Author Interview with Margaret Ashmore

This week’s author inter­view is with Mar­garet Ash­more, author of the Gospel for Real Life book­let, Depres­sion: The Sun Always Rises.

  • Ques­tion #1 — Did you always enjoy writing?

No. I can’t say I take plea­sure in it any­more than I do in clean­ing house or respond­ing to let­ters. How­ever, I love hav­ing a clean home and the very sin­gu­lar sat­is­fac­tion of putting a stamp on a fin­ished note to some­one who was kind enough to send one to me. Writ­ing Depres­sion: The Sun Always Rises was largely labo­ri­ous for me. But it was worth what­ever toil or exer­tion in know­ing that some­one who is in the deep pit of depres­sion can hear a voice from the precipice above say­ing, “The good news of the gospel can reach deeper than any man-made nos­trum, any talk show, any psy­cho­log­i­cal label or any phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal “fix” with the fath­om­less love of the Sav­ior, Jesus Christ. It is a sat­is­fac­tion that moti­vates me to write again.


  • Ques­tion #2 — Other than the bible, do you have a favorite book?

A favorite of Chris­ten­dom is Augustine’s Reli­gious Affec­tions. “The affec­tions are the mighty urges of our hearts. Our affec­tions ignite us. They kin­dle our spir­its. They set us aflame. They deter­mine how our hearts are tilted. They incline us, lying at the base of every­thing we are and do.” In Edward’s some­what quaint lan­guage: “These affec­tions we see to be the springs that set men ago­ing, in all the affairs of life.”


  • Ques­tion #3 — Do you have a favorite quote?

Dif­fer­ent quotes become favorites at dif­fer­ent times in my life but there is one that has weath­ered every sea­son serv­ing as a con­stant reminder of God’s great sov­er­eign love and holy intent in the midst of loss. From Matthew Henry’s com­men­tary of the book of Jonah and writ­ten as a response to Jonah’s lament over the loss of his “com­forts”. “God can wither that to us from which we promise our­selves most sat­is­fac­tion that our wants and dis­ap­point­ments in the crea­ture may drive us to the Cre­ator.”


  • Ques­tion #4 — Do you have a favorite movie?

When­ever this ques­tion is ban­tered about in my cir­cle of friends the con­ver­sa­tion picks up con­sid­er­ably. If I were inclined toward a “hobby”, it would be that of watch­ing clas­sic films and my all time favorite is the 1962 mas­ter­piece, “To Kill A Mock­ing­bird”. It per­fectly cap­tures the won­der and magic of child­hood and that most dif­fi­cult pas­sage into the real­ity of adult­hood – expressed so beau­ti­fully when Atti­cus (the father) tells his son in the after­math of wit­ness­ing great injus­tice and mal­ice, “There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ‘em all away from you. That’s never pos­si­ble.” A close sec­ond would be Lew Wallace’s 1959 epic, “Ben Hur: The Tale of the Christ”, one of the most beau­ti­ful sto­ries of redemp­tion ever on film.


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Author Interview with Dennis Johnson

This week’s author inter­view is with Den­nis John­son, author of 4 P&R titles: Tri­umph of the Lamb, Him We Pro­claim, The Mes­sage of Acts in the His­tory of Redemp­tion, and Philip­pi­ans, part of the REC Series.

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

I was born and grew up in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia and attended West­mont Col­lege in Santa Bar­bara, where I met my wife, Jane. We mar­ried the day after we grad­u­ated, were dorm par­ents that sum­mer as I taught a begin­ning course in Greek, then drove across the U.S. for me to attend West­min­ster The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in Philadel­phia. After receiv­ing my M.Div., I pas­tored Ortho­dox Pres­by­ter­ian Churches in New Jer­sey and then (back home) in East Los Ange­les. We have four adult chil­dren, all mar­ried, and 16 grand­chil­dren. Our most recent is a grand­daugh­ter, Claire, adopted by our daugh­ter and son-in-law in China in Octo­ber 2014 and now get­ting acquainted with her older broth­ers and sis­ter, as well as Mom and Dad, in Colorado.

  • Ques­tion #2 — Which writ­ers inspire you?

I greatly admire the clar­ity of expres­sion and sim­ple ele­gance that I see in the the­o­log­i­cal and apolo­getic works of C. S. Lewis, J. Gre­sham Machen, and J. I. Packer. John Piper’s exul­tant joy in the majesty of God whets my spir­i­tual appetite to know my Sav­ior better.

  • Ques­tion #3 — Did you always enjoy writing?

For me, start­ing to write almost any­thing is agony (even when I am pas­sion­ate about the topic), and then con­tin­u­ing to write it is a blend of drudgery and (now and then) exhil­a­ra­tion (when the words seem to “flow” and to “fit”). But then hav­ing fin­ished writ­ing some­thing brings at least a sense of relief, and at best a sense of grate­ful delight. I have always enjoyed read­ing well-crafted lit­er­a­ture, and was an Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture major in col­lege. I think that expo­sure to authors who han­dle the lan­guage well has helped me develop a men­tal “ear” for clar­ity and vivid­ness. I aim for these qual­i­ties, often miss, but occa­sion­ally am hap­pily sur­prised to re-read some­thing I wrote ear­lier and to find it moving.

  • Ques­tion #4 — What inspired you to write the REC book, Philip­pi­ans

One of the four edi­tors of the Reformed Expos­i­tory Com­men­tary approached me about con­tribut­ing a vol­ume to the series. Many of the books that I have preached through in my min­istry were already assigned to oth­ers, but Philip­pi­ans was avail­able. I hadn’t preached straight through that joy­ful lit­tle let­ter of Paul, but I had preached on many of its texts. When the REC edi­tors gave the “green light” to my tack­ling Philip­pi­ans, I made it a point to preach on suc­ces­sive texts in the epis­tle when­ever I was invited to preach in my home con­gre­ga­tion or to other churches, until I had actu­ally preached straight through the let­ter in one con­gre­ga­tion or another. I was aware when I started that joy was a cen­tral theme of this mes­sage from the apos­tle in chains. What grabbed my atten­tion as I worked through Philip­pi­ans was how con­sis­tently Paul takes every pas­toral issue—suffering, rivals, life-or-death out­comes, per­sonal dis­agree­ments, finan­cial need and con­tent­ment, assur­ance of sal­va­tion, and more—to the touch­stone of Christ and his grace.

  • Ques­tion #5 — Do you have a spe­cific spot that you enjoy writ­ing most?

Although I don’t do all my writ­ing there, I have a won­der­ful, snug study at home with a desk with vast amounts of sur­face space (when I haven’t clut­tered it with piles of papers and books that I intend to read soon). It’s quiet, not far from our kitchen (cof­fee, snacks, etc.), and I can hear chil­dren play on the school play­ground that our back yard overlooks.

  • Ques­tion #6 — What book are you read­ing now?

I am fin­ish­ing the fourth and final vol­ume of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, The War­den and the Wolf King, so that I can inter­act by email with some of my grand­chil­dren, who are also read­ing it in the var­i­ous dis­tant places where they live. After I fin­ish this, I plan to read Mar­i­lynne Robinson’s recent novel, Lila, hav­ing enjoyed her ear­lier books such as Gilead.

  • Ques­tion #7 — Do you have a favorite author? Who is it and why?

Among bib­li­cal schol­ars and the­olo­gians, I would be hard pressed to name a “favorite.” I learn much from the writ­ings of John Mur­ray, espe­cially the care with which he drew doc­tri­nal insights from the text of God’s Word; and from J. I. Packer’s artic­u­la­tion of bib­li­cal truth with pre­ci­sion, bal­ance, and (again) fidelity to the Scrip­tures. Geer­hardus Vos’s style is daunt­ing, but his insights into the redemptive-historical unity and devel­op­ment of the Bible are worth the effort. I also greatly appre­ci­ate G. K. Beale’s and R. T. France’s sen­si­tiv­ity to the inter­re­la­tion­ship of the Old and New Tes­ta­ments. David Powli­son and Ed Welch make me wise in the depths and com­plex­i­ties of the human heart—my own heart—and show me how God’s grace in the gospel meets our most pro­found needs for the com­fort and cure of our souls.

Among poets, my favorite is George Her­bert, the Angli­can pas­tor and meta­phys­i­cal poet of the 17th cen­tury. Not only does Her­bert use words strate­gi­cally, spar­ingly, and intrigu­ingly, but also his poems dis­play trans­parency in his rela­tion­ship to God and won­der over God’s grace in Christ. Behind him would come Robert Frost, who almost makes me see what it’s like to live in New Eng­land and among New Eng­lan­ders, and Ger­ard Man­ley Hop­kins, whose word-portraits take me by surprise.

I also enjoy mur­der mys­ter­ies. Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wim­sey has long been my favorite sleuth, but over the last year I must con­fess that Lord Peter has come up against stiff com­pe­ti­tion from Louise Penny’s Chief Inspec­tor Armand Gamache of Que­bec. Gamache recruits for his homi­cide team losers who have alien­ated their supe­ri­ors in other depart­ments. Then he tries to reha­bil­i­tate them by teach­ing them that they will become wise and do well if they can bring them­selves to say—and mean—four sim­ple sen­tences: I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. I was wrong.

  • Ques­tion #8 — What advice would you give to aspir­ing writers?

Find an astute per­sonal proofreader/editor who will not only catch your gram­mat­i­cal flaws (bet­ter than your computer’s spell-check func­tion) but also tell you frankly when your writ­ing is not mak­ing sense or uses too many words. I dis­cov­ered and mar­ried such an edi­tor almost 45 years ago, hav­ing served as her assis­tant edi­tor on our col­lege news­pa­per. So I ben­e­fit from her exper­tise at bar­gain rates. She gives my efforts that per­fect blend of encour­age­ment and cri­tique that makes the prod­uct bet­ter, even before I dare send it off to a publisher.

  • Ques­tion #9 — Do you have a favorite book that you have written?

I have heard most often that Tri­umph of the Lamb, my com­men­tary on Rev­e­la­tion, and Him We Pro­claim, my intro­duc­tion to Christ-centered preach­ing (both P&R titles), along with Coun­sel from the Cross, which Elyse Fitz­patrick and I co-authored, have been help­ful to other Chris­tians and to pas­tors. When­ever a pas­tor tells me that he is dar­ing to preach through the whole book of Rev­e­la­tion or that he sees bet­ter how to con­nect Old Tes­ta­ment texts to their ful­fill­ment in Jesus, I am grate­ful. Since oth­ers have found these titles use­ful, they are my favorites.

  • Ques­tion #10 — How do you deal with writer’s block?

Writer’s block threat­ens me at two points. First, when I’ve done a lot of read­ing on a sub­ject but the ideas and infor­ma­tion are swirling around chaot­i­cally in my mind, I find that I need to step back and force myself to focus on how to struc­ture what I have been learn­ing in a way that makes sense to me and, I hope, to oth­ers. So I have to work on out­lin­ing, iden­ti­fy­ing main themes and then sub­points under those themes, to begin to break down the big, daunt­ing whole task into a series of smaller tasks that are sen­si­bly related to each other. (I may end up rear­rang­ing the order that I first came up with, as the struc­ture of what I have to say becomes clearer in the writing.)

When I have sorted out ideas and themes and orga­nized their rela­tion­ships by out­lin­ing, then the sec­ond phase of writer’s block some­times sets in: It’s the chal­lenge of com­ing up with the first sen­tence, to start a chap­ter or a sub­sec­tion of a chap­ter. The only way that I’ve found to break through this block is sim­ply to start com­pos­ing on my com­puter, real­iz­ing that I don’t have to get the open­ing sen­tence “per­fect” directly out of the gate. If I just get myself into the thought process some­how or other, I’ll have plenty of time to refine or replace that open­ing sen­tence later on.

  • Ques­tion #11 — If you have a favorite book of the Bible, what is it and why?

Right now, it’s Philip­pi­ans, because I’ve been “liv­ing” with Paul under house arrest in Rome for the last sev­eral years as I preached and wrote on his let­ter. Long term, Hebrews is at the top of my list, since it shows how Jesus is the des­ti­na­tion toward whom so much of the Old Tes­ta­ment has always been pointing—not only his rec­on­cil­ing work as our priest, but also his reveal­ing work as the Son who exceeds the prophets, and his kingly task of dis­arm­ing and destroy­ing our enemy the devil.

  •  Ques­tion #12 - Favorite food?

Scal­lops, either breaded and fried or else grilled. Hap­pily, we have a ter­rific seafood restau­rant only 20 min­utes from our home.


Want to learn more about Den­nis Johnson?


Author Interview with Philip Graham Ryken

This week’s author inter­view is with Philip Gra­ham Ryken. He is the author of 17 P&R titles, the edi­tor of 1, and a con­trib­u­tor of sev­eral others.

  • Ques­tion #1 — Which writ­ers inspire you?

C.S. Lewis is a big inspi­ra­tion for me. His ideas are always com­pelling; he has an easy, almost con­ver­sa­tional style; and an amaz­ing ear for the rhythms of the Eng­lish lan­guage. Among con­tem­po­rary writ­ers, Mar­i­lynne Robin­son may be my favorite. Every one of her sen­tences is a gift.


  • Ques­tion #2 — Did you always enjoy writing?

This ques­tion seems to imply that I enjoy writ­ing now, but I’m not sure I do. Writ­ing is very hard work. I come close to enjoy­ment when I get an idea just right in writ­ten form. And of course it is always sat­is­fy­ing to see one’s work in print. But the cost of rewrit­ing some­thing again and again is very high.


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

Two spots, actu­ally. One is Weston Farms on the East­ern shore of the Chesa­peake. Over the course of my first decade as a writer, we spent a week there every autumn—great mem­o­ries. Now I do some of my best work in a cabin on the shores of Long Lake, in the Wis­con­sin North­woods, where Wheaton has a cam­pus. I am deeply priv­i­leged to have pri­vate places to think and write, in set­tings of nat­ural beauty.


  • Ques­tion #4 — What books are you read­ing now?

Rod­ney Stark, God’s Bat­tal­ions: The Case for the Cru­sades; Don Share and Chris­t­ian Wiman, The Open Door: One Hun­dred Poems, One Hun­dred Years of Poetry Mag­a­zine; Mix­chelle Alexan­der, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incar­cer­a­tion in the Age of Colorblindness


  • Ques­tion #5 — Do you have a favorite quote?  What is it, and why?

For the call­ing of a writer, my favorite quote is one of my father’s max­ims: “Less is More.” I also like what James Mich­ener said, to the effect that although he is not a very good writer, he hap­pens to be a decent re-writer.


  • Ques­tion #6 — Do you have a favorite book that you have written?

My favorite book is the one I am work­ing on at the time.


  • Ques­tion #7 — At what time of day do you write most?

I write most effec­tively in the morn­ing, and then less effec­tively as the day goes on.


Books by Philip Gra­ham Ryken:

Reformed Expository Commentary Series:
Basics of the Faith Series:
Other Books Written by Philip Ryken:
He Is the Editor of:

New Booklet Series — The Faithful Learning Series

The Faith­ful Learn­ing series invites Chris­t­ian stu­dents to dive deeper into a mod­ern aca­d­e­mic dis­ci­pline. The authors, schol­ars in their fields, believe that aca­d­e­mic dis­ci­plines are good gifts from God that, when under­stood rightly, will give stu­dents the poten­tial to cul­ti­vate a deeper love for God and neigh­bor. Each of these book­lets are $4.99.


1. Soci­ol­ogy by Matthew S. Vos
48 pages
Sum­mary: Christ asks us to be in the world but not of it. Matthew Vos shows us how soci­ol­ogy strength­ens our under­stand­ing of the world’s issues and our rela­tion­ships within it.
2. Phi­los­o­phy by James S. Spiegel
48 pages
Sum­mary: Does phi­los­o­phy have any value for our faith? James Spiegel insists that Chris­tians need phi­los­o­phy to dis­cern wrong ideas and shows us how it can enhance bib­li­cal faith and living.
3. An Invi­ta­tion to Aca­d­e­mic Stud­ies by Jay D. Green
40 pages
Sum­mary: Can aca­d­e­mic study cul­ti­vate and nour­ish our faith, as well as the other way around? Jay Green shows how to embrace aca­d­e­mic study for its poten­tial in study­ing God’s world.
4. Lit­er­a­ture by Clif­ford Foreman
48 pages
Sum­mary: Chris­tians don’t always trust lit­er­a­ture, but God used it to reveal him­self. This explo­ration of lit­er­a­ture and its forms, using respected authors’ exam­ples, shows us its beauty and scrip­tural value.


About the Authors:

Green_Jay Jay D. Green (MA, Trin­ity Evan­gel­i­cal Divin­ity School; PhD, Kent State Uni­ver­sity) has been pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Covenant Col­lege in Look­out Moun­tain, Geor­gia, since 1998. Jay is also the Faith­ful Learn­ing series editor.



Matthew S. Vos (MEd, Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee at Vos_MatthewChat­tanooga; PhD, Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee at Knoxville) is pro­fes­sor of soci­ol­ogy at Covenant Collge in Look­out Moun­tain, Georgia.



Spiegel_Jim James S. Spiegel (MA, Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Mis­sis­sippi; PhD, Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity) is pro­fes­sor of phi­los­o­phy and reli­gion at Tay­lor Uni­ver­sity in Upland, Indiana.




Clif­ford W. Fore­man (MA, PhD, Boston Uni­ver­sity) is pro­Foreman_Cliffordfes­sor of Eng­lish and mod­er­a­tor of the fac­ulty at Covenant Col­lege in Look­out Moun­tain, Geor­gia, where he has taught since 1986.


Author Interview with Stanley Gale

This week’s author inter­view is with Stan­ley Gale, author of 3 P&R titles: The Prayer of Jehoshaphat: See­ing Beyond Life’s Storms, What is Spir­i­tual War­fare?, and Why Do We Pray?.

  • Ques­tion #1 — Tell us a lit­tle bit about yourself.

I am the hus­band of one wife (Linda), father of four chil­dren (Saman­tha, Luke, Sarah, Nathan), and grand­fa­ther of eight (Ruby, Isaac, Weston, Kaylie, Jasper, Asher, Gryphon, Pene­lope).  I hold Bach­e­lor of Arts and Mas­ter of Edu­ca­tion degrees from the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware, a Mas­ter of Divin­ity degree from West­min­ster The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in Philadel­phia, and a Doc­tor of Min­istry degree from Covenant The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in St. Louis. I am an ordained pas­tor in the Pres­by­ter­ian Church in Amer­ica and have served my cur­rent charge in West Chester, Penn­syl­va­nia, since 1988.  In my spare time I enjoy read­ing, writ­ing and play­ing tennis.


  • Ques­tion #2 — Did you always enjoy writing?

I’ve always been a reader and have had an inter­est in ver­bal expres­sion, helped in part by my Catholic school edu­ca­tion where I learned to dia­gram sen­tences and rules of gram­mar. It’s only in the last dozen years that I turned my atten­tion to writ­ing books and arti­cles. I’m part of a writ­ers’ group where five of us exchange the lat­est 5–10 pages of books we’re work­ing on. As the only reli­gious non­fic­tion writer in the group, I have the oppor­tu­nity to reach out through shar­ing bib­li­cal teach­ing and to encour­age them in their writ­ing. I write as a first stu­dent, where my study min­is­ters first to me and then to oth­ers. I con­sider writ­ing a king­dom exten­sion of my min­istry as a pastor-teacher.


  • Ques­tion #3 — Other than the Bible, do you have a favorite book?

It’s hard to nar­row it down to a sin­gle book, but cer­tainly Know­ing God by J. I. Packer is one of the most influ­en­tial books in my life, set­ting my tra­jec­tory of thought as a young Chris­t­ian. I’m also a big mys­tery reader.


  • Ques­tion #4 — Do you have a favorite quote?

Among my favorite is one I dis­cov­ered in research­ing spir­i­tual war­fare. It’s by John Bun­yan in his book, The Holy War and describes Lucifer’s strat­egy to neu­tral­ize the church (Man­soul). “Let those engaged in this busi­ness for us, and let Man­soul be taken with much busi­ness, and if pos­si­ble with much plea­sure and this is the way to get ground of them.  Let us but cum­ber and occupy and amuse Man­soul suf­fi­ciently, and they will make their cas­tle a ware­house for goods instead of a gar­ri­son for men of war.” Looks like Satan’s tac­tics have not changed much over the centuries.


  • Ques­tion #5 — Do you have a favorite book you have written?

P&R has pub­lished three of my books, The Prayer of Jehoshaphat, What is Spir­i­tual War­fare?, and Why Do We Pray?, the lat­ter two part of the Basics of the Faith Series. While I like The Prayer of Jehoshaphat to help believ­ers process their tri­als through the lens of God’s prov­i­dence and priv­i­lege of prayer, it is my con­tri­bu­tions to the BoF Series that are my favorite because I believe they bring impor­tant dimen­sions to bear for Chris­t­ian dis­ci­ple­ship. The per­spec­tive of spir­i­tual war­fare is foun­da­tional to a bib­li­cal world­view, some­thing for which God equips us in His Word and inte­gral to the believer’s walk and ser­vice. See­ing prayer as God’s means not only for com­mu­nion with Him but given us for the advance­ment of His king­dom is essen­tial to the walk of the Chris­t­ian and work of the church.


Inter­ested in learn­ing more about Stan­ley and his work?