Tag Archives: Mac McConnell

Footsteps of St. Peter – The Gospel Years by Mac McConnell

McConnell, Mac.  Judean Chronicles – Book II.  Footsteps of St. Peter:  The Gospel Years.  Ft. Lauderdale: OneWay Books, 2010. 146 pp. $12.95. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed all of Mac’s books here. To get an idea of Mac’s ministry, watch this short video.

Summary

In this second volume of three in the Judean Chronicles series, McConnell traces the personality of the Apostle Peter through what we know of him in the gospels found in the Bible. What is different is that this book is told completely from Peter’s perspective which includes his fiery personality.  The book ends as Jesus and His disciples are making their way toward Jerusalem.

Review

I offer no apologies for saying that I am one of Mac’s biggest fans.  I have thoroughly enjoyed his writing style and offering a different perspective of some of the more well-known events, peoples, and stories found in the Bible.  In this work, you still have Peter’s fiery personality.  You see his struggle with his skepticism of who Jesus really is even though he is an eyewitness to all the miracles.

I do have a couple problems with this book, however.  Both of them take place on a two-page spread.  On page 100, McConnell places a French Proverb in the mouth of Jesus when Christ says, “Sometimes a man meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” This is a great saying but is not biblical at all. The French poet, Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) is credited as the source of this statement. My problem is that we all too often allow other religious statements to be baptized as Christian though they have no biblical warrant whatsoever.

The second problem is on page 101 where Peter hears Jesus praying in a language that he did not understand. This is only a problem for me because this is a debatable doctrinal point. Again, this is only a problem because of the debate that rages in Christendom regarding speaking in tongues and private prayer language.

Regardless, the book ends on a very high note with the exhortation to His disciples that they will need rest. In addition to ending well, the story told from Peter’s perspective is interesting and will cause the reader to pause and consider.

Recommendation

I can recommend this book based upon the story and the content of Mac’s ministry even though I have a major problem with the French poet quote being placed in the mouth of Christ. I still enjoy the work by Mac and will recommend the series (and all his other books) highly. When I come to this particular book, however, I will offer the caveat found above on pages 100-101.

Interview: Mac McConnell

This week, Mac McConnell stops by to discuss his stage and writing ministries. You can read my review of all of his books here.

Christian Book Notes (CBN): Could you share your testimony of how you came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

Mac: I remember one Monday morning. I don’t remember much of the weekend. It had been a party weekend – one of many in a row. I was a business owner with a tab at the bar next to my art and framing shop. I thought I had the world on a string, but this Monday like too many before it, I was hung over and alone and wondering, “Is this all there is?” I had a social life and a party life but still felt lonely. There was emptiness. My mom suggested I should try reading my Bible, but I had to tell her I had no idea where it might be. So she sent me one. I began at the beginning. It seemed appropriate. But what I read sounded confusing or irrelevant. About this time my ex and I started dating after four years of not seeing each other when Mother convinced me if I wanted it to work we would have to start with church. I had done church much of my childhood and was not intimidated one bit. It was a small Presbyterian church recommended by a friend and tennis rival. After a few Sundays of settling in came the surprise of my life. The preacher presented the Gospel and I realized that I did not know this Jesus he was talking about, but sure wanted to. You see, I was Baptized with the rest of my Sunday school class when I was eight, but no one shared the Gospel—they assumed I was saved, and so did I—but 23 years later I realized I was not. I said yes to Jesus that day. I wasn’t just saved, I was changed.

CBN: Could you share a little bit more about yourself?

Mac: After finishing with college in Ft. Lauderdale, (I didn’t say graduating, I was just finished with college) I took off on my own and ended back in my birth town of Jacksonville, FL staying with my aunt and working at a Jewelry store. I was the kind that always landed on my feet. I met, dated and married a beauty queen, (really) while serving in the National Guard and working in various jobs mostly as Assistant Service Manager in Chevrolet dealerships. Linda and I began to drift apart and divorced in less than four years of marriage.

I left and moved back to Ft. Lauderdale and soon landed a great job with Chrysler Corp as Field Service Specialist for South Florida. But corporate life was not a fit and I walked away after three years and opened a modest art and picture framing store in 1974 with a little, very little savings and a backer. Linda reentered the picture in 1976 and the little art and framing business began to expand. At the height of success in 1979 with three galleries and another to open in a few months the economy tanked and so did my success.

Threatened with bankruptcy in the next six months I had some tough choices to make, but I knew bankruptcy wasn’t going to solve one of them. I managed to convince my suppliers and the bank to hold off while I did my own reorganization. They said yes. I sold off what I could, got a second full time job, closed two art galleries and gave the new one away to the builder. It took four years to see daylight, but it was bright indeed. The remaining art gallery and picture framing studio went on the win the Miami Herald’s Small Business of the Year and was subsequently featured in Inc. Magazine. And that story is the basis of a motivational talk I present based on the ageless 22 Proverb, verse 1. I kept that business till 1995 when God, called me to full time ministry to spread the Good News dramatically.

CBN: You left a reward winning business to perform one-man dramas and write books, how difficult was that and how is it working out for you?

Mac: I was asked to understudy the narrator’s roll in the fledgling Ft. Lauderdale Christmas Pageant in 1989. It was a bit bewildering as I had not been involved in any kind of drama much less as a lead, but I was captivated. Within the next year I had performed in two local theater productions and began co-narrating the pageant. Soon I was scripting portions of the pageant and that was the experience that caused me to read the Bible from a different perspective—a first person perspective—and that made all the difference.

I would assume the persona of each Bible character I ran across and the scriptures exploded in my mind as I began piecing together short skits as Simon Peter. I really didn’t know why until a pastor friend invited me to present one of the dramas at his church and the drama ministry began to take shape. It was just a hobby at first that I would play with in my spare time around town, but ultimately I was absorbed to distraction. When I was asked to do a presentation in a local jail and some inmates came to Christ, I wondered if it was a little bigger than I thought.

One morning in June 1995 before sunup as I was asking God his favorite question, “What do you want from me?” He said, “How long will you waiver between two opinions?” (1Kings 18:21, and that’s a great Bible study lesson I love to give) Ain’t it just like God to answer a question with a question? Well, I knew that I knew it was time. Either stay in business—nice and safe—or leave it and formalize the drama ministry.

What scared me was the realization it was one or the other. I could not fathom giving up the drama ministry. Many say, “It must have taken great faith to walk away from your business for full time ministry.” And I tell them, “Nope, it took great faith to tell my wife.” Within 3 days, yes 3 days, I had a buyer for the business and seed money for the ministry. God slammed the door behind me, knowing I was more like Simon than I did.

The Ft. Lauderdale Christmas Pageant began with seven performances in 1990. Today we have 19 performances with nearly 50,000 in attendance every year. It’s a pretty big deal and has won two Emmys. The ministry began as a hobby, but 16 years later we have presented dramas overs 600 times with more than 10,000 decisions for Christ it is safe to say it ain’t no hobby to our Lord and certainly no longer to me.

CBN: Your books have masterfully drawn from the fringe of characters found in the Bible (Zacchaeus, a shepherd boy, and an inn keeper). What is your inspiration for your writings?

Mac: When scripting for the pageant I inadvertently began reading from the character’s perspective in 1st person – that made all the difference. I “took on” the character and could easily see they were real human beings, multi-faceted, emotional, had good days and bad like us all. I used a Greek dictionary to help flesh out those emotions and then acted them out in my mind’s eye. Then, and perhaps this was a turning point in getting to the bottom of many passages, I began to ask why. Next, of course, I had to find the answers to all the why’s. Those answers, or at least my interpretations of the answers lead me to a better understanding of the character’s behavior…for instance, why did a nice Jewish boy grow up to be a despised tax collector in 1st century Jericho? How did Zacchaeus’s “small of stature” effect him socially? So, I created a back story to show him as a picked on youngster with a tough old man for a dad. When I investigated Hebrew life for youngsters I found fascinating details of Hebrew school and place Zacchaeus in that scenario, and so on.

CBN: What would you say to the one who says that you take too much artistic license in writing your novellas?

Mac: I love this question. It gives me the opportunity to ask them, “Which passage or chapter is giving you issue?” If they indeed read the book, (or seen the play) and they have an example, it gives me an opportunity to question my decision for writing that particular piece. Anyone who questions my writing or dramas, and, specifically, anyone who may be confused about a paragraph, scene or chapter, usually means I need to do a better job of presenting that passage. It is my job to make it clear and easy to follow – it is not my job to use artistic license as an excuse to manipulate the story or the audience.

CBN: Your most recent trilogy features the Apostle Peter. Why did you choose this particular apostle?

Mac: Hah – easy – my alter ego. Peter was the first drama and my persona since 1990 in the Ft. Lauderdale Christmas Pageant. The more I know him, the more I know myself. Unfortunately I have most of his lousy traits, but those traits come out in the writing and the dramas as well. Peter asked tough questions and has enormous doubts. But, he also takes seriously his responsibilities and does not give a second thought to taken risks. As John Ortberg’s book, “If you want to Walk on Water, You got to get out of the Boat” (Zondervan), so aptly shows the risk/reward of spontaneous faith, Peter is my hero regardless of his misadventures. We all identify with Peter and we should. I thought at one time, “I’m not like Peter, I would never deny my Jesus.” REALLY – and then remember the times I was in the wrong place and no one knew I was a Christian – that’s denial. We both have forgiveness.

CBN: When I first talked with you, I told you I was skeptical of this genre of writing. What would you say to someone like me?

Mac: Terry, if more folks (and Christians, DUH) would be that honest, there is nothing I need to say, but lots to admire. One thing in my corner is the size of my modest books. They are not intimidating. Even my non-religious friends and family will read my short novels. If a skeptic, like you, will say, “OK, but I’m going to be honest about how I like your book”, what more can I ask? I had a brainiac read my first, “Forever Changed” and admitted it was not challenging enough for him – I read his book and could not digest the foreword so I told him, “We’re even.” As my wife says, “That’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla.”

CBN: How can we pray for you and your ministry?

Mac: WOW, and praise the Lord! A couple of things come to mind. 1. My big head (a Simon Peter trait). I must keep the proper attitude and remember constantly if any good is in my books or dramas, it is a Holy Sprit download and not a Mac masterpiece. I receive way too much attention, credit and applause and too often forget, God doesn’t need me. He chooses to use me as long as I can be trusted with his gifts. 2. Keeping in step with Him. I tend to dash ahead – “Come on God, we have work to do.” Sooooo much more successful with I keep pace. (Remind you of anyone?)

Thank you, Mac for taking the time to to answer these questions. May the Lord continue to bless your ministries to His glory.

Winsday: Autographed Cradle to Cross Trilogy by Mac McConnell

I have now reviewed all of Mac McConnell’s books with the review for Joseph being published this morning.  I am excited to be able to give away a copy of the Cradle to Cross Trilogy signed by the author.  Just in time for Christmas, you will be treated to an enjoyable rendering of the Christmas story from three different perspectives that will take you all the way to the cross of Calvary.  To win this set of books simply fill out the contact form below.  A name will be drawn on Monday, December 6, 2010.  Good providence!

[contact-form 1 “Contact form 1”]

Joseph by Mac McConnell

McConnell, Mac.  Joseph: A Father’s Journey.  Ft. Lauderdale:  OneWay Books, 2009.  130 pp.  $12.95.  Purchase at Amazon for $11.01 or less.  Purchase for Kindle for $9.99.

Introduction

By this point, Mac McConnell needs no introduction.  If, however, you do not know about his ministry yet, please check out my past reviews on all of Mac’s books or check out his ministry webpage, One Way BooksJoseph is the third book in the Cradle to the Cross Trilogy.

Summary

Joseph is about the step-father (the earthly father) of Jesus.  We find a young Joseph looking to follow in his own father’s footsteps in the carpenter’s trade.  He meets a young girl named Mary.  They are set to get married when she disappears for a time.  Upon finding out that she is pregnant, Joseph wrestles with whether or not to divorce her.  We know from Scripture that he does not.  In this novel, they answer the “problem” by moving the wedding day up.

When the census is called, Joseph and Mary head to Bethlehem to be counted.  Here, they meet up with an Inn owner named Hadad who allows them to stay in the manger outside his inn.  Once the child is born, Joseph and Mary stay in Bethlehem for two years before being led by the Spirit to leave for Egypt.

Review

Though this was the last of the three books in the Cradle to the Cross trilogy to be written, I believe it should be the first to be read.  Joseph ends with the family leaving for Egypt while Hadad and Bozra follow the life of this child to the point of His death.  Joseph really sets up the entire trilogy in my estimation.

Also, I have given nothing but high praises for Mac’s work through his novels.  That has not changed with Joseph though I do have some criticisms.  For example, I struggled with the way in which Mac portrayed Joseph as understanding who this child really was.  Joseph seemed to know what young Yeshua’s mission in life was to be.  I am not sure why, but that really bothered me as I was reading.  I kept having to tell myself that this was artistic license and nothing more, but even so, I found it to be somewhat difficult.

His handling of the pregnancy by the Holy Spirit was interesting though not unrealistic.  Even so, I struggled with that as well.  I am not sure why this struggle since the Bible never does speak to any of these issues per se.  I did find, however, that of the four books I have already reviewed, this was the one that stretched me the furthest.  That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book and wished I had read it first in the trilogy.

Recommendation

Yes, even though I struggled some with the reading of Joseph, I still highly recommend this book.  If you are looking to read all three books in the Cradle to Cross Trilogy, I would suggest you start with Joseph and then move to Hadad and then read Bozra as it is in that order in the gospel narratives that we meet each character.  If you are able to allow for artistic license, even with men from the Bible, then this series promises to be one you will enjoy over and over.

Forever Changed by Mac McConnell

McConnell, Mac. Forever Changed: A Journey in Jericho. Ft. Lauderdale: One Way Books, 2006. 130 pp. $12.95. Purchase at Amazon for $2.67 or less and on Kindle.

Introduction

Mac McConnell is no stranger now at Christian Book Notes. This is in large part because I just discovered him as an author and am getting caught up on everything he has written and passing that information on to you. This particular book is about every child’s favorite Bible story character—Zacchaeus.

Summary

We see how a young Zacchaeus winds up becoming a tax collector and how he quickly learns to be one of the best. It ain’t too hard to make some extra money for his own pockets, either. One month he goes to Jericho to collect the taxes that are due only to find that the blind man can’t pay, the one lady lost just had her young son die, and the other lady’s husband is a raving lunatic who is completely out of his mind. He grants thirty days grace on the taxes.

Upon his return he discovers that the blind man can now see, the raving lunatic actually is in his right mind and is able to hold down a regular job, and the little boy that was dead is now alive. What is more, everyone is more than willing to pay all that is due Zacchaeus! Everyone keeps telling him about this Yeshua guy which piques the curiosity of the little man.

Zacchaeus hears that he is coming so he climbs up a tree just to catch a look at this man only to find that Yeshua is looking for him. You know the rest of the story.

Review

First, it must be noted that this is a work of historical fiction and that there is much artistic license used by Mac. This is alright since he does not violate what we do know from the Scriptures. If I struggled with anything it was that all those who were healed in this book (and in the Bible) were placed along one street. For some reason, I struggled with that. As I tried to figure out why, I realized that it was my own preconceived notions and geographic mapping in my head. It had nothing to do with the story and it most certainly was not a violation of Scripture.

Recommendation

Forever Changed adds depth and character to a story with which so many are already familiar. I greatly enjoyed the story and could actually “see” the Zacchaeus of the Bible really come to life. I enjoyed the story and am looking forward to reading it with my boys in the evenings.

This little book stands alone as a book by itself. It does not have a companion as does Bozra, Hadad, or Joseph which comprise the Cradle to the Cross Trilogy. Forever Changed is an excellent family read aloud or just a fun read for children and parents. Read it and see for yourself.

Hadad by Mac McConnell

McConnell, Mac. Hadad: The Innkeeper’s Journey. Ft. Lauderdale: One Way Books, 2008. 128 pp. $12.95. Purchase at Amazon for $9.54 or less. Kindle edition for $7.99.

Introduction

Mac McConnell is no stranger to Christian Book Notes these days. You can read my reviews of his books here. Hadad is about the innkeeper in Bethlehem that housed a young family needing a place to rest for the night for the young wife was about to deliver her child.

You can learn more about Mac and his ministry at OneWayBooks.org or BibleActor.com

Summary

Hadad is a bar keeper who is struggling to find meaning and purpose to his life. He loves his wife even if she is a bit eccentric at times. He stumbles on a great way to have the best beer in town by storing it under the bar in a dug out cave—cold(er) beer allows him to charge a bit extra. Still, the business is dwindling down to nothing until Caesar calls for a census one year. Suddenly, his business takes off and he can’t keep up with the demand.

With every hotel full in a 50 mile radius, including Hadad’s, he is visited by this family that had been traveling for some time. He attempts to tell them to leave, but quickly notices that the young bride is with child and is about to deliver it on his front step! He quickly puts them up in the stable behind the inn.

With the birth of this child comes a major change in his life. Something about this kid is different. All Hadad knows is that he loves this child in a way that he never thought he could.

Thirty years after the child and his parents fled for their lives, Hadad hears rumors of this man, Yeshua. He never sees him again, but does come to the realization just who this Yeshua may have been.

Review

Taking a man from the scriptures with a bit part (1/3 of a verse in the entire Bible, see Luke 2:7), Mac shares the impact of the Christ child on the every day common man. The story is believable and never commits the sin of ripping Scripture out of context. Rather, Mac builds on the implied impact of the person of Christ on the life of everyone.

There is an element of artistic license that must be understood when reading these novellas, but that does not take away from the central message. That is, that the person of Christ has a lasting impact on those who want to know Him more.

Recommendation

Mac is to once again be commended for writing such an entertaining story from the perspective of a by-stander so to speak. Hadad will certainly inform you reading of “there was no place for them in the inn.” I warn you, however, that you are not able to read just Hadad. You will have to read the entire trilogy as they all bleed into one another.

Do yourself a favor and pick up your copy of all of Mac’s books and enjoy reading them either to yourself or as a family read aloud.

Footsteps of St. Peter by Mac McConnell

McConnell, Mac.  Judean Chronicles – Book 1.  Footsteps of St. Peter: The Early Years. Ft. Lauderdale:  OneWay Books, 2010.  146 pp.  $12.95.  Purchase at Amazon for $12.95 or less.

Introduction

Mac McConnell is the founder of One Way Productions.  Check out this video to better understand what Mac’s ministry is about:

Summary

This particular book, Footsteps of St. Peter: The Early Years, takes a look at the apostle Simon Peter before his encounter with Jesus Christ. You will learn what life was like on the Sea of Galilee as the young boy, Simon, grows up wanting to be like his dad–a fisherman of great respect.

After a tragic accident, Simon is forced to grow up quicker than he imagined. Along the way, you will get a feel for how Simon Peter’s fiery personality was forged. He does become a master fisherman and ship builder but soon realizes there might be more to this life than being on fishing boat for years.

Review

When I was asked to read this book and possible write a blurb for the back of the book, I was both excited and skeptical. I told Mac, the author, that I was not much for historic fiction especially when it comes to matters of the Bible. Far too many writers, in the name of “art” have maligned the message of the gospel in order to sell books. At any rate, I agreed to read the book.

I am no longer skeptical of Mac’s writing. While Footsteps of St. Peter is historic fiction, there is absolutely nothing negates what we do know about Peter from the Bible. If anything, through Mac’s masterful telling of a story, we find that Simon Peter was a real human being just like you and me. He had his struggles early in life in relying on self and trying to please his fellow man (Don’t we all?), but we know from our reading of the Bible that Jesus Christ did save the man from himself and even used him to advance the kingdom in mighty and miraculous ways.

I was impressed with how he drew from a 1st century Palestinian culture and adapted it with a touch of 21st century life. His vivid word pictures bring the region where Christ walked to life in our mind’s eye.

Recommendation

I am hooked on Mac’s ministry. His books, what we are primarily concerned with here at Christian Book Notes, are an excellent way in which we can meditate on our need for Christ. His ability to tell the story of Peter before he met Christ offered great insight into the grace and mercy Jesus showed in calling Peter as an apostle and forgiving him of his sins.

You would do well to purchase Footsteps of St. Peter as well as his Cradle to Cross Trilogy (I will be posting reviews on these books as well). You will want to give these books as gifts to your friends–trust me.

Bozra by Mac McConnell

McConnell, Mac. Bozra: A Shepherd’s Journey. One Way Books, 2007. 130 pp. $12.95. Purchase at Amazon for $12.99 or less. Available for Kindle for $9.99.

Introduction

Mac McConnell sold his art business to go on the road in order to spread the good news of Jesus Christ through live one-man dramas. While having trotted the globe in that endeavor, the Lord has led him to write a series of historical fiction novellas published by One Way Books. Bozra is part of a trilogy looking at those touched by the very gospel we as believers proclaim.

Summary

Bozra is a shepherd boy who grows into a man during the first thirty-five years of what we now know as the first century A.D. Bozra wants more than anything to prove to his family that he is a capable shepherd. He gets his chance one night when the rest of the family, after having seen a vision of angels, determines to go visit a baby in Bethlehem. Bozra sees his opportunity to prove his worth to the family and implores his father to stay with the sheep.

A couple years later, one of Bozra’s brothers returns from a trip to Jerusalem with blood on his clothes. Bozra realizes he just missed yet another event of importance taking place in Bethlehem. After growing up and getting married, Bozra suddenly feels the need to go into Jerusalem during the holiest of weeks…Passover. Once again, he quickly realizes he missed out on another major event in the life of this child whom the angels rejoiced in that very first night when he proved himself a worthy shepherd. Does Bozra ever meet this boy/man, Yeshua? You will have to read and find out.

Review

I was more than enamored by this book. Mac offers a vivid description of what shepherding was like in first century Palestine. While Bozra is a fictitious shepherd, he is very much the typical shepherd going about his trade and life during the events of Jesus’ life. You learn how the shepherds reacted to Christ’s teachings through their meetings. You get a feel for what life was like on the fringe of the greatest event(s) to ever take place between “In the beginning” and the Second Coming of our Lord.

The mastery in telling Bozra’s story without ever touching the Scripture is, in my estimation, nothing short of amazing. All throughout Bozra’s life, you have an idea of what is going on in Jerusalem with this man, Yeshua. This is not because Mac filters in Scripture. Rather, it is because you, the reader, are familiar with Scripture.

For example, while we are familiar with Matthew 2:16-18 (the killing of children by Herod), you will never read those three verses the same again once you have read what happened to Jeheil, his brother, on his trip into Jerusalem. The vivid imagery wrenched my soul and made me realize that I had never really read Matthew 2:16-18 for all of its horrible glory.

Recommendation

When I first talked with Mac, I told him I was highly skeptical of historical fiction when it came to biblical characters and that I would probably be more critical than not in my review. I could not have been more wrong!

(NOTE: As a book reviewer, one must hold the author’s of Christian books to a higher standard since they are attempting to guide fellow believers through Christian principles and practices. Some books that come across my desk never make it to the “write the review” pile.)

I am happy to say that I have found a new favorite author, and the only favorite author I have in this genre, of historical fiction. I now have all five books written by Mac McConnell and will review them as I read them. I was even blessed to be able to write a blurb for the back of his next book, Footsteps of St. Peter: The Early Years.

If you are a skeptic like I was (am?), then do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of this book. If you don’t like it (highly unlikely) let me know and I will buy it from you (I can only afford a limited number!). If you do like it (love it!) you thank me. You will then want others to read it and enjoy the experience as much as you did.