind her and studied the filly before locking eyes with the trader. “She hasn’t been used on the track, has she?”

When he hesitated, Abby moved toward the horse.

“’Course not,” he scoffed.

She lifted the filly’s upper lip. No tattoo, the mark of a racer. She didn’t want a three-year-old burned-out horse. “Just checking.”

His dark eyebrows drew together, changing along with his demeanor. “I’m an honest horse seller, unlike your old man.”

Abby froze and stared at the horse until the heat in her face cooled down. She tried to think of how to respond, but she knew he was right, so she decided to ignore the comment. “Can I see the papers?”

“Sure.” He pulled some folded documents out of his back pocket and handed them to her. “Sign this one, and our business is done.” He pointed to the line where she was to write her name.

Abby paused. This was all the money her mother had given her—money Jim didn’t know about. How would she be able to explain this?

She looked over at the bay-colored mare. The brown tones contrasted beautifully with the white socks on all four of her legs, and her sleek body structure was the making of a fine competitor.

“Second thoughts?” His tone was flat, not friendly, but not flippant either.


“You can wait and come back another time and see if she’s still here.” He almost sounded sincere.

She looked up at him to see a confident smirk appear. She knew the lines and had heard every spiel. Jim was the master of horse-selling tactics.

“You know better.” There was something about him she didn’t trust, so she stuck the money back in her pocket. “And so do I.” He was getting a good deal, and Abby hoped she was too.

He grunted, amused, then conceded with a nod.

She signed the papers and kept her copy. “This way you’ll know I’ll be back,” she said. Abby took one more look at the filly. “Yeah, this is the one,” she whispered, and she walked out of the barn. 

First Chapter Peak of Bound to a Promise by Bonnie L. Floyd

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Creative Enterprises Studio; 1ST edition (2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


Real, relatable and refreshing are words often used to describe Bonnie L. Floyd. Perhaps it is because she could easily be a next door neighbor to any of us. Bound to a Promise is a true story of tragedy and redemption that unexpectedly resulted in the opportunity to share that story with others and ultimately, the birth of Bonnie Floyd Ministries.

For more than seventeen years, Bonnie has taken her contagious zeal for the Lord and her authentic love for people to various conferences, retreats and churches throughout the United States and beyond. Her powerful and dynamic messages bring the Scriptures alive to audiences of all ages and offer useful and practical ways to apply them to everyday living. For several years, Bonnie served in various capacities with Women of Faith and is currently an administrator for Barry & Sheila Walsh. More importantly, she has a deep love and respect for God's Word that is born out of her service as a teacher and small group leader for over 23 years.

Bonnie has been married to "her Donnie" since 1987. Both California natives, they now make their home in Celina, TX - a home which provides a perfect setting to delight children and to share Bonnie's passion for cooking by entertaining family and friends. They make their church home at Genesis Metro Church in Frisco, TX where Donnie serves as an elder and Bonnie, who was ordained a Minister of the Gospel in 2010, is an active member in women's ministries.

Visit the author's website.


Bound to a Promise tells the amazing true story of God's faithfulness in the face of unimaginable loss. Bonnie Floyd's father and stepmother had been living a dream life-serving as caretakers of a private tropical island and traveling the world in a sailboat. That life was cut short when three young men boarded their yacht as it was anchored off the coast of Antigua. Determined that there should be "no witnesses" of their theft and brutality, the assailants shot all four people on board. Bound to a Promise includes the fascinating account of the Antiguan trial that brought her parents' killers to justice, featuring some dashing Scotland Yard detectives, a criminal in search of redemption, and many other memorable characters from the island. Bonnie's colorful descriptions of her parents' adventures abroad and her time in Antigua lighten the mood and add a touch of travelogue to the true crime drama. In a truly inspirational twist, Bonnie arranges a meeting with one of the confessed attackers, a man who would eventually claim her as family.

Product Details:
List Price: $22.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Creative Enterprises Studio; 1ST edition (2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 098905215X
ISBN-13: 978-0989052153


February 1, 1994: It was six o’clock in the morning on what seemed a normal, cold, foggy day in Fresno, California. Then the phone rang. Donnie was already up and in the shower, so I sprang up in bed, cleared my throat, and answered the phone with my cheery, “Good morning!” as though I had been up for hours.
“Is this Mrs. Bonnie Clever-Floyd?”
I suddenly froze as a cold chill of fear crawled up my spine.
The voice on the other end of the phone was unfamiliar, his question strange, and it sent a shiver through me. For the first time in my thirty-three years, the last person I wanted to be was Bill Clever’s daughter.
“Mrs. Floyd, my name is Paul Howard, and I’m calling from the United States embassy in Antigua. I’m sorry, ma’am, but I need to ask you again, are you Bonnie Clever-Floyd?”
I stood motionless, still confused about why I was afraid to admit to this man who I was. I knew his question must pertain to my dad. Why else would he have been asking if I was Bonnie Clever-Floyd? I had never hyphenated my name, and as hard as it was to give up the name Clever, when I married Don Floyd, I became a Floyd through and through.
After a long pause, I firmly replied with a cracking voice, “No!”
By that time, I was sure Mr. Howard had discerned that the phone call was not going to go well. But then again, do those types of calls ever go well? “Mrs. Clever-Floyd, are you the daughter of William Norman Clever?”
He asked for the third time.
I simply could not reply. I was pacing the floor; dread had filled the room, fear had taken up residency, and confusion had consumed my mind. I heard Mr. Howard say, “Mrs. Floyd, Mrs. Floyd, are you still there?”
I knew I had to answer this Mr. Howard. I could not hang up and pre- tend the phone had never rung; it was far too late for that now.
“Yes, Mr. Howard, I am still here.”
With relief in his voice, he asked for the last time, “Mrs. Floyd, are you the daughter of William Norman Clever?”
After a long silence, I answered solemnly, “Yes, Mr. Howard, I am.”
So now the inevitable was about to be spoken. My life was about to change in ways no one in their wildest imaginations could have ever dreamed. But it was not a dream; it was a nightmare, and I was wide awake!

Chapter 1
Growing Up In Two Different Eras
As I stood paralyzed in time by the dread of what was coming next, highlights of my life that led to this terrifying moment played through my mind like a B-rated movie trailer in the old theater on a Saturday afternoon.
I grew up in Columbia, California, which is a historic state park in the Mother Lode Country. Columbia was founded during the gold rush days back in 1850 by a small party of prospectors who discovered the lode or main vein of gold in that region, the mother lode. News of their discovery spread, and a flood of miners soon joined them.
Unlike many settlements that have changed with the times, Columbia seems to be frozen in the 1800s. Growing up there was wonderful! How many kids get to grow up in two different eras at the same time?
Within the state park my family owned two popular saloons and the Columbia House restaurant, which was opened by my grandpop in 1958. Then in 1960 Dad took it over after moving to California from New Jersey with Mom and my two sisters, Susan and Linda. I came along in December of 1961, so unlike the rest of my family, I am a native Californian.
The Columbia House was a favorite place among the locals as well as visiting tourists. Everything on the menu was scrumptious, and all our recipes were originals and made from scratch. Dad’s navy bean soup actually made him a local celebrity—so much so that the townspeople called him “Billy Bean Soup.”
Dad began calling me “Bonnie Bean Soup” after himself, and eventually I became just “Bean.” I loved being called Bean better than Bonnie. Every time Dad called me Bean, I heard him say, “I love you.” Since it was my dad who nicknamed me Bean, it was the same honor to me as a son who is named after his father. After all, I secretly wished I had been born a boy so I could be even more like my daddy!
One of my favorite spots in town was the stagecoach. You could always find me at the counter selling tickets, riding shotgun with the driver or on horseback with the stagecoach bandit. Robbing those unsuspecting tourists was so much fun. It’s a good thing I had to wear a bandana over my face because I couldn’t keep myself from laughing.
I had a great life as a child, and I cherish my memories of those days. I would not trade one moment of my childhood. I felt secure in my parents’ love for me and for each other. But the climate soon began to change.
To think their fighting could possibly lead to a divorce was definitely not a place I wanted to go in my mind. I had seen too many of my friends go through that, and the end result was always the same—the parents hated each other, and my friends wound up spending every other weekend with their dads. I was determined that was not going to happen to this “daddy’s girl.”
Don’t get me wrong; I love my mom. She is a wonderful mother who was always about her family and found her fulfillment in just being Mom. There has never been a time when Mom was not there for my two sisters and me. My dad was adventurous, handsome, intelligent, and successful. He was determined to live life to the fullest, and unlike my mom, he didn’t seem content with just being a dad. He was eternally yearning, trying new things.
To keep himself content, Dad began accumulating businesses. He also started buying “toys,” such as boats and motorcycles. His first purchase was a ski boat, and then a twenty-four-foot pleasure boat he and Mom named the Bonnie Sue Lin. One thing was becoming apparent—Dad was never content for long. Soon the Bonnie Sue Lin was not enough. He had to go for something bigger.
The Sarsaparilla was a beautiful, thirty-six-foot Grand Banks yacht, and because it was an ocean-going vessel, Dad started making plans for the big trip he always talked about taking. His dream was to go out hundreds, even thousands of miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. And what he really wanted to do was stay out for a few months, instead of a few days. His plan was to sail the coast of California into Baja, Mexico, down and around the tip of Cabo San Lucas, and up to La Paz into the Sea of Cortez.
And that is exactly what we did.

Our Mexico trip was more wonderful than any of us could have imagined. Even my sister Linda, who was in the prime of her teens and not one bit happy about taking an extended vacation, had the time of her life. We grew close as a family in ways we had never experienced before. All we had was each other, and we found that each other was all we needed. Laughter always filled the sea life air. I believe one of the greatest things children can experience is watching their parents laugh together and love on each other. Within just a few short months after returning home, our close-knit family started unraveling. How I wish we could have just returned to the sea.

First Chapter Peak of The Simplified Guide: Paul's Letters to the Churches by David Hazelton

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Deep River Books (September 5, 2013)

***Special thanks to Emily Woodworth for sending me a review copy.***


Like Paul, David Hazelton's professional background is in the law and business. He is a senior partner in a law firm in Washington, D.C., one of the nation's five largest firms. Dave's passion is teaching Sunday School and leading Bible studies in his home, church, and workplace. He serves as an elder at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church.

Visit the author's website.


Paul wrote to "all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 1:2). Far from works of abstract theology, his letters provide practical instruction to people without any special theological training or educational credentials––regular people like you and me. In The Simplified Guide, David Hazelton collects Paul’s instructions on specific issues as faithfully and completely as possible. Rather than promoting a particular interpretation, Hazelton guides readers to make their own observations about applying Paul's instructions to their lives.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Deep River Books (September 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193775684X
ISBN-13: 978-1937756840



Paul explains the essentials of the gospel message of salvation in simple and straightforward terms. Rather than focusing on a rigid set of rules, or a detailed set of rituals, or a complex system of theology, Paul focuses on the person of Jesus Christ, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. If we understand the gospel correctly, everything else will follow. Before we worry about any other issue, Paul wants us to under­stand the gospel in all of its clarity, beauty and majesty.
We therefore begin in chapter 1 with Paul’s explanation of this pure and simple gospel. Due to its central importance, Paul issues strong warnings against any additions to or subtractions from this gospel as discussed chapter 2. While insisting on strict faithfulness to the essentials of the gospel, chapter 3 discusses Paul’s declaration of our freedom in practices and personal convictions on secondary matters. Chapter 4 next explains that Paul relies on Scripture as the foundation for understanding the gospel and, more generally, what we believe as Christians. In chapter 5, we conclude Part I of our study by discussing how Paul takes a practical approach to “theological” issues, which brings us back, again and again, to the gospel.

The Pure and Simple Gospel

This is the most important chapter in this book. As Paul makes clear, the gospel is the basis for our salvation. It is the foundation on which all of his other instructions are built. If we build on any other foundation, everything else that we believe or do will crumble in the end.
The gospel message as declared by Paul is easy to understand but often hard to accept. Almost everyone can readily grasp the essential elements of the gospel at a basic level. But many want to make it more complex than it is, perhaps because it is difficult to accept that something so important can be so simple. Paul is very clear, however, that the gospel message of salvation is simple, straightforward, and available to all who come in faith. Let’s examine the foundation for Paul’s teaching—and our faith—and what it means for us today.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, Paul states plainly the gospel by which we are saved:
I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Paul provides quite a buildup before identifying the essentials of the gospel message. “By this gospel you are saved” (1 Cor. 15:2). It is the “gospel I preached to you,” the gospel “you received and on which you have taken your stand,” the gospel to which you must “hold firmly,” and it is a matter of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). Having emphasized its importance, Paul states the essential elements of the gospel in a few simple words: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (2 Cor. 15:3–4). Clearly, nothing is more important to Paul than the person of Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection.
The book of Acts documents that Paul preached this very gospel message to the churches when he was with them in person. When arriving in a city, it was the “custom” of Paul to go to the synagogue where “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said” (Acts 17:2–3). Thus, in his sermon recorded in Acts 13:13–41, Paul presented the “message of salvation” (v. 26) and “the good news” (v. 32) by focusing on the historic events of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Specifically, he pro­claimed:
The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:27–31)
Similarly, when put on trial for preaching the gospel, Paul explained: “I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22–23). We are often tempted to complicate the gospel, but when his back was to the wall, Paul stood firm on a simple statement about Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection.
Paul’s insistence on this pure and simple gospel wasn’t limited to his preaching. In his letters to the churches, Paul repeats again and again the simple gospel that he had preached. In 1 Corinthians 2:1–2, he explains: “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him cru­cified.” Similarly, Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 1:23 that “we preach Christ crucified.” He identifies “the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:8–9).
When describing the message that he preached to the Galatians, Paul declared: “Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Gal. 3:1). Again, in 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul instructs: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.”
Jesus was crucified by the Romans, a regional empire that occupied and controlled Palestine at the time. It seemed like a matter of local politics in a backwater province, where the local Roman governor—a man named Pilate—sought to placate Jewish religious leaders who had a vendetta against Jesus. Yet there was a much deeper meaning to the crucifixion of Jesus—a God­ordained plan to restore the relationship between humans and their Creator, a relationship that was fractured when sin entered the world. It was this deeper, divine plan that compelled Paul.
In his death on the cross, Jesus Christ—who lived a life without sin—took our sin upon himself and accepted the punishment that we deserved. As Paul explains in Romans 5:6–11:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Paul addresses this spiritual reality again and again in Romans, which contains his most in­depth discussion of the gospel and its implications for our lives. After explaining in Romans 1:18 to 3:20 that every person is a sinner who is without excuse before God and under God’s wrath, Paul declares that we have access to forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. (Rom. 3:23–25)
To ensure that his readers understood the eternal significance of the crucifixion, Paul returns to it again and again. Romans 4:25 states: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” In Romans 6:6–7, we read: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
The life­changing power of Christ’s atoning death is emphasized in Paul’s other letters as well. Ephesians 1:7 explains: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” In Colossians 2:13–14, Paul declares again that “you were dead in your sins” but:
God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
Thus, as Paul states emphatically, the fact that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” is a matter of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3) because his death provides the basis for God’s forgiveness of our sins.
We humans are afraid of countless things. We fear spiders, clowns, heights, public spaces, public speaking, and a thousand other terrors. From the silly to the serious, fear is an unavoidable part of what it means to be human.
Yet there is one fear that rises like a specter above all others, that sounds a sinister echo in the background of our daily lives: the fear of death. Nothing is so terrifying as the realization that we will, sooner or later, die and confront the uncertainty about what will happen to us on the other side of this life. The inevitability of death makes it no easier to accept; its permanence forces us to come to grips with fundamental issues.
It is in this profoundly human context that Christ died as a man, just as every man, woman and child will eventually die. Yet Christ conquered death through his resurrection. As sons and daughters of God, we share in Christ’s victory over death and his promise of eternal life.
Paul’s most extensive discussion of the significance of Christ’s resurrection is in 1 Corinthians 15:12–57. In that passage, he begins by correcting those who deny the resurrection, explaining that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (v. 14) and “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (v. 17). He then declares in verses 20–22:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
On the day of our resurrection to eternal life, our decaying material bodies will be exchanged for glorified and imperishable bodies. Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Much as a seed is planted or sown in one form but then emerges from the earth as something new and better, Paul explains:
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Cor. 15:42–44)
He compares our current mortal bodies to “jars of clay” (2 Cor. 4:7) and an “earthly tent” which we will exchange for “an eternal house in heaven” (2 Cor. 5:1). The glory of what God has in store for us is beyond our comprehension. “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
This resurrection power not only has eternal significance, it also has the power to transform our lives today. Emphasizing the connection between the resurrection and the power to live a holy life today, Paul explains in Romans 6:4–10 that:
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Again, Paul explains in Romans 8:11 that: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
Jesus Christ took our sins upon himself when he was crucified on the cross, but it was his glorious resurrection that conquered death and prepared the way for our resurrection and eternal life. The great human fear of death is conquered in the triumphant resurrection of Christ. His victory over death changed everything.
Paul emphasizes the primary importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in all his teaching. Yet crucifixions were all too common during that period of human history. And while resurrections were exceedingly rare, the Bible records others such as Lazarus who were raised from the dead. What was it about Jesus Christ that, above anyone else who ever lived, his crucifixion and resurrection could have such eternal and earthshaking significance?
Paul states the answer plainly in Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” While Jesus “as to his earthly life was a descendant of David” (Rom. 1:3), he is also “in very nature God” (Phil. 2:6). He “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Detailing several of the fundamental characteristics that distinguish Jesus Christ from the rest of humanity, Paul continues in Colossians 1:15–20:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
In Ephesians 1:19–21, Paul explains how God’s “incomparably great power” was demonstrated when God raised Christ from the dead and “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Paul continues in verses 22 and 23: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
As declared by Paul, Jesus Christ’s unique nature as sinless God who became man is the reason why his death could pay the price for our sins and thus provide the basis for our salvation. Outside of Jesus, there has never been a death that could provide forgiveness for our sins, and there has never been a resurrection that could conquer death and pave the way for our resurrection.
Christ paid the price for our forgiveness and conquered death so we could have eternal life. We are helpless without him. Salvation is therefore a gift received freely in faith, not something we earn through good works. Paul’s letter to the Romans again contains his most systematic discussion of the role of faith in receiving salvation through the gospel. Emphasizing this important distinction between faith and works, he declares in Romans 4:4–5 that:
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
Paul emphasizes the important role of faith for salvation again and again in Romans. “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Rom. 1:17). “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). Explaining that we “are justified freely by his [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” Paul declares that “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood— to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:24–25). “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28). “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Rom. 5:1–2).
Driving the point home that faith has always been the basis by which people are justified before God, Paul points in Romans 4 to Abraham, the forefather of the Jews who lived more than 2,000 years before Christ’s crucifixion, as a model of someone justified by faith. “‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Rom. 4:3). “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” in God’s promise that he would be the father of many nations (Rom. 4:18). “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old” (Rom. 4:19). “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Rom. 4:20–22).
Paul is emphatic that salvation in Christ must be received in faith. Indeed, in Romans and his other letters to the churches, he refers to “faith” more than 100 times. For example: “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’” (Gal. 3:11). “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:14). “In him [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12).
In his personal testimony, Paul declares that he is found “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). This small sampling of Paul’s references to “faith” reflects his conviction that Christ has done it all, that we cannot save ourselves, and that we only can accept salvation in Christ through faith.
Perhaps the best definition of “faith” is found in the New Testament book of Hebrews. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Unless received in faith, the gospel message has little meaning for the one who hears it. “For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed” (Heb. 4:2).
Faith does not require that we understand the mystery of the gospel in its fullness to accept it. When explaining “the message concerning faith that we proclaim,” Paul states the simplicity of the expression of faith required for salvation:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Rom. 10:8–10)
When we genuinely believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths, it is the Spirit of God at work in us. For “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).
How does this gospel—the unbelievable, life­transforming, history­shaping good news declared by Paul—affect our lives today? As we close this first chapter, we pause to reflect on the practical implications of Paul’s instructions. This opportunity for reflection is not intended to prescribe specifically what we need to do or how we need to change in light of the truths declared by Paul. Instead, these few questions can encourage us to come before God and seek his guidance on how to respond to the truths taught by Paul.

1. Why should God let us into heaven?
2. What would be our eternal destiny if God gave us what we deserved rather than the forgiveness we can have through Christ?
3. Can we be saved by following rules and performing rituals? Why not?
4. What is the significance of the fact that salvation is a gift to be received in faith rather than something to be earned through good works? What is the significance of this fact to our daily walk as Christians?
5. What is the significance of the fact that the gospel is centered on Christ and what he did, rather than on us and our efforts? How should this reality affect our daily walk as Christians?
6. What does it mean to accept the gospel in faith? At an intellectual level, how do we accept the gospel? How does receiving the gospel in faith go beyond intellectual acceptance?
7. Can we fully understand the mystery and miracle of the gospel? Why not?
8. If we cannot be saved by our own good works, what is the role of good works in a Christian’s life (which will be discussed at length in Part II of our study)?
9. What is your relationship with Christ? Is he both your Lord and Savior?

10. How should we live differently in light of the gospel?