Fellowship Baptist Church



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'Gospel Power to Go Beyond'

Posted by Pastor Jono on March 5, 2019 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

This year our missions conference theme focuses on the incredible power of the gospel and the God who is the Author of it.

The power of the gospel saves beyond limits (Romans 1:16) so that ‘whosoever will’ can come to Christ and be saved. The power of the gospel is not limited by the magnitude of anyone’s sin.

The power of the gospel reaches beyond limits (2 Corinthians 10:15-16) so that the gospel can be preached to the ‘regions beyond’. But notice that passage teaches us that this happens only as our faith is increased to further support missionaries. The power of the gospel is not limited by man-made borders.

The power of the gospel also enables giving beyond limits (2 Corinthians 8:3-4) so that we can give, as our faith increases, to help the gospel go continually further and save more souls. The power of the gospel is not limited by our finite resources.

As a church may we embrace the gospel power, by faith, and find ourselves enabled by that faith to help bring more tribes and tongues and individuals to Christ.

- Pastor Jono

Submission to the committee on the Euthanasia Bill

Posted by Pastor Jono on January 25, 2016 at 6:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I haven't posted an article in a while but last night as a church we wrote letters to the Health select committee that is collecting submissions on the proposed assisted suicide bill that has been added to the Parliamentary ballot for debate this year.  This is a very important issue.  Will this country take another step down the road of having a culture of death instead of a culture of life?  Will New Zealanders be able to think through this issue logically, and hopefully Biblically, as they consider a legislation with such potential for abuse and violation of the 6th commandment - 'Thou shalt not kill'.  I recommend the websites www.suicideinquiry.nz and www.protect.org.nz

Submissions can still be made online but must be in by the 1st of February.  For info on how you can make a submission see this page, www.protect.org.nz/make-a-submission/

Below is my submission - though yours does not need to be this long!  Even just a sentence saying that you oppose the legislation is enough.




My name is Jonathan Millar.  I have been the pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church for nearly eleven years and I am opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide/euthanasia for many reasons:

- Much effort has gone into discouraging suicide. This proposed legislation will undermine these efforts and instead encourage the option of suicide for depressed, discouraged and mentally ill people.

- Many vulnerable elderly people already feel a sense of being a burden to their families and society in general. Legalizing assisted suicide will result in vulnerable elderly people feeling obliged to end their lives prematurely. I believe that if assisted suicide was legal, some elderly would inevitably be pressured – either deliberately or indirectly – to end their lives prematurely. In this way a so-called ‘right to die’ will become for some a ‘duty to die’.

- In addition, assisted suicide is morally, culturally and ethically very wrong for many, many New Zealanders. Assisted suicide goes against Tikanga Maori values and many other cultural values. The New Zealand Medical Association also believes it is unethical.

- Professionals who work in palliative care are overwhelmingly opposed to legally assisted suicide/euthanasia. Organisations that work at the coal face of this issue, such as Hospice, oppose legally assisted suicide. For many involved in palliative care and the medical profession there is also a great danger that their own values will be compromised if they are pressured to administer a form of euthanasia. The proposed legislation will be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ leading to such pressure and coercion applied to staff in the medical and palliative care professions.

- Sympathy for suffering needs to be balanced against logical considerations such as the potential for abuse of the elderly, the potential to cover up murder as ‘assisted suicide’, and the inability of many people suffering to make a reasoned choice. In the UK one study revealed that 99% of depressed people who have suicidal thoughts no longer wished to die when their depression was treated. If assisted suicide was legal many of such persons may choose to end their lives and thus miss out on an extremely high quality of life and many beautiful relationships that could have occurred after their depression would be treated. In Belgium, where euthanasia has been legalized for some years, a mother who was stricken with grief after the death of her child was granted permission and help to end her life. Grief is a natural part of life and suicide is not the answer.

- When people are suffering, death need not be the answer. We need to encourage a culture of life, not death. Palliative care needs to be robust, well planned and adequately funded. We owe it to the elderly, disabled and terminally ill to look after them and help them have the best quality of life possible. I believe current legislation is adequate to do this and assisted suicide will take away potentially rewarding experiences that can be shared by the person dying and their family and friends. My closing note will address this point more personally.


Over the years that I have been involved in pastoral ministry I have seen much suffering, pain and death. I have held the hands of someone dying of AIDS, comforted the grieving, buried their dead, helped Hospice workers, manned morphine pumps, and witnessed the intense emotions involved with such situations. I have also been there to see relationships made intensely stronger as a son helps his dying father sit up in his hospital bed. I have seen a man with late stage cancer - who for some time was in such great pain he would have considered assisted suicide - be declared cancer free and is now free to play with his grandchildren! In short I have seen how lives are ultimately enriched through the intensely emotional, and deeply spiritual, blessings that can come even in the valley of the shadow of death. I feel sad that some view suffering and death in a merely physical, material, atheistic way. God, who gave life, and can give eternal life, intends for us to experience life and death in a far richer way. If assisted suicide is legalized, many will miss out on all the beams of brilliant sunshine that burst through on even the dark days of our lives.




'Let it suffice thee'

Posted by Pastor Jono on March 17, 2015 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

When I was ten years old I went eel fishing with a mate a long walk down a gully creek on the edge of town.   Somehow us two adventurers managed to catch an eel using a fence standard post for a fishing rod, number 8 wire for fishing line, and a small hook with a piece of liver on it.  We pulled that thing out of the creek and on to the grass with great excitement. However it quickly fell off the hook and started wriggling its way back to the water!  I remember how difficult it was trying to pick that eel up and keep it in my hands!  The slime the eel secretes and the constant writhing of that long slippery body made it nearly impossible to hold on to.  Contentment is like that.  Becoming a Christian opened my horizons up to true, deep abiding contentment through the relationship I had found in Christ Jesus, but... I quickly found that contentment is just as slippery as that eel.  It is not that Christ is wriggling away from me - it is the almost infinite capacity of my own heart - my flesh -  to squirm away from godly contentment in pursuit of pleasing my self. 


I recently preached on Deuteronomy 3:23-28.

'And I besought the LORD at that time, saying, O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?

 I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.

Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.'


In Deuteronomy 3 Moses expresses a desire - to enter into the promised land.  However Exodus 17:1-6 and Numbers 20:1-12 reveals the back story to this conversation.  For a second time the children of Israel were encamped by the Rock of Horeb and had no water.  On the first occasion God had told Moses to smite the rock and water had poured out.  On the second occasion God's instructions to Moses were to speak to the rock and water would flow from it.  In haste and perhaps frustration Moses instead smote the rock with his rod twice instead of simply speaking to it.  The water flowed out, but God was displeased with Moses' disobedience in following His instructions. 

The reason this was a big deal to God was the prophetic symbol, the spiritual object lesson, being taught to the people through these two events.  The rock symbolised Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4) who was smitten once for all our sins and provides eternal life through His one time sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 9:26-28).  When the sinner receives the water of life (salvation) It is then not necessary to be saved again each time we sin, but we simply cry out to our Rock who will cleanse us and restore us to fellowship with Him (1 John 1:9).  So God decreed a consequence to Moses for ruining this beautiful prophetic picture of the believers relationship with Christ - he could no longer enter the promised land.  As time went by Moses had led the children of Israel to the very edge of their destination, their own promised land, and Moses appeals to God to overturn His verdict and allow him into the land.  God's final decree is 'no' and He tells Moses, "Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter."

Having contentment with God's decrees in our lives can sometimes be very difficult.  Just when we think we have summoned up enough spirituality to get a hold of it, that contentment slips away again to be replaced with bitterness, dejection, and dissatisfaction.  There are three truths that can help us be content with God's decrees in our lives...


1.  God's decrees in our lives are often for the benefit of others.

"But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me".  Sometimes when we mess up there are consequences that even God's grace will not shelter us from.  God gives a verdict, chastens, reproves, allows consequences, that we struggle to be content with.  Yet that decree of God may be for the benefit of others.  Our disobedience needs to be reproved so that others may be made wise from our folly.  David gave "great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme" with his adultery and subsequent sins and such sin needed to be reproved lest the whole nation follow his example into unrestrained selfishness.

But sometimes God's verdict, which is so hard for us to content ourselves with, has nothing to do with an act of disobedience on our part.  Sometimes wonderful Christians get cancer and die young.  Sometimes God exercises His sovereignty and we may loose our jobs, get sick, have a miscarriage, be born with a  disability or into a dysfunctional family, and it is not a punishment for a misdeed!  But these decrees of God may be turned by our Lord into a means to bless others.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 talks about this -

'Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.'

Perhaps it will be easier for us to hold on to contentment, when faced with such a decree from God, if we remember that His decrees in our lives are often for the benefit of others.


2.  God's decrees in our lives are sufficient.


Remember the response of God to Moses' request, "Let it suffice thee".   'Suffice' means sufficient, enough to content you.  Moses is told by the Lord to be content with His verdict.  God is telling Moses, "Don't get bitter, don't become resentful, don't chafe under the consequences".  Why not?  Because God is still a loving God and a wise God.  Just because we don't get what we want does not mean God no longer loves us or God doesn't know what He is doing!  God may kneel down and whisper to you, "My child, this trial is for you."  It may have nothing to do with some failure on our part, it is simply His decree, that has a purpose.  Why was the man in John 9 born blind?  "That the works of God should be made manifest in him." (Jn. 9:3).

Moses was told he would not lead the nation of Israel into their promised land, instead Joshua would get that privilege.  Moses could have gotten jealous and bitter with Joshua - but he didn't.  You may find that you miss out on a blessing you desire but someone else gets it instead.  Somebody else gets that promotion, talent, ability, marriage, child, ministry, financial blessing that you desire!  To become bitter about that is to not trust God's perfect love and infinite wisdom to give YOU what YOU need most. 

I sometimes wondered why God gave me a hearing loss from birth - I would ask myself, "doesn't He know I could serve Him so much better if I could hear better?"  This begs the question; am I wiser than God?  It has been a struggle at times but I have learned God loves me and is smarter than me so His decree needs to suffice me.  Maybe you struggle with some decree of God that was completely out of your control - let it suffice thee.


3.  God's decrees in our lives are sovereign


God is the Ruler, the King, the Sovereign and a perfect one.  Perfect in love and wisdom, in judgment and in power.  If He decrees something as unchangeable, we cannot change it.  We may try, but let us not be surprised when he says 'no'.  If you struggle with a decree of God, I would actually encourage praying to see if God will change His mind about it because the process of praying about it will teach us something (assuming we will pray with humility and an open Bible).  But don't be surprised, embittered and discontented when He gives you a final answer you don't like.  Do you remember the apostle Paul's conversation with God in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10?

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Can you see how Paul got the same answer as Moses? - "Let it suffice thee, speak no more unto me of this matter."  What will you do if you get this response from the Lord?  Will you talk back?  Get angry?  Blame others? Throw yourself on the floor and roll around screaming to see if you get your way?  Will you become rebellious and sin deliberately in 'revenge'. 

It is sad how we Christians agree with the concept of authority - whether it is the authority and leadership of a parent, a husband, a teacher, or pastoral authority and especially God's authority - EXCEPT when the authority decrees something we don't like! 

The other day my children were playing dress up.  My 5 year old was the queen, my 7 year old the king and my oldest child was playing the role of servant to the king and queen.  The role-playing sounded like it was going well and everyone was having a good time, but then the 'servant' was told by the 'king' to join in a game the 'servant' didn't want to play.  It is interesting how suddenly the role playing ends when the King's plan is different to the servant's!  Sadly, we grown adults, mature Christians, are not much different than my little children. We need to submit to the truth that God's decrees are sovereign.


Take the time for one last thought - what happened to Moses anyway?   In Deuteronomy 34:1-7 we read how Moses climbed Mount Pisgah and from its lofty heights he viewed his people's ancestral home, then died.  God Himself buried Moses on that mountain and no man knows where his sepulchre lies.  Bible quiz question... where do you next see Moses in the Bible?  Look it up in Matthew 17:1-3.  You'll see Moses is standing on a high mountain IN THE PROMISED LAND talking face to face with Jesus Christ, the Rock who gives living water to all.  Though we may think God's decrees can sometimes be a great loss to us, we will find that His plans for us will end up far greater and far more satisfying that anything we could have planned for ourselves.  Just as the Lord told Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12, God's grace is sufficient!

When we struggle with contentment over God's decrees, may our prayer be "Lord let it suffice me, help me to be content with my lot.  Let your grace be sufficient to me."  I hope these thoughts are a blessing to you.


Pastor Jono


Blessings in Brokenness

Posted by Pastor Jono on December 19, 2014 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)



These past few months have been blissful. I have been enjoying my precious little girl, Arceska. She brightens up our home with her squeals of delight, her wide toothless smiles, her playfulness, and her mere presence. I would catch myself just staring at her serene face as she sleeps. I want to be there every morning when she wakes up because her first early morning smile is the sweetest. She opens her eyes and sees me or her dad, she squeals happily and reaches out her hand for her morning cuddles. My heart glows with love knowing that this little girl has been entrusted to me by the Lord.


A few nights ago, God talked to me about brokenness through my personal devotion. When something breaks, it will never be the same again, even if the pieces are put back together. There will always be traces of a crack. There will be a scar, a mark, an evidence of the break.


I look back to my difficult pregnancy and delivery. I still remember how it felt like to be a victim of the dreaded pre-eclampsia, how it felt like to come face to face with its dangers. It could kill both the baby and me. I still remember how it felt to have that tightening over my chest, that pressure and pain wrapped tightly around my head, as I waited for the nurses to bring me my medications, praying desperately that my high blood pressure won't affect the little one inside my tummy. I still remember that feeling of helplessness knowing there's really nothing I can do but to wait. I still remember the warmth I felt in my cheeks as tears silently flowed against them. Two long weeks of waiting and praying before they bring out my little girl.


Yes, God broke me - physically, emotionally, spiritually. Worrying instead of trusting, doubting instead of lifting it all to the Lord - that was me. I worried about everything. Will the baby be alright? Will they be able to control my blood pressure for two weeks? Will my condition have any effects on the baby? Will I ever get to meet her?


Every time I started to worry, I would hear Him say: "Be still, and know that I am God." Be still... be still... Do not worry, I am in control. I heard that verse again and again in my head that I began to meditate on it. "Know that I am God." God reminded me of who He was, who He is. He is the God who created the whole universe in six days. Nothing is impossible for Him. He is the God who gave His only Son to die the cruel death of the cross just to save me from my sins. He is the God who gave me a clean slate when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and personal Savior. He is the God who helped me and guided me in all my decisions. He is the God who has been with me through every trial, every grief. He has been my Comforter. He is my Father. What can He not do for me? Why was I worrying when I knew that He is in control? "Know that I am God."


I knew and told my husband that this trial was for us. There was no asking, "why us? why me? why my baby?" I knew that there is no accident in the life of a Christian, God is always in control. Hard as it was, I embraced my trial, and I embraced my Lord.


Another fear gripped my heart. What if God wills for my baby to be taken away from me? The thought of losing her was painful. Long before she was conceived, this child has been prayed for, longed for, loved, deemed precious in our hearts. Long before she was conceived, she had been dedicated to the Lord. Long before she was conceived, she already had been dearly named. But I knew in my heart that if I lose her, God will be beside me as I grieve and mourn. He will be there to give me the strength I'll need. He will see me through it all. I will find it hard to understand, but there will be a reason if that happens. I found peace in such thoughts.


During my hospitalization, God never failed to show me His grace. I saw the grace of God in the faces of friends who visited in the hospital, I saw the grace of God as they prayed for my health and the baby's. I saw the grace of God in my husband's voice as he read the Bible to me by my bedside every evening, in the way he catered to my littlest needs. I saw the grace of God in the support and prayers of my church family. I saw the grace of God as I felt reassuring, strong kicks from my little one.


Finally, the two weeks were up. More prayers as I anticipated the arrival of my precious baby. The induction didn't go well as the baby was distressing every time I had a contraction. They rushed me to the operating theater for an emergency C-secion. Why was everyone moving so fast? Why did they seem to be panicking? I started to worry again. "Be still and know that I am God," I heard my Lord reassure me. I felt this reassurance as my husband held my hand while they were rushing us to the theater. Then everything became a blur. I heard staff shouting, everything that was happening was happening fast! I just kept praying until they put me out.


The next thing I knew was that I was already in the recovering unit. I was half asleep, half awake. I was trying to gather all my strength to open my eyes but they seemed too heavy. I saw glimpses of my husband, the medical staff, a blood pressure monitor. All of them seemed to be waiting in anticipation. Somehow I managed to stare at those numbers flashing on the screen and made sense out of them. My blood pressure was still high. The medical staff was trying to manage it. Finally after several attempts, I was able to utter, "How's Chessey?" I wanted to know. Was she safe? Did she make it? Will I ever get to see her? Hold her in my arms? I needed to know that she was fine.


Then I heard my husband's voice, "She's perfect." He tried to show me pictures of the baby from his phone but I wasn't able to stay awake for long. I heard what I wanted to hear. My baby girl was alright. That was all I needed to know. That was enough for now. I praised God as I drifted back to sleep.


 Recovery was tough. I had a bleeding complication and they had to take me back to the theater for another surgery the day following my C-section. And at that time I was experiencing an excruciating abdominal pain despite taking loads of morphine for pain relief. I was in so much pain that the bleeding was the least of my concerns. I lost so much blood and was feeling so faint that I needed to have a transfusion. Also my blood pressure was still all over the place. I was still symptomatic - the tightness all over my head did not subside at all. My feet and legs were still very swollen. It was still a long journey to full recovery. I just thank God for the wisdom He gave the doctors, nurses and midwives who took care of me. I felt so blessed to be in such great care. And I thank God for a wonderful husband who lovingly and cheerfully took care of both me and the baby while I was recovering. I have never seen a prouder dad in all my life.


Now, as I look into this tiny little face, all I see is God's grace. Every time I look at her, I am reminded of everything that we've been through, and how God has comforted, reassured, and strengthened me through it all. I carry the scars and marks of difficult pregnancy and delivery - I struggled spiritually. These evidences of brokenness will never go away. They will remain with me and will always remind me of a great and faithful God! I never take little Arceska's presence in our lives for granted. "Arceska" will always mean "God's grace" to me.


"For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him." ~ 1 Samuel 1:27


ARCESKA was born at 37 weeks AOG on the 13th of August 2014 at 5:01pm. She came out tiny but strong and healthy. Thanks be to a wonderful, faithful and loving God!


Visha R.

200 years of Christianity in NZ!

Posted by Pastor Jono on December 11, 2014 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

This Christmas day, 2014 will bring the 200 year anniversary of the first recorded gospel preaching in NZ. 

Samuel Marsden, an Anglican minister with a Methodist background preached to a crowd of around 400 Maori and a few Pakeha at Oihi Bay in the beautiful Bay of Islands.  How this momentous event transpired is a fascinating story.


Ruakawa was a Ngapuhi chief from the Oihi area.  It was he who had invited Marsden to visit NZ.  Ruakawa had been ill-treated by sailors when he helped crew a ship and had been abandoned in very bad health in Sydney.  Marsden was living in Sydney at the time and took Ruakawa into his care.  From this divine appointment a friendship and mutual admiration developed over the following six months of Ruakawa's stay.  Ruakawa urged Marsden to visit his homeland and organise a missionary work for the Bay of Islands - the first in New Zealand.  Marsden returned to England for a furlough and applied to the Church Missionary Society for help in establishing a missionary work in New Zealand.  This effort resulted in the raising of funds and enlisting of 3 Methodist laymen and their families to return to Australia and launch an outreach to Ruakawa's people. 


Upon arriving in Sydney Marsden discovered that there had been a massacre aboard a ship in the Bay of Islands.  In retaliation to many ships abducting and ill-treating Maori, the HMS Boyd was attacked and burned at anchor.  The crew of sixty-seven were killed and eaten.  With the recent massacre in the Bay of Islands no captain would convey Marsden and his fellow missionaries to their mission field.  So with the funds raised in England a small ship, the Active, was purchased and with a mixed crew of Maori and missionaries Marsden set sail.


Ruakawa welcomed Marsden when they arrived in the Bay on the 22nd of December 1814 but urged him not to come ashore for his safety.  Marsden refused and set foot on the beach with a boat load of animals new to the Maori.  When Marsden rode his horse on the beach Ruakawa was proved not to be a liar for telling his countrymen tales of huge dogs that could be ridden by men.  That night Marsden slept ashore surrounded by snoring warriors with their taiaha standing up in the sand next to them. 


On Christmas Eve Ruakawa cleared a large area for a church service.  Using overturned waka for pews and building a rough pulpit he made ready for the first sermon preached in New Zealand.  The next morning Samuel Marsden stood at that pulpit before the large crowd and opened his Bible to Luke 2:9-10. 


"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."


Ruakawa translated as Marsden expounded on the good news that the Creator God had sent His Son to be the peacemaker between holy God and sinful man.  That outdoor chapel reverberated with the truth of the humility of Christ, the love of Christ, the righteousness of Christ and the incredible redemption this Christ provided for ALL men.  Nearly 1800 years after the Saviour had cried "It is finished" on the hill of Calvary the news of His sacrifice for our sins had reached the hills of Oihi.  Praise God!


By the time Marsden died in 1838 the new leader of the work in New Zealand had this to say...


"We see here a whole nation of pagans converted to the faith. Thousands upon thousands of people, young and old, have received new hearts, are offering up daily their morning and evening prayers, are valuing the Word of God above every other gift, and all, in greater or less degree, are bringing forth some fruits of the influence of the Holy Spirit. What a marvelous demonstration of the power of the gospel."


200 years later, we have just as much work to do as in 1814.  New Zealand has become greatly pagan again.  We will need to be as dedicated as Marsden who woke at 5am each day for prayer and Bible study.  We will need to be as fearless as those first missionaries who let no excuse, even a massacre, keep them silent and safe at home.  And we will need to be as loving as Ruakawa who knew what his people needed most of all - the gospel.  This Christmas Day, celebrate what took place 200 years ago but remember this country has been overtaken by paganism again and needs the gospel just as much now as it did then.


May God use us this Christmas to bring 'tidings of great joy which shall be for all people'


Pastor Jono



The Christian and Hollywood - part 2

Posted by Pastor Jono on March 17, 2013 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Following on from the last post, I suggested we ask ourselves three questions before deciding whether or not to watch that movie we are considering.  Remember, our decision centers on the call of the disciple ("If any man come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me") and the essence of the first commandment ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me").  Our choice will either bring glory to our Saviour or not.

The first question to ask yourself was "Does this movie/show have sinful sights?"  This was the subject of the last post so now we move on to a second question to ask yourself...


2.  "Does this movie preach a false message?"


1 John 4:1 - Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

The answer to this question will not always be as obvious as to the previous question.  We have to realise every movie maker is also a messenger.  He or she is essentially preaching a message.  Sometimes it is an obvious message, sometimes it is much more subtle.  BE AWARE OF THIS!  You may decide that though the movie is not full of 'sinful sights' it may not be glorifying God to support the messenger by paying him/her to rent/watch their movie with the money God has provided you with.  Let's look at another recent example...


The Life of Pi was a recently released movie much celebrated by the media and endorsed by some Christians on Facebook etc.  I did a little research on it and found that it is a fairly clean movie by Hollywood standards - no nudity, not full of gratuitous violence, a couple of minor bad words.  But it is very definitely a movie with a message.  Over the course of the movie the main character, Pi, goes through his extraordinary experiences and the idea is that they bring him closer to "God".  But which God?  At one stage Pi talks to a Catholic priest, a Hindu guru and a Muslim cleric and the idea that is promoted is that all roads lead to heaven.  I have heard Christians promoting this movie because in the emotions of the story they applied it's message to their own relationship with the true God.  However millions who see this movie don't know the real God and will leave thinking the gods of the hindus and the god of the muslims etc is all the same God.  The movie is preaching a message to millions that you would be shocked if I preached it in your church!


Do you know who made this movie?  The director's name is Ang Lee.  The last movie he directed that was nominated for Oscars was Brokeback Mountain a movie about gay cowboys that was designed to promote homosexuality.  Do we expect this director to make movies that honour and glorify God? At teen camp I see young people sitting in the chapel services listening to the preacher and some of them will have their arms folded, sitting low in their chairs, and glaring at the preacher defensively.  They know the preacher is pushing a message and they are defensively analysing it!  But how many teenagers will go to watch The Life of Pi and have the same awareness that this is a preacher pushing a message?


Every movie has a message.  1 John 4:1 tells us to try(test) the message.  Parents, check out the movies your kids watch - what is the message?  Educate your kids in the Bible so they know how to filter messages through the Scriptures.  You wouldn't let a cult preacher into your churches pulpit, you wouldn't deliberately let a false teacher teach your kids sunday school - why would you let Hollywood preach and teach error to you and your children?  And why, why on earth, would you give money to false preachers through movie tickets and rental fees so they can keep making more movies that delude millions? 

The Christian and Hollywood part 1

Posted by Pastor Jono on February 26, 2013 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I firmly believe we glorify God when we, with our free will and full understanding of our Christian liberty, deliberately make decisions that will honour God over and above satisfying our own desires.  I think that is the heart of the first commandment.  I don't believe a pastor's job is to be the censor for his church people and control what they do (1 Peter 5:1 & 3).  But I do know a pastor is to exercise leadership (Hebrews 13:7 & 17) and, as a shepherd, warn his people (Acts 20:28-31).


I recently preached a message on Hollywood for our church people.  I don't enjoy preaching these kinds of messages - I'd much rather talk about the positive things our Lord has done than the negative things the devil is doing!  But, as we read in Acts 20, a pastor is a shepherd who needs to watch out for the wolves and warn his flock.  Increasingly Christians, and even pastors, are showing a great lack of discernment at identifying the wolves in this world.  I hope this web post may help some to use their Bibles as a filter to discern the difference between a wolf and a sheep and make some decisions about their viewing that would honour God first.  Even if it means denying yourself - which is, by the way, the call of the disciple of Christ; "If any man come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross".


Over the next few posts I would like to give you three Bible questions to ask about that movie you are thinking of watching...


1.  "Does this movie have sinful sights?" Psalm 101:3, Job 31:1


This a fairly obvious test with which to screen our viewing.  There is a direct parallel between the increasing violence and evil on our screens and the increasing violence and evil in our society.  A person's conscience is seared by what that person is exposed to and it becomes easier to not just watch something immoral but to then act it out yourself.

If you know what you want to watch will have immoral and evil acts in it but you watch it anyway, you are doing the exact opposite of David in Psalm 101:3 and saying to yourself "I WILL put a wicked thing in front of my eyes".  Remember, Jesus said that what you put into your heart will come out in some way - you and your family will pay a price somewhere down the line.


I read a Pastor's blog recently about Les Miserables.  In it is a scene about one of the main characters who becomes a prostitute in order to try and feed herself and her child.  When I was researching whether the movie would be any good I read that a whole singing scene is performed in a low class prostitute house of Paris with lot of immorality taking place in the background.  In his blog the pastor was basically proposing that it was acceptable to watch this scene because the movie isn't glorifying it.  He advocated watching this movie to realise how bad life can be for some people.  I heard this same argument years ago for the movie Once Were Warriors.  Now, it is true that the movie Les Miserables doesn't glorify the situation.  In fact, the author of the book, Victor Hugo, was the Charles Dickens of France and tried to address the social injustices of western life in that age - an effort which I applaude!     Nevertheless, while my heart has much in sympathy with this line of reasoning, my Bible tells me in Romans 16:9 that I should be "wise unto that which is good and simple concerning evil". 


It seems to me that God has revealed to us all we need to know about sin and the potential for human depravity in the Bible.  Then also the Lord Jesus Christ Himself gave us a commission to take the ONLY cure - the gospel - for our sin problem (be it the greed of the rich minority, or the carnality of prostitution) out into the world, preach it and live it.  Do we really need to go on a Hollywood-guided tour of immorality to be motivated to share the gospel, love people, and let our lights shine?  Will Hollywood bring us Holy Spirit conviction to help the weak when the word of God and the command of our Master won't?  I truly think it is worrying if we feel we need Hollywoods motivation for us to carry out what God has already told us to do.


Let's quit being so addicted to entertainment and go do the job we are supposed to do!  More later... until then, Lord bless.


- Pastor Jono


Christmas - sinful or saintly?

Posted by Pastor Jono on December 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I confess I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas.  I love the extra motivation it gives me to meditate on the coming of the God-man, our Saviour Jesus Christ - our gift from the Father!  I love the opportunites it presents to share the gospel with others.  I love the family time we enjoy, as an immediate family and also the dinners and reunions with others. 


But when it comes to Christmas it is a case of "nevertheless I have somewhat against thee"!  The materialism especially irritates me.  I don't like seeing the selfishness in my children when they ask if there are more presents for them when they've just had ten!  I don't like seeing the self-centredness in myself when I feel any discontentment over this or that gift.  The traffic, the crowds, the consumer debt, the drunkeness and wife-beating - my list of negatives could go on and on! 


Then there is the issue of the pagan elements and blatant mistruths in the usual celebration of Christmas.  I know Jesus wasn't born on the 25th of December, it is the winter solstice feast day of the pagans!  I know what Jeremiah chapter 10 says (and I don't think it is a reference to Christmas trees) and I know the Scriptural warnings about not touching the unclean thing etc.  So what is the Scriptural response to Christmas?  Should we not celebrate it?  Should we condemn it, and by association those Christians who celebrate it?  Or is it perfectly acceptable for the Christian to involve himself in it?


The conclusion I have come to is basically this: I repudiate the pagan elements of Christmas.  I don't pretend December 25th is some sort of holy day.  I tolerate the Christmas tree but I don't like them in church lest we offend some (plus they are messy things!!).  I don't lie to my kids pretending Santa is real.  I teach my children that Jesus is the greatest gift ever given and that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.  I use the extra opportunities Christmas presents to witness of the saving grace of Jesus.  I educate people when I can that the real cause for celebration is not a baby in a manger but the Man on the Cross who died for our sins and the empty tomb He left behind.  To me, Christmas is one of those grey areas to which we can apply the timeless and cultureless principles found in Scripture. For instance;


Romans 14:1-6  Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.  For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.  Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.  Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.  One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.


If you are not sure what to do with Christmas, be convinced in your own mind from the Scriptures, don't follow any other person's conclusion without searching the Scriptures yourself.  That said, here is my own personal conclusion: whether you choose to regard the day or not, be careful not to offend one another, despise one another nor judge one another.  Whatever you choose to do with Christmas, do so for the glory of God.


- Pastor Jono

Hard Questions

Posted by Pastor Jono on October 3, 2012 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

When Steve Jobs, the founder of the Apple company, was 13 he asked a Lutheran pastor a hard question at a church meeting.  He inquired, "Does God know everything?"  The pastor's response was "Yes, God does indeed know everything."  At this, Steve pulled out a copy of Newsweek magazine which had a picture on the front cover of a starving child in an African famine.  Steve then asked, "Does God know about this?"  The pastor kindly replied, "I know you don't understand yet Steve, but yes, God does know about that."  Steve then loudly proclaimed he did not therefore believe in God if He knew about that situation and wouldn't help such a child.  He left the church and never went back.


Steve Jobs' sense of justice was offended at the thought that God had it in His power to help the starving child but seemingly wouldn't.  It seems to me also that all people have, at least from birth, an inherent sense of compassionate mercy towards the helpless (unfortunately we don't always live by that inborn sense).  That sense of justice and compassionate and merciful love for others are qualities we have inherited from the God in whose image we are made.  The Bible says that to do justice and judgment is more pleasing to God than to offer sacrifices (Proverbs 21:3).  And, according to Jesus, the greatest commandment in all the law is to not only love God but also to 'love thy neighbour'.  If God then desires for us to exhibit both justice and compassionate merciful love towards others then why does He not help such a starving child in Africa?  There are a few answers at least to that question but one major answer is found in Micah 6:8.


"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"


Steve Jobs wanted to blame God and even deny His existence because he couldn't see God intervening in that famine.  He couldn't see that a photographer had found that child , captured his suffering in a stirring image, then a nationwide publication had published the image on it's front page thereby triggering the inbuilt sense of offended justice and merciful love in many people to help.  God has given the solution to problems such as a famine in Africa, the solution lies in us.  It is our God-given requirement to seek to do justly and show loving mercy to the suffering. It is a sad irony that when Steve Jobs returned to be CEO of Apple in 1997 one of the first things he did was to cancel the company's charitable giving program.  Meanwhile according to Barna research surveys the 38% of Americans who identify as being 'religious' give 66% of the nation's total charitable donations.  Committed Christians who identify as being 'born again' with a personal relationship with the Lord give about 3 times more than the other 'religious' respondents.  It seems the closer people get to God the more they realise their responsibility to share their wealth with those who suffer injustice and are in need of compassionate love. 


Sometimes an affluent western atheist may delight in asking a Christian those hard questions.  Perhaps the answers to the hard questions will be too hard for the atheist to swallow?


- Pastor Jono

July note from the Pastor

Posted by Pastor Jono on June 29, 2012 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

“...as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” - John 17:21


What is the number one thing Jesus would have us BE? The answer is in the prayer Jesus prayed with the disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus prayed that we would be unified with Him and the Father. Unified in our desire to be holy, to love God and love one another, but also unified in purpose. That brings us to the next question: what is the number one thing Jesus wants us to DO here on earth?


Again, that answer is found in Jesus’ prayer; “that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.” Jesus gives us a Great Commission in His last words, recorded in all four gospels and the book of Acts (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:45-48, John 20:21, Acts 1:8).  In summary these last words of our Saviour before His ascension tell us our number one work as Christians and as churches is: Preach the gospel, be witnesses, baptize new believers and disciple them.  Each of the words in this summary needs careful defining in the light of Scripture.  This month we are examining in detail exactly what evangelism and the Great Commission entails.


Everything we do as Christians, every waking moment, should revolve around this result of being one with God. Are you striving for unity of purpose with God? Are you daily carrying out the Great Commission?


- Pastor Jono