Category Archives: the Gospel

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor – book review

The following book review is copied from my reading blog, Reading in Southern Maine where I write brief thoughts on the books I am reading.

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor
By Chuck Black

Synopsis: Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is book five of The Knights of Arrethtrae series. In this part of the series a young man, Quinlan, feels called to become a knight of the King and follow the Prince. He first trains with a skilled knight and later a Silent Warrior who teach him to fight and overcome his self doubt and fear. After his training is complete he returns to his hometown to fight the hidden Shadow Warriors. When the enemy leader, Lucius finds out that Sir Quinlan has returned he launches an all out attack on the city. The small band of knights under the leadership of Quinlan must lead the charge in the battle against Lucius’ Shadow Warriors.

My Opinion: So Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is an allegory and full of various Christian truths and life lessons. I think that Black does a mediocre job at presenting this allegory in an interesting and engaging way.

I would say that the good thing about the allegorical element is that many of the truths that he alludes to in the story are important, i.e. trust in the Prince and not ourselves, The King choosing the weak of the world, following the Prince requires complete surrender and a sacrifice of everything but is rewarded greatly when you one day cross the Great Sea, and many others.

The thing that I thought was sub par about the allegory was the totally transparent way that it was presented. Many times Black would almost quote the Bible verbatim through some character’s speech or he would add elements that really didn’t make sense in the story, but fed the allegory. He discusses how the King sent the Prince from across the Great Sea to bring the Kings people back to him and how they rejected him and he died “on a tree” (what does that even mean?) but the King brought him back to life using the Life Spice. Black tries to explain how this death and resurrection enabled the knights to follow the Prince, but it never really makes much sense. I felt like a lot of the more obvious “Christian” themes seemed overly forced into the story.

Aside from the failures in the allegory I thought the book was pretty good. I think that younger kids, probably boys in their tweens mostly, would really enjoy reading this book and would get a lot out of it. The battles are pretty engaging and exciting, and the characters are dynamic enough that you grow to like (or dislike) them. There is a little humor tossed into the mix to keep the dramatic elements from being too overwhelming for younger readers. It certainly isn’t C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but it is another series that could be worth picking up if you have a young avid reader.

FYI: the land Arrethtrae, where the story takes place, is a backward combination of the words Earth and Terra.

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor at amazon.com

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


Losing A Generation: are we?

I came across a blog earlier today that had a couple posts explaining that the younger generations of Americans have become less and less interested in Christianity. The two posts he wrote on this topic each dealt with one of the reasons that he suspects for this shift. The two reasons he gave were parents having interfaith marriages and not going to church regularly.

While it is clear that there are not as many young people professing to be Christians as there were in the past, I wonder what this actually means. Does it mean that there are less Christians, or less professing Christians? If there are less Christians then we can start asking why that is, but I think that it may be inaccurate to make the leap from less professing Christians to less actual Christians.

For quite awhile Christianity held a strong hand on culture. People went to church, they said grace, they tried not to swear around the pastor. Was that good? I don’t know. It was what it was, but it certainly did not mean that those people had surrendered their lives to Christ. It may have meant that a lot more people had a false sense of security in their religious observations that made them confident that they were going to Heaven because mom and dad went to church and they were members of “First Baptist.”

It’s not that way anymore. Maybe this means that less people are Christians, maybe it just means that the traditions of earlier generations’ Christianity are no longer relevant. I can’t say what it means, but to think that there was a “good ol’ days” of Christianity seems a bit inaccurate. It is important to separate the actual beliefs from the cultural traditions.

To deal with the second part of this: why do young people not seem interested in Christianity, I can’t give some definitive answer, but I think it is a little more complex than interfaith parents and non-churchgoing parents. I had both. I believe. Christianity is about God touching your heart with the truth of the Gospel and you surrendering your life to that truth. It is not inherited from parents and if it is forced on kids by their parents it isn’t real. So maybe it has to do with the fact that the church is more tied up with the gospel of traditions than it is with reaching people with the gospel of Christ. Maybe it has something to do with fundamentalism, and the church running away and hiding in caves while the world moved on. Maybe it is because certain people believe and certain people don’t. It’s all speculation. All we can do is share the gospel of Christ with the people around us, young or old, and live out the love and truth of that Gospel in our relationships with those people. They may have interfaith parents, they may have never gone to church. I don’t see how that matters in the least.


Alan Knox: Conversations w/ Friends

This is the fifth post in the Conversations With Friends series. In this interview I talk with my good friend, mentor, and inspiration to start blogging, Alan Knox from The Assembling of the Church. When you hear this interview you will understand why I am so arrogant and full of myself. With a mentor who says things like “I am God’s gift to mankind” (that may be taken out of context!) it’s not surprising that I am the way I am! Seriously though I appreciate Alan taking the time to talk with me and if you read Alan’s blog you will probably find this interesting. If you don’t read his blog you should check it out.

Check out the rest of the interviews here at the Blog or on my Vimeo ‘Conversations w/ Friends’ channel

also, I apologize for clearing my throat so much in this. I wasn’t feeling great.


Statistically Speaking: We’re Heathens! (but we like it that way!)

I guess only about 32% of Mainers "go to church"

And only about 17% of people in York county are "Evangelical Protestants"

So I came across these statistic maps via a tweet by @graceground run by Jeremy Myers. Now, as you can see, Maine is not an incredibly “churched” state, and my county is one of the least “Evangelical” in the whole state (Alan, notice this is with the exception of Knox County). I remember during my time at Bible College how this was looked upon in such a negative light. I was often asked what it was like being from somewhere so “Unchristian” and “Liberal” and how difficult it was to share Christ in such a “harsh spiritual environment.” Well, when I look at these maps I think sort of differently (as I tend to do on many things!). I see that there are far fewer people here indoctrinated and drugged into spiritual-coma by the mass American Christian machine. I know that sounds a bit harsh, and maybe even Conspiracy Theoristic, and maybe it’s a bit over the top, but honestly it makes things much easier to be around people who are religiously “blank slates” and haven’t already learned all the church lingo and “right” answers, and are willing to say “I think that Christian stuff is a bunch of crap.” You can work with that. People don’t have any cultural, political, or career oriented motivations to pretend they are Christians, so they don’t. When they do say they believe it is usually legit and there is rarely much that they need to be untaught from cultural Christianity since they simply have not experienced it.

I was talking with a friend once. I asked him what he thought of the Gospel. He said, “whats that?” to which I replied, “you know Jesus on the cross and everything.” To which he responded (I promise this is true!) “I don’t know anything about Jesus, the only time I have ever heard His name is when my dad says ‘Jesus Christ!’.” That is what I mean by a “blank slate.” So after we talked about God creating humanity, humanity disobeying God, and God providing redemption to humanity through Christ, and after he surrendered to follow Christ in his life, he was a sponge ready to soak up anything and everything he could about God, The Bible, The Church, Jesus, Being a Christian, and so on. It is awesome to be able to disciple someone who doesn’t have to be untaught so much Cultural Christian baggage.  It is the coolest thing to see a person like that pick up a Bible and read John 3:16 as part of John 3 as part of the Book of John, without even skipping a beat.

Honestly, sometimes, a lot of times, I feel bad for people living in the more “Christianized” areas of our country. It seems like beliefs can be so much more convoluted and unclear when Christianity is so culturally prominent.


Saved by Grace, Sanctified by Works?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s video my grandfather-in-law and I have many great conversations. Sometimes those are via email. I always look forward to his emails and our conversations. This particular email discussed his thoughts on the role of grace and works in salvation and sanctification. He talks about how salvation and sanctification are explained in Scripture, and how we sometimes distort that based on our teaching and practice. His thoughts on Sanctification struck a particular chord with me because it is something that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. Here is what he said:

after the “born – again”, transformation takes place, the new person need not keep any rules of the church. Again, God provides the change, all we do is obey with the new ability God provides. Any change brought about by rule keeping or legalism only gives glory to man. Real, lasting change…loving God and others…always brings glory to God because these abilities are humanly impossible

I think we have a real strong tenancy to say, “yeah, God saves us by His grace, but after that we need to do x,y, and z to grow,” but, as Dave pointed out in his email, who gets the glory when we tell people they need to follow this set of rules to grow in their faith? Well, either that person for following the rules, or maybe us for setting up good rules to help them grow. So, we are willing to trust God for salvation and give Him alone the glory when someone’s eyes are opened to the truth of the Gospel, but we are sometimes unwilling to trust Him to complete that work in Sanctifying us and therefore take that glory which is only His away from Him. Probably not a great idea.

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; – Phl 1:6 NKJV


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