Author Interview with A. Craig Troxel

This week’s author interview is with Craig Troxel. He is the author of two Basics of the Faith booklets, What Is the Priesthood of Believers? and What Is Man?.

  • 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 was raised in Nebraska.  It is a place I love returning to for its open range, sunsets, and normal-sounding people. My wife is Carol who I met at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. We have five children. We enjoy (leisurely) walking.

 

  • Which writers inspire you?

J.R.R. Tolkien for his imagination; Alexander Dumas for his craft in telling a story; C.S. Lewis for his playfulness; Herman Bavink for his occasional theological sound-bites (amidst his erudition); and G.K. Chesterton for his wit.

 

  • Have you always enjoyed writing?

I first started writing free-verse poetry soon after college (none of which is publishable). I realized that I enjoyed writing when I entered into graduate work, but my very first article that was published in a scholarly journal proved that my writing skills were in need of significant improvement. I would still not regard myself as an “author” since I think of that as an honorable title that must be earned after repeated success.

 

  • What book are you reading now?

I recently completed reading again, The Count of Monte Cristo (one of my favorites), and before that The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.

 

  • Do you have a favorite movie? What is it and why?

O Brother, Where Art Thou? Everything about it is fabulous. Amazing script, good characters, the sepia styling, the soundtrack (Allison Kraus!) and all of it built on a classic story (The Odyssey).

 

  • Do you have a favorite quote? What is it and why?

Noblesse oblige (“nobility obligates”). It is alleged that Winston Churchill posted this over his doorway to his study. It reminds us that the privileges we have put us in a position to serve those less fortunate.

 

  • Favorite sport to watch? Why? Favorite sport’s team? 

Most often college football is my favorite sport and the Nebraska Cornhuskers are my team (Go Big Red!). But every spring my family enjoys watching March Madness and competing against each other with the brackets.

 

  • Favorite food?

It’s a tie between a perfectly grilled T-bone, Thai food, or Mangos.

 

  • The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia?

The Lord of the Rings. Nothing else comes close. I appreciate how he paints virtue and vice in their brightest and darkest shades respectively. His noble characters inspire me to be better and braver, and his antagonists bring out the repulsive nature of evil.

 

  • Tea or coffee?

Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon. Tea in the evening with my wife.

 

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

I would have enjoyed meeting G.K. Chesterton—just to hear his humor in every day life.

 

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

Esther is the one book of the Bible that when I read it, I cannot stop. It is so exciting and interesting.


 

Four New Releases Today!

Hope: The Quest for Truth, Book 5 by Brock Eastman

512 pages | $14.99 | Mobi: $4.99 | ePub: $4.99 | SAMPLE CHAPTER | The Quest for Truth series

Austin could barely hear Mason. “We’re not going to make it!” 

Matching wits with the Übel and the Corsairs, the Wikk kids learn to rely on Creator as they use Bible clues, artifacts, and maps to complete their quest’s final mission. But when the young Wikks fall into enemy hands, they are forced to tell what they know about the secrets of Ursprung. Will the enemy use this information to silence the Truth forever? Fighting weaponized tyrannosaurs and even speeding up time, friends and foes lock into a life-and-death race to reach the lost planet. Will Ursprung reveal the secrets of the human heart? Will Truth prevail and bring hope?

THE QUEST FOR TRUTH series follows the four Wikk kids in their desperate race to find the planet Ursprung and stop the Übel renegades and dangerous Corsairs from misusing its long-lost secrets. Ancient cities, treacherous villains, high-tech gadgets—encounter all these and more on this futuristic, interplanetary adventure!

Endorsements

“Eastman pens a compelling, twist-laden adventure that will grab you by the throat and won’t let go! A must-read!”

—Ronie Kendig, Author of the bestselling Tox Files series

“A fast-paced, riveting sci-fi adventure with thrills, plot twists, and a wildly unique story line. . . . You won’t be able to put these books down!”

—Melissa Taylor, Blogger and Writer, www.imaginationsoup.net

“Imagination abounds in this epic series that speaks to the importance of family and truth. I can’t wait to watch the Wikk kids take on their greatest adventure yet! Don’t miss this one!”

—Laura Martin, Author, Edge of Extinction series, Float, and Hoax for Hire

“Strap in and prepare for the final adventure into hyper flight. The rip-roaring action will take you to the edge of the galaxy. Hope pulled me in until the very end.”

—Jedidiah Duggar, Cast Member, 17 Kids and Counting


Reformed Expository Bible Studies Series 

These Reformed Expository Bible Studies are designed for personal and group use. Each lesson connects to the rest of the Bible and holds to the same standards as the Reformed Expository Commentary series: a high view of Scripture; a Christ-centered focus; a Reformed theological basis; and an emphasis on personal application and prayer.

“Having benefitted, along with many others, from the excellent and accessible Reformed Expository Commentary series, I heartily commend this companion initiative.” —Harry Reeder

“I am thankful to see this development in the Reformed Expository Commentary series, allowing these excellent, pastoral commentaries to get an even wider use in the church.” —Bryan Chapell

“Jon Nielson asks questions on the text that will make the reader think. . . . The Reformed Expository Bible Study series will help readers to understand every text in light of the whole of the Bible—as well as the person and work of Christ.” —Nancy Guthrie

“I highly recommend the Reformed Expository Bible Study series for those who desire to read the Bible through a redemptive-historical lens that will help them to draw out good gospel implications for all of life and ministry.” —Stephen T. Um

Daniel: Faith Enduring through Adversity, A 13-Lesson Study by Jon Nielson

120 pages | $9.99 | Mobi: $7.99 | ePub: $7.99 | SAMPLE CHAPTER

The fiery furnace. The lions’ den. We all know the stories. But the book of Daniel, with its high moral standard and bewildering prophecies, is daunting nonetheless. Dare to be a Daniel? How could we even begin? Yet one greater than Daniel has perfectly lived a life of exile on our behalf.

Galatians: The Gospel of Free Grace, A 13-Lesson Study by Jon Nielson

120 pages | $9.99 | Mobi: $7.99 | ePub: $7.99 | SAMPLE CHAPTER

We’re all tempted to think there must be something we can do to make ourselves good enough for God—or at least to put ourselves more in his favor. But Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians to liberate us from any form of performance-based religion, no matter how alluring.

James: Portrait of a Living Faith, A 13-Lesson Study by Jon Nielson

120 pages | $9.99 | Mobi: $7.99 | ePub: $7.99 | SAMPLE CHAPTER

The letter of James, overflowing with literary simplicity and theological depth, rewards thoughtful study. Moreover, it contains the wisdom of God for daily life and points to Christ as the Lord of the church and the giver of grace.


 

Author Interview with Jon Nielson

This week’s interview is with Jon Nielson. He is the author of the 3 upcoming Reformed Expository Bible Studies: DanielGalatians, and James. He also wrote Bible Study: A Student’s Guide and The Story: The Bible’s Grand Narrative of Redemption.

  • 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 the Chicago suburbs and have basically lived in the Chicago area for most of my life (other than 2 years in Princeton, NJ from 2015-2017). My wife Jeanne and I met on the west side of Chicago in 2007 . . . we’ve been married for almost 11 years and have four beautiful daughters. We love serving our dear church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago – Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) – and also enjoy staying active together. Jeanne is a marathon runner and exercise coach . . . and I desperately try to keep up with her!

 

  • Which writers inspire you?

Some of the usual suspects inspired me during my youth and young adult years – C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, Tolkien. As an English Literature major, I also loved the great novels of Dostoevsky, Dickens, Twain, Faulkner, Austen, Bronte . . . and I had a season in seminary where I tried to read everything by Thomas Hardy. Theologically, Graeme Goldsworthy’s books shaped a lot of my thinking on biblical theology. Currently, I’m encouraged by Kevin DeYoung’s writing in many different areas of interest to local church members and pastors.

 

  • What inspired you to write these Bible studies?

I’m excited to play a small part in encouraging and enabling church members to dig into the riches of Scripture and study it for themselves – individually or in small groups. I love helping God’s people study his Word!

 

  • Do you have a favorite author?

I love Chesterton and Tozer. Thomas Hardy as a novelist.

 

  • Do you have a favorite movie?

Yikes – hard to say! Definitely some of the classic action/adventure series of movies (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Bourne, etc.). I’m also kind of a sucker for superhero movies, which drives my wife nuts. I’m way behind on those, though . . . and the young adults in our congregation keep telling me I need to catch up!

 

  • Do you have a favorite quote?

I’ve always loved the Teddy Roosevelt “the credit belongs to the man in the arena” quote. And Jim Elliot’s simple advice: “Wherever you are, be all there!”

 

  • What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I would encourage them (I’m thinking of Christian writers specifically) to find that place where their particular gifts and passions match up with a real need (and potential great benefit) for Christians and the local church.

 

  • At what time of day do you write most?

Early mornings – for sure. I’m definitely most productive, thoughtful, etc. between the hours of 5 and 7 am. I’m useless in the evening.

 

  • How do you deal with writer’s block?

Push through. Walk around. Yell at myself!

 

  • Tea or coffee?

Coffee. Is this really a question?

 

  • Favorite sport to watch? Favorite sport’s team?

Definitely NBA basketball, much to the chagrin of my soccer-loving wife. I’m a Chicago fan . . . which means we’ve had some painful years recently watching the Bulls. But, I love watching good basketball . . . and we’re in an exciting, high-scoring era for the league currently.

 

  • Favorite food?

Probably good barbeque or good, authentic Mexican.

 

  • Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Cookies & Cream.

 

  • Favorite animal? 

Love seeing the big cats at the zoo with my kids.

 

  • The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia?

Yes.

 

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

Any of the Apostles. I would absolutely love to get their take on the church today – and learn from them. What blind spots would they identify? How would they challenge us? What might encourage them? What would they think of our preaching, discipleship, evangelism, cultural engagement, etc.?

 

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

I love 1st and 2nd Peter. I love Peter’s clarity, challenge, focus on the Last day . . . and I love the story of the man as well.


Follow Jon on Twitter: @jonnielson


 

Excerpt taken from Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison

Here is the Introduction of Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture by David Powlison. 

Introduction: The Gaze of God

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.*1

“By it I see everything else.” This risen and rising sun—Light of the world, no less!—opens our eyes to see. We come to “see” a man we’ve never actually laid eyes on. In fact, we not only see him, but we love him, trust him, and delight in him (1 Peter 1:8). Along the way he teaches us to see everything else the world contains. We aren’t talking about retinal images processed in the brain. This seeing, this gaze, means to wake us up from our fantasies, fictions, and nightmares to see things as they are in fact. God has the real take on things. And God teaches us his gaze.

We learn (slowly! in fits and starts!) to see how God sees. God, self, others, problems, circumstances, all now appear in the true mirror. Learning the gaze of God, we come to weigh life aright. We discern good and evil, fair and foul, lovely and degraded. Our Father enlightens the eyes of our hearts. We become able to pry apart true from false, instead of living in a murk of half-truths and flat lies.

All sorts of things start to look and to mean different when the lights come on: friendship, artistic abilities, Orion’s belt brilliant on a winter night, bone cancer, a frustrating job search, money in the bank, the waste of our wraths and sorrows, forgiveness sought and granted, old hurts and fresh affronts, kind hearts and opportunities not to be missed, anorexia-bulimia, quiet desperation and joy inexpressibly full of glory, Day-Timer or Palm Pilot, the sounds and smells of tonight’s dinner sizzling in the pan. The sins and sufferings of the human condition (the “stuff” of counseling) looks different.

Consider this example. Both Caiaphas and Peter “saw” the same retinal images of Jesus. (To widen the metaphor, we might add that both “heard” the same tympanic vibrations when Jesus spoke.) But the priest saw a threat and heard a charlatan. The friend saw the maker, judge, and savior of the world, and he heard words of eternal life. When you wake up to see the sun, and hear the waterfall, and smell the coffee, and touch the garment’s hem, and taste that the Lord is good, it must change how you see everything.

To think Christianly is “to think God’s thoughts after him.” Of course, our thinking is both finite and distorted. We never see it all; and we often misconstrue what we do see. We see in a glass darkly, skewed reflections in a battered bronze mirror—but we do see. God, who sees all things directly in full daylight, enlightens the eyes of our hearts. We see surfaces, catching glimpses of interiors; God sees to the inky or radiant depth of every heart, all the way down to fundamental hate or fundamental love. Our glasses are sometimes rosy, sometimes jaundiced, sometimes bluesy, sometimes mirrored on the inside of the lens (so that all we can see are the turbulent contents of our own interiors). The madness in our hearts generates warped spectra. But God sees all things in bright, clear light—and this God is the straightener of crooked thoughts. He makes madmen sane.

Lest this sound overly cognitive, we also learn “to intend God’s intentions after him.” Christianity is both a way of seeing and a way of proceeding. Christ enters and engages the world he sees. He acts and reacts. The “mind of Christ” is no mental list of theoretical doctrines. His gaze brings with it ways of experiencing, patterns of appropriate reaction, and a game plan for engaging what he sees. So, we learn to pursue God’s pursuits after him, to act God’s acts, feel God’s feelings, love God’s loves, hate God’s hates, desire God’s desires. When the Word became flesh, Jesus lived all God’s communicable attributes on the human scale. No, we will never be all-knowing, or all-powerful, or all-present. But yes, we will be wise and loving, true and joyous. We will weep with those who weep. We will lay down our lives for our friends, bear sufferings, love enemies, and say with all our heart, “Thank you.”

A Look at Counseling

Does God have a take on counseling? Does his gaze have anything to say about the myriad issues counseling deals with? Has he communicated the way he thinks? Of course, yes, amen. This book aspires to listen well, to look closely, to think hard (however haltingly) within the patterns of God’s gaze.

Seeing with New Eyes presents a collection of essays written over a period of almost twenty years. Most of them originally appeared in the Journal of Biblical Counseling between 1985 and 2003.*2 They have been edited to eliminate redundancies or irrelevancies, and to enhance the coherence of the whole. These articles are of many sorts: Bible exposition, topical essay, editorial, sermon. You will find a number of interlocking themes appearing again and again. Everywhere evident is God’s gracious self-revelation in Jesus Christ and Scripture. The real needs and problems of real people—our sins and miseries, our need for the Father of mercies—are always in view. Our current social and cultural context—the modern psychologies and psychotherapies, these alternative theologies and alternative cures of soul—are continually engaged.

One evening many years ago, my wife Nan and I got into one of those memorable “What is your life about, really?” conversations. We each asked, “What should the epitaph be on your gravestone?” I knew instantly.

I had been a most unlikely candidate for Christian faith. (I suppose that made me an ideal candidate!) I was taken with the typical passions of the ’60s and ’70s: existentialism, Hindu mysticism, psychodynamic psychologies, literature, aesthetic experiences, personal pleasures, radical politics, finding Truth by an inward-looking journey, calling the shots about the meaning of life, changing the world, hating hypocrisy. Of course, I hated Christianity. Becoming a believer was not at the bottom of the possible options list; it was at the top of the “No way!” list.

But God arrested me with the love of Christ. My epitaph was obvious: “The God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:6). He turned on the Light of the world in a benighted heart.

This book is unabashedly personal. It is about things that delight me. It is divided into two sections. First comes Scripture: God’s voice speaks into real life to reveal the gaze and intentions of the Christ who pursues us. We will seek to let the light of Christ shine. The first section seeks to embrace, probe, and unravel Scripture. Second comes understanding people amid their real life struggles: the pursuit of wise truth. We will seek to interpret (and reinterpret) real life through God’s eyes. The second section seeks to embrace, probe, and unravel the problems of daily life.

The vision that animates this book is close kin to some words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. By all accounts, he was a man of faith, integrity, and courage. Because of Christ, he stood up to the cant, rant, and cruelty of Hitler and the Nazis, and he died for it. While he lived, he closely observed and thoughtfully reflected on what makes for a true and deep understanding of people. It’s easy to skim or skip through long quotations (I confess my own tendency), and this is a long quotation. But do pause, and read it carefully. See what Bonhoeffer has seen.

The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.*3

When our gaze awakens to the gaze of God, we have started to see. Seeing clearly, we can love well.

***

It is a pleasure to mention debts that express joys, not frets; obligations whose burden is gratitude, not disgruntlement! My difficulty comes in naming all those whom I owe in writing this book. Let me mention only those whose influence I feel most immediately and keenly.

Thank you, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards, in whom I witnessed how truth catches fire into the real times, places, and persons that we call “history.” Thank you, Cornelius Van Til and John Frame, from whom I learned to look at life with God in view. Thank you, Jay Adams and Jack Miller, in whom I saw how Jesus Christ continually reaches and teaches people through the Word of life. It is a privilege to work within such a tradition of practical theological reflection and action. It is no accident that I acknowledge my debt to pastor-apologist-theologians who make it their life’s work to bring the Word to life. Simple faith goes to work through love, creatively redeeming the ever-mutating complexities of the human plight.

Thank you, colleagues at CCEF. Thank you, also, to the many men and women whom I’ve been privileged to know in various teaching, counseling, and preaching contexts. Every chapter bears the imprint of particular persons and interactions. This book is so deeply rooted in how you live, think, feel, question, act, struggle, change, and serve that I have a hard time knowing who might be responsible for what. The things I’ve sought to communicate are the product of a community at work.

Thank you, Jayne Clark, Sue Lutz, and Stephen Lutz for your work in conceptualizing this book and bringing it to completion.

Thank you, Nan, Peter, Gwenyth, and Hannah for your particular love to me, and the ways that every chapter bears the imprint of our lives together.

One final acknowledgment: I’ve always found a particular pleasure in singing those hymns of adoration and trust whose authorship God only knows. We don’t know the writers’ names for “Fairest Lord Jesus,” “How firm a foundation,” “All hail the power of Jesus’ name,” “O, come, all ye faithful,” and “When morning gilds the skies.” In an age of copyright, self-promotion, and property claims, it’s refreshing when no person can get any obvious credit for honoring God. Anonymity provides an object lesson that reaches even to where acknowledgments can be made. We must acknowledge our debt to God alone for what proves enduring in truth, goodness, and beauty. I sincerely hope that strands in this book will prove worthy of contributing to the mind, heart, hands, and voice of the church of Christ. I am sure that certain strands will be found wanting, forgettable, or dubious. But I know with certainty that in whatever proves worthy, credit is due to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we exult with an unknown worshiper: “Glory and honor, praise, adoration, now and forevermore be Thine.”


1. C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?” They Asked for a Paper (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1962), 165.

2. Until 1992, this journal was called the Journal of Pastoral Practice. Chapters 11 and 13 in this collection appeared under that name.

3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Confession and Communion,” in Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 118–19.


 

Author Interview with Brock Eastman

This week’s author interview is with Brock Eastman. He is the author of our Quest for Truth series.

The 5th and final book in the series, Hope, will be released Monday, July 1st.

  • What book are you reading now?

Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

 

  • Favorite sport to watch?

I don’t watch a lot of sports, not enough time in the day. But the St. Louis Cardinals are my team, and I try to catch at least one game at Busch Stadium each year!

 

  • Favorite food?

Hmmm, this varies, but I recently had some fresh Red Snapper while in the Cayman Islands and it was amazing!

 

  • Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Mint Chocolate

 

  • Favorite animal?

Hmmm. I really like Elephants, always have, but my favorite at the moment are foxes. I just think foxes are so cool.

 

  • The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia?

The Chronicles of Narnia mainly because the characters are kids. I love the fantasy world that C. S. Lewis created.

 

  • Tea or coffee?

Coffee, though I switch to tea in the afternoon. So really it’s both.

 

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

Hmmm. Besides the obvious answer, Jesus, cause I mean who wouldn’t want to meet him. Though I know I will get to someday, it’d be fun to meet him now. But someone other than Jesus, I would say Steven Spielberg. He’s had so many great ideas that he has turned into movies, and I’d love to get inside his head or even just shadow him.

 

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

I’m going to go with Ephesians, it has my favorite verse, Ephesians 4:32. And the insight and language of love is inspiring to me.



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