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A Testimony of sorts…

August 6, 2008

In the beginning, I was born at a very young age.

Graciously placed by God into a South African family who were believers in Christ. I remember going forward at an altar call at age 5 to make a confession of faith as Christian. Growing up our family ended up moving churches for many reasons, I didn’t understand those reasons, but I had to trust my parents would do the right thing.

Off memory, from ages 2 till 17, our denominational nomadic adventure took us from Methodist-Baptist-Baptist-Baptist-Methodist-Anglican-Baptist to Non-denominational, with me writing this from my office in a Baptist church looking out over east Auckland, New Zealand.

It’s been a tremendous journey this far. One where I look at the Lord’s constant hand upon my life since birth. Despite that confession of faith at a young age, I don’t believe I truly became a Christian till age 14. Before then, faith was a bit of MTD- Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, or something to that effect. Around age 11 I vividly remember questioning whether I was really a sinner, short of a “little lie or two”, I thought I was a pretty good boy. Fast forward a few years, add a little acne and some shaving cuts, I opened the Book and realised differently. Nothing like actually reading the Bible for yourself to realise yours helpless plight before God and your need for the perfect righteousness of Christ!

At this time, rising crime meant my parents and I were becoming increasingly pessimistic about living in Southern Africa. At 14 I outlined my plan to train towards a college scholarship in the USA for track and field, effectively securing myself a future outside of Africa. My father made the decision to move us to New Zealand, in a bid to keep the family together. Immediately, moving countries meant that young Christian faith had to involve a practical reliance on God through an uncertain time. Funnily enough, when my strength earned me the college scholarships I’d desired, I turned them down to remain in NZ.

I love New Zealand as a country. For all the nations faults, it feels like home. To me, it’s where I belong. If the Lord wills, my hope is to remain here and be involved in the building up of the church for the glory of God.

But my citizenship, is in heaven, not on this earth. For many believers, we need to realise that we may be sent elsewhere, somewhere unexpected. Despite my strong desires to stay in my country, the need for ministry training is pushing me towards other lands. If I could stay here, I would. It is a continual patient walk to discern where the Lord would have me train, knowing too that the local church itself is a valuable tool in ministerial training.

How I wound up with the set of convictions that I hold is a mystery to myself. The reality is, I simply opened the Book and read it. Thought about it. Then read some more.

So when in my teen-years I got told about things like Scriptural-inerrancy, predestination, cessationism, 5-point Calvinism, justification by faith alone and penal substitutionary atonement; well, I could simply say, “I believe in that.” I can honestly stand and say that from a young age I knew the true gospel of salvation by grace alone by faith alone, in Christ alone. Since then, I have not needed a new gospel, for God graciously showed me that precious truth. If you asked me how I would sum my beliefs up, I’m not exactly sure. I’m a Christian, and try to be a ‘biblically-faithful Christian’. You could call me a Calvidispiebaptogelical, but I’m not sure that name is going to become extremely popular.

Such certainty has allowed a platform for me to grow. I admit strongly that when I was younger I was far less mellow. Being ungraciously dogmatic is more often that not, a sign of ignorance. Unable to defend their beliefs, many back into a corner, where their only option is react like a wounded animal. That was me, and that still is me, a work in progress, much like every Christian. To those beliefs, God is adding compassion for people and a growing discernment to help me know which hills are the ones to die on.

Ministry is hard work. Though in many perceptions, the pastorate involves much blissful scripture reading, a position of power and the added bonus of golf on Tuesdays. Such is not the case! I was the guy who wanted to stay as far from the ministry as possible, even in the last few years. But despite my reluctance, the pull was too strong.

In 2007, I listened to a message on 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 by the incomparable Steve Lawson. To say God used that message to change lives, would be an understatement. That week, I made the decision to move back to an old church, that I had vowed never to return to for many reasons. I felt God had something for me to do there, though I went with the goal to just sit under the teaching of the word and wait to see what would happen.

Before long, I found myself leading the high school ministry. Nearly a year later I’m transitioning that ministry until God’s man is revealed to shepherd those young people for the years to come. To say that overall it has been an enjoyable experience would be untruthful on my part. To say it has been rewarding however, would be correct. I’ve found it to be the toughest experience of my life. Completely losing the hearing in one ear and half in the other before age 6, then trying to function at a public school; was smooth sailing. Leaving a close family to go to a country I wasn’t sure how to locate on a map; was more exciting than tough.

Ministry, has been flat out scary, and honestly, at the same time it’s been amazing. I can say that, because God has used it to break me into many pieces. Having to have my head in the word as much as I do is probably just what is needed for the Holy Spirit to deal with my sinful heart.

Whatever may be coming, bring it on. I just pray that I’ll be true to scripture, compassionate for people, thankful for abundant grace, humble in my failings and most of all, obedient to my God.


12 Comments leave one →
  1. Rhett permalink
    August 6, 2008 4:43 am

    Nice one. “I truly became a Christian till age 14. Before then, faith was a bit of MTD- Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, or something to that effect.”… holy crap! You must have been a child prodigy! 🙂

    I forgot to ask… what happens to your Carey degree with you going overseas?

  2. bigjonnymac permalink*
    August 6, 2008 9:24 am

    Haha, no child prodigy here. Though when you first meet me you would think I’m thick as bricks. That is often true anyway.

    I’ve been upfront with Carey about my intentions. Basically I’m planning to graduate with the Diploma (which isn’t a huge biggie for me), then start a b.theo at TMS. After the first year or so at TMS, I’ll try cross credit back to Carey. I’ve basically only done Level 7’s this year for this reason.
    Unfortunately I don’t have the compulsory Integrative paper, but there is a possibility that won’t be compulsory soon. As TMS is a graduate college, their b.theo is basically a year of elective style papers and then an M.Div. So it’s possible that I could cross credit to Carey, get my degree from Carey and then still end up graduating with an M.Div. This is the opposite of guys who went over there, got a b.theo, then came back and started at Carey so they could upgrade their TMS degrees to M.Div’s. It’s elaborate, but it might just work. Ultimately it’s about the experience and training rather than the qualification.

    If TMS turn me down, then it won’t really matter! My application is only getting going now.

    There, it’s all on the internet.

  3. Rhett permalink
    August 6, 2008 9:30 am

    Nice. Wow, I’m finishing at the wrong time. I still need to do integrative.

  4. August 7, 2008 12:21 am

    Thanks for sharing your testimony! Who are you pointing at in the last picture?

  5. August 7, 2008 12:46 am

    Rhett, let’s hope both hope Integrative loses it’s compulsory status. Not like I’m against it, but it flat out doesn’t suit me time-wise.

    William, no problem, was good to get it up in a different form. That’s a pic of Spurgeon that I’m standing next to. You can click on it for a bigger version.

  6. August 7, 2008 1:18 am

    Nice. I see you were trying to go for the “lookalike” thing. It’s pretty close!

  7. Rhett permalink
    August 7, 2008 3:36 am

    Haha! That’s awesome!

    Hey, I’m a little bummed you didn’t mention the huge, life-changing impact that I had on you as a youth-leader. ;-).

  8. Rhett permalink
    August 7, 2008 3:37 am

    You were bigger than me back then, too. Upwards, at least.

    Not hard.

  9. August 7, 2008 5:49 am

    great blog Jono, love the Reformation concept, couldn’t agree more… I’m actually in the process of conceptualising a new blog and you will find it complements yours very nicely… all the best…

  10. August 7, 2008 12:32 pm

    Will- I wasn’t intending on the Spurgeon ‘lookalike’ pose, but I can see it now. The last two weeks at youth group I’ve quoted Spurgeon, simply could not help it.

    “I do not follow Paul, or Apollos, or of Spurgeon, but Christ.”

    Rhett- Oh sorry, sir. Those were interesting times and I can honestly say that I thought you were extremely cool with your guitar and all. Evening worship was great for a period of time. That is my memory and also of ‘NAY Kerfuffle’, which I now you had alot to do with. It definitely helped with community…

    And yes, I was bigger than you then. If it makes you feel better I’m now a few glasses of water from weighing 140kg. Looking at pictures of myself at age 15 freaks me out, I looked… positively tiny.

  11. August 7, 2008 12:34 pm

    AJ- excellent. I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I can add contributors to the blog here to share the load and add different opinions and points, but that will become clear in time.

  12. Rhett permalink
    August 7, 2008 9:56 pm

    🙂 I’m just fishing bro!

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