White Stone Books
Perhaps Balm for a Wounded Soul might have been a more apt title for Richard Exley’s moving work Encounters with Christ, for both healing and hope can be found within its pages. In this stirring novel, composed of twelve short historical narratives, the reader finds himself face-to-face with Christ in a host of different scenarios. In each one Exley invites the reader to imagine how it would be if he or she were not merely a witness, but an actual participant in the events that were transpiring.
What climactic thoughts would have raced through your mind if you were the woman caught in adultery, flung before Jesus and ready to be stoned by an angry and hateful mob? Or what emotions might you have experienced if you were the middle-aged man who was blind from birth and then miraculously able to see for the very first time? Or if you were a zealous Pharisee persecuting Christians, only to be confronted by the risen Jesus Christ?
These and more are the types of stories that Exley presents in a succinct, unique, and inspiring fashion. Or in the author’s own words, if the reader is ill, or in some type of bondage or addiction, or has made unwise decisions, or has been overwhelmed or discouraged by the ravages of life, then Encounters with Christ “is an invitation to experience Christ in all His fullness” that he or she “may be refreshed, restored, and renewed” (p. 9).
Several short examples illustrate how Exley does this. Imagine if you had only one child, a twelve-year-old daughter who was on the verge of death, and everything you had attempted to save her had failed. In desperation you seek out a famous healer whom your colleagues had ridiculed and called a false prophet. As you fall before his feet imploring his help, your servant suddenly appears out of the crowd and informs you that it is too late, your daughter had died. But then the healer turns to you, and in a moving first-person account you share what transpired:
I sense Him looking at me and though it is hard, I force myself to look Him in the eye. My own sorrow is mirrored there . . . yet, there is something else there too – a righteous indignation, a kind of holy hatred. I fear sickness and death, but He despises them. “Don’t be afraid,” he says, “just believe” (pp. 12-13).
After this exhilarating recounting of how Jesus healed the daughter of Jairus, Exley adds a short postscript he refers to as “Life Lessons” that the reader can apply to his own life, which he includes after each story in the book. In this lesson, he tells the true story of his own eight-month-old daughter’s near fatal illness and of how alone he and his wife felt as they “faced the harsh reality” that their daughter might not live. Yet, in the very midst of their personal storm, he sensed Christ whispering to them, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (p. 27). And against all of the doctors’ expectations, she survived and recovered.
Each chapter exhibits the same sense of what it must have been actually like to have been the main participant in one of the biblical stories, and the conflicting gamut of emotions that each person must have experienced as Christ ministered to him or her. A personal favorite of this reviewer is the chapter wherein the town prostitute comes and washes the feet of Jesus with her tears and wipes them with her hair. She is a pariah and everyone in the room loathes her with a self-righteous indignation; everyone, that is, except Jesus, who forgives her and calls her to start her life anew. In a riveting commentary she tells us what she experienced at that moment:
I stood before Him a lost and broken soul. There is no condemnation in His eyes, just a wounded love. . . . His hatred for sin and all the suffering it brings burns like a fire in His eyes, as does His love for me. More than anything He wills to undo the damage I have done to myself. Now He speaks with an intensity that grips me in the deepest part of my soul. “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” There is life in His words and healing too. The suffocating memories, the black hole of despair, the self-loathing, are all gone. In their place there is light and life. He has made a new woman out of me, and I feel like an innocent. (pp. 73-74)
Much more could be said about this enheartening work, which can be read from cover-to-cover, or as this reviewer did, you can begin by reading the chapters that intrigue you the most. But in any case you will return to the other chapters afterward in your own personal encounter with Christ! – Rev. Joseph P. Gudel, Christian Book Previews.com
This exquisite and compelling book by best-selling author, Richard Exley, helps readers experience the miracles of Jesus in a marvelously fresh way. “You will see Him…through the Eyes of Those Who Were there.” Encounters with Christ gives the reader an eye-witness view into the familiar stories of such figures as the woman at the well, Zacheus the tax collector, the woman taken in adultery, and so many others. Exley takes these stories beyond the bottom line facts in the Bible and brings each account to life and in doing so the humanity of each character is vividly depicted. More importantly, readers will see themselves in each of these portraits. Readers will witness first-hand the miracles of Christ and experience the simple majesty of His love and compassion through the interpretation of those who were there. Luminous, vivid, and compelling in presentation. An absolute must read.