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Fiction File March 2013 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:01 PM EST

BodieBrockThoeneTakeThisCupLATEST PROJECT: Take This Cup (9780310335986, $14.99, March 25).

PUBLISHER: Zondervan

This is the second book in “The Jerusalem Chronicles” series. How does Take This Cup follow on from the first title, When Jesus Wept?  All of the “Jerusalem Chronicles” are written in first person, in form as if drawn from a diary or a journal. Each (When Jesus Wept, Take This Cup and the just completed Behold the Man) focuses on a character and his or her encounter with Jesus. Just as happens in real life, some events will overlap between stories, and some will be unique to each story. Throughout our first-century stories of the life of Jesus, we have been marching toward the Passion Week events. Each story advances that timeline, and Take This Cup moves readers up to the night of the Last Supper.

What research went into creating Take This Cup?  We use Scripture accounts as the outline of events. From there, as in all of the first-century accounts, our research is divided between learning the historical details and finding all the prophetic references to events in Jesus’ life so readers can “connect the dots.”

What are the main factual portions of this book?  All the geographical elements (like caravan routes) and archaeological details and historical references are as accurate as we can possibly make them. Scripture references may be paraphrased, but they are true to the spirit and intent of the originals. Our operating guide is “Do no violence to Scripture.” 

Who is Nehemiah and what type of character is he?  Nehemiah is a child, and as such, he brings a unique perspective and unique needs. Besides that, he is the child of the Jewish families in exile and gives readers the chance to learn about those circumstances.

What must Nehemiah do in this novel?  Nehemiah has two tasks. One is to survive a difficult journey to join his grandparents in Jerusalem. The other is a spiritual task. He is to examine the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah and, if found to be valid, to deliver something of importance to Jesus.

What are some of the obstacles he faces along the way?  All the dangers of a first-century caravan trip that covered hundreds of miles: robbers, thirst, the first-century equivalent of terrorists. Plus, as soon as Nehemiah is aligned with Jesus, he is also in danger from Jesus’ opponents: Romans, temple authorities, Herod and the Pharisees.

Were there any specific challenges or rewards in writing this story from a boy’s perspective?  Bodie has had lots of experience writing believable and entertaining children [characters in their books], from Yacov in The Gates of Zion through the true story of Tommy and Bobby Tucker in the “Shiloh [Legacy]” books, to the Jerusalem sparrows. Nehemiah is just the latest in a long line of child protagonists.

What do you hope readers take away from reading Take This Cup?  As always, we want readers of our work to be driven back to Scripture, not only to verify what we write, but also to dig deeper and learn more. Besides that, Take This Cup emphasizes that all of us, no matter how ill-equipped we may feel, are selected by God to do great things!

You mentioned the next book in “The Jerusalem Chronicles” series. When will it be released, and what other stories are you planning to work on?  Behold the Man is due out in 2015. We will be continuing more first-century accounts of those who met and interacted with Jesus.


New Fiction Coming in April

The Fearful Gates, Ross Lawhead (Thomas Nelson)

Visible Threat, Janice Cantore (Tyndale House Publishers)

What Follows After, Dan Walsh (Revell/Baker Publishing Group)

Close Up: Leonard Sweet PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 03:58 PM EST

TheWellPlayedLifeLatest project: The Well-Played Life: Why Pleasing God Doesn’t Have To Be Such Hard WorkLeonardSweet ($15.99, 9781414373621, Tyndale Momentum/Tyndale House

What is your goal for this book? The church has rewritten the words of Jesus from “Come, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” to “Come, all you weary and heavy laden and I will give you more work.” To become a disciple of Jesus is almost to be sentenced to hard labor, so far removed are we from the Hebrew understanding of life as Shabbat Shalom. It’s time to trade in our hard hats or pinstripes for a sombrero—with some confetti thrown in.

Why do you refer to play as a gift from God? When we first meet God in the Bible, God is playing in the dirt, making mud pies. Creation is not God at work, but God at play. Play is the oxygen for creativity, which sparks imagination, which ignites innovation, which combusts in paradigm shifts and sometimes detonates revolutions. My friend Todd Fadel says it best: “Play is your secret weapon.” In our creation story, we don’t get “labor” until the curse and banishment from the Garden. We have made life and worship into a work zone of human activity, rather than the playground of the Spirit who enlivens and enspirits us.

What is “Godplay”? Godplay is a fundamental approach to life based not on work and worry, but on God’s invitation for us to skip and dance all the way home. The march to Zion is not toil and travail, but a dance of Shabbat and Shalom by which we “enter into the joy of the Lord.” Godplay is living your life in such a way that you don’t work toward the pleasure and acceptance of God, but live from it and play in it. Any time you approach life with the joy of a child, it’s Godplay. Any time you praise and worship God, it’s Godplay. Any time missional living ramifies relationally in an incarnational way, it’s Godplay. The world needs more play, more God, more Godplay and Godplayers, not more work and more workers.

You write, “The quality of life depends on the quality of our play.” Would you elaborate? The greatest artistry, beauty and excellence come from a play paradigm, not a work paradigm. The provisional title for this book was You Don’t Work a Violin. If you want to live a life of beauty, truth and goodness, you need to learn how to “play” your life. We are all artists, but our “medium” is our life; our canvas is our total being and identity. Our primary brush is the play-strokes of the soul. 

What else would help Christian retailers promote The Well-Played Life? The implications of a theology of play ramify in every direction of life. It has major implications for our relationships and marriages, where we tend to try to “work it out” rather than “play it through.” It even revolutionizes the whole world of education. We need an education system designed to find and nourish all talents, not just some talents. Every child deserves discovery. And this is best done through play, not standardized testing or rigid curriculum planning.

Pastor finds ‘renewed passion’ after son’s death PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 03:57 PM EST

When Steve and Sarah Berger’s 19-year-old son, Josiah, died as a result of a car accident, the Bergers became more focused than ever on heaven, with Steve launching into a fresh study on the subject. When they learned Josiah had committed to be an organ donor, demonstrating his eternal perspective and compassion, their thoughts about how to live on Earth changed dramatically.

BetweenHeavenAndEarthSteve Berger shares their story in Between Heaven and Earth: Finding Hope, Courage, and Passion Through a Fresh Vision of Heaven (9780764211676, $14.99), which Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group) releases this month.

“Josiah’s passing lit a fire under me to teach about heaven with a renewed passion,” writes Berger, pastor of the 4,000-member Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, Tenn.

He believes that many Christians consider heaven only after a traumatic event and that many hold misconceptions about their eternal home.

In the book, Berger discusses what believers can expect in heaven—or not. He refers to heaven as the believer’s “real home” and adds: “You were not made for this place; you were made for heaven.”

Berger also explains how the apostle Paul’s life is an example of being heavenly minded and doing earthly good. 

“Paul’s heart was passionately fixed on heaven while his hand was purposefully working to produce fruit,” he writes. 

Berger calls this approach “Heart in heaven, hand in the harvest” and says this is the “hard-pressed living” Paul refers to in Phil. 1:3-24.

To have one’s hand in the harvest is to spread the good news, disciple fellow Christians and send those willing to evangelize and serve. Berger details the obstacles to this lifestyle and the tools needed for victory.

To order, call Baker Publishing Group at 800-877-2665.

TLC’s Duggar daughters address fans’ questions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 03:56 PM EST

Four eldest girls of reality show’s famous super-sized family share their faith and lifestyle in new book

GrowingUpDuggarThe Learning Channel’s weekly program 19 Kids and Counting has quite possibly made the Duggars the best-known large family in America.

The four eldest daughters—Jana, 24; Jill, 22; Jessa, 21; and Jinger, 20—have grown up in the spotlight and frequently encounter girls and young women who want to know what it’s like to be raised in the Duggar family. Many also want advice for their own lives.

In response, the daughters talk about their faith, their convictions and the benefits of the Duggar lifestyle in Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships, available this month from Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. 

While they acknowledge that their family isn’t perfect, they credit their parents for daily emphasizing the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships. In Growing Up Duggar, the girls examine a girl’s relationship with herself, her parents, her siblings, friends, guys, the culture, the country and the world.

For the authors, their relationships are rooted in a connection with God, and they refer to this foundation in every chapter. About friendship, they write: “True friends encourage us to focus on things that are beneficial to us. We will grow closer to God because of our relationship with them.”

One of the longest chapters is about a girl’s relationship with guys. The Duggar girls indicate that many of the questions they receive are about courtship, or as they call it, “dating with a purpose.” They explain the differences between courtship and dating, discuss the importance of purity and mention some of the characteristics they hold important in a future spouse.

The girls view service  to others as the primary focus for Christians. They write about several ministries in which family members have volunteered. 

They also explain and affirm many principles and practices their parents have taught them. 

“Children grow up seeing what their parents value,” they write. “We are grateful to have parents whose faith in Jesus is their top priority.”

Growing Up Duggar is filled with family stories and includes 70 photos. To order, call Howard Books at 800-858-4109.

Meet the Artist: KUTLESS PDF Print E-mail
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:19 AM EST

Glory-KutlessGuitarist James Mead of rock band Kutless spoke with Christian Retailing about the group’s Feb. 11 release, Glory ($13.99, BEC Recordings/New Day Christian Distributors), and the history of the group that has sold millions of records of albums such as Believer and The Beginning.


What can you tell us about Glory?  A couple of years ago, we felt the Lord was telling us that we needed to pray, to just seek Him about renewed vision for our band. As we took time out to check our hearts and search our hearts, as the psalmist said, we started to spend a lot of time together praying through, “Lord, what is your vision for our band?” When we started, we felt a clear, direct route from God that we were to be missionary-minded, evangelism-minded, [to help] those who are sent out by the church to share the gospel and to help lead souls to Christ. So we’ve always had this evangelistic drive of the band. Through the years, our music has included very pointedly Christian lyrics, seeking God through hardship. At our shows, we share the message and lead out in worship time. That’s been very important, because that’s how we started. When we started to pray for God to renew our vision, we felt Him strengthen the core of who we are and give us a new thirst to go out and specifically seek this generation. 

The cool thing is when we prayed about the Lord’s vision for this record, we had come off a period of time where we were very busy. We decided to go home and shut down for a while and write together. We’ve always been the band that’s gone back and forth between rock music and worship music. For some reason, we’ve had a problem distinguishing those two. What we really want to be is a rock band that does worship music. I think we have a singular opportunity to be a band like that in the marketplace. I can’t think of many bands that have the opportunity to play on a rock stage with Skillet and the next night be with Michael W. Smith. The past records that we’ve called worship records, we’ve done the standard songs that churches around the country are doing. That’s where this record came from for us. It’s really inspired by the heavenly worship in [the book of] Revelation. When you read through Rev 4-5, see nations of the Earth worshipping before the throne. Nowadays, worship is introspective and sad-sounding. In heaven, it is this electric energy through the throne room of God. It’s all eyes on the Lamb who walks through the door, and lightning and thunder comes from Him. The whole of heaven points and says, “Holy, holy, holy, there He is—oh, wow!” That’s like rock music. Let’s do triumphant, joyful, victorious-sounding rock worship music.

What are some of the key songs on the new album?   For the most part, everyone is familiar with “You Alone,” a single we released in October. It’s a pretty rocking song. It’s kind of a song to lift up the glory of God’s name: “His name is mighty in counsel, and He’s the Lord and ruler of all.” We just wanted to proclaim that, “It’s You alone, God.” We highlight one of the verses, Acts 4:12 [“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”]. We just wanted to set up God in that way. We lead off the record with “Revelation.” … Jon Micah [Sumrall], our singer, and myself wrote this song. If you look at Revelation 4-5 and read along as you’re listening to the song, it’s pretty much what is happening [in heaven]. Another one is the follow-up single to “You Alone” called “In Jesus Name.”  

How long have you guys been playing together as a band?  I joined the band in 2001 and we weren’t called Kutless. Jon Micah and I were the only originals.

With that history, have you had a chance to mentor any new musicians and bands?   That’s certainly a realistic aspect of us. When we started, I was 18 and had just graduated high school. It takes a little time to stop feeling like you’re the youngest around. Honestly, we had to kind of carve our own way. Radio stations would turn our CD over and see Tooth & Nail and say, “We’re not playing that.” Rock ‘n’ roll music wasn’t really on the radio. In Christian music, you had rap, rock or metal, so we were just trying to carve our own way. It took awhile for people to feel receptive to us. Now I feel there are tons of bands, so many. A lot of them, they do ending up telling us, “I’ve grown up listening to you.” I think what we realize is it’s no different than just sharing life as we’re supposed to as Christians. One of the most beneficial things any of us can do as Christians is pouring into a person. I’ve always viewed discipleship as honest friendship. It’s really edifying. It’s encouraging, mutually beneficial for guys to share about the wisdom that they’ve learned from God’s Word. It’s really beneficial for the person younger in the faith. We’re very happy to say we love each very well. We view each other as closer than brothers. We’ve stuck to our calling and tried to serve each other as a band. If we have anything to share with a band, it’s that.

New duo City Harbor makes debut on Sparrow Records PDF Print E-mail
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:15 AM EST

February titles include Gaither Homecoming favorite and popular ‘WOW’ series release

AsSureAsTheSun-EllieHolcombAs Sure As the Sun

Ellie Holcomb

Full Heart Music


Feb. 18

On the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $108,000 with 1,756 backers, As Sure As the Sun releases Feb. 18. A singer-songwriter with an impressive musical pedigree, Holcomb is married to Drew Holcomb of Drew and the Neighbors and is daughter of legendary producer Brown Bannister, who lent his talents to this project. She makes her own mark with this collection of tender songs of encouragement derived from scriptures. Songs on this full-length debut include the title-track piano ballad, the acoustic pop of “Night Song” and a bouncy take on 1 Cor. 13 in “Love Never Fails.” Holcomb will be a fresh new voice in Christian music comparable to singer-songwriters Sara Groves, Kari Jobe or Joy Williams. To order, contact It’s Good Time at 615-483-9613.


CityHarbor-CityHarborCity Harbor

City Harbor

Sparrow Records (Capitol Christian Distribution)


Feb. 4

Singer-songwriters Molly Reed and Robby Earle team up as the new group City Harbor, releasing its debut project Feb. 4. Prior to the project, the group was introduced to listeners on two recent WOW projects; WOW 2014 and WOW Christmas 2013 Deluxe EditionProduced by Ben Glover (Britt Nicole), David Garcia (Mandisa, TobyMac) and Matt Bronleewee (Jars of Clay, Chris Tomlin), the project includes the tracks “Like I Am,” “I Still Believe” and “Leave It Here.” First single “Come However You Are” was released to Christian radio in December. To order, call 800-877-4443 or visit


OhWhatASavior-ErnieHaaseOh, What a Savior

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Gaither Music Group (Capitol Christian)


Feb. 4

Gaither Homecoming staple Ernie Haase & Signature Sound delivers Oh, What a Savior on Feb. 4. Recorded live in Paducah, Ky., the project includes “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,”  and “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord.” Also included is a new version of the group’s popular song and title track, “Oh, What a Savior.” Order at 800-877-4443 or through 


WOWGospel2014WOW Gospel 2014

Various artists

Provident Music Group (Provident Distribution)


Feb. 4

The “WOW Gospel” series returns with a 2014 double-disc edition and songs from artists such as Hezekiah Walker, Tye Tribbett and Marvin Sapp. Songs include “Every Praise” by Walker, “Here in Our Praise” by United Tenors, “You Reign” by William Murphy, “The Gift” by Donald Lawrence, “Have Your Way” by Deitrick Haddon, “A Little More Jesus” by Erica Campbell, “Go Get It” by Mary Mary, “Greatest Man” by VaShawn Mitchell, “Our God” by Micah Stampley, “Tell The World” by Lecrae (featuring Mali Music) and “Draw Me Close” by Marvin Winans.  To order, call Provident at 800-333-9000 or visit

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