A first sale announcement

by Narelle Atkins

When I checked the blog schedule, I realised I had planned to announce today the release of the first Gospel of Mark Bible Study Leaders Guide eBook. Instead, I’ll be announcing a different sale that I have dreamed about for many years.

Some of you may know that I write Christian fiction. I’m delighted to let you know that I have sold my first contemporary inspirational romance book to Harlequin’s new Heartsong line in the US. My story has Australian characters and is set in Sydney, Australia. I’m very excited about this wonderful opportunity and the Mark eBooks will be coming soon.

The Call to Discipleship

by Narelle Atkins

In Mark 1:16-20 we learn how Jesus called four of his disciples. Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew were fishing by the Sea of Galillee when Jesus walked beside the shore. Mark’s account of what happened next is brief. Jesus said “Come follow me, and I’ll make you fishers of men.” The brothers immediately left their fishing nets behind to follow Jesus.

Jesus then walked further along the road with Simon (Peter) and Andrew and he spotted James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat. The brothers were working with their father and the workers preparing nets for a fishing trip. Jesus called the brothers to follow him. James and John left their father and the workers in the boat to follow Jesus.

It is believed that the disciples knew about Jesus because of their previous connection to John the Baptist.

Jesus called ordinary men to leave their work, families and livelihood to follow him. According to Mark’s account, there was no time for the men to say ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘I’ll get back to you.’ No time to farewell family, pack up their fishing gear or finish their day’s work out on the boat.

The call to discipleship was a radical decision that demanded their dedication and total commitment to following Jesus. A commitment to become ‘fishers of men’ who would catch people for God’s kingdom. A radical decision that I wonder how we would respond to if Jesus turned up at our workplace and called us to leave everything to follow him?

Book Recommendation: A Lineage of Grace (Unafraid) by Francine Rivers

Back cover blurb:

2009 Retailer’s Choice Award winner! In this compilation of the five books in the best-selling Lineage of Grace series by Francine Rivers, we meet the five women whom God chose – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Each was faced with extraordinary – even scandalous – challenges. Each took great personal risk to fulfill her calling. Each was destined to play a key role in the lineage of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.

Narelle: Unafraid is the final book in Francine Rivers’ Lineage of Grace novella series and is a fictionalised account of Mary’s story. It’s hard to comprehend Mary’s life and the amazing blessings she experienced by being the woman chosen by God to give birth to Jesus, God’s son. We journey with Mary through her remarkable life as she experienced great joys, trials and heartache.

It is fascinating to consider what Jesus may have been like growing up as a boy in a normal family and to consider how he may have interacted with his parents and siblings. Angels had appeared to Mary and Joseph to reveal Jesus’ true identity. His brothers and sisters struggled to understand their older brother’s character and decisions, especially when Jesus left the family to embark on his ministry. I recommend this book to those looking for an insightful and intriguing story about one of the most famous women in history.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Bible Society ‘Live light in 25 words’ in October

by Narelle Atkins

Bible Society Australia are encouraging people to ‘Live light in 25 words’ by reading 25 words or more from the Bible every day from October 1-31. Reading the Bible daily for 31 days can help you develop a routine and create a habit of daily Bible reading.

I have signed up for the challenge on Bible Society Australia website and my family is going to read the Gospel of Matthew during October.

You can follow our reading progress through the book of Matthew on the 30 Minute Bible Studies Facebook Page. There are 28 chapters in Matthew and our family goal is to read a chapter a day.

I’ve included a link below to a ‘Live light in 25 words’ YouTube clip to encourage and inspire you to think about taking up the challenge of daily Bible reading. We all lead busy lives and it can be easy to forget why it is important to read God’s word every day.


I hope you will take up the challenge of daily Bible reading. I’d love to hear about what you’re reading and your daily progress on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/30MinuteBibleStudies

By liking our Facebook page you can receive our daily Bible reading updates in your newsfeed. I encourage you to spend time each day meditating on God’s word.

The Temptation of Jesus

by Narelle Atkins

The Gospel of Mark provides a brief account of the temptation of Jesus.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12-13)

The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert immediately after his baptism. When John baptised Jesus, the heavens opened, the Spirit came upon Jesus and God the father spoke from heaven to his beloved Son.

We learn more details about how Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke’s (4:1-13) gospels. Matthew and Luke record three specific incidents where Satan tempted Jesus to sin. On each occasion Jesus responded to Satan by quoting scripture.

While Jesus was in the desert he didn’t eat any food. Satan tempted him by suggesting that if Jesus was really the Son of God, he could turn a stone into bread and satisfy his physical hunger. Jesus responded by saying that man doesn’t live on bread alone.

Satan led Jesus to the Holy City and the highest point of the temple. He tempted Jesus by suggesting he throw himself down and allow the angels to save him. Jesus responded by saying the Lord God should not be tested.

Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. He tempted Jesus by offering him dominion over all the kingdoms if Jesus bowed down and worshiped him. Jesus responded by saying worship the Lord and serve only him.

Jesus’ mission was spiritual and Satan continued to tempt him throughout his ministry, reaching a climax when Jesus was on the cross. Paul Barnett in his book The Servant King: Reading Mark Today talked about the final battle, symbolised by day becoming night (Mark 15:33). Jesus is a new Adam, the Son of Man who is Lord over the wild animals and prevails over evil. Adam fell into temptation but Jesus resisted temptation and remained obedient to God. Satan was finally defeated through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Book Recommendation: A Necessary Deception by Laurie Alice Eakes

Back cover blurb:

When young widow Lady Lydia Gale helps a French prisoner obtain parole, she never dreamed he would turn up in her parlor. But just as the London Season is getting under way, there he is, along with a few other questionable personages. While she should be focused on helping her headstrong younger sister prepare for her entré into London society, Lady Gale finds herself preoccupied with the mysterious Frenchman. Is he a spy or a suitor? Can she trust him? Or is she putting her family in danger?

Readers will enjoy being drawn into this world of elegance and intrigue, balls and masquerades. Author Laurie Alice Eakes whisks readers through the drawing rooms of London amid the sound of rustling gowns on this exciting quest to let the past stay in the past and let love guide the future.

Narelle: A Necessary Deception is Book One in Laurie Alice Eakes’ The Daughters of Bainbridge House regency romance series. Lydia is a complex character who I wanted to see overcome both past and present obstacles to rescue her often wayward family members and find her place in a world where women often had limited choices.

I really enjoyed the political intrigue and suspense element in the story that kept me guessing until the end. The historical backdrop of the wars with the French and Spanish, and the trouble brewing in America, added an authenticity to the story. The regency period is often glamourised and this story takes a different slant as it looks at the regency era through the eyes of a Frenchman. I highly recommend this story to those looking for an exciting and captivating regency romance.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Encouraging kids to read the Bible

by Narelle Atkins

One of the challenges I face as a parent is how to encourage my kids to read the Bible. Sometimes the sheer size of a Children’s Bible can be intimidating plus the decision on where to start reading can be time consuming in itself.

I recently came across a great little resource from Bible Society Australia called Top 10 Bible Stories From Mark. It’s a small book, 68 pages, written and illustrated in a way that will appeal to kids. There are ten chapters that cover the main stories in the Gospel of Mark.

I really liked the cute cartoon-style illustrations that drew out the main point in each story. The stories themselves are not para-phrased but are taken from The Bible Today – Contemporary English Version. It’s a fun way for kids to read the Bible and learn more about the Gospel of Mark.

More information on Bible resources for kids can be found at http://www.BibleSociety.com.au and http://www.scriptureunion.org.au

John the Baptist: Preparing the way

By Narelle Atkins

John the Baptist was the last of the great prophets and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy (Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1). He was the messenger who lived in the desert and prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry.

John’s parents were Zechariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth, a relative of the Virgin Mary. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah (see Luke 1:11-20) and foretold John’s birth and mission. Zechariah and Elizabeth were old and childless and Zechariah’s initial unbelief regarding the angel’s prophesy for his future son led to Zechariah becoming mute and unable to speak until the prophesy came to fruition (Luke 1:64).

John brought a message of repentance and baptism. He called the Israelites to repent from their sins and be baptised in the Jordan River. Baptism was a sign that they had turned back to God and received God’s forgiveness of sins.

John said he was preparing the way for one greater than him, who would baptise the Jews and Gentiles with the Holy Spirit. John baptised Jesus in the Jordan River and the heavens opened, bringing the Spirit down upon Jesus. God the father spoke to Jesus from heaven, saying ‘You are my Son, whom I love: with you I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:11)

Jesus’ ministry started when John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod. Herodias held a grudge against John after John had told Herod it was not lawful for him to marry his brother’s wife. Herodias had been married to Philip, Herod’s brother, but had left Philip for Herod. Herodias and her daughter used an oath promised by Herod at a banquet to kill John. At their request, Herod ordered an executioner to behead John and present his head on a platter at the banquet (Mark 6:17-29).

Book Recommendation: Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith

Back cover blurb:

Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her devout husband away fighting the king’s wars for many months at a time, discontent and loneliness dog her steps–and make it frighteningly easy to succumb to King David’s charm and attention. Though she immediately regrets her involvement with the powerful king, the pieces are set in motion that will destroy everything she holds dear. Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God–and David–forever?

With a historian’s sharp eye for detail and a novelist’s creative spirit, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the passionate and emotional story of David’s most famous–and infamous–wife. Smith uses her gentle hand to draw out the humanity in her characters, allowing readers to see themselves in the three-dimensional lives and minds of people who are often viewed in starkly moralistic terms. You will never read the story of David and Bathsheba in the same way again.

Narelle: I really enjoyed Jill Eileen Smith’s fictionalised account of Bathsheba’s story. The story opens with Bathsheba’s struggle to overcome loneliness and disappointment over not providing an heir for her husband, Uriah. Uriah was one of King David’s mighty men who was often away at war, and Bathsheba didn’t have children to distract her from missing her absent warrior husband. We journey with Bathsheba as she makes choices that will ultimately have devastating and deadly consequences.

We also gain an insight into both King David and Bathsheba’s faith and relationship with God. We meet two people who, despite loving the Lord, are human and flawed like the rest of us. I recommend this book to those looking for a fascinating and insightful Biblical fiction story.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Having a missionary heart

by Narelle Atkins

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

According to the Gospel of Mark, this is one of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. The Gospel of Matthew also records The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

We are commanded by Jesus to preach the gospel to the whole world and share the good news about Jesus bringing salvation to the world through His death and resurrection. This was a new way of thinking for the disciples. They understood that the Israelites were God’s chosen people and the focus in the Scriptures (Old Testament) had been on God working out His purposes and plan for salvation through His covenant with Abraham and his descendents.

The ministry to the Gentiles (non-Jews) really kicked off after Jesus ascended into heaven. The early missionary activities of the apostles are recorded in the book of Acts. In Acts we learn about Paul’s mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

When I was younger I remember being quite intimidated by The Great Commission. How did this command impact the decisions I made? Did this mean I should dedicate my life to doing God’s work? And what would this look like? I had not felt called to be a missionary overseas or work for a Christian organisation. Was I selfish for wanting to live a so-called normal life as a wife and mother or should I have higher aspirations?

God created us with unique talents and abilities that we can use to bring Him glory. The body of Christ is made up of diverse people who work together to enable the gospel to be preached to all nations.

Whether we are serving on the front line as a missionary or playing a supporting role behind the scenes, we can all help in some way to reach people with the gospel message. And we can build relationships with those around us in our own mission field at home.

I can now see how my ‘missionary heart’ is revealed in many ways, including Bible studies, blogging and my Christian fiction writing. How is your ‘missionary heart’ revealed? What can you do to further the work of the gospel in our world?