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

24/01/2021

Hi Friends,

This weekend we have the opportunity to gather again physically following the lockdown mandate from the Queensland Government.

And if we drill down into what it means to gather corporately together in worship, one of the things that we do in worship with others, that we don’t do in worship by ourselves is summed up in the word ‘together’.

We are made to worship, but there is something about gathering together as a community in worship that makes it more special, meaningful, and uplifting for our faith.

This is not to say that worshipping online is not worship. But when we gather with others we can more intentionally build relationship, encourage each other in our spiritual growth, pray for each other as we reach out into our community, and together we serve our community in response to the gospel.

Due to health reasons, government lockdowns, transportation, and other reasons we might not always be able to gather together – but what can we do then to ensure we are supporting all the members of the community in seeking to know Christ and also make Christ known?

So often we say ‘I haven’t seen such-and-such in worship recently’ and we seem to always push the problem onto someone else, a leader, the chairperson, the pastor, rather than taking the initiative ourselves to go and give that person a call, a text, a visit.

We seek to for whatever reason outsource our community building to someone we perceive to be an ‘expert’, rather than following our call from Jesus to encourage each other, serve each other and love each other.

This week, I would love for you to think about that person, or persons, or family and ask yourself how you can ‘know Christ and make Christ known’ to them. There are a thousand different ways for you to do this, but it will involve us getting outside of our comfort zone and seeking to connect with others in a meaningful way.

Because as we gather together more and more, building each other up, serving each other and the community, and reaching out to our community with the good news of Jesus – that is when we are going to see God’s Kingdom continue to grow.

That sounds exciting, that sounds like something I want to be a part of, so let’s be the change that we want to see!

Ben

17/01/2021

Hi Friends,

Recently I have found that I have had to catch myself from saying ‘go back to normal’ because ‘normal’ is a bit of a fluid concept right now for us.

What is ‘normal’ a year ago is no longer ‘normal’ anymore.  We might have thought that shaking hands is ‘normal’, or hugging our friends is ‘normal’, or being able to fly to amazing and exotic destinations around the world is ‘normal’ – yet we are now unable to do any of those things.

Our ‘normal’ has changed… and continues to change. Even what was ‘normal’ just a week ago – being able to sit where we want to in church, not wear masks, leave our homes – has all changed, in an instant.

Which makes me wonder if we will ever have ‘normal’ again? 

In the past, I have loved the excitement of change and wondering about what is going to happen next. At the moment though, the different things we get to (not necessarily because we want to) do – I would love for there to be some ‘normal’ because ‘normal’ is easy, it is known, it is safe and secure.

But I wonder if it is like that too often also for our faith?

We get baptised, grow up in the church, attend week after week, maybe even go to a small group – but then we get into some sort of ‘normal’ rhythm that is safe, comfortable, known, easy and secure.

And when I read through my Bible, I don’t see a lot of safe, comfortable, known, easy and secure – in fact, I see pretty much the opposite. I see uncomfortable, unknown, uneasy, and insecure – but the best thing about all of that is it led those people in the Bible to trust and rely on the one thing that never changes – God.

Because no matter what is happening in the world around us, whether we are allowed to leave our homes, or have to wear a mask, or tap elbows instead of shaking hands, or not be able to attend the funeral of one we love – through all of this there is one thing that never changes, and that is God’s love for you.
So while we continue to navigate life – knowing that we have this one ‘constant’ (I’ll use that word instead of normal) in our lives – God, and what He has done for us by grace through Jesus Christ – how can we challenge ourselves to seek to grow in faith in Him?
My prayer is that while we await any sense of ‘normal’ in the world around us, that the constant that is God is present in your lives, leading you to grow closer and closer to Him, challenging what might have been ‘normal’ in your faith life. I pray for something that’s exciting, challenging, maybe at times even a bit scary as we seek to go out into the world and share the good news of the one ‘constant’ we have, and the hope and comfort that gives to us.

May our ‘constant’ God bless you this week,

Ben

10/01/2021

Hi Friends,

This week I had the sad honour of leading a funeral for a baptised child of God, aged seven. And for some of you, there would have been a point where maybe you had to explain death to your children, or to other young people. In these cases, we try to simplify it as much as we can to enable these young people and children to understand it.

But how do we explain the death of a child? What words, or turn of phrase, or nice things can we say that can help to explain the omnipotentcy of our God who we say is loving, kind, gracious and giving?

Children who die far before what any one of us might say is ‘their time’, it leaves us with a sense of unfulfilled potential. Through baptism, they belong to God, and while they might die young, they don’t miss out on a thing, because the fulness of all things is now available to them: eternity with God forever.

The one thing that a death of a child gives you though, is perspective. In working out what to say and share with the family all of the things that we busy ourselves with fall away, and we’re left with the foundation of what is truly important.

We often all say that we are busy, and we don’t have enough time, or money, or both to do all of the things that we need/want/decide to do – but when something like this happens, all of a sudden we have all the time in the world to be present for the family and friends at the death of one they loved.

I wonder how much of what really matters gets lost in the busyness of our lives each and every day? And is what we spend most of our minutes, hours and days on actually all that important?

Often one of the things we almost go out of our way to do at Christmas is to spend time with family and friends and others who we love. But why do we wait for this one time of the year, and not do it more often?

Because a good relationship is not built on a once-per-year visit. It is built on constant communication, frequent catch-ups, calls, visits and taking time out of what might the most busiest of schedules to spend with others. When we prioritise someone, we send them the message that they have value to us, above all of the other things that make demands on our time.

If you can manage to do it if things go pear-shaped, then I want to encourage you to think about how you might be able to do it right now.

Spend that time with the people you love, share with them, care for them, spend quality moments with them. Don’t wait until ‘later’ or ‘next Christmas’. But of most importance, especially within our own families – think about how you are sharing Jesus with them.

One of the great promises of Christmas is that Jesus came to us, he came to live, die, but then live again so that those who believe in Him can have eternal life.

When visiting believers in Christ in their last weeks or days or hours, the good news I can share with them is that “I will see them again”, maybe not this side of eternity – but through faith in Christ, one-day I will get to see them, and Jesus, face-to-face.

I pray that it gives them comfort and hope, and that you might also be able to share this comfort and hope with those you love.

In God’s peace,

Pastor Ben.

03/01/2021

Hi Church Family,

Christmas is behind us and New Years is ahead.

Christ came. God himself, in the person of Jesus, dwelled among us, as one of us, and then died, rose, and ascended. The cheer of Christmas might occur on a fixed day, but the reality of Christmas is every bit as true today as the day we come together to open presents.

We are called to live on. History, and our lives in this age, are not yet over. The decisive event has happened in the coming of Christ, and because of that first Christmas event, there’s now “work” to be done, in us and through us. New days come. New years come. And God calls us to build our lives – through years not yet unfolded – on the cheer of Christmas. We are called to bring that great unchangeable Christmas past into the present and live a different future because of it.

For this reason and to this end we receive this simple and significant New Testament blessing:

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

From Christmas into the new year and beyond. So one decisive divine action in the past, fuels the engine of the present to energise new life (our lives) and fresh strength for the times to come.

God is with you. Have a most blessed 2021.

In His service,

Pastor Roelof

27/12/2020

Hi Church Family,

What a year it has been. My hope for you is that you will see this year out and the new year in from the Christmas reality that God is with us, that God is with you.

May the Advent anticipation leading to “God with us” at Christmas be your joyful anticipation in life as you live our your days, years and decades in this life until it leads to “you with God”.

May you experience all the blessings of Advent in this life now:

  • The prophet’s hope, of a Messiah who comes to rescue God’s people, be your hope that Jesus has come to rescue you and will come to take you home.
  • Bethlehem’s faith, that the Messiah would come through the line of king David, build your faith that Jesus is that messiah who came and that you are the child of the King of kings who reigns for all eternity.
  • The shepherd’s joy, that came from the angels telling of the Christ child that would come to bring joy to the world, be your joy knowing that he came for you and will come again even as he is always with you now.
  • The angel’s peace, brought to Mary and the shepherds, be your peace as you experience God’s love through this most precious Christmas gift of life and salvation.

God bless your 2021.

In His service,

Pastor Roelof

20/12/2020

Hi Friends,

This is the last time I will write to you this year, and it is just a few days before we celebrate the Christ Child, and that God is not far away, but came near to us through His Son Jesus, born as one of us.

And what Christ brings, is simply extraordinary. It is love, hope, joy and peace. It is worth singing like the angels: “Gloria, in excelsis deo” (Glory to God in the Highest).

But have you ever wondered at this time of year, why the Angels were singing that song?

It certainly couldn’t have been for Jesus – I mean, leaving the glory of heaven to inhabit a body that would get tired and hurt from hard days working as a carpenter isn’t reason for joy. Then to preach the message he’d been sent to communicate only to have the majority of people not believe him, but crucify him for it – maybe this singing wasn’t for him.

It also probably wasn’t for the angels – It wouldn’t give them a lot of joy to watch on for the next 33 years over the incredible wonder of the creator of the universe playing with little kids, speaking to the storm and quieting it like a child, watching him restore sight and wholeness to the hurting and life itself to a friend who died, and to have all that love rejected – maybe this singing wasn’t for them.

I think the angels were singing for us.

The celebration was because they knew Jesus was the true connection between people and God. They knew Jesus could quiet that empty place within each heart that God created and only He can fill.

They knew Jesus came to earth to bridge the gap between God and human through his death on the cross.

That is why we have Christmas. That is why the angels were singing.

That first Christmas began with a glorious song, but that song isn’t over.

One thing the Bible tells us is that the angels sing for joy when people come to know Jesus Christ. And if you want to be giving out the best gift ever at this time of the year, then I would encourage you to consider giving the gift of Christ to those around you.

Because pretty much everything else (even that Tupperware that has a lifetime warranty) will not compare or last for as long as the eternal gift we have access to because of our Lord and Saviour whose birth we celebrate.

So – how might you share Christ with those around you? How will you love those around you in a way that affects their eternity? How will you continue to know Christ and make Christ known?

My prayer is that this Christmas you think of not only the gift of Jesus for you, but who else that gift is for. Think specifically of one person whom Jesus came for that is yet to know that reality. Think about how you might be able to lead them to, like the angels, sing this Christmas “Gloria, in excelsis deo”.

Could you imagine the gathering where we all get to do this together? Let’s ensure there are as many of the people we know a part of that eternal chorus!

Thank you for the honour to serve this faith community as your pastor through what has been an unprecedented year.

I pray that each of you have a blessed and merry Christmas, and a safe and happy New Year.

With Christmas Greetings,
Pastor Ben