Book Review: Francine Rivers’ ‘The Masterpiece’

The Masterpiece was the huge book I got for myself last Christmas. With a more busy schedule currently, I wondered when and how I was going to read the almost 500-page Christian romance novel but surprisingly, I took two days to read the entire book. Uh-huh! That shows how gripping the story line was.

As usual, Francine Rivers did not disappoint with this novel. The two main characters – Roman Velasco (aka the Bird) was the rich, handsome, famous and accomplished (in the eyes of everyone) artist and Grace Moore – the rather simple, mother of one and a divorcee, who came to seek employment as Velasco’s assistant. Their story gently develops into a simmering romance which none of them was willing to admit to until later in the story. Hell broke loose when Velasco finally proposed in the manner that he was familiar with but sending Grace packing out of his life in the process. Did she come back? If yes, how did it happen? That is why you need to read this book for yourself. 😂

After reading several of Francine Rivers’ books – And the Shofar Blew, The Atonement Child and Scarlet Thread, I’ll definitely vote Velasco as my favourite character. He was affected by experiences from his childhood and that defined who he became as an adult. Even in his ‘raw state,’ I could sense some innocence in his actions. I actually found him very masculine and charming and wouldn’t mind meeting him if he was real. You can say I fell in love with the character. 🙈🙈🙈😏😏😏

Anyway, Francine Rivers always has strong underlying themes in her stories and even though they are entertaining and could be full of suspense, they teach loads of lessons. For instance, the two main characters both had disturbing pasts but were influenced differently by them. This raises the issue of the amount of power we give to past events/experiences and its influences. How do you know whether you are giving the ghosts and shadows from your pasts too much space in your life? This book provides the reader with some insight into this subject.

There are several other lessons that can be taken out of the book including dealing with disappointments, learning to walk away from the people you love for God/the Holy Spirit to work on them, childhood trauma, among others.

The Masterpiece is a beautiful and well-researched story. I like how the past lives of the two main characters were intricately interwoven into the main plot. The reader gets the opportunity to appreciate the life of those in the creative arts, particularly, graffiti artists. The ending, like many Christian novels and the typical Francine Rivers’ style, was very much expected and a little predictable but that did not take away the niceness out of the story. I like it but not as much as I enjoyed And the Shofar Blew.

I will rate it 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it over and over again to anyone looking to read a book full of lessons or just for leisure.

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Book Review: Francine Rivers’ ‘The Atonement Child’

A young lady, Dynah, is raped and gets pregnant as a result. Her fiance, who was a pastor in training, her parents, and roommate in college, all Christians, thought the only way out of that ‘dreadful’ situation was for Dynah to abort the ‘unwanted child’ and move on with her life. The Dean of the Christian College, where Dynah was a student and where the incident happened, also thought abortion was the way to go or the young lady had to leave the institution. This book slowly weaves the calamities Dynah had to face as a result of taking the unpopular decision.

‘The Atonement Child’ compared to the two other books I’ve read from this author (The Scarlet Thread and The Shofar Blew) was a bit slow and sad and I felt the writer tried a little too hard to push the theme of the book into the reader’s face. In one family alone, grandmother had had a therapeutic abortion, the mother had had an abortion and the child who had been raped was also being pushed to carry out an abortion. Dynah’s mother’s former schoolmate was also an abortionist and Dynah’s friend in college (Joe) had a girlfriend who had died from committing an abortion. How coincidental can that be?

Perhaps since the story is set in a country where abortion is legal, some of these issues are real and likely to come up in an everyday conversation. That notwithstanding, the theme of this book is very relevant, especially, now that a bill has been passed in New York permitting mothers to abort babies even at the point of birth. One thing this book did so well was to provide the reader with a clear picture of the other side of committing an abortion. The guilt and regret of taking out a life (fetus) may be carried throughout one’s lifetime and that is likely to affect their families and generations. Mostly, abortion is seen as the easiest and direct way of solving the problem of an unwanted pregnancy while the spotlight dims on the emotional and psychological damages this action may have on the women who undergo it.

In Ghana, compared to the US where the story was set, abortion is a criminal offense regulated by Act 29, section 58 of the Criminal code of 1960, amended by PNDCL 102 of 1985. However, section 2 of the law makes exceptions for victims of rape or incest and abortion can be conducted to protect the mental or physical health of the mother, or when there is a malformation of the fetus. According to the Ghana Medical Association, abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality (15-30%) because many women turn to unqualified providers and receive unsafe procedures (Rominski & Lori, 2015; Chauvkin, Baffoe & Awoonor-William, 2018).

The argument of whether a fetus is a baby yet and the legality/ illegality or the process of carrying out the abortion (safe/unsafe) will always remain and looking at the World’s politics, there will always be a divide but the most important person to take the decision is you, the individual/woman. What exactly do you want and what do you stand by? What would God have you do in that situation? It may seem difficult and challenging at a glance and the straightforward option will be an abortion, but, have you explored other alternatives? You may want to consider putting the child up for adoption and that is possible even in Ghana.

One beautiful trait about the character, Dynah, was how she remained calm amidst all the pressure and kept insisting she wanted to know God’s mind before taking any decision concerning the child in her womb. How many of us, in the midst of the storm, will insist on hearing from God first?

This 384-page book is a must-read and ideal for a book club/discussion.

Favourite Lines from Atonement Child:

Those on the side of abortion were the loudest, the most logical, the most appealing to her bruised and battered spirit. And yet there was another voice, quiet, calm, almost imperceptible, that said NO, THERE’S ANOTHER WAY.

“Well, you tell me how we can do that, Dean. Tell me how on God’s green earth we can dare offer salvation to a dying world when we’re so busy shooting our own wounded.”

– The Atonement Child,

Bibliography

Chavkin, W., Baffoe, P., & Awoonor‐Williams, K. (2018). Implementing safe abortion in Ghana: “We must tell our story and tell it well”. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics143, 25-30.

Rominski, S. D., & Lori, J. R. (2014). Abortion care in Ghana: A critical review of the literature. African journal of reproductive health18(3), 17-35.

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Book Review: And the Shofar Blew

Francine Rivers, again, did an amazing job of telling the stories of several characters which made it so hard to put the book down without wondering how it was going to end. And the Shofar Blew was full of suspense and dealt with several topics including the challenges of managing a church, being a pastor’s wife and its difficulties, being a pastor’s kid and its associated challenges, ageing, death, divorce, alcoholism, among others. 

Even though the story had several characters weaving together the plot, And the Shofar Blew centred more on a young pastor, Paul Hudson, and his wife, Eunice and child. The excitement in the story began when Paul Hudson accepted the call to manage an old church that had its traditions and an ageing congregation. Pastor Hudson did bring some life into the church but they were mainly influences of his childhood and the relationship he had had with his father. Throughout the over 450-page book, the story gradually unfolds and the young pastor becomes over-ambitious and crude in his dealings and, the consequence could not have been devastating enough.

After I put the book down, my mind has been on a journey of wondering what goes on behind the scenes in our churches.  My thoughts have been on pastors and teachers who probably may have heeded to God’s call but due to increase in the numbers of their congregation, their church’s financial obligations and popularity are twisting His words to suit the people. How many men of God are preaching God’s unadulterated word that has the ability to cut hearts and save souls? 

This may not be a challenge for pastors alone but for those of us who are Christian blogging or singing or ministering in all forms. Since you saw an increase in the number of followers, have you been preaching God’s word or are massaging the truth in order to gain more followers? Do you present the message as it is or you are afraid of stepping on toes and losing your followers?

I have really been spending my week praying for pastors and everyone who has the responsibility of shepherding. It is my prayer that we keep spending time with God to know what He has given us to tell His people. There may be financial obligations but the sheep need to know God’s word. Let’s not massage God’s word for popularity sake.

The truth is Jesus Christ came to die for our sins and He is the way, the truth and the light. No one goes through the Father, except through Him. – John 14:6.

What message are you presenting to your followers?

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Book Review: The Scarlet Thread

Set apart in different centuries, Francine Rivers tells a story of two women who were related but had never met, yet, shared a similar experience. Both women, during certain periods of their marriages, had difficulties accepting the dreams/directions of their husbands. The author must be commended for doing an awesome job of weaving the two different stories in an engaging way, leaving the reader with no choice than to keep at the almost 500-page novel.

Immediately I picked the book, I could sense how the story was going to turn out. I somehow knew Sierra’s relationship with her husband wasn’t the best. What husband accepts a new role in another organisation, in a different State without discussing it thoroughly with the wife and children? Just imagine yourself waking up to the news of your husband or close relative selling your house, in the neighbourhood you’ve lived in all your life and resettling the entire family to another side of the planet because of his new job. No prepping or orientation was conducted but that same person requires you to jump with excitement to the unexpected news with the excuse that he’s mentioned this subject once. (Really? Alex. Really?Unamused Face on Samsung Experience 9.5 )Right then, I could smell a self-centred husband considering his needs, dreams, and ambitions as paramount to everyone’s. Whatever happened to proper communication in a marriage? I guess these weren’t in Alex’s thoughts since he saw Sierra as a mere housewife who had no ambition. Person Shrugging on Google Android 9.0

But Sierra gradually became a strong force later in the story and I rooted for her when she decided to pick her life up, reject monies from her husband and welcomed her independence. I loved how she transformed from the lady who always blurted out her opinion on issues to someone who paused, thought through her words and the likely implications they may have before she uttered them. To me, the husband deserved more than what was meted out to him by Sierra, in the closing pages. How the story ended was somehow expected, maybe something more tragic or dramatic would have made the book more thrilling and different but in all, it was a good book.

I felt there were some pertinent lessons in there for every Christian, particularly, for those who are married and those seeking to get married. It makes you realise the importance of the God-factor in every marriage and lays emphasis on the role of communication in every relationship. Have you or your family taken a drastic decision which has had a seemingly terrible toll on your life? Then you need to read Francine Rivers’ Scarlet Thread. It will help lessen the burden and make the change bearable.

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If you read my post last week, you’d notice I mentioned The Scarlet Thread was my first Christian novel, therefore, if you’ve read any books in this genre or you know of other great authors I should look out for, please drop the titles in the comment box. Thanks!  Grinning Face With Big Eyes on Microsoft Windows 10 October 2018 Update

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Book Review: Good Morning Holy Spirit

Benny Hinn’s ‘Good Morning Holy Spirit’ is one book that brings to readers the enormousness of the person of the Holy Spirit by clearly outlining His power and the potential influence He can have on the Believer. It shows how anyone can receive the Holy Spirit who, according to Benny Hinn, is not simply a person but God, coequal with the Father and Christ. With several biblical references, the mystery of the identity of the Holy Spirit is unveiled, making the reader yearn to develop a ‘proper’ relationship with Him.

Good Morning Holy Spirit‘ is an important resource that dispels every misconception a Christian may have about Him. It shows how to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, which begins after anyone confesses the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives. This companionship can be sustained through constant communication and the author likens this relationship-building process to what is experienced in a marital union, where a unique bond is created between a couple through constant association. The fellowship gets better with time and it’s renewed if the Believer does not ignore the Holy Spirit, who is a person, and could be grieved (Ephesians 4:30).

This book is written quite simply and starts like any novel, taking the reader into the life of young Benny Hinn living in Jaffa, Israel. A little boy who believed he was a Christian until a friend took him to a convention where he had an encounter with Kathryn Kuhlman, the Evangelist. That was the beginning of a wonderful encounter leading to his quest to seek more knowledge and build a relationship with the Holy Spirit. He admitted the journey wasn’t smooth, particularly, with his family but he followed on with his conviction and gradually, he achieved the desired results.

This book is highly recommended for every Believer because it provides cues which can be used to assess one’s relationship with the Holy Spirit. For instance, whether you belong to the category that knows of His existence and very little about what He’s capable of doing? Or you belong to that category that knows of His existence and power, making you want to fellowship with Him on a daily basis? Like Benny Hinn, do you wake up in the morning and greet, “Good Morning, Holy Spirit” while you anxiously wait for Him to direct you into the scriptures to find out what He has for you? Do you enjoy reading the scriptures because the Holy Spirit makes every word clearer to you? What about your Christian life – do you know a relationship with the Holy Spirit is what prevents you from backsliding? These are a few questions this book poses which enables you to assess the nature of your relationship with the Him.

After you close the book, your perception of the Holy Spirit will change completely. If you haven’t desired a relationship with Him yet, this book will make you start building one. If you already have one but it’s ‘all-over-the-place’, this book will show you how to streamline that relationship. And if you have a great relationship with the Holy Spirit, Benny Hinn’s Good Morning Holy Spirit will challenge you to go further.

Below are some beautiful quotes from the book which were tweeted in the course of the month:

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Book Review: Power Through Prayer

“This man must be a Christian Philosopher or a poet,” those were my first thoughts after going through the initial pages of Power through Prayer by E.M Bounds. It’s not surprising to know he was an attorney (they have some background in philosophy) and a member of the Methodist Church. The man played with words in this 75-page book, which also carried a strong message and is very relevant for the period that we find ourselves in.

Power through Prayer admonishes readers/preachers/Christians to adopt a lifestyle of prayer. E.M Bounds, in the book, established the importance of spending quality in prayer, particularly, for preachers who have the mandate to propagate the gospel and win souls for Christ. He provided the likely effects of relegating prayer into the background and bemoaned the current practice which has been adopted by preachers – spend more time to research and less time in prayer when preparing to preach. The 20-short-chapters’ book challenges ministers of the gospel to spend long and quality time with God and see how that translates to the congregation. Bounds provided examples of past preachers who spent quality time with God and how that affected their ministries.

This is one of the most pertinent messages that the church needs currently. The book’s content reminds me of a Christian broadcast I listened to where the preacher also challenged Christians, especially, Charismatics to stop hiding behind tongues-speaking and ‘pray properly.’ In the broadcast, the preacher defined prayer as talking to God and knowing you are talking to Him. In other words, our mind should be fixed on the activity that we are indulging in. He made emphasis on the duration, which shouldn’t be as important as the quality and when Christians genuinely pray to God, we become conduits for the manifestation of miracles and the power of God. I could detect hints of E.M Bounds’ Power through Prayer in that broadcast.

The book was undoubtedly exquisitely written and if you a lover of poetry then this book is just for you. In my opinion, it could have easily been simplified into fewer pages but the flowery nature of the content did not permit that but it is still a great book and the message, very strong. The book is highly recommended for preachers or anyone playing a role in the Christ-ministry and for which, Christian bloggers are not an exemption. We can’t do away with quality prayer and expect to flourish in our various callings.

There were several amazing quotes in Power through Prayer and below are three of them:

  • “The preacher is the golden pipe through which the divine oil flows. The pipe must not only be golden, but open and flawless, that the oil may have a full, unhindered, unwashed flow.”
  • “Prayer is not to the modern pulpit the mighty force it was in Paul’s life or Paul’s ministry. Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project God’s cause in this world.”
  • “A prepared heart is much better than a prepared sermon.”

Have you read this book? What are your opinions about it? Do share!

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Book Review: Strategies for Prayer

Strategies for Prayer by Dag Heward-Mills is a 40-page book, very succinct, straight-to-the-point, yet, makes some powerful revelations on the need for Christians to pray and do it effectively. It can easily be read at a sitting, but, it is important to go through this book slowly, so, to digest its content and apply it to one’s prayer life.

The book, divided into four chapters, introduces the reader to the Daniel’s Principles of Prayer and also, The Timothy, Ephesians and Lord’s prayer formula. What the first chapter does is to admonish Christians, among other things, that they are never too big, blessed or busy to pray.  It primarily establishes the importance of prayer to the life of the believer.

In the subsequent chapters, the reader is introduced to the other prayer strategies/formula. The book also raises important subjects like the need to pray for our leaders, praying always and for long hours which also summarises the Timothian Prayer in Chapter 2 of the book. The other two chapters introduce Ephesians 1 and Matthew 6 as prayer guides/strategies for the Christian.

Bishop Dag, as an author, puts his points in plain language probably for easy memorisation. If you have ever listened to any of his sermons, you’d realise he writes just like the way he speaks – concise, straightforward and instructive. He also makes emphases on some of his points by relating them to his personal life experiences. As a reader, I couldn’t help but chuckle at some of the scenarios he provided in the book. One of such was when he recalled his days as a medical student with a tight schedule but still made time to pray. On one of those occasions, he nearly walked into a wall because he was tired. Although this was easy to picture, it drives home the point that he consciously made time to pray and gave himself no excuse and looking at where he is now, that serves as a source of motivation for the reader.

The aim of the book was to ginger the reader to adopt praying strategies which will enable him/her to pray for long hours and that was successfully achieved. As Christians, we may have several reasons for not praying and even reading, the author recognises that, therefore, he provides several motivations in a few pages to help us adopt a healthy prayer life. This book is highly recommended for anyone having a hard time praying and for long hours. It is also great for Christians of all ages and for people who do not want to read huge volumes of books.

There were some powerful quotes in the book but below are three of them:

  • “My friend, if you cannot find something to thank God for, for at least ten minutes, then you have an ungrateful heart.”
  • “If you want to have peace and confidence in this life, spend time praying that the will of God comes to pass in your life.”dag

 

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