Book Recommendation: So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley

So Shines the Night

Back cover blurb:

In a city teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

Narelle: I loved reading this book. The first few chapters hooked me into the story and I couldn’t put it down. Daria and Lucas are intriguing and multi-layered characters. I wanted to see them triumph over their problems and achieve their seemingly impossible happily-ever-after ending.

I enjoyed seeing the city of Ephesus, with a rich cultural heritage, brought to life on the page. Paul, Timothy and other Biblical characters we learn about in the book of Acts and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians play a crucial role in the story.

The spiritual warfare element in the story is fascinating and I liked seeing the early church from the perspective of outsiders who were seeking to learn the truth. I highly recommend this book to those looking for an insightful and gripping Biblical fiction story.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for providing a review copy.

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Having a missionary heart

by Narelle Atkins

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

According to the Gospel of Mark, this is one of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. The Gospel of Matthew also records The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

We are commanded by Jesus to preach the gospel to the whole world and share the good news about Jesus bringing salvation to the world through His death and resurrection. This was a new way of thinking for the disciples. They understood that the Israelites were God’s chosen people and the focus in the Scriptures (Old Testament) had been on God working out His purposes and plan for salvation through His covenant with Abraham and his descendents.

The ministry to the Gentiles (non-Jews) really kicked off after Jesus ascended into heaven. The early missionary activities of the apostles are recorded in the book of Acts. In Acts we learn about Paul’s mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

When I was younger I remember being quite intimidated by The Great Commission. How did this command impact the decisions I made? Did this mean I should dedicate my life to doing God’s work? And what would this look like? I had not felt called to be a missionary overseas or work for a Christian organisation. Was I selfish for wanting to live a so-called normal life as a wife and mother or should I have higher aspirations?

God created us with unique talents and abilities that we can use to bring Him glory. The body of Christ is made up of diverse people who work together to enable the gospel to be preached to all nations.

Whether we are serving on the front line as a missionary or playing a supporting role behind the scenes, we can all help in some way to reach people with the gospel message. And we can build relationships with those around us in our own mission field at home.

I can now see how my ‘missionary heart’ is revealed in many ways, including Bible studies, blogging and my Christian fiction writing. How is your ‘missionary heart’ revealed? What can you do to further the work of the gospel in our world?

Who will win the crown?

by Narelle Atkins

I’m a tennis fan and I’ve been following Wimbledon. Due to the time differences between Australia and the UK, I haven’t been able to stay up late and watch many matches. I woke on Tuesday morning to learn that the top seeded ladies player, Maria Sharapova, had been knocked out overnight and I was happy to hear my one of my favourite players, Roger Federer, had won his fourth round match.

Since the number two seeded player, Rafael Nadal, was defeated in the men’s second round, I’m wondering who will make it through to the singles final of both the men and women’s tournaments. This year the finals will not be a battle between the world’s number one and number two players, who are statistically the most likely players to reach the final. Who will finish the race and claim the Wimbledon crown?

In 2 Timothy 4 the apostle Paul writes to Timothy, knowing the end of his life is near.

2 Timothy 4:7-8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day – and not only me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Paul uses the analogy of an athlete when he considers his Christian journey. Unlike the tennis players who strive to win the Grand Slam, Paul’s mission was to spread the gospel to the Gentiles and bring people to Christ. Paul defended the Christian faith and stood firm despite fierce opposition and stints in jail. He was martyred for his faith not long after writing his second letter to Timothy.

At Wimbledon there can only be one winner in each of the tournaments who will be crowned the champion. Paul uses a sporting metaphor and tells us there is a ‘crown of righteousness’ waiting for him and those of us who finish the race and keep the faith. We have this to look forward to as we struggle like Paul to fight the good fight. Will you be awarded a crown of righteousness on the day when Christ returns?