29/11/2020

Hi Church,

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Well.. that’s how the song goes anyway. But to be honest, with the year we have had – I think I speak for everyone when I say we are all looking for something, anything, that can help us focus on anything other than the dreaded ‘c’ word: ‘covid’.

And this time of Advent that we begin this Sunday is a time of hopeful waiting. As we look forward to remembering and celebrating the coming of Christ at Christmas, we also are waiting for Christ’s coming again, which we do with hope.

And one of the things that I love about this time of year, and something that gives me hope is the singing of carols. Some of you are the same, and some are already annoyed that the supermarkets started playing them 2 months ago!

But songs and Christmas have gone hand in hand since before the birth of Christ, and over the next 4 Sundays of Advent we are going to be focussing on some of these songs sung before, during and after the birth of Christ, preparing us for the celebration of His coming into the world.

And we also celebrate that due to the great work of Queenslanders (apparently this includes myself who has sacrificed for the greater good of our state by staying at home for the past 2x weeks), we can celebrate together in worship in greater numbers, with capacity increases allowed at our worship centres. I look forward to next Sunday when I can leave my home and be with you all again!

This Advent though, I want you to think about not only the first coming of Christ at Christmas, but what does it mean for you that Christ is also coming again? 

I mean, if we believe this, and we spend a whole 4x weeks of our Church calendar focussing on this, so I assume we do, then surely we would want to do all that we could to ensure that we are ready for Christ’s return?

But what does being ready look like? While we might personally be ‘ready’, what about our friends, neighbours, co-workers, some of the members of our own families like mums, dads, children or grandchildren? Are they ‘ready’ for the coming again of Christ?

My prayer for you is to be so fully immersed in the love and grace that Christ has shown to you from His coming into this world that you want to do nothing else but to share that love and grace with those people, so that when Christ comes again, they too might be ‘ready’ to rejoice and celebrate with Him.

Let’s seek to make it the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ for as many people as possible by sharing with them the eternal joy that Christ can bring.

…..
In His service,
Pastor Ben

22/11/2020

Hi Church,

So, by now you have probably heard that because I was in Adelaide last week I have been blessed by a change in government regulations regarding Covid-19 to stay at home for the next two weeks!

As such, I will be working from home, and will be able to return back to the outside world around 2pm on Sunday 29th November (and boy am I looking forward to it). 

But it has allowed me to reflect on many a thing, including how blessed we are to be able to connect in so many different ways that we ever have before. While nothing will ever be able to truly replicate a face-to-face interaction with someone, or a warm embrace, a loving kiss, or even a handshake (oh the simple things), we are able to chat online, email, text, phone and more. 

But what does it mean to be connected to God during these times? We have greater access to God’s Word than we ever have before – we have more Bibles in Western Civilisation than we have people (just go count how many you have at home), plus we have access on our phones, iPads, computers and some people even have it on their watches.

We really have no excuse to be connecting even more than ever before with God through His word, yet statistics and surveys tell me that we aren’t doing that. Instead we are spending more time binge watching tv shows and on Facebook than we are connecting with the God who created us, loved us to the point of sending His Son to die for us, and giving us the opportunity to be with Him in heaven! What has gone wrong?

For most of us, it is a matter of priorities. For anyone, With a glance at your bank account transactions, and your calendar, I could ascertain what your priorities are. It’s easy – we make sure that we have money for, and make time for those things that we prioritise. 

Whether that is making sure that we have Netflix, that we don’t miss the latest reality tv show, or even eating at a fancy restaurant, if we prioritise it enough, we will find a way to pay for it, and make time for it.

So my challenge for you is to have a look at your bank account and calendar and have your own mini ‘audit’ as to what your prioritise, and reflect on where God is within that?

It is easier to access God than it ever has been before (some of you might remember having to walk to church!), yet if you don’t prioritise it, you wont make time for it, and you won’t give towards it.

As Pastor Roelof shares again this week, this mini ‘audit’ might help you grow to another level of spiritual maturity, as you seek to look at your time and treasure and allocate them to what I hope you say that you prioritise: God. And that out of thankfulness and gratitude for what He has done for you through Jesus, that some of those time and treasures are prioritised for Him and His purposes.

…..
In His service,
Pastor Ben

15/11/2020

Dear Faith Family,

I realise you have probably heard someone talk about how absolutely “insert your choice of word year” this year has been…so I don’t want to carry on about it but would like to offer you 7 things, I have recently come across whilst reading Christianity Today:

1.    Choose Faith over Fear: 
There seems to be a lot of fear out there at the moment. Don’t panic; pray. Don’t worry; worship. There are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible, one for every day of the year. God is with you.

2.    Trust God:
Job 25:2 says that God is in control. If you fear God, the only one worth fearing yet not having to be feared, you don’t need to fear anything else. History is His story, and this year is but one paragraph in a long book of how he is with us, rescues us and is preparing an eternal home and party for us.

3.    Be Patient:
This year and anything/everything that is going on is not the end of the story. Your story, and the story of everybody listening will far outlast your life because you still have influence for good or for bad on other generations. And so, our story doesn’t end even with our death. And we have to realize that we’re the middle of a novel that we haven’t read. We know how it’s going to end in Revelation. We know the end of the story is that we win, but we don’t know all of the battles and the details in between the highs and the lows.

4.    Don’t Jump to Conclusions:
Just because something is repeated time and time again doesn’t make it true. Just because this year has included a lot of very tough situations does not mean the future now looks like this. Hold on to hope, not hype.

5.    Learn the Lessons:
Never waste a disappointment, never waste for failure, never waste a disaster, never waste a hurt. You’ve already gone through the pain. You might as well learn something from it. And God wants us literally to learn from everything. We can even learn from our sins on what not to do and even our failures. Deuteronomy 11:2 says, remember what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him. Have you learned that he’s trustworthy? Have you learned that he can be depended on? Have you learned that he’s in control?

6.    Be Empathetic with Everybody:
There are as many types of and reasons for hurts and struggles as there are people. Our hurts might not look like some else’s and nor does theirs look like ours, but it hurts all the same. Empathy does not mean discount your own hurts, it simply means to also recognises someone else’s without turning it into comparison. Empathy, like my grandma said, simply means “use your ears more than your mouth”. Listen also, don’t just speak.

7.    Look for Things to be Grateful for:
Gratitude is always the right attitude. It is the healthiest emotion, doctors say, and it is God’s will. 1 Thessalonians 5: 18 reads “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you.” You want to know what God’s will for you is after this pandemic? It’s to give thanks in all circumstances. Now, the key is the word is “in.” He doesn’t say “for.” You don’t give thanks for COVID; you don’t give thanks for a difficult circumstance. That would be masochism. It does say “in” everything, give thanks. And you can say, God, I thank you for the grace that you’ve shown me. I thank you for the plan that you have for my life. I thank you for the changes that you’re making in me. Those are the eternals that are not going to change. That’s why we look not at the things that we see, but at the things that we don’t see, because the things we see are temporary, the things that we don’t see are eternal.

I hope this serves you well as this year draws to an end. I hope you will experience the closeness of Christ. I hope, because of this, you will always have hope.

…..
In His service,
Pastor Roelof

08/11/2020

Hi Church,

This past All Saints Day we again heard those wonderful words of Jesus, recorded as the Beatitudes in Matthew’s gospel chapter 5…and I would like to highlight one of the verses in particular:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”- Matt 5:4 (NIV)

The past week we have all received the very sad news about members of our worshiping community as well as our school community who have been called home to the Lord. They were both loved by many and are now with God in heaven, free of aches and pains and ongoing medical procedures for the rest of their eternity. We were surprised, we are sad, and we will miss them. We won’t “move on”, we won’t “get over it”, we will, however, move forward with memories that will make us smile and appreciate what Don and Alison has added to each of our lives, and what a wonderful part of our lives they have been.

It is precisely because they have been such a wonderful part, in many and various ways, to our community, that we will miss them so dearly…and the sadness that comes with that “missing” will be around to varying degrees for a while, yet this is a good thing. 

But wait a minute, how is being sad a good thing?
Well, if we treat our emotions as gauges, and not as guides, we can learn a lot from, and learn not to be afraid of, being sad. So what can we learn from this particular sadness?
1.    Sadness tells us that someone mattered and that there was a significant and healthy relationship with someone who had a positive impact on our lives. 
2.    Sadness brings to mind those wonderfully significant and endearing memories of the person we miss. They still influence us positively; they will be a part of our journey for life.
3.    The memories that come in our sadness, helps joy to return to our world.

This is precisely why Jesus tells his followers “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”. It is when we mourn that we discover the depth of love lived with someone amazing. It is when we mourn that we remember memories that made knowing the person we mourn so special. It is when we mourn that we turn to God, the giver of life and joy and it is then when we are able to return to a more meaningful joy and life.
So here is my encouragement to you. Embrace your sadness, let it flood you with wonderful memories, and let it grow you in a more meaningful joy. God gave us this gift so that we can move forward in love and with purpose. And God is with us, so that, while we embrace the gift of sadness, we are never alone.
If you have been close, to any varying degree, to Alison James or Don Park, then know that even though God has called them to their eternal pain-free and hurt-free home; that this is not the end of Don’s book or Alison’s book, but merely the conclusion of one chapter of all of our collective stories, and their memory will now continue throughout the remaining narrative of our lives.

Because of Jesus Don and Alison are now in the most wonderful eternity. Because of Jesus we can join them again one day. Because of Jesus we have a comforter ever close to us right now.

Roelof Buitendag

01/11/2020

Hi Church,

I was amazed listening to the news the other morning to hear of how many Queenslanders were forgoing their opportunity of a ‘democracy sausage’ by voting earlier than the ‘election day’.

Almost 2/3rds of Queenslanders had pre-voted, meaning that if you only voted today, the lines would have probably been shorter than they have ever been before.

And as you receive this, today, it is Reformation Day, the day that is commemorated as the day Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the church door of the castle church in Wittenberg.

And the reason that Luther did it on this day was because tomorrow is All Saints Day, and one of the traditions of the church was that All Saints Day was the day that many people came from all over the countryside to commemorate those Saints who had gone before us, and the Prince at the time had an enviable set of ‘relics’ that he put on display for people to see – so Luther knew that he was going to have an audience.

One of the reformers joked at the time that Saint Peter must have had a torso the size of an elephant because 40 different churches or persons claimed to have one of his ‘ribs’. 

But there was a thought that if we prayed for the Saints (both the well known ones as well as Aunt Sally or Uncle Joe) then we would help lower the amount of time in purgatory.

While we now have a completely different understanding of being saved by grace through faith (and not through any works – such as praying to the saints), All Saints Day continues to be celebrated, not just as a remembrance of those who have gone before us, but also a celebration of the saints who are alive today, you and me, all who have faith in Jesus Christ as we await for His return.

Many countries around the world have different traditions that help celebrate All Saints Day, including Allerheiligenstriezel in Austria and Germany, Pangangaluwa in the Philippines, and Pao-por-Deus in Portugal. These are bread/cakes that are distributed to people who go around singing and saying prayers ‘for the souls of the givers and their friends’.

Probably the favoured tradition in Australia for All Saints Day is to light a candle in memory of a loved one. So I encourage you to do that today, and as we remember those who have gone before us onto heaven, may their lives of faith encourage and inspire us to live our lives to the glory of God alone.


 
In His service,
Pastor Ben