BUNDOORA PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

COVID 19 Updates

 

Staying in Touch: Thinking about authorities (7 Aug 2020)

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT

Thinking about governments and authorities


Having spent Wednesday evening filling out the Permitted Worker Permits for the staff and those involved in the live streaming of the service I spent some time on Thursday re-reading passages in the New Testament that speak about the believer’s relationship with governments and authorities. You see I am appalled at the thought that while going about my lawful business I could be pulled over by a police man or woman to see if I have the permission of the state to go about my work.

And as the week has unfolded my concern has grown about how quickly the State becomes totalitarian in thinking and reach, where it claims the authority to tell me how long I can spend outside, whether I can work or not, whether I can have people inside my own home, where I can go, claims the authority to control my movement and associations, and denies innocent activity to protect its power. For example, I normally drive Jayne to work at the Austin. It keeps her off the train in these times and as I never get out of the car it poses no risk to anyone. But it is now forbidden, not because there is any harm or wrong in it, but because the State must remove cars from the roads to protect its capacity to police its regulations. With that move to greater State control is a troubling disempowerment of individual responsibility, whether that is for our own health or for our own financial provision, a disempowerment that can pave the way for greater dependence on the State in the future.

And I am disturbed and distressed by the real harm the State’s directives are doing, whether it is to people’s mental health or their livelihoods and by the arrogance that says it can do harm because the state has it in its power to heal the harm. I am not convinced at all this is the case.

What am I to do with my upset and concern, with my distress? What am I to do with the disturbing demands of the State, enforced by threat of punishment, for conformity to a rule which overreaches its capacity? As some, perhaps many, may share some of these reactions to the State’s response to the Covid 19 outbreak and are struggling with complying cheerfully I thought I would share how I have worked through my response to our present circumstance.


The limitations of government and the wisdom of God's Word


Events make clear the State Government is not all wise nor all powerful. There is so much it cannot control, whether quarantine or nursing homes, so much of the impact of its decisions on individual lives that it cannot reckon with let alone compensate for. And the State is often in conflict with itself. For example, the expressive individualism it has nurtured in its ideological support of sexual diversity it must now suppress amongst those who oppose these regulations, with all the anger such inconsistency and unequal treatment of so-called ‘rights’ generates. There is no comfort in thinking the State has got it right, for I cannot be sure if the cost being paid is worth it. I do not submit to the State because I agree with its decisions and rulings, think they are the wisest and best responses that could be made, or trust it to be able to save my life.

Yet there is One who is all powerful and all wise, our God. More, unlike the State He knows me individually and He cares for me deeply, loves me so much that He has given His Son to save me. He calls me by name in the gospel of Jesus, and says even the hairs of my head are all numbered, and will most definitely save me for He has given His word in the gospel to keep me and all believers in Jesus in life and death. In my distress I can turn to His word for guidance and direction, and embrace it knowing He has given that word for my good. And so I turned again to Romans 13, Titus 3 and 1 Peter 2. Let me read these with you, starting at Romans 13.


Romans 13:17

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed." 


Romans is very clear. I need to submit myself, despite my doubts about the state’s wisdom, to its authority. In particular I should avoid the bad behaviour the State by these rules is trying to prevent, in our case the congregation of people and the transmission of the virus.

And the governing authorities Paul is speaking about to the Romans were no better than our authorities. Roman rule was self interested, often arbitrary and inconsistent, changing with the changing of governors and other officials. Sometimes it was corrupt, and the rule of the empire was always verging on idolatrous claims from the time of Augustus who was proclaimed as the saviour of the world.

Yet believers were to submit as part of love of neighbour for as the ancient world knew, order was better than disorder, government better than chaos. And Romans says that if I have a problem with government I should take it up with God for the ruler is His servant. Concern with the direction our rulers are taking is a matter for prayer, not grumbling

In Titus Paul reiterates the point.


Titus 3:1-2

"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people."


Here he also reminds us to speak evil of no-one. When we are anxious or angry our language can become inflammatory and we can think and say the worst of others, especially those who seem to be making our lives more difficult or who disagree with us. We should not speak in that way, especially of those who are labouring with a very difficult and for them unprecedented problem. None of us has a right to vent our anger and frustration in slandering others. And the ‘all people’ to whom we must show perfect courtesy includes the police who may pull us over, or the person on the end of the phone trying to answer our questions about regulations.

And it is not just Paul who tells us to submit. Listen to Peter.


1 Peter 2:13-17

"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."


We are, says Peter, free people, people who have been adopted into God’s family. But our freedom is found in serving God who calls us to be subject for the Lord’s sake to our rulers.


Applying God's Word


So what am I to do with my upset and my distress at the harm I see being inflicted on the alone and the vulnerable, the stress brought into the lives of those trying to both work and do school from home, the anger I occasionally feel at the restriction of innocent freedoms?

Although I may feel those things deeply, and have serious concerns about the effects of the government’s strategy, this too is an area where I must die to myself to do the will of God, to submit to authorities, to show courtesy, and not grumble. To die to myself because I trust Jesus who is able to keep and provide for His people who seek first His kingdom and righteousness, who conform their lives to His good teaching.

So for the Lord’s sake, as a free person serving my good God, I will fill out forms, pursue clarification of unclear directions, re-arrange meal trains, seek to find ways to mitigate the harms I see being done through isolation and fear, and endure trusting the Lord who rules over all things.


And I will pray for those in authority as I am commanded in 1 Timothy 2, pray that their decisions will give us that peaceful and quiet life where we can live godly lives that testify in word and deed to the Lord Jesus. I will pray that in the Lord’s will He prospers their efforts to control the spread of the virus. And I will pray for them as stressed humans, for who of us would want to have to make the decisions they are being called upon to make, pray that they would humble themselves to seek the King of kings who alone can bring plans for good to fruition, the one in whom they can also can find comfort and wisdom as they turn back to Him.


And I will dare to hope that this experience will prompt a re-think. That people will turn away from  locating all authority and hope in either the state or the individual, from the allure of both totalitarianism and expressive individualism, to confess that the authority to rule our lives lies with the living God, to see that His rule alone, a commitment to His righteousness and justice, in the end preserves both our freedoms and good order, and that He alone is our hope.

And brothers and sisters, the path of denying myself, dying to myself to do the Lord’s good will, is the path for us all at this time.


 

Staying in Touch: Preparing to die (31 July 2020)

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT

Preparing to die

 

Concerned for my well being in locked down Victoria, my out-of-state elder sister, rings me from time to time to check on me. The conversations are wide ranging and last time we spoke of how good it would be to see each other face to face, hopefully before the end of the year. But then I added – "Of course, I might be dead by then".

That was not morbid, just a statement of reality. The Lord knows the time of our death [Psalm 139:16] but none of us knows the time of our death and for mortal creatures dying is always a possibility at any time. Perhaps dying before the end of the year is even an increased probability in this time of Covid for those of us who are older. It is in the Lord’s hands.

How should I think about dying? How should you?

Is it a great personal disaster to be avoided at all costs?

Or is it something that I as a believer can look forward to, not dying in itself, but, in Paul’s words ‘departing to be with Christ’ which he goes on to say is ‘better by far’ [Phil. 1:23]. Better by far!

So today I want to talk about dying, about your dying. It is too late when you are dialling triple zero because of shortness of breath for you to get ready to die, to get ready for what has always been inevitable. Now is the time, and I would hate any of you to come to death unprepared, not at peace with God, to come to that time without the confident hope Christ died and rose to give believers.

 

Death is not the consolation prize

 

Believers in Christ do have a wonderful and sure hope, being with Christ when we die and then sharing in the resurrection to eternal life in the new heaven and earth. [1 Cor. 15:12-56]. That is the hope every believer confesses month by month in the Apostle’s creed. We believe, we say, in the resurrection of the dead.

Yet my impression is that for many believers this is not what they are longing and living for. Rather they see it as the consolation prize if somehow they are unlucky enough to die. You know the consolation prize. That’s the prize you weren’t in the competition to win. Many seem to have embraced the Christian faith for what they think it will deliver in this life – for those affected by false prosperity teaching that is health, wealth, success, but for many orthodox believers the focus is still on the present blessings of the gospel: a life with meaning, guidance, present forgiveness, a way of life, a family culture – and the Christian hope is a kind of afterthought, that part of the software suite that came with the computer that you don’t think you will ever use, an extra functionality for the real nerds.

Yet in the New Testament the Christian hope is front and centre of a believer’s vision. Consider Paul speaking in 2 Corinthians. Having spoken of his present sufferings Paul goes on to say:

 

'So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.' [2 Cor 4:16-5:8]

 

Paul is under no illusions about this present life. He knows it is marked by mortality, by wasting away, by affliction. The present is transient, and a place of burden, groaning and grief. He longs for his heavenly home, his eternal home; for death to be swallowed up by life. He would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Being with Christ in the resurrection body is not the consolation; it is the goal. It is not something reluctantly accepted but looked forward to. It is his preference, not his fall back. And it is guaranteed to us now by God’s gift to us of His Spirit.

This sure and longed for hope is then something that gives direction and purpose to his present life.

 

'So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.' [2 Cor 5:9-10]

 

To see the Christian hope, being with the Lord and rising with Him, as the consolation prize betrays our worldliness, that our minds are fixed on and we are caught up with the things of this world – our plans, even our plans for the church or evangelism; our business affairs, our present loves, our present pleasures – and we are not living in all things with the single minded desire to please Jesus. If we were, we would see the world as He sees it, and we would be longing to be with Him, longing for the fulness of His promise.

More, to see the Christian hope as the consolation prize robs our neighbours of the opportunity to be challenged by our hope. Death confronts them, they live with the fear of death and there is no hope in saying ‘well then you just rot’. That is a statement of infinite loss, for life and death are infinitely separated. And there is no hope in the ‘maybe’s’. Maybe I will have a better rebirth. Maybe I will prove good enough when my behaviour is weighed in the scales of God’s justice. There is in the ‘maybe’ only fear of judgment, fear of the unknown outcome, fear of hell for those who know their own sinfulness.

 

Dying is not a disaster for the believer 

 

Dying for the believer is not a personal disaster. To depart and be with Christ is better by far. It is not a disaster for the believer’s family who share her faith, nor for their church which is loved by the sovereign Lord.

There will be grief, for death in this life is a horrible breaking of bonds, a permanent absence, loss without compensation. Death is an ugly oppressor of our race, and grief is the ever-present chorus to our lives, the constantly returning refrain to everyone’s tune.

There will be grief, but comfort for those who know your hope, that you were not just accepting but looking forward to being with the Lord, looking forward to enjoying the blessedness of those who die in the Lord and rest from their labours [Rev. 14:13]. More, others seeing the reality of your hope in the way you live now for Jesus might ask you of its source, and you can share the truth of Jesus with them so that your hope can become their hope.

 

In a world where all die make sure you are ready to die by having made peace with the living God through repentance and faith in His Son Jesus, by believing His gospel that He has died for our sins and risen to live forever, risen with authority to forgive and judge and then living to do His will. Turn away from worldliness to become someone who lives for Jesus now and longs to be with Jesus because you love Him and your heart, your will, is given to Him. Be someone who can say and genuinely believe with Paul that 'to live is Christ, and to die is gain' [Phil. 1:21], someone for whom death does not bring the consolation prize but ushers in the satisfaction of the longing of their soul and the fulfilment of their hope.

 


Staying in Touch: The livestream services (24 July 2020)

WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT

Heading into the long haul

 

We are all wearing masks when we are outside now and with that development I guess we all know now that we are in for the long haul as a community in dealing with the virus and the disruption to our lives that brings.

There is a disappointment in that recognition. For some it compounds their grief and anxiety at the major disruption of losing work and the prospect of being out of work for many more months. For many of us the disappointment is in the myriad of ‘small’ disappointments and inconveniences the response to the virus brings – new mothers whose husbands will be restricted in their ability to be with them in hospital, birthdays whose celebrations will be muted, working from home while trying to manage schooling from home, grandchildren or grandparents who cannot be visited. While ‘small’ in the big scheme of things these can have a large impact on how we feel. Even the necessity of wearing masks outside works as a constant reminder of the loss of things we value, our openness and freedom as a society.

Dealing with those disappointments and inconveniences takes energy. We can’t park our lives like Qantas jets in the Mojave desert, idle until needed. We can’t hibernate. We, individually and collectively, must live through this energy depleting time, find a way to sustain our lives in such a way that we come out well on the other side. And there will be another side, an end to this – even if we feel that end slipping further and further into the distance.

 

Much of what we have talked about in the months before has been about sustaining our lives as believers. It means focusing, not on our lifestyle and compensating for lifestyle loss, but on our relationships – our relationship with our heavenly Father, our relationship with those we live with,  our relationships as a congregation. I hope that you have found seeking our Father in prayer and reading God’s word, remembering Who He is and what HE has done for us in Christ, to be refreshing, not burdensome, at this time, light in our gloom. And practicing what He commands in our homes – thoughtful love of others, speech that builds up and encourages, a habit of thankfulness, a humility that can say sorry and a grace that can forgive, self control – will leave our relationships stronger. And we must also sustain our relationships as a congregation.

 

Our livestream services - changes in light of the survey

 

A large part of sustaining our collective identity as a congregation is maintaining our livestream service. Many have let us know they are appreciating the service and we have been encouraged by the responses to the survey, especially by the numbers tuning in week by week and being disciplined in setting aside that time on a Sunday to meet, even if virtually. Knowing now that the Live stream will continue for many months to come we have been thinking about how we can both continue to improve what we do in light of the feedback received and also make the service sustainable for those who produce it. Those two goals – sustainability and improvement – will mean that you will see some changes in the livestream over the next few weeks, and the rest of this talk is about those changes.

Some changes have already been made.

  • The new log-in that allows us to know who is watching and who might need more encouragement.
  • Continuing incremental improvements in the technical aspects of recording and live streaming as we become more used to recording and talking to camera.
  •  The use of the time before and after the service for some of our more routine announcements.
  • Expect continuing changes to announcements as we seek to use the announcement time in the service to highlight one or two key announcements and move the rest, the reminders, to before or after the service. Those reminders will also all be able to be found on our web page at bpc.org.au/live.
  • We will also be seeking to have the bible reading text on the screen alongside the reader, and to be identifying participants in the service along with the congregation they come from.
  • We will be retaining the mix of live and pre-recorded elements, which may vary week by week depending on whether anyone is in quarantine.
  • In relation to the service leading expect to see the Pastors doing a little more of the leading. It is good to see many faces and all our leaders do a good job but we are keen for the connection and the opportunity service leading gives to pastor you.

 

Inteviews, Children's Talks & Music

 

The new elements of the service – e.g. interviews and children’s talks – have been appreciated. We will continue to work on those and some of the opportunities that the pre-recorded medium gives us. Sometimes you will see Psalms at the beginning of the service, and around the announcement time or elsewhere in the service there will be either interviews, testimonies, or a short answer to some questions either your children or others might ask. We will be trying to be conscious of the children’s presence in the lead up to the sermon and during the sermon as many have told us they are watching the service with their children.

 

In relation to the children’s talk from the start of the Ezekiel series – which starts on August 16th – we will be relating the talk to the content of the sermon, and it will follow the bible reading with a song now coming between the children’s talk and the sermon. Some of you have indicated that finding and using resources to help your children learn through the service can be a very mixed experience, so we will produce outlines and activity sheets that the children can use and that relate to sermon series. Nurturing our children through this time is something we have to do together, so if you have good ideas – share them with us and other parents, and keep giving feedback about what is working and what is not.

 

The whole music/singing experience is very varied on livestream. Some find it difficult to sing on their own, and some love it. Recording music is also very time consuming. To help the sustainability of the service we will be reducing the songs from five to three in both services. This will also help us manage the length of the service. We are aware that for many, especially if you have young children, sitting in front of a screen and trying to concentrate is not easy for any length of time, so we will be trying to keep the services to about seventy minutes except on the Sundays where we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Having said that you will recognise that we are not perfect people and there will, at times, be a gap between aspiration and achievement.

If I am honest that gap will probably be on display when I start preaching on Ezekiel. It is an important book that we will be trying to cover in 12-13 weeks by looking at key chapters.

 

Ezekiel sermon series


In Ezekiel we will meet the God who does the unthinkable, whether in judgment or salvation. It is at times shocking. I have always preached on the basis that if God has bothered to speak to us, we should listen to Him, and that listening to His word is so important that it should not be subject to artificial constraints that are largely culturally determined. God’s Word always has priority and so I have laboured more to be clear than to be brief, to say what is there in the text rather than select what I think people need to hear. But I am aware that listening to someone speaking on a screen is often harder, so you might pray that I can to some extent accommodate to the medium. I would encourage you, especially with Ezekiel, to prepare to listen by reading the passage and praying about it beforehand so you come ready to engage with the text, with what God in His kindness has been pleased to say to us. It is in many ways an unusual book so I am looking forward to having questions in the Zoom meeting afterwards.

 

We have put a summary of responses to the survey on the website. It also canvassed views on when we might return to meeting face to face. All that seems a little academic at the moment but your responses will help us when the time comes to revisit the question. A large majority were in favour of continuing the livestream in some form after we return to meeting in the building. Session has heard that and has committed itself to continuing the livestream. The details – whether subscription or public, from which service, privacy issues – are still being discussed, but we have months for that discussion.

 

Finally in relation to sustainability just a reminder that Clinton, Chris and I take Monday off, and Andy Thursday off.

Yesterday morning I read “The LORD takes delight in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.” Psalm 149:4-5. I have talked about sustaining our lives as believers, individually and collectively. But our hope is in the LORD who delights in His people. We can be confident He can sustain our life, sustain a joy that sings. He is our good shepherd who promises His flock will not want, who can restore our souls, who promises us goodness and mercy all our days. We trust Him for the days ahead and so despite disappointments are of good heart. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with us all.

 


Staying in Touch: God's Word for our Prayers (17 July 2020)

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT

The gift of God's word to give us words to pray


Have you been giving thanks over this period of Covid lockdown with its weariness and anxieties for the gift of words? The gift God gives us in His Word of words by which we can address Him, bring our hearts to Him? I have. When I am tired and weary I often find words to speak to God hard to find, or hard to give them any structure or flow. I want to pray but find it hard to start, hard to fashion the thoughts and words I need. When I am anxious and preoccupied I can easily find myself unable to see beyond the present concern, fixated on my troubles, almost imprisoned in them in my prayers. I can lose sight of God’s greatness, or of others and other concerns that are equally deserving of my prayers. At these times the words God has given us to pray to Him I have found so helpful in bringing my heart to my heavenly Father and in addressing my heart, so that my soul is encouraged and refreshed. Let me share some of this gift with you, so that these words can also serve you in your need.


The Lord's Prayer


Take the Lord’s prayer that I pray every day. ‘Hallowed be thy name’. First and before everything else I am praying that my Father would cause me to treat His name, His revelation of who He is, with all seriousness. I am asking God to move me in all that is happening to believe everything He has said about Himself – His might and His steadfast love, His holiness and mercy. More, that I would believe all His promises, heed all His warnings. And in this prayer, with its ‘our’s, I am praying that not just for me but for every believer I know. In this petition the Lord has given me words to ask for my greatest need at any time, but particularly at this time, the need to know my God and live as one who knows Him. And then my heart is turned away from the world to focus my longing on the coming of our Lord Jesus in glory – ‘Thy kingdom come’. God has a plan and that will climax in the exaltation of His Son when every knee bows to Him and the new heaven and earth is established. Longing for that time is so health giving, and to orient my heart to that great goal gives me perspective on what I experience now.

 In every line of this prayer Jesus gave His followers I can express my present need and concerns, not just for me but for my brothers and sisters. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ – we can commit our concern about our livelihoods to Him and be assured He has heard us in our concern. And if you have been blessed as I have with more than sufficient provision, in this phrase we can ask for grace to use what He has entrusted to us well at this time, to share that daily bread with those in need. I won’t go through the other lines as I want to draw your attention to the other God given words of address, but if you are weary, or you are finding it hard to structure your longings and needs, try these words, the words of the Lord’s prayer, that can encompass all our relationships and needs.


The Prayers of Paul


But we do have other prayers. Take Paul’s thanksgivings and prayers, found at the beginning of so many of his letters [Romans 1:8-10, 15:30-33; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; Eph. 1:15-23, 3:14-21; Phil. 1:3-4, 9-11; Col. 1:3-4, 9-12; 1 Thess. 1:2-3, 3:11-13; 2 Thess. 1:3, 11-12]. We know this is a time to be praying for one another, but what to pray as you look at those names in the daily devotion or in the directory. What to pray is a challenge if you don’t know that brother or sister or their circumstances well. God gives us words in His word. I turn to Paul and am encouraged to give thanks for your faith and love. For me, that thanksgiving is a reassuring reminder even when I can’t see you of God’s work in you that will keep you and grow you.

Then, for example, taking Paul’s words in Philippians I pray that your love would abound in knowledge and discernment so that you will approve what is excellent and be kept pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness. And isn’t it good to seek this for each other from God. It is easy at this time for our love, like our engagement with others, to shrink, not abound. And it can be perplexing with all these restrictions to know how to love, and especially to know what is best – we need knowledge and discernment. And with the temptations of isolation to selfishness and indulgence we need to be kept pure and blameless. These words God gives us to pray bring us to pray for each other what we really need.

Or consider Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 that we would grow in knowledge of Christ’s love for us. When we are enduring trial as we are, isn’t this a wonderful thing, a most necessary work of God, to be able to seek from God for each other, for each of your brothers and sisters. Knowing the love of Jesus is the source of joyful endurance and thankful perseverance in following Jesus, a driver of transforming growth to be like Jesus. To pray that our brother or sister would know more of that love is timely, loving, service of them.


The Psalms


But the biggest collection of words that God gives us by which we can address Him is found in the Psalms. Here we find words that match all our circumstances. There may be times when you are longing for relief. God teaches you to pray “How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” Psalm 13. You may be facing trouble, the hostility of others, and you are conscious of your own weakness and frailty. “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses” the Psalmist prays in Psalm 25:16-17. Or perhaps you are conscious of the distance that has entered into your relationship with God because of your sin, and you fear that, fear being cut off forever – God has given you Psalm 51.

This is just a small sample of the great treasure the Christian heart has in the Psalms. One more example. I am often full of needs, my own and others, and forget praise and thanksgiving, or find it hard. The Psalms help and correct me. This morning I read/prayed Psalm 147 out loud – “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God.” It was good, good to praise my God and in the process be reminded of the greatness of His might and love, that He is the God who rules over nature – sending the rain and snow, and the God who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds [Ps. 147:3].

We are a society that loves novelty and that suggests that if the words are not your own your prayer or praise is not genuine. That is not true where our heart is in the words we have borrowed from others. Yet that is a belief that can frustrate our praying, burden us further when we are already weary. God has given us a great gift in giving us in His word words by which we can pray to Him. Use them so that your prayer life can be enabled and enriched at what is a testing time for so many of us. Use them so that you too can be thankful to our gracious God for the words He has given us to come to Him and receive from Him His mercy and grace in our need.


And as a postscript. Thank you again to all those who have filled out the survey. The staff and session have been discussing the responses and how they inform the development of our livestream over the coming months. We hope to publish the survey responses and the conclusions of our discussion next week, Lord willing.


Staying in Touch: Sustaining our Hope (10 July 2020)

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT

Disappointment and weariness


Like you I have spent the week digesting the Premier’s announcement on Tuesday of the re-imposition of Stage 3 restrictions in Melbourne. That re-imposition makes a tangible difference to our services which you will witness this Sunday, with only five allowed in the building for the production of the livestream. In the coming weeks we will go back to having more elements pre-recorded and less live from the building, with all the work that involves. Stage 3 restrictions also means that sadly we are unable to have visitors in our homes.


But it has been the emotional impact of the announcement that has struck me, articulated by many in terms of disappointment and weariness. Disappointment, not in the premier for making the call to re-impose restrictions, but in the growth of transmission that made the call sadly necessary. We were enjoying the easing up of restrictions, starting to hope that we would escape the more severe health and economic impacts of the virus, becoming more confident of a future we could plan and prosper in. But the Premier’s announcement reminded us that the threat to our lives and livelihood posed by the virus is real, it remains, and it will be a long time before we return to pre-covid normality. Confidence has again been replaced by doubt and uncertainty about our futures, and with the disappointment of our hopes many are feeling very weary, weary at the thought of again being restricted, again living with disrupted lives, and possibly, for those with children, again dealing with their schooling. That weariness, that loss of energy, can in turn make daily tasks more burdensome, daily relating more strained.


In this time of disappointment and weariness I want to encourage you to three things that will sustain you and renew hope.

Firstly, to continue to humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.

Secondly, to continue to look to Jesus

And thirdly to see your Father lovingly at work in your life for your good in these events.


Humbling ourselves under God's mighty hand


When encouraged by his wife to vent his anger and disappointment at the loss of all his property and children by cursing God, Job says to his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” [Job. 2:10]. For Job, God was in control, He knew what He was doing, and He had a right to do what He was doing, because He is God, the Creator, just, all knowing, almighty. Job humbled himself before a God who is not accountable to us and whose thoughts are above our thoughts more than the heavens are above the earth – that is they exceed our grasp. That is the perspective of the faithful in Scripture.

The author of Lamentations, again confronting a loss far greater than ours in the destruction of Jerusalem says

"Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that good and bad come?
Why should a living man complain,
    a man, about the punishment of his sins? 
[Lam 3:38-39]

The Lord is in control, and He has a right to do what He has done.

In fact he sees in what has happened a call and an opportunity for a sinful generation to return to the Lord

"Let us test and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord!"
 [Lam 3:40]

And don’t we pray that our generation also sees this reminder of their mortality and frailty as an opportunity to turn back to the true God.

Firstly, In the face of this disappointment we humble ourselves under the sovereign God’s rule over all things.


Continue to look to Jesus


Secondly, we continue to look to Jesus. As the author of Hebrews says

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." [Heb 12:1-3]

The author points us to Jesus’ example of persevering trust in God. So confident was He of His Father’s love and promise that He endured the cross and came to what the Father had promised Him [Ps. 110:1], exaltation to rule over all. Jesus’ example tells us God is faithful and His purpose for us is good. It is worth persevering in obedience to His will – trusting Jesus, obeying His command to love, giving thanks. But when we ‘consider Him’ we need to consider not only His example, but also our Lord’s promises and achievement.

He has promised rest to the weary.

"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." [Matt 11:28]

A rest found in taking on His yoke, that is trusting Him and obeying His teaching instead of man made Pharisaical rules. He has in John 7 promised us His Spirit, the Spirit who is an ever renewed spring of life.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive," [John 7:38-39a]

We should look to Jesus in our weariness for the rest and life He promises. And we should look to His achievement. In enduring the cross He has atoned for our sins. We are forgiven, reconciled, at peace, with God.


Know that your Father is lovingly at work for your good


And that means, thirdly, that in these events you can know that your Father is lovingly at work for your good. We have thought of what the author of Hebrews says about God’s discipline before, but it is worth reminding ourselves of it again.

"Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.'"
[Heb 12:5-6]

Discipline, while involving correction and reproof, is in the main training. It is shaping habits and character by constant work.

"It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 

If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." [Heb 12:7-8]

All God’s children participate in discipline. We should, if we are God’s true children, expect Him to use the circumstances of our life to turn us away from sin and nurture in us godly habits and character. We should not expect a trial or trouble free life. And he reminds us that we should welcome this discipline for our heavenly Father disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Even though

"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, we can be sure that later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." [Heb 12:11]


Hearing this it is worth reflecting on what sin your Father may be helping you confront by the trials of these times, and what habits He is trying to nurture in you. Is He training you not to see life through your feelings but through the promises in His Word? Is He helping you not to put your confidence in earthly treasure but in Him? Is He cultivating in you the health giving habit of daily thankfulness? Is He teaching you not to be self reliant in your planning but to truly submit your plans to His will, to truly say “Lord willing”? In your felt weakness is He teaching you to rely on His grace? Is He challenging you, even when all you feel like doing is withdrawing, to love your brothers and sisters, and so to find the joy of faithful service?


A lot more could be said about how we think through and live through our current circumstances, and I will be saying a little more, particularly the children, in the service on Sunday morning. But for now I would encourage you to reflect on the Scriptures mentioned and in your disappointment and weariness find encouragement and strength by continuing to humble yourself under God’s mighty hand continuing to look to Jesus and in these events continuing to see your Father, your Heavenly Father, lovingly at work in your life for your good.

 

Staying in Touch: Confidence in the Cross (3 July 2020)

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Thinking about ourselves in the current Covid crisis...

 

I have signed up to get the Corona Virus daily updates issued by the Chief Health Officer and they start by giving the number of new cases diagnosed in the previous day – 64 Tuesday, 73 Wednesday, 77 Thursday. I am sure these are numbers you are well aware of, numbers that concentrate the mind, numbers that have prompted the ‘lockdown’ of ten postcodes. Daily updates, hourly news bulletins, constant talk of the virus on the radio can have a kind of mesmerising effect where your thinking is full of the virus, your anxiety increased and your fears refreshed. Even the way we think of ourselves can become distorted. Who are we? We are the people threatened by/isolated by/ infected with/being tested for/in combat with – the virus!

But that is not who we are as believers in Jesus. We are people who, with the apostle Paul, boast of nothing other than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ [Gal. 6:14]. That may not be how you are thinking of yourself right now and that language may sound a little abstract. But learning to think of yourself as you are in Christ will be a source of strength, comfort and hope – it is health giving in a sick world. Let me show you.

 

What does it mean to boast in the cross?

 

First of all, what did Paul mean when he spoke in Galatians 6 of boasting in the cross? In Galatians 6:14-15 Paul writes

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

Paul is contrasting himself with those who were trying to make the Galatian believers become circumcised and keep the law of Moses. These people wanted to avoid persecution for the cross and wanted the Galatians circumcised so that they could ‘boast in [the Galatians’] flesh.’ That is the Galatians being circumcised would both show the success of their mission and zeal for the law [helping them escape persecution by their fellow Jews] and reinforce their privilege as Jews and reliance on law keeping to be right with God. They were committed fundamentally to being proud of their human achievements, of their works to keep themselves as God’s people. Not so for Paul. He was committed to having only one boast, being proud of only one thing, and that is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ here refers not just to the event but to Jesus’ crucifixion as the way of salvation for sinners. Paul’s pride is in what empties him of pride, his boast is in what removes all boasting in human achievement. The cross itself is shameful and offensive, confronting to our sensibilities. To boast in the cross is to say that you are a sinner unable to save yourself, rightly condemned by God’s law to hell, and only Jesus dying in your place on that shameful cross can justify you – cause you to be declared right with God in the judgement [Gal. 3:13-14]. More, it is to say we come to be saved by Jesus’ death only by faith in God’s promise, in God’s gospel. It is a gracious gift to those who will repent and believe, who have done nothing and can do nothing to earn that gift. They can only receive what Christ has done for them.

 

And the cross changes everything. Paul, boasting in the cross, is done forever with the world, this present unredeemed creation, this place of reliance on ourselves and boasting in our own achievements. The world is crucified to him, exposed as weak and shameful, just as the world thinks Paul is weak and shameful in rejecting it for reliance on Jesus. But Paul does not mind for trusting Jesus crucified means he is qualified to share in the new creation as God’s child [1:4, 4:1-6] and the old distinctions have no relevance.

Now you might be thinking – that was a few minutes of solid theology, but how is it helpful? How does boasting in the cross inform our present experience? In four ways.

 

The helpfulness of boasting in the cross

 

Firstly, boasting in the cross reminds us of the character of the world we live in. It is a world populated by sinners under judgment. It will never be heaven on earth. We should not be surprised when people live selfishly and our lives are impacted by that selfishness. We should not be surprised that God is still active in the world in judgment, judgments that are deserved and which should humble our pride. The cross reminds us of the reality and seriousness of sin, of how out of order a world is that hates and wants to murder, its Maker. It helps us understand our times, and that our world is passing away.

 

Secondly, boasting in the cross reminds us that we can be confident of our relationship with our heavenly Father. Trusting in Jesus crucified, joined to Him in His death and resurrection by faith, we are justified – forgiven, reckoned as those who have no debt to His law. We are adopted as God’s children who call out to Him Abba, Father [Gal. 4:4-6]. In all that happens we are not experiencing His anger but are being treated with Fatherly love. That doesn’t mean my life won’t be disrupted by Covid. It does mean that in that disruption I can be confident my Father is working His good Fatherly purpose for me, disciplining me in love so that I come to all that He has promised me. When you are lying awake at night thinking about your finances or your health or your child’s disrupted education it makes a difference to be confident that you are the almighty God’s loved child – not because you have earned it, but because of Jesus and His death.

 

Thirdly boasting in the cross reminds us that what matters now, in these present trying circumstances, is living as we now are as those saved through faith in Christ’s death. We are to live as God’s children, living lives of faith active in love as we keep in step with God’s Spirit in us [Gal. 5:6, 22-25]. So boasting in the cross orients me away from myself and a preoccupation with my own concerns to considering others, to practice the one anothers in the power of God’s Spirit. Free – freed from earning salvation, and freed from fear of death and condemnation, we are, in Paul’s word, to ‘serve one another in love’ [Gal. 5:13-14].

 

Fourthly and finally, boasting in the cross means we are confident of the future. The cross of Christ has gained us entry into the new creation. Forgiven, we have a sure hope, a hope guaranteed to us now by the gift of the Holy Spirit. What happens to us now is not final, and we do not invest anything here with permanence. Our home is in heaven now, and we are journeying through life to the heavenly city and will have a sure welcome there because of the cross of Jesus.

 

So believer, be someone who every day boasts in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is proud to confess themselves saved by the death of Jesus, justified by faith, by grace, on the grounds of Christ’s death for our sin. Such boasting will give perspective on your current circumstances, assure you of your Almighty Father’s love, focus you on living a life of love now and sustain you with a confident hope. It will sustain the health of your soul in an ailing world.

 

Staying in Touch: Dealing with dissappointment (25 June 2020)

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Dealing with dissappointment 


Were you disappointed and a little disheartened this week by the increase in community transmission and the consequent re-imposition of stricter limits on gatherings in your own home and the failure to further ease restrictions on public gatherings? I was. It wasn’t a particularly conscious reaction. I just felt deflated, felt the return of that nagging uncertainty about what will happen. Intellectually I know Australia has embraced a suppression strategy and that means there is always the possibility of local outbreaks requiring vigorous response from the health authorities and the need for continuing vigilance by us all. But what I had allowed myself to hope for was that we were past the danger and were on the steady, smooth, predictable path to normality – that the economy would re-open, people would start to return to work, and we could plan for more face to face contact. And we were planning – talking with growth group leaders about changes possible with the permission to have twenty persons in your home, starting to think about a term 3 with Kid’s Club and Youth Group and daytime ministries in the building. All that is now shrouded in Covid uncertainty, the smooth path looking more like saw’s teeth, and the dark cloud of economic damage growing larger on the near horizon. Disappointment of our expectations, even of unarticulated hopes, and the return of uncertainty and anxiety about an unknown future, can drain us of energy and motivation, get us down even if there is little external change in our lives. How do we deal with it as believers?


Dissappointment in the bible


If there was ever a person who was entitled to feel let down and disappointed it was Joseph in the prison in Egypt. The story is there in Genesis 37-50, and especially chapters 40-41. Joseph, having been sold into slavery by his brothers and transported to Egypt, was now in prison after being falsely accused of attempting to take advantage of his master Potiphar’s wife. While in prison, after ‘some time’, he meets Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker who one morning are troubled by dreams they have had. When interpreting the chief cupbearer’s dream as showing that the he will be restored to Pharaoh’s service in three days Joseph says “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness: mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” Joseph had done nothing to deserve being in prison, and now he had a hope of getting out. You can almost feel Joseph’s expectation of release from this unjust, unfair, and miserable prison existence growing. And it would be easy for him to see the hand of God in it. It was a God given opportunity, for God had sent the butler, given the dream, and given the interpretation of the dream. Wasn’t this God hearing his prayers and releasing him?


But it was not to be. Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams was proved true but Genesis 40 ends with these words: “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” And Genesis 41 starts with these words “After two whole years ….” Two whole years. Two whole years of being confined to the guard house, of being engaged with menial service, of being unable to experience freedom. That is a good length of time to let disappointment grow into anger and hatred of the person who forgot him and all the others – his brothers and Potiphar – who had landed him in goal. Plenty of time to let disappointed expectation grow into doubt about God’s interest or care, or doubt about whether it is worth living His way because doing the right thing hadn’t got Joseph anywhere but into difficulty.


We don’t know the inner workings of Joseph’s mind. But we do know Joseph in his disappointment gave in to none of those temptations. When after two years the chief cupbearer finally remembers Joseph and commends him to Pharaoh as an interpreter of dreams Joseph is still confident in God’s power and in his relationship with God. He responds to Pharaoh’s request for interpretation of his dream by saying “I cannot do it but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires [41:16].” For Joseph God gives dreams, God is in charge of the climate – what the coming years will bring, God determines the outcome of history, and God in His goodness gives an opportunity to prepare for what is to come. Then after nine years, when Joseph’s brothers are in his power, he does not seek vengeance but to do good because he can see the Lord’s hand in all that has happened. When he reveals himself to them as the brother they knew they had sold into slavery he says to them “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. …… God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. [Gen. 45:5-7 ESV]”


What prevented Joseph from being overwhelmed with disappointment and growing distant from God in those two years? What prevented Joseph when he had great power from exercising it in vengeance? Promise, Presence, and a grasp of providential rule. For Joseph the dreams that earned him the anger of his brothers were God making a promise about his future [Gen. 37:1-11]. His confidence that God spoke through dreams is a prominent and consistent feature of his whole life. He had a promise from God, and he believed God would keep His word. Secondly, the LORD was with Him, and ‘showed him steadfast love’ [Gen. 39:21]. Just as He was faithful to God so the LORD was faithful to him, and never abandoned him [39:2, 9, 23]. Joseph’s responses to requests for interpretation of dreams shows that Joseph’s was a conscious dependence on God. He knew the LORD was with Him, and he knew the LORD who was with Him. And thirdly, he knew he was not God but the LORD who was God ruled over all things. There was no reason why things should work out the way Joseph wanted. He was not in charge. But the LORD was in charge, and what we see in Joseph’s story is that the LORD being in charge is good. If Joseph had been released on Joseph’s desired timetable, the day or the month after the chief cupbearer had been released because the cupbearer had been the reliable and grateful friend he should have been, Joseph would not have been there to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. Two more years in prison meant he was in the right place at the right time not only to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, but to be elevated to be in charge of Egypt over the coming years so that Egypt would be able to survive and prosper through the coming seven lean years. Two more years in prison therefore meant that Joseph was in a position to be the Saviour of his family when those famine years drove them to Egypt to find grain. Joseph trusted the LORD’s rule over history, over the events of human life, and his life showed that the LORD ruled over history to fulfill his good promises and purposes for His people. That rule encompassed even the thoughtless, incompetent, and sinful actions of people. On Jacob’s death he could say to his fearful brothers, terrified that Joseph had only been delaying vengeance for the sake of their father, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear .. . [Gen. 50:19-21]."


Joseph dealt with disappointment because he had faith in the faithfulness of God to His promises, he knew the presence of God, that God was with him, and because he had confidence in the rule of the almighty God to govern human affairs to achieve His good purposes, purposes bigger and better than his own plans and desires.


When dissappointment comes...


For us this is an up and down time, and the coming months might see more reversals of the progress to normality we hope for, more times when we will feel a little deflated and down. But we should deal with them like Joseph. We should remember the good promises of God to us, that we are His children and that He will work all things now for our good, our conformity to His Son Jesus [Rom. 8:28-29] and will bring us to reign with Jesus [Rom. 8:16-25]. We should know and be confident that God is with us, for He has given us His Spirit to dwell in us and the Lord Jesus has said He is with us always. And we should trust our almighty Father’s providential rule over all things, including over who gets the virus and when. His purposes are bigger and better than our plans and desires, and we will be released from restrictions, return to meeting, at the time that is best for His people and the gospel mission, best for the fulfilment of His purposes in Christ.


And knowing God’ promise, purpose and providential rule we should walk by faith and not be driven by our feelings. So let’s not give in to frustration but keep on submitting to government and their directives to slow the spread, let’s not give in to fear about health or finances but keep on loving our neighbours as we have opportunity, and let’s not give in to anxiety but keep on rejoicing in the Lord as we commit our cares to Him with thanksgiving that our heavenly Father, who rules over all things, hears us, loves us, and will only give us good things [Matt. 7:7-11].


Staying in Touch: Praying Big Prayers (19 June 2020)

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

Neil has also breifly written about resuming use of the building and a survey about the livestream which are NOT included in the audio transcript. To read these updates please click here

WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT

Pray big prayers to our great God.

 

Someone said to me after the prayer meeting that it had changed a little from our first meeting. They weren’t referring to the fact that we were on Zoom, but to the content of our prayers. From the outset our monthly prayer meeting was to pray for big things – for the salvation of our neighbours, for the repentance of our nation, for the Lord to raise up many gospel labourers who would speak the gospel clearly and boldly amongst us and throughout the world, for the holiness and purity of His church as we live in the world, for the return of our Lord. But with Covid 19 and the isolation and disruption it has brought more of our prayers have been understandably directed towards sustaining the life of our scattered congregation and for mercy on our nation. This is quite proper – that we should approach the throne of grace for mercy and grace to help us in this time of need – and the observation wasn’t a criticism.

 

But I want to encourage you to keep praying those big prayers. One of the effects of the pandemic and the government response to it has been to restrict our engagement with others, and with that has come a narrowing of our focus – to ourselves and those with whom we are in close contact – and a limiting of our horizon – to the next few weeks, or the next few months, with all that follows enveloped in a cloud of uncertainty. Our subjective world has shrunk, and that can be reflected in our prayers. Yet our God has not shrunk. What challenges us is no challenge to Him. What exhausts us does not tire Him [Psalm 121]. What perplexes us, disorients us, does not perplex Him. It is good to remember how big our God is. He is, as He said to Abraham, God Almighty. Nothing is too hard for Him, whether it is giving a child to the barren Sarah [Ge. 18:14], rescuing the remnant of Judah from captivity in Babylon [Jer. 32:17, 26], bringing us a Saviour born of a virgin [Lk. 1:37] or saving into His kingdom men and women like the rich young ruler enslaved to their love of wealth and self [Mk. 10:27]. Nothing stops our God from doing what He wills to do. As the Psalmist says “Our God is in heaven, He does all that He pleases [Ps. 115:3],” for He is the only God, the Creator, and He has no rivals who can challenge Him or overthrow His rule [Is. 42:5-9, 43:13, 45:5-7, 18-23]. We can keep asking for big things for saving people in and through a pandemic, working good for His people in and through a pandemic, is no problem for Him.

 

And nothing takes Him by surprise. Our plans might have been disrupted, but not His. He knows the end from the beginning [Is. 46:9-10] for it is His purpose that is established. He knows us through and through, even knowing our words before they are spoken [Ps. 139:1-6]. He is not overwhelmed with detail. As our Lord says ‘Not one of these [sparrows] will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Even the hairs of your head are all numbered [Matt. 10:29-30]’. He does not make mistakes in ordering the circumstances of our individual lives to achieve His good purposes for us, turning us to Christ and transforming us to become more and more like Christ in our character as His children.

Our God is great, and He has revealed a great purpose which He is bringing about in Christ. We know that purpose – to bless all the nations in Abraham [Gen. 12:3], to bring people from every nation and tongue to praise Him for saving them through Christ [Matt. 28:18-20, Rev. 5:9-14], to bring the day when all see that it is through the crucified Lord Jesus that He fulfills His plan for the fullness of time [Eph. 1:10], the day when every knee bows to the one who humbled Himself to die on the cross [Phil. 2:9-10]. This is a big purpose, one that encompasses all people, all time, all creation. It is for the fulfilment of this purpose that we pray our big prayers, trusting not only in God’s great power and wisdom but also in His great love and rich mercy. Like His power and wisdom that love and mercy exceeds the limits of our understanding. It exceeds our own small love of others and can encompass a world living in determined rebellion [John 3:16, Eph. 2:3-5], encompass those we find difficult to love.

 

So because our God is the LORD, Father, Son and Spirit, the only God, we should be praying big prayers for the salvation of others, big prayers for the repentance of our nation, big prayers for the exaltation of Jesus as Lord amongst us and His revealing at the last day. And we mustn’t be discouraged when we can’t see how God can answer them, can’t see how it is possible to undo the tangle of lies that has trapped many of our neighbours or break their slavery to sin, can’t see how we can even gain their attention. Our God can bring water from the rock, give sight to the blind, make the deaf hear, raise the dead. He achieves His big purpose in surprising ways, ways we would never think of. The cross of Jesus has taught us that. So don’t be discouraged if our programs for evangelism and discipleship have been paused or thrown into disarray and relationships disrupted. Don’t be discouraged if you think you can’t answer all the questions family and friends might have. Don’t even be discouraged by your awareness of the painful inconsistencies in your own life that you fear will turn others away. Speak of the Jesus you know in the gospel, scatter that gospel word around you, and be asking God who can do all things, who has said His power is made perfect in weakness [2 Cor. 12:9-10], to do the big things, to do what is impossible for us, and to give life to those dead in sin we know and long to see saved.

 

A prescription for refreshment in wearying times and a correction for small views of God – Read Isaiah 40 out loud.

 

Resuming Building Use.

 

The BOM has been making plans for the resumption of use of the building by ministries and growth groups as restrictions are further eased. We anticipate groups e.g. youth group or Explorers, will be able to start using the building when term 3 starts. In conjunction with the office staff they have developed guidelines for building use, for using the kitchen, and for cleaning. If you visit the building you will see signs displayed giving the allowed number of people in each room and what you have to do to clean that room, as well as a log to record your presence.

Building users will need to apply through the office for use of the building. Even if you were regularly using the building before the shutdown you will need to contact the office before you resume using the building.

 

The ministries resuming using the building will have an increased cleaning load both before and after their ministry time. We are hoping to recruit teams of volunteers to relieve them of some of that burden by coming in and cleaning after the ministry has finished. For example, a team of people to come into the building in the middle of the day after Explorers has finished so the already tired leaders don’t have to clean while also supervising their children. Or a team to come in after Kid’s Club and before Youth Group on a Friday evening. Being on a cleaning team is a simple but very encouraging way of loving your brothers and sisters who are giving of their time and energy to run these ministries of evangelism and discipleship. It is also a way of getting out and meeting others as you serve. Think and pray about whether this is a service you can perform and click here if you'd like to volunteer.

Survey of use of Livestream.

 

Next Monday regulars will receive a separate email inviting you to participate in a survey of your experience of our live streamed services and also asking some questions about when you might feel comfortable in returning to the building. It will help us in planning those live-streamed services, and also in thinking about resuming face to face services. If you could open the email, click on the link, and complete the survey it would be much appreciated. 


Staying in Touch: Encouragement (12 June 2020)

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I often feel that in these communications I am either sharing our responses as a congregation to changing government regulations or exhorting you to perseverance in the face of the restrictions and anxieties we are living with. Both are necessary but as I look out the window at God’s beautiful winter sunshine, the light highlighting the colours in Jayne’s geraniums, I thought I would talk about what has encouraged me this week, besides the sunshine, in the hope that it might also encourage you to keep on living the thankful life of a follower of Jesus.

The Service of Others.

I have been encouraged throughout the week by the service of others. By the faithfulness of Paul, Andrew and Jeremy as they show up every Sunday to livestream the service at 10 and 5, and by all those who participate in the service, often showing thought and making a great effort [think recorded children’s talks] to teach and edify us. But it is not just the service of those who bring us the Sunday Services that has encouraged me. This week I have had the great pleasure of meeting [on Zoom] with our Growth Group leaders and the leaders of Explorers and Mainly Music. It is their efforts that have kept so many of us connected with each other and engaged in living through this time as disciples of Jesus. It is their preparation, planning, prayers and persistence in staying in touch that many of us benefit from each week, and I find their love of Jesus’ people because they love Jesus a great encouragement.

Many of you will know their work, but there are also brothers and sisters labouring away that you do not see. Last night I met with our Board of Management to discuss the steps involved in opening up the building. Their service and their different skills are a reminder to me that the Lord provides us in each other all the gifts we need for sustaining our life together as we use our gifts in love. The outcome of their work and the work of the office is that we will have guidelines for cleaning the building, guidelines for recording attendance, and guidelines for the use of the kitchen and food that will allow even now some growth groups to start using the building for face to face meetings, and allow other larger groups [e.g. youth group] to commence activities again in the building in term 3 if restrictions are further eased to allow groups of up to 100 to meet indoors. The BOM also manages our finances, and that brings me to my second encouragement – your generosity.

Generosity.

As part of meeting with the BOM I learnt that in May you have given $15,080 for the hardship fund, and this was extra to your continuing generous support of the ministry of the church. Your trusting generosity [2 Cor. 9:6-11] at a time when it is easy to be anxious about the country’s and our own economic position is very encouraging to the BOM, the staff and the deacons who are dealing with those in need. What is particularly encouraging for me is knowing that you have been listening to Jesus and trusting Him as He calls us to store up treasure in heaven, serve God only, and seek His kingdom first [Matthew 6:19-34]. Such trusting obedience is encouraging for I know that you will have the joy of finding Him faithful.

Constant Encouragement

In addition to these encouragements I have also known encouragement from that permanent reservoir of life-giving refreshment, the Scriptures. Listening to Clinton preach on Ephesians 2:11-22 last Sunday morning and Chris on Psalm 51 on Sunday evening was a reminder of the great gifts we have in Christ – peace with the living, holy, righteous God and inclusion in His people, and the wonder of being forgiven through the death of Jesus. It is so good to be lifted out of present concerns and anxieties and remember that the living God is gracious and for us. Knowing this I can be confident that He is working out His good purpose for me, and for you, in these events, whether that is turning us away from trusting in worldly wealth, teaching us patience, refining and teaching us to value our hope in Christ, or giving us the experience of trusting Jesus in trial and finding Him faithful to keep us.

And it is not just the Scriptures preached but the Scriptures read and meditated on. It was balm to my soul to be reminded from 2 Timothy 2:9 that the word of God is not bound, that no restrictions restrict the word of God from doing its work in saving the Lord’s people. And as some of you know I have been reading Galatians where the Lord has encouraged me to remember that I should not grow weary of doing good [and isn’t that a temptation where all our contact with others must be so intentional] “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up [Gal. 6:9].”

More, in Galatians are Paul’s extraordinary words, all the more extraordinary because every believer can share them, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me [Gal. 2:20].” To unpack those words would require another, much longer, communication, but let your mind linger on the last sentence. You may be weary, anxious about the future, burdened with loneliness, troubled by a sense of failure, or just down like many are at this time – but if you are a believer, who believes and confesses the truth of the gospel that Christ has died for your sins and been raised from the dead to reign forever, these words are equally true for you, as they are amazingly true for me. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the one through whom and for whom all things were made, the glorious King with all authority, not only knows me – and that in itself is extraordinary – but He loves me, though my love for Him is so small, and my service so meagre. He loves me and has secured me for Himself for ever by giving Himself for me, so that I am now justified before the holy God and will share in the new creation. For encouragement turn that sentence around in your head, wonder at it as you consider the loveliness and the greatness of Jesus, and the reality of your own smallness and sin. Know it to be true, not because of anything you could ever expect or do, but because God has said it, and God has given His Son to save you.

God has given me a lot of encouragement this week – in His people, and in His word. And the encouragement of His word is there for you as well. I hope in these thirsty times you are drinking deeply of the refreshing water of His truth.

Staying in Touch: Endurance (5 June 2020)

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT


“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job" (James 5:11)

I hope so because steadfastness, or endurance, or perseverance – the Greek noun can have this range of senses – is one of the virtues that the Lord has been helping some of us develop in this time of disruption and isolation. I say some of us because we have amongst us those who are outstanding models of endurance, those who have persevered in trusting Jesus for many years under the trial of chronic illness and pain. But for many of us this time where we have lived under circumstances that we do not like, even resent, but cannot change has called for an unfamiliar endurance.

For most of our lives we have been able to live the life we more or less wanted to live – to go where we wanted, to do what we wanted, to change our circumstances where they became unpleasant, to purposefully pursue improvement. But for these few months we have been stuck, living under restrictions we did not choose for ourselves, living with fears and anxieties that we are not familiar with, living separated from people and activities that have refreshed us and brought us pleasure. And we have just had to endure, for it was not within our power to change those circumstances. So even as restrictions start to ease I want to talk with you about the necessity and value of endurance so that you can be thankful, amongst the many things we have to be thankful for, for the Lord helping you to learn or grow in endurance through this time.


Endurance is necessary.

Our Lord, speaking of the trials His followers will face in a world that has rejected his rule – war, earthquake, famine, pestilence as well as betrayal and hatred, even from those close to us [Luke 21:10-17]- says “By your endurance you will gain your souls." [Luke 21:19] [cf. Matt. 10:22, 24:13] It is only as we endure, as we  keep on holding fast to Jesus, trusting Him by believing His promises and doing what He commands in all the circumstances of our lives, that we will be saved in the end. Paul writes “If we endure with Him, we will reign with Him." [2 Tim. 2:12] There is no other way to be saved than by persevering in faith in Jesus even as we endure trial for faithfulness to Jesus. But endurance is not only necessary for salvation, it is necessary for fruitfulness. In Luke’s telling of the parable of the four soils Jesus says that the good soil are those “who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." [Lk. 8:15 NIV] It is only as we keep on keeping on in the Christian life that we bear fruit, both the fruit of growth in Christlikeness and the fruit of a consistent witness to Christ in others turning to Him. As the author of Hebrews writes “You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised". [Heb. 10:36]


Endurance is Purposeful.

But sometimes, perhaps often, when our suffering in trial is great we can wonder why God our Father doesn’t just end it all now, or at least our time on this earth. Why can’t we just skip the need for perseverance by going to be with the Lord straight away. In those times we need to remind ourselves that endurance is modelled by Jesus and one of the means by which God furthers His good purpose in our lives, His purpose to help us grow in Christlikeness. In Hebrews we are called to look to Jesus ‘who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross’ and to ‘consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself’ so that we may not grow weary or fainthearted [Heb. 12:2-3]. The author goes on to describe the hardship and trial we might face as followers of Jesus as discipline and says “It is for discipline that you have to endure”. The need for endurance is a sign that God is treating us as sons and through endurance disciplining us, that is training us, so that we have the character of His sons, training that ‘yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness’ [Heb. 12:5-11]. There is an enduring good being worked in us through our endurance. Paul takes up the same theme. “Suffering” he writes “produces endurance, and endurance character, and character produces hope". [Romans 5:3-5] We cannot develop that tested life that has found God faithful to His word and so grows strong in hope without enduring trial. Our heavenly Father trains us in godliness of character and nurtures in us a confident hope, a hope that in its turn is lifegiving in the darkest times, through endurance. But the good our God works through endurance does not just end with us. The comfort we receive from God as we endure trial equips us to comfort others [2 Cor. 1:3-7] and just as it was for Paul our endurance, our perseverance, can commend our ministry to others so that they will receive the word of grace [2 Cor. 6:4].


Endurance needs to keep good company.

Endurance, however, is not to stand alone, a grim, isolated tenacity. In 2 Peter 1 it stands amongst a list of qualities that a believer is to pursue – knowledge, self-control, godliness, love and more [2 Peter 1:5-8]. And in Romans 12 Paul sandwiches endurance between joy and prayerfulness – "Rejoicing in hope, enduring [‘patient in’ ESV, NIV] trial, faithful or constant in prayer" [Rom. 12:12] Both hope and prayer turn us away from ourselves to look to our God, and that is the stance of our endurance. We endure because we look to our God, we are confident in His faithfulness to His promises, and we trust His good and loving purpose in our lives. James, after drawing our attention to the perseverance of Job continued “and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful" [James 5:11]. Just as endurance produces hope, hope in God, "the God of endurance and encouragement" [Rom. 15:5], produces endurance. It is the hope that has its foundation in the truth of the gospel that Christ has died for our sins, so we are sure both of His love and of our forgiveness and peace with God, sure that He who did not spare us His own but gave Him up for us all will graciously give us with Him all things [Rom. 8:32]. He will bring us to all that He has promised, so we eagerly look forward to that hope through ‘perseverance’ [Rom. 8:25].


What is for most of us a small hardship is a time to welcome and be thankful for our heavenly Father nurturing endurance in us as we practice faithful obedience in circumstances we don’t like but cannot change. As we each day decide to ‘rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything’ [1 Thess. 5:16-18] even if being isolated makes us feel flat and down, as we each day decide to make the effort to love others because our Lord commands us to even when we just want to withdraw, as we confess we are loved, no matter our loss of work or of company, because Christ has died for us, we are learning perseverance by practicing perseverance. Remember, that perseverance has a great outcome, the salvation of our souls. So like Paul pray for each other that we might “be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" [Col. 1:11-12]. 


Pastors Update: As restrictions ease (29 May 2020)

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT

Hello Brothers and Sisters


Change is afoot. Children are going back to school, and from this Monday we can have 20 people in church and you can have 20 people in your home. And more change is mooted to follow this first easing of restrictions. The government is speaking of opening up concert venues and theatres by June 21st and allowing up to 50 people to gather in them, and in restaurants and café’s. It has even suggested that all being well café’s and restaurants may be able to have 100 people in them by mid-July if all goes well, and we assume there will be a similar easing of restrictions around gatherings in churches.


The long road out of Covid-19

We should be very grateful for the low rate of transmission that has made this relaxation possible. But what do these changes mean for us and our activities? Is there now a pathway we can see to a return to ‘normal’ activities? Should we anticipate a quick return to face to face meetings, a resumption of our normal Sunday gatherings?

I, like you, long for things to return to normal. I miss gathering on a Sunday. I miss the opportunity to see you all, to catch up on how you are going, to be encouraged by our being together. I am over having to worry about how close I am to someone or whether this or that innocent activity will breach the regulations.

But we must recognise that the road out of Covid 19 restrictions will be quite different from the road in to Covid 19 restrictions. Back in March we moved in to Covid 19 restrictions abruptly, and we were all in together. It was a complete shutdown of face to face meetings in the space of a week.

But the road out will involve many stages, it will extend over months if not years, its progress may be interrupted by an increase in Covid transmission, and we will travel along that road at different speeds as all our circumstances are different. Some of us have health conditions, some have elderly parents, some of us will be more confident, some more anxious. And at no stage along the road will things be normal until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment. All the way along we will have to practice hand hygiene and social distancing, continue to be aware of the risk of transmission.


Knowing the road will be long and involve various stages I want to encourage you to two things.

Firstly I want to encourage you to think about the opportunities this staged pathway of easing restrictions might bring, opportunities for service, opportunities to do what Jesus calls us to do, to make disciples – to help our neighbours hear the gospel and to help each other grow in maturity as believers in Jesus.

Secondly I want to encourage you to continue to show grace and patience to each other in our differences, and particularly the difference amongst us about how comfortable we may feel about meeting face to face in groups. Given that encouragement is the main goal of this talk.


What will lifted restrictions mean for church on Sundays?

The question that is on the minds of many – does this relaxation of restrictions mean we are planning to return to ‘normal’ Sunday services as soon as possible, say when gatherings of 100 are permitted. Sadly no – and it is sad because as I have said like many of you I miss the encouragement of gathering, that opportunity to catch up – Session does not think that even if gatherings of up to 100 are allowed we should be planning to resume face to face Sunday services in the building.

As this will disappoint many of you let me explain why.

The main reason is that the gathering would not be ‘normal’. At the moment we have to continue to observe the ‘density quotient’, that is to make sure not only that there is 1.5 metres between people but that there is four square metres per person. That will mean that the people present would have to be spread out and some would have to be located in the hall [the auditorium can only take 73 people under this rule]. For the purposes of the density quotient children, including babies, count as one. Your children would also be staying with you throughout the service. With the density quotient it would be very hard to run Sunday school or creche, maintaining social distancing for the teachers would be difficult, and repeated cleaning, especially of toys, will be needed. There would be no staying afterwards and no morning tea or supper, at least at the beginning. The government has suggested that there should be an hour between one event finishing and one event starting in the same space, and finishing means leaving the building so that it can be cleaned between services. There are also concerns about singing with well known cases of massive transmission in choirs. Singing seems to put more infected droplets in the air for longer, and also increases the amount of air inhaled. We think church with one hundred would be a far from normal experience, and a not particularly satisfactory one.

In addition the numbers don’t work for us. All our services had over 100 people attending in February, and our morning services are well over that number. The average for 2019 for 9:00 am was about 115 adults and 80 children, and for 11:00 am 103 adults and 64 children, and numbers had increased in February of this year. If you all wanted to attend a face to face service we would have to multiply services. If we did not multiply services how would we decide who would attend? And would we turn away visitors when the 100 was reached? More, we know from conversations there are different levels of keenness to attend at the moment. Some do not have the confidence yet to be in a gathering of 100, and some advised that they should not attend.

What starting services when we are allowed to have only 100 in the building would do is divide us, not unite us. It would also run the risk of exhausting us as we tried to replicate the service multiple times and diverting energy from other ways of encouraging and edifying each other.

In restarting face to face services we also run the risk of losing people who have been tuning in to our online service, some of whom are people you have been inviting to watch the service with you and for whom the thought of being in our building holds no attraction, especially in the circumstances that prevail. While we could stream services with 100 present in the building they would have quite a different feel to our present streamed service, and quite a different focus – not on our shared experience of being at home but on the people present in the building.

For all these reasons we will continue to focus our efforts on producing the two live streamed services and trying to improve what we do. As by this Sunday they will have been running for about ten weeks at some time in the next month we will be in touch to ask you about your experience of these services, how you are watching them e.g. straight through, or interrupted; with others or alone, and whether they are encouraging you to persevere at this time.


As it will be a long road back to pre-Covid confidence in meeting we will be continuing to monitor developments and will have time, when the time is right, to prepare for a return to Sunday face to face services. Over that time the community will also be able to observe the impact of the relaxation of restrictions and if all goes well there may be a growing confidence across the board in meeting together. But like everyone we will have to wait and see.


Embracing the opportunities

This time has made us more aware of the online opportunities for evangelism and encouragement of believers. It has been a joy to see some of our overseas friends join us, and to see some who have difficulty attending because of distance or frailty being able to more easily share with us in this time. So even when, Lord willing, we are back in our face to face Sunday gatherings we will be seeking to continue that online encouragement in some form.

When gatherings of up to 100 are allowed we will also consider ways in which those who are really keen to be back in the building can join us, but it will be far from a ‘normal’ experience. We know there will be varying views on returning to face to face services, so we are happy to hear your thoughts or answer your questions about it.

But as said before the main purpose of this talk is to encourage you to focus on the opportunities this staged relaxation of restrictions gives you and to make use of them. When Paul was in prison  we learn from his letter to the Philippians that his main goal was that Christ would be magnified, seen by all to have the greatness that He has as the one who all will confess as Lord Phil. 1:20. He did not spend his time talking about his plans for when imprisonment was over, or lamenting the loss of opportunity for ministry imprisonment had caused. Being content in Christ [4:11-13] he was able to focus on his present and advancing the gospel in his present circumstances so that even those who were watching over him knew his imprisonment was for Christ 1:12-13.

This should be our attitude. The Lord reigns, and we are in these circumstances because He has willed it for us for now. We are to make it our aim, as always, to please Him [2 Cor. 5:9-10] and that includes seeking to make disciples. Many of you have been doing that. You have been discipling your children, using the time to teach them what it is to be a follower of Jesus. You have been inviting people around as you can, sharing with neighbours, encouraging each other in conversation over the phone.


Relaxing restrictions gives more opportunities and there are also continuing on line opportunities at this time. You can have another family around to your home, or have your growth group around. You can invite your neighbours to play dates, or invite them to an online Christianity explored course. If the restrictions are relaxed to fifty then one or two growth groups could join together for events, overcoming the isolation and giving those who desire it an opportunity to be with others. There are opportunities now to read the bible with others. Relaxing restrictions gives many personal opportunities to get together with others and show hospitality. Many are longing for that human company that encourages, and with the return of children to school some may have more time in the day to meet and talk. But we need to seize these opportunities now before we and our neighbours are again engulfed in busy schedules.

Opportunities will also develop for growth groups.

Leaders will need to think about what they want to continue, and what they might want to change. There is time to think changes for term 3. Clinton will be engaging with leaders about the issues involved in whether or not they return to face to face meetings, and what other opportunities there are for growth groups. But while that thinking is going on I would again urge you to think about gathering to watch the live stream with members of your growth group, and sharing in a meal afterwards.


The great thing about this time is its reinforcing the message that ministry – loving one another, encouraging one another, speaking to others about the Lord Jesus – is something that we are all engaged in, not something that can be left to paid staff. That making disciples is something that is to happen everywhere, in our homes, at our workplace, and not something that happens is a church building. So look for the opportunities in the present.


Finally, as restrictions relax let us keep showing grace and patience to each other. Our circumstances differ, our personalities differ, but every believer is precious to Jesus. We do not want our words and actions to discourage or alienate any of our brothers and sisters. We do want to emerge from this time together, stronger in our unity in Christ, and so we will need to practice thoughtful love to each other. Persevere in prayer for each other, and especially that Session will have wisdom to make decisions that will honour Jesus and build up His people.

There is lots going on. The Deacons are working hard and using the money entrusted to them to bring relief to those in need. People are exploring the Christian faith. The Lord is continuing to sustain us and provide for us. We have so much to be thankful for. But this talk has been long enough and having referenced Paul in Philippians I will end with some words from Philippians 4: 4 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Staying in touch: Clinton Le Page (23 May 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters


Updates & Coming Events

The Bundy Prayer Meeting on Wednesday evening was such a great encouragement for many of us. To have over 100 people joining together in prayer, as we brought to God our praise and requests, seeking particular his mercy in the saving of those we care about, the extension of Christ’s kingdom, and our growth as his disciples, was moving and a blessing. I do encourage you to join us next month if you’re able, on the third Wednesday of each month.


This Sunday, Neil remains on leave and will return on Tuesday of next week, please continue in prayer for he and Jayne – for good rest, encouragement, and to know God’s strength to keep trusting and serving the Lord.


At the 10am service  I’ll be preaching on Ephesians 2.1-10, and I trust that considering God’s great grace that has saved us in Christ will fill our hearts with thanks and inspire us to live to serve him. At 5pm Chris Shaw will be preaching on Psalm 139, loved by many, and on the glory of God’s presence for the lonely. We hope you’ll tune in to hear God speak to you through his word.


With the easing of restrictions Andy helpfully encouraged you all to consider meeting with or inviting others to watch the livestream together, or to share a meal or have someone over to be part of your growth group on zoom. And meeting people physically has been a great encouragement to many already, and we’re thankful for these opportunities.

We do also want to acknowledge and encourage us all to be conscious of other’s different levels of comfort at this time. Let’s be sensitive to others, who for various reasons, will not be comfortable to meet physically with others yet. Please continue to pray for wisdom in this and for us to love one another genuinely, even as that is expressed in different ways.


Bundy Plugged-In is taking place next Saturday May 30 at 7pm (there was an error in the date given last week).  Please make a point of putting this date in your calendar and organise with a few people to watch this enjoyable event together.  Our annual event of creative arts gives us an opportunity to celebrate the creative gifts of different people in our congregation.  You can watch the live-stream by clicking here.


Encouragement

Brothers and sisters I am aware that the COVID-19 restrictions continue to affect us all in various ways, not least keeping us from meeting with our church family and other loved ones. COVID-19 is a trial that challenges our faith.

I know that some of you are financially struggling, others live with pain every day. Others are just tired – tired from home schooling, tired because of chronic illness, tired from the stress and business at work, tired from zoom fatigue/ staring at screens, or tired as we struggle to relate to others in love and kindness and patience. Others continue to struggle with loneliness or isolation, and others who face or are recovering from, surgery. In all of these things and more they are opportunities to trust the Lord, or to give in to faithlessness.


I am greatly encouraged by these words in 1 Peter chapter 1:3-8, and I pray a brief reflection on them will encourage you.


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

As we suffer grief in all kinds of trials (v6) we can still greatly rejoice. Why? For in God’s great mercy (v3) he’s given us new birth and we have a real hope. Hope of what? Like we considered in Ephesians 1.13-14, an inheritance in heaven that is kept for us, and which will never perish spoil or fade. This has come about because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our sure hope of heaven is based on the reality that Christ rose, conquering sin and death for us.


As we wait for Christ to return, and endure all kinds of trials, God’s power can sustain our faith, and in fact verse 7 says, the trials prove our faith in real and genuine.  As gold is refined in the fire and the dross is removed, fiery trials like so many of you are enduring, are testing your faith, proving it is real, and growing your faith and trust in the Lord. It’s hard I know, but trials are what God often uses to stretch and grow our trust in him.  Why would God allow do this, and ordain such trials to come into our lives? For the the ‘praise, glory and honour’ of Jesus.


So even though we can’t see Jesus with our eyes or touch him, know that he died for you, and rose again to give you life; and continue to love him. Then as you and I reflect on his death and resurrection, and the glorious heaven in God’s presence that waits for us, the salvation of our souls, we can experience true joy. For when we’ve been in heaven 10,000 years, we’ll be able to look back and know the trials we’re enduring now were but for a ‘little while’. So continue to trust your God and Father in what you’re enduring now, and may God, by His Spirit, fill you with inexpressible and glorious joy; even now, even today.


While restrictions begin easing, we are still unable to meet with our church family (maybe for months still), and many things are hard. So pray for the inexpressible joy which God is able to give you through Jesus.


Love to you in Christ,


Clinton LePage 

Associate Pastor


Staying in Touch: Andy May (16 May 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters


As Neil is on annual leave, I (Andy May), will be writing the weekly email and our associate pastor Clinton will be writing next week’s email.  Please pray for Neil’s break that he would be refreshed by God in body and spirit.


This coming Sunday (tomorrow) in the morning I will be preaching on the first of the apostle Paul’s prayers in Ephesians (1:15-23).  It has been a good reminder for me that amidst change, it is important to keep praying for big things – important things – lasting things.  It has also reminded me of my frailty and how much I need hope and power from God.  It has challenged me not to be satisfied with how much I know God but to desire to know Him better.  In the evening, Andrew Wort will be preaching on Psalm 4 and how we can find peace in times of distress - a timely reminder for the times we live in.  I hope you will be encouraged as you participate in the live-stream services tomorrow.


Upcoming Events

Prayer Meeting – Wed May 20

The Congregational Prayer Meeting will take place this Wednesday - 20th May (7.30pm) through Zoom. As with last month, we have asked a number of people from our congregation to pray on our behalf.  Join us in praying together, and say Amen as your brothers and sisters bring our common requests to our God.  Let us take this God-given opportunity to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  To join the prayer meeting on Zoom, please email us at office@bpc.org.au.


Bundy Plugged-In – Sat May 31

We hope you have taken this opportunity to organize your contributions for our annual event of creative arts.  As registrations close on May 20, this is your last week to register your performance herePlease set aside the evening of Sat May 31 to join us as we watch the performances together through our livestream.


Hardship Fund and General Offering

A number of people from our church are out of work at present and some are unable to receive government benefits.  The Deacons have a hardship fund that supports people financially with their urgent needs.  If you have the means and would like to give to the Hardship Fund you can transfer money to the church account and use the reference ‘Hardship’.  Apart from the hardship fund, there is also the General Offering, of which the majority is spent on paying the staff at the church.  As you are able and willing to support the staff who have been working hard to serve the congregation please transfer money to the church account and use the reference ‘Offering’.  To find the church’s bank account details please click here.


COVID-19 Updates

Return to School

As infection rates of COVID-19 have reduced, the Victorian government has given us clear dates on which our children will return to school.  Learning from home has been a blessing for some families as time to slow down and spend together has been a joy.  And for other families it has been exhausting and challenging.  For most families, it has been a mixture of both.  Please pray for our teachers especially as they have been working hard since the end of term 1 to adapt their teaching to the challenges of remote learning only to have to adjust again to this new change.  Pray also for students and their families as they face a new change to their routine.


Easing of household restrictions

We are thankful to God for the provision to be able to visit friends and family (up to 5 guests other than those who belong to the household).  This is a welcome relief for many of us and I want to encourage you to embrace this opportunity to reach out to each other in love.  But we should continue to love one another by good precautions - 1.5m distancing, disinfecting our hands and surfaces).  For example, if we comply with the 5-person restriction, this allows for you to do the following:


·      Have others visit your home as you participate in the live stream together on Sundays. 

·      Meet with a few people from your Growth Group to pray with each other

·      Set aside one evening to have another household over for a meal each week.

·      As up to 10 people can meet outdoors in an open space, you could invite another household or members of your growth group to come for a walk with you instead of doing this on your own.


We would encourage to be wise as you apply this new provision as COVID-19 is still present in our community.  Although it is a good opportunity to increase the number of people you currently see, you should be cautious in not making this network too broad should a person in your network become infected with COVID-19.


Easing of church building restrictions

It has also been announced that places of worship are able to have 10 people present apart from the team of people involved in presenting a service and for the purpose of hosting a support group, wedding or funeral.


Moving forward, the Staff, Elders and the Board of Management will consider how best to make use of this provision.  With any increased use of the building, there are a number of things to consider including the disinfection of surfaces after groups of people come into the church building.  This is already occurring after each livestream and would only increase if we have more people using the building.  We would also have to be diligent with keeping a register of who and when there has been use of the building for the purpose of contact tracing should someone be present who has been infected with COVID-19.  Any increased use of the building will also mean that we have to determine how best to maintain social distancing inside including the placement of seating.  Please pray for the Board of Management as there is much to consider in increased building use.


We expect that there will be months ahead of us before there is any resumption in anything involving a large number of people gathered in the church building (up to 100 people).  We should also be mindful that it will be even longer after that with regards to any gatherings larger than 100 people, of which each of our three congregations were before COVID-19.   So we will need to get used to this new “normal” which means adapting to change as it occurs.  This may also mean that our “normal” will be different to what we were used to before COVID-19.  We will communicate any changes to the use of the building with our ministry leaders and also with you through this weekly email. We would value your prayers for wisdom as we continue to navigate how best to keep encouraging one another towards Christ as well as seeking to invite others to call on Jesus. 


In the meantime, the livestream will continue as it has been, with a mixture of pre-recorded elements as well as live elements.  With the easing of restrictions, you may also see more people being involved in the various elements but the livestream will continue to reflect the life that we currently find ourselves in.


Constant change is hard and unsettling for many.  Amidst this change, it is comforting to know what doesn’t change.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 1:8).  What we have in Jesus doesn’t change either – eternal life, forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit guaranteeing the sure hope that we have in being in God’s presence.  Cling to Jesus in prayer when the waves of change unsettle you.


Andy May

Assistant Pastor


Staying in Touch: Engaging with God (8 May 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters


Staying in Touch

Even as I write our nation’s leaders are discussing what, if any, relaxation of restrictions they will permit. We can be thankful for their vigorous response to the virus, for the low death rate thus far in our country, and for the economic support the government has offered to many. Any relaxation they decide on will be greeted with joy by many, even if some are still committed to maintaining full restrictions. Yet self-congratulatory joy will be premature if we have not engaged with God in our response to the virus. In fact it will mean we have missed the opportunity the virus gives to get right with God by repentance and faith.


In Isaiah 22 Isaiah recounts a vision of judgement on Jerusalem in the context of a succession of prophecies dealing with God’s judgements on the surrounding nations, those to whom Judah may have been tempted to turn for security alliances. It starts with Isaiah challenging what he regards as inappropriate rejoicing by the inhabitants of Jerusalem v. 1-2a. The specific cause of their present rejoicing is not specified. It may have been some success by their allies, some defeat of a national enemy, or some increase in their own security capacity. But Isaiah cannot share in that joy because Isaiah sees something else in store for Jerusalem v. 2b-9, the ultimate destruction wrought by the Babylonians. What makes that judgement certain, and it is about 140 years in the future, is their present response to the Assyrian threat. Isaiah describes that in vv. 8-11.


In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.  You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.

(Isaiah 22:8-11)


They had thrown themselves into the response to the threat of Assyrian invasion. They had strengthened their walls, taken an inventory of their military hardware, and crucially secured their water supply. That last was a great achievement, the building of a tunnel from the Gihon springs to Jerusalem by Hezekiah. It was a vigorous and appropriate response, as far as it went. But it was woefully inadequate for they did not turn to the LORD. The LORD is clear that He is the one who is ultimately sovereign in all these events, that the movements of the Assyrians was subject to His control and served His purposes [compare Isaiah 10:5-19]. The LORD’s people should have turned first to him, and not been content in a faithless self-sufficiency. In verses 12-13 the LORD contrasts the response He looked for with their actual response, and how that attitude v. 14 sealed their faith, made certain the ultimate judgement Isaiah described in vv. 2b-8a.


In that day the Lord God of hosts
    called for weeping and mourning,
    for baldness and wearing sackcloth;
and behold, joy and gladness,
    killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,
    eating flesh and drinking wine.
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

(Isaiah 22:12-13)


In that day rather than a faithless self sufficiency the LORD called for repentance, a confession of sin and a humbling of themselves before His judgment. But the attitude of their hearts was expressed in a determination to enjoy life as much as they could before it was taken from them. It is the attitude that says this life is all there is, if we can’t save ourselves no-one can, and life can be lived and ended without reference to God who is irrelevant, not an active player in our world. In the crisis their eyes remained steadfastly fixed on this life only, on a trust in themselves, and a determination to live as they pleased.


And this unbelief, this refusal to embrace faith and repentance, was unforgiveable. Unforgiveable for no sin was acknowledged, and no forgiveness sought.


The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:
“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”
    says the Lord God of hosts.

(Isaiah 22:14)


Where Isaiah’s contemporaries had joy at present relief, Isaiah had grief v. 4 at the judgement their attitude in the crisis made certain.


This is a sobering prophecy, and it is easy to apply it to our secular society. Shutting down society, increasing ICU capacity, strenuous efforts to find an immunisation – all appropriate, and all woefully inadequate for there is no turning to the almighty Creator who has done it and who planned it long ago. That is right – our God is the God “who works all things according to the counsel of His will” [Eph. 1:11], who brings life and death, who wounds and heals, and from whose hand none can deliver themselves [Deut. 32:39]. Not a sparrow falls to the ground, nor a virus crosses species, apart from our Father [Matt. 11:29-30]. We should fear what further judgment the secular mindset that is committed to its self-sufficiency and self-direction in defiance of the Creator will bring upon our society, and be praying earnestly that the LORD would turn the hearts of our neighbours in repentance and faith to the Lord Jesus.


It is easy to make that application to others, and that would miss the point. This prophecy was addressed to the LORD’s people, those who confessed the LORD was their God. Isaiah 22 is asking us, believers in Jesus, how we have responded to this threat to our lives and livelihoods. We should be saying the LORD has done this, and the response He looks for from His people is to turn to Him in repentance and faith. There is much in our society that provokes the LORD’s judgment, and much that we may share in, and for which we should mourn. In our society we see disrespect of women in abuse and the rampant indulgence in porn, sexual immorality, lack of concern for the poor and the isolating of our lives from the needy, the elevation of the pursuit of experiences and the focus on self [think of the selfies from all kinds of exotic locations] and not on service, trust in money and the accumulation of wealth as a controlling ambition, the self-sufficiency that makes plans without saying ‘Lord willing’, a demanding sense of entitlement and a lack of thankfulness, the substitution of spin for truth, the loss of even the idea of truth that has authority to shape our thinking and acting. This is not an exhaustive list. But these attitudes can seep into a believer’s thinking with the result that we are increasingly conformed to the world in which we live and not transformed to live the life of followers of Jesus. COVID-19 is the LORD reminding us that He rules the world, that life and prosperity come from Him, and that our security and hope is found only in Him, and not in ourselves or our social structures or national resources. He is calling us to turn to Him first and above all, and as part of that turning to Him to examine our lives and turn away from anything that displeases Him.


In that day the Lord God of hosts
    called for weeping and mourning,
    for baldness and wearing sackcloth;

(Isaiah 22:12)


It is as we turn to Him knowing He alone can save, genuinely, earnestly, seeking His mercy and help for all, that we should also ask God to show us and turn us from our sin.


Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

(Psalm 139:23,24)


I for one will be very glad if restrictions are begun to be eased in our state. But if we have not used this time and do not use the continuing disruption the threat of this virus brings to our lives to re-affirm that the LORD reigns and that our trust and hope is in Him and not ourselves, and that because the LORD reigns we should be mourning for sin in our lives and turning to Him in repentance and faith in Jesus, rejoicing will be empty and premature. It will be the rejoicing in our own self-sufficiency and self-rule that will only provoke more judgment. So let’s consider our lives – how much have we come to share in the sinful attitudes of our society, especially that faithless self-sufficiency? Your prayers will tell you. And think - if believers do not lead the way in turning to the LORD and turning from sin, how will our neighbours know that the LORD is calling them to turn away from their proud trust in themselves to believe in and follow His Son?



Neil Chambers
Senior Pastor


Staying in Touch: Encouragement in Nehemiah (1 May 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters


Staying in Touch 

There is encouragement to be found in all the Scriptures. Nehemiah 3 at first reading might be an exception. It is a list of names of the inhabitants of Jerusalem with a description of the portion of the wall of Jerusalem that they were rebuilding. Let me give you a sample:


Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel.  The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them.…Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. … Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. (Nehemiah 3:1-3,23)


All the thirty two verses of the chapter are like that, and I found it incredibly encouraging. Each one, known and named, working in their own place, working at a task unfamiliar to them, often unaware of what others were doing because, as Nehemiah said, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.” 4:19, each one contributed to the protection and preservation of the people of Judah, the maintenance of their distinctive identity as the LORD’s people who worshipped the LORD alone. That is what the wall was about – allowing the people to dwell securely as a distinctive people amongst pagan and syncretistic neighbours, allowing them to develop and sustain their distinct identity as people in covenant relationship with the LORD who would live according to the word of the LORD.


I was encouraged because I see in it a picture of our church at the moment. Each one of us, known and named by the Lord, often unaware of what most of the rest are doing, in unfamiliar circumstances working in our own space on the common project of maintaining our distinctive identity by living distinctive lives because we trust and follow Jesus. Each one of us persevering in that task where we are each day contributes to the protection and preservation, the ongoing identity and existence, of our church as a church of the Lord Jesus, distinct from those we live amongst because we live according to the word of Jesus.


The work in Nehemiah’s day on the wall met with serious opposition – at first just mocking, then the threat of violence, then political scheming – whose goal was to stop that wall from being built and so facilitate the absorption of the Jews into the existing structures and pattern of life of the surrounding nations [Nehemiah 4-6]. In the face of these threats Nehemiah reminded the people of the “Lord who is great and awesome” and who would fight for them vv. 14, 20, and trusting the Lord they put in place practical plans to defend themselves. Nehemiah and the people were able to keep building by being aware of the danger and always ready to resist, the builders wearing their swords and the carriers holding a weapon in one hand [4:16-18] as they worked, and then staying in Jerusalem overnight to keep watch.


As each of us labours in our place on the work God has given us to be His distinctive people, salt and light in our world, we also face opposition that would try and make us cease the work. Not, for most of us, aggressive and hostile neighbours, but discouragement, loneliness, fear and anxiety – about our health or our economic future or our elderly family. These things can make us doubt God’s promises, make us preoccupied with ourselves and our present woes, rob us of joy and thankfulness, tempt us to seek comfort in relationships and pleasures that lead us away from Christ. Nehemiah encourages us to persevere by remembering our God and His commitment to His people, and to work in place always ready to meet and resist that opposition.


Our God is committed to His people, committed to us who believe in Jesus. Remember when you are discouraged that our Lord said in John 10:28,19: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.


He can keep you even when you are so conscious of your weakness you think you cannot keep yourself. Believers in Jesus are the church of God which He has purchased with the blood of His own [Acts 20:28], precious to Him, His beloved bride [Eph. 5:25-27]. By God’s unimaginably generous grace in Christ we can say the living God is for us [Romans 8:31]. We can always be confident of His help when we call on Him.


And our God has given us the weapons, the resources, to meet those forces that oppose us, as we remembered two weeks ago when we looked at Ephesians 6. We should put on all the armour of God each day, but let me encourage you to keep especially close the word of God and prayer. Knowing God in His word – His almighty power, His steadfast love, His never failing faithfulness; knowing His promises; knowing His Saviour and how gracious and complete a Saviour the Lord Jesus is – this keeps you and I safe. Being confident and constant in prayer, where we cast all our cares on Him – this can replace anxiety with thankfulness, over and over again.


It was a pretty intense fifty-two days [Neh. 6:15], the days they were building the wall. But they finished it, each one working in his or her own place. Despite the difficulties and tension, and I suspect weariness, by being faithful in the common task as a people, a community, they were better off at the end. More secure in their identity, more confident in pursuing common purpose, more committed to living God’s way as the way of life for them – as their response to the reading of the law demonstrated [Neh. 8-10]. These days can be pretty intense for us but if each of us in our own space sticks to our common task of being Jesus’ distinctive people by trusting Him and doing what He says, especially loving one another, we also will be better off in the end, whenever that may be. We will be renewed in our confidence in Jesus’ commitment to His people and His ability to keep us, for we will find Him faithful. With other supports stripped away we will have come by using them to rely more on the means He has given us to sustain our life – the word and prayer. And while apart acting together in truth and love we will know the good of being part of a common minded community of Jesus’ people and want to continue to strengthen it by our presence and service.


The Lord’s Supper

We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper this Sunday. Your attention was drawn last week to the letter from Session issued before the April Lord’s Supper that spoke of the why, the who and the how of participating in the Supper, and that this is the church’s common meal to be celebrated together, not a private family meal. But I would encourage parents to make use of this opportunity, perhaps as you prepare the bread and wine/grape juice, to teach your children about the death of our Lord Jesus by explaining why He gave us this meal. Help them understand what the elements are signs of. Teach them of the response of faith Jesus’ words call for. Speak to them of how the Supper is time limited, only for use ‘until He comes’. All this will prepare them for the time when they can share in the Supper on the basis of their understanding of what is happening in the Supper, and nurture in them that faith in Jesus which alone brings us benefit from the Supper.  The explanation of why we have decided to share in the supper together even while we are apart is available on our website


Bundy Plugged In

Please put in your calendars, the date of Saturday May 30 when we will be sharing in the creative gifts of those in our congregation at Bundy Plugged In. We hope that the event will provide households with an opportunity to work together in their creativity and that on the night we can share together in the rich gifts that God gives His people. If you would like to submit a video of your performance or a photo of your artwork, please go to the website to register.


Neil Chambers
Senior Pastor


Staying in touch: Waiting & Longing (24 April 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters


Another week has passed but I do not sense an increasing acceptance of our changed circumstances. If anything I sense an increasing longing for our lives to go back to the way they were. For children to be in school, to be able to sit down and have a cuppa on your neighbour’s verandah, to give someone a hug in the street, to have work to look forward to, or a workplace in which to exchange conversation and jokes with colleagues. And that longing is right, for this is not the way things ought to be. Many will feel that acutely tomorrow on Anzac Day. Some have already experienced the personal grief of being unable to gather and mourn and remember a friend or family member who has died during this time. Tomorrow as a nation, together, we will know that grief, and how unsatisfactory it is to be isolated from one another, to be denied the comfort of each other’s presence in our common loss and remembering. Waiting for and longing for things to be put back the way they ought to be – and many of us know the underlying restlessness it gives even as we accommodate ourselves to our present circumstances, circumstances we know will pass.


Feeling that longing, longing for things to be put right, and knowing that waiting we can start to understand and share the attitude the New Testament says should characterise us in relation to the return of Jesus. Believers are those who ‘wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ (1 Cor. 1:7), “await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Phil. 3:20,21), the one who “having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Heb. 9:28)


Longing, an eager waiting, for things to be put right by the return of our Lord Jesus and the destruction of death in the resurrection is a feature of the normal, healthy Christian life. If that longing is not there we have normalised the abnormal. Life as created and given by God is not meant to be marked by death and grief – constant companions of humanity. We should not live in fear of violence, endure loneliness, hear mocking of God, need to prepare for pandemics and drought, grow anxious with the passing years about the failure of our bodies. In almost every minute of our day we have an experience that should turn our hearts with longing to Jesus’ return – when we lock our cars, or check what the children are watching on TV or computer, when we come away from a conversation feeling that we have not been told the truth, or when we confront our own failure to have been fair and kind. All should make us long for the day when sin, our own and others, is finished.


But this longing doesn’t arise from our wanting things to be better or imagining a better world. It is hard for us to imagine how good that day will be for all of us have only known this life marked by sin and death. We long for that day not because we have good imaginations but because of God’s Spirit incites us to long for that day of resurrection. Paul says in Romans 8:23-25:


"And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."


We have already received in the Spirit the first part of all that God has promised will be on that day, the Spirit who assures us of God’s love, who leads us in the life pleasing to God, who teaches our hearts to cry Abba Father to the living God. It is what we have already received in the Spirit, not what we are lacking, that makes us long for the rest of God’s promises to be fulfilled, that day when our bodies are redeemed, the day of resurrection and the new heaven and earth.


That longing is healthy for us. It can stop us investing with permanence what is only passing. It can function like true north in our hearts, keeping us oriented towards our hope and stopping us from being content with lesser visions of human destiny. It works to remind us of the greatness of the salvation Jesus died and rose to bring – not just forgiveness, and not just my personal salvation, but the defeat of death and the new creation. This is a longing that honours both the faithfulness and greatness of our Saviour.


And it highlights endurance and patience as vital Christian virtues. We know that in this life we will continue to suffer opposition for our faith and share in the trials and griefs of a creation subjected to futility (Rom. 8:18-21). But we have a good hope and a sure hope, one underwritten by Jesus’ resurrection and the present reception of the Spirit. And so we wait eagerly, but patiently. We trust the love of our Father and are confident in His almighty power and His eternal purpose to glorify His Son, so we endure the not rightness of the world for now. In God’s providence this small time of lockdown is also a practical exercise in patience and endurance, not complaining but continuing to do what is right in love, one day at a time.


Longing and patience. I long for things to return to normal. How much I look forward to seeing you, being able to gather with you and give thanks to God together, to receive the comfort of His word and promises together, to drop by, to shake a hand, to engage in conversation in a person’s presence. That day will come, whether it is in a month or twelve. But when it comes, don’t stop longing. Don’t accept that ‘normal life’ as we experience it, full as it is in Australia of many things for which we can thank God, is the way life ought to be. It will still be marked by sin and selfishness, death and grief, decay and pain. Having felt what it is to long for a day when things are put right and having experienced the necessity of patience, long for the day when all things will be put right, the day the Lord Jesus returns in glory, when death is defeated forever, when all rebellion against our good God ceases as every knee bows to the Saviour. It is hard to imagine how good that day will be, but we wait for it patiently.


Lord's Supper

The Lord’s Supper will be celebrated again on May 5th. The explanation of why we have decided to share in the supper together even while we are apart is available on our website.  Meditate on what Jesus has done for you this coming week and take some time to examine your life. Are you acting in love to others? Are you holding grudges, nursing resentments, or forgiving where you can? These kinds of questions focus on whether the love and forgiveness you say are yours in eating the supper have come to characterise your relationships with others, on whether the Jesus from whose hands you receive that forgiveness is the Lord whose way you follow.


Upcoming Events

Anzac Day

As tomorrow is Anzac Day, this week Andy conducted an interview with Peter Blackman, the father of Jenni Evans from our 9am congregation.  Peter is a returned serviceman from the Vietnam war and shares with us about the significance of Anzac Day being a day of remembrance and thankfulness.  Watch Peter's interview here and tomorrow, take the time to remember those who served us.


Bundy Plugged In

For many years, our annual Bundy Unplugged Event has been an opportunity for us to celebrate the creative gifts that God has given His people as well as raising support and awareness of our missionaries.  We have decided to have this event this year even though we will be confined to our homes.  This year, we will be calling it "Bundy Plugged In" and it will take place on Saturday May 30.  We hope that the event will provide households with an opportunity to work together in their creativity and that on the night we can share together in the rich gifts that God gives His people.  We look forward to sharing with those who will encourage, engage and entertain us.  If you would like to perform, please go to the website.


Neil Chambers
Senior Pastor


Staying in touch: The same and not the same (17 April 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters

 

The Same and not the same

The Government announced last Sunday that the restrictions already in place on movement and gatherings would continue for another four weeks. While there are no promises an air of cautious optimism is starting to be expressed in their updates for which we should be thankful to God. But for now, it is more of the same.

 

Yet for many of us it is not the same and increasingly our experience of the pandemic is diverging. Having children at home from school for school will be a big change for some, and have no impact on others. The emotional and financial cost of the restrictions are increasing and being felt variably. Some still have work and have the social interaction of work; some have work but are working from home, the only contact with others via social media; some have lost work, or had their hours reduced significantly, isolation compounded by financial stress. Some are enjoying being less busy and the ability to have an ordered home life, while others increasingly feel the loss of their normal activities and interactions.

 

I mention this so that we are aware that there are those who are experiencing this pandemic differently from us and we don’t assume that what is working for us is working for them. There will be those who need more contact and more encouragement and more support than we might feel the need for, for whom what worked two weeks ago is no longer working as well. We will only know this if we persevere in staying in touch, in keeping up contact, in not growing weary in relating. We are experiencing the same pandemic, but our experiences of the pandemic are not the same.

 

But there is something that is the same for every believer. This is not a struggle just with a virus and the human response to it. Our current experience is part of the spiritual battle in which all believers are always engaged.

 

Holding our Ground

I think sometimes, especially when we are working hard to process lots of information and adapt to a changing situation, that it is easy to forget that our lives are lived in a context of spiritual struggle [Eph. 6:10-20]. But remembering that is helpful for it focuses our minds on what always matters and it reminds us that our God has equipped us to not only survive but be victors who ‘having done all, stand firm’ v. 13. What matters is that we persevere in trusting Jesus and living as His disciples, for this is to live in God’s grace in the present and to come to possess our eternal inheritance in the future. And God has given us the means to persevere, what Paul in Ephesians 6:13-20 calls the armour of God. Putting on that armours means every day our lives should be characterised by:

                 

Truth: The truth of the gospel of our salvation [Eph. 1:13, 4:15, 21], what the gospel teaches us about God, about ourselves, about the Lord Jesus and the salvation He brings, should be the foundation of our lives and the way we interpret what we are experiencing. To see if you are putting on truth ask yourself: Am I refreshing myself in that truth each day? Am I processing what I hear through the framework of reality the gospel gives? Am I relying on the truth of the gospel promises?

 

Righteousness: In Ephesians the righteousness Paul speaks of here is the righteous life, the new life in Christ [4:24, 5:9]. Living righteously, doing what is right and good [4:25-5:21], protects us. It is so much easier to live with a good conscience, to not have our lives and relationships made more difficult by our sin – whether that is lies, or lust, or anger. Now is the time to give yourself to living God’s way. So ask yourself – would the Lord be pleased with what I let my eyes look at, with the words that come out of my mouth, with what I set my hand to, with what I let my mind think on?

 

The Readiness given by the gospel of peace (6:15): Stability under pressure, in the heat of conflict, comes from grasping the gospel promises that bring us peace [2:17]. And that stability equips us to push back, engage with the world. Like our Lord Jesus we can preach peace to the world, knowing this is a gospel for all, a gospel that can bring hope to those who have no hope and free from bondage to lies. Am I looking to engage with the world with the gospel that brings hope?

 

The shield of faith: Faith protects us. Knowing that Jesus has reconciled us to God by His death, and that this comes to us from God’s free grace and mercy, so that we are always being dealt with in love by our heavenly Father and can always draw near to Him for help, can banish those troubling thoughts that God has forgotten us, or is punishing us. Believing those gospel promises can counter our fears of abandonment or death. We have been loved with a great love, come to know a mercy that is inexhaustible [2:4]. And faith in the gospel can counter those seductive lies that tell us satisfaction and security can be found in ungodly, self-indulgent living [5:3-12] for Jesus is Lord and all will be exposed. Now is the time to preach the gospel to ourselves each day and remind ourselves of the faithfulness of our God.

 

The Helmet of Salvation: Confidence in being saved, which is confidence in Jesus and the effectiveness of His death, and awareness of the richness of salvation [1:15-19] help us to look up and keep our eyes on what it is to come. Such a sure hope is health giving in these days. Do you daily give thanks for being saved? Do you let yourself meditate on what it is to be saved, on the inheritance God has promised us?

                 

The sword of the Spirit and prayer (6:17-29): Knowledge of God’s word and prayer, persistent prayer, mark the life that perseveres in faith. Those of you who have a habit of daily bible reading and prayer know its benefits, and if you don’t yet have that habit now is a time to acquire it, to use the means our God has given you in sustaining your Christian life. A small start would be our daily email devotion and prayer points, but there are many other helps.

 

We are in a spiritual battle – that battle continues whether we are at home alone, or still at work. Make use now of your Lord’s provision for you to be the victor in the end.

 

Thanks for the Prayer Meeting

It was very encouraging to gather for prayer together on Wednesday night, to pray together for our nation and the spread of the gospel, and for each other in these current circumstances. Keep praying together in your households. With no school this is an opportunity to get a rhythm to our home life that has a place for prayer at the table after meals as a family, a great time to listen to concerns and teach about the promises of God.

 

Sunday Services

This week will continue as a combination of live stream from church and pre-recorded segments at home, but with a little more coming from church. Despite the extra work involved we are persevering with two services at 10 and 5 because it is important for the identity of the 5:00 pm congregation to be maintained to make resumption of congregational life easier when restrictions are lifted. The distinction between the two services will increase from next week as Clinton starts to preach in the morning and Chris in the evening, and then in a fortnight we will have finished John’s gospel and there will be a different preaching series in the morning and evening.

 

Upcoming Events

This weekend we would have enjoyed sharing time together at our annual church picnic which we had planned if not for the Covid-19 situation.  We grieve the loss of these opportunities and the staff and the elders have been actively engaging with what events we can postpone until later in the year or leave until next year and what events we can still have even during self-isolation.  As such, we have decided that we can still have our annual Bundy Unplugged Event, an enjoyable night where we celebrate the creative gifts that God has given His people.  But this year we will be doing Bundy Unplugged a bit differently and we will hear more about this in the coming week.

 

Neil Chambers
Senior Pastor

 

Pastors update: Changes to our gatherings (10 April 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,


1 John 4: 9 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.


I hope each of you today knows for yourself the love of God in sending His Son to be, by His death, the sacrifice that turns away God’s just anger at our sin from us. Each of us knows what was involved in our not having loved God, the sins of which we are now ashamed, the hurt and harm we have done to others, the proud choice to disregard what God has said. I am very conscious of how much I was and am fully deserving of judgment. But God loved us – so easy to type, so wonderful to know, so hard to fully grasp. He loved us freely, of Himself, His choice. He loved us with a love we cannot measure, cannot comprehend, for the Son who dies for our sin is beloved in eternity, and thoroughly lovely – fully worthy of the love of the Father. He has loved us effectively, fitting us for and drawing us into relationship with Himself, forgiven through the death of the Son. And in that relationship, though we know we cannot understand fully this love, each believer does know that he or she is loved.


Loved by the almighty, holy God. We would not dare to say it unless our God had first said it. But He has, and to know it is our security, our peace, our confidence, our hope. Our security, for His love is powerful and effective, the love that is stronger than death. Our peace, for this love is freely given and the source of our reconciliation. Our confidence, for the love that has called us to the Son will persevere until it has brought us to the goal of His love, conformity to Christ and rejoicing with Christ in His presence. Our hope, for as Paul says “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).


Ephesians 3: 14 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


Prayer Meeting

The Congregational Prayer Meeting this coming Wednesday 15th April will go ahead, but by Zoom. This means it will be a more controlled meeting than usual with various people having been asked to pray and the meeting organizer unmuting their microphones in order. We don’t just pray when we ourselves are saying the prayer. We pray our common prayers in the words of another when we say Amen to their prayer. So join us to pray together, and say Amen as your brothers and sisters express the desires of all our hearts and make our common requests to our God. Prayer honours our God and pleases Him, our prayers, in the picture of Revelation, ascending like incense before His throne. [Rev. 5:7, 8:3-4].  Details will be given about joining the Zoom meeting through email or contact office@bpc.org.au if you would like to participate in this meeting.


Preaching Arrangements

The 19th April would have been the last Sunday before I commenced Long Service Leave. The preaching program had been developed with that in mind, with me doing much of the preaching in Term 1 to give Clinton and Chris an opportunity to prepare before they take on the bulk of the preaching in Term 2. I will not be going away on Long Service Leave as the pandemic and the disruption it has brought has made us busier, there is the risk of one of the Pastors getting sick with the virus or having to be quarantined, and there is a continuing need for adaptation to changing circumstances. I may, Lord willing, take a week or two of ‘home holiday’ in May. The preaching program, however, will go ahead as planned.


In the morning, after finishing John 21, Clinton will commence preaching through the book of Ephesians. In the evening, after again finishing John 21, Chris will be preaching from the Psalms addressing various trials believers face and then the next section of Acts as the evening congregation works through Acts, chapters 13-16. Please pray for them and their preparation, that the Lord would give them understanding of His word, the capacity to teach it clearly, and grace to apply it boldly to our hearts. Pray also that the word they teach would do God’s work in our hearts.


Sunday Services

We have been greatly encouraged by the bible readings, prayers, songs and kids talks prepared by many people at home that contribute to our Sunday Services.  We have also been thankful for the technical team behind the live stream and the videos each week working hard to serve us.  It is truly the body of Christ growing and building itself up in love as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16).


Moving forward as of next Sunday, we are hoping to increase slightly the number of people providing the live stream each Sunday.  This is due to the recent statement of our Prime Minister allowing a small team to work to provide the live stream.  Bible readings, kids talks, prayers and songs will be recorded from home with songs, service leading and preaching expected to come live from the auditorium.


Sunday School

With the commencement of term 2 Clarissa will be mailing out to the parents of children in the Sunday School the lesson and associated materials each week. Copyright does not allow us to put the material on the web and we would ask you not to forward it to people outside the congregation. We are grateful to Kidswise for allowing us to circulate it to each of you. The children’s talk in the 10:00 am livestream will also be related to the Sunday School lesson. You might like to think about how you can creatively connect your child with other children in their class.


Daily prayer and devotion email

This will be commencing from this Monday 13th April, with some thoughts on a small portion of Philippians and prayer points for that day, and a link to submit prayer points. If you would like to participate in this and have not already subscribed, please click here.


Neil Chambers
Senior Pastor


Pastors update: Greif and Loss (3 April 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,


Stage 3 is now upon us, with its discouragement of all unnecessary leaving of our homes and restrictions on those with whom we can meet. This stage will bring with it its own peculiar difficulties and griefs over the coming weeks, and small as they are they are real and in continuity with larger griefs, those of loneliness and loss. When this week I had to cancel a birthday meal with the family, to see them at a distance and not be able to embrace them, I realised that the grief I felt was a small foretaste of the grief we must all face, the grief of death. Then we will lose the company of all those we love, carried away from their embrace on the tide of time, our years having reached their allotted number. There are other small griefs. Those who are single have already lost the comfort of human touch. Some have lost the purposeful engagement with the world and others that comes with work. Some cannot travel to family in the country, and some are unable to see and care for elderly family and friends. Loss and grief – what can we do with them?


On an immediate level we must recognise that loss and grief are there. They are part of our present experience. Even if we recognise that while of an unknown duration our losses are temporary and  they are imposed for a good purpose, the purpose of trying to save life and spare some from much greater grief, the loss we have and the grief we feel are real. They will be experienced, felt, with greater or lesser intensity at times, but they are real.


And like all griefs as believers we should seek and give the comfort of gospel truth and gospel relationship as we experience them. The gospel brings wonderful comfort in our greatest grief. When I lost my parents, and now when current circumstances prompt me to think of losing all I love, Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 bring comfort and encouragement: “we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (v. 17). That little word ‘we’ is wonderful. We will wake from the sleep of death, that temporary interruption to our fellowship, to join our brothers and sisters in Christ in resurrection life. Loss is not the last word, not the eternal experience of believers. The same gospel that assures us of resurrection also assures us of the love of our God, and His commitment to use our current circumstances for our good. This is a time for knowing for yourself and giving to others the comfort of gospel truth. A time even in small griefs to give thanks for a great and loving Saviour.


To gospel truth must also be added gospel relationship. Jesus said the mark of being His follower is to love our brothers and sisters as He has loved us. We must not allow spatial distancing to become loneliness or lack. Stay in touch and encourage in your contact. Who have you rung or texted or skyped this week? Some are finding imaginative ways of staying in touch, like walking as a family in the same direction as a family on the other side of the road. Share those creative ideas.

While one can walk in the company of another we mustn’t allow single people to be restricted only to the company of other single people. Those who enjoy the privilege of family at this time must keep including as they can their single brothers and sisters. Pray for each other, and for those who are helped by structure there is a suggestion for prayer below. And if at times you are struggling, ring someone. It is human, not weakness, to struggle with loneliness, and there are brothers and sisters who are there to talk with.


Make this time purposeful. Use what for many of us will be ‘slight and momentary afflictions’ (2 Cor. 4:17) to correct your relationship with the world and refocus yourself on our Lord and His will. 1 John reminds us not to love the world or the things in the world. The world is this present age, and particularly human society in this present age living in rebellion against God, seeking to deny and exclude His reign. John goes on to say “IF anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him or her. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 3:15-17). This is an opportunity to remember that all we have in this world will be lost, but relationship with our Father in Christ abides. So take the time to think about what you are giving yourself to, what you are pursuing, what you are seeking to find satisfaction in – and ask ”is it the will of my Father, is it pleasing my Lord?” If the answer to that question is not ‘yes’ use the time to repent and think how your life will change so that you are giving yourself to His will.


Developments in the Sunday Service

We continue to work at the service and the technology that brings it to you. There is no change in how you log-in to the service. Go to the website (bpc.org.au/live), click on the livestream services, and follow the directions. But Lord willing this week you will see a combination of pre-recorded segments from various homes, and a live stream of the bible talk and Lord’s supper.  If you haven't already, please read our watch the elders' statement regarding the Lord's Supper during this time of self-quarantining.  Keep praying for those using their technical gifts to bring the service to you and give thanks that we have this option.


Catching up with others after the service

Last week there was a button under the livestream service that said something like ‘speak with a pastor after the service’. We realised that this gave the wrong impression – that it was just for speaking with a pastor. That has been changed to ‘Connect with others on Zoom after the service.” If you click that button you will join a Zoom meeting with members of your congregation and the pastors. For those of us who joined the meeting last week it was encouraging to see each other and chat.


Prayer and Bible Reading

Some of us are very diligent in our personal discipline of prayer and bible reading, and some of us need a little bit of external structure. To help all of us be regular and disciplined in prayer and bible reading, and to help us pray for each other over this time, the pastors are writing a devotion on a small portion of scripture and attaching to it some prayer points for each week day. The plan is to email this to those who want it each weekday, starting with the week after Easter. For the first four weeks we will be reflecting on Philippians with its note of joy in trial. We will include in the prayer points the names of people in your congregation, so that you can pray through your congregation as well. Each prayer email will also contain a link you can use to submit prayer points for the coming weeks.


If you are interested in receiving that daily devotion and prayer email, click on this link.  That will take you to a form in Bundy Connect where you can register your interest, and you will start to receive emails from Monday April 13th.


Good Friday

There will be a good Friday livestream at 9:30 am. We will be singing familiar songs and hymns as we read through together the account of Jesus’ last hours in John. It is a solemn but joyful remembrance and there is no better time to think on the death that means we no longer need fear death, that allows us to face pestilence with the conviction that the Father, having given His Son for us, will also give us with Him all that He has promised and never let us be separated from His love. So plan to join in that remembrance on Friday.


Neil Chambers
Senior Pastor


Responding to Covid 19 (27 March 2020)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,


I have delayed my update in the hope that whatever further restrictions are to be imposed would have been announced by Friday morning, but we are still waiting. They might be clear by this evening.


Thank you to all those who have responded to the request to let us know how you are doing, and whether you need or can offer help. Many of you have offered help and when the time comes we will be in touch. If you haven’t yet been to the Love’ page on the website [under Covid 19] let me encourage you to have a look, and also to visit a new page created by Andy called ‘Looking’ to which you can direct friends who are seeking truth and relationship with God at this time of uncertainty.  Andrew Wort is also continuing to develop a new resources section with useful reviews and links.  Here are the relevant pages:


www.bpc.org.au/love


www.bpc.org.au/looking

www.bpc.org.au/resources


Services

This Sunday the 29th we will have a very slimmed down live stream. When the Government announced restrictions on the numbers allowed at weddings and funerals, and with the repeated message to reduce contact with others, we decided we would go to pre-recorded services for the foreseeable future. This will allow us to continue to be blessed by a number of our gifted brothers and sisters contributing elements of the service from their homes. But we are not quite ready to do that yet – it takes quite a bit of organising and technology – so this week it will be a transitional live streamed service with minimum participants. This will also be the only week where the same service will serve all congregations. From next week, 5:00 pm will again be different from the 10 a.m. service and it is planned, Lord willing, that 10 and 5 will have different preaching from April 26th. You can connect to the livestream here:


www.bpc.org.au/live


After each service tomorrow, the pastors will also be available for you to meet online using Zoom.  This will be an opportunity also for you to meet with some others in the congregation "face to face" if you would like to.  This will be for 20 mins and there will be links provided that you can click on to enter the Zoom meeting.  If you would like to become more familiar with Zoom, please click on this link to YouTube.


Session has decided we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the 5th April. There will be further communication about this next week – the why and the how – but I would encourage you to plan to participate all together at either your morning or evening service.


We will also be having our normal Good Friday service – on line, at 9:30 on Good Friday, reading the account in John’s gospel of Jesus’ last hours, and singing of His death for our sins. The world lurches from one crisis to another, but the gospel is unchanging, and the victory of Christ over sin and death, the victory that gives believers eternal life, is once and for all.


The Building

The building is now officially closed. Individual staff will access the building for work purposes [e.g. to use the internet, record a part of the service], but there will be, again for the foreseeable future, no organised or group activities in the building until restrictions are lifted. The BOM has arranged for regular cleaning of the building during the closure so that we are ready to start immediately the restrictions are lifted. Permission can be given for individuals to use the building on their own under certain circumstances, but it must be applied for through the office.


Growth Groups

Many have successfully kicked off their on-line meetings, although with a little frustration for some. While not as good as being in each other’s presence, I was encouraged to see everyone in the growth group I attend and to hear how they are getting on. If you are not part of a Growth Group, but feel that you would be encouraged through this time by joining one and having regular contact with other believers, please contact Clinton.


Youth Group

Youth Group, like all groups other than our Sunday services and growth groups, has stopped meeting for now but Andrew Wort is investigating ways of staying in contact in a time when many of our youth are prevented from engaging in their normal activities and can share the general anxiety and concern for the future infecting in our society. In addition, if parents want resources to help them disciple their young people at this time, please contact Andrew who has been gathering these resources together.


Holidays

Clinton, Chris, Cat and Maxine had all planned holidays during this Easter break and I have encouraged them to take them. While unable to get away it is important they have time with their families to be refreshed together. Chris and Clinton will be away from the 30/3 to the 6/4.


More

Remember there will be more to come – more changes, and more resources to sustain you and encourage you while we are apart. Stay in touch, and if like me you are concerned about the impact of separation and isolation on the faith of your brothers and sisters, be encouraged by Paul’s experience and learn to pray


Paul’s prayers

Paul was often spatially separated from his beloved fellow believers. It is mentioned in 1 and 2 Corinthians and Philippians, Colossians and 1 Thessalonians. Even though it grieved him and he longed for them [e.g. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5], longed to be able to encourage them in person in their various trials, he had confidence in God. In Philippians he writes of his confidence that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” [Phil. 1:6 ESV]. That confidence was the basis of the bold prayers he prayed for them – e.g. Phil. 1:9-11, Col. 1:9-14, 1 Thess. 3:11-13. He knew that the Lord’s work in their lives was not dependent on his physical presence, but on His powerful Spirit. Let us share his confidence in our saving God, and pray those same prayers [and others e.g. Eph. 1:15-22, 3:14-19; 2 Thess. 1:11-12] for each other.


Remember, our God is the one “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” as He brings glory to Himself as the mighty Saviour of His people through His Son [Eph. 3:20-21]


Neil Chambers
Senior Pastor


Responding to Covid 19 (19 March 2020)

Monday – 500. Wednesday – 100. Friday - ?
Adapting to the ever changing world of Covid 19 response


Some of you may remember that it was only last Friday that the Government announced that it would allow no indoor gathering of greater than 500, a regulation that was to come into force on this last Monday. Then yesterday, Wednesday 18th, it announced that it would allow no ‘non-essential’ indoor gathering of greater than 100, effective from 5:00 pm that day. What you see below is our response to that change. But it is still a provisional response because in the Wednesday announcement the PM also said that State Governments were working on regulations that would govern the implementation of that restriction for groups, including churches. We have yet to see what those state regulations will be, but we felt it necessary to communicate the changes that will happen to our Sunday gathering as early as possible.


Sundays
From this Sunday, Lord willing, the way the most of us will participate in our Sunday gathering is through live streaming of the service. I say most, because we will need some – those involved in AV, PA and music as well as those speaking, reading and praying, in the building. We hope this will be possible. We are in the process of communicating with our brothers and sisters on those rosters, and their participation will be voluntary.


We will live stream a morning service at 10:00 am and an evening service at 5:00 pm.


There will be no Sunday School. We intend to have a children’s talk as part of the service, and Clarissa is working on resources to help you keep instructing your children at home.


We also hope to make available with the live stream - outlines, transcripts and questions you might like to discuss with others.


We would encourage you to watch the live stream with others if that is permitted, whether with another family or some members of your growth group. In meeting, observe the precautions to prevent transmission of the virus – the handwashing, the covering of the face, staying away if you are ill, appropriate distance. But recognise that the PM is suggesting these restrictions will be in place for up to six months and so our response must be sustainable. Complete isolation will not be sustainable for most over that time, so think about how you can encourage each other as you ought.


If we are allowed more in the building than the bare minimum to run the livestreamed service then we would invite another 30-40 to be present. There is sufficient space in the building to allow the required distancing and it would enhance the live stream experience. But we do not know if that will be permissible until after we see the Victorian Governments regulations on Friday, and it will be by invitation only.


Therefore, plan to livestream the service to your home on Sunday.


If you are unsure of how to do that, or unsure if you have the technology to do that, please get in touch by sending an email to the office asap (office@bpc.org.au).


Moving to livestreaming will mean that we will not be able to pass around the blue offering bags, so if you don’t yet give by electronic means could you prayerfully consider doing so.


Staying in touch.
Being unable to catch up with each other on Sunday increases the risk that some of us may become isolated and unable to receive encouragement and help when we need it.


So plan to stay in touch. Take the initiative. Ring those in your growth group if you do not see them that week. Ring those with whom you sit on a Sunday to see how they are going. Ring or visit those in your mainly music or explorers group. Ring or message one of the Pastors if you are aware of a need – yours or someone else’s, or you want to talk.


We will be trying to stay in touch with you, whether through your Growth Group leader, or regular email communication, or a daily prayer update that we will seek to develop, or a phone call. It may take a week or two to get all those processes working smoothly because school holidays will be starting soon, but we will be aiming for some form of weekly contact.


Three key website links will be helpful for you:


www.bpc.org.au/coronavirus

Will contain all the updates that we have sent through to members and regular attenders of the church.


www.bpc.org.au/live

Will be the place that you access the live stream on Sundays.  These will be kept for 24 hours after which they will not be able to be downloaded.


www.bpc.org.au/love

This will be the place that you can communicate to us and and will be the way that you can be encouraged in loving others at a time when people need it.


If you are looking to offer help there is a place to make that known.  If you would like to receive help if you are self-isolating, you can also make that known.


There is also a place that you can update us weekly on your status by saying "hi" – e.g. ‘at home but well’, ‘in quarantine’, ‘awaiting test results’, ‘tired by two small children but enjoying my husband/wife working from home’.


Growth Groups
We are hoping Growth Groups can continue to meet, even if in modified form. Again, when you meet it will be necessary to observe all the precautions to prevent transmission of the virus. You may need to change the way you share food. But as stated above, six months is a long time, and we need to sustain ourselves over that time. Scripture urges us to meet together to encourage each other to love and good works, and we should not think we are wiser that Scripture. In addition to the dangers of illness, isolation and loneliness the virus has brought, we face all the usual temptations to discouragement, distraction and disobedience. Be active encouragers of one another.


Clinton is already working on supporting our growth group leaders in what will be an increasingly important role in sustaining our life together over this time.


Meetings

Many of you have already moved to on-line meetings at work. We anticipate that this will be the case at church, and are actively investigating the technology and software options.


The Pastors also will be seeking to avoid having to be quarantined all at once and will move our meetings to online, and we will also move to only have two pastors at a time at the streamed services. We are still thinking about the details of this for the preaching program, but the in principle decision has been made. Even if not seen, all the pastors will be working both in staying in touch and generating content for on line communication.


Resources
We will be seeking to communicate a range of resources to help you not only endure but grow over this time. Work has just started on this, but there are already a number of useful articles on the Gospel Coalition website, and we will also be looking to generate relevant material.


Sadly this will not be the last email from me about our response as a church to our society’s ever evolving response to the Covid 19 threat. There may be more details when we know how the Victorian government will enforce the ‘social distancing’ measures. But at this time we think fuller communication is better than too little communication.


Finally, let me encourage you not to judge others for their response. Some will only feel safe with total isolation, others may feel that continuing contact with others is needed. Each of us will have to make those decisions for ourselves and our families with the wisdom we are given. But make them out of faith and love, not fear. And draw near to Jesus. I was reading this morning Matthew 14:13-33, one of my favourite passages. As I look at the months ahead I am reassured by Jesus’ feeding the 5,000 that He is always able to supply His followers with the resources needed to do what He commands. I have often thought of this in terms of material resources, but now I am comforted by the thought that in my lack and your lack, whether that is lack of wisdom or courage or energy, Jesus is able to use the little we have to more than supply our need as we do what He says. And even when we think we are going under, overwhelmed by what we see around us, Jesus hears our cry [14:30] ‘Lord, save me’, and His strong hand is more than able to pull us out and make us safe.


As the Psalmist says “I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Ps. 34:4


Neil Chambers
Senior Pastor


Responding to Covid 19 (18 March 2020)

Recent Developments

Many of you will have heard the Prime Minister this morning restrict indoor gatherings to 100 or less. This clearly has implications for our gatherings, especially our Sunday gathering. You will also have heard the PM and the chief medical officer saying that these measures are not a short sharp shock, but measures that may well continue for six months. Our response therefore needs to be carefully considered. We have been anticipating that this further restriction would come, but it will need some time over the next few days to work out the details for Sundays remembering that what we put in place will last for months.


In the immediate prayer meeting will be going ahead tonight, but we will close the doors at 80. There is sufficient space in the auditorium to practice the social distancing being recommended. We will not be using mics, so those who pray will have to speak up. We will also be keeping a record of those who attend to allow tracing of contacts should it be required. All who come should be diligently practicing those personal measures recommended to prevent the spread of the virus, and please stay away if you have had any contact with someone you think might be infected or have any symptoms of the flu or other upper respiratory tract infection.


Suspension of mid-week Activities

We had decided yesterday but not yet communicated that all groups that use the building during the week will finish this Friday. For example, Youth Group and Kid’s Club will have their last meeting this Friday and the Iranian congregation’s meeting will continue to be suspended. This will also be the last week for daytime church groups – Mainly Music, Explorers, Friday women’s bible study. All these groups, except the Iranian congregation, would have been ceasing for the school holidays starting on the 28th March but they will not automatically resume at the commencement of Term 2. The situation will be reviewed in the first week of term 2, but the indications are that the situation will not have improved by them and so we should probably anticipate their continuing suspension for term 2.


Growth Group and Church continue

At the moment we want our growth groups to keep meeting. In fact their role will take on even greater importance. Meeting is important. We are embodied people and it is encouraging not just to know there are other believers out there but to be, where we can, in their presence. It is good to sing and pray together. Meeting is good for other aspects of a community’s health as well – for its psychological health and morale, for sustaining communal bonds, and for giving a little taste of the normal when the world is being shaken. So while we may, in groups of 100 or less, we will meet.


Please pray for the staff and Session as they think through the arrangements needed to keep on encouraging each other to perseverance in trusting Jesus and to live that life of love and good works He calls us to. There will be further communication later in the week especially regarding our Sunday Services.

Responding to Covid 19 (13 March 2020)

As you know, the government has declared the Covid 19 spread to be a pandemic. That means it is not a question of if, but when, many Australians become infected. The Government is encouraging us all to take steps to slow the spread of the virus within our community for the good of the whole community. Slowing the spread, even if it does not stop new people becoming infected, prevents the health system from becoming overwhelmed. There are finite numbers of health personnel, and finite physical resources like hospital beds and ventilators, the latter having a key role in the treatment of those with serious respiratory illness. If the spread of the virus is slowed and the peak of infections is thereby reduced there remains capacity in the system to treat the most seriously ill. But if the virus is allowed to spread quickly the number of infections, and therefore the number of seriously ill people, rises very rapidly. The demand for ventilators may then exceed the number available and hard choices must be made about who is offered what treatment. Rapid spread may also mean that large numbers of health workers are sick simultaneously and so staffing our hospitals and providing care to those who need it, not just those infected with Covid 19 but those with other and pre-existing serious diseases, becomes difficult. So while some of us may remain uninfected, and some of us get a mild infection, it is important for all of us to do what we can to prevent infection. This is love of neighbour.


It is especially important for those groups, like churches, that meet regularly to work to prevent the spread of infection. Meeting together to praise our Lord, pray together and hear His word is a source of great encouragement for us, but meeting also can facilitate the spread of the virus where appropriate steps are not taken. We are therefore making changes to the way we do things, changes that we hope will prevent the spread of the virus amongst us. You will notice those changes from the time you enter the building on Sunday.


Changes to Sunday

Coming into the building you will notice posters reminding you of the steps you can take to prevent the spread of the virus – washing hands with soap or sanitiser, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, not touching your face with your hands. These are all important things you can do.


You will notice that the door is open. Covid 19 can survive on hard surfaces and so we want to decrease the number of times you need to touch a hard surface with your hand. We will have disinfected the door handles and other surfaces, but it also helps to minimise contact with them. The doors into the auditorium will also be open, or opened for you.


You won’t get a hug or a handshake from the welcomer, again in an attempt to minimise contact transfer of the virus, and we would be grateful if you made your own policy ‘no hug, no handshake’ for the time being. There are alternative ways of greeting, so be creative.


When you come to the sign in desk one of the welcome team will sign you in and hand you your name tag to prevent the screen from becoming a source of transmission.


If you haven’t sanitised your hands in the car we would encourage you to use hand sanitiser before you enter the auditorium, again to prevent spread on hard surfaces like the backs of seats.


In the service it will be much the same as before, although the handles of the blue bags will have been disinfected, and the AV team will be live streaming the service. We have tested this once before, and this Sunday we will be live streaming so that it can be a regular and reliable feature of our service when some have to start to self-isolate or are put in quarantine.


You will also notice changes when you leave the service for morning tea or supper. Food on open platters can be a source of transmission, especially if hands are reaching into bowls or they are contaminated with infected aerosol droplets. So from this Sunday until this pandemic phase ceases there will be no food put out on tables. This Sunday [15/3] only there will be commercial biscuits in individual packets available at the serveries, but from the 22nd we will not be offering food. If you anticipate your child being hungry we would encourage you to bring food from home for him or her, and to supervise your child eating it and not sharing it, in case of allergies.


Drinks will all be served from the servery. The morning tea team will add milk and sugar as you request. This is again an attempt to prevent spread from many people handling jug handles, or having open food sources like sugar bowls. We have asked the team to serve only adults [which for this purpose is year 7 and up] so if you are a parent you will need to get the drinks and the biscuits for your children. This is to prevent children being scalded with hot drinks, which has happened before. We would also ask you to restrict your child to one serve of biscuits, as these are limited.


When you have finished your drink it will be helpful if you can return your cup or glass to the servery, where a team member will put them through the dishwasher.

Children will have had their hands sanitised before they come down from Sunday School.


We will continue serving morning tea in creche. The team will fill the children’s bowls and supervise them eating as this gives us a little more control over the allergy risk. We also ask you to wash the children’s hands before they come into creche. If your child is unwell it is important that they are not placed in creche. Children with coughs, colds and runny noses should for the time being be cared for at home.


Other

All the mid-week meetings of the church are also engaging in how they can prevent spread and will be informing their members of what needs to be done. It is however in our Sunday gathering that we will need to be the most careful as the larger the group the greater the possibility of a number being infected, and the greater difficulty in tracing contacts.


All toys put out will be cleaned at the end of every session, and we are giving continuing thought to how to disinfect areas of the church. Door handles are easy, but the slide in the play area is more challenging. We will be asking for volunteers to help disinfect areas, and particularly on Sunday morning before the 9:00 am service.


There will be changes in the distribution of the Lord’s Supper but we have not yet finalised these. It may be that on Communion Sundays you are asked after the children go out to sit in alternate rows so that the servers can carry the tray and plate to you to prevent multiple people handling them. We are giving particular thought to the bread.


What do I do if I suspect I have come in contact with someone with Covid 19 or suspect I might be infected?

Contact your doctor, or ring the Covid 19 hotline 03 9496 6606.

Follow all medical instructions.

Self-isolate until you know you are not infected, or until you have recovered.

Let us know so that we can stay in touch with you and provide pastoral care and support to you.

If you have come recently from overseas follow the government’s instruction to self-isolate for fourteen days, and let us know you have returned.


What do I do if I just feel ill?

If you or your child is ill love your brothers and sisters by staying at home until you are well, and let us love you by letting us know you are unable to attend because of ill health.


The following websites are helpful sources of information:


WHO Website 

Comm Dept Health 

Vic Health 


What will we do when we learn someone in the congregation has been diagnosed with Covid 19?


1.     Contact DHSS for advice and follow their instructions

2.     Investigate: when were they last in contact with others at church? When were they last in the building, or in growth group?  To allow adequate time for this we may need to not meet on the following Sunday.

3.     Disinfect areas they were present in. Here again we will need to follow advice.

4.     Communicate clearly with the congregation what has happened and what has been done.

5.     Make sure all those the person was in direct contact with self-isolate while being tested.

6.      Communicate clearly how those in self isolation can live stream services

7.     Welfare checks on those self isolated. Daily phone call by pastoral team

8.     Seek to provide other support needed for those affected e.g. help with Shopping or help with their children.

9.     Welcome back after recovery or at the end of quarantine.


This is new to us all, and our response may continue to evolve as the virus spreads and its impact becomes more apparent, or the government issues further advice. We do not know but it is highly likely some of us may get sick, and while most of us may only have mild symptoms some of us may get very sick, and a few of us may even die. That is the nature of pandemics with new infectious agents and we need to face that. We do not think Christians are spared the ills of living in a fallen world that is in rebellion to its creator. Paul speaks in Romans of the sufferings of this present time in a creation that groans. But he speaks of them in the context of saying such sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed when we receive our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies [Romans 8:18-25]. That has always been our hope as believers – the resurrection to the new heaven and earth. Paul is also confident, as we should be, that our heavenly Father works all things for the good of those who love Him. We can be confident that He will be helping us to grow in Christlikeness as we deal with this infection, and as we deal with our fears and anxieties around it. It is a good time to bring them to the Lord and let Him test our hearts, to see whether we are trusting Him as He deserves to be trusted. It is also a good time to teach your children about the power, faithfulness and love of Jesus that gives us confidence in Him, even when we are afraid. And Paul assures us in Romans 8 that neither death nor life, nor anything, can separate us from the love of God.


The changes we are making are not prompted by fear, but love. It is love of our neighbours to seek individually and together to limit the spread of the virus, particularly our neighbours whose health is compromised by pre-existing illnesses. It is love of those who serve us in the health care system to seek to limit the spread of the disease. The slower the spread the more adequate will be the resources available to treat the seriously ill. And it is love of Jesus and his reputation that will make us active in seeking to limit the spread of the disease. We want people to know that Jesus’ followers are thoughtful for the good of others. So, even though the changes above may have an impact on your Sunday experience, embrace them cheerfully, and let’s seek to encourage each other and help each other in making them work.


We must make sure that we continue to walk in love in the days ahead, a love that comes from faith, and accompanies a confident hope in our Lord Jesus. If people need to isolate, we have to stay in touch with them and make sure they have all they need. If someone is not at church because they are wisely keeping an off-colour child at home, be in touch to find out how they are. It might be a long winter and so we have to be active to encourage each other and not let anyone drop through the cracks. If some have their income reduced because work has dried up, share with them what you have.


And as an expression of our love – pray and offer hope to a suffering world. Pray for our leaders, that they would make wise decisions about controlling the virus and minimising its impact. Pray for our health care workers, for wisdom and safety. Pray that the Lord would be merciful, both in limiting the spread and severity of the virus, and in using it to turn people back to him as they know again their frailty. Pray for each other, that in the Lord’s mercy He would protect and heal, and above all sustain our trust in His love and His promises, and that we would honour our Lord Jesus through this.


And offer hope. The risen Jesus can raise the dead, and only He can. The risen Jesus can forgive our sins and spare us judgement. You see around you fear and anxiety, and sometimes the selfishness it gives rise to as people seek to save their own lives. As people are forced to see that they are not in charge and not in control, direct them to the gracious Lord who can heal with a word, raise the dead with a word, to whom all created things are subject, and in whom they can find mercy.


Paul says that knowing peace with God through Christ we can rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering produces endurance, endurance character, and character hope – and this hope will never disappoint us because the Spirit floods our hearts with God’s love because He convicts us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. [Romans 5:1-11] It is an incomparable privilege to live this life with all its challenges and uncertainties as a believer in Jesus. Yet Christ is the Saviour of all sinners who turn to him – so share the hope and privilege that transforms our present trials by sharing Him.

COVID 19 Prevention (11 March 2020)

The elders, like many of you, are closely following the news about the spread of Covid 19 and monitoring the government advice. While there have now been cases of acquisition of the infection in Australia there is, as yet, no suggestion by the government of any need to stop meeting.  The elders are, however, considering contingency plans to continue to encourage and care for each other should the government advise that we should stop meeting for a time.


In the meantime, knowing that it is love of neighbour to seek to prevent the spread of the virus, we draw your attention to the following advice given on the VicHealth website:


Ten ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus

·       Wash hands often with soap and running water, for at least 20 seconds. Dry with paper towel or hand dryer.

·       Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

·       Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.

·       Isolate yourself at home if you feel sick. If you take medication ensure you have adequate supplies.

·       Phone your GP first if you need medical attention. They will tell you what to do.

·       Continue healthy habits: exercise, drink water, get plenty of sleep, and now is the time to quit smoking. Call the Quitline 137 848.

·       Don't wear a face mask if you are well.

·       Buy an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with over 60 per cent alcohol.

·       Get the flu shot (available April).

·       Shaking hands is optional!


This is sound advice.


We will continue to provide hand sanitiser around the building, and have purchased some bins with lids for the disposal of tissues. If you develop ‘flu like’ symptoms - cough, sore throat, headache, or fever – we would encourage you to stay at home and let one of the pastoral staff know so that we can stay in touch with you.


The following websites are helpful sources of information:


WHO Website 

Comm Dept Health 

Vic Health 


While we should seek to be good neighbours we should also not give way to fear. This is a time to remember what we believe, and to live lives marked by faith, hope and love. As we saw in Deut 32:39 our lives are in the Lord’s hands. All our days are already written in His book before one of them came to be [Ps. 139:16] so none of us will live a day more or less than our heavenly Father has determined, and as Jesus said being anxious will not extend our lives [Matt. 6:27]. Our God has promised to work all things for our good, including new viruses, so we should be confident He will use this to help us grow in Christlikeness [Romans 8:28-30]. And if He wills that this should be the cause of our death [and we are all going to die sometime and from something unless Jesus returns first] we know we will not be separated from His love [Romans 8:35-39]. In fact Paul says those who depart to be with Christ are better off [Phil. 1:21, 23] and Revelation tells us that those who die in the Lord are blessed, for they rest from their labours [Rev. 14:13]. Christ has promised eternal life to His people, and His promise is sure [Jn. 11:25-26]. Knowing our heavenly Father’s love and knowing our Saviour’s faithfulness, hard as it may seem, we also have to be able to entrust those we love into His hands. Their lives have always been in His hands, and He is able to keep them even when we are not present. It can be hard, but we can cast our cares for them, our anxiety about their future, onto our heavenly Father [1 Pet. 5:6-7].


Having this faith and hope, which is the faith and hope of every believer, we are freed to live lives of love. Loving others, whether it is staying at our job if it exposes us to risk, sharing resources, caring for sick family and friends, takes courage in these circumstances. But we must not give way to a fearful self concern. The safe way in any circumstance is to keep trusting Jesus in doing what He says, and He says we should love our neighbours as ourselves. If and when our brothers and sisters get ill and have to self isolate we will have opportunity to show we are really Jesus’ disciples by our love, whether that is seen in dropping of groceries, or the daily phone call, or transport, in any number of practical ways.


See the virus as an opportunity to live the life we are all called to, the life of faith, hope and love, and in living that life enhance the reputation of Jesus our Saviour and Lord.