Author Interview with Ryan Kelly

This week’s author interview is with Ryan Kelly. He is the author of our brand new release: Calls to Worship, Invocations, and Benedictions.

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve lived in a number of states and usually outside of major cities: I spent my childhood near Chicago, my teens near Houston, two years near Oklahoma City, a number of years back in Texas, three years in Michigan, and the last ten years near Philadelphia where my wife Noelle and I currently live with our three daughters. Like many professional musicians, my career has spanned multiple disciplines. I work partly in the academic sector (I’m a professor of music at West Chester University of Pennsylvania) and partly in vocational ministry (I’ve spent decades as a music director and liturgist in churches around the country). Hobbies . . . I enjoy playing softball, smoking brisket Texas-style, composing music, and writing. 

  • Have you always enjoyed writing?

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was in my early teens when I started writing articles for neighborhood newspapers and regional periodicals. Though I speak publicly in many venues and enjoy doing so, I always feel I’m at my most persuasive when writing. 

  • What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?

First, I wanted to offer worship leaders a resource to help them plan worship—not solely a collection of calls, invocations, and benedictions, but a sourcebook that might help them match a theme, scripture, time of year, etc. I also wanted to offer some historical perspective on the development and liturgical function of these elements. 

  • Do you have an interesting writing quirk?

Years of computers crashing in the late-90s and early-00s instilled in me a habit of hitting “Ctrl-S” to save my work multiple times a minute, saving drafts of works in multiple files (in case one of them got corrupted), and e-mailing manuscripts to myself . . . all to ensure I had multiple backup copies in case of a disaster. One can’t be too careful!!

  • What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Teaching talented writers to improve their craft is difficult; teachers usually spend more time with struggling students than with those who aren’t. I found myself nearing thirty years old when one of my doctoral dissertation committee members gave me the lowest grade on a paper I’d ever received. I was upset because all their red marks were, in my opinion, stylistic; however, I was determined to learn. So, I set up a meeting with the professor. When I told them, “There are no errors in this paper,” they responded, “Just because there are no errors doesn’t make it good.” This short sentence tremendously impacted me as a scholar, professional, and writer. Lack of error is never the final benchmark for “good.” To aspiring writers I would say: Learn how to edit your own work. Bloat and redundancy kills readers’ receptivity to your message. Less is more. If you have to explain what you just wrote, then you didn’t write it simply enough. If you want to get better—ask a friend or colleague to meticulously criticize your work and learn from them!

  • Favorite flavor of ice cream?

German Chocolate Cake

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

Can I change the question to Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Trek, hands down. Yes, I can name the supporting guest actors going back to episodes in the 60s. Yes, I have been to a Star Trek convention. Yes, I own Star Trek novels. And yes, I have been to the Star Trek Original Set Tour in Ticonderoga, New York. Oh . . . I forgot, you asked about Lord of the Rings and Narnia? I like both. But I don’t love them like I love Star Trek!

  • Tea or coffee? 

Coffee, black, very hot. 

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

Chicago Cubs baseball forever!

  • How can readers discover more about you and your work?

NOW AVAILABLE — Calls to Worship, Invocations, and Benedictions

Amazon: $19.99

Christianbook: $15.99

CVBBS: $13.50

P&R Publishing: $11.99

PCA Bookstore: $15.59

WTSBooks: $13.35

The Heart of the Cross — NOW AVAILABLE

The Heart of the Cross by James Montgomery Boice & Philip Graham Ryken

176 pages | Hardcover | Price: $17.99 $10.79 | SAMPLE CHAPTER


In twenty-one meditative readings, pastor-theologians James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken meet the troubled, skeptical, and restless. And, with insights both simple and profound, they draw us to the heart of our faith: Christ and his cross.

Reprint of the 1999/2005 book from Crossway


“This book is pure, undiluted gospel: biblical, accessible, and worshipful. I warmly commend it.”

—Dane Ortlund, Senior Pastor, Naperville Presbyterian Church; Author, Gentle and Lowly

“Ryken and Boice reveal how both the wonder and the work of Jesus impact time and eternity, informing our worship and our discipleship.”

—Ed Stetzer, Founding Editor, The Gospel Project; Editor in Chief, Outreach Magazine

The Heart of the Cross takes the reader on a personal journey to the real cross of Christ, where one stands amazed at the unfathomable grace of God.”

—Gary Chapman, Author, The Five Love Languages

“Here you find not only beautiful Lenten messages on the purpose and power of the cross of our Lord Jesus but messages that will enlighten and encourage you all year long.”

—Kevin M. Smith, Senior Pastor, New City Fellowship Church, Chattanooga

“Philip Ryken and the late James Boice have given us a timeless gift. Read it devotionally, and be enriched by the paradoxical glory and wonder of the cross.”

—Irwyn L. Ince, Executive Director, GraceDC Institute for Cross-Cultural Mission; Author, The Beautiful Community

‘HOW GOD CHOOSES’ by James Montgomery Boice

How God Chooses

“Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

In the first mention of David in the Old Testament, he appears not as a hero but as a youth who was for the most part overlooked by his family. This, of course, is a main point of the passage. For it is apparent, even in the most casual reading, that the author is emphasizing that the choice of David to be king was not man’s choice but God’s.

This is the first great principle of any spiritual blessing. The choice must be God’s. If the choice were left to you or me to choose Israel’s king, we would choose Saul or Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son. And we would choose wrongly. Only God can choose properly. Hence, we shall experience blessing only in those actions and those deeds that originate with him.

Some people question why God cannot bless actions that originate with man. But the answer is made perfectly clear in the story. It is because only God can see a situation correctly. God knows what is in the heart of man. God knows the end from the beginning.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” These words are not only a statement of the clearness of God’s vision and his capacity to judge; they are also a statement of our limitations. And, of course, this is the crux of the problem. It is not just that God can see clearly. It is that God alone can see clearly. At best we see only the outward appearances.

The choice of a person for any spiritual work must be God’s. Not only are you and I unable to see a man’s heart, there is also the fact that even if we could see it, we cannot assess it properly, due to sin. Like a bad camera lens, sin distorts and inverts our vision.

There is an application here that we should not miss. If we really cannot see as God sees, and if we cannot assess the heart as God assesses it, then it must follow that, when God chooses people for spiritual work, the people themselves may come from what are to us the most unexpected places. We will not often find them among the great of the earth or those who commend themselves to us for their intellect, bearing, or outstanding qualities of leadership. When we look for capable leaders, we look up. God says, “When I look for a man who is to serve me faithfully, I look low down” (see 1 Cor. 1:27–29).

This excerpt was taken from Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment by James Montgomery Boice.


Seven is a prominent number in the Bible. It is mentioned at the beginning, during the creation account in Genesis, when God rested on the seventh day. Seven is also referenced multiple times at the end, in the book of Revelation (regarding churches, angels, bowls, seals, and so on). Thus, from Genesis to Revelation, and in many places between, seven is an inescapable number throughout the Bible. As a consequence of its frequency, meaning has been given to this number. It is often referred to as the number of perfection and/or completion. And if this is the case, then we see the significance of the number again in the record of times that Jesus spoke while on the cross. Seven times he spoke—bringing the work of his life and mission to perfect completion on the cross. His words were precisely spoken and perfectly clear.

Amazingly, we see Jesus speaking these seven times even while enduring the shame and pain of the crucifixion. The physical and mental affliction of the cross would leave most people tormented and disillusioned. But not Jesus. He was coherent and clear. Despite the pain and in the midst of the shame, our Lord spoke words that point us unmistakably to the perfection of his obedience (see Phil. 2:8) and the completion of our great salvation (see Heb. 2:3). When Jesus spoke, his every word individually declared an aspect of our redemption—aspects that, taken as a whole, offer a perfected picture of the life he lived and the mission he accomplished on our behalf.

His last words remind us that his life and death guaranteed our forgiveness (see Luke 23:34). His words secured for us paradise and eternal life (see Luke 23:43). His words inaugurated gospel community (see John 19:26). He spoke reconciliation (see Matt. 27:46). He identified with our weaknesses and carried our sorrows (see John 19:28). He completed his mission (see John 19:30). He satisfied the will of the heavenly Father (see Luke 23:46). Seven times. Seven words. Each perfectly spoken as he completed the salvation for his people (see Matt. 1:21). 

It has often been said that seven is a lucky number. Yet it was not luck that sent Jesus to the cross. It was not luck that he spoke of from the cross. It was perfection— the perfection of our salvation. As we again reflect upon the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, let us remember that his last words were not luckily spoken but perfectly chosen to remind us that we are completely saved by a perfect Savior.

Table of Contents — Dying to Speak

  • Be Forgiven: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
  • Be Saved “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
  • Be Loved “Woman, here is your son!”
  • Be Reconciled “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
  • Be Refreshed “I thirst.”
  • Be Complete “It is finished.”
  • Be Satisfied “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

Dying to Speak: Meditations from the Cross: $15.99 $11.99

Click HERE to learn more about this book.

Author Interview with Guy Richard

This week’s author interview is with Guy M. Richard. He is the author of Persistent Prayer in the Blessings of the Faith series as well as What Is Faith? in the Basics of the Faith series.

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up all around New Orleans, Louisiana. I moved away to attend college and have only been back to south Louisiana a handful of times since then. Most of my adult life has been spent in the southeastern part of the U.S., with the exception of the 3 delightful years we lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for my PhD. My wife’s name is Jennifer. We met and started dating in college and got married just after graduation. My personal interests are pretty much limited to family (we have three kids), work, and exercise (I especially love intense exercise, as those of you who read my book Persistent Prayer will learn in chapter 1). I do also enjoy reading, writing, and watching most sports (although I would much rather be playing them any day). 

  • Have you always enjoyed writing?

When I was in high school and college, I hated writing and tried to avoid it at all costs. It wasn’t until seminary that I started growing both in my ability to write and in my enjoyment of it as well. Several of my professors encouraged me and gave me detailed feedback to really help me focus on improving. My PhD was a “research” degree, which meant that all I did every day was read and write for 3 years, and that helped me to improve as a writer and a thinker more than anything else. 

  • Do you have a favorite quote?

I have quite a few favorite quotes. I keep them on notecards in conspicuous places in my office so that I can seem them over and over again. Here are three of my favorite quotes: 

“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.” —CS Lewis

“If you have no opposition in the place you are serving, then you’re serving in the wrong place.” —G. Campbell Morgan

“Live in Christ, and you are in the suburbs of heaven.” —Samuel Rutherford

  • Do you have a favorite book that you have written?

Because of the topic of this book, I would say that Persistent Prayer is my favorite. As a pastor, I have been burdened for a long time to see God’s people pray more and to pray bigger prayers. It is my prayer that God will use this book to motivate and encourage God’s people in these directions, all for the praise of His glorious grace!

  • At what time of day do you write most?

I am best in the morning hours, and, for that reason, try to do most of my writing (or other heavy lifting) at that time. Because of the number of balls that I juggle, however, I frequently have to squeeze in time to write whenever I can get it at various times throughout the day. 

  • What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I’ll focus on the first of these questions. The toughest criticism I have received as a writer was given to me by my secondary PhD supervisor in Edinbugh, Professor David F. Wright. Professor Wright read everything I wrote during my time in Edinburgh and met with me privately to discuss it. And he didn’t simply read the papers I submitted to him, he marked them up with red ink. Every paper I got back from him looked like he had taken a red Sharpie and taped it to one of the blades of an oscillating fan, turned the fan on, and held my paper up to it. Red ink was everywhere! When I would meet with him, he would routinely ask me about the words I used. He would say things like this: “When you said ‘told,’ did you mean ‘told’? Or did you mean ‘said’? or ‘stated’? or ‘claimed’? or ‘suggested’? Say what you mean, Guy, and mean what you say.” It was always incredibly hard to hear his criticisms, but it was also incredibly helpful for me as a budding writer. I am grateful that he cared enough to invest the time in me and in my work.

  • Favorite food?

I am not a “foodie,” so my favorite food is something that is good for me and satisfies my hunger! I don’t live to eat; I eat to live!

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

If I had to narrow it down to only one, I would probably say that “Chariots of Fire” is my favorite movie. I love underdog, come-from-behind types of movies where the good guy wins but only after a lot of hard work and determination. I especially love these kinds of movies because they inspire me to work harder and push beyond what I think I am capable of.

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

I love both—which is something of a cop-out I realize. If I had to choose one, I would say The Chronicles of Narnia, because of the oftentimes simple and straightforward Christian message that they convey. I also love CS Lewis and have been impacted by almost everything he has written. I have probably read The Chronicles of Narnia to my kids over a dozen times over the years and another 10 or so times myself.  

  • Tea or coffee?

Neither! I am too hyper for caffeine! I usually wake up in the morning ready to hit the ground running. Even small amounts of caffeine send me over the edge. I know what you’re thinking: I am a very strange person!

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

I love watching swimming, road cycling, triathlons, and college football. I especially enjoy keeping up with Auburn University football (although “enjoy” is not always the right word for it, as most every Auburn fan can attest!). 

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

NOW AVAILABLE — Persistent Prayer