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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Best Books

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Huntsville’s Melanie Dickerson won the National Readers Choice Award for Best First Book for The Healer’s Apprentice and is also a two-time Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the Christian Retailing’s Best award. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education at the University of Alabama and has taught in Ga., Tenn., and Ukraine.

Award Winning Alabama Author Releases The Silent Songbird

The creation of an imaginative story is an inherently spiritual exercise. It is one of the marks of the imago Deo, the image of God stamped upon humanity. Whether it’s a talking snake in a garden, a merchant who finds a pearl of great price, or a prince who saves a damsel in distress, stories can be powerful echoes of the truth and creativity emanating from our heavenly Father. There are occasions when “Once upon a time” can be an introduction to the holy.

In her new book, The Silent Songbird (Thomas Nelson $14.99), Alabama author Melanie Dickerson offers us the story of Evangeline, a young woman who lives in the dangerous world of fourteenth-century England. She is, of course, lovely and talented and virtuous. And she falls for a young man of admirable character, charm, and chiseled good looks. But there is treachery afoot, circumstances to obviate, and villainous antagonists to avoid. And even though we know before the first page that such tales always end happily ever after, Melanie weaves a story that makes the journey toward resolution worthy of reading.

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-11-50-28-amIn what we call the real world, endings are not always good and perfect. Sometimes we are exiled from Eden, we lose what we treasure, and the damsel isn’t saved. But maybe that isn’t the end of our history. Perhaps stories like The Silent Songbird are not predictable tales of romantic escapism, but prophetic parables which whisper the promise that love will indeed win in the end, that all which was lost will be found, and that we will, one day, dwell in castles not made with hands. Maybe the Kingdom of God truly does begin with “Once upon a time” and ends with “happily ever after.”

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

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Best Books

Hidden Christmas

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-7-09-44-pmI know people who think the end is near. They are convinced the world is collapsing into an apocalyptic abyss and the world’s final days are upon us. Some of them believe that Jesus will come a second time and rescue them. Others are not sure and are bracing themselves for the darkness ahead. They are worried. They are losing hope. They are afraid.

They shouldn’t be.

In his latest book, Hidden Christmas (Viking, $20), Timothy Keller explores the hope and light embedded in the message of Christ’s birth. We are exhorted to live in peace, not in fear; to live in hope, not in dread. The reason is simple. For unto us a son has been given, unto us a great light has dawned. If you are worried about your personal life, our nation, or the world in general, Hidden Christmas has a message for you. The story of Christmas is not a sweet, sentimental tale without relevance to today’s troubles. It is the story of how God invaded this planet and began reconciling the world to himself. It is a story of great joy, of good news, and of the glory of God. And it is just as relevant now as it was the night angels thundered across the Judean hills.

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Author: Timothy Keller

Our rescue from darkness is not ahead of us, bursting through the eastern skies; it is behind us, lying in a manger. So don’t be afraid of the future. The days of darkness are numbered, but of the holy Child’s kingdom, there shall be no end.

Glory to God in the highest!

Darrel Holcombe, OwnerSanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

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Best Books: Falling Free

Falling Free

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-11-29-56-amFollowing Jesus can lead to forms of ruination. The abundant life Jesus promised has nothing to do with a nice house, financial security, or respectable social status. Since these things are unimportant to God, they should not be important to us. Unfortunately, they are. When the cost of discipleship requires sacrifice, when bank accounts are wrecked and lifestyles are disrupted, when the call of God leads us to give until it seems scandalously unwise, following Jesus can feel dangerous. Perhaps that’s why the just must live by faith, for without a deep trust in God’s presence and direction such sacrifices would be foolish indeed.

Shannan Martin had a happy life. She lived on a small farm, nurturing her family in a safe environment and worshiping God with those she loved. Then Jesus walked by and invited her to follow him and leave it all behind. Falling Free – Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted (Thomas Nelson, $16.99) is her story, one filled with decaying sidewalks and broken humans. Like the message of Jesus, it is subversive. In losing her life, she found it. In giving, she has received. In living with less, she found abundance and riches which money can’t buy.

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Author: Shannan Martin

Falling into the will of God can be like jumping out of a plane. Screaming in terror and laughing with joyous exhilaration are both reasonable responses. The good news is that God knows it’s scary. Perhaps that’s why Jesus constantly told his followers not to be afraid. If God has called you to a new chapter in life, one that looks risky and filled with possible ruin, then Falling Free has a message you need to hear. Run to the battle. Take the plunge. Fall into the life God has called you. Let Him rescue you from the life you have and replace it with His dream for you.

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

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Best Books

Punching Holes in the Dark

I often feel the need to apologize to God, for surely I am a man of inexcusably small faith. I am too prone to stress over the darkness in this world, too susceptible to waves of despair over the depths of cruelty humanity can sink to, and far too inclined to focus on what is wrong than what is good and lovely and true. Yes, the darkness around us is real. But so is the kingdom of God. If I were a man of great faith, I would concentrate more on the power and light of God’s Son than on the power of darkness which still holds so much of the world in its rebellious grip.

In his latest book, Punching Holes in the Dark (Abingdon Press), author Robert Benson shares his thoughts about the tension all Christ’s followers face as we endeavor to live as children of light in a world of darkness. It is a wonderful work, filled with thoughtful reminders that the Kingdom of God is around us, a kingdom immersed in light and life and love. All we need are eyes to see, ears to hear, and a desire to push back the darkness whenever and however we can.

What does punching a hole in the darkness look like? For some, it’s preaching the gospel with words of grace. For others, it’s offering a cup of water in Christ’s name or sending notes of encouragement to those in distress. Don’t despise the small things, for even the tiniest ray of light can penetrate a room of darkness. screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-7-02-38-pmPunching Holes in the Dark encouraged me to punch harder than I have in the past. I want to be more faithful and forgiving, more compassionate and kind, more joyful and hopeful. Instead of whining about the world, I want to wake up each morning with the hope of being part of what God wants to do in the world that day, however small or seemingly insignificant it may appear.

One day, the light of Jesus is going to overwhelm the world, and darkness will be annihilated forever. All that is wrong will be made right. We will live as God always dreamed we would live. Wars will cease, justice and peace will reign, death will be overturned, and sin will yield to love. We will live in the light of His city. And I won’t have to apologize to God anymore.

– Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gift
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

 

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God Can Restore Struggling Marriages


screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-8-53-10-pmNewly
released 30 Days of Hope for Hurting Marriages is filled with honest reflections from a Birmingham couple’s own marriage and near divorce. Each devotion contains Scripture, questions to consider and discuss, and a glimpse into the emotions couples may experience during crisis. Written by husband and wife Randy and Melody Hemphill, the devotional is the sixth in New Hope Publisher’s “Gifts of Hope” series and has received high praise from local church leaders like Shades Crest Baptist Church Senior Pastor Brian Lee. “30 Days of Hope for Hurting Marriages offers practical and God-centered guidance for couples who are struggling or just want to improve their relationships. Randy and Melody understand the inner dynamics that contribute to marital breakdown. More importantly, they know that healing comes from facing difficult truths and deepening one’s relationship with God…” Senior pastor of Double Oak Community Church Adam Robinson adds, “These devotions will give you solid marital advice from a biblical perspective that can truly heal your marriage.”

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-8-23-19-pmThe Hemphills have been married for more than 20 years and are parents to four children. They are the founders of Birmingham based LIFE Ministries, a counselinministry passionate about the restoration of men and women’s hearts. Randy holds a doctorate of ministry specializing in men and marriage and is a Peer Pastor Leader for Beeson Divinity School, an adjunct professor, and seminar director for enrichment and marriage resources. Learn more at www.lifeministriesnow.com. †

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