Written by Leslie Santamaria
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 08:58 AM EDT
Recording artist and worship leader Matt Papa was once busy full-time, doing the work of God—going on mission trips, leading Bible studies and the like—and yet he was depressed, driven by the need for approval and addicted to pornography.
Then he gained a deeper understanding of the glory of God and everything changed.
Papa explains his transformation in Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ (9780764212512, $15.99). His goal for the book, which releases this month from Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group, is to “revive a glory-hungry giant and then point it to its proper and necessary Object. To point it away from the empty wells that cannot satisfy and toward the Fountain of infinite Satisfaction.”
Papa’s change did not come through working or striving. Nor did it happen overnight. In a three-year period, he changed by setting his gaze on Christ and starting each day lingering over God’s Word, praying and meditating.
“Beauty began coming into view,” he writes. “I began to feel something I had never felt before. A satisfaction, an incomparable thrill, and a displacing of all lesser ones.”
Papa begins his book by defining glory and worship. Everyone is a worshipper, he asserts. He calls worship “the truest condition of our souls,” and even says, “We are worship machines.”
The problem, he adds, is that we often worship things that cannot withstand the weight of our worship.
“The triune God is the only thing large enough and interesting enough to bear the weight of glory, and ultimately worship,” he writes.
Papa uses the phrase “cultural A.D.D.,” saying that because we have a wealth of information and options at our fingertips, focusing is difficult. Yet he calls readers to rise to the task.
“The most important thing for you to do is to fight to get a real vision of God,” he writes.
Now a minister at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, Papa says that although the fight continues, he is living in victory.
“Make your life one unflinching gaze at the glory of God,” he writes. “This is the only addiction that can finally set you free. Look and live!”
To order or learn more, visit Baker’s website at bakerpublishinggroup.com.
Written by Leslie Santamaria
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 08:28 AM EDT
Life Without Limbs founder Nick Vujicic and wife Kanae offer observations on marriage in new book
Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs, and although he says his life is not easy, through his faith and family’s love he lives a vibrant, joy-filled life. Beginning his career as a motivational speaker at age 19, Vujicic has spoken worldwide about overcoming adversity and living with faith and hope. His reach is far, with many of his YouTube videos garnering millions of views and sales of his books reaching over 1 million in 30 languages.
Vujicic, a New York Times best-selling author, directs the nonprofit organization Life Without Limbs and wrote a number of books, including Unstoppable, Stand Strong and Life Without Limits. Yet despite his well-known optimism, he wondered if he would ever find a wife.
In Love Without Limits, releasing this month from WaterBrook Press, Vujicic and his wife, Kanae, tell their love story.
The two met at a speaking engagement in 2012 and were immediately attracted to each other. However, they compare their start to a romantic comedy, with now-humorous misunderstandings and language barriers.
Theirs is a multicultural tale. Vujicic is Serbian-Australian; Kanae is Japanese-Mexican. That their paths crossed is amazing in itself, considering that they grew up on different continents and lived 9,000 miles apart when they met.
Early on, they also dealt with their own hesitations and the skepticism of others. Loved ones wondered how Nick’s daily care needs would affect their relationship. Nick had doubts about his “fitness as both a husband and father,” he writes.
Kanae added that she brought challenges to the mix as well.
“I’d had my own ups and downs in relationships, and I had a little baggage because my parents had divorced when I was very young.
But they kept Christ at the center of their courtship and married in 2013 with the blessing of both of their families. Their son, Kiyoshi, was born one day after their first anniversary.
“What a gift the love of another person is,” Nick writes. “And the love of a child is beyond priceless.”
As newlyweds, the Vujicics acknowledge they are on their own journey to building a lasting relationship, and they don’t claim to be experts.
“This book is meant to share our love story with you and also to offer what we have observed and learned so far,” the pair writes.
Intermingled with the narrative is advice on searching for love, wedding planning and keeping a marriage strong. Lists woven into the chapters include, “Nick and Kanae’s Five Rookie Tips to Working at Marriage” and the “Ten Point Survival Guide for the First Year of Life With a Child.”
To order, visit the publisher’s website, waterbookmultnomah.com.
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 08:31 AM EDT
Action Bible, Duck Commander brands expand
Master illustrator Sergio Cariello is back with the Bible’s creation story in an all-new graphic novel, The Action Bible: The Battle Begins: The Story of Creation (9780781411424, $12.99, softcover, David C Cook), for kids ages 9-12.
Releasing Oct. 1, this animated story of the beginning of time takes readers to the Garden of Eden, meeting God walking there and seeing Jesus, the Word, active in creation. Readers see Lucifer betray his friend, Michael the Archangel, and how Adam and Eve fall into Lucifer’s trap.
Cariello teams up with Caleb J. Seeling, a columnist for arts magazines and Examiner.com on The Story of Creation, the first of four volumes.
Willie and Korie Robertson’s son, John Luke, of A+E’s Duck Dynasty family teams up with novelist Travis Thrasher on four fiction books for readers ages 8-12 from Tyndale House Publishers. Titles in the Be Your Own Duck Commander Boxed Set (9781414398174, $29.99, October) also are sold individually for $9.99 each.
After a few chapters in each book, readers can choose to go down different paths in the Duck Commander world—each filled with humor and life lessons. The individual titles are: Willie’s Redneck Time Machine; Phil and the Ghost of Camp Ch-Yo-Ca; Si in Space; and Jase & the Deadliest Hunt.
CATHOLICS, WAKE UP!
Servant Books (Franciscan Media)
160 pages, $15.99
A retired veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Romero is an author, theologian and director of religious education at a parish north of L.A. He believes that Catholics are called to radically live their faith. In Catholics, Wake Up! Be a Spiritual Warrior, he aims to jolt believers out of their spiritual lethargy and challenges them to show up to claim every situation for the Lord. Romero says that believers are to be spiritual warriors who triumph with God’s strength in life’s difficulties.
THE DIDACHE BIBLE
The Didache Bible presents extensive commentaries on all books of the Bible based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Bible includes the complete Scripture text using the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition. It features a 6-by-9-inch trim size, 27 full-color maps, a glossary, topical index and apologetic explanations to common questions about faith.
WOULD YOU BAPTIZE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL?
Guy Consolmagno, SJ; Paul Mueller, SJ
Image (Crown Publishing Group/Random House)
hardcover, 304 pages, $25
Pope Francis posed the question in this book’s title to provoke deeper reflection about inclusiveness and diversity in the church. Authors Consolmagno and Mueller—scientists at the Vatican Observatory—often hear similar questions. In Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? …And Other Questions from the Astronomers’ In-box at the Vatican Observatory, they explore a variety of questions at the crossroads of faith and reason such as how to reconcile the Big Bang with Genesis and what really went down between Galileo and the Catholic church. With humor, the authors explore these questions and more.
BEDTIME BIBLE STORIES
softcover, 384 pages, $14.99
Going beyond Bible stories, this colorful book challenges children ages 5 to 8 to stop and think about the meaning of each story recounted. More than 180 stories are drawn from the breadth of Scripture—from “In the Beginning, God” of Genesis 1 through heaven’s tree of life in Revelation 22—and are illustrated in full color. Bedtime Bible Stories is compiled from the Barbour series with sales of nearly a half-million copies.
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS
Angie Smith; illustrated by Breezy Brookshire
B&H Kids (B&H Publishing Group)
256 pages, $14.99
Best-selling author Smith offers a new storybook collection of women from the Bible, retold for girls ages 6-10. In For Such a Time as This, her attention turns to 40 women from the Old and New Testaments, including Eve, Sarah and Hagar, Esther, Mary Magdalene and Gomer. Summaries at the end of each story highlight an attribute of God to be learned from the story and offer thoughtful reflections for parent and child.
JESUS DETECTIVE: A PUZZLE SEARCH BOOK
Peter Martin; illustrated by
48 pages, $14.99
This picture-search puzzle book offers 17 illustrated scenes of events from the life of Jesus. Young detectives are invited to find answers to the questions posed on each page. Some puzzles involve looking for details of everyday life, while others highlight things that happened in the Bible stories. Visual learners may find Jesus Detective particularly appealing.
SECRET KEEPER GIRL PAJAMA PARTY
Harvest House Publishers
64 pages, $12.99
Secret Keeper Girl Pajama Party is a mom-daughter study for 8-to-12-year-old girls and their moms. More than 300,000 moms and daughters have experienced Secret Keeper Girl Live! The Pajama Party Tour, created by the author. Moms and daughters can enjoy an evening of giggles and games—and also find opportunities to open up about concerns tweens have like drama with friends or what she thinks about boys along with her friendship with Jesus. The games, recipes, lessons and discussion questions Gresh provides are geared for a group or just for mom and daughter.
SURPRISE AT YORKTOWN
Marianne Hering, Nancy I. Sanders
Tyndale House Publishers
softcover, 144 pages, $4.99
In Surprise at Yorktown, readers will travel back two centuries to the final battle of the American Revolution at Yorktown, Virginia. Cousins Patrick and Beth sneak through trenches and race across battlefields to warn General Washington about a dangerous spy. The spy is stealing his secret plans and giving them to the British. Cannons roar and the ground shakes as the struggle reaches a climax. Washington’s ragtag soldiers are up against the most powerful army in the world. Will Patrick and Beth witness the American Revolution come to an end? Or will they be caught in a dangerous trap they can’t escape?
TRUTH DARE, DOUBLE DARE
David C Cook
432 pages, $14.99
This all-new companion to the best-selling devotional Truth and Dare challenges girls to put their faith into action. Truth, Dare, Double Dare is a fast-paced, real-life daily devotional for girls ages 8 to 12. Each day of reading includes a few Bible verses, an exploration of what they mean and ways tweens can apply God’s truth to their lives. It includes journaling prompts, fun quizzes and relevant messages for tween girls.
Quién es Quién y Dónde Es Dónde en la Biblia 2.0 (WHO’S WHO AND WHERE’S WHERE IN THE BIBLE 2.0)
Stephen M. Miller
480 pages, $19.99
Who’s Who and Where’s Where in the Bible has sold more than a quarter-million copies. Now, the revised and expanded edition is available in Spanish. This A-Z magazine-style dictionary features insights about more than 500 of the most important people and places of Scripture.
A YOUNG MAN’S GUIDE TO DISCOVERING HIS BIBLE
Harvest House Publishers
208 pages, $11.99
Best-selling author George encourages young men to know their Bible, what it says and make it their personal guide for all of life. Along the way, he also offers ideas for Bible study and practical application. The young women’s counterpart by Elizabeth George is also available.
FREE TO BE ME
David C Cook
224 pages, $15.99
In the teen edition of the best-selling title Becoming Myself, Eldredge challenges girls ages 15 to 18 to learn to believe God’s truth about their beauty and worthiness. Age-appropriate examples and stories encourage and equip readers to embrace what God says about them and His dream for their lives. Practical and interactive elements, including helpful hints, questions and advice, end each chapter.
Sadie Robertson with Beth Clark
224 pages, $22.99
Seventeen-year-old Sadie Robertson—star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and daughter of Willie and Korie Robertson—opens up about herself and the values that make her family what it is in Live Original. Robertson lives by a list of simple principles—think happy, be happy, dream big, shake the hate, do something and many more—that have led to personal and spiritual growth and have helped her relationships flourish.
Written by Natalie Gillespie
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 08:13 AM EDT
Personal experience and special packages help drive sales in a digital world
Just a few years ago, music was a significant category for Christian retailers. But what about DVDs? Except for VeggieTales, not so much. Now, entertainment sales have flip-flopped, with 2014 being called the “Year of the Bible” by Hollywood insiders and bloggers while stores struggle to sell in the music category.
“We do books quite well, but the music side has diminished,” said Rick Lewis, owner of Logos Bookstore in Dallas. “CDs—they just don’t work for us.”
Steve Pickering, owner of the Lemstone Parable Christian Store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has had a similar experience.
“Music is pretty dead for us,” Pickering said. “A few years ago, music exceeded 20% of our sales. Now it’s down to less than five. We carry the new releases and a few oldies.”
Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. With recent box-office and television hits like God’s Not Dead, Son of God, Heaven Is for Real and History Channel miniseries The Bible now on DVD and Blu-ray, many stores have seen home-video sales pick up.
“DVDs are continuing to sell because there has been so much good stuff coming out on the big screen,” said Martha Brangenberg, manager of Charis Christian Books & Gifts in Largo, Florida. “I keep placing orders. I am down to three God’s Not Dead again. People are wanting to own that movie rather than just watch it once.”
Indeed, God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is for Real have set the new Christian entertainment gold standard. With a budget of about $2 million, God’s Not Dead brought in more than $62.6 million worldwide at the box office, while DVD and Blu-ray sales landed the movie at No. 2 on Variety magazine’s sales chart in both categories in August. Heaven Is for Real had a larger production budget of $12 million and took in just over $100 million at the box office worldwide, according to boxofficemojo.com.
“I am constantly amazed when I look at the numbers,” Brangenberg said of her DVD sales. “It is very encouraging.”
REACHING MUSIC FANS
While DVDs still have some brick-and-mortar sales life, it is anybody’s guess whether physical music sales can ever be recaptured. The June 6 headline on the Generation-Y website Elite Daily was shockingly accurate. Accompanied by a photo of a forearm with an IV line, it read: “How One Generation Was Single-Handedly Able To Kill The Music Industry.”
Songwriter and entrepreneur Thomas Honeyman assessed the situation.
“The old music industry clung desperately to sales to survive, but that model is long gone,” he said.
In the past few years, CD sales have given way to digital downloads, which now have largely fallen to streaming.
Jimmy Wheeler, vice president of sales and national promotion at Provident Label Group, is in his 25th year in the music business and has seen significant change.
“We went from stacking dollars from CD sales to stacking quarters on digital downloads to stacking pennies now on streaming revenue,” Wheeler said.
Does that mean consumers no longer care about music? Quite the opposite. A recent Nielsen study found that 40% of U.S. consumers—those classified as fans—are responsible for 75% of music spending. These fans would be willing to spend an additional $450 million to $2.6 billion annually if they could participate in behind-the-scenes perks or get exclusive extras like in-studio updates, real-time emails, limited editions, autographed copies, vinyl records and lyric sheets handwritten by the artist.
So how can retailers persuade consumers to buy music at brick-and-mortar stores? Try the following four tips:
1. Consider the season. Christmas is coming, and it’s pretty tough to gift-wrap a download. Try creating tabletop displays with CDs, books and small gifts that complement the music, like Casting Crowns’ Thrive CD with singer Mark Hall’s book of the same title.
“Casting Crowns’ Thrive came out in January, and it has been in the top five every week since it came out,” Wheeler said. “We have not seen a Christmas with this record yet, so I am treating it almost like a brand-new release.”
Wheeler said Tenth Avenue North’s November release, Cathedrals, also should be good for the season. And he added that retailers can get customers excited about first quarter 2015, which will see new recordings from Third Day, Matt Maher, Red and Brandon Heath. For King & Country also released Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong on Sept. 16, with T-shirts, necklace, bracelet, drumsticks and a poster at retail.
Other ways to make it a musical Christmas include hanging CDs on a Christmas tree, looking at concert schedules to see who will be coming your way and playing music in the store.
Michael W. Smith teamed up with a bunch of A-list artists, including Amy Grant and Vince Gill, Bono, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride, to create Michael W. Smith & Friends: The Spirit of Christmas, in stores Sept. 30. This fall Smith will launch The Spirit of Christmas Tour, including co-billed shows with Amy Grant in Dallas, Minneapolis and Atlanta.
Aaron Shust releases his first Christmas album, Unto Us, on Oct. 14. Relient K also has a new Christmas offering, Let It Snow, Baby. Let it Reindeer, on CD and vinyl. Newsboys will release a collection of hymns Nov. 4. Hallelujah for the Cross features 10 hymns, including the title track.
At Logos of Dallas, owner Lewis said he does see some sales generated from in-store play. Logos chooses hymns and instrumental music to create a soothing atmosphere.
“We play in-store music that is peaceful, that lends itself to that whole atmosphere of peace,” he said. “We play Chris Rice’s CD of hymns and things like that.”
2. Give customers a gift. Think of creative ways to give customers a bonus with purchase. Make signage offering a special coupon on future purchases with each CD sale. Create a “Buy 10, Get 1 Free” punch card or try a music club or CD-of-the-month subscription card where customers who pay a certain dollar amount each month receive a new CD of their choice.
Wheeler said Provident is seeking ways to connect customers with CDs, and is considering tying physical-music purchases to special giveaway experiences, such as offering concert meet-and-greets, a personal phone call from an artist or other artist connection to customers who purchase a CD with a winning ticket or online code.
Try tying two CDs together at a buy-one-get-one price or package an artist’s CD with the same album for one price. CDs may be struggling, but vinyl records are coming back. The retro factor has customers of all ages looking for LPs. According to the Nielsen SoundScan mid-year sales report, overall CD sales were down almost 20%, but LP/vinyl sales were up more than 40% compared with last year’s sales.
3. Stay savvy. Keep up on trends and technology. Visit newreleasetuesday.com and Jesusfreakhideout.com to keep track of new releases, concerts, reviews and news.
“It’s tough for busy retail managers to wade through the flood of new releases that hit every week,” said Marcus Hathcock, executive editor of newreleasetuesday.com. “We’re already doing the hard work, and we’re trusted for our read of the scene. We can provide the expertise for special displays or endcaps.”
Connections with local radio stations, concert promoters, big churches and social media are also a must. Brangenberg said she recently saw music sales spike somewhat when she switched signage and displays from the national Top 20 charts to her local radio station’s Top 20.
“We have the Top 20 CDs on our wall,” Brangenberg said. “We recently switched to JOY-FM’s Top 20 because that is what our customers are hearing. We have moved some CDs through that.”
If you are not connecting on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, it’s time to get started. Not only can you get up close and personal with artists, but also you can catch customers’ attention.
4. Initiate an experience. One successful way bands have been launching new projects is through crowdfunding sites like kickstarter.com, indiegogo.com and pledgemusic.com. Artists ask fans to pledge toward a new recording and offer “incentives” for different levels of donations. For example, a $20 donation might get the donor a T-shirt or CD, while a $5,000 donation might get a donor a trip with the band or a private concert in the fan’s living room. Christian music crowdfunding has been successful overall. For instance, Haste the Day’s August IndieGoGo campaign reached 124% of its $65,000 goal in the first 12 days (with $80,906 pledged).
Retailers can learn a lesson from crowdfunding. Fans want a personal experience.
“Stores need to find ways to make the Christian store shopping experience just that—an experience,” Hathcock said. “In my opinion, it needs to be almost like being at the merch tent at a Christian summer festival—that excitement, that atmosphere.“
He also suggests asking local artists to play in store.
“Create a venue, and you’ll create a scene. Create a scene, and you’ll have a movement. And that movement will be loyal to you, and you’ll see sales increase.”
Hathcock recommends hosting in-store, live online chats with artists, hosting Dove Awards watch parties and keeping YouTube playing in the store.
CAPTURING DVD SALES
On the film front, most retailers say their 2014 sales were on the rise. Several theatrical releases should keep DVD sales spiking, including the City on a Hill Productions’ The Song (having opened in theaters Sept. 26); Left Behind (due in theaters Oct. 3) starring Nicolas Cage; Exodus: Gods and Kings (Dec. 12); and the final installment of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (Dec. 17).
“I prescreened The Song and loved it. It was so very different,” Brangenberg said. “The intentionality of the curriculum is very helpful.”
Mary—a film that speculates on Jesus’ mother Mary’s life as a girl and young woman, including her marriage to Joseph and struggles to raise Jesus under the reign of Herod—is expected to land in April. An as-yet-untitled fifth movie from the Kendrick Brothers (Fireproof, Courageous) is also due out next year. For family fun, VeggieTales’ Beauty and the Beet releases Oct. 11, featuring songs by country artist Kellie Pickler.
New to DVD is Mom’s Night Out (Sept. 2) and Holy Ghost (Sept. 16). Holy Ghost was created after a crowdfunding campaign brought in more than $300,000 to fund the project. It included a digital premiere in August, a two-day live stream in early September and a Holy Ghost tour running Sept. 6 through Oct. 10.
“We threw out everything we thought we knew about releasing a movie and recreated a film release from the ground up,” said Braden Heckman, CEO of Wanderlust. “What we came up with looks very different from traditional DVD releases, but we hope this will become a new model for other independent filmmakers in a world where all the rules are changing.”
On Oct. 17, Creation Ministries hosts a premiere in Atlanta to celebrate the in-store release of its documentary and companion book Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. It features commentary from 15 Ph.D. scientists aiming to expose evolution’s weaknesses.
Fans of prairie novelist Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel TV series based on her “When Calls the Heart” series can expect the fifth (Change of Heart) and sixth DVD (Rules of Engagement) to hit stores Oct. 14 and Nov. 11, respectively. A 10-DVD boxed set will release in November as well.
To capture sales, connecting with fans is important, with church congregations an easy place to pitch small-group studies and congregation-wide viewing events. Consider partnering with churches to sell out a showing of an upcoming Christian film, and gather contact information for future marketing e-blasts when the DVD releases. Pitch DVDs for small-group studies and churchwide focus to pastors, and host in-store movie nights. Check for book tie-ins, and invite authors to sign the book at a movie party. Find film trends, upcoming releases and box office numbers at christianfilmdatabase.com and imdb.com.
A Nielsen study revealed in April suggests that retailers display DVDs prominently during the Easter season, when sales of faith-based DVD/Blu-ray titles spike. In 2013, stores reported sales were up 61% in the three weeks prior to the holiday and remained positive for seven weeks following Easter.
Written by Leslie Santamaria
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 04:22 PM EDT
Latest project: A.D. 30 (9781599954189, $25, Oct. 28).
Center Street (Hachette Book Group).
What is the premise of A.D. 30?
A.D. 30 is the story of an outsider, a Bedouin woman from the Arabian Desert named Maviah, who has been devastated by tragedy and thrust into an impossible situation. When all hope is lost at the midpoint of this epic, she encounters an enigmatic teacher and worker of wonders named Yeshua—a man who speaks of things too wonderful, and dangerous, to believe. His Way of being in the world turns life on end and promises staggering power in the face of the storms that rise to crush us all.
How is this book different from your previous novels?
This is the first novel I’ve written that’s rooted deeply in history. Where “The Circle” series retold our redemptive story in a fantasy world, the A.D. trilogy engages that same story of transformation as it was, on the ground. It’s also the first time I’ve written about our redemptive journey in a non-allegorical way. Over the past several months, my publisher, Center Street, has put the book into the hands of hundreds of Christian retailers, pastors and church leaders across the country. One thread of conversation runs through nearly all of our interactions with them, and it’s that many are experiencing Yeshua again for the first time.
In what ways is A.D. 30 similar to your other work?
All of my novels are born out of an obsession to discover the truth for myself—the truth about our Father, His love for us and the truth about who I am in Him. It’s been said that life is a never-ending cycle of remembering and forgetting. My novels are a way for me to explore that cycle, experience what it’s like through the eyes of a character, going to the deepest depths and rising again reborn.
What inspired you to write A.D. 30?
Though I grew up in the church, I rarely saw or experienced the staggering power to live with power and love those who abused me, as He promised I would. I wanted to encounter Him in His story and engage His teachings—perhaps I was missing something. What I found was spectacular; the effects on my own life cannot be overstated. I wrote this novel to discover the treasure, the pearl of great price, the Way of Yeshua for this life that He claimed we would find. It’s why I call it, “The Forgotten Way of Yeshua.”
How do you describe Maviah?
Like all of us, Maviah is an outsider to the Jewish context. She’s experienced deep pain and loss that’s scarred her, and she lives in a culture that views women as little more than property. Though a strong woman to the core, she lives in a perpetual state of fear and cannot fathom true love. The teachings of Yeshua, and more, His presence, radically challenge her view of herself. His news seems too good to be true, and His Way promises great power in this life. Maviah’s story is our own; it belongs to all of us. Who hasn’t felt deep shame or cut off from ourselves and others? Like Maviah, we long to love effortlessly and cast aside fear in the face of the storm, though it seems so impossible those storms rise.
What is one of your favorite scenes?
So many, naturally, or I wouldn’t have written them. The first kiss. The hilarious encounter with Arim. The death of Brutus. The first encounter with Yeshua, halfway through the book. To see Him is to be in awe. The encounter on the lake haunts me still in the best of ways. The climax in Petra, while tens of thousands look on—may we all follow the Way of Yeshua.
What research did you conduct to write this novel?
I’ve never researched a novel to the extent I did A.D. 30. I have stacks of books and notes from conversations with scholars. I also retained one of the world’s leading authorities on first-century Arabia to act as a resource and editorial sounding board for every aspect of the story. As I was writing it, I remembered why I’ve stayed away from historical fiction for so long. To do it well requires a tremendous amount of effort and attention to details, however obscure they may be.
What is one thing you hope readers gain from reading A.D. 30?
I want them to encounter Yeshua again for the first time. There is a significant amount of cultural baggage that comes with being a 21st-century Western believer in Jesus. We all know the doctrines about Jesus. We think we believe in the name of Jesus, and we know all of the right teachings and statements of faith. But knowing about isn’t the same as knowing Him or to believe in him. It takes two to know, to be intimate. The gift that fiction gives us is the ability to actually experience what is otherwise only teaching. My hope for A.D. 30 is that readers will experience Yeshua in a way that they never have or have long forgotten.
What additional information would help Christian retailers when talking with customers about A.D. 30?
This is a story about a woman, for women as well as for men. This is a story about our Master who has shown us the Way to live in the kingdom of heaven now among us and within us, not only that which is to come. It’s a sweeping epic with war and betrayal and romance that gently leads us away from our insecurities and fears and introduces us to the Way of Yeshua, which so many of us have forgotten.
Written by Leslie Santamaria
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 04:19 PM EDT
Latest project: Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer (9780849948480, $19.99, Thomas Nelson).
Why do you call yourself a “recovering prayer wimp”?
I think we assume Christian leaders or communicators are by nature people of strong prayer, and I’m not. I’ve always battled to have a regular time of prayer. I’ve struggled wondering why my prayers would make a difference. Serving God and doing things for God made a lot of sense, but talking to God made less sense to me, and so I’ve battled it in my life. And as I found out, many people in our church do as well. All of my books are sermons before they become books, and when I began talking to the church about my own personal struggles with prayer and how I wondered if there was a right way to pray or a wrong way to pray, I realized a lot of people ask these questions. That’s really where this whole book came from.
What is the pocket prayer you refer to in the book?
One of my struggles as a recovering prayer wimp is my thoughts wander. I zig and I zag, and I think this and I think that. One thing that has helped me through the years is having a prayer outline. I realize not everybody needs a crutch to help them stay focused in prayer, but I do. I went through the prayers in the Bible and realized most of them fall in one of five areas I’ve created: God, you are good—that’s worship; God, I need help—that’s request; they need help—that’s intercession; thank you—that’s praise; in Jesus’ name, Amen. So I would simply categorize my thoughts according to those simple statements. That’s where the pocket prayer came from.
How do you describe prayer at its best?
I think prayer at its core is an honest conversation with God. I do not think we can mis-pray any more than a child can mis-hug. I think at its core, prayer is children talking to their heavenly Father. But I do think we can grow in prayer. We can learn to talk to God in a fashion that we see him answering our prayers. We can use our prayers as an opportunity to reflect upon the qualities of God, the character of God. We can use prayer as an opportunity to unload our anxieties and our fear. And I think we can see prayer as an opportunity to do spiritual battle in which we are literally directing the traffic in the universe because God wants to engage us in prayer. So these are all things we can grow in in our prayer.
What would you say to someone who prays for health, but then wonders why healing is not coming?
I think we can safely say God hears every prayer for healing, and He does heal us, either instantly [or] He may choose to heal us gradually, but He chooses to heal all of us ultimately in heaven. I’ve seen Him heal instantly, and I’ve seen it in my own life. More commonly, I have seen Him heal gradually, over a period of time. We read of cases [of this] in the New Testament, like with the blind man in John 9. Jesus took His time healing Him. It wasn’t just one second to the next. There is the promise that God will heal us all ultimately in heaven. That’s no small promise. Our time on earth is a short time, and all of our struggles here on earth are intended to prepare us for heaven. Part of healing prayer is understanding God does hear that prayer and trusting Him to do what is right. Prayer is not asking God to do what I want. It’s really asking God to do what is right. It’s a surrender of my will to His. And that’s good for me.
What else should Christian retailers know about Before Amen?
I have several books on prayer, but as I read those, I thought, This is a book for somebody who already gets prayer. Most books on prayer are written for very meditative, pensive, monastic, spiritual people. I’m not one of those. I’m a roll-up-the-sleeves and get-busy kind of guy. Is there a book for me? My book is a partial response to that question.