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

09/05/2021

On Friday morning in the early hours I waited with anticipation for my football team (Arsenal) to play in the second-leg of their semi-final again Villareal as a part of the UEFA Europa League.

90 minutes later I am disappointed as my team crashed out, and will not be going on to the final this year.

After the game at a more reasonable hour, Kelly came downstairs to ask how it went, and how she was ‘awoken’ with some yells and screams at various times through the morning.

But it highlighted for me how passionate I was to cheer on my team, and how I rode the highs and lows of the game with them.

It also led me to wonder how often we do this for others – whether they be children, parents, extended family, friends or work colleagues?

I mean, I know each of the players on ‘my team’, I know a little bit about them, where they’ve come from, what recent injuries they might have had, how old they are, and more.

Are we as invested in the people around us?

I am doubtful I will actually form a real friendship with any football player from ‘my team’, but what about you? Are you forming friendships with others, getting to know more about them? Riding the highs and lows of their life with them?

A few weeks ago I was speaking to the new LCA Director for Cross-Cultural Ministry, Craig Heidenrich, and his comments in regards to so many within the church is that we have forgotten how to be a friend to others.

And if we are ever going to share the gospel with them, we need to start by building that relationship first, by learning what it means to be a friend, sharing life, the highs and lows, showing support and encouragement to them at all times.

So let’s start with the basics. Forming friendships and loving others as Jesus has loved us. Let’s not get tripped up with how to share Jesus, and focus first on being His hands and feet to others around us.

Unless we are building relationships, and growing friendships, we are not going to have opportunity in the future to share Jesus with others.

Let’s make friends!

Pastor Ben

02/05/2021

It is gone – all of it.
 
What am I talking about? My facial hair – of course!
 
I do believe that for the almost 8 years I have been here serving as pastor in Ipswich, that I have not been clean shaven – until Wednesday.
 
Wednesday – it all changed. For how long? I guess we will find that out together (it is hard to hide).
 
If you still wanted to donate – there is opportunity over the next few days to still do so, and you can do that here: Lose The Moustache (mycause.com.au)
 
But why? Well – as many of you are aware – I am quite passionate about sharing ‘Messages of Hope’, and in a world that is struggling in more ways than ever (and not just because of the global pandemic), it is very important that we share hope and the Gospel message to the many people in need.
 
One way that is done across Australia and New Zealand (through over 800 radio stations) is by Lutheran Media, but a great way for it to continue is for each of us individually, and together to share that same message of hope and Gospel to those people around us.
 
We don’t have to lead people to baptism in the space of a 30 minute coffee catch-up, but we are called to give reason for the hope that we have, and it is a case of constant relationship with others that open up doors and avenues for the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us to inspire faith in others.
 
My encouragement to you as you share hope and Gospel with others is to not give up. But also love the person for who they are.
 
Sometimes we fall into the trap of loving people only because we want to share Jesus, but these are real people, so just love them for who they are, not who you want them to become.
 
We also sometimes give up to easily because we don’t see results. But this work takes time, because relationships take time.
 
So let’s seek to build on the work of Lutheran Media in following the call of Jesus to bring the Gospel to light within our community.
 
May God bless you in this task,
Pastor Ben

25/04/2021

A servant serves.

I am currently reading Paul David Tripp’s book called ‘Lead’, and he writes something quite profound in his chapter ‘Servants’ that I would like to share about.

The theme of servanthood is so radically counter-intuitive, yet it is the term that defines how God has called us to do what we have been called to do.

What is the motivational joy in the heart of a true servant? The joy of a true servant is not power; the joy of a true servant is not control; the joy of a true servant is not acclaim; the joy of a true servant is not comfort or ease; and, of course, the joy of a true servant is not position. What gives a servant joy in being a servant is service.

Why is service so unnatural for us? Why do we love to be known as servants while not always loving the call to serve? Why do we fall into thinking of opportunities to serve as an interruption, a hassle, or a burden? Why do we count the cost while forgetting the riches we have been given? Why are servant posture and attitude not normal in the hearts and lives of those whom God has called?

The answer is clear: sin.

Sin is self-focused, self-absorbed, self-defensive, and self-aggrandizing – selfish in the purest sense of what that word means. Our default idol is the idol of self, and because it is, my default craving is for what I find comfortable, enjoyable and exciting.

So it is clear of the presence of power of rescuing and forgiving grace is present when any person finds joy in the self-sacrifice and self-denial that are the normal life of a servant.

That struggle of selfishness is the focus not only of the rescue and forgiveness of our justification, but also of the transforming work of our sanctification.

Jesus, our Saviour has rescued you from you, is rescuing you from you, and will continue to rescue you from you until that rescue is no longer needed.

If those people around you were to characterise your attitude and actions as a person, would they say that you have a servant’s heart?

In His service,

Pastor Ben.

18/04/2021

So, I have had the amazing opportunity to spend some extra time with my kids over the Easter break. This time highlighted two things for me. Firstly, what an amazing blessing my kids are to me. Also, what amazing gifts kids, or young people, are to us in general.
 
This train of thought continued and got me asking some questions about my parenting; what my kids might really need most from me in the season of life that they are in. This continued in a more general direction asking questions like, “what will they need from me in the near future?” and “what do kids, especially school aged kids, need most in general?”.
 
So after I have done hours of researching credible literature, talks and interviews. This the one consensus that seems to come across is that what is needed most is:

1. “Beliefs” engagement and growth, and,

2. Forming of “meaningful relationships”.

 
This emphasised for me the importance of parents living their faith openly and talking about it honestly and frequently. It is so vital for parents to make sure there are other trusted and supportive adults in their family’s (and therefore kids’), lives.
 
So, as a parent, we model and speak about our beliefs, the faith it stems from, and how it influences our behaviour and speech. And, as a parent, we invite other trusted adults into our space to also model those beliefs and talk about the outworking of their faith in their contexts.
 
This is why it is vital for parents to work on their own faith and meaningful connections, so that they can share this part of their lives appropriately not just with their own kids, but also kids that are a part of their sphere  of influence (nephews, nieces, god-children, close family friends’ lives, church family…for example). Furthermore, this is why it is important for us, as church family, to model our faith appropriately and form appropriate meaningful connections for and with the younger generations God has entrusted us with.
 
How do we do this collectively? Well, one way in which we do this is by making time and space for young ones, or the youth, to enable them to form meaningful peer and mentoring relationships. We need to provide opportunities for them to learn and grow their faith. This is the responsibility of every parent, grandparent, godparent, great-grandparent, trusted family friend, and more mature members of our community/church family.
 
So in which way can you be equipped to and help fulfil this responsibility we all have and find joy in seeing your own faith grow and also young ones flourish?

· By being an active community member

· By being a part of a small group (engage group)

· By being a part of youth group

 
I would encourage all of you to be a part of church life in this way and am looking forward to hearing from you all regarding this.
 
In His service,

Pastor Roelof

11/04/2021

Our inactions can betray us
One of the many narratives surround the Passion of Christ is the story of Peter, and how he doesn’t act, in that he doesn’t tell anyone that he is a follower of Jesus. The good news for Peter was that this meant that by his inaction, he wasn’t also subject to any punishment from the authorities, but we also know his response when he realises what he had (hadn’t) done.
 
And this idea led me to think – what do our own inactions say about us.
 
I think about our own government, and their inaction to do anything regarding the continued unfolding events in Myanmar as hundreds upon hundreds of people, including 43 CHILDREN are being killed by a military junta.
 
I think of the continued inaction of so many governments around the world to actually combat climate change by reducing emissions.
 
There is the continued inaction of so many countries in regards to ensuring that COVID-19 Vaccines will be distributed to all people all around the world, by not ensuring the technology is at a price above what developing countries can afford.
 
But what about us. What does our inaction say about us?
 
When we see someone in need, and we don’t help. When we don’t make the phone call, or don’t send that email, text message or social media post. When we fail to share God’s message of life, forgiveness and salvation to provide hope to others?
 
The good news is that regardless of our inaction, Jesus’ action means that we are forgiven. Some of the words we often use in our confession are to ask God for his forgiveness ‘for what we fail to do’. God forgives that, but I find a challenge in there. To not be someone of inaction, but to be someone of action.
 
What action might God be calling you to do today, this week?
 
Pastor Ben

04/04/2021

For those of us living in the South-East corner of Queensland, what an emotional and interesting past week it has been.

I don’t know about you, but I have been keeping one eye on the news to see the next latest developments in terms of case numbers, cluster statistics, possible infection sites and commentary on all of those things as well.

And it is interesting that it around 100 years ago, the world was fighting against another pandemic, the so called ‘Spanish Flu’.

And as churches returned back to a ‘new normal’, after also having to close, and live with restrictions, it is interesting that this new normal was most of the old normal, but considered with new eyes.

As much as some people might say the church is ‘dead’ or ‘dying’, as we celebrate Easter, we know that is not true, as the unstoppable mission of God continues.

Jesus himself declared “I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”.

It is Easter! And that gives us reason to celebrate that God is still at work in our lives, each and every day, and so we celebrate that on the cross and by his resurrection and ascension we have life, forgiveness and salvation.

With this celebration, we too are given new eyes to see the world around us, a world that is hurting, and in need of love and hope and grace.

And we, the church of God are to continue the mission that God has given to us, to share the love and hope and grace that we have received with those around us.

So let’s keep on living in that resurrection hope that we have because of Jesus!

Have a blessed Easter,

Pastor Ben.

28/03/2021

How Can I Help?

Recently I have been watching a show on Netflix/Channel Nine called ‘New Amsterdam’. It is a story of the equivalent of a CEO of a hospital (called a ‘medical director’) who is brought it to turn the New Amsterdam hospital around.

With a doctor’s background, the medical director aims to improve the health of both the patients, but even more insightfully, improve the health of the community around the hospital based in New York City.

To do this, he constantly works with his staff of doctors, surgeons, nurses, janitors and everything and everyone in between by asking them one simple question: ‘How can I help?’

He asks them how he can help them. Whether that be to provide better imaging equipment, or post-natal care nurses, or some other idea to overcome a problem they have as together they seek to help those in need.

In my conversations with people over this past week I have been a little bit more in-tune with these words ‘How can I help?’, and so have found myself saying them, but more interesting to me is the amount of times you (those who have spoken to me) have asked them of me.

And to be honest, it is quite humbling to hear people ask me ‘how can I help?’, but I have also found it quite enlightening.

Because as much as I am here to help as your pastor, I realise that together we are also seeking to grow God’s kingdom and make disciples, and in that sense there is only so much that I (as one individual person) can do, and so to hear those words ‘how can I help’ are very encouraging, as together we seek to impact our community with the Good News of Jesus.

So this week, as you go about doing what you do, maybe think of how you can help those around you: physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually – as you seek to make disciples.

If you need help, I am only ever a phone call away, and if I answer ‘how can I help?’ don’t be afraid to let me know!

Pastor Ben.

21/03/2021

Giving

Money is a touchy subject. It is so often the last thing that gets converted in a Christians life. After the head, and the heart, there is the conversion of the wallet 😊

But we know that the Bible teaches generosity, and specifically, to the local church of which we are a part.

Many do give.

Many don’t.

Why is that?

The commands in scripture to give are clear and unambiguous. Obedience in the Christian life is always about the heart. It’s wanting to find out what God wants, and then wanting to do it. It’s the wonderful dynamic of having Him as both Forgiver and Leader. It’s like being in love with your spouse and wanting to do things that you know would please them. Giving is always a reflection of where your heart is positioned.

I do not believe in the ‘health and wealth’ idea that if you give, you can expect to get rich. I do believe there is blessing on our lives that can very well be financial in nature when we give the way God asks us to. But our giving will never outpace our supply.

The larger picture is that God has shown His generosity so much that he we can never outgive God. He has given us literally everything, and so anything that we might give back to Him is paltry in comparison.

Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And I believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.

Your tithes and offerings on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at Ipswich Lutheran Church. It doesn’t just support local and international missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.

As you can see from the infographic above, we are seeking your help in order to ensure that we can continue to ‘know Christ and make Christ known’ in our community, in our city and around the world by preaching the gospel, making disciples and supporting those in our community who need help.

I encourage you to put God first in both your head, your heart AND your wallet, and invite you to think about increasing your regular offering amount. You are a valued member of our church family, and you’re financial support can make a difference.

So let’s seek to give generously in the same way God has and continues to do so, as we are a beacon of light to our community.

In His Service,
Pastor Ben.

14/03/2021

Grumbling

If you look up this weeks biblical passage that is the focus of the sermon, you will see that it is entitled as “Do Everything Without Grumbling” in the NIV translation. This title is from verse fourteen, and someone, at some point in history, has used this phrase to give this passage to this title.

Think about the word ‘everything’ for a moment. It can be so easy to read a passage, think, “Thanks God, that sounds good,” and then go about your day. When I think about the number of times I complained this week alone… I don’t think that I can remember them all.

The thing is, I can’t think of anything that I really had to complain about. Sure, things weren’t perfect and there were some stressful moments. And I’m not saying that no circumstance can impact you. But a few weeks from now, I’m not even going to remember what made me grumble.

Having emotions when something unexpected or negative happens is understandable, normal and human. But we can still choose our response to it. Do we grumble, letting ourselves focus on the negative. Letting frustration have control over our thoughts and actions. Or, do we acknowledge the way we feel and why, but try to see the big picture?

There is a lot of good in my life. I often say that most people could tell the story of their life as a comedy or a tragedy, it just depends on the lens they focus through. So much of life is out of our control, it’s circumstances we find ourselves in because of other peoples’ choices. We have so little control over anything. What we can choose is our actions and responses to world around us.

Next time that something happens that makes me feel irritated, frustrated or befuddled (it will probably happen today, if I’m honest), I’m going to try to choose something better. To acknowledge how I feel and why, but to then choose to make the best of whatever circumstance I find myself in. I’m going to try to grumble less and instead focus on the good in my life, and how maybe this seemingly negative circumstance could be used for good somehow.

Lauren