Strangers Next Door

Strangers Next Door

Best Books 

Author J.D. Payne is Pastor for Church Multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills and oversees the church’s Institute for Disciple Making, church planting and pastoral training. He began serving at Brook Hills in 2012, after pastoring churches in Kentucky and Indiana and serving as a seminary professor.

When I was a child, the neighborhoods around me were either white or black. I remember only one Asian student, and she spoke with an Alabama accent, so I’m not sure that counts. The only Spanish I heard was in Spanish class, and most of that was unintelligible. The demographic composition began to change, however, after I became an adult. Now I have neighbors who are Hindus. A family from Thailand owns a business a few doors from mine, and a gentleman from Pakistan operates a gas station not far from my elementary school. How should our churches respond to this demographic shift? We should praise God. The world is coming, and we have a message of grace for them.

  1. D. Payne, a minister at The Church of Brook Hills, believes that God has orchestrated the migration of non-Christians to our country for a purpose – the building of His kingdom. In his book, Strangers Next Door/Immigration, Migration and Mission (InterVarsity Press), Payne explores the missional opportunities which immigration affords the American church. He offers clear examples of how churches can reach the mission fields in their own neighborhoods. America now has immigrants from over three hundred unreached people groups, people whom God loves and for whom Christ died. We should not be afraid of their presence. We should welcome them, befriend them, and do what Jesus instructed us to do – make disciples of all nations.

A few minutes after writing the first paragraph of this article, I assisted a young man in my bookstore. He left that day with his very first Bible and some advice on what portions to read first. In the next few days he will read the story of Jesus and encounter the Savior of the world. He is beloved by God. He is sought by Christ. He is an immigrant from Tanzania.

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

205-663-2370

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All in All from Birmingham Author Sophie Hudson

All in All from Birmingham Author Sophie Hudson

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Author Sophie Hudson, known as “Boo Mama” for her longstanding, highly humorous blog posts, (www.boomama.net) is the keynote speaker at the Women’s City Prayer Breakfast September 29, 7-8:30am at Canterbury United Methodist Church, www.canterburyumc.org/prayerbreakfast. Her four books, including, All in All, are available at Sanctuary Christian Books in Alabaster.

Sophie Hudson may not think of herself as a preacher, but I’m pretty sure God thinks of her as one. I’ve never met her, never heard her speak, and have no idea if she believes women should stand behind the pulpit. But a preacher she is. I know this because I recently read her new devotional. After reading several pages, I flipped forward and happened upon a segment which caught my eye. It was stunning. In one of those serendipitous moments which only God can orchestrate, Sophie Hudson preached a sermon that I needed to hear that day. And it came from, of all things, a devotional for teenage girls. The Spirit does indeed move in mysterious ways.

All in All (B&H Publishing, $14.99) contains a hundred daily devotions designed for young ladies. Sophie’s writing is light and fun, but deeply substantive. She tackles real issues such as friendship, worship, discipleship, and how to live as faithful servants in God’s kingdom. After each devotion, follow-up questions and Scripture readings are offered, as well as a place for writing prayers. All in All is a solid book that will enhance the spiritual life of every young lady who engages it.

In her introduction, Sophie expresses her desire that All in All would “remind you of the perfect peace and perfect love and perfect grace of Jesus Christ” and “encourage you to dig deeper in your relationship with Him, to trust Him more than you did before, and to seek Him with your whole heart.” These are the words of a disciple-maker, an agent of God’s grace, a minister of the Great Commission. May God bless Sophie’s words and continue to use All in All for the advancement of His kingdom.

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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Best Books: Rev. Michael Spurlock & Jeanette Windle

Best Books: Rev. Michael Spurlock & Jeanette Windle

All Saints

Written by Rev. Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle, the book, All Saints, will be available in September at Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts, Alabaster. A movie based upon the true story will release at the end of August.

Rev. Michael Spurlock’s first assignment as a new pastor was about as bad as it gets. All Saints Episcopal Church was down to 25 members and in financial stress. Debt. Division. Despair. These are toxic words for a church, and All Saints was dying. Then, nine months later, three travelers from the east showed up to worship Jesus, and everything changed. Hope was born. A holy family was created. New life began to stir.

All Saints (Bethany House, $14.99) is the true story of how three Sunday visitors were used by God to bring new life to a struggling Episcopalian church in Smyrna, Tenn. By welcoming the immigrants from war-torn Myanmar into their church, the congregation found a new mission in God’s Kingdom. With the influx of seventy-five Burmese refugees, All Saints became diverse rather than divided, a community of faith mirroring the multi-cultural kingdom of God. There were struggles, but there was also one blessing after another as God worked among them in wondrous ways.

All Saints reflects God’s design to break down ever wall and division which violates the unity of his kingdom. Jesus is our peace, and he has made all groups into one by reconciling us not only to God, but also to one another. In Jesus we become fellow citizens, brothers and sisters in God’s family, one body united in our faith. All Saints reminds us that when we see our neighbor as God sees them, God will do incredible things among us.

 

Jeanette Windle

Rev. Michael Spurlock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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English Lessons from Andrea Lucado

English Lessons from Andrea Lucado

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Max Lucado’s daughter, Andrea Lucado, shares her personal faith journey in English Lessons (Waterbrook Press, $18.99), available at Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts in Alabaster.

My church recently observed Pentecost Sunday, a day which celebrates the death of aristocratic spirituality. The Spirit was unleashed upon all flesh, baptizing all ages, classes, ethnicities and genders. In the new order, unlearned fishermen and poor servant girls may speak the words of God. Old men dream of God’s kingdom, young men behold visions, and daughters prophesy. Each generation experiences God afresh, travels new paths, and speaks truth in new ways. Their father’s faith cannot save them and their mother’s faith cannot consecrate them, for the Spirit of God is not imparted through familial osmosis. Our sons and daughters must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

Andrea Lucado knows whereof I speak. Her father is one of America’s beloved pastors, a writer who has touched thousands from behind his pulpit and millions with the tip of his pen. Andrea was raised in a church community, deeply embedded in an evangelical Texan bubble. And then she went to England. Hard questions. Crooked paths. Spiritual culture shock. English Lessons is a lovely book about making faith personal, even if it means transition and change. It is about finding a new language with which to speak of an ancient faith.

The heart of English Lessons can be summarized in Andrea’s own words. “Uncertainty, constant change, and insecurity are the perpetual way of the Christian life. Learning never ends. The questions never stop. Our faith… was never meant to be static. We should never assume we have arrived.”

Listen to a daughter prophesy.

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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Best Books: Mark Batterson

Best Books: Mark Batterson

It’s Time to Man Up

Find pastor and author Mark Batterson’s latest book along with his best-selling Circle Maker book and devotion at Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts Colonial Promenda, Alabaster. Batterson is pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.

On February 23, AD 155, the elderly bishop of Smyrna was taken to the city’s arena to be executed. Charged with the crime of being a Christian, he was allowed one more chance to renounce Christ. When he declined to deny his faith, the crowd shouted for his death. Polycarp died the way he lived, exhibiting strength, bravery, and faithfulness to his King. According to the story handed down to subsequent generations, during his martyrdom a voice from the heavens overwhelmed the crowd’s shouts, saying, “Be strong, Polycarp. Play the man.”

In his new book, Play the Man (Baker Books, $19.99), Mark Batterson challenges today’s Christian men to cultivate virtues and practices which befit their calling as men of God. Moral toughness and resolve, intellectual intensity, will power and self-discipline, a passion for life, and courageous faith are only a few of the virtues Batterson covers as he urges the reader to live as men with whom God is pleased.

Every generation needs Christian men and women who are strong and brave, disciples who will not only speak truth to the powerful but also to their own churches. We need pastors and writers who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions and speak up, even when their message isn’t appreciated. Calling out sin in high places and defying injustice cloaked in laws can be dangerous. Speaking for the voiceless and advocating for the poor and marginalized can be unpopular. We need leaders who are willing, like Polycarp, to pay the price. In days such as these, Batterson’s call to “play the man” is timely indeed. It’s time to man up.

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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Best Books: Susanna Aughtmon

Best Books: Susanna Aughtmon

Risk More. Dream Bigger. Fear Less.

In his letter to the Christians of Rome, the Apostle Paul prayed that the God of hope would fill them with joy and peace, and that they would abound in hope. To abound in hope means to have more than enough, to have overflowing, over the top, audacious, beyond our wildest dreams hope. Paul believed the people of God should be a people of hope because it is embedded in the very nature of God. To live without hope is to live outside the presence of God, for He is a God of hope.

Susanna Aughtmon’s latest book, Hope Sings: Risk More. Dream Bigger. Fear Less. (Abingdon Press, $16.99), is an exhortation to place our hope in God, to dream bigger, to reach higher, and live bravely. We are the children of God, a God who loves us, fights for us, and sets us free. The laws of nature do not apply to Him, nor do our concepts of odds or probabilities. He calms storms and turns an ordinary lunch into a feast for thousands. He raises the dead, redeems the ungodly, and lavishes peace and grace upon us. God has a long history of being worthy of our faith and hope, and He has not changed.

For those who have reached their limit, exhausted by troubles and weary of the wrongness of life, Hope Sings is for you. For those who have fallen into despair, who have been beaten into a corner and feel like you have nowhere to turn, put your hope in God. You may have given up, but God hasn’t. Remember, yet again, who He is. Whisper your prayer one more time. Sing a song of boundless hope. We are the people of God, and hope is what we do!

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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Best Books: Trailon Johnson

Best Books: Trailon Johnson

Hear the Word behind the words…

Trailon Johnson’s book, Day by Day: Life, Liberty, and Joy ($10), is available for purchase at Sanctuary Christian Books & Gifts in Alabaster.

Christianity isn’t a science. There are no secret formulas for spiritual success, no laws which drive predictable patterns of spiritual
formation, no axioms upon which spiritual maturity can be assured. Even the Scriptures defy our impulses to turn it into a textbook. Our faith is perplexing and mysterious, much like a poem laden with layers of meaning.
Following Jesus is an art, not a science, and all art is personal. Like salt which has lost its savor, faith is meaningless unless it is personally engaged, felt, and beheld in wonder.

Trailon Johnson understands the need to engage our faith on a daily basis. In his book, Day by Day: Life, Liberty, and Joy, he offers ninety days of Scriptures, prayers, and devotional readings designed to encourage and strengthen your spiritual life. After each reading, Johnson offers questions designed to make the passage personal. What does the verse mean to you? Can you relate to the writer’s point? Are there things in your life the text is speaking to? Does the passage encourage you? Unsettle you? Convict you?

Day by Day: Life Liberty and Joy invites you to read the daily Scripture selection in the same fashion one would approach a painting. Make the text personal. Let it move you. Encounter the devotional reading for yourself, not through the eyes of another. Hear the Word behind the words. With eyes to see and ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to you, today, wherever you are on your journey with Jesus.

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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Best Books: Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts

Best Books: Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts

Are We Ready? Preparing for Easter, C. S. Lewis

I’m pretty sure that if I’d met John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan River, I would have dismissed him as a deranged zealot. Sensing my lack of enthusiasm for his style and lack of decorum, he would, no doubt, have pointed one of his honey-stained fingers at me and shouted strange admonishments about broods of vipers and fiery chaff, thus confirming my suspicions. He would have told me to repent, to make the path to my heart straight for the Lord. He would have urged me to step into the water and wash away my multitude of sins. “The Lord is coming,” he would say, and we should all be scared out of our minds.

The weeks leading to Easter are an echo of John’s ministry. They are days of preparation, of making smooth the way of God. We reflect on the events before us; the heralds of a palm-waving crowd, the decisions being made for and against Jesus, the treachery of betrayal and the cruelty of a cross. As we near Holy Week and the celebration of an empty tomb, we must ask ourselves if we are truly ready to meet the risen Lord.

Photo: Hulton Deutsch Collection, John Chillingworth

Preparing for Easter (Harper One, $17.99), by C. S. Lewis, is a collection of devotions by one of the most influential Christian writers of the modern era. As we approach the defining days of Easter, books like Preparing for Easter can serve as a guide to our own season of repentance and reflection. On Easter Sunday, we will once again encounter the risen Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Are there things in our life that need to be set aside, priorities that need to be re-arranged, prayers that need to be said?

Preparing for Easter is a collection of fifty readings compelling us to make straight the path of God.

The cross and Easter are upon us, those great and terrible days of the Lord. The risen Messiah will soon stand before us. Are we ready?

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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Best Books: Melissa Ohden

Best Books: Melissa Ohden

You Carried Me

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Author Melissa Ohden will be the featured speaker at the April 27 Sav-A-Life Vestavia Banquet at the Hyatt Regency/Wynfrey Hotel. For more details, visit www.savalife.org. Her new book is available at Sanctuary Christian Books in Alabaster.

Last year, on a sunny day in May, Melissa Ohden left her church thinking of a scripture she had heard at Mass that morning. Based on Romans 5:5, Paul asserts that “hope does not disappoint.”  In a world jaded by cynicism, strife, and despair, Paul’s words may seem like wishful thinking. The promise of hope and change can easily slip into a surreal and stagnate reality, causing some to question the wisdom of Paul’s belief in the power of faith and hope. But Paul knew better. He knew that God can do the impossible, that grace can change everything. If you’re wondering whether the power of God’s grace can still bring beauty from ashes, life from death, and peace to our secret storms, I invite you to read Melissa’s story.

Melissa was a teenager when she learned that she was the survivor of an attempted abortion. She began her life lying on a hospital bed, unwanted by a world which had conspired to end her life before she was even born. Now she is a mother and wife, a woman who loves and is loved, an agent of God’s grace. Her story,You Carried Me (Plough Publishing, $19.99), affirms that prayer, love, compassion, forgiveness, and faith are not mere abstractions disconnected from the real world. They are embedded in the Christian faith.

As I read You Carried Me, I thought of the night Nicodemus sought out Jesus by night. Jesus told him that the kingdom of heaven necessitates being born again. I’m of the opinion that the rebirth Jesus is referring to is not a singular event, but a way of life, a series of transformative moments in which we are introduced over and over to the wonders of God’s kingdom. Melissa Ohden was born in a toxic environment, but she found love with adoptive parents. She was born again. She fell in love and got married, then became a mother herself. She was born yet again and again. She found her biological mother and other missing family, and a new life was begun. Most importantly, she found the Christ who promises to make all things new and give us abundant life. Her first birth was travesty, but that is not what defines her. I know this because, just as Jesus promised, Melissa has been born again.

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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