A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest

Looking for great new read-aloud books for the family? My brother and sister-in-law who serve as missionaries in East Africa recently gave us a glimpse into their world and beyond with a short children’s novel titled A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest (Greensboro, N.C.; New Growth Press, 2015). This little 150 page story echoes part Pilgrim’s Progress and part The Lord of the Rings.

The ten year old boy, Mu, awakens in a mud hut on his uncle’s compound as a mistreated orphan. As he fetches water at dawn, he is met, to his great surprise, by a talking chameleon named Tita. Tita latches onto Mu’s collar and directs him on the adventure of a lifetime across the African landscape. Readers are vividly led with Mu on his quest down pothole covered roads, through mission compounds, up mountain trails, and over rivers and streams. Where is he going? And whom can he trust amid the family members, missionaries, and others he encounters, including the strange realm of talking animals?

The African adventure amid many perils opens new vistas for Mu, but most of all, the quest probes Mu’s inner self. Who is he, really? What is life all about? What are […]


So You Want to Dive Into Podcasts and Audiobooks?

I am asked fairly often what it is I like to listen to. That is usually followed up with a question as to how one might go about doing such a thing.

Well, here recently, someone asked that very question, and when I finished writing up a brief overview of the process, I thought it would be good to post my musings here. Perhaps you too would like to dive into the world of podcasts and audiobooks.

If so, here is a simple how to:


Mortification and Vivification

As we have considered mortifying sin, or putting it to death, as taught by John Owen, we first looked at how the law awakens sin so we can address it in Christ and then clarified what is meant by killing sin by warning against mortification’s false forms. In this final post on this subject, I want to bring out another important aspect Owen treats regarding overcoming sin. Mortification is a hopeless business without the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, the pattern of gospel living Jesus and the apostles set before us is that we are not only to put sin to death but also live unto righteousness. Just as Christ died and then was raised, so we are daily to die to sin and live in obedience to Christ. As Paul told the Ephesians:

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which […]


Prey to Being Positive?

As I round off my preparation for three sermons this Lord’s Day, I’ve been forced to think again of the ‘dangers of being positive’ or ‘criticism for being negative’.
If I’ve already raised your eyebrows, I wonder why that is? Perhaps you’ve fallen foul of some grumpy, gloomy pastors, or been lorded over by elders with hypercritical personalities.
Others may have been tainted by Peale’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking.’ Over-optimism is rife in parts of the West. Educationalists ban criticism as cultural taboo. Self-esteem gurus feed egos with applause.
At risk of being ‘jaundiced against joy’, I’ve often remarked how the ‘positivity police’ who cry ‘stop being negative’, are often among the most negative people I know. They say cheer up but rarely smile themselves.
To get onto something of substance, you might be wondering what has generated this blog on ‘prey to being positive.’ Well Scripture, I hope you notice, is supersaturated with negatives.
A fine example is the text that set me off. “Do not be conformed to this world”. To discover, discern, do & delight in God’s entire will, as living sacrifices, we must refuse to march to the drumbeat of our age.
Paul keeps step with Christ who was negative with no fault. “I am […]


Breakfast Leftovers

Luke Harrington’s recent article at Christianity Today, How Methodists Invented Your Kid’s Grape Juice Sugar High, has made people thirsty for church history. So, I thought I’d heat up some breakfast leftovers to go along with it. A few years ago, I wrote the following article while trying to whet my junior high students’ appetite for church history.

My students seemed to find history more palatable when they see that they are already familiar with it. So, let’s check out your breakfast menu:

If you reach for Quaker Oats in your pantry, you’ll find a Quaker man staring back at you from the package label. The corporate creators of the logo who trademarked it in 1877 did not specify the character in Quaker garb as a particular individual. But, he was designed to project the values of honesty, integrity, purity, and strength associated with the Quaker faith. I can’t help but think his image is familiar to that of George Fox (1624-1691), the founder of the Quaker movement. The Quakers, or The Religious Society of Friends developed out of the Church of England in the 1650s. They quickly grew and spread to the new world. William Penn, for whom Pennsylvania is named, remains the most […]


Dealing With Someone Else’s Sin

Being a pastor means a significant portion of my work revolves around the odious task of dealing with someone’s sin. Whether I’m preaching about it, counseling through it, praying over it, it seems much of my energies are directed toward this tireless enemy. Through the years, I’ve found the following truths from God’s Word to be repeatedly proven in times of difficult ministry. Consider this my cheat sheet – gathered through study of God’s Word and more-or-less successful conversations with others. 


3GT: Which Path?

The gents begin by discussing the contours of a credible profession of faith (with an eye on Trump).  Next comes a brief exploration of the ESV Permanent Text.  And lastly, we segue right into a discussion on the ethics of voting (and yes, with an eye on Trump again).


Clarification on Mortification

Last week I treated a short section of John Owen’s work The Mortification of Sin. Without seeking to go through the entire work, I wanted to follow it up with another post or two on other portions that I have especially found helpful.

I, as others, have found Owen’s treatment deeply insightful and purifying with respect to my own heart motivations. Here are two recommendations from influential authors.

John Owen’s treatises on Indwelling Sin in Believers and The Mortification of Sin are, in my opinion, the most helpful writings on personal holiness ever written.” —Jerry Bridges, author of The Pursuit of Holiness

I owe more to John Owen than to any other theologian, ancient or modern; and I owe more to [The Mortification of Sin] than to anything else he wrote.” —J.I. Packer

In speaking of this subject, it is important to review the meaning of mortification.  Mortify means to put to death.  Our calling as believers is to put to death our sin.  In Romans 6:13, Paul  commands, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.”  So we must be crucifying the flesh or be engaged in the work of mortification as Christians. Yet, as Owen points out, […]


Don’t waste your suffering #5

A Promise to Cling to

A series of four articles on suffering is all very well, but when you’re in the thick of it sometimes all you can do is cling to a single verse or a phrase.

This is the story of my verse.

I want to start off with an odd question: What is the least consequential, unnecessary thing, that God has done for you that has brought a smile to your face and a thank-you to your lips?

I think of a long journey home from somewhere and I had a notion for chips (‘fries’ for American readers, expect better 🙂 ). You know how it is when you get a notion, not only do you have to get them, but they need to be good—there are few things as disappointing (at this level) than ropey chips. And so we pulled in at the next chippie. The signs weren’t good—an empty car-park on a Saturday evening, no queue. But we persisted, and a few moments later Judith emerged with the goods. And boy, were they good. On the big scale of life—utterly inconsequential; but on the small scale—”Thank you God for great chips”.

Get your own ‘chip moment’ and hold it in […]


Why kiss your bride through a veil?!

I’m in the middle of teaching an intensive introduction to New Testament Greek for the ministry students at our seminary this month. It’s a pretty heavy month (though moreso for the students!): 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, for 4 weeks, followed by 2 hours every week for the rest of the academic year, to give them the basics of a language that no-one speaks any more. Why? Is it just tradition? Or a sadistic desire to inflict the same pain that previous generations of ministers had to go through?

Our passion for teaching ministers the original languages of Scripture is rooted in the Reformed Church’s unswerving commitment to the Word of God as it came from pens of the inspired authors. And it came from their pens in Hebrew and Greek. The Westminster Confession of Faith (I.8) puts it like this: ‘The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all […]