Empowered to Share Your Faith

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For some people, it’s a controversial issue. But as a Pentecostal, I believe one of the keys to sharing your faith with power is to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:1-4, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in a special way.

He rested on them in tongues of fire, fulfillment of Jesus’ ability to baptize with fire (Luke 3:16). The important part is that the Holy Spirit empowered them to witness with a boldness like never before. Not only were they unafraid to share their faith, but they shared it in a way never done before.

In Acts 2:5-11, we see the result of this empowerment. They are able to share their faith with people they can’t normally even speak to her. The Holy Spirit breaks down the barrier of language. They are able to proclaim God’s glory in the original language of all of their hearers, people from 13 places (Acts 2:7-11).

While we may not be able in every case to speak other languages for the people we share our faith with, that same boldness and empowerment to not be afraid and to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead is available to every Spirit-filled believer. All you have to do is ask him to guide you, give you the words to speak, and step out in faith.

We must rely on the Holy Spirit in every aspect of sharing our faith. He makes a strong and able to share. What do you think? Leave a comment to share your experiences with the Holy Spirit.

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Annihilating Boundaries

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Throughout the checkered past of human history, racism has been a strong force for creating distinctions and false ideas which lead to grave consequences. Someone might ask why in the world I am writing an article concerning this outmoded idea which we have evolved past. The reason is simple: ideas do not die; they only become reborn into fancier skin.

Throughout human history, racism has been used to force people into certain classes of lesser value. The chief cornerstone of racism centers on what it means to be human. The essential nature of humanity in each human being questioned in the bastions of racism and downtrodden in the actions of racists sparks a basic desire to quantify others versus ourselves. But we must push others down to raise ourselves up.

The results of such thinking, such as slavery, social injustices, holocaust, and other such blatant horrors blotting out the dignity of human life in our past loom with great evidence against the idea that we have beaten this racism thing. I am not attempting to question any advancement humanity has made on this issue. I am attempting to raise awareness of the motivation, the origins of such activity, so that when racism does occur, we do not ignore it and eventually become so desensitized that we have lost our own humanity by watching another’s dignity vanish.

Especially as Christians, Jesus left no room for such ideals. The gospel, which annihilated sin in each person included certain imperatives and demands upon each person, otherwise, one would not “count the cost” of becoming a disciple of Christ (Luke 14:25-33). The Early Church saw in the gospel a barrier-breaking proclamation from God to all humanity. Peter proclaims in Acts 2:17-18, 21, and verse 39 that this promise is to those who are far off and those who are near.

Paul spends time in Ephesians 2:13-16 explaining how the gospel has broken down the dividing barrier between Jew and Gentile in the temple. There was actually a wall that separated the Gentiles from the Jewish courts so that they would not defile God’s dwelling. The Jews would see themselves as better than the Gentiles because of these types of barriers, but God broke that wall of separation, because every believer is united with all other believers.

Numerous places in Paul’s writings refer to the universal audience of the gospel. It is for the Jew and Gentile, the slave and free, the male and the female (Gal. 3:28). The gospel reaches across the globe and there is no person, no color, no social or economic barrier that it does not annihilate. Christ died for every human being on this planet without a care if they were black, white, Asian, European, Indian, homeless, those owning multiple houses, millionaires, destitute, prostitutes, sinners, saints, believers, unbelievers, agnostics, and any other classification that can be made under heaven. Jesus paid full price for every one of us. In fact, the gospel is even available to Cleveland Browns fans (and that’s the truth coming from a zealous Steelers fan!).

There is no separation which we can make that God cannot and did not tear down, so that the message of His glory and desire to unite with us cannot penetrate every human heart. There is no socially unjust situation in which God did not send His Son to reconcile the wrongs and make things right. There is no possibility of escape or dismissal from the fountain of salvation. All may freely come and freely drink. Those distinctions we make among our own kind dishonor our representation, our ambassadorial mission, of Christ. Within every human lies the problem of sin and the disaster of living within a fallen world. Because sin touches everyone and everything, so also the gospel annihilates every boundary and seeks out every person and everything. God has saved this world wholly and completely despite our efforts to keep Him out. No matter who you are, how much money you make, what the color of your skin may be, how many relatives you have, whatever you have done, God has provided a way to not only find you, but to bring you out of the darkness into His glorious light.

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The Invitation

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After you tell your story, what should you do next? You gathered up all the courage to walk up to someone and tell them how Jesus changed your life. That’s awesome! But what you do next? How do you end the conversation?

Most of the time I have shared my story, people have asked me questions. Sometimes they are questions about my personal story, but other times they are questions burning on their minds about Christianity that they never thought they could ask.

But there are other times when the person you are sharing your faith with doesn’t really push the conversation onward. Here’s a simple way to end the conversation without ending the conversation.

Every pastor of every church once you to invite people to the church. It’s about sharing the faith with others, but it can be daunting for the visitor. One of the best ways to end your conversation about Jesus is to invite people to church.

I know that’s a crazy proposition because some churches aren’t ready for visitors. I realize that. Not every church in America shares a salvation message at some point during their meetings. But there is no better way to continue the conversation after the conversation.

Here are some suggestions on how to master the invitation and still be genuine:

  • Invite them to a special event. If the Sunday church service won’t work for them, try inviting them to a men’s group, women’s group, life group, or even a special event held just for people interested in the faith. This gives them a chance to get to know a few other Christians before they feel overwhelmed. It also gives them a sense of belonging.
  • Give them a tract or invitation card. Many invitation cards already have the information so you don’t have to do a lot of explaining. Also, if you use tracks, make sure they deal with something the person has mentioned to you. Also, as a personal favor, don’t give them a tract from 1950.
  • Make it simple and don’t apologize. Many times people apologetically invite people to church. “This is the church I go to. There are really great people even if the building is old.” Let them make their own decisions about attending and forming their own opinion about their experience.

If they take you up on your offer:

  • Welcome them, introduce them, and sit with them. If you brought someone, you need to be completely involved in making them feel comfortable and welcome. If you don’t do it, chances are no one in the church will.
  • Introduce them to the pastor. Whether it’s the pastor preaching or a pastor that would fit their life circumstance (youth pastor for teens, newlywed pastor for newlyweds, seniors pastor for senior citizens, etc.), you need to show them someone can continue to guide them.
  • Take them out to lunch. Don’t let the church be the last thing they see or hear. Take them out to eat, foot the bill, demonstrate Christian behavior, and ask them if they have questions or comments. This is not about saving the soul. This is about connecting with someone who needs Jesus.
  • Make yourself available to them any time you need you. Sharing your faith is the beginning of a relationship. It’s the first step not only in helping someone know Jesus but also in helping them grow. We must be concerned with a person rather than a notch and are spiritual belt.

Some of these steps may help you as you share your faith. The most important take away from this post is not sharing your faith is the first step in the process of sharing yourself as well as Jesus. Leave a comment and tell me what other steps you think are important in sharing the invitation.

If they take you up on your offer:

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Writing Strategies

Unfortunately, I’m one of the most distracted writers you will find. When I get stuck or just don’t know where to go, I tend to begin surfing the Internet for a while, playing a game, reading a book, or watching TV for a while. The problem is that it might be quite a while before I get back to the writing task at hand.

So I’ve been surfing the Internet (yes, because I’m stuck) for writing strategies that will help me minimize distractions. Some of those strategies include:

  • Writing nonstop with a timer for 15-20 minutes at a time. For me, it’s almost like a challenge to beat the clock. I want to improve every time I take a session and write more than I did the last time. I don’t have time (literally) to full around with something else.
  • Using a word processor that has no menus, icons, or status bars. This keeps me from clicking on random parts of the program or switching to another program altogether.
  • Keeping track of my writing times, how long I write, and how much I write. This helps me find my most efficient writing times and situations.

I’ve found a few good programs I think I like after trying them this week. If you’re interested in distraction free writing of any kind, you might want to take a look at:

  • Timers – The best one I found for me, completely customizable, with audible alarms (very helpful so I don’t switch to that program to check my time) is Snap Timer. It’s completely free to boot!
  • Word Processors – Anything that has a minimal approach will do. My favorite right now is WriteMonkey or Focus Writer. The options are available through context menus after right clicking. But you are staring at a blank page to write with. They also have options for word counts and in program timers, which I haven’t quite figured out yet. These are also free!
  • Tracking Progress – I just watched a webinar this week on tracking your progress so you can find out when you are the most productive. I never really thought about this that much. You could take an Google Docs or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and begin tracking your progress through this method. Then you could graph your results to find out when you are most productive. Not only will this show you when in your schedule you would be most productive, but it will also show over the course of your writing when he made the post progress writing chapters of your book.

Using these methods, I am hoping to make great progress in my book on holiness, as well as the short guide to sharing your faith. Hopefully these books will be finished by the end of the summer. I’m hoping to release the sharing your faith guide in July. What are some of the methods you use to write easier, better, faster, and more productively? Leave a note in the comment to help us all learn how to be better writers!

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Who’s to Blame?

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A very disturbing river runs through the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, a river of mysticism and random weirdness viewed as spiritual maturity. But this spiritual phooey actually sets itself against spiritual maturity, and Christian thinking! I speak now of those weird moments in a service where prophets speak God’s message for that specific congregation and moment in time. That very thing is biblical and desperately needed in our world today. But have you ever been in a service where the message or its spirit didn’t feel right or line up with Scripture? These random acts of spiritual weirdness must be considered biblically.

How do we carry out God’s desire to grant prophetic utterances and wisdom in the community of faith while avoiding the other side of the tracks? The prophetic office is a high calling and responsibility, much like preachers and Bible teachers. From whom much is given, much is required! Paul placed prophecy on the high end of importance in the Corinthian congregation (1 Cor 14:5).

What’s it like to be used as God’s mouthpiece for his people? The prophets of Israel in the Old Testament give us great examples. Many people look at the prophets as soothsayers or fortune tellers, or even future tellers. While some prophets did have some of these characteristics, Moses laid out expectations of the prophetic office.

He called for any true prophet that predicted the future that it must come to pass (Deut 18:21-22). A prophet job was to speak God’s word to his people in his time. Two passages in Deuteronomy help to define this biblical office. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 gives the primary qualification of a prophet. The Lord’s prophets drew people to the Lord. They wouldn’t lead God’s people astray. If one did, it was not a prophet of God.

” A prophet’s job was to speak God’s word to his people in his time. “

– Jonathan Srock

Prophets did not operate in the spirit of confusion. Read and Old Testament prophecy and you will find it’s clear as glass. You’ll know immediately whether God is angry or promising hope and blessing to his people. Prophetic messages must not confuse God’s people.

Another passage in Deuteronomy concerns the foreshadowing of Jesus as the ultimate Prophet for God’s people. If a prophet speaks about the future, it must come true (Deut 18:15-22). Recently, certain prophetic movements refused to evaluate the prophet’s life for godly behavior and prophetic integrity. We spend so much time legitimizing people with the title of prophet or apostle or other leadership titles when we should be seeking God’s voice.

” We spend so much time legitimizing people with the title of prophet or apostle or other leadership titles when we should be seeking God’s voice. “

– Jonathan Srock

These are simple qualifications we can easily verify. God doesn’t mess around with the prophetic office because they speak for him. When you hear prophets stand up and say, “Thus says the Lord,” it is a solemn pronouncement. No one would want to be caught speaking for God unless it is from him. Let us be careful to not grieve the Holy Spirit!

Prophets in biblical times evaluated the culture around them and addressed shortcomings of God’s people. They may have been harsh, but they hit the bull’s-eye when they spoke up. They spoke to issues and problems in the church. They called God’s people to obedience and holiness. They communicated God’s sovereign plan to his people. No prophet ever had trouble pointing out the faults of the community and demanding God’s highest standard.

They call people out with divine authority behind them. Prophets in the church today need to do the same. Their high calling is to call out sin, wickedness, worldliness, and demand a return to God. This office is vital to the health of the church.

Old Testament prophets were targeted to the spirit of God’s Torah, his law and instruction to his people. Everything they set was backed up by Scripture. God doesn’t say something today that contradicts what he already said. He does not change. His prophetic word will only glorify him and remind his people of who he is and what he expects.

Prophetic messages have different purposes from exhorting, encouraging, challenging, and convicting. Their messages spoke to their audience in their time, but often pointed forward to fuller fulfillment in the future. They wrote down their prophecies, so there’s nothing wrong with writing them down today. Of course, that means that they will be easier to evaluate. These messages that move the congregation of yesterday can still move the congregation of today.

For example, every semester at seminary, when our workload and life would catch up to us, inevitably God would speak in our chapel service, reminding us that he is our source for encouragement, strength, and rest. Students would get so caught up in assignments, papers, and tests that our relationship with God would suffer. He made a house call to remind us that he came first. This message is for everyone at all times.

God uses human beings to speak his message, and every person used has their own style. But Scripture also tells us prophets can control themselves (1 Cor 14:30-33, 40). Prophetic utterance is not an out of body experience. God is a God of order. He doesn’t interrupt himself in a service or during his message. And other prophets weigh what is prophesied (1 Cor 14:29). This is still true for today’s prophets. Church leaders have the challenging job of hearing from God and making sure that prophets speak his words to his people.

We need to take responsibility for human involvement in spiritual weirdness. Because of their high calling, prophets must only speak what God has given them. The moment they operate in the flesh, they put themselves, and God’s people, in danger. If such error occurs, profits need to admit that they have missed God. This doesn’t mean he can’t still use them. He most certainly will, provided they are humble and contrite when they don’t speak his word. We all represent God in some way. We all must be humble vessels for him to use us. The church needs God’s word from his prophets today more than ever! The world is spiraling into wickedness faster than ever before. We need his leading and prompting, and we need to hear his voice. We must not despise the prophetic office, but seek to hear through his prophets regularly.

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The Brotherhood

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Jesus instituted a powerful force on the earth before he left. The church is full of brothers and sisters in Christ, people who are on your side. This is where you get the resources to be the best witness for Jesus you can be. They are cheering you on!

At least, that’s how it should be. Jesus made the church to be a united front, lights in the world. But we don’t always act the way we should. Sometimes, there are no resources in the church where there should be. Sometimes, other Christians don’t support and cheer you on like they should.

Scripture is clear that there should be no competition between us. We are supposed to be here for one another. But this doesn’t always happen. Unfortunately, there are uncommitted Christians in many churches. But they may be struggling with the same things you are in their attempts to share their faith.

We are called to be better than we have been. Once you find someone to support you, you have found gold. But maybe you let someone else down along the way. The mission is too great for one of us to complete it. We need each other!

I want to encourage you to be the one who steps out and helps someone else. You go first. You will find that as you step out and help others, they will want to return the favor. Let’s unite and work together to share Jesus with the world! Leave a comment below with the first step you can make to help someone else share their faith better.

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Busy, Busy, Busy!

On Thursday, May 30, I published my short story “Tainted Beauty.” It was the first time I had ever published anything that I wrote. It was very exciting and I have many people helping me with the launch.

I finished the class recently called Write to Publish in a community I’m involved in called The Write Practice. If you want to learn how to write or just be encouraged by other writers who are doing the same things, it’s the place to be.

I realized that I need more contact with all of you, the people that read my writing. So I set out to make some author pages around the web. You can now check out my author pages which link to this blog and my ministry website, as well as my published works. I have author pages on Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, and Books2Read.

I also started a Twitter account to let people know what’s happening in my world. So I’ve been quite busy this month. Unfortunately, that means that I won’t have the Sharing Your Faith Short Guide finished for June. I plan to release it in July.

I am returning to some previous projects I had open. I’m working on a book on holiness called, “A Holy Dare.” I have been working on it for quite a while, and I would love to have it finished very soon.

Anyway, that’s a little bit of what has been going on in my world of writing for the past month or so. Keep in touch on any of these platforms and don’t be afraid to leave a comment below!

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God’s Track Record

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I hear many people referring to faith in some strange ways nowadays. For some odd reason, faith has become an unreliable thing, like the phrase points out, “Take it on faith,” meaning even though you don’t see it and there’s no proof, it’s still true. Then there are people who believe as just a system of accepted mechanical and often intellectual views. Their belief system does them no practical good whatsoever.

So I’m asking the question this month, “What is biblical faith?” By biblical faith, I mean what kind of picture or understanding do we receive from Scripture about faith. How does the Bible define faith? Are there different levels of faith or trust in God? What is the source of our faith? All of these are good questions and I hope this article sheds light upon the answers.

Biblical faith is an active pursuit of God based upon hope and expectation. This requires a stepping out, a doing, not just a knowing. It is important and helpful to know Christian doctrine. It is just as important to put your belief that God is pleased by our worship when we reach out and help someone. Faith should be active, a pursuit of God, a pursuit of righteousness and it should be a tool to apply our hope in Christ to our world.

When you see faith in the Bible, it is based on a relationship with God. You see, Israel did not have to blindly jump out into the Red Sea. They had seen God act in the past. They had seen Him single-handedly perform the ten plagues. They had seen God’s track record and simply said, “If God can do all of that, then of course He can part the Red Sea.” Faith is a gift from God to see beyond our circumstances and finite ideas to a supernatural and infinite God who cares for us. Faith is not a noun. It is a verb. And when you center your faith on Christ as the source of power, your faith gets a lot more done than you could ever imagine.

“Faith is a gift from God to see beyond our circumstances and finite ideas to a supernatural and infinite God who cares for us.”

– Jonathan Srock

Faith is something that grows. Jesus talks about the power of faith when He says that if you only had faith the size of a mustard seed, it could move mountains (Matt 17:20). Even a bit of faith goes a long way. In the Bible, God grows faith through trials. He may or may not cause the trials or troubles in your life. Some trials have a source of evil and are not from God, but God can use the trial to establish your faith in His power and then to strengthen or grow your faith so that you can believe for even greater things. That is the power of God, that He is bigger than any trial we face and that He can actually take something totally negative, and bring something wonderful and positive out of it. So we pray as the disciples in the gospels, “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

Faith is first defined in the flow of human history. God steps into our time and does some pretty amazing things. God also does some pretty normal things. But one of the coolest things about revelation is that when God interacts with humanity, He always reveals His own character, His attributes, the kind of God He is. We know from our past experiences that God is a good God, a loving God, a God who was willing to give up His only Son to save us! When I see who God is from His Word and from what He has done in history, it makes my faith swell.

God builds upon these events. He continues to do more than we can imagine. He blows our minds to increase our faith. We begin to say, “If God could do that, then I can believe Him to do this.” Our faith does not come out of thin air but is forged in the fire of trial and fueled with a knowledge of God both factual and experiential. Faith grows. Even in your personal life, when God does something amazing and you witness it, whether He did it for someone else or for you, it rubs off on you. Faith is contagious! That’s why we tell people our testimonies, so that it will also grow their faith.

“Our faith does not come out of thin air but is forged in the fire of trial and fueled with a knowledge of God both factual and experiential.”

– Jonathan Srock

Think this way: God wants to do awesome and unheard of stuff for His children. We’ve got to trust Him. We’ve got to know that He can and will do these things. We’ve got to buy in to His will and to His plan and to His Spirit. That is faith. An active buy-in to what God already wants to do in us. But many times in our walk with God, we’re so busy telling Him not to stretch us that we don’t even think of how far God wants to take us, how much better it will be if we’ll just trust. Do you trust God with this life? If you don’t, then how do you know you’re saved with eternal life? We need to live this life with a trust in this God who so cares for us. He’s building up our trust in Him with His actions and words, because that is how we see His heart.

Most people go to Hebrews 11 to define faith. It’s a good summation of what faith can become. Faith in God makes things possible because God can do anything, and when we believe that fact, then what we know as reality can be changed by God. Now God can change our reality without us exhibiting faith. He does not need our help. Faith is not cheerleading. Faith is seeing what God is doing and wants to do in our lives, in our world, in our universe. Faith is seeing God break the mold. And without faith, no one can please God. Faith is pleasing God with trust in Him and His character and His works.

As we live between the ages of Christ’s promises of eternal life from the cross until the culmination of all time at the eschaton, we must have faith not to survive in this place between the ages, but to thrive here and now. God is doing great things and faith helps us realize those things. Faith relies on the past, what God has done and revealed about Himself to us, so that we can see and be part of what God’s doing in the present and the future. It’s tough to step out into a new experience. We are creatures of habit. We love knowing what comes next. We thrive on being prepared for every contingency. But faith moves us away from ourselves, away from our comfort zones, and demands that we rely on Someone else. It demands that we trust God in a new experience. God wants us to experience the fullness of His plan for us and for this universe.

Biblical faith is not mystical or weird. It is an expectance of the hope we already have, based on the experiences we have already had. Faith produces the unseen when it is grounded in what we have already seen. So now we must step out into something new, trusting in God, who has shown Himself to be who He said He would be last time we stepped out. Stepping out never gets easier. When you think you’ve mastered stepping out, God ups the stakes. He doesn’t do this because He wants to torment or scare you. He does it because He wants your faith to continue to grow. So since faith is so active, step out and do that new thing because God’s with you every step you take.

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Demystifying Divine Appointments

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You hear about them all the time in church, those elusive divine appointments. Are they moments with God? Or are they special times of renewal? A divine appointment is when the Holy Spirit leads you to the right person at the right time with the right result.

This bakes the question, “How is the Holy Spirit involved in sharing my faith?” The Holy Spirit leads us in our daily walk with Jesus, but he does a lot more. Just as we can hear his voice as we read God’s Word and pray, he also leads us to share our faith.

I talked to before about praying before you share your faith with others. It is the most important preparatory step of sharing your faith. As part of that prayer process, begin asking the Holy Spirit to lead you to the person he wants you to speak to. Then ask him to give you the words to speak. The request to lead you to the right person at the right time with the right conversation is what we call the divine appointment.

This is Spirit-empowered witnessing at the next level. When you are working in concert with God and his plans for the people you share your faith with, he goes before you and prepares the way. This makes it so much easier to share your faith. You are operating within God’s will!

Divine appointments are not some mystical, spiritual experience. God gives them to people he trusts to speak about Jesus and demonstrate his change in them. You can have divine appointments simply by asking the Holy Spirit to lead you in sharing your faith. In your prayers, ask him to tell you who to speak to, when to speak to them, and what to say. Then, follow his lead and his prompting.

Have you ever had any divine appointments? What was it like? Most people find that when the Holy Spirit directs them in witnessing, they receive greater success for God’s kingdom. Leave a comment and tell me what you think about divine appointments.

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ANNOUNCING “TAINTED BEAUTY”

Two significant gardens appear in the Bible. The Garden of Eden is where everything began, including the entrance of sin into the world. But in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took the weight of the worlds sin and the cup of judgment for all of us.

Imagine what it was like in those gardens.

ABOUT TAINTED BEAUTY

/fast

Download “Tainted Beauty”

My new short story explores the world of Eden and Gethsemane, focusing on the significance of both gardens. Adam and Eve allowed sin into the world and Jesus paid the ultimate price for sin.

This short story is the first of many in the series “Images Transformed.” It explores the biblical images and their part in God’s redemptive plan.

BONUS! If you sign up for my email newsletter, youll get three additional short stories in my May newsletter! Just sign up on the right side of the page.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Adam, Eve, Jesus and his disciples are all brought to life and humanized in this lively, highly readable, modern version of the biblical stories that are well known and loved by Christians throughout the world. In this rendition, The stories draw the connections between what believers know as original sin and the Crucifixion. Srock’s dialogue is fresh and breathes new life into timeless characters, making this story a must read for Christians of all ages.”    -Madeleine Slovenz

“In ‘Tainted Beauty’ he has a way of drawing you in and painting a picture of the garden of Eden that Adam and Eve lived in, and how the snake manipulated them with the consequences most of us are familiar with, and he then links it to another biblical story we are all familiar with. It’s an easy and enjoyable read for every one, no matter your background or age. Have fun reading it.“      -Tjitske Duiker

“You are my fixed star, just like that one,” Adam says to Eve in Jonathan Srock’s sensitive and poignant telling of a tale of two gardens, ‘Tainted Beauty’.  This rich interweaving of two great Bible stories retold both entertains, and enters into the contemplation of a great Mystery!  Highly Recommended!”    -Andrew Fairchild

“A believable take on the day Man fell. Jonathan has taken the well-known story of Adam and Eve and fleshed out an interesting narrative, without taking from the truth as God told it. The relationship tainted by rebellion is renewed as the Son of God dies in our place. You will enjoy this story. “ -Vuyo Ngcakani

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