18/07/2021

Eight Years

Who would have thought that 8 years ago when I started here at Ipswich Lutheran Church that I would be writing this final letter to you.

It has been an amazing journey, with ups and downs, and in-between times all thrown in as well.

Through it all though, I truly have appreciated being able to journey with you all in partnership in the Gospel, as we have sought to ‘know Christ and make Christ known’.

Some of you may not have even been a part of our faith community when I started, others were here long before (and I pray will be here long after), but it has been a privilege to be able to be your Pastor for this time.

Just to give you some overview, I think I have baptised 87 people into God’s Family; I have married 20 couples, and I have also conducted 66 funerals as we have farewelled those who have gone on into eternity.

Through it all, I pray you have heard 1 thing, and that is Jesus Christ and Him Crucified – for you.

Because no matter how eloquent the words, no matter how short or long, no matter if it was by text, on the phone, or in your home – that is the reason that I do what I do – because I was called, by Christ, to share the Good News with you. I was called (twice actually) to do that here in Ipswich, and I truly pray that is the news and the message that you have heard as you are reminded of the forgiveness of your sins and been reassured of the promise to eternal life.

As I move to my new calling, to serve the Lutheran Church of Australia, Queensland District as the full-time First Assistant Bishop, I look forward to continuing to serve you as one of the parish’s within the district.

I also look forward to sharing the same message of Jesus Christ with people across the whole of our state, as each church (the people – not the building), seeks to go out into their local community to share this message with others, so that the Kingdom of God can continue to grow, and that we can continue to celebrate more people coming to faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you over these past 8 years, and I ask that you continue to pray for Kelly and I into this exciting future journey God has us on.

In His Service

Pastor Ben

11/07/2021

From little things, big things grow

What comes to mind when you read those words? Maybe, like me, you remember the Industry Super advertisements that used that theme song for their commercial. Maybe you have other memories that go with those words, or that song.

I think of those words as I watch the plants in my garden grow. It took almost a year for Kelly and I to finally get around to planting out around our house following some landscaping we had done last year, but it has been fun and exciting to watch the lavender and hibiscus and lilly pilly’s that we have planted (along with some herbs and sweat pea’s) grow what appears to be almost daily.

Almost each day I see a new flower or leaf or that the sweat pea’s are at the next rung of mesh on their pursuit upwards.

I wonder if our faith is the same? Yet sometimes we don’t see it growing as much as we might like, or we grow even complacent with it just stagnating.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, like my plants, I could see my faith growing each and every day? This happens as I spend time each day in the Word of God, listening to what God has to say to me, as I spend time each day in communication with God through prayer, as I spend time each day serving God and the people around me in my daily vocation as husband, brother, son, pastor, helper, friend.

I know God can do infinitely more than we could ever possibly dream or imagine, that from little things, big things can certainly grow.

But it starts with us, with our attitudes, with our desires, with our faith. Let’s be the people that seek to grow, each and every day, so that we can see the tangible growth of Christ in our lives.

Ps Ben

04/07/2021

This week I was blessed to be able to chat with Erin Kerber (LCA International Mission) together with Pastor Roelof and Lauren about our Myanmar Partnership in the Gospel.

A big thank you to all those who recently donated towards our appeal where we have sought to help provide some assistance to the effect of both Covid-19 and the ongoing government crisis the people find themselves in.

This meeting was a wonderful reminder of the wonderful partnership that we have with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Myanmar, but also how it is a partnership in the true sense of the word.

And that is because we are equal partners in the gospel. As we continue to seek to pray for each other, learn from each other and share from each other (even though we might like to do this personally – we can also do this virtually), we are encouraging each other to be the local expression of the church within the context of global partnership.

Because each of us are seeking to know Christ and making Christ known in the communities, cities and districts where we work, and through our partnership we help each other to share the Gospel in the places where God has called us.

Thank you for the part that you play, not only in God’s mission, but also within our partnership as you individually pray, learn, give and grow from our sisters and brothers in Christ, but also be reminded that they are praying, learning from, giving to and growing from you as well.

It really gives a global expression to what Paul means when he talks about the church being ‘one body, many parts’.

God’s richest blessings continue to be with this wonderful Gospel partnership into the future,

Pastor Ben.

27/06/2021

Hi Everyone,
 
As a church family we are frequently reminded of God’s love for us displayed in and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus which we are baptised into. We are also frequently reminded of what that means for our life now and for eternity. That we have been saved by grace through faith for a purpose, that purpose being the Great Command (love God and love others) and the Great Commission (go and make disciples, baptising and teaching ‘here, there and everywhere’).
 
I have recently heard a great conversation on a podcast of a page that I follow (*details at the end) regarding the “disciples” part of the Great Commission we are joining God in mission with.
 
Simply put, a “disciple” is a follower. In “Bible times” a “disciple” would follow a Rabi (or “teacher”) to hear their teachings and to emulate their way of life. Christians or “disciples of Jesus”, you and I included, are therefore followers of Jesus who live to hear his teachings and emulate his life. We do this by listening to his words through the word, the Bible, and by looking at other faithful Christian’s lives to also learn from their faith and emulate their life of faith. Afterall, Paul told us to do just this when he said to the Corinthian church to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ”.
 
So, we are to disciple and also be a disciple, which begs the question, who is discipling you?
 
Some wonderful points from the podcast I mentioned earlier give some ideas in finding someone to disciple you, someone who reflect Jesus to you as you spend time with them, in your Christian journey: 

· Pray. Ask God to bring someone to mind as you meditate on this, or someone to cross paths with you in a way that it is very clear that this is someone you could spend time with and learn from regarding a life that makes much of Jesus, a life that images God truthfully. Someone you can look to and go, “their life looks like Jesus and I want to follow that”.

· Be an active member of your church community. The New Testament says that the church community is where discipleship happens. That, as a Christian family, we gather because we want to be on mission with Jesus to make his name known as we become more like him. Therefore, we want to be around others who do that so that we can do that more and help others also.

· Watch other people’s faith. Notice the reactions of and spend time with people who trust in the Lord and make the most of Jesus when tough things happen. What does it look like when they trust in Jesus when a loved one dies, or when they get terrible health news, or they lose a job or their response to some other significant life event.

· Notice who knows, reads and teaches their Bible in truth and with integrity. Who spends time in their Bible? Who, when they talk, you can hear Biblical truth?

· Look for “stage of life”. If you’re about to get married, find a married couple whose marriage looks like a marriage that is faith filled and what you would love to have. If you are having kids, a home where the kids are loved and treasured and love Jesus. If retiring, a retiree who joyfully makes much of Jesus in retirement. If a teen, a young adult whose faith carried them through their teens towards joy in their life of faith. Etc.

· Look for someone who shares their faith life openly and in an encouraging way. Someone who speaks about God’s goodness and God getting them through tough times openly and honestly.

 
Then…approach them and make time for a coffee and just get to know them.
 
And…if you are approached…make time for them and get to know the one who approached you over a coffee.
 
God bless you as we continue on this journey of “Knowing Christ and Making Christ Known” together.
 
In His service,
 
Pastor Roelof
 
*Key part of the book: How Can I Find Someone to Disciple Me? By Garrett Kell, discussed by author and panel on 9Marks website titled “On How Can I Find Someone to Disciple Me? (Garrett Kell & Mike McKinley), “Pastors Talk, Ep.173”.

20/06/2021

The Psalms Are Like a Box of Chocolates

Some of you will remember the movie called Forest Gump, and one of the famous quotes from Forest is: “Mama always said: ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.’”
I was listening to someone reflect on this quote in the context of the Book of Psalms, and it was ‘the Psalms are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get’.

And if you have read through the Psalms before, you would know that this is true. You don’t know if you are going to get a Psalm of wisdom, a royal Psalm, a Psalm of lament, an imprecatory Psalm, a Psalm of thanksgiving, a pilgrimage Psalm or an enthronement Psalm.

And I think that there is beauty in that. Yes, there can be helpfulness in knowing or finding the right Psalm for the right occasion, but there is also some sort of beauty in just diving in, not knowing what you are going to get.

And I think there is merit to having a sort of ‘table of contents’ as to where to go when you are looking for a particular piece of scripture for the situation that you find yourself in, but there is also merit in allowing God to speak to you in whatever Psalm you flick your bible open to.

It is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. But there are a few things that you know you will get. You will get God’s Holy Spirit moving in you and through you as you read His Word and you will allow God to speak to you in ways that maybe are surprising or unexpected or convicting or instructing or informative or grace-filled.

So this week, I want to encourage you to open that box of chocolates, whether a paper copy or a digital copy of the Psalms and allow God to speak to you through the beauty of the words he has for you.

In His Service,

Pastor Ben

13/06/2021

As you would know, on Saturday last week (the 5th June), I was elected by the Lutheran Church of Australia Queensland District Convention of Synod to serve as the full-time First Assistant Bishop.

This 3-year call from the church is deeply humbling. While I allowed my name to go forward as a part of the nomination process, to have the support of my fellow pastors from across the district to the level that mine was the only name to go forward still leaves me somewhat in disbelief.

The questions of ‘why me’ and ‘what have I got to offer’ though quickly dispel as I read through the scriptures of where time and time again God takes people, and uses them despite their faults and failures and feelings of inadequacy.

To be honest with you, I am both excited, but also a little bit daunted about the task that is in front of me, but I know that whatever that is, the Holy Spirit always goes with me guiding my way.

It was only when I was at the podium sharing some of these things with the delegates of Convention when I realised that this election means that I will be leaving this wonderful church in Ipswich where both Kelly and I have loved and been loved for 8 years.

I have built many relationships and friendships, and have been blessed to each and every one of you.

In terms of how this all plays out, in the email I sent I spoke about the transition happening over the coming three months. As I encounter the lasts of many things.

My final service is on the 18th July, which will be a combined farewell service at Bethany, Raceview at 9am. From there I will go on 3x weeks holidays, and be starting in the District Office on the 9th August. We are planning for my ceremonial installation service to happen on the 22nd August – but I will keep you informed.

Thank you all for your ongoing prayer, love and support. Not just during this time of transition, but across the many years of my service to you and our wider community. It is deeply appreciated, and I truly am grateful.

In His Service

Pastor Ben

06/06/2021

Advertising, really, if you dig underneath the surface a little bit, you could say that advertising is in the insecurity business.

The premise is simple enough: walk past a billboard, or bus stop shelter, or bus, or in the corner of your favourite website and there is an image of some A-list celebrity holding a can of engine oil alluringly, using the latest cashback shopping app, or drinking a new brand of high-energy sports drink, and the response it is trying to illicit from us is a “Where has this been all my life, I need that now!”

Within seconds, we scan the QR code and are counting the hours until we can relish the vast improvement to the speed of our Mitsubishi Lancer, see how much we’ve saved on our shopping, or waiting to take off with our new wings.

Advertising expresses the gap in our lifestyle while promising satisfaction and wholeness via the new product. At least until the new upgrade, or innovation, or until we realise that the old version was actually better.

And a lot of this is brought about because of our insecurity.

Many movies, well, maybe the movies that I like to watch, have the scene of an injured character, propped up against the warehouse wall. The hero then decides that they need to hunt down something to help them, and despite any pleas to the contrary, they leave the injured character alone. Meanwhile, the baddies, aliens, killer bees are at large.

This tension is bought about because of our common fear we have when we feel helpless, that we will be left behind.

Sometimes we wonder if God has done the same. Perhaps we wonder if he has better things to do with his time? Maybe we fear we have done something so terrible that we have blown it with him?

Paul in his letter to the Colossians reassures us that we do not have to be insecure, that we are not alone, we are not left behind. Paul does this by reminding us that we have been brought to Christ, and we are in Christ, and he does this by turning the thoughts of the Colossians, and our own thoughts to Baptism.

If all that Christ has done to this point were not grounds for confidence enough, this idea of us being buried and raised with Christ through baptism takes our union with Christ to a whole new level.

Paul points us back to our baptism, back to the public expression of what God has already done in our lives.

The logic we can follow is through our baptism we are united to Jesus. Therefore, where Jesus goes, we go.

He went to the cross, died and was placed in the tomb. Maybe this seems a bit ridiculous. You might be thinking, “I’m old, but I’m not two millennia old. I wasn’t there. I’m not dead.”

However, “through your faith in the working of God” we went with him so that we were indeed ‘buried with him’ through our baptism. Each one of us.

But like him, despite the stone and the Roman guards, we did not remain there. We too were ‘raised with him through our faith in the working of God’. If that seems unlikely, then remember that nothing could possibly be as unlikely as Christ’s resurrection in the first place.

So because God ‘raised him from the dead’, we can be sure that we are united to Christ. We can be assured that we are secure. We can be assured that we are not helpless or left behind.

The good news also is that it did not hurt when water was poured over your head (well I hope not), and the pastor pronounced your name in the saving name of Jesus.

But if we think more deeply about what Paul says, we are buried with Christ. And being buried with Christ means we must crucify our sins with Him. Any form of crucifixion is a painful experience, and it takes all the faith God can give us.

If our Baptism is to have everyday significance for us, reminding us that we are united to Christ, that we are secure, that we are not left behind, then there will be some spiritual sweat on our part, as we ask for an unwavering heart and a steady mind to live in our heavenly washing.

But because we get to begin and end each day with Jesus, it is also exciting, as we live in our baptism promise of Christ knowing that we are united to Him, that we are secure, and we are never left behind.

30/05/2021

Dear Church Family, 
 
This term, at youth, we have been focusing on God and our emotions. How emotions are neither “good” or “bad”, but rather a guide to what might be going on with our processing of a situation. We have also looked at how we can move our focus from the negative affects of some emotions (depression, anxiety, anger, disappointment for example) and refocusing on God and His truth.
 
Here is one way in which you could do the same should you experience anger, anxiety, frustration or similar feelings:
 
Find somewhere safe and comfortable to sit and close your eyes. Bring to mind something that you have been struggling with lately. AS you think about this problem, notice all the thoughts and feelings that come into your mind. Think about how this is problem is currently impacting your life – how it has already influenced your past and how it might change the future. Where in your body do you feel the most upset when you notice this emotional pain? What does it feel like?
 
Now remind yourself, “God is always with me”. He said he would never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6). Imagine He is physically with you now. Imagine He is placing His hand on your pain. Imagine that as His hand rests on your pain that there is a warmth that comes from His love, and the place that hurts is softening around the pain. It is like the pain is lessening its hold on you and His love is allowing you to make room for it.
 
Sit with this exercise as long as it is helpful. Ask God to help you with this problem, and prayerfully surrender it to Him. Trust that God can help you with this and that He will sustain you in this.
 
Take a moment to reflect on a Bible passage that is encouraging to you or speaks of God’s love (for example Psalm 103:8-13 and Romans 8:35-39).
 
Take a couple of slow, deep breaths in and out (5-10) as you meditate on God’s love and feel the amplified emotion mellow with each breath.
 
Thank God for His closeness and love. I hope that you will find this helpful in your day to day Christian walk.
 
In His service,

Pastor Roelof

23/05/2021

Power

If you have been following along the news this week you will see that the Federal Government have committed a large amount of money to build a Fossil-fuel powered electricity plant in the Hunter Valley, NSW.

Regardless of which side of politics you might sit on, and where you side in terms of the climate-change debate; one thing we would agree on is that in the electronic age we live, we rely on power.

I know how annoyed, angry, frustrated I get when the power goes out, even for a few minutes. I can’t imagine not having power for days or weeks or months!

Yet, so often, as Christians, I believe we forget to tap into the power reserve that we have been given through the Holy Spirit.

Scripture says that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us, yet so often, I wonder if that is true, because at times it is not all that evident in the way we talk or in the way we act.

This power of the Holy Spirit is abundantly available to us because of Jesus, and yet so often I think we forget this important information.

Maybe, like the electricity we have available at the powerpoint, it is only when it gets turned off, or doesn’t work that we appreciate having it there at every moment of every day.

How can we seek to appreciate the power that the Holy Spirit gives to us, but even more than that, seek to use it in a way consistent with God’s will and leading for our lives.

Imagine if all those who are a part of the church realised the power of the Holy Spirit that is living in them and through them, and used that power to share the gospel message across our communities, city, nation and around the world?

It happened some 2000 years ago at the Day of Pentecost. What can we do, individually, and as a church, to see a movement of the Spirit like that again?

In the Spirit’s power,

Pastor Ben

16/05/2021

This week I was able to join a number of people to listen and learn as a part of ‘Visiting with Vic’ that was organised by Bishop Paul Smith.

Rev. Dr. Vic Pfitzner was one of my lecturers as Seminary, and while now long retired (his last year of teaching was my first year of studying), he came to share a little bit about his background, the history of the Lutheran Church in Australia and his hopes and dreams for the future.

Vic didn’t actually know this, but when I was a young lad of 15 years of age, he actually presented while I attending a youth camp that was run alongside the LCA Convention of Synod.

While we attended a few of the business sessions, we also did ‘young people’ things, and had some of the church leaders of the time (like Vic) come and speak to us.

For me, this was actually the beginning of my journey to becoming a pastor.

Because until this point, while I had always gone to church, and we had always had a pastor at our church (most of the time, anyway), I never really saw being a pastor as a ‘job’ or something that a person does.

Some 20 years (and a bit more) later, it was great to be able to share this with Vic and thank him for his input into my life, and how that input has led me to where I am today.

But it makes me wonder, who am I sharing with, encouraging, and inspiring?

I think there is something lost if those if people feel as though they have nothing to offer anyone else in the church.

Vic could have said ‘no’ to sharing with us at our youth event, and who knows what journey my life might have taken.

You have something to offer as well. No matter if you are a young person, young adult, mature adult, middle-aged adult – you have something to offer. You can inspire, encourage and share with others. My challenge for you is to take up that opportunity – allow God to use you, and who knows what He could accomplish!

In His Service
Pastor Ben