5 Christian Fiction Authors to Read in 2020

 

Considering that I had my fourth baby in January of 2019, I still managed to read a decent number of books. I may or may not have prolonged middle-of-the-night nursing snuggles a *little* longer than necessary because I wanted to finish a chapter…or a book.

I read a ton of romantic mystery/suspense, with a dash of historical fiction thrown in – two of my favorite genres. These five authors were new to me in 2019, but they’re all on my “read more” list for 2020!

Check out these authors and pick up a new title or two to read soon (bonus: most of these are available for free on Kindle Unlimited). Don’t forget to leave these authors a review on Amazon or Goodreads when you’re done 🙂

 

H.L. Wegley

Genre(s): Christian Suspense/Mystery/Thriller

Topics: United States of America, domestic terrorism, Special Forces, patriotism, military, romance, high-action

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

H.L. Wegley is an Air Force veteran, meteorologist, and Boeing Systems programmer turned award-winning author of suspense-filled, action-packed novels.

Wegley’s accounts of combat scenes, weapons, and warfare are highly technical and detailed (which makes sense given his experience and scientific bent). Not everyone will enjoy this, but I personally love because it adds to the realism of the book (plus I enjoy learning about all things military). He writes about places he is personally familiar with and succeeds in bringing the reader there in a vivid way without losing you in flowery, overdone descriptions.

I found the romance in the first book a little weak, but the love story takes a back seat to the story line anyway, so I didn’t mind. I found the romance in the second book better than the first. Both books kept me turning pages rapidly.

Wegley’s books are thought-provoking, and you know I love fiction that challenges and changes you. The Against All Enemies series is an end-of-the-USA story of courage, bravery, and patriotism to save the nation from threats against its core values of freedom and democracy on the part of a tyrannical president who is slowly dismantling the democratic process by subtle abuse of power (please don’t grammatically dissect that sentence). Wegley does an excellent job of painting a scenario that seems scarily possible, especially in our current political climate. If you want to just read the book, you absolutely could, but if you’re willing to think deeper, Wegley  challenges the reader to think critically about the state of our democracy and wrestle with what our individual responses would be if placed in the same situations as the characters. In the second book, he grapples with the issue of the morality of violence and military action from a Christian perspective. I found his perspective on this (through the lens of two characters with very contrasting views) unique and provocative in a good way.

I’m only two books into this author, but he is definitely high on my “read more” list!

Next on my list: the prequel, Chasing Freedom (the Prequel to the other two)

Ronie Kendig

Genre(s): Christian Suspense/Action Fiction/Romantic Suspense

Keywords: war hero, Navy SEAL, PTSD, Special Forces, military, high-action, terrorism, FBI, conspiracy,

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

As an Army brat and now Army wife, Ronie Kendig has ample experience to draw from for her military action novels. Her “rapid-fire” fiction is just that – books fill with rapid sequences of action, suspense, drama, twists, and turns. Conspiracy of Silence felt like National Treasurer on Special Forces steroids mixed with some Indiana Jones. Her characters are raw and have believable human flaws.

I inhaled both books and honestly didn’t stop to read too critically, but I don’t have any critiques off hand. In Conspiracy of Silence, I loved how she incorporated the Biblical story of Korah in Numbers 16 (which, cool side note, I just studied last week in my Bible study). In both books, I felt like I was right there with the characters – experiencing the questions hanging in the air, the intrigue at each step, the danger right around the corner, and the heart-pounding adrenaline.

Next on my list: Crown of Souls (The Tox Files Book #2)

 

Linda Brooks Davis

Genre(s): Christian Historical Fiction/Inspirational Historic Fiction

Keywords: turn-of-the-century, inspirational, women’s suffrage, Great War, World War 1, domestic violence, abuse, heiress, Spanish Flu, female leads

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

Linda Brooks Davis, a true Texan and former special-needs educator, is a relatively new author to the historical Christian fiction scene with the release of her debut novel in 2015. Her books aren’t for the faint of heart – they are long books that cover large spans of time with multiple twists and turns to the plot, all of which allows for a great deal of character development. Each books include a love story, but the romance is more like a supporting character in an ensemble cast rather than a main player. Davis dives deep into difficult issues that may be triggers for some readers (such as physical and sexual abuse), but she also paints a beautiful picture of the redemptive power of God’s love.

The Women of Rock Creek series is set at the turn of the 20th century through World War 1. Davis brilliantly depicts the historical setting, tensions, and events that shaped that time, touching on the women’s suffrage, the Great War, The Spanish Flu, class distinctions, and more. She is not just a fiction author who sets her books in a historical time period because it’s fun; she is a true historical fiction author who takes the time to research the time period and craft a story that could have come right out of the diary of a real person. The historical context is as much a character as the characters themselves.

Next on my list: I’m honestly not sure, because her only other books are novellas, and I don’t like novellas! (I’m weird – I usually only read books that are over 300 pages). But, since the novellas expand on the Women of Rock Creek characters’ stories, I may concede and read her Rock Creek Christmas Collection.

 

Julie Klassen

Genre(s): Historical Christian Romance

Keywords: Jane Austen, period drama, period romance, dancing master, apothecary, intrigue, Cornwall, regency romance, friendship, class society

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

Julie Klassen is an award-winning author who gives fans of Jane Austen more books to read! Her historical romances with a touch of mystery are true period pieces in the vein of Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Also, if you are a Poldark fan, you will love these books, especially since some of them are set in Cornwall as Poldark is.

Though lengthy (which I like), her books are filled with just enough unanswered questions keep you turning pages long after you planned to go to bed. She unfolds her characters’ stories slowly while keeping interest and resolving the unanswered questions in the end. Her character development is well-thought out, her attention to historical details is spot on, and her plot twists keep the reader guessing.

True confession: The first book I read of hers was The Dancing Master. I could not get into this book. It took me almost a month to read; usually I will fly through a book like that in well under a week. I’m glad I did not give up on her though, because I absolutely loved the others of hers I read!

Next on my list: I don’t know yet! She has plenty more books for me to discover, but I haven’t picked one.

 

Christy Barritt

Genre(s): Christian Romantic Suspense/Mystery/Thriller

Keywords: police drama, undercover cop, law enforcement, strong female lead, Navy SEAL, veterans, war hero, beach mystery, North Carolina

Titles I’ve Read:

Another true confession? I read over 30 of Christy Barritt’s books in 2019. Instead of listing them all, I’ll list the first book in each series I read. You’ll definitely want to read her series in book order!

My Take:

Christy Barritt is a Publisher’s weekly bestseller and award-winning author who churns out thrilling mysteries with clean romances and underlying faith messages. She’s like the modern Christian version of Agatha Christie (but her faith messages are light enough you can enjoy her books even if you don’t subscribe to her faith views).

I don’t find her books particularly deep or thought-provoking (although she does deal with some nasty gang violence and a cult in the above series), but they are solid page-turning reads that kept me awake through many wee hours breastfeeding sessions last year. I read them far too fast (and in too sleep deprived a state) to analyze her mysteries and law enforcement procedures, but there weren’t any glaring loopholes. Her books are a little bit like a drug to me…I just can’t stop reading them! And clearly she can’t stop writing them.

Part of what makes her books so addictive that each series has a threaded mystery (except for the Carolina Moon series). Each book in a series is has its own mystery to solve but also unfolds more pieces of the overarching mystery. Much like episodes in TV show like Burn Notice, you enjoy the satisfying completion of a story line when you finish a book, but you’re left hungering for the next piece of the bigger mystery.

Her characters are definitely not boring and have endearing quirks. She overlaps characters from other series, which is always fun for the reader (though risky as an author). She does a good job of maintaining each character’s persona when you encounter them in another series.

If I had to choose favorites, I’d say my favorite series were the original Lantern Beach Mysteries and the Worst Detective Ever. If you’re looking for fun, easy page-turning mysteries, start there!

Side note: I’ve tried reading a couple of her darker mysteries such as Dubiosity and the Fog Lake Suspense Series, but I personally do not like getting inside the twisted heads of serial killers and rapists. If that’s your thing, I’m sure they’re as good of reads as her other books, but they’re weren’t my thing.

Next on my list: Rains of Remorse (Lanter Beach Romantic Suspense Book #5) is currently waiting on my Kindle!

 

Bonus Author: Me!

Genre(s): Christian romantic suspense

Keywords: Maine, Ireland, dance, musician, domestic abuse, survivor, FBI, Navy SEAL, lighthouse, epic drama, romantic saga

Titles I’ve Written:

My Take: I’m a debut author, and I would be honored if you would read my book! I’ll let you read the description and reviews and decide for yourself 🙂

Next on my List: I’m in process writing the second book, Finding Forgiveness.

 

*I may earn affiliate commission if you purchase books using the links above.

Throwback to Relationship Redeemed Article

 

I am a sucker for a good love story. My favorite kind are real life romances that paint a picture of God’s redemption and unrelenting pursuit of us.

If you also love a good love story, head over to MBC Pathway to read an article I wrote last year chronicling one of my favorite love stories about a couple I dearly cherish. It was a joy to both watch this redeemed romance unfold AND get to interview them and write about it!

Relationship Redeemed Quote

Relationship redeemed: Young collegiate couple restored, discipled through MBC student ministry to disciple young couple

Is “Because I am Holy” Reason Enough to be Holy?

 

“You shall be holy, because I am holy.”

I’ve read that phrase countless times, and to be honest, it always struck me as a bit odd. God is commanding humans – whose sinful condition He is well aware of – to be holy. Uh…God? You know we can’t do it…right? The phrase conjured up the image of an index-finger wielding, over-the-glasses peering stern father commanding, “Obey, because I said so!” while the kid stares hopelessly at him, thinking, “I’m doomed to fail at this!” 

I’ve been studying Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers this school year with my Community Bible Study (CBS) class. On top of that, my church is doing a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan using the Read Scripture app (which is amazing – see note at the end!), so I’m rereading sections of those books that we recently studied.

A few weeks ago, when I came across the phrase “be holy, because I am holy” in Leviticus 19, I saw something different there than ever before.

Of course we must be holy as He is holy…because we are made in the image of God!

The command to “be holy, because I am holy” isn’t some smug joke on God’s part, like when the bully on the playground tells the littlest kid in the class to climb the tree he can’t possibly reach. No, it’s rooted in who we were made to be as image-bearers of God. “Be holy, because I am holy, and you bear MY image.”

When that light bulb of obviousness went off in my head, so many other things made sense. Here are three of the implications of this creation-order understanding of the call to be holy.

 

God’s law is always rooted in His character.

Connecting the dots between being created in God’s image and being holy changed the lens through which I am reading these Old Testament books. Instead of coming to His laws – many of which I don’t understand – with underlying skepticism, I can come to them saying, “Somehow, whether I grasp it or not, these reflect His character.”

Leviticus 19-20 repeat the phrase “I am the Lord” or “I am the Lord your God” 19 times. That’s a lot! The image-bearer-holiness connection helped me shift from reading that as a purely authoritarian, “Do this, because I’m in charge,” to a beautiful linking to God’s character. “Live like this, because this is what I am like.”

I highlighted every instance of the phrase “I am the Lord” in my ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal (an amazing resource graciously provided to me through the generosity of a church member). On the lines opposite the phrase, I wrote down the link between God’s character and the command for us.

ESV Illuminated Scripture JournalHere are a few examples (I won’t spoil your own study by putting them all here for you):

  • Leviticus 19:9-10: He is a God who cares for the poor and oppressed; therefore, we care for the poor and oppressed.
  • Leviticus 19:11-12 – He is a God of truth; therefore, we walk in honesty.
  • Leviticus 19:31 – He is a God of wisdom; therefore, we seek Him and Him alone for wisdom.
  • Leviticus 19:35-36 – He is a God of clarity; therefore, we are to be clear in our judgments and transactions.

Side note: Jesus fulfilled the letter of the law. Hence, we are no longer bound by the ritual and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. However, the moral principles behind them remain the same (this is the “spirit of the law)”, and Jesus affirmed the so-called “moral commands” (do not murder, do not steal, etc.) still apply. We can learn a great deal about God’s holiness and what it means to reflect Him to the world by studying Old Testament law.

Is God the authority? Absolutely. Is He serious about His commandments? Yes.

If we stop there, though, I think we miss the very heart of His law and the motivation to obey it. Which leads me to…

 

Our holiness – or lack thereof – paints a reflection of God to the world.

If God’s law is a direct reflection of His character, and if we are made in His image, then our lives paint a reflection of who He is to the world. We either show them what He’s like, or we mislead them by showing them a different picture. Even the tiniest drop of sin mars the picture – HIS picture. It puts a crack in the mirror. One crack distorts the reflection. A lot of cracks make a clear image virtually impossible to see.

So when God says “be holy, because I am holy,” and when He gives “I am the Lord” as the precedent for each of His laws, it’s as if He’s saying, “This is what I am like. You’re made in my image. Reflect this to the world.”

Sin tarnishes image of God
Looking in the mirror is a favorite activity for my 1-year-old. In her case, slobber is usually the culprit for a distorted image.

When discussing this lesson, one of the women in my CBS core group said her mom used to tell her and her sister, “You’re the only Bible some people get to read.”

This is one reason sin is such a big deal, and why nothing short of total holiness is enough…it twists the very picture of who God is!

That’s also why it’s important to understand the heart of the law, not just follow them on a surface level. Jesus emphasizes this in the Gospels when he says repeatedly, “You’ve heard it said…but I say…” He takes the law and makes it 1,000 times harder to follow by driving at our hearts and motivations. To refrain from murder while hating someone in your heart isn’t holiness. To stay out of bed with people who aren’t your spouse while lusting after them isn’t holiness. To give generously of your paycheck while grumbling about the laziness of those your generosity supports isn’t holiness. Nothing short of total holiness will do. And total holiness is 100% pure in heart, thought, and deed.

 

We can’t do it on our own – but we don’t have to.

Total holiness is a must to stand in the presence of God. We fall woefully short. We tarnish the image with every snippy comment to our husbands, every over-frustrated response to our kids, every covetous thought toward our friends, every disgruntled inner complaint toward the providence God gives.

Anyone else feeling overwhelmed by this? Yeah, me too. Time for the good news.

Let me let you in on a not-so-secret secret: God knew – and knows – we can’t uphold the law perfectly. Not even close. In fact, many argue that the whole reason for the Old Testament law was to show the people that they couldn’t be righteous in their own right and to constantly point them to their need for a Savior.

That’s exactly why Jesus came. That was God’s plan, all along, from the moment sin entered this world.

Jesus came because He IS the perfect, untarnished, complete image of God. That is why He alone is qualified to bear the punishment for our sin. That is why His righteousness is enough to clothe us in so that we can stand in the presence of God.

Tacoma, Washington Puget Sound
Photo taken in Tacoma, WA, one of my favorite places.
  • He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3)
  • He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
  • In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  • No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:8)

We are image-bearers. Individually, we reflect tiny slivers of God’s character. Together, we reflect a more well-rounded picture, but still woefully incomplete.

Jesus is THE image of God. Complete. Untarnished. Intact.

That Jesus makes us right. Removes our guilt. Purifies us. Shows us what God’s holiness looks like in action.

Then, He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us walk in that cloak of holiness – He actually says it is better for us to have the “Helper” than for Jesus Himself to remain with us on earth! (John 16:7)

We don’t have the power and ability; He does. Now, when we seek to be holy as God is holy, we fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit (How does the Holy Spirit help us? Great question. This article is a helpful place to start.).

 

Recovering Who We Were Made to Be

I won’t pretend I understand all (or even most of) the laws in the Old Testament. I have a litany of questions and do plenty of head-scratching when I read them and the consequences for breaking them.

But, if I believe God is ultimately good and that His laws are based on His character…if I believe I am to be holy because I bear His image and what I do (or don’t do) has a direct effect on the version of God people see through me…if I trust that Jesus is holy in all the ways I could never be and I stand righteous before Him so I don’t have to be right by my own merit…and if I live by the power of the Spirit He has given us, not by my own efforts…then following Jesus into holiness day by day is not a burden placed on me by an overbearing father but a joyful pursuit of recovering who I was made to be.

So, through the blood of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit…be holy, because He is holy, and you were made to bear His image!

 

Note: Our church is using the Read Scripture app. You read 2-3 chapters of the Bible a day beginning in Genesis, plus pray through a Psalm a day. The app tells you what to read each day. You can even set a daily reminder to read! You can read on your phone or your Bible of choice (the recommended version is ESV) and check the circle when you’re done to chart your progress. By the end of 365 days, you’ll have read the entire Bible once and the Psalms twice. Plus, the app incorporates short Bible Project videos that help make sense of the readings, which is super helpful in books like Leviticus!

Our pastor’s sermons on Sundays are based on a text from the prior week’s readings. If you want to join in with us, you can download the app, select 1/5/20 as your start date in the settings, and jump right in with us (No need to go back and reread what you missed unless you want to. And no shame if you miss a day, or two, or ten. We’re calling it the “Same Page” series for a reason). Or you can start from the beginning using your own start date. Either way, I highly recommend it!

You can download the Read Scripture app here .

You can listen to our church’s Same Page sermon series here.

Below are links to the ESV Illustrated Scripture Journals I referenced above. You may find better deals on Crossway’s site or elsewhere.

 

*I may earn affiliate commission through these links.

Britney Lyn Hamm for beauty and for glory

We were made for glory and for beauty

Britney Lyn Hamm for beauty and for glory“For glory and for beauty”.

This phrase is repeated multiple times in Exodus 28 as God instructs Moses in how the priestly garments are to be made.

The tabernacle and its furnishings, the priestly garments, everything about God’s dwelling place was to be constructed from precious materials with craftsmanship, skill, intricacy, integrity, creativity, and beauty.

In our day of minimalist design, the ornateness of the tabernacle almost surprised me. “Couldn’t those resources be put to better use, God?” I found myself beginning to think.

Then it hit me. The tabernacle housed the presence of God. The tabernacle represented His glory, beauty, and majesty. OF COURSE it and everything that furnished it and everyone who entered it had to be beautiful…because God is beautiful. His glory is incomparable.

Then it hit me again. The tabernacle housed the presence of God…now WE house the presence of God. We who have been redeemed, who have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, together are the temple of the Living God. We exist to be a vivid representation of the glory of God.

When we make our houses beautifully warm and welcoming houses of hospitality and fellowship, we are reflecting His glory. When we roll out a pastry crust into an intricate leaf pattern even though it will be consumed in minutes, we are reflecting His intricacy. When we tend our roses and trim back the weeds in our garden, we are reflecting His beauty.

How much more, then, when we, by the cleansing of His blood and through the power of His Spirit, beautify our hearts to live in holiness…with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…do we reflect His glory and His beauty?

Church, we ARE the tabernacle. We were redeemed “for glory and for beauty.” Let your life be a beautiful, fragrant freewill offering unto Him today. Take joy in creating beauty around you. For with each shelf you dust, each cake you decorate, each wall you paint, each flower you trim, each hurt you forgive, each need you meet, each word of praise you sing, each burden you share, you are reflecting the glory and beauty of the God who saved you.

Photo credit: Background photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.com.