Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Redemption Press Scavenger Hunt: Balaam's Curse


Unfathomable evil grips the ancient homeland of the Children of Israel. When Yahweh, Most High God, led his people out of slavery in Egypt to confront it, they failed miserably and spent the next forty years wandering homeless in the desert. Now they are ready to try again. But before they can cross the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, the prophet Balaam is summoned from Babylon to stop them. Joining forces with supernatural powers, he unleashes a plot so twisted that the name of Balaam is used as a synonym for seductive evil a thousand years later in the Book of Revelation.  
 
Aided by the ruthlessly ambitious Princess Cozbi, the prophet gathers a coalition of five Midianite kings who will stop at nothing to defeat Israel and prevent a crossing that will change the world. Balaam’s Curse is an epic telling of the resulting deception, revolt, plague, and war. Familiar biblical characters—Moses, Caleb and Joshua—stride through this tale of mayhem and miracles. But this is the coming-of-age story of the next generation, young people nurtured in a simple wilderness life who suddenly find themselves caught in a vortex of violence and upheaval beyond anything they could have imagined.  

About the Author:
C. L. Smith, beloved junior high school English and history teacher, has been captivating audiences around the world for years with the timeless thrill of biblical tales. The Stones of Gilgal novels weave the author’s lifetime love of learning and people into the fabric of obscure ancient texts from the books of Numbers, Joshua, and Judges, creating a tapestry of rich scenes and colorful characters that will enthrall readers for years to come. 

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Giveaway!
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Monday, October 21, 2019

Better than Fiction Review!


Imagining him was harmless...until it wasn't.

Romance novelist Meghan Townsend’s marriage is slipping, and no amount of prayer seems to help. She aims to recapture her husband’s waning attention by getting in shape and finds escape by crafting her own fictional love story. Taking inspiration for the hero from a new friend—the attractive, spiritual, and attentive Curtis Jameson—she pours her yearnings onto the page, and craves the kind of pulse-pounding romance found in her book, Racing Hearts...

In 1916 Corona, California, motorcars are all the rage, and racing them is what Meghan’s hero, Russell Keegan, does best. But when his competition vandalizes his car, the only mechanic available is a greasy woman in a man’s overalls.

After a racing accident claimed her father’s life, Winifred became the sole breadwinner for her family. She is disdained as a female mechanic, but her daddy's trade is all she has left. Can she swallow her hatred of the races and take up Russell's offer of big bucks to fix his car, or will she lose everything to mounting debt?

Under Meghan's skillful pen, these two embark on a thrilling, adventurous romance. But she finds that writing those love scenes with Curtis’s face in mind takes her heart places it shouldn’t go. Will she realize in time that real life can be better than fiction?

About Better than Fiction


Better than Fiction is a unique, fun blend of Christian women's fiction and turn-of-the 20th century historical romance. It has given two best writer buddies an excuse to work together, laugh together, create together. It’s given them an opportunity to spotlight the colorful town of Corona, California in this lighthearted romance, while sharing their burden for the woman tempted by infidelity or struggling with an affair of the heart.

EXCERPT


1916
Russell watched as Winifred left the Ford and approached with slow, almost reverent steps. As she walked the circumference, studying every angle of his car, he studied her.
Washed in light, patches of clean skin glowed pale through the grime on her face and neck. A single curl hung forgotten against the side of her gaping mouth. Having made a complete circle, she came around the back of the Cat and took measured strides along its side. Her fingers hovered above the wheel and followed the curve in a worshipful caress.
If he didn’t know her to be an unfeminine creature, he might think she were trying to seduce him.
Unbidden, the feel of her fingers ran a similar trail along his bare shoulders. He swallowed hard and squirmed in his seat. Something was wrong with him if a figureless woman in filthy coveralls set his mind on such an unchristian path. With a grunt, he shook off the images, jammed the handbrake into place, and jumped from the vehicle.

Present Day

Steve’s game had ended long ago and Meghan was still tapping away on the laptop. Smiling, she closed her computer and nestled into her propped pillows with a dreamy sigh.
There was something about historical romance. A different time, a different way of life, but the same spark between a man and a woman.
A sharp snorting broke her from her reverie. Her gaze traveled to her husband―snoring loud enough to send the city into evacuation.
Meghan turned and studied the strong angle of his nose, the outline of his lips―even if they were hanging slack and flapping with every rattling breath. To be fair, she’d gotten pretty lax with her own appearance until a couple months ago, and Steve had never said a word. Of course, he hadn’t looked at her the way he used to in a long time, either.
She reached out and ran a finger along his arm. Would he stir and pull her close?
He smacked his tongue on the roof of his mouth, then turned the other way.
Dejected, Meghan rolled onto her back.
Looked like all the sparks tonight were reserved for Winifred and Russell.

My thoughts: This book has a lot going for it, with the dual story line and that there is more to the present day story than meets the eye. I enjoyed getting to know Meghan as she writes her story set in the early 1900's while navigating her marriage that is heading towards disaster. The story will keep you up reading, to figure out what will happen with the forward thinking young woman in 1916 and the young wife trying to get to figure out how her marriage got to it's current state. Both of the stories are unique and interesting.
I received this book from Celebrate Lit. This is my honest review and is in no way influenced by receiving a complimentary copy.

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About the Authors:
April W Gardner writes Christian historical romance with a focus on our southeastern Native tribes. She is a copyeditor, military wife, and mother of two who lives in South Texas. In no particular order, April dreams of owning a horse, learning a third language, and visiting all the national parks.

Michelle Massaro writes contemporary fiction, soaked in grace. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband of over two decades and their four children. She’s dabbled in homeschooling, teaching Creation Science, and leading worship. When she isn’t tinkering with words, Michelle enjoys old Rogers and Hammerstein movies, making kefir, and Sudoku. A new lipstick and a good French roast always make her happy.


More from April and Michelle
April and Michelle get a lot of questions about how exactly co-authors write a book. Who writes which part? Did you have any trouble, any conflict? Valid questions! But in the case of Better than Fiction, it was no trouble at all, and neither author can remember a single heated disagreement. In part, because they’d been critique partners for eons and were already working together seamlessly.
It also helped that the story is made up of two intertwining novellas. Each author had her own blank canvas to color on with the other looking on and offering feedback. The most enjoyable part of the process was the challenge of making sure the events in the life of Michelle’s contemporary character (an author) influenced the characters’ decisions in April’s historical plot.
Why intertwining stories? The idea behind it was to show what it’s like to live in the mind of a writer, how her real life makes its way into her stories. The theme of emotional affairs was a good fit, as it is often all too easy for women—even Christian woman—to be drawn to another man and justify it as harmless friendship rather than admit she is looking to this person to fill a need that only God and her husband are meant to fill.
They decided to set the story against the backdrop of Michelle’s hometown of Corona, California in 1916 and the real-life Corona Road Race that took place in April of that year. It was the third race and, due to tragedy, the last.
From concept to “The End,” it took a span of about four years for Michelle and April to publish Better than Fiction, and as far as teamwork goes, it went off without a hitch. April was able to fly from her home in Georgia to stay with Michelle’s family and do research, and later, Michelle flew to Georgia for a concentrated writing weekend. The two had an amazingly fun time writing and working together.
Another question the authors get…will there be a sequel? Only time will tell.

For a complete list of blog stops, go here!

Giveaway!
To celebrate their tour, April and Michelle are giving away the grand prize bundle of a $20 Amazon gift card, themed mug and bookmarks, and handmade throw pillow that says, “Books, my happy place”!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link here to enter.

Whispers in the Pews Review


Mental Illness is real. Will the Church get real?
This book is a collection of essays from various authors: men and women, pastors and congregants, counselors and nurses, parents and children. All have a unique view of how mental health conditions affect people, and how the church has responded to these circumstances. Whispers in the Pews tackles how the mentally ill have been, and still are, treated in the church at large by sharing stories.
This is not fundamentally a teaching book, but a book of moments and lives, knitted together by the common theme of mental health. No sermons will be included, though lessons learned from difficulties and their foundations in Scripture are encouraged.
This collection will expand your vision, and your heart, about what the church does well for the mentally ill, and where we can improve.

My thoughts: This book is so needed in the church today, since mental illness is something that we need to talk about more, especially in a church setting. I feel like there has been a stigma against it and the need for counseling on any level, so reading this book of personal stories is a good way for church leaders and members to become more aware of what their friends may be going through. Some of the stories just shattered my heart, especially to read how some people have been treated but it also gives me hope that more can be done as people are made aware. I highly recommend this book for leaders in the church.
I received this book from Celebrate Lit. This is my honest review and is in no way influenced by receiving a complimentary copy.

Purchase a copy here:

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About the author:
Chris Morris writes about the juxtaposition of faith and unresolved pain, those moments where we feel like God should show up, but He doesn’t. His writing focuses on bring hope, encouragement, and practical steps to those disappointments, we don’t get stuck.
He is familiar with the confusion and pain of a life interrupted by an illness. He’s had seizures of one kind or another for his entire life. Some days, he loses hours of his day. Other times, the steel trap that used to be his mind…leaks like a sieve.
His daughter is epileptic, and has had over 5000 seizures in her life. She is also a high-functioning autistic, with increasing frustration as she begins to realize she is not like her peers.
Every day, he is reminded in some way that his family will never be normal.
But he won’t give in, he won’t give up. He won’t let the pain and aggravation, the injuries and difficulties that are part of his normal keep him from living a full life. At least, most days that’s true. His heart is to show his readers how to do the same.

More from Chris
Mental illness isn’t going away any time soon, as statistics say more than one in four people are diagnosed with a mental illness in the United States. And yet, the church at large has had a mixed response to mental illnesses. The church should be the one place where people are accepted as they are, no matter the details. Jesus accepted everyone who came across his path—adulterers, tax collectors, fishermen, critics. It didn’t matter. As His footprint upon the earth, the church should be the same.
Even with, or perhaps especially with, mental health conditions, the instinct should be to lean into kindness and love. The local church body should gather around, provide a place of safety and transparency, upholding those who are not well in their midst.
And this is exactly what happens, sometimes. There are pastors who are actively looking to normalize mental health conditions by mentioning depression alongside diabetes as an illness that can be overcome.
But for every pastor looking to build a healthy understanding of mental illnesses, there is a pastor lumping depression in with pornography, equating anxiety with faithlessness, telling their congregation to avoid medicine for treatment, or otherwise refusing to recognize the complexity of mental illnesses.
Definitely there are spiritual disciplines that can help those suffering from depression, but often it’s not enough. And yes, talking with a pastor or a counselor can certainly provide some relief for anxiety, but that’s not always the path forward either. Sometimes medicine is the answer, or at least part of the answer. And sometimes, there is no answer. Sometimes, trauma has left an indelible mark upon a person that cannot be overcome.
How can anyone tell the young man who is battling depression because of his abusive upbringing with a violent alcoholic father that a little more Bible reading and some memorization of a few verses will make the nightmares go away? No, that’s not how it works.
That’s not to insinuate every mental health condition comes from trauma. But even when the root isn’t trauma, there is still complexity involved. Some come from chemical imbalances…and no, that’s not a cop out. This is why antidepressants ease the burden for many suffering from severe depression, because these medications work to balance out various neurotransmitters. This is why some diagnosed as bipolar are able to find rest from the highs and lows with lithium, because a lithium imbalance was the problem in the first place.
Unfortunately, these truths are not always appreciated or understood in the church at large. No, many pastors paint with broad strokes, equating any mental illness with immaturity in the faith. It’s uncomfortable at best, and fear inducing at worst, to tell a pastor that he’s wrong. Especially when it’s hard to nail down why it is that he’s wrong.
Because of this discomfort, many choose to put on a happy shiny Christian mask and act like they’re not hurting. It’s more painful to confront church leadership and answer all the accusations and questions.
Even more disheartening than putting a mask on, many with mental illnesses choose to step away from the church altogether. They’ve been hurt too often, and too consistently, to have any space left in their hearts for trust. So they hang tight to a belief in Jesus, but walk away from the church because it hurts too much. Some of the voices you’ll read in this book have walked away from church for this very reason.
We can do better as the church. We must do better.
This reality is why I’ve gathered almost two dozen voices to share their stories. It’s only in listening—truly listening with every fiber of our being—to story after story of mental illness that we are able to see just how different every person is, even when the diagnosis is the same.
Mental illness isn’t a simple diagnosis, under any circumstances. It’s not like a fractured shoulder blade, where the path to healing is clear. With a shoulder, the bone needs to be set, the shoulder needs to be immobilized, and healing will take place. If there’s a complex fracture, then surgery might be necessary. But, the basic path is the same. This is never true with mental health conditions. Too often the church has treated those with mental illnesses as though there is a straightforward path toward healthier living, and that’s been painful to bear.
Whispers in the Pews has been written because I am convinced that it is fundamentally stories that will change the allowances for bad theology and inconsiderate (or worse) treatment of people. By hearing the pain and the victories that others have experienced in the church, my hope is that there will be room for a new way to approach mental health—one that sees the person before the health condition.

For a complete list of blog stops, go here.

To celebrate his tour, Chris is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link here to enter.

Second Chances


When Shirley and Bill set out on a dream trip in the beautiful northwest wilderness to celebrate their 40th anniversary, what develops is a nightmare that has no end. Mysterious pangs turn into a vicious virus that makes its way into Bill's body. Shirley finds comfort through her Savior during the six months of Bill's illness-an illness which eventually takes his life. After a time, Shirley's heart aches for companionship. Little does she know that living a few miles from her home, a widower mourns the loss of his wife of 32 years. They meet and fall hopelessly in love and their love takes them on a two-year journey of joy and adventure until once again overwhelming heartbreak rocks Shirley's world. This is a story of faith and courage to strengthen your own soul.

My thoughts: One of the thoughts that was at the forefront of my mind while reading this book is just how resilient Shirley is! To keep an open heart and learn to love again after going through some difficult health situations with a spouse would be hard to do, and to do it with hope!
I thought that this book was easy to pick up and get engrossed in. Shirley is a delight as she shares her experiences and encourages others. This is an excellent book for those who have loved and lost.
I received this book from Celebrate Lit. This is my honest review and is in no way influenced by receiving a complimentary copy.

Purchase a copy:

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About the Author:
Shirley Quiring Mozena is an outdoors woman, musician, amateur chef, and former elementary music teacher and librarian. She has survived the hardest test of her faith and now works with others grieving the loss of loved ones.


More from Shirley
They told me there was no hope. How could that be? I’d already lost one husband. Would I have to lose another? We’d had so little time!
Four years earlier—nearly to the day—my high school sweetheart and father of my two children had died. We’d gone through so many struggles. Our marriage was nearly broken. Through courage in facing our faults and selfishness, our marriage was restored. And then, after a six month battle with a terrible virus, my husband died.
I’d never dreamed I’d love again, but it happened. Sx months after our first date, we were married. It seemed like we were still on our honeymoon when the next tragedy happened. Just like that, he was gone.
And then I knew the story needed to be told. For myself. For my children. For anyone who wanted to know. It’s a story of second chances in a restored marriage. In love. In hope for the future and God’s sustaining love and comfort. A story to strengthen your own soul.

For a complete list of blog stops, go here!

Giveaway!
To celebrate her tour, Shirley is giving away the grand prize package of a copy of Beyond Second Chances and a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link here to enter.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Synapse Review!


Thirty years in the future, when AI is so advanced that humans live side by side with cognizant robots called Artificials, Kestrel Hathaway must come to terms not just with what machines know, but with what they believe.
Soon after experiencing a personal tragedy, Kestrel witnesses a terrorist attack and is drawn into a world of conspiracies and lies that she and Jordan, her Artificial, have to untangle. With a second, more brutal attack looming on the horizon, their best chance of stopping it is teaming up with federal counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon. But the clock is ticking—and all the while, Jordan is asking questions Artificials were never meant to ask.
Deftly weaving suspense and intrigue into a rich, resonant tale that explores faith and what it really means to be human, Steven James offers us a glimpse into the future—and into our own hearts.
Synapse is an unforgettable, gripping story of dreams shattered, truth revealed, and hope reborn.
Praise for Synapse:
“Perfectly timed and thought-provoking, Synapse is a smart, intense thriller that keeps the suspense building until the final page. Steven James once again delivers a perfect amalgam of character and plot, totally immersing the reader in an irresistible narrative.” —Simon Gervais, international bestselling author of Hunt Them Down
“Next-level suspense that keeps the pages turning, combined with next-level writing on par with the great literary masters . . . Synapse is not merely a thriller you should read—as 5G approaches and advances in AI snowball, it is the thriller you can’t afford not to.” —James R. Hannibal, award-winning author of The Gryphon Heist

My thoughts: This book doesn't pull any punches! 3o years in the future, Kestrel Hathaway is a minister who has chosen to go through having a child of her own through unconventional methods. When the baby is a stillborn, her brother sends her an AI robot to help her, even though she has resisted having one around after an earlier model murdered their parents. But, Jordan is different from any other AI she has been around, with his questions of God and the world around him. This is an excellent, suspenseful story to pick up! I enjoyed the futuristic setting and themes.
I received this book from Celebrate Lit. This is my honest review and is in no way influenced by receiving a complimentary copy.

Purchase a copy:

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About the Author:
Steven James is the critically acclaimed, national bestselling author of sixteen novels. His work has been optioned by ABC Studios and praised by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the New York Journal of Books, and many others. His pulse-pounding, award-winning thrillers are known for their intricate storylines and insightful explorations of good and evil. When he’s not working on his next book, he’s either teaching master classes on writing throughout the country, trail running, or sneaking off to catch a matinee.

More from Steven
“James is a pro at creating suspense.”
Criminal Element

“stimulating tale…thrilling story of greed and corruption”
Publishers Weekly STARRED review

Read my op-ed on robots and faith in the New York Times

I grew up reading and loving science fiction stories. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of artificial intelligence, but as I’ve thought about it over the years, I’ve realized that our lives are not based just on what we know, but also what we believe. So, I started asking myself, “What would the world look like if machines developed artificial belief?” Within a few decades, advanced AIs might very well have consciousness and self-awareness. At that point, what will they choose to believe about the meaning of live, God, and the afterlife?
All of these questions were in my mind as I wrote Synapse, a story that takes place 30 years from now in a world very much like our own. This is a cautionary tale with implications that are both chilling and revealing and I think that if you like suspense, you’ll love this near-future thriller.
—Steven
Learn more at stevenjames.net
Facebook and Twitter: @readstevenjames
Buy the book: https://www.tnzfiction.com/synapse-a-novel/

For a complete list of blog stops, go here!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Hope's Highest Mountain Review!


Ingrid Chastain readily agreed to accompany her father to deliver vaccines to a mining town in the Montana Territory. She never could have anticipated a terrible accident would leave her alone and badly injured in the wilderness. When rescue comes in the form of a mysterious mountain man who tends her injuries, she's hesitant to put her trust in this quiet man who seems to have his own wounds.

Micah Bradley left his work as a doctor after unintentionally bringing home the smallpox disease that killed his wife and daughter. But his self-imposed solitude in the wilds of Montana is broken when he finds Ingrid in desperate need of medical attention, and he's forced to face his regret and call on his doctoring skills once again.

Micah can't help but admire Ingrid's tenacious determination despite the severity of her injuries, until he learns the crate she brought contains smallpox vaccines to help quell a nearby outbreak. With Ingrid dead set on trekking through the mountains to deliver the medicine--with or without his help--he has no choice but to accompany her. As they set off through the treacherous, snow-covered Rocky Mountains against all odds, the journey ahead will change their lives more than they could have known.

My thoughts: I feel like I have read a decent bit of historical fiction, especially books set in the Pioneer days, so (between that and actual history books/non-fiction) I feel like I know a decent bit about the time period. This book introduced me to a lot of new facts about history though! The journey that Ingrid and Micah take through the mountains to deliver hope to a small town had me feeling so thankful to not live back then! I can't imagine how difficult a feat like that would be, though this book gives me a good idea of the dangers one could face. This book is well written and unique, I highly recommend it!
I received this book from Bethany House. This is my honest review and is in no way influenced by receiving a complimentary copy.

Purchase a copy:

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About the Author:
After working for 13 years in the corporate world, Misty M. Beller (mistymbeller.com) is now the author of fourteen independently published Christian historical romance novels. Raised on a farm in South Carolina, she combines her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life by writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters. She lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina, is an active member of ACFW, and teaches regularly at conferences and writing groups on effective book marketing.

More from Misty
Remember Lassie? Old Yeller? Chance and Shadow from the movie Homeward Bound? There was something about these dogs that gripped my heartstrings and made me love them as though I’d known them for years. (And, yes, I cried during every one of these movies and books.)
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had real dogs I’ve loved too. As far back as I can remember, we’ve had at least one or two dogs, and each one has been my very best friend. They’ve suffered my undying love, even allowing me to dress them up like dolls during my younger years.
But the dogs in my stories have a special place in my heart. Handsome, the sweet little black fluffball in Hope’s Highest Mountain is no exception! He was the runt of the litter, and such a dark black that the story’s hero nicknamed him Shadow. You can see the picture that inspired Handsome at the book’s Pinterest page. Those eyes! Hard not to fall in love, right?
The more I wrote in the story, the more I enjoyed getting to know this little guy, and I could almost feel his soft puppy fur as he snuggled in close. I completely see why Ingrid (the heroine) is smitten him! As you read Hope’s Highest Mountain, I hope you love Handsome as much as I do. Please give him some extra petting for me! ?

For a complete list of blog stops, go here.

Giveaway
To celebrate her tour, Misty is giving away the grand prize package of a copy of Hope’s Highest Mountain, a $20 B&N gift card, and cute mountain cards!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link here to enter.

ACTs420Now; For We Cannot Stop SPeaking About What We Have Seen and Heard


An eight-week, interactive Bible study using the book of Acts, and lives of God-fearing believers throughout time will strengthen faith. The lives of Peter and John in the book of Acts, William Bradford and William Tyndale, and the faith of founders of our nation, come to life and will encourage a stand for Christ in our own culture and times. Believing there will be difficult days ahead, teacher and evangelist, Marta E. Greenman seeks to equip believers through biblical principles, and the faith lessons found in the lives of historical believers. Powerful strategies for overcoming fear and sharing your faith.

My thoughts: This Bible study is excellent! I like how this book is all about being a better witness to those around us. It has gone well with some recent sermons and thoughts presented to me, about being more vocal in my witness of Jesus Christ. If it were illegal to worship Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict me?
While this book is based on the book of Acts, it doesn't limit itself to the one book of the Bible. I like how it draws from the rest of the Scriptures and from history. This is an excellent Bible study that will challenge you to grow in your witness!
I received this book from Celebrate Lit. This is my honest review and is in no way influenced by receiving a complimentary copy.

Purchase a copy:

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About the Author:

Marta E. Greenman was called out of corporate America in 1988, then joined a church-planting organization and traveled the world in evangelism and discipleship campaigns. In 2002, she and her husband, Marshall, moved to Romania to help church plant and work with street children. In 2011, Marta founded Words of Grace & Truth Ministries, which is dedicated to teaching God’s Word to the nations, and teaching others to do the same. She is the author of two other Bible studies, Bound to be Free, and Leaders, Nations, and God, teaches and speaks nationally and internationally, and makes her home with her husband in Plano, TX.

More from Marta
What can we learn from the first century church to make the twenty first century church more “successful.” Join me in a journey to rediscover principles from the first century church to apply them to your life. We will start from the foundation of Christianity, there is salvation in none other than Jesus Christ, and build from there. We will start our journey in Acts 4 and explore strategies for overcoming.

Blog stops!
For a complete list, go here.

Giveaway!
To celebrate her tour, Marta is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link here to enter.