Books

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Posted 4/23/14 at 1:31 PM | Audra Jennings

Tracy L. Higley Challenges Readers to Live their Calling

Thomas Nelson

Sometimes the loudest voices in our lives are the ones we need to silence the most. In Tracy L. Higley’s latest novel, The Queen’s Handmaid (Thomas Nelson/March 18, 2014/ISBN: 978-1-4016-8684-0/$15.99), the author explores the importance of finding our identity in God and not in the opinions of others — no matter how large of a presence those people are.

This search for true identity is the foundation for The Queen’s Handmaid, a story that will take readers on an adventure through an ancient world and give them a unique understanding of the culture and setting into which Jesus was born. Set in Alexandria, Egypt, in 39 BC, The Queen’s Handmaid connects the history we learn in school with the Bible stories of childhood, giving readers a peek into a lost world.

Q: The Queen’s Handmaid is set in Egypt, Rome and Jerusalem in 39 B.C. How did you first become interested in this time period?

I find so much of ancient history to be fascinating — and I especially love connecting the world history we learn in school with the Bible stories of childhood. I loved researching this period for a previous book that featured Cleopatra, and it was fun coming back to it, to explore her relationship with Herod the Great.

Q: What kind of historical research did you do in preparation for writing this book? Have you been able to travel to Egypt and/or Jerusalem where the story takes place?

My research is done on a variety of levels, from quick overviews to get story ideas to deep research once I have the period, setting and historical events nailed down. And yes, the best part of my research has been travel! I’ve visited Egypt, Rome and Jerusalem, exploring the sites and getting inspired!

Q: Is it difficult to create the settings in which your characters live, given that the story takes place more than 2000 years ago?

I love creating the settings! One of my favorite parts of writing is being able to take readers on a journey through the sights, smells, sounds, colors and textures of the ancient world.

Q: Can we expect to see biblical characters throughout the pages of this story, and if so, what was it like to bring them to life?

The main biblical character readers will encounter is Herod the Great. We know him from the stories of Jesus’ birth, but for me, getting to peek behind the scenes at palace life and the mind of this man who was both a great leader and a murderous madman was challenging and exciting.

Q: In The Queen’s Handmaid, your heroine is “chosen and marked for this purpose.” Do you feel everyone is marked for a purpose, and how can we determine what that purpose is?

I absolutely believe each of us has a unique calling, a grand adventure planned out for us before the foundation of the world. Staying open to our own hearts and the way God both whispers and shouts His plan to us is so important. In my experience, most people have a sense of their own unique calling, but fear keeps us from it.

Q: Your heroine works hard at what she does, but she doesn’t trust people easily. Are you guarded the way she is or do you find it easier to believe the best in people?

I think I’m probably too trusting, actually. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful relationships, unlike Lydia’s challenges. But I know that for so many people, trusting others does not come easily.

Q: You’ve said the main theme for this novel is that our identity is found in God and not in what others think about us. Is this something you’ve wrestled with, and how do you learn to care less about what people think and more about what God thinks?

This goes back to trust, in my opinion. When we make people too “large” in our lives — allowing them to define who we are — we become focused on achieving and performing to please them. This is Lydia’s challenge, but I think it applies to all of us. We are all trying to gain the love and admiration of others in our lives, to feel good about ourselves. The only way we can escape this self-oriented life and really live our calling is finding acceptance and love in the God who will never fail us. He frees us up to love others well, without arranging our lives to please them.

Q: What are some of the great conflicts your heroine faces that the modern-day woman might relate to most?

For one, I think 2000 years later, it’s still a challenge for women to be comfortable with themselves outside the definitions of husband and family and to find their unique place in the world. Also, unfortunately, fighting against corruption and cruelty never goes out of style! To take a stand against evil for the sake of those we love is part of our calling, whether ancient or modern.

Q: How does your heroine overcome her fear and live a life of courage?

Practice! No, really — these things don’t come easily, do they? A series of challenges begins to teach Lydia about where true strength comes from, to help her see the gifts she has within herself and the God who can work through her. It’s the hard stuff that teaches, for Lydia and for all of us.

Q: The Queen’s Handmaid falls into the genre of biblical fiction. Some people are leery of this category because it puts the words “biblical” and “fiction” together. How would you describe the genre, and what encouragement would you give to skeptical readers in hopes that they would give biblical fiction a try?

Thomas Nelson
Tracy L. Higley

I could go on here for awhile, but one thing I will say is that we “fictionalize” our Bible stories all the time, for the sake of understanding. Every time we picture the Christmas story with three wise men or even the innkeeper at the door, it’s an expansion of the scant details that are there. When a story expands the Scriptural record without contradicting it, we are immersed in that time and culture in a way that makes the story, and subsequently our faith itself, so much more real.

Q: What do you want readers to walk away with once they turn the last page of The Queen’s Handmaid?

I would hope readers leave with a sense of satisfaction with a story well-told, a broadened understanding of the culture and setting into which Jesus was born and the inspiration to go out and live an adventure of their own!

For more information about Tracy L. Higley and her books, visit tracyhigley.com, become a fan on Facebook (tracyhigley) or follow her on Twitter (@tlhigley).

Posted 4/22/14 at 2:16 PM | Book Stop

Christians Care About the Earth Too: Earth Day Reads From the Creation Care Movement

(This article was originally posted in The Book Room - The Christian Post's new section for book enthusiasts and authors.)

Do Christians Celebrate Earth Day? Yes, some do in fact participate in the April 22 observation supporting for various environmental protections. Groups such as Evangelical Environmental Network and Blessed Earth work year-long to support and promote laws, regulations and lifestyle changes to fight against growing mercury levels, conserve energy and protect the earth's natural resources among the Christian community. Their goal is spur men and women of faith to better care for creation. This Creation Care movement is rooted in God's Gensis 2:15 command to tend the earth.

Here are some Creation Care Resources:

Serving God, Saving the Planet

Serving God, Saving the Planet; A Call to Care for Creation and Your Soul by J. Matthew Sleeth

In this book Sleeth, the executive director of Blessed Earth, shares the joy of adopting a less materialistic, healthier lifestyle, stronger relationships, and richer spiritual lives. With the storytelling ease of James Herriot and the logical clarity of C. S. Lewis, Sleeth lays out the rationale for environmentally responsible life changes and a how-to guide for making those changes FULL POST

Posted 4/22/14 at 9:49 AM | Tim Challies

Four Blood Moons

Book cover of Four Blood Moons

I most often read Christian books that appear to offer the opportunity to grow in knowledge and obedience to the Lord, but occasionally I see one soaring up the bestseller lists or otherwise making an impact and decide to read it just to see what the fuss is all about. Such was the case with John Hagee’s Four Blood Moons. The book has lingered near the top of the Amazon charts for a few weeks now and has received nearly one thousand five-star reviews. For those reasons I decided I would give it a read.

We have just experienced the first of a series of four lunar eclipses. Acccording to NASA, “The action starts [started] on April 15th when the full Moon passes through the amber shadow of Earth, producing a midnight eclipse visible across North America. So begins a lunar eclipse tetrad—a series of 4 consecutive total eclipses occurring at approximately six month intervals. The total eclipse of April 15, 2014, will be followed by another on Oct. 8, 2014, and another on April 4, 2015, and another on Sept. 28 2015.” These four consecutive total lunar eclipses will each result in the moon appearing red for the duration of the eclipse. This phenomenon is known as a blood red moon. FULL POST

Posted 4/20/14 at 9:06 AM | Tim Challies |

1 comment

The Bestsellers: 90 Minutes in Heaven

Book cover of 90 Minutes in Heaven

A short time ago I launched a new Sunday series called “The Bestsellers.” The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association tracks sales of Christian books, and awards the Platinum Book Award for books whose sales exceed one million, and the Diamond Book Award for sales exceeding ten million. In this series I will look at the history and impact of some of the Christian books that have sold more than a million copies—no small feat when the average Christian books sells only a few thousand. We will encounter books by a cast of characters ranging from Joshua Harris, Randy Alcorn and David Platt all the way to Joel Osteen, Bruce Wilkinson and William Young. So far we have looked at three titles that were awarded Platinum status in 2005; today we advance to 2007 and a surprise bestseller.

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

It is not often that a book races to the top of the bestseller charts and opens up the way for a whole new genre of Christian literature. But such is the case with Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven, a book that spurred an entire genre of what I refer to as “Heaven Tourism” books. FULL POST

Posted 4/18/14 at 9:00 AM | Book Stop

Handy Bible Answers About Easter

Book cover of The Handy Bible Answer Book

(This article was originally posted in The Book Room - The Christian Post's new section for book enthusiasts and authors.)

Adapted from Jennifer R. Prince The Handy Bible Answer Book (Visible Ink Press), here are the facts behind the Easter tradition and what it means to the Orthodox Christian community.

Why is the Celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection Known as Easter?

The name Easter was derived from the name of a Saxon goddess, Eostre, who was associated with fertility and springtime. As to why the church chose the name Easter, and not say, Jesus’ Resurrection Day, is not clear. Typically Easter is celebrated with joyous music, prayer, and Liturgy.

What Were the Dates of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?

No one knows for sure. Today the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is known as Easter. Easter does not have a fixed date. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full Moon after the spring equinox. In the early days of the church, Christian Leaders wanted to honor the death and resurrection of Jesus soon after Passover, because the Bible describes how Jesus’ death and resurrection took place following Passover. The Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles, so the date of Passover changes every year. To make sure the date of Jesus’ resurrection always came after Passover, the church made that changeable as well. FULL POST

Posted 4/17/14 at 11:59 AM | Book Stop

New Book 'Spoken For' Helps Women Discover God's Love and Share it With Others

Spoken For book cover

(This article was originally posted in The Book Room - The Christian Post's new section for book enthusiasts and authors.)

Seeking real love and acceptance? Authors Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke want young women to know they do not need to look any further than the God found in the pages of the Bible. Their Bible study Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are (Waterbrook Multnomah) shows young ladies that God loves them and wants a relationship with them.

The authors know just how transformational God’s love can be. In the book Gunn and Bethke reveal how seeking fulfillment from boyfriends left them feeling empty, confused and hurting. Gunn shared how she was crushed after her college boyfriend and fiancé rejected her. Bethke wrote about her dating troubles as well as developing an eating disorder in college.

Both women found healing by pursuing a deeper relationship with God. Now they want others to experience the same thing. FULL POST

Posted 4/17/14 at 8:58 AM | Tim Challies |

1 comment

Missing Jesus

Book cover of Missing Jesus

Now this is a sweet little book. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I began reading Missing Jesus. The names Charles and Janet Morris were not ones I recognized immediately, though I had heard of their radio program HAVEN Today and think I may have been a guest once. What I found was a book that came like a cold cup of water on a hot day.

The book begins with the premise that sometimes we all feel like we’re missing something. We have put our faith in Christ and we are following him, attempting to live in obedience to him, and yet something still seems to be missing. We’re left wanting more. There are a thousand answers to this more; in fact, most of the Christian books that pour off the printing presses claim to have the answer. But the authors of this book say the answer is remarkably simple: We’re probably missing Jesus. What we need is to be reminded that we are caught up in a great, cosmic drama and what we need is to be reoriented to see that our small story is simply part of this much greater story. FULL POST

Posted 4/16/14 at 12:18 PM | Eddie Williams

Book Review: Heaven and Hell: Are They Real?

Book cover of Heaven & Hell: Are They Real?

Christopher Hudson does a good job of putting together a book that we can go back and forth to about the questions of Hell and Heaven.

The first thing that stands out is how accessible the book is. Anyone can pick it up and dive in to find an answer to a questions. in fact, at the back of each section there is a list of verses that refer to heaven and Hell in scripture. This makes it easy for the layperson and the non-believer to root themselves in the text.

If what I wrote above is what Hudson intended for the book, then he hit his target. My only gripe about the book is how many other works there are about it. Books on Heaven and Hell are a dime a dozen. There are many different comprehensive works on the subject, and many far more shallow works. I just fail to see how this book ads anything to what’s already out there.

Again, I think using this as a reference book to address new believers is helpful, but I couldn’t see using this as your only go to source on the subject. FULL POST

Posted 4/15/14 at 4:02 PM | Book Stop

'Prone To Love' Author Wants Christians to Break Free of Dysfunctional Relationships with God

Prone to Love by Jason Clark

(This article was originally posted in The Book Room - The Christian Post's new section for book enthusiasts and authors.)

Pastor, singer, and author Jason Clark wants Christians to know that they do not have utter desperate prayers in order to get God’s attention or affection. Instead Clark says Christians must find security in God’s love.

In Prone to Love, Clark shared how God’s love broke through his own insecurities as a Bible college graduate. Despite his education, the North Carolina pastor thought himself to be a “spiritual dwarf.” He describes God later speaking to his heart saying it was illegal for him to entertain such insecurities. “Either agree with Me or call Me a liar,” he hear God say.

Clark writes that in those words he found an invitation to “know God in a way I never had before” – as a perfect father whose love he did not have to chase after or beg for because “God is love and He is always good.” FULL POST

Posted 4/15/14 at 9:44 AM | Tim Challies

Best Commentaries on Daniel

Series Introduction: I live in a small house. I work in a small office in a small church. For those reasons and others I will never have a huge library. When I add a book I almost always remove a book, a practice that allows me to focus on quality over quantity. Over the past couple of years I have focused on building a collection of commentaries that will include only the best volumes on each book of the Bible. I know when I’m in way over my head, so before I began I collected every good resource I could find that rated and reviewed commentaries. I studied them and then began my collection on the basis of what the experts told me. Since I did all of that work, and since I continue to keep up with the project, I thought it might be helpful to share the recommendations.

My focus is on newer commentaries (at least in part because most of the classics are now freely or cheaply available) and I am offering approximately 5 recommendations for each book of the Bible, alternating between the Old Testament and the New. Today I have turned to the experts to find what they say about Daniel.

Daniel

Iain M. Duguid - Daniel (Reformed Expository Commentary). Iain Duguid has written several excellent commentaries and has provided the volume on Daniel for the Reformed Expository Commentary series. It comes highly recommended by most of the experts. Kent Hughes, himself the author of many commentaries, writes “It is rare indeed to find a technical scholar who is also a master homiletician and preacher. But these things Dr. Iain Duguid clearly is. Here, rigorous expository methodology, nuanced biblical theology, and pastoral passion combine to expound the gospel of Jesus Christ in the ravishing narrative and exotic apocalyptic of the book of Daniel.” High praise like that puts this one at the top of the list. (Amazon, Westminster Books) FULL POST

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