29/08/2021

Anxious Times?

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Jeremiah 31:8

Hi Church Family,

Growing up in South Africa is certainly an interesting experience. Of course, you don’t think much of it then because you’re accustomed to it, but you certainly notice a lot about life in hindsight. I remember when we went on holidays, and when we came back, because it wasn’t the safest place in the world, Dad would always get out of the car, lock the doors, and go through the house first to make sure it was safe for us. He would then come get us and walk in with us, and when we were safely inside he would unload the car.
 
I notice a similar thing with my five year-old at night. She is a little tentative about the dark so I tend to go in first, turn the light on, then I come get her and we walk in together.
 
And so it is also with God. Whatever stage of your journey or season of life you find yourself, do not be afraid of what is ahead, God goes before you. And whatever circumstances come along or whenever difficult situations arise, do not be discouraged, God is with you.
 
If you are at work then the our current situation means uncertainty about “will I be able to go to work, will I have to do what I can from home, or will I be stood down?” If something in your life has changed significantly because of the pandemic, you’re probably in a stage of transition, wondering what is to come. Should you try to get back as close as possible to what things used to be? Or is it better to embrace the changes and try to find what is next? If you are a parent then you are dealing with thoughts of “prep for home learning” in the back of your mind which might, or not, happen any day. All of us, but particularly those with health issues, are fatigued with weighing whether or not to go out once lockdowns are lifted. 
 
But here’s the thing, as ‘scary’ as some of those thoughts might be, ultimately, do not be afraid, do not be anxious, God has walked before you, you are safe. God is also walking with you, you are not alone. We can trust this because God has shown this to be true to the extremes of life, to the point of death. He goes before us even in death so that he can walk with us in life.
 
In His Service,
Pastor Roelof
 
God, thank you that you know go before us, that you keep us safe. Thank you that you are with us, that we are never alone. Help us all to trust in you so that we can experience the love, joy and peace that only comes by believing in you. In Jesus’, name, Amen. 

22/08/2021

Restore, repair, rebuild.

When we hear or read these words, we often associate them with hope for what is to come. When we sense this hope, it is so easy to minimise or dismiss the circumstances that came before.

You see, the prefix ‘re-‘  is used to indicate one of two things; either something occurring again, or something going back to its previous form. For this to happen, things usually have to fall apart first.

When you know the outcome of the story, it is oh-so easy to gloss over this part. We remind ourselves first of the happy ending so that the complication doesn’t feel so terrifying.

We often do this with the Bible. We know that Jesus was resurrected, so we don’t empathise with the fear Peter would have felt when denying Jesus. Or when the people of Israel questioned God and Moses when an army was chasing them after fleeing Egypt. With our 20/20 hindsight we decide that we would act differently, that we would do better if faced with the same circumstances. When time and culture separate us from these people, it’s easy to think that we would do better. After all, we do have the comfort of knowing the outcome. 

What we don’t have the outcome to is our own stories, the interweaving of stories that is occurring around us every day. We don’t know the exact outcome of every circumstance. We react to what is around us because we don’t know what path the story will take.

When you’re living through the part of the story where things fall apart, crumble, or just seem to disappear, more often than not if is terrifying. But there is more to the story. And while we may not know just what the ending is, or how we will get there, we know who is with us.

It may sound like a cliché, but in the middle of everything seeming to unravel, it can be easy to forget. To think only of the mountain before you, and forget all of the hills that have come before. It doesn’t change what you’re facing, but it does provide some perspective. While we can’t look forward and know the answers, we can look back. We have precedents to remind us of what happens after everything falls apart.

Restore, repair, rebuild.

Author: Lauren Mead

15/08/2021

Dear Church Family,

There I have, many a time, heard people communicate, in various ways, that they seem to “know about God” but want to really “know Him”. That they have grown up learning about all the wonderful things God has done but somehow feel a need to “delve deeper” into their faith and their God.
 
I want to encourage you through the words of someone else. Faithful faith-filled child of God, husband, father, pastor and friend Adam Ramsey in his book Truth on Fire writes the following:
 
Perhaps you sense a disconnect between your thinking about God and your experience of God? A gap between the life of your mind
and a life of your heart?
 
Maybe you’re a part of a church (or denomination) that emphasises solid Bible teaching and the life of the ‘mind’. You’ve experienced a number of wonderful Bible-study groups
and maybe even discussed systematic theology with friends, but there’s a gnawing sense that something is still missing – and incompleteness. The teaching is meaty and solid,
so why does your Christianity feel dry? You can articulate biblical answers and you love the truth of them. But it is truth  like a treasured photo of a father who lives far away,
when what you really long for is one of his hugs.
 
Deep down you wish you could have a greater experience of the God that you have learned so much about. Is it wrong to want more? The simple answer to that question is: no.
One of the great tragedies of this present generation of Christians has been the divorce between theological and experiential Christianity. On one side you have churches committed
to theological accuracy, knowing the word of God, and holding a high view of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We’ll call this team “The Thinkers”.
 
“The Thinkers” often view the others (or “The Feelers”) as thoughtless, and “The Feelers” often disregard “The Thinkers” as lifeless. And more often than not, both are completely right.
 
What if we didn’t have to choose between an intelligent faith and a passionate one? After all, a sharp mind with a cold heart is just as big of a fail as a heart radically on fire about
nonsense.
 
The life of the mind and the life of the heart shouldn’t really need to be ‘reconciled’, because they were always meant to be friends. God intends for us to pursue a Christianity that
is radically committed to theological clarity in a way that does not diminish the life of the heart but actually intensifies it.
 
 
If you have learnt about God you entire life and want to experience Him more…if you want not only to know the guy in the photo, but feel His hug…then pursue it with all you have.
If you have felt overwhelmed by God’s goodness and love and long to know Him more deeply…then pursue it with all you have.
 
This, all of this, is our journey together…let’s go about it with all we have.
 
In His Service,
Pastor Roelof

08/08/2021

Thank God for Lockdowns
Over the past year and a half, we have all become what feels too familiar with terms like ‘lockdown’, ‘social-distancing’, ‘checking-in’ and ‘border closure’. A mask that I once would have been tackled for wearing into a bank has become not just the norm, but even legally required. Last year, on 29 February, my husband and I went to a concert on the Gold Coast. At that point, COVID-19 was something on the news, but seemed so far away. Two weeks later, I was working from home.

Eighteen months on from this and I feel restless. I have two plane tickets to Japan worth of credit sitting with a travel agency, my husband lost his job and has been finding work in sectors unrelated to his training, wearing masks gives me cold sores, and overall, I’m just at the point where I want to whinge about how frustrating this whole thing is. I mean, try making plans right now; it’s like rolling the dice as to whether they happen, don’t happen, or some awkward in-between point that’s somehow the worst. To say the least, the word ‘thankful’ would not accurately describe how I am feeling.

Of course, isolation is a problem en masse currently. However, for many of us, one of the worst parts of all of this has been only haphazardly being able to attend worship, in person, with other Christians. For many of us, it has been utterly terrifying to see how quickly our government is even able to put a halt to church services. Not being legally allowed to attend church (in person) is something that I never thought I would see. And when we have been able to gather in person, there have been restrictions on both numbers and activities. Singing in a mask is altogether unpleasant, and I miss being able to hug my friends.
So basically, while I may not have expressed this out loud, the last year I have been throwing myself a giant pity party. I’m not saying that I’m not allowed to feel frustrated by these things; frustration, anger, sadness… they’re all normal responses to this. But choosing to focus on the worst in my life has never been who I am, so why have I let this pandemic turn me into someone I am not?

As much as lockdowns, masks and all the social protocols are frustrating, they’re there in an attempt to keep people safe. It’s not a perfect system, and because of that it’s oh so easy to criticise. Someone that I used to know put a post on Facebook this week that said the following;
“Hey pastors, while you shut your church doors to your sheep yesterday – to ‘love your neighbour’ – the government allowed EB Games to stay open. Are y’all not going to say anything? Or do anything? Or will you just keep closing your church doors while pretending you are ‘keeping people safe’ when you are just cowering from the Government. Eb games is more essential than the gospel – that’s what you say when you keep your church doors closed.”

This is such an easy criticism to make. And believe me, I can relate to the underlying frustration. Do I think EB Games is essential? Of course not. Particularly when they sell computer games that you can buy from their store online. And my hope is that people genuinely consider what is essential before going to the store. But I ask you, does that make it right to make this comment?

Is the ‘they are doing it, so we must too’ really a good enough argument? Aren’t we, as Christians, called to be better than that? Gathering together is important, but churches should be doing their part for the community and staying home to limit the risk. Worship online or by phone is very achievable in our society. It doesn’t feel the same, and I miss being gathered in person, but that doesn’t make it necessary.

Even if you didn’t have access to church online or phone church, would that separate you from God? Would that destroy your faith? My answer to this is a resounding and certain ‘no’. My ability to sit in a room with other people of the same faith doesn’t determine my faith. Gathering with others strengthens my faith and I crave the fellowship and companionship that has been so sporadic over this year and last.

It’s so easy to criticise, when Australia has been relatively less affected by COVID-19 than the rest of the world. That isn’t to say that it’s been easy here, just that it’s been harder elsewhere. Maybe we lockdown to quickly, or maybe not quick enough, but making that decision with incomplete information can’t be easy. Our government is far from perfect, but they are at the very least trying to keep people safe. As at when I am writing this, we have had a total of 34 384 cases and 924 deaths. This compared to 198 234 951 reported cases worldwide. Only 0.1% of Australians have been recorded as having COVID-19. When so many have been impacted by government policies, and so few by the actual disease, it becomes so very easy to criticise. [1]

And this is why I am thankful for lockdowns. So few Australians have been ill. I am not trying to diminish the impact that it has had on the families who have feared for or lost loved ones. But the loss elsewhere has been greater. In Italy 7.2% percent of the population has had this illness, the United Kingdom has 8.8% and the United States has 10.6%. It puts our less than one percent into perspective. [2] These are all developed countries, all with health care systems that couldn’t cope with the volume of patients with health complications. Never in my life did I think that I would hear that so many medical staff from London had symptoms consistent with PTSD.[3] A couple of years ago it would have been unthinkable that a country like the US would be triaging the best use of ventilators.[4] The idea that staff from a hospital could have symptoms akin to serving in the war seems unfathomable. And I don’t even want to think about the idea of someone I love not receiving adequate care because the staff or physical resources weren’t available.

The person who made the Facebook Post is a registered nurse at an aged care facility. The people that they work with are among the most vulnerable. In so many areas, Christians value life over ease and comfort. I hope that this would extend to vulnerable people during this pandemic, choosing to keep people safe whether or not the government requires it. When I think about being stuck in lockdown, I am frustrated. But when I think of my grandparents (particularly those that have heart or lung related health conditions), I am terrified of not having a lockdown. Their wellbeing is so much more important to me than any inconvenience could ever be.

So, as frustrated as I am, I choose to be thankful for lockdowns.

Author: Lauren Mead


[1] https://covid19.who.int/

[2] https://covid19.who.int/

[3] https://theconversation.com/nurses-report-ptsd-symptoms-due-to-the-pandemic-heres-why-152935

[4] https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmp2005689

01/08/2021

Dear Church Family,
 
Times are changing. Actually, that is not something new, and shouldn’t surprise us, time are always changing.
 
The seasons remind us of constant change. Our reflection reminds us of an ever-more frailty. The evolution of our kids reminds us of our increasing redundancy. The growing lack of energy reminds us of a day when energetic joy was not a mere wish-dream.
 
Things change. The world is in constant change. Life changes.
 
We get older…but wiser.
We slow down…but appreciate more.
We grow frail…but see beauty more easily.
We get lacklustre…but appreciate the energy of others.
 
Everything changes…but that is not a bad thing.
 
Change caused you to try the things that became your favourite meals.
Change caused you to go  a different way and discover something beautiful.
Change caused you to connect with someone unexpected who became a best friend.
 
We changing. Change is inevitable…even for, or maybe especially for, the church. God is constantly looking for ways to wow His bride and direct her in unexpected ways that will increase her wonderment of Him, her renewed appreciation of His creation and her joy in general.
 
Yes, we are in another period of change.
I wonder what exciting things God has around the corner for us 😊
 
In His Service,

Pastor Roelof