Interview: Andrew Peterson

Andrew-12Many of you have been blessed by the music and story-telling ability of Andrew Peterson.  I had heard of his music and was introduced to his series, The Wingfeather Saga, by his publicist, Janet Bozeman.  You can read a review of all four books by clicking on this link.

You can read more about The Wingfeather Saga at the website.

Christian Book Notes (CBN):  Could you please share your testimony of how the Lord saved you from your sin?

Andrew Peterson (AP):  I wrote a song a few years back called “The Good Confession.” Here’s the lyric: I was a boy, just nine years old. I heard the Call and came. And they buried me beneath the water, then I rose again. Well, you know my dad was a preacher man. I walked the aisle and I took his hand. He said, “Son, just do the best you can and say the words: I believe He is the Christ, Son of the living God.”

Later, in the bridge, it says, All I know is that I was blind, but now I see that though I kick and scream, love is leading me. And every step of the way His grace is making me. With every breath I breathe, He is saving me. And I believe.

If I tried to tell the whole story, it would be a book. But that lyric sums it up pretty well. I was nine, I was broken, and I knew that only Jesus could fix me.

CBN:  My son Austin, 9, would like to know if you are coming out with a 5th book in the Wingfeather Saga series.

AP:  First of all, thanks for reading the book, Austin! So glad you did. And no, I’m not writing another Wingfeather book. My hope is that the epilogue and the picture on the last page will kick around in Austin’s heart for many years, kind of like another story I know in which the ending has only been hinted at, and we’re all waiting for something wonderful to happen.

CBN:  My son Isaac, 8, would like to know what was your inspiration for writing the Wingfeather Saga.

AP:  Hello, Isaac. I wrote these books because when I was your age I LOVED good stories. When I go to the book store now it’s hard to find the kind of stories I really want—there are some with super cool pictures on the covers, but many of the stories just aren’t very good. They’re missing a certain flavor that I crave—kind of like eating a bowl of soup that doesn’t have any salt. It just tastes like, well, nothing. Blah.

But there are some books that taste just right—like the Narnia books and The Lord of the Rings. And The Yearling and The Rise and Fall of Mt. Majestic and 100 Cupboards. I wanted to try and cook up the kind of story I would have wanted to read when I was your age.

CBN:  Given the relative newness of your series, what goes through your mind when the Wingfeather Saga is compared to that of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and even Pilgrim’s Progress?

AP:  I’m sitting here trying to think of the best way to honestly answer that question. Part of the answer comes by way of the great Wendell Berry, “If anyone praises your work, doubt their judgment.” That said, I’m not ungrateful to be mentioned in the same sentence with those giants. It’s fun, even though I know I’m only a little halfling by comparison. I would truly love it if the books are still being read fifty years from now, and if there’s some element in the Wingfeather Saga that stirs your waters the way those other books have, then all the better. But thinking about that stuff too much is like walking into a minefield.

The Warden and the Wolf KIngCBN:  Recently, World Magazine voted “The Warden and the Wolf King” as their Children’s Book of the Year for 2014.  What was your reaction?

AP:  When I got the news, my first thought was, “Whoa! What a huge honor.” Second thought: “I hope that means more people will read the books.” The award is a great encouragement, but I mainly just want kids (and grownups) to get caught up in the Wingfeather story, to see it to the end, and to perhaps be moved by it. Many thanks to those, like World Magazine, and you, who have helped spread the word. Thanks!

CBN:  You are a magnificent story teller in both song writing and fiction. Can we expect another book in the future?

AP:  Yes! I’m already thinking about the next few books. And albums.

CBN:  What author’s have most inspired you? What musicians?

AP:  Well, Lewis and Tolkien for sure. Also Walter Wangerin, Jr., Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, Chesterton, MacDonald, Merton, Rawlings, DiCamillo.

As for music, Rich Mullins, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Marc Cohn.

CBN:  Do you ever see The Wingfeather Saga being filmed as a major motion picture?

AP:  Yeah, it’s hard not to imagine the story on the screen. If the right producer came along I’d be sorely tempted to go for it.

CBN:  How can we pray for you?

AP:  Pray for my family. For Jamie and the kids and I to stay close even though my job and our busy lives pull at us from several directions.

 

The Simple Little Salvation Story by William F. Cote

Simple Little Salvation StoryCote, William F. Illustrated by Shirley Chiang  The Simple Little Salvation Story. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.  60 pp. $14.95. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction/Summary

Bill Cote has written a children’s book that offers the gospel message to children (and the parents who read it).  It is only 60 pages and offers an explanation of our need of salvation as well as how we can be saved from our sins.

The illustrations by Shirley Chiang are colorful and invite the children to keep their attention on the pages as they are being read aloud or silently.

Review

One of my great concerns when I began reading this work was the comment in the “Acknowledgements” section where he talks of receiving helps from a priest in the Catholic Church as well as a pastor in a Baptist Church to avoid pushing the “heresy button.”  My concern is if you typically try to reach the Catholic and the Protestant with the gospel you are inevitably going to deny one or the other’s essential doctrine.  After all, the Reformation did happen for a reason.

As I read the work, I was impressed that Cote walked the line though he did not offer the works-based salvation of the Catholic Church.  He does keep the Protestant version of the 10 Commandments as well.  In other words, he offers the law of God in order to show the grace of God.

Could the gospel have been phrased more accurately? Perhaps, but the point is to share the “simple” story of salvation.  He succeeds in that endeavor.

One might also be upset at the complexion of Jesus given He is depicted as a fair-complected almost middle-class American.  While I easily get agitated at that, I understand the longing to have the children feel as comfortable as possible when talking to them about their sins.  Again, easy to tee off on, but not necessary if the parent is doing his or her job and teaching about Christ already in the home.

Recommendation

I can recommend this 60-page Gospel saturated little book to anyone wanting yet another opportunity to share the gospel with their children.  Cote’s Law/Grace approach is excellent and makes this work a worthwhile addition to your library.

 

Christ and the Desert Tabernacle by J.V. Fesko

Christ and the Desert TabernacleFesko, J.V. Christ and the Desert Tabernacle.  Faverdale North, Darlington, England: EP Books, 2012.  132 pp.  $13.99.  Purchase at Westminster for $10.35 or Amazon Kindle for $5.39.

Introduction

Dr. Fesko is Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary, California.  He was also the church planter of Geneva Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Woodstock, GA from 1998-2004 before serving as pastor from 2004-2009.  He has written a number of other quality resources that can be found here.

Summary

According to the title, the work focuses on Christ and how the desert tabernacle points us to Him.  Throughout the book, however, the reader will look at the permanent temple built in Jerusalem as well.  Regardless, Fesko divides this work into thirteen chapters and looks at everything concerning the desert tabernacle from the building materials to the furniture within and even the consecration of the priests and the craftsmen who built and designed everything (Oholiab and Bezalel) and concludes with a look at the Sabbath.

Each chapter, save the first, offers the biblical information regarding the piece of furniture or the ceremonial cleansing, etc., being considered.  After establishing this foundation, Fesko moves to how each particular element is to be understood in light of the New Testament.

Review

Dr. Fesko plays it fairly safe in this work as he does not make the unusual stretches of application many attempt when looking at the tabernacle and Christ.  Much of his exegesis is Christ-centered and offers a deeper explanation to one of the more ‘boring’ sections of Scripture according to some.

Each chapter, though short, is a platform to plumb the depths of the amazing glory and mercy of God through His plan of salvation.  I found myself lead to worship and back to the Word of God as I sought to understand from a fresh perspective the importance of the tabernacle.  As can be expected, Dr. Fesko spends much of his NT application in the book of Hebrews.

Perhaps what makes this work more enjoyable is the pastoral precision and care in which he writes.  Each application is meant to drive home the importance of Christ and what He accomplished on behalf of us for the sake of YHWH.  To begin to understand the many layers and facets of the tabernacle and how it applies to Christ and the Christian today is to be swept away into a sea of beauty and awe.

Recommendation

This is a quick read that will have lasting impact on your life and meditations on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Reading this work will also, I believe, transform your reading of the account of the building of the tabernacle, the temple, and then what all Christ experienced as He lived and died.  I recommend this to all Christians.

Christ’s Glorious Achievements by C.H. Spurgeon

Christs Glorious AchievementsSpurgeon, C.H.  Christ’s Glorious Achievements Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014.  168 pp.  $12.00.  Purchase at Westminster for less or Kindle for $0.99.

Introduction

I have reviewed a number of works by C.H. Spurgeon and have always found him to be very applicable to today.  This particular book was originally published in 1877 as part of the Spurgeon’s Shilling Series.  The Banner of Truth Trust has republished it with a new foreward by Michael Reeves.

Summary

This work looks at 7 different facets of what Christ accomplished in His life, death, burial, and resurrection.  Spurgeon was not a verse by verse preacher.  Rather, he would preach topically and as the Lord would move him throughout the week.  This compilation of sermons (I do not know when they were preached and whether or not they were part of a series) begins with Christ being the end of the law and moves to his conquering Satan through His death.

As Spurgeon continues to lay the foundation of our victory in Christ, he turns next to how Christ overcame the world and is the maker of all things new.  The next two chapters look at at Christ as the spoiler of principalities and powers and the destroyer of death.  The final chapter is an open call to the gospel and how it is Christ alone who came to seek and to save the lost.

Review

As with anything Spurgeon wrote or preached, there is much encouragement found in these pages.  What is more, the message, because it is centered on the Person of Christ, is a timeless message and one that is applicable to every Christian in every age.  His sermon on Christ the maker of all things new is one of great worth as the believer is exhorted to look to Christ and to know that because of what Christ has accomplished in the miracle of conversion we can honestly say we were not who we once were.

Further, Spurgeon explains that sin has lost its power in our lives and therefore we no longer must serve this harsh taskmaster.  In the end, the reader will find that a life lived to the glory of Christ is a life well lived.  There is a reason why Spurgeon was called the “Prince of Preachers” and reading this short work will offer great insight as to why.

Recommendation

This is one of those works that will be read more than once.  I can see the saint reading this once a year for a week (7 sermons, 1 week, timeless edification) just to be reminded once more what Christ has achieved.  I recommend this small little book to all Christians and for less than a dollar on Kindle, see no reason why Christians should not add this to their library.

New Testament Essentials by Robbie Fox Castleman

NT EssentialsCastleman, Robbie Fox. New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit, and Kingdom. IVP Essentials Series. Downers Grove, 2014. 151 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Robbie Castleman is professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at John Brown University. She previously served on the staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship with an emphasis in graduate students. The IVP Essentials Set is a series of in-depth workbooks that can help spiritual growth. Books include topics such as discipleship, leadership, and evangelism with more on the way.
This particular edition “introduces the New Testament in three parts: 1) The Revelation of God in Jesus, 2)The indwelling of God in the church by the Holy Spirit, and 3)The present and coming Kingdom of God.

Summary

Designed as a 12-week study divided into three parts the first part focuses on Jesus Christ as the rull revelation of God. The five chapters include Jesus as the Messiah, as Lord of Heaven and Earth, and looks to His work and His teaching culminating in Christ as the Incarnate and Risen Savior.

The second part is a 3-week study of the church and the importance of understanding the Holy Spirit as indwelling her and giving her the power and ability to change the world. The third part spends 4-weeks looking at the present kingdom of God and a general understanding of the His coming kingdom.

Each week there is a memory verse (always good) rooted in a Bible study. The Bible study is an in-depth look at a particular passage that will take an evening to accomplish. Further, there is a reading that acts as a teacher explaining the passage with particular application. Following the reading, there are more questions designed to implement and establish the lesson being taught.

Finally, the author helps the reader connect the New Testament to the Old and applies it our personal lives today. There is a “Going Deeper” section that recommends yet another book to read.

Review

This work is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, designed to draw the reader into the Word of God in a deep and meaningful way. This is not a study you can finish in 10-minutes and feel as though you accomplished something. Rather, this is a 12-week study that will take you a full 12 weeks to finish.

This study is well written, and in my estimation, a very thorough work meant to put your faith and mind to work. It is biblically centered with a premise that God’s word is sufficient for life and unchanging. The various sections of the study can be done one per evening throughout the week and discussed together as a group.

As part of a larger series, this work can and does stand alone. It will, however, cause you to want to investigate the rest of the series.

Recommendation

For the new believer, this study can be considered indispensable. For the mature believer, this study can be a refresher. For all believers, this study will enhance and deepen your understanding of these four subjects. If you are looking for a solid Bible study for yourself or small group, you will find what you are looking for here in New Testament Essentials.

Next Step by Timothy K. Lynn

Next StepLynn, Timothy K. Next Step: How to Start Living Intentionally and Discover What Go d Really Wants for Your Life. Franklin: Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2014. 128 pp. $24.99. Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Timothy was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he still resides. He is an entrepreneur and the founder and chairman of a “successful company.” He is also a man of faith.

Summary

The book is presented with a nice glossy, spiral bound cover with glossy pages (makes it hard to write with a fountain pen!). The contents are divided into 6 sessions following the foundational chapter.

The foundation of the book is found in what Lynn calls the four pillars of life: faith, self, family, and life’s work. The first session focuses on who you are as a person and who it is exactly that is in your circle of influences. The second session looks to one’s faith. The work is unashamedly Christian.

The third section centers on the self – your “identity, ego, you, and all that God created you to be.” Section four begins to expand out by looking at your family. Life’s work comprises section 5 and is the longest as far as actual content is concerned. The final section is comprised of one page about “conversations with God” followed by 20+ pages of journaling paper.

Review

I would have loved to have seen more written in the section on faith. There is no gospel though faith (“in God, love, a dream, or a goal”) is discussed at length. The result is basically a faith in faith baptized as Christian because God has been capitalized. As a matter of fact, Jesus is never mentioned to my recollection.

The book centers primarily on you, the reader. This can be alright as it does give you a brief moment to pause and take stock of your life and look around to see how you are living before God. I believe there are more journaling pages than pages with content.

In the end, the presentation is excellent, the content not so much.

Recommendation

While the book will appeal to a wide audience, I cannot call it a Christian resource due to the lack of Christ and the gospel. In the end, I cannot justify spending $25 on this resource.

Love or Die by Alexander Strauch

Love or DieStrauch, Alexander. Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church. Littleton: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 2008. 106 pp. $9.99. Purchase at  Westminster or Amazon for $8.99 or Kindle for $3.99.

Introduction

I have reviewed a number of books by Alexander Strauch. Each one has been helpful in its own right and each one has proven to contain the wisdom of a mature believer and seasoned pastor. He has served as a teaching elder at Littleton Bible Chapel for over 40 years. You can view all of his books here.

Summary

Divided into three parts with two appendices, this concise work begins with the foundation that we are called to love God and others as Christians. The first part looks at the problem of lost love and finds its biblical emphasis in Revelation 2:4. The second part, the meat of the book, is how to cultivate love. Here, Strauch launches from Hebrews 10:24 and implores the reader to study, pray for, teach, model, guard, and practice love.

The final part is a study guided designed for personal and/or group study and meant to drive home the essential foundation of love. Finally, the two appendices look at other books on love by Alexander and, more importantly, 50 key texts on love found in the Scriptures.

Review

Sadly, this is a book that is needed in most congregations today. So many local churches are marked by infighting that the community knows and avoids anyone who may be affiliated. Strauch does an excellent job of diagnosing the problem of the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4 and applying it to our modern context.

Like a surgeon, he offers a remedy but lets you know it will be a difficult surgery. As he begins the procedure in the second part, he meticulously removes any objection from the necessity to love and begins process of replacing how one views love. Laying the foundation of studying love (as found in Scripture), the Christian reader will not be able to withstand the important application of actually doing love.

Each chapter is saturated in Scripture and grace and mercy. Each chapter will point the reader to a closer relationship with God the Father because of Jesus the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. From that relationship the love for neighbor will over flow and, on one hand, not be held back. In other words, after reading Love or Die, the Christian will better understand the greatest and second greatest commandment in the right order.

Recommendation

This book is for all Christians. The importance of the love mandate found in Scripture cannot be overstated. Alexander Strauch’s concern for the church is evident and ought to be emulated. I recommend this book to any and all who claim the name of Christ as Lord and Savior.

7 Ways to be Her Hero by Doug Fields

7 HeroFields, Doug. 7 Ways to be Her Hero: The One Your Wife Has Been Waiting For.  Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2014.  208 pp.  $15.99.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for much less.

Introduction

Doug Fields has served as a youth pastor and teaching pastor for more than thirty years at Mariner’s Church as well as Saddleback Church in Southern California.  He is popular conference and retreat speaker as well.  Currently, he serves as the executive director at The HomeWord Center for Youth and Family. You can read more about Doug at his website, DougFields.com.

Summary

Divided into 10 chapters, Doug begins with the appropriate chapter title of stop chasing the wind and start chasing your wife.  Here, he lays down the gauntlet of what is necessary if you are to truly be the hero in your wife’s life.  The second chapter looks at the foundation of the relationship.

Chapters 3-9 offer the seven actions each man must consider when it comes to loving and serving his wife.  I can say that most of it has to do with your keeping your mouth shut!  The final action is the need to shepherd your wife’s heart.  Doug appropriately concludes the book with a chapter on Christ setting the example for the men by loving His Church to the point of dying for her.  Men are expected to do the same.

Review

7 Ways to be Her Hero is pretty straight forward.  Doug pulls no punches and offers some pretty straight talk on a somewhat difficult, though always timely, subject.  I would have liked there to have been more gospel and perhaps the last two chapters being the first two chapters, but Doug’s audience is a bit different.

Since Doug is writing to an extremely wide and ecumenical audience, he paints with broad strokes.  He also uses what I would consider fairly crass language though not by today’s standards.  For example, the second chapter is entitled “How it got laid” and he claims to be intentional about the double entendre.  Granted this will help sell books, but I do believe it should cause one to pause when considering what is being advised in this work.

In the end, his advice is fairly practical and helpful. The discerning reader will see past the silliness and get to the heart of the issue in loving his wife.

Recommendation

I can recommend this work because it is rooted in Scripture and it does offer many solid conversation points among guys.  This is a great starting point for men, but, if they will want to take the next step, they will want to read those who have plumbed the deep theological depths of marriage and being a husband.

Richard Greenham: The Portrait of an Elizabethan Pastor by John H. Primus

Richard GreenhamPrimus, John H. Richard Greenham: The Portrait of an Elizabethan Pastor. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998.  236 pp. $37.00.  Purchase at Amazon for much less.

Introduction

John Primus served as professor of religion/theology at Calvin College.  He has written The Vestments Controversy, Christian Perspectives on Learning, and Holy Time: Moderate Puritanism and the Sabbath. Richard Greenham (1540-1594) served as pastor for 21 years in rural Dry Drayton after having attended Cambridge.

Summary

Not much is known about Greenham’s early life before attending Cambridge. Neither is much known about his later life after leaving Dry Drayton.  But, what is known during his years of college and ministry are included in this biography.

Primus divides this biography into 8 chapters.  The first chapter looks at the Cambridge Years while the second chapter offers a bird’s eye view of his time in Dry Drayton.  Chapters three through seven break down Greenham’s theology into particular sections.  These chapters offer a look at what was the driving force in Greenham’s ministry.

We learn from chapter three that he steered as clear of controversy as he could and did not play the politics game that were so prevalent then (and now!) in the church.  We see in chapter four that his entire ministry centered on God and the Bible.  He was more known as the pastor who preached sanctification by faith rather than the stereotypical doctrine of election so many Puritans were thought to have preached.

Chapters six and seven offer the “guts” of Greenham’s theology.  Here we find the importance of the doctrine of means (the means by which the Christian grows in his faith and then the importance of the means of the means.  Ultimately, this is the importance of the Sabbath for which Richard Greenham is perhaps best known.  Regardless, Greenham’s ministry can be summed up in one word: proclamation.

The final chapter offers insight into what little is known about his ministry after leaving Dry Drayton and is an apologetic for the importance of Richard Greenham as an Anglican Puritan Protestant.

Review

I confess I was expecting this to be a dry read since it appears to have been a dissertation that was ultimately published.  I was wrong.  Richard Greenham is not known by very many today because he was not as glamorous as John Owen or as heavy handed as John Knox.  What he was, however, was a faithful pastor in a rural setting for 21 years.  Many thought he should have leaved the country for the city in order that he may find the fame and the audience that his audience and preaching deserved.  He, on the other hand, disagreed and believed God had called him to Dry Drayton for a reason.

I was first drawn to Richard Greenham some years ago when reading another work by JI Packer entitled A Quest for Godliness.  It was in that work that I read about this man who ministered for 21 years and had this to say when he left: “For I perceive no good wrought by my ministry on any but one family.”  This was a stunning statement to me and one I wanted to investigate further.

John Primus’ biography does much to explain why this man ultimately thrived in a rural setting when there was so much more pastoral fame and glory in the city.  Primus does not attempt to make Greenham more than he is.  Rather, he allows him to speak for himself.  His chapters on the means and the means of the means are must reading for today.  You will probably not agree with his view of the Sabbath (I did not fully) but you will be challenged as regards your view of corporate worship.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a good biography on a little-known pastor, this is the book for you.  If you are a pastor in a rural setting, I cannot recommend this biography highly enough for you.  There will be much encouragement found in these pages.

Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries Vol. 4 by James T. Dennison, Jr.

RCFIVDennison, Jr. James T. Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: Volume 4 – 1600-1693. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2014. 758 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster or Amazon for less.

Introduction

This fourth, and final volume, in the Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries concludes a 7 year publishing adventure to bring to the modern, English-speaking reader the riches of the past.  You can read the reviews of volume 2 and 3 here.

NOTE: You can purchase the 4-volume Hardback set at Westminster for $150.00.
You can purchase the 4-volume set on Kindle for $89.99.

Summary

These particular documents are more familiar to the modern reader than many in the first three volumes. Included in this final volume is The Remonstrance (1611), the Scottish Confession (1616), The Canons of Dort (1618-1619), The London Baptist Confession (1644), The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), the London Confession (1646), The Westminster Larger (and Shorter) Catechism (1647), the London Baptist Confession (1677), and The Baptist Catechism (1693) just to name a few.

Again, Dennison includes introductory notes and historical contextualization in order that the modern reader may understand the importance of each document. Alost included in this final volume is an index for the entire series. These multiple indices include separate entries for Scripture references, names of persons, and subjects.

Review

With the publication of this final volume, we now have a complete set of Reformed Confessions found in the 16th and 17th centuries. Note, however, this is not an exhaustive list though it does contain 127 different documents in the four volumes. As one moves from the first document in volume 1 – the 67 articles of Zwingli (1523) and follow all the way to the Baptist Catechism in 1693, the careful reader will see how the church narrowed down what they believed and what they did not believe. Further, you will see how splits and fractures were dealt with concerning secondary and tertiary issues.

The index in this fourth volume is extremely helpful to also trace the thoughts of key figures throughout the Reformation. For what it is worth, it must be stated that one need not be Reformed in their eschatology to glean insight from these documents. Rather, if one is a Protestant, they will quickly discover the rich heritage from which they now descend.

Recommendation

If you are going to get one volume in this four volume set, I would recommend this one. This is because so many today are familiar with the documents found in this fourth volume. Further, the index will whet your whistle for what came before these documents. Irena Backus of the University of Geneva rightly proclaims this set of books “a must have for every library.” I agree.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books