Category Archives: Current Issues

Same-Sex Marriage in New Zealand

I’ve just realised the blog where these articles were posted in 2013 is no longer online. I wrote these articles at the time when New Zealand was debating and finally legalising same-sex marriage.

I was prompted to consider these articles again after watching a 16 minute human interest story broadcast last night (Sunday, 16 July 2017).

An enormously complex issue; socially, politically, culturally, theologically, relationally, etc. covered in the mainstream media in 16 minutes!

In the best of times it is sad and painful to see real-life, family struggles rehearsed on TV, let alone on today’s crazy world of “reality TV”.

New Zealand politicians (many) pride themselves on being progressive. The media (seemingly the world over) pride themselves on being culture changers/influencers.

For those who believe God’s good design for men/women and marriage is universal and timeless, we must be wise, loving and yet clear in this new world in which we now live and minister.

These were originally published a four seperate articles. I am now including them all here as one post.

To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question

It is the first week of July, 2013 in New Zealand. You go to the letterbox and there it is. You’ve been expecting it, but in some way hoped maybe… just maybe, they wouldn’t invite you. It would have made things a bit easier.

But, you are. You are invited to your sister’s wedding. The date is set for the 24th of August. She is planning to marry her long-time partner, who happens to be another woman. Yep, this will be one of the “same-sex” weddings performed in New Zealand within the first week they are legal.

You and your sister grew up in a “church going home.” Over the years your understanding of the Gospel and the Scriptures has grown stronger and clearer. At the same time, your sister, though still calling herself a Christian, has drifted away from a commitment to Christ-alone for salvation and trusting Him for joy and fulfilment within His holy will for her life.

To add to it, the phone rings the next week. It’s your sister… She explains that since Dad passed away last year, she can really only think of one person who she’d want to walk her down the aisle… you.

Now, she knows your view on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. You’ve shared with her over the years, with patience and compassion, how God’s Word is very clear on this, and an active, practicing homosexual relationship is sin and displeasing to God. You’ve shared with her over the past year or so that marriage is defined by God, not man, and therefore by definition must be between a man and a woman.

The truth is, in the past when seeking to explain these things to your sister you have become angry and even harsh in your tone towards her. This has grieved you and you have sought her forgiveness, yet still affirming your conviction on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

She knows this will be something you will take seriously and therefore doesn’t expect an answer straight way. You hang up the phone… What’s next?

The first passage that floods your mind is James 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

So you pray, “Lord, you know I lack wisdom, please help me.”

You love your sister, you really do. How can you best love her at this time? Do you attend and walk her down the aisle? Do you attend, but don’t walk her down the aisle? Do you not attend at all?

Other passages come to mind:

Romans 1:32, Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Will your attendance be seen as giving approval for something God condemns, as you are called upon to be a witness to the union? If attended alone wouldn’t, would walking her down the aisle, having to say publically you willing give your sister to another woman in marriage?

Is this one of the areas where I am free to choose either option? Go or don’t go? Yet, what if my choice to go would cause another Christian to stumble? One who has been saved from a lifestyle of homosexuality and still struggles with same-sex attraction (Romans 14:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 8:13).

What about Luke 14:26 & 27  26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Is this a matter of competing allegiances between Christ and your family?

This, like many of the more complex issues in our lives, is better thought about before it happens rather than waiting until we’re in the middle of it.

Over the next few posts, I would like to consider how a Christian might think through this very real and difficult scenario Biblically.


To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #2

(In this post I switch to first person pronouns throughout, not because this scenario actually relates to me or either of my sisters, but simply for ease of writing and a more personal form of communication.)

As I try to think through this very real scenario, I find myself very torn. This is only the beginning of the complications that will arise as our culture shifts further and further from a sense of Biblical norms.

It seems like we must, firstly, acknowledge that for those who are in this type of scenario, this is very difficult on a number of levels. Even after thinking things through carefully and prayerfully, regardless of the decision there will be an awkwardness and unsettledness.

It seems to me that Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” is going to provide a grid for me to think through as I consider my role in a situation like this.

Would my actions in this scenario, in any way, be understood to be granting approval for a known, public sinful lifestyle?

If my sister had participated in the filming of a pornographic film, would I attend (whether I am male or female) a “premier” showing of the film to celebrate her success?

I would think not…

Let’s consider the “attend and walking her down the aisle” option…

It seems that in any wedding ceremony, even the most irreligious, the role of the one walking someone (historically called the “bride”) down the aisle has a generally understood purpose: the giving of the “bride” to the “partner” (in this case another female).

To walk my sister down the aisle and give her away in marriage to another woman seems to me to communicate several things. Firstly, I agree that what is happening here is a marriage. Secondly, I am willingly supporting an active homosexual lifestyle. Thirdly, I am publicly declaring that the union of this couple is a good thing and should not end until the death of one of the parties.

To actively participate in anything that communicates even one of the above points in regards to a same-sex marriage would be to go against the clear teaching of Scripture.

As a result, it would seem clear, that I cannot walk my sister down the aisle and “give her away.”

In my next post, I will consider whether or not to attend even if I cannot walk her down the aisle. (The more common and complicated scenario that people will be facing in the very near future.)


To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #3

Since the first post in this series, I have received emails, FaceBook messages, Twitter Direct Messages, etc. all from people who are facing a scenario very similar to the one I’ve described, or they expect to before the year is over.

This is no hypothetical dream world. There are real people, real families, real relationships affected by what we are discussing.

So, my heart is heavy. I find myself weeping over the brokenness of our world, the damage due to sin, and rejection of Christ and His will. Firstly I weep for what I see of all of this in my own heart, then for what I see all around me. I long for Christ’s return. Even so, Lord Jesus come…

Yet, He has not returned, not yet. And in this window of time in which we live, we are called to live faithfully for Him, to Him, and by His strength.

It is after a long discourse, where Paul reminds us of our risen, returning Saviour that he encourages us with these words, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Having already established that I cannot walk my sister down the aisle and “give her away in marriage,” I still have the question; “can I attend?”

Ironically this question would be answered very simply by Christians a generation ago, though there would not have been a scenario for the question to arise.

Here’s what I mean.

Today a wedding is seen by most as a spectator sport. It is a place to see and be seen.

However, it wasn’t that long ago (even still in many Christian wedding ceremonies), when the attendees saw themselves as witnesses. Sure only two people actually sign the wedding license as legal witnesses, but all present are witnesses to the making of vows.

Even in a secular wedding ceremony it is common for the celebrant to say something like, “We are gathered here together to unite in marriage — and —.” You see the “we” in that statement? Although many who are in attendance may not consciously see themselves this way, they are a part of the ceremony. They are being asked, either implicatly or in some cases explicitly to witness this couple making their vows and to serve them in the future by holding them accountable to those vows.

Even if we were to acknowledge that this aspect of attending a wedding ceremony has so been lost to our culture, we can safely assume no one will see my attendance as a formal statement of approval to the wedding, marriage, or the vows, does this remove all concerns?

I don’t think it does…

It seems to me that if we were to look for a cultural synonym for how weddings are generally viewed today, we could use the word celebration. Surely, most everyone would agree that a wedding of any kind is understood as a time of celebration. You will even find on invitations, often, something like, “come celebrate with us…”

Celebrate… Hmmm… Can I celebrate with this couple? Can I celebrate the public display of an open homosexual lifestyle? Can I celebrate the denial of God’s design for marriage, sex, and personal intimacy?

I know I cannot partake in a role when I am seen as giving my approval for and even declaring right and good something that God calls sin. If my attendance were to be perceived as such, I could not attend.

Yet, even if I knew everyone present (or at least everyone I knew personally) would not take my presence as approval, can I join this celebration?

It seems to me like I have found myself right back at Romans 1:32 & Luke 14:25 & 27.

I love my sister, but I love Christ more. I long to maintain a relationship with my sister where I can continue to show her deeds of kindness and share the Gospel of Christ with her and her partner. Yet, I cannot celebrate, let alone, approve of something for which Christ says is sin.


The next phone call will be mine to initiate and it is one I don’t look forward to. To tell my sister I cannot attend her wedding will not be received well. Not by her, our Mum, or extended family (remember this is written first person, but hypothetical for me). I am likely to be the recipient of direct anger and indirect avoidance.

Yet, I have often observed that long-term family division does not, generally, result from one single event where there has been offence.

If there has been general strife and tension within the family (even if under the surface) for years, then something like this may result in very long term or even permanent division.

If, we have been able to maintain loving family relationships through the years even when we’ve had significant differences, the division that comes as a result of this may be longer than previous periods of tension, but may not be long-term.

However, even if it is, if I have come to this conclusion because I believe it is what is honouring to the Lord and pleasing to my Saviour, I have to trust Him for the outcome.

In the strength that Christ provides through His Spirit I can follow Romans 12:17-21 and within a few weeks of the wedding invite my sister and her partner around for tea (dinner).
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


I have endeavoured to write a “kind of thinking out loud” type blog post on a very delicate issue. Not because I am actually “thinking out loud”, but to show the kind of process I might go through in considering such a scenario. In this type of detached format, it can all come across rather clinical and seemingly without feeling. I do understand, when one is facing this situation for real, there will be much emotion and wrestling. Firstly, I believe that is why it is imperative for Christians to think carefully about these things before they find themselves deep into it. Secondly, I believe a Christian can think carefully and prayerfully through all of this and come to a different conclusion than I have presented here. Though we may differ in our conclusion, I believe they will be better off having thought through it carefully.


Everything’s Different… Nothing’s Changed…

Did you notice this morning as you woke to a new day that everything was different here in New Zealand?

Last night the New Zealand parliament voted to pass into law the Marriage Amendment Bill, making New Zealand the 13th country in the world and the first in Asia-Pacific to legalise same-sex marriage.

We should expect to see the first same-sex/transgender weddings in New Zealand in August.

Everything’s different.

A term and a societal institution which has been understood and practiced a particular way in all of New Zealand’s history along with all of human history across all cultures has just been disregarded, redefined, and dismissed. The word marriage still has the same definition in my dictionary today as it did yesterday “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife” (Oxford English Dictionary), but according to our government and society at large this is no longer the definition.

Everything’s different.

Yet, nothing’s changed…

As a Christian, I recognise three significant items that are as true today as they were yesterday.

Firstly, God is sovereign and He does all things well. Most of the members of our parliament would not see themselves as serving the sovereign and good purposes of the Creator of the Universe, some may even be purposely attempting to work against Him, yet they are His servants. His will is being accomplished and He will use even human government with all of its inadequacies to glorify Himself.

God hasn’t changed.

Secondly, the definitions of terms can change over time, but when something has been instituted by God its meaning cannot be altered regardless of what politicians, cultures, or even dictionaries say. Marriage is still and will always be an institution designed by God for the lifelong, convental commitment between one man and one woman for His glory in order to picture the love Christ has for His church. You see, marriage has been marginalised and maligned in or society for decades. It has been seen as a disposable commodity or something that can simply be bypassed for cohabitation, etc. The passing of this bill is significant to be sure. Yet, it is not an isolated event. It is the next step in an erosion process that has been picking up speed for decades.

God’s hasn’t changed His design for marriage.

Thirdly, our opportunity as Christians, to speak boldly and clearly into our culture with the truth of God’s Word continues. We’ve always been called to be lights in a dark world. As moral darkness grows deeper around us, our light can show brighter and brighter.

Yet, here is the sticking point…

If we have not been upholding and celebrating God’s design and purpose for marriage before today; if we have not been boldly & clearly challenging our culture and those around us with the transforming power of the Gospel without concern for personal ridicule before today; if we haven’t been speaking out against sin publically and privately before today, we won’t suddenly start now.

Our commission hasn’t changed.

My Christian friend, my pastor/minister friend. If, over the past year or more you have been unclear on God’s design for marriage; if you have cowered from boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and calling people to repentance, please repent. You are very close to looking no different than the culture around you. There’s no light left to shine.

Do not lose hope. Do not bow to the idols and pressures of this world. We serve a resurrected, returning Saviour and therefore can “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58 ESV)

If you are reading this blog as a non-Christian, scanning websites on this historic “day after” please know our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to speak clearly and boldly on those things He has ordained. He is our Lord and Saviour. He died for our sin so we could be forgiven. He rose again from the dead so we could have hope – a hope that is not rooted in this world. You can have this same forgiveness and this same hope by confessing your sins and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

If you do this you will see that everything is truly different and everything does change!


A brief reply to Mark Keown’s, Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?

Recently a friend sent me a link to Mark Keown’s blog post “Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?”

In general, Mark’s post didn’t state anything significantly new and revolutionary in the world of egalitarian/complementarian debates. What he writes, for the most part, has been stated by many others who hold an egalitarian view.

Let me state at the outset there are many who would use the term complementarian to describe themselves who are really patriarchy and from whom I would have no fellowship. They say stupid things about what the Bible supposedly claims about woman, the home, the church and society. Their views and practices are unbiblical and harmful.

However, Mark’s post is very unhelpful as well. For, at least three reasons.

  • Due to his lack of reference to and interaction with the best of complementarian representatives, one could sadly conclude that Mark’s arguments here have never been addressed from Scripture by anyone and therefore you’d be an idiot to think differently than he does. I know it is only a blog post. Yet, one should, at least show an awareness of the literature and give some indication that there are Christians who love Jesus, the Bible and woman who have come to different conclusions.

Here are just a few examples of excellent books which address every argument raised in Mark’s post:

Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian : A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

Different by Design : God’s Blueprint for Men and Women

God’s Good Design : What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women

Notice the above three books are all written by woman, each solidly exegetical, each familiar with the historical arguments and current debates.

Marriage and Family in the Biblical World (a collection of essays, one written by a female scholar)

Here are a few items written by the husband/wife duo of Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger:

God, Marriage, and Family : Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation

God’s Design for Man and Woman : A Biblical-Theological Survey

Women in the Church : An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

Jesus and the Feminists : Who Do They Say That He Is?

Notice that none of the above authors, as far as I am aware, are connected to CBMW. I say that simply to point out that there are solid, robust, complementarian authors and scholars from a variety of sources. I haven’t even included Amiee Byrd and Carl Trueman, who are both complementarian, yet who stirred up a hornet’s nest last year in critiquing CBMW and others in how they often defend their complementarian views.

  • Mark makes this statement near the beginning of his post, “However, for women who are called to ministry, this is essential to their identity in Christ, and it cannot be treated as a secondary issue. It is a primary issue where Christian identity is concerned.”

I find this statement concerning on a number of levels which have nothing to do with gender.

As a Christian my identity is in Christ. It’s not in my vocation, my role as husband, father, etc.

As someone in full-time Christian ministry it is critical that they never begin to think that their identity is tied up in their ministry or their ministerial role.

For someone training future ministers it would be critical to constantly remind them of this. To send anyone out into ministry where they are thinking that their ministry or ministerial role is where they find their identity is to set them up for great disappointment, frustration, and failure.

  • In the last few sentences, just before Mark’s concluding paragraph he makes the following statement, “We may be standing in the way of the Spirit if we block women from ministry. We may be like the Pharisees who thought Jesus was ministering under the power of Satan. Jesus warned them that a sin against the Spirit is the ultimate sin for which there is no forgiveness. That is worth thinking about.”

To give credit where credit is due, this is certainly an original contribution, as far as I am aware, in the whole egalitarian/complementarian debate.

Essentially all of the authors above, and everyone who has ever been a part of Jesus’ church who place some limits on when and how woman can serve in the church may be guilty of the “unpardonable sin”! Wow!

I’ve read some strong statements by both egalitarian and complementarian authors before. I’ve read statements by complementarians that embarrass me. I’ve never read anywhere such an unfounded and frankly ridiculous statement by contributors to this debate on either side.

There is no possible way one can defend this conclusion exegetically. If one handles such an important part of the Gospel’s teaching – “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” – with such a casual and indefensible approach, why on earth should anyone listen to how they handle the rest of Scripture?

To be frank, Mark, suggesting that brothers and sisters in Christ whom you disagree with as potentially guilty of committing the “unpardonable sin” is a serious matter. I obviously have quibbles with the rest of your post, but this kind of statement is beyond excuse. I would beg you to reconsider your words.


A Minister’s Burden by John Newton

This is my favourite John Newton poem…

A Minister’s Burden
(John Newton)

What contradictions meet
In ministers’ employ!
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy:
No other post affords a place
For equal honor or disgrace.

Who can describe the pain
Which faithful preachers feel,
Constrained to speak in vain,
To hearts as hard as steel?
Or who can tell the pleasures felt,
When stubborn hearts begin to melt?

The Savior’s dying love,
The soul’s amazing worth,
Their utmost efforts move,
And draw their bowels forth;
They pray and strive, the rest departs,
Till Christ be formed in sinners’ hearts.

If some small hope appears,
They still are not content,
But with a jealous fear,
They watch for the event:
Too oft they find their hopes deceived.
Then how their inmost souls are grieved!

But when their pains succeed,
And from the tender blade
The ripening ears proceed,
Their toils are overpaid:
No harvest-joy can equal theirs,
To find the fruit of all their cares.

On what has now been sown,
Thy blessing, Lord, bestow;
The power is Thine alone,
To make it spring and grow:
Do Thou the gracious harvest raise,
And Thou alone shalt have the praise.

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Posted by on 10/03/2017 in Current Issues


Luke (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) by Alan Thompson

A friend just notified me of the release of his new book as part of the excellent “Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament” series.
If you are a student or pastor this volume will be extremely helpful.
“In line with the vision of Murray J. Harris, who originated the EGGNT series, Alan Thompson’s fine volume on Luke succinctly provides judicious explanation of the Greek syntax, structure, grammatical options, the flow of the argument, and more. This volume will be a gold mine for students and pastors alike who are keeping up their Greek while studying this Gospel closely. Highly recommended.”

—D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and president, The Gospel Coalition

“Luke is the longest gospel in Scripture and getting good grammatical help for his inspired work can be hard. That is no longer the case. Luke’s Gospel in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series by Alan Thompson provides a series of careful observations about the Greek that can help you negotiate the terrain. A wonderful tool.”

– Darrell L. Bock, executive director of cultural engagement, Howard G. Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement and senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

Purchase from Book Depository or Amazon
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Posted by on 04/03/2017 in Current Issues


A Wedding Sermon for an Arranged Marriage

On Saturday morning, 25 February 2017 I had the wonderful privilege to preaching at the wedding ceremony for a lovely Indian/New Zealand girl we’ve known or nearly 9 years and her husband, also from India. This was a glorious, Christian, arranged marriage.

Here is what I said…

“The Big Picture”: A Covenant 

It is a tremendous privilege to be here today and to participate in this beautiful wedding ceremony. We’ve been blessed to know XX and the YY family for about nine years, I think. Their friendship has been a blessing to us in many ways over these years, but nothing really compares to the honour of our being here today and being a part of this wedding.

I just met ZZ Tuesday! Yet, I’ve heard about him, obviously for several months. I am compelled to give thanks to the Lord for His marvellous grace in bringing these two young people together.

And who can’t stand in amazement at this scene. An Irishman and an American serving together to perform the wedding ceremony of a young Indian couple in New Zealand! Go figure. If the family of God isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is!

I now have the awesome privilege or speaking to all of us from God’s Word on this wonderful institution of marriage. Marriage, of course, was God’s idea. The Bible begins with a marriage (between Adam and Eve) and ends with a marriage (between Christ and His bride – the Church). So it would make sense for us to look into God’s Word to see His good purposes for this wonderful part of His creation. There are many places in God’s word where we find clear precepts on the role of a husband, the role of a wife and the purpose of marriage. The Song of Solomon is an entire book dedicated to the marriage relationship.

However I want to think together of the “big picture,” what it is that essentially makes a marriage a marriage.

This is vitally important for this generation. We now live in a world, at least in the West, where one of the most radical and countercultural actions a person can undertake is to stand publically and declare that marriage is between one man and one woman for one lifetime.

Perhaps for some, considering this together for the next few minutes will be particularly helpful because of the background to this particular marriage. As, I assume all of you here are aware, this is an arranged marriage. For most who come from a Western culture this is very unusual. Even for some from an Indian culture this is perhaps seen as a leftover from a more backward generation.

In India there is even another term, “Love Marriage” to describe kind of the opposite of an “Arranged Marriage”. I find that interesting and telling. The term “Love Marriage”, though Indian, accurately describes Western culture’s understanding of the basis of marriage – love. This has formed the basis over the last three generations in the West to argue for the acceptance of everything from easy divorce, to same-sex marriage, to cohabitation, and everything in between. Love is preached as the foundation on which marriage is built.

But is it? This is a Christian wedding. We are committed, this couple is committed, to understanding all of life through the lens of God’s Word. What does God say is the foundation of and basis for marriage. Let me suggest, once we understand that, everything changes! More than that, this particular marriage, in my opinion becomes seriously cool!

Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

30 because we are members of his body.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The image God uses to describe and define a marriage is a covenant. This is so often overlooked and yet so very essential in understanding God’s purpose and design for marriage.

Tim Keller has written:

“Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now—that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances. What can keep marriages together during the rough patches? The vows.

When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. You actually love your idea of the person—and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken.” (Keller, Timothy J., and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011.)

I find that quote quite amazing coming from man who pastors in the West – perhaps one could argue the most Western of Western cities, New York City.

It is actually quite refreshing to consider how an arranged marriage doesn’t have a lot of the cultural entrapments he is speaking about here that generally accompany Western practices of dating, engagement, etc.

Marriage, biblically, isn’t about love or based on love – certainly not love as it is generally understood by our Western culture.

At the same time, can I speak to you as a Westerner? Each culture has its own entrapments. Those aspects of the culture which, in the best of cases, are not necessarily bad but when not filtered through Scripture can blind us towards God’s good purposes for us.

Consider Paul’s amazing words in Ephesians 5:31-33:

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Notice marriage isn’t about pleasing your parents or church leaders or to conform to any other cultural norms or expectations anymore than marriage is about some weak cultural version of love.

Quite startling and shocking really, to any culture – marriage isn’t really primarily about us at all!

My marriage, understood biblically, isn’t primarily about me or my wife. This marriage today isn’t primarily about XX or ZZ, or their parents, or their church leaders, or anyone else’s expectations.

The truth is any of those things, though in and of themselves mostly good, are all too small of a thing for marriage to picture. You see that’s just it, marriage is a picture. A picture points to something greater than itself.

No one who has seen a picture of the Taj Mahal goes there in real life and expects to see something less amazing than the photo. No one who has seen a picture of New Zealand’s Southern Alps goes a tour of the South Island expecting to see something rather drab and boring.

Of course not, that would be nonsense. The picture though beautiful is nothing compared to the thing it represents and points to.

This is even more true for this beautiful thing called marriage. Created by God, according to Paul from Creation itself (in Ephesians 5:31 he quotes Genesis 2), to be a picture of something even more beautiful and amazing! And the thing more beautiful and amazing isn’t our love or a child pleasing their parents or a couple submitting to their church or any of those things which may be aspects of our individual cultures but not ultimately big enough for the glory that marriage is meant to display for the watching world.

Why is this the case? Why is marriage, according to God more about the covenant and less about each of you individually or your collected needs being met?

God has designed marriage to be about something else. To be about someone else. It is designed by God to picture the covenantal relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

Here are another author’s comments on this passage:

“Unbeknownst to the people of Moses’ day (it was a mystery), marriage was designed by God from the beginning to be a picture or parable of the relationship between Christ and the church. Back when God was planning what marriage would be like, He planned it for this great purpose: it would give a beautiful earthly picture of the relationship that would someday come about between Christ and His church. This was not known to people for many generations, and that is why Paul can call it a “mystery”. But now in the NT age Paul reveals this mystery, and it is amazing… This means that when Paul wanted to tell the Ephesians about marriage, he did not just hunt around for a helpful analogy and suddenly think that “Christ and the church” might be a good teaching illustration. No, it was much more fundamental than that: Paul saw that when God designed the original marriage, He already had Christ and the church in mind. This is one of God’s great purposes in marriage: to picture the relationship between Christ and His redeemed people forever.” (George Knight, Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

This is why our marriages are founded on a covenant sealed with vows – a promise.

Christ’s covenant with his bride is not based on performance. He does not commit to loving us only as long as we meet His needs or perform up to His standard. He as covenanted Himself to us despite our sin, in spite of our failings. His love for us is rooted in His promise of faithfulness.

Similarly, God calls us to image this covenant in our covenant of marriage. Our marriage must be based on, founded on our covenant of promise. It cannot be based on emotional sentimentality, the other person’s performance, or our needs getting met.

Emotions, needs, performance, etc. will all change. They will come and go. What will sustain, maintain, and provided the soil for everything else to grow in our marriages is the covenant.

Hear John Piper’s words on this:

“Marriage was designed from the beginning to display the new covenant between Christ and the church… The very essence of this new covenant is that Christ passes over the sins of his bride. His bride is free from shame not because she is perfect, but because she has no fear that her lover will condemn her or shame her because of her sin. The foundation of covenant keeping love between a man and a woman is the unbroken covenant between them and God – God governing them for their good and they enjoying him in that security and relying on him.” (Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2009, pgs. 33-35.)

Here’s the hope in this…

The same Gospel that unites us in covenant to Christ and makes us part of His bride; the same Gospel our marriages are to picture, is the same Gospel that enables us to keep our promise and find joy in our covenant.

Because your sins are forgiven in Christ, because you have confessed your sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation you know what it is like to receive covenant love. Love and forgiveness offered freely.

Therefore, in Christ you can offer free covenant love and forgiveness towards each other.

Hear again the words of Tim Keller on this:

“When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience.

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us…

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is. . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love.” (Keller, Timothy J., and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011.)

You see, the gospel tells us and reminds us that the thing which is essential for a successful marriage is totally different than anything our, or any culture, will tell us – forgiveness.

ZZ and XX are here today to declare to all of us that they have both individually placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. They both came to a specific place in their lives when they understood they were sinners and destined to spend eternity in a real place called Hell forever.

The parallel is unavoidable. Just as it is impossible to avoid Hell and to spend eternity in heaven without God’s forgiveness of our sins that Christ’s death provides; it is impossible to navigate through the maze of marriage and a life together in marital unity without the giving of and the seeking of forgiveness from one another. The gospel makes it possible to live this out within the covenant of marriage.

Today we are celebrating the union of ZZ and XX in marriage. We are also rejoicing in the eternal forgiveness of their sins, and the hope of forgiveness within their marriage that this forgiveness in Christ provides.

I know that today the thing that would bring ZZ and XX the most joy would not be receiving some gift from you. Rather, if you are here and you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, if you have not asked for and received His forgiveness for your sins; they would receive the greatest joy in knowing that you have received the free gift that is available to all who will receive it.

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”


Posted by on 25/02/2017 in Current Issues


New Zealand Health Select Committee on Euthanasia

This Friday, 28 October 2016, the Health Select Committee on Euthanasia will receive verbal submissions from the public in Christchurch.

This is the next step in a process which began last year with written submissions where individuals were able to tick a box indicating their willingness to also speak before the Health Select Committee.

Each person who speaks before the committee is given five minutes. In my five minutes I intend to say the following:

I want to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak in opposition to the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand. 

I want to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak in opposition to the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand. 

Post-Hippocratic World

People are to be valued vs. Utilitarianism

For over 2,000 years of human history medical professionals across the world, spanning diverse cultures pledged themselves to some version of the Hippocratic Oath. This ancient code reads, in part:

“I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

In purity and according to divine law will I carry out my life and my art.”[1]

With the advent of the field of bioethics, a very modern area of study, along with numerous other seismic shifts in Western culture we now live in a post- Hippocratic world. Utilitarianism rules the day.

Human beings are no longer universally valued as having inherent dignity and worth. They are seen has having value only in relation to their perceived, relative contribution to society.

This current debate on Euthanasia is not happening in a vacuum. We have arrived at this point due to the slow erosion of society’s conscience where people are only people if others conclude they offer something of value.

The façade of Governmental regulations

Promises and intentions vs. Reality

Our Government bodies are not immune to this utilitarian thinking. Decisions are made based on values determined by economics and social Darwinian ethics.

We are presented with a façade built of promises and intentions to guarantee close scrutiny and ensure no abuse will take place. The very idea that some can publicly discuss the idea of helping someone kill themselves and this is considered as potentially helpful to society is deeply troubling.

Yet, we are not left to our imaginations or even supposed “slippery slope” arguments to suggest this is something which no amount of government regulation can control. There isn’t a single example in human history where the door to Assisted Suicide has been opened upon a society and that same government which opened the door is capable of keeping it opened “only so far and no more.”

When the door was opened upon Germany and Austria it took a war to close it again!

We see today in Holland and Belgium where all the promises of government regulation lead. It is now legal to euthanise a child of any age in Belgium. The Groningen University Medical Centre in Holland has developed a three step protocol which has been published without criticism in the New England Journal of Medicine providing a simple process whereby a doctor can determine after a safe, live birth whether a child’s life should be terminated with impunity.[2]

Social Hypocrisy

Suicide prevention vs. Assisted Suicide

Finally, the social hypocrisy in New Zealand is palatable. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen, almost daily, articles and media releases regarding the staggering suicide statistics in New Zealand – Canterbury ranks at the top.

With this there is a great outcry and concern for those who are suffering and would consider the tragic step of ending their own life. I applaud this outcry. As a family who has been directly affected by suicide I long to see those who are at such a place receive the help and assistance they need.

At the same time the public debate of these two issues is equally staggering. What is the intended outcome?

If you are considering suicide are to call an 0800 helpline and in doing so will you hear something like, “If you are contemplating taking you own life, please press #1 for help. If you would like assistance in taking your life, please press #2 for the number of a local clinic which will prescribe an end of life treatment. Thank you for calling.”

The time is past for us as a culture and society to stop talking about people, image bearers of God as commodities. Objects that can be assigned value based on any criteria other than the fact they are fully human.

The time is past for us to stop insulting the countless palliative care doctors and nurses who tirelessly care for those precious members of our society, who are dying, to ensure their value and dignity is never compromised by labelling the sanctioned killing of others as “death with dignity”.

You who serve in public office have an obligation to represent and use your voice to defend the most vulnerable.

I pray you will.



I highly recommend the following book:

Smith, Wesley J. Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America. San Francisco, Calif: Encounter Books, 2016.

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Posted by on 24/10/2016 in Current Issues


Imago Dei: How the “doctrine of man” is being undermined today and why it matters

Recently I presented a seminar on this topic at the 2016 SI Stand for the Gospel Conference. This Saturday I will present, essentially the same seminar, at a conference in Christchurch called “Confident Christianity“.

I’m providing a link here to a handout that I will use and others might find helpful.

Imago Dei: How the “doctrine of man” is being undermined today and why it matters

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Posted by on 04/05/2016 in Current Issues


2016 Reading Plan

Over the past several years I have selected a larger series or several larger volumes to read slowly through the year. Items that I probably wouldn’t just sit down and read otherwise.

For 2016 I plan to read the following volumes:

  1. The Church of Christ : A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline and Government of the Christian Church (I have about 600 pages still to read from 2015).
  2. The King in His Beauty : A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (700+ pages)
  3. A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (800+ pages)

About 40 pages per day, five days a week, for 10 months (Feb-Nov) should get me through these volumes. 🙂

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Posted by on 01/02/2016 in Current Issues


Scriptural Confidence in the Preached Word

2015 GTT Preaching Conference with Phillip Jensen

This was my morning exposition to open this year’s Preaching Conference yesterday.

Scriptural Confidence in the Preached Word

“In Scripture we find the canon of saving speech; in preaching, the ongoing means by which this saving speech generates a new creation, so that even in this present evil age we ‘[taste] the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come’ (Heb 6:5). This is ‘how’ the kingdom comes…

Though seemingly powerless and ineffective, the creaturely mediation of his Word through faltering human lips is the most powerful thing on earth…

Typically, we prefer what we can see to what we hear: ‘A picture tells a thousand words.’ Our new images may not be statues that we venerate, but there is a real danger in Protestant churches of once again silencing God’s living and active speech (i.e. the exposition of Scripture) in a sea of our own insights, visual dramas, and the blue luminosity of our computer screens. Yet our Lord chose not only the content but the medium. We do not find God; he finds us. Faith comes not by feeling, thinking, seeing, or striving, but by ‘hearing’.”

Michael Horton, “The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way”, pg. 751-62.

Galatians 3:1 & 2

Galatians 3:1 Ὦ ἀνόητοι Γαλάται, τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν, οἷς κατ᾽ ὀφθαλμοὺς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς προεγράφη ἐσταυρωμένος; 2 τοῦτο μόνον θέλω μαθεῖν ἀφ᾽ ὑμῶν· ἐξ ἔργων νόμου τὸ πνεῦμα ἐλάβετε ἢ ἐξ ἀκοῆς πίστεως;

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

This will be brief… I would like to offer some general reflections on this text and how I think it offers a needed correction for some of what passes as “preaching” (yes, even in Protestant Evangelical churches) today.

Paul asserts in verse 2, by way of a pointed, rhetorical question that the Galatian believers received the Spirit through faith by hearing.

Yet in verse 1 he seems to be saying something else. He seems to be saying that they saw Christ crucified… or is that what he is saying?

No in verse 1 he is giving a powerful description of the effectiveness of the preached word!

“The word ‘portrayed’ comes from the world of advertising. The Greek used it to refer, for example, to a kind of public notice posted to show that a property was up for sale. What the Galatians had seen, then, was a graphic and public display of the crucified Christ. Jesus Christ had been placarded before them, as if on a giant billboard or large canvas… It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But if there is time for a thousand words, people can see for themselves, which is what happened when Paul presented the gospel.” (Philip Ryken, Galatians, pg. 83)

The word preached was the public portraying of Jesus Christ crucified before their very eyes. These people did not actually see Jesus crucified in Jerusalem. They were not there. Paul came to their city and preached Christ and Him crucified and the people saw in the preached word their crucified Saviour!

By way of observation I see a couple of related tendencies and trends in preaching.

  1. Preaching is boiled down to explanation. Have I explained the text accurately?

Clearly I am not advocating an approach to preaching the ignores meaning or lessens the importance of careful study of the meaning of the text.

But is preaching nothing more than explanation? I need to explain the text. Everything I say must flow out of an accurate understanding of the meaning of the text. But, having explained the text, am I done?

  1. Preaching has become unhealthily married to visual aids.

Some preachers will spend nearly as much time in their week working on their PowerPoint or looking for that perfect intro video (or making one of their own) as they do in any other part of their sermon prep.

Both of these tendencies and trends, I would suggest, reveal a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of the preached word.

Explaining and delivering accurate information is sufficient for effective change.

The message is made effective by the visual, the wow factor, the emotional response to the background music, etc.

I would suggest we need to regain and/or renew our commit to and passion for preaching. Preaching in such a way that moves beyond simply explanation and is freed from an unhealthy dependence on the visual and audibly proclaims Christ and Him crucified that by God’s grace will result in genuine faith in the lives of those who hear the message.

Calvin, “Let those who want to discharge the ministry of the Gospel learn not only to speak and declaim but also to penetrate into consciences, so that men may see Christ crucified and that His blood may flow. When the church has such painters as these she no longer needs wood and stone, dead images, she no longer requires any pictures.” (John Calvin, Galatians, pg. 147)

How can we do this? I offer three suggestions for us all to consider:

  1. 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 => Renew your confidence in and commitment to the absolute authority and sufficiency of the inspired Scripture. If you are unsure if this is God’s Word in some way or some place you will not preach with power, passion, and authority.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 3:14-4:5 ESV)

  1. 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8 => Renew your love for the people you serve. Stop trying to impress them (or anyone), but willingly pour your life out for them. If you really love the people you are preaching to you will passionately desire for them to be changed by the power of God’s Word.

5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed– God is witness.

6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.

7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.

8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thess. 2:5-8 ESV)

  1. Colossians 4:2-4 => Pray and invite your congregation to pray for you, that you might grow in the effective, clear, declaration of the mysteries of Christ.

2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison–

4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

(Col. 4:2-4 ESV)

Let’s pray as I hand things over to Phillip…

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Posted by on 12/08/2015 in Current Issues


A Note to My American Friends Interested in Politics

I have lived outside the US now for over eight years. Most likely, I will for the rest of my life (though the Lord may have other plans). If it weren’t for FaceBook I would probably have no idea what was going on in the world of US politics. Nevertheless, it is inescapable.

As a result I wanted to mention a couple of details based on some of what I have observed lately on various FB posts related to American Politics.

Firstly, Ben Carson… Let me be clear. I am very thankful for Carson’s ethical stance against abortion. I know virtually nothing about his expertise or knowledge of domestic politics, economics, or foreign affairs. However, I do know he is Seventh-Day Adventist and this has never been a secret.

Does Ben Carson personally believe that salvation is by faith alone for the forgiveness of sins, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, for the glory of God alone? In other words, is Ben Carson truly a Christian? I have no idea. I do know he is a member of a “denomination” that would officially deny some historical, orthodox truths.

My American friends, you can support Ben Carson if you agree with his ethical and political views without making him into a Bible believing, Evangelical Christian – if, in fact, he is not. Please don’t overstate his position trying to make him something he may not be just to gain support.

(If anyone has verifiable knowledge of Carson’s personal understanding of Biblical salvation and the authority of Scripture I would be happy to be corrected.)

Secondly, Benjamine Netanyahu… Everyone knows he spoke before the US Congress this week. I saw more than one Christian say something like, “please pray for the leader of God’s people as he enters the lions’ den this week”. (I’m not joking!)

“The leader of God’s people”??!??

My American friend (or any for that matter). If you are dispensational (and let’s be honest I only saw these kinds of comments from people who would generally fall into that theological category) then please be a consistent dispensationalist.

As a dispensationalist you would believe that God has placed His plan for Israel on “hold” for now and is focused on the church. Therefore it is inconceivable to call a man who denies Jesus is the Messiah and leads a secular nation, made up of people the vast majority of whom deny Jesus is the Messiah “the leader of God’s people”.

There are many “leaders of God’s people” today and they are pastors/elders of local churches all over the world.

If you are not dispensational and yet have made such comments, then the level of theological inconsistency is so great, I have no idea where to begin.

You can support Netanyahu if you agree with his politics, his foreign affairs, his boldness, or whatever. But please do not overstate your case with such theological statements which cannot possibly be defended from Scripture.

Living on the “outside” I can only tell you such political positions as voiced recently regarding Carson and Netanyahu only increases the negativity many have towards Americans who seem to have a profound gift for confusing conservative politics with Biblical Christianity.

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Posted by on 05/03/2015 in Current Issues

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