Posted 10/22/14 at 9:12 AM | Tim Challies
I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. It has been too long since I’ve sorted through the piles and to tell you which of them have risen to the top. Here are some of the new and notable books I’ve received in the past month or so.
Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical World by Michael Horton. This was the book I wanted to write; Horton beat me to the punch. “Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a ‘next-best-thing,’ if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be ‘ordinary.’ Yet pastor and author Michael Horton believes that our attempts to measure our spiritual growth by our experiences, constantly seeking after the next big breakthrough, have left many Christians disillusioned and disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with an energetic faith; the danger is that we can burn ourselves out on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations. What’s needed is not another program or a fresh approach to spiritual growth; it’s a renewed appreciation for the commonplace.” (Amazon, Westminster Books) FULL POST
Posted 10/16/14 at 8:42 AM | Tim Challies
It is something I see again and again, and something that baffles me every time: People who expect unbelievers to act like believers. So often I see Christians acting surprised that their non-Christian friends or family members are acting like non-Christians. John Owen addresses this in his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation. The book deals with the subject of mortification, of putting sin to death, and Owen dedicates one chapter to explaining why only Christians can behave like Christians.
He begins by insisting that only Christians have the ability to put sin to death. Unbelievers may suppress sin, but they cannot kill it. “Unless a man be a believer—that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ—he can never mortify any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless indeed he be so. … There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.” FULL POST
Posted 10/13/14 at 4:38 PM | Audra Jennings
Best-selling author Lynn Austin invites readers to join her for a live webcast on October 21 at 8:00 PM EDT to talk about the latest addition to The Restoration Chronicles series. The evening will center on a Biblical fiction book club discussion featuring Austin’s new release, Keepers of the Covenant (Bethany House Publishers/ October 7, 2014/available in hardcover, paperback and ebook).
During the online event, Austin will be discussing Keepers of the Covenant, answering reader questions live and giving a sneak preview of future releases. Throughout the hour, readers will have an opportunity to chat with other fans, answer trivia about the book and submit questions for Austin to answer during the evening. A number of prizes will be given away to those participating in the discussion, including copies of Austin’s books and gift cards. At the end of the webcast, the winner of a Kindle Fire HDX will be announced. The Kindle giveaway is being held in conjunction with the Keepers of the Covenant blog tour being coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group during the month of October.
“We are so excited for readers to be able to connect with Lynn through this upcoming webcast,” states Noelle Buss, marketing manager at Bethany House. “Lynn is just as delightful and well-informed as her books. I’ve always come away cherishing my interactions with her.”
Austin’s The Restoration Chronicles have received rave reviews from critics and readers alike. Library Journal wrote of the first book in the series, Return to Me, “. . . a powerful new historical series that brings the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah to life.” According to Publishers Weekly, “Austin shines a bright light on ancient Jewish life and lands. Biblical fiction fans will cheer her latest offering, which bolsters this challenging genre.”
“I know many readers have been eagerly awaiting the next novel in my Restoration Chronicles series. It is based on the biblical book of Ezra and features him as one of the main characters. I really enjoyed researching this exciting time in biblical history and bringing the story to life for my readers. Even for those who didn’t read Book I, this book works well as a stand-alone novel, too,” explains Austin.
The Keepers of the Covenant webcast will be hosted on Austin’s Facebook page, as well as the Litfuse Publicity Group website for readers without a Facebook account. Leading up to the webcast, readers can RSVP for the event and sign up to receive an email reminder. From October 1-21, fans can also enter the contest for the Kindle Fire HDX via the author’s Facebook page.
About Keepers of the Covenant:
In their darkest hour, where would hope be found?
In one life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king's palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman and child throughout the empire in less than one year.
Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future — of family and love — seem impossible.
Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God's unwavering love for His people.
About The Restoration Chronicles:
The Restoration Chronicles bring the books of Ezra and Nehemiah to vibrant life, telling the stories of Babylonian exiles: the few faithful followers who struggle to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home. The series follows biblical characters like Zechariah and Ezra as they bring hope to God’s people in a time when dreams of the future—of family and love—seem impossible.
The first release in the series, Return to Me, released in October 2013.
About Lynn Austin:
Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner and an inaugural inductee into the Christy Award Hall of Fame, as well as a popular speaker at retreats, conventions, women’s groups and book clubs.
Along with reading, two of Austin’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. Twenty-five years ago, Austin was able to travel to Israel to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah.
Austin’s husband’s career allowed them to live in Bogota, Colombia, as well as Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. They now make their home in Michigan.
Posted 10/13/14 at 11:28 AM | Shaunti Feldhahn
Welcome to Marriage Mondays! Each Monday, join me as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on the surprising truths that men and women tend not to know about each other–and which change everything once we do.
Tip #33: Wives, see his anger as a legitimate signal of pain – and address it with respect
Every relationship – even the happiest ones! -- will have moments of conflict. And how we deal with that conflict can make the relationship stronger…. or really hurt it.
Ladies, one of the clearest examples of this is what happens when you’re in a time of “intense marital fellowship” (as a friend of mine puts it), and your man gets really angry. Maybe he confronted you after his office party about how you teased him in front of his colleagues, and says he can’t believe you betrayed him like that. FULL POST
Posted 10/12/14 at 2:54 AM | Diane Castro
Few books I have ever read depict the depths of human depravity, the strength of the human spirit, and the surpassing grace of God more powerfully than Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. For good reason, the book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for more than three years; readers are riveted by the gripping tale and, like me, want to urge others to read it.
Author Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote Seabiscuit: An American Legend, spent seven years meticulously researching the life and times of the legendary hero of her book, Louis Zamperini. Louie was a hell-raiser as a child, but as a teenager he channeled his energy into running and became a world-class track star, making it to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin while still in his teens.
Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941 and became a bombardier in the Pacific. Hillenbrand graphically describes the harrowing missions flown by the Pacific airmen. The casualty rate was astronomical, even greater in accidents than in combat. In 1943, Louie and ten other men were sent out on a notoriously unreliable B-24 bomber to look for a lost plane and its crew. The B-24 went down in the Pacific, leaving only Louie and two other survivors on rubber rafts with little food or water. FULL POST
Posted 10/9/14 at 2:51 PM | Audra Jennings
Where do you turn when a dream you’ve cherished in your heart for your entire life is completely shattered? In her new release, Hidden in the Stars (Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press/September 16, 2014/ISBN:9781426773600/$13.99), Robin Caroll introduces us to a young woman who must find the strength to continue living after losing everything she cares about.
Following an attack that killed her mother and stole her ability to speak, 21-year-old Sophia Montgomery has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s offer to return to their family home. Although detective Julian Frazier is working hard on the case, Sophia unknowingly frustrates him because her inability to speak thwarts her eyewitness evidence.
Little do they know, the clues to solving the case may be right in front of them, displayed in Sophia’s mother’s “special” quilt design. Who will realize the secret Sophia’s unwittingly been hiding in plain sight? When the truth comes to light, will Sophia find her voice again? Or will the murderer — still at large — silence her forever?
Q: Tell us about the main thread or theme that runs through Hidden in the Stars.
The strength of the familial bond is the strongest thread in the story, but another theme would be the sacrifices we make for the people we love.
Q: How important to you is the faith element in your stories?
I never “plot” the faith element of my books in advance. I always pray for God to show me the spiritual arc for the characters, and then I let it grow organically from the characters as I interview and write them. Sometimes I’m lucky and the arc is apparent in the beginning of the story — sometimes it doesn’t become clear until near the end (that’s usually when God’s using my own story to teach me something or refine something in me). It’s my job to put that on the page with realism, but not beat anyone over the head.
Q: The main character in Hidden in the Stars, Sophia, loses not only the person she loved the most in life, but also her dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast. What can readers learn from how she manages this loss?
So often we begin to believe our dreams define who we are. What we do becomes our identifier. I wanted to portray a character who had worked hard for something all her life — something her mother had sacrificed much to help her attain — yet she had it snatched away with no hope of reclaiming it. I think we (myself included) sometimes need to realize we are, first and foremost, a child of God and not a dream or a goal.
Q: Sophia suffers a brutal attack, and the criminal remains at-large, leaving her feeling vulnerable and afraid. We all face moments in life when we feel that way, even if the events in our lives vary. Where do you go for strength in those times?
God. Yes, I have family members who are loving and supportive and encouraging and helpful. Yes, I have friends who are there for me through thick and thin. But when it comes down to brass tacks, as my grandmother used to say, God is my source of strength, comfort and peace.
Q: Why is it so challenging to forgive people who have hurt us?
Because we’re human and our initial reaction is based on our own thoughts and feelings. When we’re hurt, we don’t WANT to forgive. Sometimes, at least for me, the choice to forgive is more about wanting to be obedient to God and wanting to keep that pain from clawing at me.
Q: The attack left Sophia without a voice — is this a metaphor in any way?
Yes. When we’re attacked — physically, mentally or spiritually — we often feel like we aren’t heard . . . that our cries for help fall on deaf ears.
Q: Which character in the book do you identify with the most and why?
Sophia. She was strong and determined and wouldn’t let her attack and the murder of the one person she loved the most stop her from living a good life.
Q: Tell us about the quilt in Hidden in the Stars. How does it play a role in solving this mystery?
The quilt itself was made from the costumes of Sophia’s mother, Nina. It’s like a large declaration of her life’s ballet work. Once the police get the quilt, they determine it holds the key to solving the mystery and the murder.
Q: Tell us a little more about the Quilt of Love series and how you became involved in it.
As a young girl, my family lived in the country. We didn’t have many friends close enough during the winter where we could just hop on our bikes and ride down to a neighbor’s house. During those lonelier times, my mother taught me how to quilt. I will always associate quilts with the strength of the mother-daughter bond. When I heard about the Quilts of Love series, I wanted to be a part of it.
Q: How have you seen the Lord’s hand in your writing career, whether it be open doors, prayer partners, etc.?
I’d spent many, many months studying the craft and learning as much as I could. After finally getting up the nerve to start the submission process, I found myself faced with rejection slips, one after the other. I was extremely blessed to have strong critique/prayer partners who encouraged me, but I also had a mentor who pushed me and helped me develop the ability to separate my writing from myself as a person.
One day, fully frustrated and on the verge of tears, I prayed the scary prayer: that if writing wasn’t what He called me to do, then I’d walk away from it, but He’d have to remove the desire from my heart because I wasn’t strong enough to do it myself. I was lucky enough to get my first contract not too long after that, but I truly was willing to walk away if that’s what He told me to do. It was really scary because, for me at least, writing was, in my mind, tied to my identity. I learned that writing, while important to me and I love it, is still what I do, not who I am. I love being an author, but I’m also so much more: wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend, etc.
Q: Do you ever hear from readers about how they have been touched by reading your books?
I hope each of my books brings glory and honor to God. Some of the reader mail I’ve received has put me in tears of praise for being allowed to share stories with readers. For instance, one reader wrote me after reading one of my books and thanked me for showing that it was possible to reconcile with God after being angry with Him. It truly blesses me for God to use me in such a way.
Q: What is the one thing you hope your readers will walk away with when they close the cover of Hidden in the Stars?
I hope they will feel they were entertained, but also they will be reminded that no matter what their circumstances, what the Enemy means for evil, God will turn to good.
Posted 10/9/14 at 9:53 AM | Tim Challies
To become a Christian is to accept the lifelong challenge of becoming who you are — of putting sin to death and growing in holiness. Today I want to channel a little John Owen and tell you three things you ought to expect when battling sin.
Owen says that putting sin to death consists of “a habitual weakening of sin,” and I take this to mean that over time and through our habits we chip away at our sin bit-by-bit and day-by-day. Rather than expecting sin to be destroyed in a moment, we expect that it will take time and focused effort. In this way putting sin to death is relative to our maturity as Christians and to the amount of time we have dedicated to battling a particular sin. He says, “The first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit of sin or lust, that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness, frequency, rise up, conceive, tumultuate, provoke, entice, disquiet as naturally as it is apt to do.” FULL POST
Posted 10/9/14 at 6:02 AM | Sylvie Simms
The educational industry is changing and the driving force behind this change is technology. The technological advances of the last few decades have made a major impact on the world, including those in the education field. One such innovation includes the use of iPads in an educational setting.
Apple’s iPads have become increasingly popular tools that schools are using to help educate students. Many districts and school systems are now enrolling in iPad programs that allow them to place this comprehensive learning tool in students’ hands. By becoming a part of a school iPad program, teachers are able to better help their students understand difficult concepts. Educational apps can also be downloaded onto the iPads, allowing students to practice the skills they need to be successful in school.
The following infographic helps you understand more about the logistics of implementing an iPad program in a school. This infographic addresses concerns such as how to track and implement iPads, as well as how to prevent theft and improper use. Continue reading to discover more about how a school iPad program could help your classroom succeed.
Posted 10/8/14 at 10:27 AM | Audra Jennings
When the noose of your secrets begins to tighten, it can cut off any hope for freedom and love in the future. Letting the light of truth sever your unhealthy tie to the past is a major theme of award-winning author Sarah E. Ladd’s latest release, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall (Thomas Nelson/October 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1401688370), the third and final installment in the Whispers on the Moors series. Set in Great Britain’s Regency era, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall perfectly conveys the romantic sensibilities of that time.
Rampant change — socially, politically, and economically — marked this period from 1811–1820. The great excesses of the wealthy class sharply contrasted against the rioting and social upheaval among the poor, making it an era of great interest to Ladd not only as a reader herself but as an author.
Cecily Faire carries the shame of her secret past with her when she begins a new position as a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall. She knows one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. “During this era a woman was defined by her reputation,” Ladd reveals. “If her reputation was soiled and she could not find a good husband, she was essentially condemned to a difficult, lonely life.”
Shortly after making her home at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years. Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own though — one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. As long as this shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world — or fall in love.
When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past, or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long-suffered?
Hiding behind a shroud of secrets always results in isolation and loneliness, and that is true of the characters in A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. “When we are so afraid to share the truth about ourselves with others, we are not allowing them to know the ‘real us,’ which prevents us from those truly meaningful relationships that bring so much joy to life,” Ladd explains.
Ladd hopes A Lady at Willowgrove Hall will show readers even though their pasts may be shameful or painful, God can take the darkest personal histories and turn them into the brightest futures.
About the Author
Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in that era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously. Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in the Whispers on the Moors series, The Heiress of Winterwood (2013). That title was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance and is a finalist in the Debut Author category of the 2014 Carol Awards. The second book in the series, The Headmistress of Rosemere (2013), was on the ECPA best-seller list for several months.
Ladd also has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Ladd lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter and spunky Golden Retriever.
Posted 10/7/14 at 9:49 AM | Audra Jennings
When family expectations and societal pressures collide with love and faith, which values will emerge the victor? Award-winning author Carrie Turansky explores this theme in her new book, The Daughter of Highland Hall (Multnomah Books/ October 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1601424983/$14.99). FULL POST