1. Hi Neil. Can you start by telling us where you were born, and what places you’ve lived in during your life?
I was born in Ajax, Ontario. For obvious reasons I refer to it as the cleanest town in Canada! From there I crossed the Atlantic as a two-year old (not single-handedly!) to live in Alexandria which is on the southern end of Loch Lomond, Scotland (not Egypt). Then it was back to Canada as a twenty year old. I spent a year and a half living in Toronto, before moving to Winnipeg, Manitoba. There were a couple of trips back to Scotland for a few months among this. It was after ten years of shoveling snow in "Winterpeg" that Dorothy's brother sent us some photographs of Brisbane, Queensland. Dorothy and I arrived here with our three daughters in 1990. We started in Toowong, moved to Browns Plains, (plus a three month stint in Innisfail), and from there, went to Springsure in central Queensland after graduating from Theological College. Then it was back to Petrie, north west of Brisbane. I also did five years in beautiful Tasmania before returning to sunny Queensland where we hope to remain till our departure.
2. Give us one especially warm memory from your youth.
Swimming in Loch Lomond! Perhaps not a particularly “warm memory”, but we were hardy back then. In "summer" we used to dive off the Balloch Pier when the "Maid of the Loch" paddle steamer was away up the loch showing off “yon bonnie, bonnie banks” to tourists. Those were the days! Anyway, “Jimmy” was quite a distance out in the water when he suffered a severe cramp. I dived in and swam like a madman out to rescue him only to get clobbered and pulled under by his flailing arms and thrashing legs. However, another mate arrived on the scene, and, between the two of us, we managed to manhandle our sinking cargo back to shore – bruised and exhausted! An incredible feeling of euphoria wells up within when you realise that you have just saved the life of another human being! Warm memory!
3. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? What’s that? I can’t really remember ever having nothing to do! I mean, even when I’m on holiday I’m doing “holiday stuff!” But, I do like moments when I can relax in my outdoor spa, but even then I always have a book with me. I once remarked to someone that I wished they would invent a waterproof laptop so that I could use it in the spa. The person replied, “You need to learn to relax!” I’m sure there’s a lesson here somewhere… I guess the bottom line for me is that even reading, no matter the subject or genre, is actually study for the work of the Kingdom. But yes, I do like to watch a good movie.
4. When did you become a Christian?
By the grace of God I became a Christian in 1988. I had been wondering about the meaning of life and began to feel hollow inside and so terribly alone in the universe – even in a crowded room! Life for me had become like a night in a dark forest, with the moaning voice of the wind in the tree tops, creaking boughs, distant howls, and oppressive darkness. Canned dread and bottled fear! I mentioned in a letter to one of my brothers that I was, as I indelicately phrased it, “checking out the God thing.” He had been a Christian for many years. I still have a couple of epistles he wrote to me at the time, trying to guide me out of the dark woods. One of his quotes from the Bible was the verse in which Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6. By His Spirit, Jesus, the Word, met me in the depths of my darkness and with His light led me to the Father. What’s the meaning of life? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever! The way out of darkness is in Christ the Way. Life has true meaning and true enjoyment only in Him who is the Truth and the Life incarnate!
5. I understand you were once involved in Freemasonry. What was the decisive factor in your move towards Biblical Christianity?
I entered Freemasonry as part of my “checking out the God thing”. I had been interested in becoming a Mason since teenage. The apparent mystery of Masonic inner workings appealed to my inquisitive nature. Couple that with what seemed to me to be the greatest mystery of all – God – then it seemed logical that I should enter the lodge to have these deep questions answered. Ironic may or may not be the right word to describe it, but I was converted while fully immersed in Freemasonry. I know this may not be what a lot of Christians want to hear, but nevertheless it is true! There are loads of Biblical references and direct quotes from the Bible used in the various Masonic degrees I went through. One in particular was a reference to “the stone the builders rejected”. Utilising the KJV Bible the lodge had presented me with, and cross-referencing Isaiah 8:13-15 with Luke 20:17-18, cf. 1 Peter 2:6-8 , I went on, by the grace of God, to discover that the “stone” being referred to in the Old Testament as Jehovah, referred to Jesus in the New Testament. It was earth-shattering for me when I discovered that the mysterious God had actually become incarnate as Jesus! Upon this discovery I immediately fell at His feet as it were and worshiped Him as God! Christ has been my study ever since. And to learn that He has taken away all my sins makes Him more than worthy of my worship and evangelical obedience that I might show my love for Him and gratitude to Him for such a wonderful gift of salvation!
6. You’re now an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church of Australia – what do you think is the number one challenge facing the church today?
Hopefully this won’t sound like a rant, but here goes: I believe that the apparent declension of Christianity in the West today has to do with the authority of Scripture. Is this Book reliable and therefore believable? Should I stake my present and my future life on the claims of a Book written thousands of years ago by a bunch of men, some of whom were not that well educated? That is what it amounts to – trust in God’s Word. This has always been the number one challenge for the people of God even since Satan said to Eve in the Garden before the Fall, “Hath God said?” If I cannot trust what the Bible says about Adam, then how can I trust what It says about the Second Adam, Jesus? If we didn’t Fall, then we don’t need to be saved. If I’m not a sinner, then I don’t need the Saviour. Why should I worship God, why should I pray, why should I attend church, why should I bother about anything in the Bible, if it is simply the ramblings of a bunch untrustworthy men, liars, who are trying to trick me into thinking that they were moved by God to write It? And what does it say about God’s Sovereignty if He could, as claimed therein, create the heavens and the earth and all that is in them by merely speaking, but not preserve intact written revelation of the way of salvation? If the Gospel is not the power of God unto salvation, then why does the Bible claim that it is? Of course, I believe in the authority of the Bible and the power of the Gospel unto salvation. However, having lived through the unsteady days of the “Church Growth Movement” (where the Church became like the world to attract the world) I am left wondering about the Church at large and my own Denomination in particular. What’s wrong with simply preaching the Word in season and out of season? Why all the seeming panic in the churches when numbers dwindle? Scripture was using irony when the Holy Spirit said through His Apostle, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21b). “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”(Rom. 10:17). So, the number one challenge for the Church today is not to be ashamed of the Gospel, but to trust it – even during times of sifting. “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1a). We all know it because God has said it. But do we believe it?
7. You write both fiction and non-fiction books. How would you describe your writing style?
My writing style is usually a cross somewhere between the written and the spoken word. I noticed long ago that when I read, for example, a Bible commentary by, let’s say, Charles Hodge on Romans and then a commentary on the same by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I noticed that there was a glaring contrast of two styles. Don’t get me wrong, I love Charles Hodge’s writings, but he and others like him, may perhaps be described as dry and academic, yet clear but clinical, whereas Lloyd Jones, being no less clear or academic writes in an easier to read style. Upon further investigation I discovered that Lloyd-Jones’s Commentary on Romans is comprised of a series of sermons he preached on the subject. Ah! I thought. I will try to write in a style as if I am speaking rather than writing. And I will even try to include my Scottish accent and idiom (while trying to withhold words unfamiliar to non-Scottish ears). Of course I am aware that there is a difference between writing a doctoral thesis and an adventure novel, but neither should be dry and dusty. CS Lewis, for example, was an expert at switching writing styles. Perhaps Peter the Apostle too? I suffer from a low self-esteem as a writer. However, the greatest encouragement I ever received to persevere as a writer came from my old theological professor, when he said to me, “I wish I could write like you!”
8. What do you hope people will gain from reading your non-fiction works?
The short answer to this is that I hope they will gain a deeper understanding of Christ. He is the centre of the Trinity. He is the centre of the universe. He is the centre of the Bible. And He needs to be the centre of your life if you are ever going to make sense of God, the universe, and yourself. I think it was when my big brother said to me years ago that Christ gives doors their “door-ness” that I really began to cotton on to the fact that it is Christ who gives all things their meaning. If Christ is the door, the gate, the lamb, the lion, the bread, the life, the light, the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, etc., etc., then these things, and everything, gets its meaning from Him, and in turn reveal something about Him. Even marriage gets its meaning from Christ and His relationship to His Bride, i.e., His Church. This means that marriage is about Christ, not homosexual rights. I digress, but I merely wish to illustrate that my non-fiction works are about centring everything on the Christ who gives meaning to the cross, Adam, sin, redemption, the Gospel, water baptism, the Lord’s Supper, salvation, angels, demons, cats, dogs, horses – everything! I just hope that people will gain a better and deeper understanding of Christ from reading my non-fiction works!
9. Are you currently writing anything at the moment?
I’m between books at the moment. However, I’m always tweaking the stuff I’ve already written. The beauty of publishing e-books is that the author doesn’t have to wait till the next print run to fix mistakes and make improvements. I’ve noticed one minor typo in my hardcover book that will have to wait till such times as there’s another print run. This might never happen! I am working on an idea for a sequel to my first Christian novel, “A Stick In Time”. It has to do with the “Stone of Destiny”, a.k.a., “Jacob’s Pillow” – the stone that sits under the coronation throne at Westminster. That stone might somehow end up in Australia…
10. If you could give a budding author any advice, what might it be?
Hone the gift that God has given you. Write to the glory of God. And write for the joy of it. No longer are we authors at the mercy of pernickety and fickle publishers! With e-books the sky’s the limit. Writing a book is the easy part. Marketing your book is something else entirely. Crave feedback but grow a skin as tough as the back of a cane toad! Learn that bad criticism might be good, and good criticism might be bad. But know that all criticism can be helpful. Know your intended audience, but don’t be presumptuous, especially never underestimate their intelligence. No one likes being talked down to. Someone jokingly said that we ought never to use a big word when a diminutive one will do! There’s a place for big words, but it’s not when trying to show off! One piece of advice I’m still working on and probably have yet to master is in regards to fiction writing. Someone said that we ought to “show” rather than “tell” the reader, which is simply a verbose or wordy way of stating ye olde saying, “A picture tells a thousand words.” Use word pictures and learn the difference between garbled verbiage and verballed garbage!