Category Archives: Ethics

2015 – Invercargill Bible School – The Certainty of Christ in an Age of Unbelief

I have the privilege to speak at this weekend Bible Conference next weekend. If you know anyone in or near Invercargill you might want to encourage them to attend.

2015 - Invercargill Bible School - The Certainty of Christ in an Age of Unbelief - back 2015 - Invercargill Bible School - The Certainty of Christ in an Age of Unbelief - front


My Last Sunday PM Service at Howick Baptist Church

I joined the pastoral staff at Howick Baptist Church in December, 2010. At that time they were not having Sunday evening services, so we decided to start them the beginning of 2011.

It’s been just over three years but this Sunday will be my last PM service at Howick. Partly due to my family moving to Rolleston, New Zealand for a new church plant in July, but also due to what has been our normal “winter break.” We have generally taken a break in the winter due to the cold weather and the building being too hard to heat.

Certainly this service has not achieved all I hoped it would. I had hoped more of the folks from Howick would eventually make it part of their normal Lord’s Day routine to begin and end the day with the gathered church, yet I realise changing family schedules and routines is hard work and doesn’t happen quickly. I had hoped the service might provide a place for others to serve in music or sound, etc. yet, I was committed to not loading up the same people who serve in the AM with more work. I had hoped there would be a place for younger guys to preach in this setting and yet for various reasons this didn’t happen past the first year, really. In the end, I acknowledge my contribution to many of these failings.

Yet, I am still thankful for these 3+ years of services.

Those who have attended regularly have enjoyed genuine fellowship at a deeper level with others than is often possible when only attending the morning service.

We have made the sharing of prayer requests and prayer a regular part of this service. This has allowed us to learn from others when hearing them pray (and there are some ladies that when they pray you really learn how a mature, lover of Christ prays), along with hearing how God is answering prayer.

We have enjoyed singing some great hymns together. Even as a small group often singing with no instruments we have experienced some great times in corporate song. (Even with me leading singing out of tune, although there have been some attempts which have been complete failures!)

Since the beginning we have included a Q&A time during the service, usually at the end. This has allowed people to ask questions related to the sermon/teaching or anything else they wanted to ask. This has ranged from basic followup questions from what was just taught to some big questions about life and the Scriptures. Of all that we’ve done during this service this is the aspect for which I have received the most consistent, positive feedback.

There have been a handful of young adults and a couple of guys in particular which have been very faithful to this service from the beginning. This has been hugely encouraging.

A couple of our elderly ladies, even widows, have attended very faithfully as well. I have found this to be both humbling and a wonderful example.

Also a few ladies who are married to non-Christians have been very faithful. Their cheerfulness and thankfulness has been a real blessing.

I don’t have an exact number, but I can think of six to eight people who started attending the PM service and then began attending the AM service as well. This was unexpected but something that I found very encouraging.

Finally, this service has provided a wonderful opportunity for me to preach/teach more regularly than I have in years and, as a result, to grow substantially for which I am very thaknful.

In these 3+ years I have preached through Colossians, Porverbs, The Gospel of Mark, and a series through the Minor Prophets. In addition, I taught through a lengthy series on Ethics, and Doctrine.

I have been blessed, equiped, and encouraged. I think I am more prepared for church planting as a result of the experience this service has provided me and my family.

We will miss these folks and this service very much. We are very thankful.

I am very committed to the idea of two services on a Sunday and look forward to seeing how we might provide for this in the coming years in Rolleston Baptist Church. In the early months we are looking to have an afternoon service after a shared lunch, but we will see what The Lord does.


To not inherit the Kingdom of God is serious business

Another month has arrived along with another issue of the Baptist Magazine.

Here is my monthly column for May’s “Minority Report”. This will likely be my last column on the same-sex marriage issue.

(ESV) 1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(All of the following is hypothetical, yet not unreal.)

As I sit in my office and look across the desk I see a young couple (male & female) in their 20’s, they are not married yet they have been having sex with each other and, come to find out, others in the young adults group regularly and unapologetically.

As I have coffee with a husband of a lady in my congregation I learn that he is being investigated for fraud. He admits to me he has systemically stolen 2 million dollars from his employer over the last five years. He shows no signs of remorse or repentance, only a sorrow for being caught.

As I meet with another husband of a lady in my congregation the truth comes out that he is a drunk and when he is drunk (which is most evenings and weekends) he physically assaults his children and wife. He shows no signs of remorse.

As I meet with these people I will obviously discuss a number of items some which will involve the law, others relational damages, etc. Yet at the bottom line what must I say to them (granted this is an over simplification)?

Firstly, I must tell them that they are in serious trouble. Their sin is against those people they know but also, and most significantly, against God Whom they do not know. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is a serious matter. Yes, there are other serious matters as well, but the enteral destiny of their soul hangs in the balance. They must come to understand the holiness of God, the sinfulness of their sin and the necessity of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness.

Secondly, I must tell them of the hope found in the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God. I must pray for the Spirit to open their eyes so they can see that this same Jesus that made it possible for Paul to say of the people of Corinth, “And such were some of you”, is available to them as well. Forgiveness is possible. They can be set free from the power of sin (not necessarily from the consequences) and find rest in Christ and peace with God.

As I sit in my office there are two men in their 40’s sitting across the desk. They have not been thus far involved in homosexual sex, but they desire to get married so that they may be able to enjoy said activity as a married couple. Once they marry they will inevitably be men who “practice homosexuality.”

However, unlike the previous examples which are all listed with this activity in 1 Cor. 6:9-12, rather than pointing out their sin and pointing them to a holy God accessible only through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, I will help them plan a wedding.

By sanctioning “same-sex marriage” one is by definition declaring holy the practice of homosexual sex. By declaring such as holy one is saying those who God says will not inherit the kingdom of God will.

This is serious business. The very gospel is at stake.


Baptist Autonomy Can’t Mean Each Church is Free to Do Anything

The following is my March article for my regular column, “Minority Report” in the Baptist Magazine.

This is a big topic and the space allowed for this article is small. Therefore, I am not pretending to say all that could be said here, but I do intend to stimulate thinking on this very important question.

A discussion that has arisen from our “debate” regarding same-sex marriage, homosexuality and Baptist Union churches/pastors participation in such is that of local church autonomy. Can one church or the majority of churches in a union of churches give direction to other churches on what they can or cannot do in areas of practice?

Here, I just want to ask a simple question, do we see any precedent in the New Testament for this practice?

In scanning through the New Testament one only makes it to Acts 15 before we find an example of a group/church giving direction to other Christians/churches. Here we have the Jerusalem council debating questions regarding the nature of the gospel and giving a letter of direction to other churches.

Secondly, I would simply point out that the majority of the letters in the New Testament (certainly Paul’s) are written to churches providing direction and correction – in some cases to churches the author has never even visited.

By way of a passing observation, one can’t help but notice how often the subject of sexual purity comes up in these letters (even the letter to the churches in Acts 15!).

Now, here is what I am not saying. I am not saying anyone today carries apostolic authority as did Paul or the leaders of the Jerusalem church in Acts 15. I am not saying any one church or even the Baptist Union leadership holds inspired authority like the council in Acts 15.

However, I am saying that those who claim that autonomy precludes the possibility of sister churches within a union of churches correcting each other over areas of doctrine and/or practice are without warrant. The New Testament itself along with all of church history argues otherwise.

We as member churches individually and as a union collectively have a responsibility, New Testament model, and historical precedent to stand up and seek to correct those churches that are in error.

If your general position on the issue of same-sex marriage is, “I wouldn’t perform one myself, but I don’t think we should tell others they cannot” you are, but your silence condoning this practice. By condoning this practice you are saying an open, active homosexual lifestyle is pleasing to God and something that the Baptist Union of Churches in New Zealand should welcome. You are also, by your silence, affirming the view that an active homosexual lifestyle is pure and therefore is not a sin and there is no need for repentance. You see this isn’t just about marriage; it is about the definition of sin & repentance which gets at the heart of the gospel itself. And if there was every anything churches ought to be vigilant at in providing clarity, direction and even correction over, it is the gospel.

This is not a time to stay silent. This is a time to speak. Speak compassionately, graciously, lovingly yes, but speak nonetheless. Even more so for those in positions of leadership. If leadership if anything, it is standing for truth and speaking compellingly for those who do not have a voice. As leaders, silence speaks volumes. Silence communicates to those we lead, that this issue isn’t important, that we have nothing to say or even more critically for Christian leadership, God has nothing to say on this topic!

In the December issue of this column you will find a succinct statement regarding the Scripture’s teaching on sexuality, homosexuality, and marriage. It is time for those in the leadership of Baptist churches and Carey Baptist College to speak out publically in defence of the clear Scriptural teaching on this vital issue. This is not the time for a “conversation” but a declaration. Simply declare the whole counsel of God on the subject of sexuality and marriage and call all those who reject the Scriptures on this to repent – for the purity of the church, the glory of God, and the beauty of Christ.


Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones Interviewed in 1970, or was it yesterday?

I was struck by how timeless the content of this interview was. Though it was conducted before I was even born the questions could have been asked by anyone today and the Doctor’s answers would have been just as necessary.

I was also struck by how clear & succinct MLJ’s answers were. He didn’t waffle around giving a long list of caveats he simply gave a direct, clear and gracious answer.

I was also stuck by how confident he was in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. He reasoned carefully from the Scriptures and was clearly not in the least bit embarrassed to stand on its authority.

I am so thankful for the example and model of faithfulness seen in this video! May the Lord be so kind as to allow me to follow MLJ as he followed Christ.


Don’t Focus on NCFIC’s View of Reformed Rap and Miss Their Poor Theology and Practice

Update with links to explanations and apologies regarding NCFIC & Rap:

I am sure most have watched the video of a panel discussion recently posted online by NCFIC. If you have, or even if not, you might find this summary post on the whole “Holy Hip Hop Squabble”, helpful:

A Round-Up of the Holy Hip Hop Squabble

I am writing this from a very different perspective. One that is of great concern.

Here is what I recently posted on a FB comment thread:

” I wrote a three part series in 2005 which were published & later put on my blog. They are still some of the most read items on my blog. Since then many others have raised similar concerns regarding NCFIC’s theology & practice. Yet these warnings have been mostly ignored. Now all of a sudden they say some stupid things about ‘Reformed Rap’ & everyone flips out. I find this troubling. Are we most significantly concerned about doctrine or our music preferences? Again, everything that was said on the video of the panel is nonsense. Of course it is, it came from NCFIC. But there are far greater concerns with them than their silly, ignorant opinions on rap! Sorry to rant… I think I’ll blog this.”

Here’s my concern…

There have been several people since 2005 who have tried to draw attention to serious errors in both the theology and practice of NCFIC (and other related ministries), but they have been largely ignored. Yet, what cannot be ignored is their opinions on rap!? Is sound doctrine on the family, ecclesiology, ect. not important? Are we really only meant to step up to the keyboard and fight over a group’s view of a genre of music while for years we have ignored other theological errors.

Here are some historical links:

In 2006, after receiving a phone call from a Vision Forum representative and not subsequently removing my blog posts from the Internet I received a signed letter from their board indicating their plan to take me to court for slander and justifying their right to do this as Christians because they had concluded that I was not a Christian and therefore they would not be in violation of Biblical principles.

In September 2006, I moved to New Zealand with my family. They have never followed through on this preposterous threat.

Tonight (14 March 2014) I received a letter from Scott Brown with NCFIC asking for a copy of the letter I mention above. He was on the board of Vision forum in 2006 and he has no recollection of this letter being sent to me.

I have looked everywhere on my computer for the above letter (it would have been six years ago) and although I have found two other letters from the “Vision Forum Research Team” I am unable to locate the above mentioned letter.

Therefore I am willing to conclude that my memory of the above is incorrect and therefore my statement above was wrong. I ask those whom I implicated in the above to forgive me for making such a statement without verifying my memory. That was unwise and has resulted in me publishing an accusation that now seems to be invalid. For this I am grieved.

If you don’t think there is a connection between Vision Forum ( and NCIFC then see these:

If you are not familiar with the latest controversy surrounding Doug Phillips and Vision Forum see these posts:

For further theological critiques of NCFIC and related ministries see these:

A helpful collection from 2009-2011

From 2013


NCFIC has released an apology for one of the more ridiculous statements made on the video here. I will leave it to others to say whether this apology is really gets to the point. I think they still don’t get it.

Yet, their view of rap isn’t my greatest concern.

For years this group has been characterised by legalism, an unbiblical view of the role of husband/father, a unbiblical view of the church, an unbiblical practice of church life and condemning of those who differ from them.

For years these errors have been pointed out by many from several different denominations and all online.

For years these theological critiques have been generally ignored, with some (Voddie Baucham and Joel Beeke being prime examples) even continuing to minister among them despite being personally entreated not to.

Why? Why have the above admonitions not been taken seriously? Why hasn’t this group been more widely and strongly condemned for their doctrinal errors?

Why do we only now see a huge Internet fire storm when these guys say a bunch of silly things about rap?

I am not sure why. However, I am sure these other errors in doctrine and practice are far more dangerous and damaging than their view on rap!


A Church Statement on Christian Marriage and Sexuality – in light of New Zealand’s Same-Sex Marriage Law

For any congregations considering how to clarify their position and practice with regard to same-sex marriage, the following may be helpful:

PDF Download

Word Document Download

CHURCH NAME: A Statement on Christian Marriage and Sexuality – in light of New Zealand’s Same-Sex Marriage Law[1]

  1. God made human beings as male and female to reflect his image within creation (Gen. 1:27). It is the complementary relationship of a man and a woman that is foundational to marriage in the created order (Gen. 2:23-24). The creation account affirms that monogamous heterosexual marriage expresses God’s will and purposes for his good world.
  2. In Scripture marriage bears a significance which goes beyond the regulation of sexual behaviour, the bearing and raising of children, the formation of families, and the recognition of certain economic and legal rights, all of which are important. Throughout the Bible, marriage is a covenant relationship grounded in promises between a woman and a man which establishes a “one flesh” union (Gen. 2:23-24; Matt. 19:5), which in turn signifies the mystery of the union between Christ and his body, the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). The work of redemption affirms that monogamous heterosexual marriage pictures Christ’s relationship to the Church.
  3. All of human existence, including our sexuality, has been deeply damaged by the fall into sin (Gen. 3). We all are sinners, broken in some measure by this fall. Though Christians are rescued, reconciled, renewed and in the process of being transformed, this brokenness also affects us in that we groan, as the whole creation, eager to experience final redemption knowing at present we live in a not-yet-glorified state (Rom. 8:22-23).
  4. Everything, from our environment to our bodily genetic code, has been damaged by sin and the fall. Whether the same-sex attraction people experience is the product of their environment, their genetics, or another source, it is not what God intends and so does not render homosexual behaviour legitimate.
  5. We must carefully distinguish between same-sex attraction and homosexual acts. Temptation, including sexual attraction, is not sin. Sin is yielding to temptation. Jesus himself was tempted, yet without sin (Matt. 4:1-11, Heb. 4:15). It is not a sin to be tempted in the area of same gender sex. Jesus sympathises with our weaknesses and promises to provide a way of escape in every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).
  6. The Scriptures have much to say about sexual behaviour. The Apostle Paul affirms that among believers “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Eph. 5:3). All homosexual behaviour is specifically condemned as sin in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (Gen. 19:4-11 [cf. 2 Pet. 2:6-7; Jude 7]; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Judges 19:22-25; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). Some heterosexual acts are sinful, but all homosexual acts are sinful according to Scripture.
  7. Scripture grants two options for sexual behaviour: monogamous marital relations between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18, 21-24; Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:5-8; cf. Heb. 13:4) or sexual celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7; Matt. 19:12). Either is a gift from God, given as he wills for his glory and the good of those who receive and rejoice in his gift to them.
  8. The gospel is full of grace and truth. It is an offer of grace and forgiveness to all sinners, including homosexuals, as well as a call to live a holy life. It empowers us in the struggle to resist sin, including the sin of homosexual practice (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Tit. 2:11-13).
  9. The church is to be a new community that resembles a family of brothers and sisters united in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit displaying deep relationships of love. Celibacy and singleness are to be celebrated and affirmed within the church family.

Implications: a)     All sexual relationships outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage are forbidden because they are a corruption of God’s created order and a misrepresentation of Christ’s relationship to the Church. b)     Biblically, same-sex marriage is illegitimate and immoral. Neither the pastors nor buildings of CHURCH NAME will be used to officiate or facilitate a same-sex marriage. c)      We sympathise with those who struggle with same-sex attraction, and with their families, even as we continue to encourage all Christians to live godly lives that conform to the clear teachings of Scripture.

[1] A statement crafted by Paul Davison, Senior Pastor of Hastings Baptist Church, New Zealand. Adopted by the congregations of Hastings Baptist Church & Howick Baptist Church, New Zealand.

Brief Thoughts on Disney’s “Planes”

No, my main aim isn’t to moan about the fact that I fell for the campaign which led me to believe this was a Pixar movie when, in fact, it was not! (Oddly, I am relieved to know it wasn’t as my immediate thoughts after the movie were, “it just did not measure up to the quality of story, etc. that we’ve come to expect from Pixar”).

No, my main aim is to encourage Christian parents to think carefully about the worldview taught in this film. It teaches a very dangerous & subtle anti-God worldview.

The main character states near the beginning of the film (and everyone else repeats this at the end) that he wants to “be something more than he was created for”. This of course makes for a fun story of a crop-duster doing the impossible and becoming a flying speed champion.

But hold on a minute. This isn’t just a fun movie; the makers of the movie are communicating a worldview. A worldview where one can rebel against one’s creator and all goes well.

So, if you were created to be a boy but want to be something else go for it, “be more than you were created for.”

My main problem isn’t in me, it is either “out there somewhere” or in how I was made, so if I can change, alter or fix that all will be well.

No, my main problem is in me. I was created “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. There is nothing greater than that for me and the only thing keeping me from this is my sin. The only remedy for this is to turn from my sin and turn to Christ for forgiveness and mercy. He will then give me all I need to find my satisfaction in Him and truly be all God has created me to be.


Video – Reading Genesis 1-3 with the Church – My Presentation – Understanding Genesis 1-3: A dialogue with Dr John Walton and Joe Fleener

The video is now online (09 Nov. 2013):


Vimeo Link to Presentations

<p><a href=”″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener</a> from <a href=””>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Vimeo Link to Q&A

<p><a href=”″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener – Questions and Responses</a> from <a href=””>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


An Open Letter to Ella Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde)

Dear Ella,

Hi neighbour. Well, OK you’re not exactly a neighbour. You live on The Shore and I live out East. But we both live in Auckland and now you’re a big name in the country where I was born.

Let me say up front… I’m old enough to be your father, if I listen to “pop” music at all it is generally “pop” music from the 80’s, and more often you will find me listening to classical or jazz. That being said, I have listened to your album Pure Heroine. Actually, I’ve listened to it several times. I’ve also read a few “lyrics” sites trying to get an accurate picture of the content of your songs.

From what I can tell critics, fans, and just about everyone (except Miley Cyrus, I guess) are very excited about this album and particularly your first two singles, Royals & Tennis Court. People seem to be gushing over everything from your voice, your age, being from New Zealand, all that hair, the rhythms, the lyrics, and more!

I will admit the rhythms in your songs are captivating. Certainly a breath of fresh air compared to most of the other noise that is played over the airwaves today claiming to be music.

However, I was more interested in your lyrics. And your future.

I was drawn to listen as I wondered, “what does a kid from The North Shore sing about?” I see many are saying you “capture what it is like to be young.” I suppose that is true to some extent.

Here are some of my thoughts as I’ve listened to and read your lyrics.

Firstly, profanity. I remember when it was hugely controversial when rap artists would use profanity in their songs and even then the “F” word was rare. As I listened to Tennis Court, which is being played over the sound systems of shops everywhere and heard that word, I thought “I guess it is just commonplace today for a 16 year old girl to use profanity publicly, no one even thinks twice about it.”

Secondly, rebellion. Of course, rebellion almost defines being young. Yet, it is difficult at times to tell what you are rebelling against. Are you rebelling against the sensational lifestyles of pop stars? Are you rebelling against the restrictive expectations of older adults? Are you rebelling against all that is going wrong in the world?

Thirdly, drinking. In at least two of your tracks you make direct reference to drinking and it seems to be clear that you’re not referring to ginger beer. In A World Alone and 400 Lux your lyrics clearly glamorize drinking. In 400 Lux is seems like the drinking is occurring in a car to make matters even worse. In a country that already has a serious teen drinking problem this is very disappointing.

Fourthly, despair. This is the most significant to me. In Buzzcut Season you sound like a girl who is unable to find meaning in life, so you just live by the pool and try to ignore reality. In Still Sane you sound like a young lady who is trying to convince yourself that you won’t become the next teen pop star whose life will end in a complete mess, yet you don’t seem to believe your own rhetoric. In White Teeth Teens you sound like a teen who hasn’t fit in with a particular crowd at school and you are desperately trying to convince yourself that it’s OK not to.

Here’s something to think about, Ella. You’ve shared your thoughts with the world in the form of music and you are going to make a lot of money as a result. Yet, you will still have your thoughts. When the applause stops and the cheers fade away for that day and you put your head on your pillow at night you will still have your thoughts.

Is there meaning in life? Is there a way to make sense of all that is happening in the world? Why doesn’t sex, drinking, partying, fame, money, etc. provide lasting relief from all that seems so messed up in your world?

Let me suggest something to you. There is meaning in life and there is a way to make since of everything and there is a reason why nothing in this world really satisfies.

You see, Ella, you were created by God (the God of the Bible), in His image, and for His glory.

He has made you so that you will never be satisfied until you are satisfied in Him. Yet, you have been determined to live your life without Him, to find satisfaction in all the things He has given but without acknowledging Him. You have sinned against your Creator, the One who is truly Royal, Who rules the Universe from His throne, and promises no crown to those who will not bow their knee to Him.

Yet, at the same time, this same God sent His Son, Jesus Christ into this world. He left His throne, set aside His crown so to speak, put of His royalty, to die on the cross in the place of sinners. More than that, He didn’t stay dead, He rose again in three days conquering sin and death so that all those who confess their sins and trust in Him can have eternal life and find true, lasting satisfaction.

Ella, I doubt you will ever see this letter, yet maybe you will. I am sure some teen and pre-teen girls who love your music will.

For whoever is reading this. Please consider the wonderful news that Jesus died so that your sins can be forgiven and you can find real joy, not only for this life, but for all eternity.

Ella – if you’re ever in the neighbourhood feel free to drop in for a cup of tea (my address is in the book, I don’t have “postcode envy” either) or pop into a service at the church where I serve as a pastor – Howick Baptist Church (now [since 2014] Rolleston Baptist Church).

More importantly, get a Bible (there might be one in a drawer in one of the hotel rooms where you are staying), find the Gospel of Mark and start reading about Jesus, then find a Christian who you can talk to about your thoughts.

Kind Regards,

Joe Fleener

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