Tag Archives: Biblical Fiction

There must be more to this story…

Paul, Apostle of Christ Book CoverPaul, Apostle of Christ is a work of fiction. About actual people who existed long ago. Set to be released after the anticipated motion picture. Quite the tall order for author Angela Hunt to create a compelling, convincing novel you won’t want to put down. What better way, I thought, to measure the merit of the book than reading it through the eyes of a suspicious skeptic and heart of a convicted Christian?

How well does the storyline stack up as an accurate reflection of the Bible and what history tells us about Rome under Emperor Nero? About three-mile high I would say. If you question it at all, the Interview with the Author and References sections at the back of the book should replace all doubt with answers. But you won’t have to. Like an intricate stain-glass window that displays a unified image letting in the light, the fragments of fiction come together with what we know for sure to complete a viewpoint that opens the eyes of our understanding. And casts things more clearly. 

With details acting like the filler soldering the picture together, the skeptic eye and Christian heart get a closer look at the conditions in first century Rome. And a revealing snapshot of the minds and hearts of the real-life and imagined characters. It offers a front-row seat to what Rome was like back then.  The point of view of the Romans, particularly those with power, comes into sharper focus. We get to see how the Pharisees became so law-obsessed and the nasty jealousy that drove the desire to rid themselves of Jesus. We gain deeper insight into Saul’s zeal for the Law and source of persecution for Christians. And his remorse over the harm he had done. 

Paul’s blinding encounter with Christ and missionary journey take on a whole new dimension. Words, like laser-sharp 3D glasses, whisk us straight to Paul’s side, sharing his experience in the dunk, dusky, stinky prison. We are moved by his friendship with Luke, the physician and writer of Acts, where the inspiration for the book and movie stems from. We come face to face with the brutal persecution and the faith and love of early Christians such as Aquila and Priscilla. People who “had a strange affection for widows and ugly orphans.” Hunt adds credibilty with authentic vocabulary from that era. Scripture was also brilliantly and seamlessly interwoven, the Word of God hemmed in context and meaning. 

The novel takes you on a journey into the past where you could smell, feel, taste and envision every word she brought to the page. A journey that moves from what happened then to what happens in your heart throughout the book. 

While taking in an insider’s view of what Paul and the early Christians faced, went through, and thought about, their place in history and HIStory, we can’t help but be fascinated by the magnitude of their faith and love; grace and forgiveness. The way of The Way. Their willingness to joyfully die for their devotion to Christ begs you to ask “How could the resurrection not be true?”

Publius about Paul: “My point is this: you do not make a man your leader because he trips and falls in the road and then travels around a bit and says some things. There must be more to this story…and we have only to find out.”

The author’s unfolding of the “more to this story” is what makes Paul, Apostle of Christ effective and relevant for the suspicious skeptic and convicted Christian . She laid out so many things to think about, remember, and be challenged by. Things like the finding strength to do what’s  right and shedding the light of goodness onto oppressive evil darkness; how to serve, love, forgive. That there is a time for prayer and a time to act in faith. From captivating beginning to powerful ending, the “more” is what grabs your heart and attention. And leaves a lasting impression. 

Book  has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communication Inc. 

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God Will Fight for Us

The Prophetess by Jill Eileen Smith - Cover

Woohoo! Double blessing. A book about one of my favourite bible characters and by a new writer for me to discover and tell you about. The Prophetess delivered an inspiring story crowned with biblical truth accentuated with brilliant jewels sparkling of contemporary relevance.

Deborah was a judge, prophetess, and warrior. A courageous heroine for her time. Wise and strong. A woman used mightily by God to bring victory to her nation. A captivating icon larger than life beckoning to know more about who she was and what it must have been like to be a female leader through troubled times.

Yet the Bible provides few details about the life and times of this influential woman who changed the course of history. Questions like how did she become a judge? What made her stand out as a prophetess? Did she become a mom at some point? What circumstances brought together the supporting actors, like Jael, the woman who cleverly dealt the final fatal blow, into the drama that would restore peace and holy reverence to God’s chosen people? Questions this book rises up to address.

At first, I wrestled with how much the novel leaned towards the author’s imagination. By the time I turned the last page I felt satisfied and came out with a richer understanding of that period in history and the God who never gave up on the very people who turned away from Him.

Main characters, such as Deborah’s children, were completely fictitious, yet purely believable. They may not have truly existed but were fleshed out true to life. Their lives embodied the hopes and dreams, challenges and fears typical of their generation. In fact, Deborah’s made-up daughter, Talya, was my favouite character.

Maybe things didn’t play out exactly as penned by Jill Eilleen Smith but no doubt she painted an accurate, colourful portrayal of the situation under Canaanite oppression and idolatry. I found she did her homeowork and presented a credible storyline that evoked faith and compassion.

When I went back to the biblical text to compare, I got so much more out of it. What happened became real and alive in powerful ways. Jill’s persuasive narrative in sync with the bible account unveiled a clearer vision of Deborah’s role, of what being a judge in those days entailed, the horror of terrorism, and the jealous God who commands our allegiance and is forever faithful.

Ultimately, this book pointed to the God who forgives, redeems and restores. Back then and now. It spoke to my heart reminding me that victory came to Israel after 20 long years of oppression. It may take years for God to work things out for you and me too. In the meantime, He goes before us preparing the way, equipping us with everything we need for success according to His will.

Like the people in Deborah’s time, even in our darkest hour, we can recall how God has never let us down in the past. We can trust Him to keep His word today. No matter what we are up against or the challenges we face, God will fight for us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Never.

Disclosure: Many thanks to Revell Publishing for the invitation to be part of The Prophetess Blog Tour and the complimentary book in exchange for this unbiased review.

I am a hope writer

When We Build on a Firm Foundation

On This Foundation Cover - Lynn Austin

There is much to be said about being totally wrapped up in a story when you know how it ends. That’s what caught me laughing at myself when I couldn’t put On This Foundation down. Especially since the book is cast long, long ago and traces multiple storylines to take in and keep track of.

I’ve always wanted to better understand what life must have been like when the crumbled Jerusalem wall was being rebuilt under Nehemiah. So it was no surprise I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. What I didn’t expect was being so moved by the characters that brought the ancient biblical account to life. I came to appreciate, grieve, rejoice, celebrate, and get angry at what was going on at that period in history. Through the eyes of two district leaders and their families, the young bondservant who sacrificially laid down her freedom to relieve her drought-afflicted family’s debt, the aging slave who could have gone free yet chose to stay, and Nehemiah, the man God called to the lead the restoration.

What really got me was how Lynn Austin blended captivating storytelling with biblical accuracy to vividly draw out the past and frame it with contemporary relevance. So many of the questions, fears, challenges and truths are as much part of current reality as they were in circa 500 BC.

Questions such as  “Why isn’t God answering our prayers?” and “How do I know it’s God who called me and not my own desire or imagination?” The timeless proof of what is possible when we follow God’s prompts and work together. Like rebuilding a wall in record time. Events that covered dealing with enemies, bitterness, and grief while uncovering evidence of God’s faithfulness and love. And why prayer is so vital. At all times.

Through it all, was the underlining theme that the Jerusalem wall stood because it was built on a firm foundation just like we can stand strong and secure when we build our lives on the firm foundation of faith and trust in God. The God who was at work then, is still working now. Even when we don’t see it. Even when it looks like He has abandoned us. We can celebrate the presence of the Almighty One who restored the ruins in their time and is still in the restoration business. No matter what we’ve done, or has happened to us. He can repair broken hearts. Piece together something good from shattered dreams, losses and defeats. Like the Israelites, we can lift our hands in jubilant triumph. Because the most famous truth from the book of Nehemiah still holds true today:

“The joy of the Lord is my strength!” ~ Nehemiah 8:10

On This Foundation is the dramatic conclusion to The Restoration Chronicles. It is a powerful, uplifting volume on its own. And one that that beckons you to go back and read the first two books in the series. I recommend it highly as a compelling story and source of encouraging inspiration.

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing the complimentary copy of On This Foundation through NetGalley in exchange for this unbiased review.

That firm foundation of faith and trust in God is often strengthened and built together. Like when we  link-up at Holley Gerth’s for faith-full Coffee for Your Heart.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image