Author Interview with Jim Schwenk

This week’s author interview is with Jim Schwenk. He is the author of our new book, George Whitefield: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought.


  • Question #1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself:  where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

I am a native and life-long resident of Pennsylvania. I’ve been married to my wife, Loretta, for 27 years, and we have two adult children who are still hanging around our house! For the last year and a half, I’ve been the lead pastor of Gingrichs Mennonite Church, Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Prior to that, I was Professor of Church History at Evangelical Seminary, Myerstown, PA and I continue to teach there, and at several other schools, in an adjunct capacity. My family and I live in a 1760s log cabin, and raise beagles and rabbits.


  • Question #2 – Which writers inspire you?

I was introduced to C.S. Lewis by Ann Louise Wanner, my 11th grade honors English teacher. We were given the assignment of reading a science fiction trilogy: either one by Isaac Asimov or some guy I never heard of named Lewis! I had already borrow the Asimov books from the library. Mrs. Wanner passed my desk and said, “You don’t want to read him. You want to read Lewis.” I took her advice, and I was hooked! Eventually, through Lewis, I was introduced to J.R.R. Tolkien. These two member of the Inklings have become dear friends and trusted colleagues.


  • Question #3 – What inspired you to write this book?

With much of my professional training coming from a Wesleyan perspective, I always heard of George Whitefield as the man who had a serious theological disagreement with John Wesley. Perhaps it was a bit of “Wesleyan rebellion” that I first started to read about Whitefield, eventually diving into his sermons, letters and journals. I soon discovered, that while I could appreciate John Wesley, I came to love George Whitefield. His passion for souls, his dynamic preaching, and his ability to work with fellow believers from many different backgrounds inspired me allow him to speak to the contemporary church and society.


  • Question #4 – Do you have an interesting writing quirk?

Tea. More tea. And BBC World Service on in the background. I also write a great deal on yellow legal pads first, before sitting down to enter what I’ve written into the computer.


  • Question #5 – What book are you reading now?

I’m reading Stephen Lawhead’s, The Skin Map. I read his Arthurian cycle some years ago, and found this particular book in a used bookstore recently. I’m hooked again! Being a big fan of the British science fiction television series, Doctor Who, I’m fascinated by Lawhead’s experiment with time travel in The Skin Map. I’ve just ordered the second volume in the series . . . hoping it arrives soon!


  • Question #6 – Favorite sport to watch?  Why?  Favorite sport’s team

You’ve probably noticed from my previous answers that I’ve got a definite “British” slant.  While this is true, my favorite sport is still American football – probably because one of my childhood dreams was to become a kicker on a football team. Even though I’ve always lived in Pennsylvania, my favorite team is the New Orleans Saints. In fact, my wife and I love a lot about New Orleans: the food, the music, the people, and yes, the Saints!


  • Question #7 – The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia?  Why?

This might be the toughest question yet! But if I have to choose one, it would be The Lord of the Rings. I choose that because of Tolkien’s rare ability to create, not only new worlds in his writing, but languages, creation myths, history – and in the process, keep everything so consistent and tightly knit. Plus, my son has a Welsh Corgi named, “Tolkien.”


  • Question #8 – What famous person (living or dead) would you like to meet and why?

While Whitefield would definitely be near the top of my list, as would C.S. Lewis, top place would have to go to J.R.R. Tolkien. I’d love to discuss his love for mythology, his Christian faith, his commitment to family – the very things that are important to me.


Author Interview with Susan Kelton, Pamela Ferriss, and Kathryn March

This week’s author interview is with the 3 authors of My Grandmother…Is Praying for Me: Daily Prayers and Proverbs for Character Development in GrandchildrenSusan Kelton, Pamela Ferriss, and Kathryn March.

My Grandmother Is Praying For Me_Authors

  • Question #1 – What inspired you to write this book about this topic?

The three of us had recently become grandmothers. We knew we were enjoying the role, but wanted more intentionality about it. Susan gathered the three of us together to discuss how we might have a strong impact in the lives of our grandchildren. As we sat and discussed some possible options, Kathy mentioned a discipline that the Lord had put on her heart. When she first learned that she was going to be a grandmother, the Lord led her to pray through the book of Proverbs. Each week she would take one Proverb and pray for those verses to become reality in the life of her new grandchild. As we spoke about this exercise in prayer, we came to believe that the Lord wanted us to further develop this idea. Because we are each busy with many involvements, we wanted a format that would be simple to use, yet reflective of the values that we wanted the Lord to develop in the life of our grandchildren. The idea of a daily devotional evolved, and because Proverbs is a book about godly character, we decided to focus on character traits.


  • Question #2 – When did you first want to write a book?

I don’t think that any of us really knew that we wanted to write a book. When Susan first brought us together, we were unsure of what direction to take. We come from varied backgrounds – none of us is by profession a writer – and it was only after several prayerful discussions that we decided to forge ahead with a devotional. Many friends encouraged us along the way and we had a terrific editor who understand our purposes and mission and helped us to succinctly state our thoughts and prayers.


  • Question #3 – Do you have a specific spot where you enjoy writing most?

We had a unique process for our writing. We divided the months – the character traits – among the three of us and we each wrote a month’s worth of devotionals. When we were done with that task we would reconvene at Susan’s kitchen table and share what we had written. This is where we faced many challenges. We each have different styles, different expressions, and different backgrounds, so our writing was very distinct. We had to carefully, and with guidance from the Holy Spirit, lovingly critique, challenge, and rework each of our writings to assure that they were reflective of Biblical thought and application. “Sitting around Susan’s table” became our spot to share our tears, emotions, struggles, joys, as well as writing.


  • Question #4 – What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Our simple advice would be to listen to the Lord’s leading, be willing to take a risk, be ready to work diligently, seek critique of your work, find a great editor and trust God for the results.


  • Question #5 – What has been the toughest criticism to you as authors? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism actually came from the three of us as we critiqued each other’s writing. While we view ourselves as three ordinary grandmothers, we are three very strong-minded, opinionated women.  On a number of occasions there would be differences of opinion as to the meaning of a proverb or the reflection of a proverb in a prayer. When this occurred, we would adjourn for the day, study, pray, and return the next day to begin again. Inevitably insight would surface to allow us to continue.

This collaborative effort was not easy, but God was merciful in showing us how He was using our diversity to bring us to a unity of purpose. Iron sharpening iron does produce conflict, which can be either an obstacle or an opportunity for growth. The three of us intentionally chose opportunity.

The best compliments have come from mothers and grandmothers who are using the book. One compliment we especially liked was from a grandmother and pastor’s wife. “I had always prayed for my grandchildren, but it was like I prayed in black and white. Now when I pray using My Grandmother is. . . Praying for Me, it is like I am praying in color.”


  • Question #6 – How did you deal with writer’s block?

Writers’ block usually occurred for the three of us when trying to come up with a daily practical application for the proverb and the prayer. It was no small task to come up with 365 appropriate and meaningful applications. After a couple of hours of working together we often “glazed over” and writer’s block occurred. When this happened we would adjourn for the day. It was amazing to find when we reconvened, one of us would have heard a song, read Scripture or a book, talked with a friend, etc. that brought to mind the perfect application. We are still amazed at how that happened!

Want to learn more about Susan, Pamela, and Kathryn?

Author Interview with Jim Newheiser

This week’s author interview is with Jim Newheiser. He is the author of Parenting Is More than a Formula and the co-author of You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children.


  • Question #1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

I consider myself a Texan, and I determined as a young man to live there for the rest of my life. In God’s providence, early in our marriage we went to Saudi Arabia for six years during which time I was a tentmaking pastor in an underground church for expatriates, followed by the past twenty-seven years in Southern California during which time I went to seminary, helped to plant our local church and then became involved in biblical counseling.

My main hobby is running long distances slowly (marathons and ultramarathons).


  • Question #2 – When did you first want to write a book?

Until Elyse Fitzpatrick invited me to co-author a book with her about ten years ago, it never occurred to me that I would ever write a book. As God used that book to help others, I had a burden to write about other topics and the Lord opened doors to make this possible.


  • Question #3 – Have you always enjoyed writing?

I find writing to be extremely difficult, but I try to have an eschatological perspective, anticipating future joy as others are helped by what the Lord has been teaching me.


  • Question #4 – What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?

I wrote Parenting Is More than a Formula to speak to parents who have been hurt and discouraged as they have tried to discover the perfect formula by which they can ensure that their children will turn out well. Many of the parenting methodologies being offered to the Christian community are legalistic. They go beyond what Scripture requires of parents (which is actually quite simple—discipline, instruction and not provoking their children to anger Eph. 6:4) and present a methodology (which may be one of many possible ways to implement what the Bible teaches) that they imply is God’s way of parenting. They also imply that those who don’t follow their methodology are in sin. This leads to my second major concern which is that many parenting formulas sound unbiblically deterministic, implying that parenting is like baking a cake in that if you follow the right recipe you will experience the right outcome. While Scripture teaches that parents are an important influence on how their children turn out (Prov. 29:15), we cannot control outcomes (see Ezekiel 18). We expose our children to God’s grace and wisdom, but they can choose to reject what we teach. Ultimately we parents are dependent upon God’s grace.


  • Question #5 – Do you have a specific spot where you enjoy writing most?

We have some dear friends who allow us to use their apartment overlooking the beach in San Clemente, which is where I have been doing most of my writing in recent years. It is great to get away from our normal environment and to experience the beauty of God’s creation as I do the hard work of writing.


  • Question #6 – Favorite food?

Anything my wife cooks.


  • Question #7 – Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Anything made by Blue Bell, which tragically is not sold in California.


  • Question #8 – Favorite animal? Why?

Dog. Loyal and eager to please.


  • Question #9 – If you have a favorite book of the Bible, what is it and why?

Whatever book I am currently studying and preaching.


Want to learn more about Jim? He is the director and counselor of the Institute for Biblical Counseling & Discipleship.


Author Interview with Jane Roach

This week’s author interview is with Jane Roach, the author of our new book, Joy beyond Agony: Embracing the Cross of Christ, A Twelve-Lesson Bible Study.



  • Question #1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

I am a native of San Antonio, Texas. My parents were hard working, self-denying people who brought me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. My older sister is with the Lord and my twin sister is close to me in body and soul. I am married for almost 50 years to Jim Roach. We have one daughter and one son, four grandsons, two granddaughters, and another grandson due in August this year.

I taught mathematics at San Antonio Community College for three years and at Texas State University, San Marcos TX, for three years before the birth of my daughter. My desires changed as I began to study the Bible in 1974. I “grew up” in the Lord in Bible Study Fellowship, teaching a class of 450 women for 7 years before joining the global headquarters staff in 1985 as Director of Training. I retired from that position in 2011. Since then I have been teaching two Bible studies in my community and church. The lessons from one of the studies is the basis for Joy beyond Agony: Embracing the Cross of Christ.

I enjoy playing the piano, singing in the church choir, and going to the performances of the San Antonio Symphony. For times of rest, I do counted cross stitch embroidery. Discovering and trying new recipes has always been fun for me.

I am a big fan of the San Antonio Spurs NBA basketball team. Go Spurs Go!


  • Question #2 – Which writers inspire you?

R. C. Sproul, D. A. Carson, and Elisabeth Elliot have been favorites for many years. I enjoy reading biographies of Christians and non-Christians. I find them very stretching and challenging. My favorites include: A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot, and Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II (Darlene Deibler Rose).


  • Question #3 – What inspired you to write Joy beyond Agony?

One of my colleagues at BSF, Shirley Mills, frequently told me I should write a book about the Cross. Just before I retired, two godly men I respect, Dr. John Hannah and Dr. Thomas Schreiner, gave me the same admonition. I realized I must give their comments serious consideration. As I did, I began to have a desire to persevere to write. It has been a glorious experience.


  • Question #4 – Do you have a specific spot where you enjoy writing most?

I have an office in my home, with an iMac that I enjoy using.


  • Question #5 – At what time of day do you write most?

Early in the morning.


  • Question #6 – How do you deal with writer’s block?

I get up, walk around, do some mindless task and pray while I am doing it. Sometimes I ask my husband or a friend to let me tell them about the place where I am stuck. As I talk about it, often it becomes clear to me how to move forward.


  • Question #7 – Favorite sport to watch? Why?  Favorite sport’s team?

NBA basketball. I like is because it is fast moving. My favorite sport’s team is the San Antonio Spurs.


  • Question #8 – Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Blue Bell Coconut Fudge (it tastes like Mounds, my favorite candy bar.)


  • Question #9 – If you have a favorite book of the Bible, what is it and why?

Romans; I like Paul’s anticipation of questions and his linear arguments.


Want to learn more about Jane?


Author Interview with Gary Steward

This week’s author interview is with Gary Steward. He is the author of Princeton Seminary (1812-1929): Its Leaders’ Lives and Works.


  • Question #1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

I grew up in a Christian home and was raised on a farm in South Dakota. I met my wife Amy while I was an apprentice at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. We spent seven years of our lives together in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, where I served as a pastor. Our three children were born in Canada, so they like to say that they are “Camerican.” Right now, I am finishing my PhD in Church History and Historical Theology and will soon be moving to Lakewood, Colorado, where I’ve just been hired as a professor of history at Colorado Christian University. When I’m not thinking about my dissertation topic (the American Revolution and the American clergy’s involvement in it), I like to read and spend time with my family.


  • Question #2 – Which writers inspire you?

I discovered the writings of J. I. Packer, Iain Murray, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones while I was a student at South Dakota State University. I owe the whole orientation of my theology, as well as my love of church history and Christian biography, to these writers. The one writer that has inspired me the most has been Iain Murray. His books blend history, theology, biography, and devotion together in a way that is both spiritually rich and theologically instructive.


  • Question #3 – What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?

Reading the published letters of J. W. Alexander opened my eyes to the whole world of Old Princeton. Through reading his letters, I saw the world of nineteenth century America through the eyes of a Princeton theologian. I was fascinated by Alexander’s interaction with the world around him and by his attempts to apply his theology to the burning social, political, and ecclesiastical issues of his day.


  • Question #4 – What book are you reading now?

I’ve recently been reading The Future of History by John Lukacs and a textbook on Western Civilization by Marvin Perry et al. I’m also reading The Hobbit to my girls while they wash dishes in the evenings.


  • Question #5 – Favorite food?

I really enjoy good Indian food. It’s hard to beat butter chicken, chana masala, and samosas!


  • Question #6 – If you have a favorite book of the Bible, what is it and why?

My favorite book of the Bible is Romans. I love Paul’s presentation of the gospel and of God’s sovereign grace. Romans never grows old to me.