21/02/2021

“I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness” – John 10:10b (NIV)

The Christian Church has for hundreds of years set aside forty days (six weeks) before Easter to revisit Jesus’ life and his road to the cross. We have named this season of the church – the ‘Lenten Season’. It is a time of preparation for Easter. For some, this means a time for fasting or doing without, but traditionally it focuses on prayer and looking beyond our needs to the needs of others.

Lent has its beginnings on Ash Wednesday which is 40 days before Easter. The forty days of Lent actually exclude Sundays in their count, as the Sundays are ‘Easter’ (resurrection) days. The number forty is very significant. It is a reminder that Christ spent 40 days fasting after his baptism before beginning his ministry. There are other significant 40’s throughout the Bible. Moses spent 40 days on the mountain when obtaining the Ten Commandments; Elijah had 40 days on Mount Horeb; and the children of Israel spent 40 years wandering in the desert before they were allowed to enter the Promised Land.

“Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24 (GNB)

As mentioned, the season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. On this day Christians were traditionally marked with the sign of a cross in ashes. This is a personal reminder of our human nature and in our physical death we will return to dust.

Lent gives us the opportunity not only to reflect on the life of Jesus, but to also reflect on our own lives over the past year. Through this reflection we often recall the many past sins we have committed and it would be very easy to despair, but we also recall Christ’s assurance of our forgiveness. Christ died a human death and carries our sin that we can be forgiven and have eternal life. Our slate is now wiped clean through Christ’s death and resurrection and we can again lead our lives in the promise of God’s love and forgiveness.

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” – John 11:25-26 (NIV)

Christ’s ministry especially comes into sharp focus during this season: we see the love and compassion he had for the ordinary person as he healed and performed miracles. Then in the last week we see the fickleness of human nature. From welcoming Christ as a king into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to rejecting him completely and having him nailed to a cross that Good Friday.

In it all Jesus helped his followers and tried to have them understand what was happening. He spoke of his impending death, but then also of the promise of his resurrection and victory over Satan and death.

Jesus helps us understand what it is all about – and the church follows this through by having the studies and meditations through the Lenten season. Jesus loves all his people, you are precious to him.

May Christ bring you the assurance of his love and forgiveness and ultimate victory with him in heaven.

I look forward to journeying through this Lenten Season with you.

In Christ,
Pastor Ben.

14/02/2021

Metamucil, All Bran and Prune Juice. They all have one thing in common, and if you grew up in the era that I grew up, you might remember the advertisements on TV that All Bran does one thing really well – it keeps you regular.

And the reason I say this is because I want to make it very clear that Pastor Roelof does not have any stomach issue that requires the Bishop’s help to cleanse, and I thought I would take this opportunity to explain the ‘regularisation’ process to you so everyone is clear.

When Graduate Pastors finish their seminary training, they are ‘assigned’ to congregations and parishes across Australia and New Zealand. These congregations and parishes would have indicated to the College of Bishops (as we did here in Ipswich) that they would be willing to accept a graduate pastor, and then the College of Bishops match the graduate pastors with those congregations and parishes who are willing to take one.

In this instance, we were assigned Pastor Roelof Buitendag here at Ipswich (having formally voted to ask the College of Bishops to assign a graduate on the condition that I accepted the call as Lead Pastor).

Assignments of graduate pastors are for two (2) years. At this time there is a period of review where both the Pastor and Parish work with the District Bishop to ensure that there has been a good match between the Pastor and the Parish he has been assigned to.

The Parish Ministry Team went through this process early in 2020. Surveys were sent to some members, responses collated, and review conducted with Bishop Paul Smith. Subsequent to this review, the Parish Ministry Team moved that at the AGM that Pastor Roelof’s call to Ipswich be regularised, which in a sense means to be made ‘regular’.

We voted on this (finally) via our virtual AGM, with over 100 people voting in favour of this outcome, which means that after Sunday, Pastor Roelof is no longer just ‘assigned’ to Ipswich Parish, but have become regularly called.

This call means that after 4 years from his installation date (he was installed on the 04/02/2018), Pastor Roelof is available to be called to any other Parish across the LCA/NZ.

It is great to have Bishop Paul conduct this regularisation service with Pastor Roelof this weekend, and it would be great to have you join us face-to-face at 9am if you are able to make it, as we show our support for both Pastor Roelof, and his call to serve us and lead us as we seek ‘to know Christ and make Christ known’.

So, as Pastor Roelof and I have joked – we look forward to sorting out his stomach issues (which he does not have) this weekend as he is ‘made regular’ among us in Ipswich.

I look forward to continuing to work with him, and each of you into the future,

Pastor Ben

07/02/2021

“Oh, no, not me”

Have you found yourself ever saying those words? Often we might use this phrase to let people know that something does not apply to us.

I wonder if, though, we also say these same words in response to the Great Commission that Jesus gave us: “Go and make disciples of all nations”, to which we reply, “Oh, no, not me”.

We might think that is for someone else. I mean, didn’t Jesus say that to the disciples? And I’m not a disciple, am I? The Great Commission is meant for people other than me – people like pastors and evangelists and those sorts of types, isn’t it?

I’m telling you right now, the Great Commission was only, and always meant for you, in that it was meant for everyone, and everyone includes you.

This weekend we are installing new staff members within our Bethany educational community: learning assistants, teachers, early childhood educators, administrators and more. And one of things that I am genuinely excited about is that instead of palming off the Great Commission to someone else, they have each decided that this is just one way that they are seeking to fulfil it. They have taken up the call to go and make disciples in their lives, which now will include within our educational community.

But what about you?

Are you too busy trying to make sure that everyone else is doing their part of the Great Commission that you have forgotten your own part to play in that?

What does it mean for you to actually think about what the Great Commission means for you, and reflect on how you might be making disciples?

Who is it that you are walking alongside, discipling, that is, teaching them about Jesus, how to pray, how to give, how to serve, how to worship, how to be part of relational community?

This is not something that we can ‘outsource’, that is, we can’t pay for someone else to do this – it is down to each one of us that Jesus is sending out into the world to go and make disciples.

Imagine a community full of disciples making disciples who are making disciples – how exciting and wonderful and joyful that would be. It’s actually not all that far away, but it requires us to do the first bit, which is us to say, “Yes, Lord, that’s me”, as we seek to make 1 disciple.

In the same way that it only takes a spark to get a fire going. So it only takes us starting with 1 disciple.

So let’s all start with 1, and see how the Spirit will work!

Pastor Ben.

31/01/2021

Hi Friends,

Over the last few days my social media feed has been full of pictures of children returning back to school for the year.

And it is great when I get to see pictures of the children from when they first started primary school, and then when they first started high school, and now they are maybe entering into the last year of high school and they have grown so much over that time.

And if we were to look back, each of us have grown in some way over the past years.

But what have we grown in?

Have we grown in faith? Grown in our knowledge and understanding of God? Or grown in our desires and efforts to share the gospel?

Or have we grown in our waistlines? Grown in our cash reserves? Grown in our desire for things to ‘go back to the way they once were’?

My question simply is – what would God have us grow in? And are we growing in what God wants us to grow in, or are we growing in what we want to grow in?

Sometimes I think we might hide in what I call the “Collective us” or “Collective we”. We hide behind what we should be doing as a church in seeking to know Christ and make Christ known, and our growth in that, and when we don’t do it so well – we blame everyone else, rather than each of us looking at it from an individual and personal point of view, and blaming ourselves for not doing our bit in this calling.

Because the church is made up of individuals: you, me, and others. And so for the church to grow, we need the individuals who make up the church to grow, the church needs you to grow.

So how are you growing?

My prayer is that we can each grow over the course of this year in the things that God wants us to grow in.

And as we do this, maybe we can take a ‘picture’ at the end of this year and look back as see the amazing way we have individually, and collectively as a church grown together.

I look forward to discovering that picture with you together.

In His Service,
Ben