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

13/12/2020

Hi Church,

This week as part of my professional pastoral supervision, I was sent to a devotional message about Mary, and the pain that she went through once she said ‘yes’ to God.

And to be honest, I had probably never really thought about it all that much, but when we reflect, it is not something that would have been all rosey and peachey like we sing about in all of our favourite carols. 

From the moment Mary said ‘yes’, she was in pain. There would have been pain from some family members and relatives when she told them she was a virgin, and yet was also pregnant (not likely they would be thinking), and pain through the actual process of Mary giving birth to Jesus.

But it didn’t stop there. Mary would have to spend time nurturing that infant that while Jesus was without sin, and perfect, I’m sure there would have still been ‘moments’ (like when she lost him in the crowd).

There would have been further pain when she saw Jesus, the Son of God (also her son) go to the cross and die for the forgiveness of our sins on the cross. I can’t imagine that would have been easy at all. Even knowing the benefits – it’s hard to think about Mary’s pain in this time.

And this all started because she said ‘yes’ to God!

When we too say ‘yes’ to follow God’s leading to do what it is that he is calling us to do, I’m not going to promise that it’s going to be easy and light and all unicorns and rainbows.

Jesus says if we want to follow Him, we need to deny ourselves, pick up the cross and follow Him. It sounds like there might be some pain involved. Pain as we face our sin, pain as we go against the grain of so many in our society, pain as we follow His leading into the most unexpected of places.

But the benefits are so much greater. Would Mary look back and have a different response if she knew what was going to happen? I honestly don’t know. But what will our response be?

Are we just going into this Christmas season on ‘auto-pilot’? Singing the same old songs, going to the same old services, hearing the same old message, doing the same old things? 

How could you allow this life-changing message to change you, and also change the people around you? Will you say ‘yes’ to God and allow Him to use you? 

My prayer, is that even if that road is not easy, that your ‘yes’ will lead you into a deeper relationship with Christ, knowing that He will use you to do great things, while promising even greater things in return: life, forgiveness and salvation!

Thanks be to God,


In His service,
Pastor Ben

06/12/2020

Hi Church,

I knew that it was going to happen eventually, and a bit over a month ago – it began.

What am I talking about? The building next door. The joys of buying a house next to an empty block in one of the fastest growing suburbs in Ipswich! I guess we should be thankful we have had peace and quiet until now.

It’s not the early morning starts that worry me (I’m normally up well before that), but probably the constant flow of trucks and utes and ‘smoko’ vans beeping their horns at a time that really seems to early for ‘smoko’.

But it is happening. Last week and this week they have been pouring the concrete for these 6x townhouses, and they have had delivery now of the framing to go up as well (not sure if I’m looking forward to the constant noise of the nail guns to come).

But it is amazing to see if being built, day by day, bit by bit, and I look forward to the day when they are completed (for a number of reasons).

But for those of you who built your own house, you know, that just because it is ‘finished’ doesn’t mean that the work stops there. Because there are modifications you want to make, and gardens that you want to tweak, and improvements that you want to include, and so it some ways, the ‘building’ never really stops.

And in many ways it is like that with our faith. Because, really, the ‘building’ never stops, does it?

And if we want to be serious about the building of our faith, just like if we want to be serious about the building of a house – we need to commit time and resources to it.

So what time and resources are you committing to something that I am going to suggest is a little more impactful (at least eternally) than your home?

We don’t always need to be undertaking major renovations, but what small things are you doing to build your faith?

Maybe it’s an extra few minutes in Bible reading and prayer each day. Maybe it’s committing to joining an engage group for a few hours once per fortnight. Maybe it’s serving the church or wider community in some way, maybe it’s giving more back to God.

Whatever it is, I want to encourage you in it. Because wouldn’t it be great if the church (that is you, because the people are the church!) was making ‘noise’ because we too were building?

I look forward to ‘hearing’ that!
…..
In His service,
Pastor Ben

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

25/10/2020

Hi Church,

Happy Reformation! 


It is always glad, even in current circumstance, or maybe especially during current circumstances, when there is the opportunity to celebrate something of meaning, and even more so when it provides hope.

If we take a step back into the 1500’s: it is remarkable to see how a couple of people inspired a couple more until masses were transformed and given hope by one simple truth…that in a broken world where everything cost you something there is good news that cost you nothing. Yes, traditions had to be questions, yes customs had to be challenged and yes it involved sacrifice, but in the end the good news we all long for was proclaimed in such a way that people of all ages and backgrounds could face this broken world with hope.

Stepping back into our current times: we too have an opportunity to encourage people, and it only takes one, two, maybe a handful in our lifetime with the good news that this broken world is not all that there is to life. There is a creator who loves his creation. There is a God who did not remain distant or apathetic to his people’s suffering and hurts but came into this world to live with us. There is a Saviour who did not merely show us a way to a better life but died for us so that he himself is that better life. There is an unseen yet very real spiritual being that is holy and helpful and lives with us each and every moment of our lives. What we go through here and now has a purpose, death is no longer the end, and there is an eternal life free of all things awful, discouraging, painful, hurtful, anxious and chaotic. 

The God who loves saved us towards this wonderful eternity with him forever. And we receive this as we believe in him as a free gift no strings attached.

Lets continue as the reformation church in removing things that make it hard for others to see God as mentioned above, and lets live our lives in such a way that people would see and meet this God and his free eternal gift when they see and meet us.

You are loved, God is glorious, our joy will become complete.

 
In His service,
Pastor Roelof

18/10/2020

This week I received the sad news that Sarah Cooper, our wonderful and amazing Executive Assistant in the church office is going to move into full-time study next year, and so will be resigning from her role.

We have been blessed to have her in our midst serving Christ and His church for the past few years, and we pray God’s blessing on her future moving forward.

But it does mean that we are now seeking someone to serve our church and wider community through as our Executive Ministry Assistant in the near future (see information and advertisement below).  

And the reason for this change is because the role is more than just providing administrative support, it is a role that provides ministry support to the pastors and the church, and so we are seeking to reflect this in the title, as the Executive Ministry Assistant looks to works with the pastors and the whole church community (including you), seeking to help engage and empower us (the church – the people) to go out into the world with the gospel message of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  

And so we are seeking to reflect that, and encourage you to pass information on this role on to whoever you might think would be a suitable candidate, but also I ask you to pray for the process. 

Pray that God will lead the right person to apply and accept the call to the role, and pray also that God can use that person to (among many other things) assist you (the person praying) as you seek to know Christ, but also go out to make Christ known.  

This last week I was also able to sit down and have a chat with Perry Jones, the Ipswich co-ordinator of Angel Tree Ministry, and it shows us another way that we can, as individuals as a part of the church, and as a wider church community can seek to reach out to the people around us with the good news of Jesus in a practical, hands-on way. 

If you don’t know what Angel Tree Ministry is – it is a ministry working with Prison Fellowship Australia providing children of prisoners Christmas gifts on behalf of their incarcerated mothers and fathers, as well as a simple message about God’s love and forgiveness. 

It provides a crucial link between children and their imprisoned parents, and through Angel Tree, families have been restored, kids have been encouraged, and the Gospel has been proclaimed. 

How can you be involved? (I know you’re asking) – two ways. 
    
 Give towards the PIGS (Special Offering) for this month, which is being collected to provide gifts to the children of these families. Be a volunteer who contacts, ministers to and distributes the gifts on behalf of this ministry.  

If you are interested in the second one, and using this unique opportunity to share Christ’s love by helping to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the families of prisoners, then please speak to the church office – training and mentoring is provided, and it is a great way to give an eternal gift this Christmas. 

As we take part in Angel Tree as a church, I also encourage you to think about other ways that we can minister to our community. 

We have an amazing message, one that in these hard times can provide hope everlasting – how can we share it with others?

 
In His Mission,
Pastor Ben