Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sproul's The Work of Christ - Great Overview

R.C. Sproul’s latest contribution to Biblical studies, The Work of Christ, is a solid, no nonsense overview of the life of Christ from birth to His second coming.   Sproul’s goal was to examine the pinnacles of Jesus’s sojourn on earth in relationship to his redemptive work that He completed through the cross. But most importantly Sproul wants us to be able to understand exactly what it is that Christ did for us through his life.  Sproul, through this book, reminds us that Christ’s entire life was all part of the redemptive work and needs to be looked at and understood at a more profound level.

The Work of Christ would be an excellent study for a new believer or a great refresher for a seasoned saint.  Each chapter examines a pivotal moment in Christ’s life and the works He accomplished during that time.  From Bethlehem to His return, Sproul breaks it down so we can see the importance of every aspect of Christ’s works.

To be honest, The Work of Christ provided no new insights for me – it was an excellent overview – but nothing that made me stop and go “Wow”.  But that’s okay because what I loved about this book is that, after each chapter, there is a thorough outline of the important points that you needed to understand about that section. Even better there is a series of study questions that point you to more scriptures, allowing you to expand your study, if that’s what you desire.  If the reader takes advantage of these end-of-chapter studies, he will get even more from this book.

The Work of Christ will benefit anyone wanting a deeper understanding of what Christ did for us.  A great addition to the bookshelf of any believer.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Next Target Hits the Mark

The Next Target
will be released on June 1, 2012

Nikki Arana’s, The Next Target, is a gripping suspense novel filled with complex characters, faith - defined and tested, and a thrill ride of a plot you’ll definitely want to tuck into your beach bag this summer.

Ever since 9/11 Islam is a touchy subject.   Bring up Muslims, even in a Christian environment, and hackles are raised.  All Muslims blow things up, right?  I mean, whenever you see a burqa-clad woman on the street doesn’t your heart rate goes up just a bit?

Kudos to Nikki Arana and her latest book, The Next Target, for challenging my thinking on all things Muslim with a high action, thought-provoking novel that challenged that broad brush I’ve been painting with.

Meet American Austia Donatelli a widow whose husband was killed witnessing to Muslims in Kuwait. Struggling to find God’s way in her grief, she finds herself heading up a career center in the midst of an Arab neighbor on the south side of Los Angeles.  But her heart felt mission is more than finding jobs for recent immigrants; it’s sharing the love of Christ to the Muslim women in her English As A Second Language class.  But it’s dangerous work.  Accepting Jesus as Savior is an affront to Allah and is worthy of a death sentence to both the convert and to the person sharing Christ.  Extremist Muslim families don’t take this lightly, and Austia finds herself in the middle of an Islamic plot, which could lead to the biggest terrorist act on US soil since the towers came down.

Yes, sir, it’s a page turner that makes you stop and think.  Arana approaches her characters, both Muslim and Christian, with great compassion and understanding.   As Austia grapples with forgiveness for those who killed her husband, she finds that Christ’s love for her and for the Muslim people is sufficient not only to give her the courage to face opposition and danger at the hands of extremists, but to be truly family to Muslims she has come to respect and care for without looking down on them for not accepting the Savior she has devoted her life to.

Through her characters she shows that our perspective of Muslims and Christians may not be as clear as it could be.  There are Muslims filled with hate toward America, and Muslims who love this country – and are willing to die for it.  There are Christians who are heavy handed and clumsy in their approach, and there are Christians who love as Jesus would love.

If I were teaching a class on witnessing to Muslims, I would make The Next Target required reading.  Arana’s knowledge of Muslim culture permeates the pages of Next Target giving it an authenticity that makes the novel impactful.  More than just a thriller, it is a testimony.

Kindle copy of The Next Target courtesy of David C. Cook publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Son Of A Preacherman May Not Sweet Talk You

Romance is a predictable genre. It promises a happily ever after.  And why not?  Life is not full of happy endings –so why shouldn’t we enjoy the occasional feel-good moment after closing a book?

Marlene Banks’ novel Son of a Preacherman follows the faith-based romance template but with an encouraging difference.  Banks’ main characters are African Americans dealing with prejudice in the city of Tulsa, circa 1920s, a few months prior to a devastating race riot.

Romance novels don’t cause my heart to flutter, but I have, on occasion, been drawn into a good history-driven affair of the heart story, where history isn’t the background, it’s the main character.

That is what I was hoping for in Son of a Preacherman.  However, although Banks’ touched on the simmering powder keg that was Tulsa post WWI, the race riot and the events that let up to it, was merely the impetus that thrust the main love interests, Bennie and Billy Ray, into each other’s arms.

When Banks’ gives us glimpses into the affluent African American culture that was the Greenwood district of Tulsa, it is fascinating.  Also known as Negro Wall Street, Greenwood was the most affluent African American neighbor in the United States.

Its wealth and prosperity rubbed some members of the white community the wrong way, and when news of a perceived assault of a teenage white girl by a young African American made it’s way into that community, that was all it took to light the fuse that blew the top off the anger seething in the hearts of white Tulsa.

Now the history of that time and place was where I wanted to linger.  I wanted to know more about that young black shoeshine boy who was accused of assault, even if it would have been fictionalized backstory.  I wanted to know more about the whites and blacks who fought in the riot.  But instead they were minimized as side issues.

The subplot of Billy Ray’s former girlfriend, and the troubled marriage of Bennie’s brother Cordell and his floozy wife Savannah were the most intriguing aspects of the book, adding some tension to the predictability of the storyline.

Son of a Preacherman is a romance, pure and simple.  Not meant to be meaty or thought provoking – just boy meets girl, in another time and place.   If that’s what you enjoy, you will embrace this novel. 

In her latest novel, Banks delivered what romances are supposed to – a swept-off her-feet damsel in distress.  Although I am delighted African Americans are the central characters, not some best friends or background characters, I was hoping for a bit more.

Aretha Franklin sang, “The only man who could ever reach me was the son of a preacherman.”  Banks’ Son of a Preacherman will more than likely reach lovers of this genre, but for those who like a little more depth in their love stories this Son of a Preacherman may not sweet talk you.