BPC Pastors Updates 2020

Staying in touch - 18th Dec 2020

Comfort and Confidence in Knowing Jesus is Immanuel


Please note: Bible references are not included in the audio, but full references are available in the transcript below. 


Comfort and Confidence in Knowing Jesus is Immanuel

In this unusual year some aspects of our humanity we normally try and keep in the background have been thrust into prominence. Our lack of control over our lives as we have had our plans rearranged by events outside our control. Our dependence on others, whether it is those who stack our supermarket shelves or those that staff our hospitals. Our limited strength and wisdom as we experienced uncertainty and exhaustion in trying to adapt and manage in changed circumstances. Our embodiedness as we felt the lack of the embodied presence of others or saw how our mood was so dependent on that hour of exercise. Our mortality, as we listened to the daily death toll, here or overseas.

We have been reminded again of what it is to be human – finite, dependent beings in mortal bodies living in a world we do not control – and when we feel our humanity is a good time to meditate on and give thanks for the incarnation, the taking on of human life by the eternal Son. The eternal Word becoming flesh [John 1:14], the Son who though equal to God humbling Himself to take on our life [Phil. 2:5-8], Jesus being Immanuel, God with us, means we are assured God knows us, and we can know God, and there is great comfort and confidence in that.

Jesus being Immanuel, God with us, means we are assured God knows us, and we can know God, and there is great comfort and confidence in that

The God who knows us

We have a saving God who knows us because the Son shared our life, shared fully our humanity, shared our flesh and blood so that He could be ‘like us in every respect’ [Heb. 2:14-18]. Jesus felt the weariness of physical exertion [Jn. 4:6], anger at unnecessary suffering [Mark 3:5], grief at self-destructive pride [Luke 19:41]. He knew what it was like to face constant demands and conflicting expectations [Mark 1:32-39, 3:20-21], the experience of many trying to work and do school from home. He knew what it was to have a sleepless night [Mark 1:35, 14:32-34], and to be let down and disappointed by close friends. And he knew what it was like to live in a mortal body and not want to die [Mark 14:36], and then He knew what it is to die. Our saviour knows us from beginning to end, knows the demands of our flesh, and its weaknesses. And in our flesh He knows what it is to be tested in trusting our heavenly Father [Matt. 4:1-11], in trusting and obeying. Knowing us, He can help us – He has walked in our shoes [Heb. 2:17-18] Reflecting on this the author of Hebrews writes “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.”

Our saviour knows us from beginning to end, knows the demands of our flesh, and its weaknesses... Knowing us, He can help us – He has walked in our shoes

We can come with confidence to God, confidence that we will be shown mercy and get the help we need. We don’t have to worry that if we haven’t explained our situation well enough, or are unable to dictate what is required, we will miss out, or get inappropriate or harmful help, the kind you might get from an unengaged and distant government agency. We don’t have to worry that we will surprise Him with our needs, confront Him with something He has never thought about. We don’t have to be ashamed of our frailty or neediness. We can just ask for mercy and help – and know He knows what we need, and when we need it. And that is a great comfort all the time, but especially when we are exhausted or grief stricken or perplexed, a great comfort for the one who knows us is also the exalted Lord, who has no limit on His mercy or His power, on His willingness or capacity to help. And His knowing us also means that in His teaching, in calling us to live as His disciples, He also knows what He is asking of us, what it will cost us. When He asks us to take up our cross, it is because He has already. When He asks us to love our enemies, He also has battled that desire for vengeance. We can embrace His teaching as fit for our humanity, for it was spoken and lived by the One who is truly human. It is wonderful to know God knows us.

We don’t have to be ashamed of our frailty or neediness. We can just ask for mercy and help – and know He knows what we need, and when we need it.

The God we can know

And in the incarnation we are assured we can truly know God and that is a priceless treasure. What we believe about God is the bedrock of our understanding of reality, the understanding that shapes how we live and what we hope for.

If, for example, we believe there is no god, then we will believe we are accountable only to ourselves for the life we live, and we are the origin of what we will reckon to be right, the origin of our own meaning and identity, and it will all end in our death. Or if we believe there are many gods in competition or co-operation, then we will seek to earn the favour of one to protect from the malice of others, or their worshippers. We will remain in control, our choice and our works the source of our security, and never being completely secure, our misfortunes the fruit of quarrelling amongst the gods. If we believe there is just one god, but he is disinterested in his creation, we will think it useless to try and seek his help, know ourselves to be left alone to make the best of things as they are. But if you believe there is a personal, almighty Creator, the only God, the judge of human actions, you will seek Him, and seek to live a life pleasing to Him.

What we believe about God is the bedrock of our understanding of reality, at the core of the choices we make, yet there are many competing ideas of God, of foundational reality. Are any better, more true to reality? As God, if there is a God, will be much greater than us, almighty, invisible, spirit, distinct from created matter, in the end finite creatures can only know the truth of infinite invisible spirit if God makes Himself known. Our limited perceptions and speculations will always be incomplete and distorted on their own. God is the one who truly knows Himself and can truly make Himself known. The incarnation takes away any doubt that the living God can make Himself known, any doubt that He has made Himself known, and any doubt that He is good.

The incarnation takes away any doubt that the living God can make Himself known, any doubt that He has made Himself known, and any doubt that He is good.

All the gospels [Mark 1:1, John 1:1-18, Matt. 1:18-25, Luke 1:33-37] start with the claim that Jesus is the Son of God in the fullest sense, and all the gospels recount that claim’s vindication in the life, teaching, death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus. Because of God’s initiative in sending the Son into the world we can know we know the truth of God when we look at and listen to Jesus, who claimed the words HE spoke were the words the Father had given Him, the deeds He did the works given Him by the Father [e.g. John 12:44-50, 14:6-11]. As John says the incarnate word, the unique God who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known [John 1:18]. Believing Jesus, knowing the truth of God in Jesus, we can live in the light of eternal reality, can practice the fear of the LORD that is the beginning of wisdom, the source of the life of human flourishing. But Jesus does not only teach us to know the truth about God. He brings us to know God, in the sense of having a relationship with Him where we can call upon Him as our God, as our Father [John 1:12]. He does this by His atoning death, a death He can only die because the Son has become a true and genuine human. And in saving us, in showing us the love of the Father in giving His Son for sinners, believers learn in Jesus that God, whom they have been brought to confess by the incarnation as Father, Son and Spirit, is good, better, more loving, more righteous, more gracious, more wise, more powerful, than they could ever imagine. The incarnation says the work of saving is all of God, all His initiative, the overflow of His love.

Believers learn in Jesus that God... is good, better, more loving, more righteous, more gracious, more wise, more powerful, than they could ever imagine.

There is so much more to speak and think about when we confess at Christmas Jesus is God with us, the Word become flesh. Give yourself time to do that thinking, for our Lord said “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” [John 17:3]. Life is knowing the true God in Christ. And give yourself time to praise our God in company and in your heart for the comfort and confidence we have in knowing the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.

This will be the last pastoral communication until the 15th January, Lord willing, when I will start to talk about the plans and arrangements for the New Year. It has been a long year and I pray that you will be able to have a restful holiday, with time for thankfulness and reflection. Cat will keep you informed about coming events as necessary. Please keep registering to come to church, and I hope to see as many of you as possible at our Christmas services to rejoice together in the birth of our saviour. Merry Christmas!

Staying in touch - 9th Dec 2020

Part 1: Settled plans for our services

Part 2: How we operate in the building



More change for the better.


A new density quotient, no cap.


Another week, and praise God, more relaxation in restrictions on our gatherings because community acquired Covid infections have remained at zero.

We are thankful that last Sunday the Premier announced that churches with electronic record keeping like ours have now no cap on the number of those who can be present in the building beyond the requirement of the new density quotient that says we must have two square meters of space per person.


What does this mean for us?

More can attend our Sunday services, and with that a much simpler Christmas and January period. We are at the moment re-doing all the room number signage, but we can have under the new density quotient two hundred people in the auditorium and hall, and over sixty upstairs. There is still the requirement to maintain social distancing – 1.5 meters between groups or individuals who are not from the same household – so the actual number of people able to be in the auditorium and hall may fluctuate.

To facilitate seating the maximum number of people possible we have reconfigured the church with rows of chairs 1.5 meters apart as you can see in the photo. To maintain social distancing we just need to leave two chairs between groups and individuals not in the same house, and there is easy access with the spacing between rows. We think with the help of our ushers we will all be able to find a safe space easily.


What do the increased numbers mean for our plans for the coming weeks?

These relaxations, which the Premier has foreshadowed won’t be changed before the end of January if we continue to have no community transmission, brings some definiteness to our own plans. Let me run through the coming weeks with you.

The 13th December, this coming Sunday, we will have two morning services as announced, one at 8:45 and the other at 11, as well as our 5:00 pm service. We decided to keep the two morning services to give plenty of opportunity for everyone to be back in church before the commencement of our summer program. You can register confident that there will be a space and confident that there won’t be crowding. Sunday school will be up to and including grade 6 as we announced, and we will have a baptism at 11 and a baptism at 5.

If you haven’t yet been to church – either because you are anxious about the numbers present or you have been holding off to let others come – this is a great opportunity to bet back to meeting with your brothers and sisters in person. I encourage you all to come before we start scattering over the state for that much needed holiday to get a feel again of being in each other’s presence.

You still need to register on line beforehand. This is not because of limited spaces, but to fulfil our record keeping requirements and to make it easy to move through the foyer and into the auditorium, and children will still go straight to Sunday School and Little Sunday School.

Sunday the 20th December we will move back to one in morning service as we do each holiday period, and this will continue up to and including Sunday 24th January, Lord willing. The 5 pm service will continue as normal through this time. Having only the one morning service through this time takes the pressure of our teams when many are away. There will be Sunday School on the 20th, which will be a special service of thanksgiving and reflection on the year that has passed.


Over Christmas we will now have the two services, one on Christmas Eve at 7:00 pm and one on Christmas Day at 9:30 am. You will need to register on line, again for our record keeping, but also because there will be no Sunday School on these days so the total number of spaces will be limited to the spaces in the auditorium and hall. The creche room will be open with some toys available for parents to use, and the service will be live streamed to the creche room.


The two Sundays after Christmas, the 27th Dec and 3rd Jan, are traditionally our quietest days. Services will be at 10 and 5, and there will be no Sunday School at the morning service. We will be starting the gospel of Matthew on the 27th, which will continue in sections throughout the year. Like Christmas, our numbers will need to be capped at the numbers available in the auditorium and hall, with the creche room open.


From the 10th Jan to the 24th January inclusive there will be one morning service at 10 and the evening service at 5. Sunday School up to and including Grade 6 will be running from the 10th, and to help with numbers children will go straight up to Sunday School

The plan is then, Lord willing, to resume two morning services from the 31st January, and our experience this coming Sunday will inform our planning for getting things as close to normal when the new school year starts.


Summary of upcoming Service Times

What do these changes mean for the way we operate in the building?

Little else has changed in the way we will operate in the building.

We still need to practice social distancing, hand hygiene and record keeping, so entry into the church will look much the same as last week. We will still need to clean the building, and so we will not be able to linger in the building after the service.

As you know there has been a welcome relaxation in the requirements for mask wearing but we have been encouraged to use our common sense when we are in groups of people, especially indoors. On its website the Government says “It is strongly recommended that you wear a face mask at a religious gathering when you can’t maintain 1.5 metres distance from other people. You must carry a face mask with you at all times when you leave home, unless you have a lawful reason not to.”

We would also strongly recommend the wearing of a face mask, particularly in the foyer when it may be difficult to maintain social distancing. We also, in line with advice, request that you wear a mask when singing. Singing softly behind masks is the safest way at the moment for congregational singing.

I realize that attitudes towards masks wearing will vary amongst us – some strongly resenting it, some being very much in favour of it. Where you have no legitimate reason for not wearing a mask I encourage you to think of mask wearing in terms of love, not rights or freedoms. We want to encourage as many as possible to join us, including those whose health and age gives them every reason to be cautious about being in groups. Wearing a mask, where you can, is a small price to pay to love another and make it easy for them to join us. Paul gives us an example of foregoing his rights for the good of others in 1 Corinthians 8-10 where he speaks of giving no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, of trying to please everyone in everything that he does, because he is looking to the advantage of others, not his own, in seeking their salvation. 1 Cor. 10:32-11:1. He also points us to the example of Jesus who did not seek His own rights but humbled Himself to save us as he calls us to “Do nothing from rivalry or selfish conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phil. 2:3-4

So in relation to masks I encourage you to listen to the government advice and walk and speak in the love that can look to the interests of others. We also ask that you refrain from singing for now unless you are wearing a mask.    

There has also been some relaxation in relation to having food and drink at our meetings but while the hall is full of chairs and while we need people to leave fairly quickly to allow the cleaning team to get to work we won’t be recommencing morning tea and supper yet. We will take January to think this through so we can have a plan, if possible, for the recommencement of services in the new school year. We again strongly encourage you to have tea or coffee in each other’s homes or a café together, to keep those good conversations going.   



As indicated, Sunday School will now include all children up to and including Grade 6, and it will be running every Sunday except the 27th December and the 3rd January. Creche will also be running every Sunday, but not at our Christmas services. On Sundays with Sunday School children will still be asked to go straight up to Sunday School when they enter the building to allow us to have as many spaces as possible in the foyer and hall. They will be able to watch the first part of the service, including the children’s talk, on the livestream upstairs. As indicated last week we do ask that you send your Sunday School children with a labelled drink bottle and snack, and Clarissa outlined in last week’s video the procedure for dropping and picking up children.

As Sunday school has now resumed for all grades and teachers will be occupied after the services we will be ceasing the Sunday School zoom catch ups. Thanks to all those who ran and sustained those catchups, and all who participated over the last eight months. It was a great encouragement, but it is good that we can now move to catching up in person.


The livestream continues and will continue indefinitely, but not for all services. Where we have two morning services we think we will eventually move to livestreaming the first, but discussions with the tech team continues. We will review the after service zoom catch up over the next two weeks to see if it is useful and possible to continue it into the next year. We will not be able to Zoom on the 27th Dec and 3rd Jan when many staff are away. We simply will not be able to get to an online meeting straight after the service. So over the next two weeks we will be looking for those participating in the after service Zoom sessions to communicate with us about what they would like to see happening with the Zoom catchup.

Once more – a lot of information. But I hope that this will be the last update that has to deal with changing restrictions until the end of January. We have put the service information into a table which I hope will serve us through the holiday period.

But we are thankful. We continue to be thankful to God for the present control of the spread of the infection, for the further relaxation on restrictions to our gathering, and for degree of certainty with which we can plan at least the next six weeks. And I am also thankful for the work of so many that has made it possible to restart our meetings.

Let’s use our opportunities to do what we are called to – to meet, to praise, to encourage one another in the privilege of being followers of our Lord Jesus, children by grace of our heavenly Father, and heirs in hope of the resurrection.

Psalm 100: 4 “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; His faithfulness to all generations.”

Staying in touch - 4th Dec 2020




Thankfulness, Uncertainty, and Christmas.

Psalm 105: 1 “Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples.”

It was exciting to see so many of you in the building for the services last week. It was encouraging and a cause of great thankfulness - for the low numbers that have brought this relaxation of restrictions, for the service of many that made the gathering possible, and for the tangible reminder of being brought by grace to belong to a people, the people of the Lord Jesus, saved by His grace and called to follow Him. At the morning service all 150 spaces were used and the spaces for this coming Sunday morning were all taken by the end of Sunday with 100 on the waiting list as of Thursday night. In the evening we were able to fit in all who wanted to come, and this was most of the evening congregation – again, very encouraging.

Moving to two morning services.

As we never want to be in the situation where we are turning people who want to come away, where, by having insufficient space, we are encouraging the irregularity we have sought for years to discourage, we will be starting, Lord willing, two morning services from Sunday 13th, one at 8:45 and the other at 11:00. With the move to two services the children’s program will also be expanded to include years three to six. We have moved the first service to 8:45 as it is recommended that we have 60 minutes between services, and we do need that time to clean and then set up for the service that follows. While it is summer we think it is not too difficult for most of us, and we pray that the promising vaccine developments mean we won’t have to continue that earlier start into winter. But please give thanks for and pray for our tech and music teams as moving to 8:45 means a much earlier start for them, and moving to two services means a much longer day for some  while we wait for others to join up to serve and to be trained.

What will happen after the 13th December?

I wish we knew for sure. You will remember that the Premier foreshadowed moving to having 30 in our homes on the 13th December. That will be wonderful. While no other changes were foreshadowed then I am allowing myself to hope that if the conditions allow this expansion of people in our homes then it will also allow a further relaxation on gatherings, perhaps an increase in numbers and a decrease in the density quotient. If, for example, the density quotient were relaxed to one person per two square meters and capacity was determined by density quotient alone we could have three hundred in the building and two hundred and eight in the auditorium. This would allow near normal operation of our services. Please pray for this as it would make planning for and provision of our Christmas and summer holiday services much easier. But we have thought about both scenarios and below I outline our plans with and without a further relaxation.

Planning for a further relaxation in restrictions.

If there is sufficient relaxation in restrictions on numbers on the 13th we would revert to one Sunday morning service on the 20th, but still with the children’s program running to sixth grade. This is in line with our usual summer holiday programming. That service on the 20th will take the place of the Sunday School concert and in the morning and evening will be a service of review and thanksgiving as we seek to draw a line under 2020.

At Christmas, we will have a Christmas eve service at 7:00 pm and a Christmas day service at 9:30. We have introduced the Christmas Eve service to create greater capacity. This would be necessary if there is no relaxation in restrictions, and as we all need some degree of certainty in our Christmas planning we want to retain it whether there is a relaxation or not.

After Christmas we will run from the 27th December up to and including Sunday 24th January with one morning service at ten and the evening service at five, as we do each summer. We do anticipate, however, the children’s program recommencing in the morning service on the 10th January. This is in part because of numbers allowed in the auditorium, and in part to catch up a little on what the children have missed out on all year.

What if there is no relaxation in restrictions,

and we remain with attendance in the building capped at 150? We will retain two morning services on the 20th December, and we are planning to run two morning services at 8:45 and 11 throughout the summer as well as the five pm service. We made this decision because it is difficult to make constant changes – for example, having only one service on the 27th December and 3rd January, and them going back to two for the rest of January. We also made the decision because when there is no children’s program we would have to effectively cap our Sunday attendance at about 110, the number of spaces in the auditorium and a few in creche. Being able to run two services is, however, dependent on our ushering, cleaning, and service production teams having enough people to do the job.

If there is no relaxation in numbers then we will run three Christmas services. One at seven on Christmas eve, and two on Christmas day at 9:00 and 11:00. Each of these services will have an effective cap of 110 people of all ages.

What is happening will become clearer after the 13th, Lord willing, but we thought it best to let you know what we are thinking and ask you to consider serving on one of the teams through the holiday period because it is important that we meet together.

What about carols and GSF?

As both these programs take a long time to plan and involve many people decisions had to be made early as to how they would be delivered. For example, planning for GSF started in August and decisions had to be made about how to deliver the program in September. Even though much was uncertain it was decided to run GSF this year – for we still want children and their families to be able to hear about the Lord Jesus – but run it differently. With number limits and social distancing we could not run it in the building and so it was decided to deliver the program at home via a 45 minute youtube recording each day from the 11th-14th January which will contain the skits, songs, memory verses – most of which are already recorded and are being edited. Craft materials will be provided to families with an explanation of the crafts on youtube and there will also be a 30 minute zoom small group. A pilot of this program was tested successfully in October, and with thirty allowed in our homes this provides an exciting opportunity to gather friends and neighbours to share in the program. We hope you'll be keen to register your child or children from this Sunday, and also consider inviting your children's friends to your home to have fun doing GSF online together. You'll soon be able to find out more info at bpc.org.au/gsf

Carols also will be pre-recorded and screened on the 19th December. While I, like many of you, love getting together to sing in celebration of the birth of our Saviour decisions had to be made early about how we would be able to share in a carols service. And again, the pre-recorded carols presents new opportunities. Think of inviting your friends and neighbours to watch it with you, and instead of our normal sausage sizzle throw a bbq at your place. It is a great time to practice generous hospitality that shows our thankfulness for God’s generosity to us.

This has been a year that has required a lot of adaptability, and we will continue to need that adaptability in the months ahead as what we do evolves with ever changing circumstances. But we can be thankful for the gifts the Lord has provided us in each other through His grace, and we can continue to pray that the Lord would sustain us all in thankfulness and loving service of each other.

'This has been a year that has required a lot of adaptability, and we will continue to need that adaptability in the months ahead as what we do evolves with ever changing circumstances. But we can be thankful for the gifts the Lord has provided us in each other through His grace, and we can continue to pray that the Lord would sustain us all in thankfulness and loving service of each other.'

Three more things.

We will continue the livesteam and zoom catch ups, but when we move to three services and more can attend we will have to decide which service to livestream. Andy will be leading discussions with the tech team about this. Post service Zoom will also continue, but in the weeks after Christmas when a number of the pastoral staff are on holidays we will have to discuss how this takes place – we may have to settle on a set time not immediately after the service, but we can discuss this with those on the Zoom catch ups.

Secondly, it is the Lord’s Supper this Sunday. We have purchased and will be providing individually sealed cups and bread combinations, and gluten free crackers in individual bags. If you are gluten sensitive you may need to have someone else unseal your cup. Remember that only children who have made profession of faith or to whom Session has given permission upon parental application can share in the supper. Session’s policy on children participating in the supper is available at https://bpc.org.au/mt-content/uploads/2020/12/children-partaking-in-the-lords-supper.pdf. We encourage parents to use their older children’s presence at the supper as a teaching opportunity – talk to them about why the Lord thought it so important for us to remember His death that He gave us this meal, and what the words and actions of the meal mean.

Thirdly, our last prayer meeting for the year will be on Zoom on the 16th December. In the new year, from February, we will be retaining Zoom participation in the prayer meeting but working towards a combination of both people being on Zoom at home and present in the building. We want as many of us as possible to keep on sharing in prayer, and the prayer meeting has been one of the highlights for me this year. As prayer is so important even though we won’t have our organised prayer meeting in January I will be in the building on the evening of January 20th to pray, and those who want to join me are very welcome.

Lots of change, lots of information. It is sometimes hard to shift our minds from present concerns and our response to them, but Paul reminds us that “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” [2 Cor. 4:18]. Unseen by us the baby born in Bethlehem, God with us, reigns at God’s right hand, saving and protecting His people, always with us. In all our busyness let us fix our minds on Him.

Staying in touch - 27th Nov 2020


Staying in touch - 20th Nov 2020

Part 1: Securing Identity

Part 2: Returning to Meeting Together


Part 1: Securing Identity

Lord willing we will move to the last step this coming Sunday the 22nd and be able to open the building to permit youth group and Kid’s Club to run and have services with up to 100 people inside on Sunday 29th and beyond.

We can learn something of the importance of getting back together again in person, and something of the effort involved, from Nehemiah’s prayerful determination to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Why was Nehemiah so grieved by the absence of the wall [Neh. 1:3-4] and so determined that the wall be rebuilt?

He was determined. He risked his employment and possibly his life by speaking to the Persian King about it [Neh. 2:1-4]. He provoked the hostility of the surrounding nations, was subject to threats against his life, by rebuilding it [Neh. 2:10, 19; 4:7-9; 6:1-14]. He gave generously of his time and money to make sure the work was completed [Neh. 4:23, 5:14-19]. It was the focus of his governorship from the time of his arrival until its completion [Neh. 2:11-20, 6:15-16]. It wasn’t the only thing he did to restore the life of God’s people in Jerusalem, but it was the first and foremost.


Why? It was because the wall was essential for the identity, security, ongoing distinctive life of God’s people. Without the wall they could not resist the pressure and threats of the more powerful and established surrounding nations who wanted to draw them into their sphere of influence and resented the distinctiveness of God’s people. Without the wall they could not enforce the law of God – like the sabbath law that was the sign of their distinctive covenant relationship with the LORD, or the laws on intermarriage with the surrounding nations. Without the wall the security of the temple and the purity of its practices were always under threat from the nations and their rulers. The wall around Jerusalem created a boundary that both expressed their distinctive identity and created a space within which that identity as the people of God could be strengthened. It did not secure purity of public corporate worship but created the possibility for it. It was vital to their continuing existence.

Our public gathering together functions much like Jerusalem’s wall. It expresses and strengthens our identity as the people of the Lord Jesus, the people who worship God as revealed in Christ, Father, Son and Spirit. It protects us individually and collectively by being the God given context in which we can enjoy all the means of grace – the reading and preaching of His Word through those whom He has gifted and called to that task, which encourages our perseverance as we grow in knowledge of our Saviour and His will; public prayer, which brings our common concerns to our God and testifies to the effectiveness of Jesus’ work and that we are now God’s people, people with access to the living God; public praise of the living and true God which both reminds us of and expresses His greatness, that He reigns and is the source of all our good; the practices our Lord gave us, the Lord’s Supper and baptism, which speak to us of inclusion in Christ as we respond with faith in the gospel; the encouragement of our brothers and sisters, commanded as a means to keep us living the life of Jesus’ followers, that life of love and doing good. These can all be experienced individually in different contexts, but in our public gathering we experience them all together week after week and they shape and strengthen our identity as followers of Jesus. That gathering around the gospel also gives us the context in which that distinctive identity can be protected against the encroachment of a world hostile to Jesus. It is not all that is required to maintain that identity, but it creates the possibility of that distinctive identity, the space in which the word of the Lord Jesus alone might rule, where the truth of the gospel is affirmed. Our gathering is vital to our ongoing identity, both our private personal identity and our corporate public identity, as the people of the Lord Jesus – and the Christian faith has always had a corporate and public identity expressed in gathering around the word of God.

Because of the essential nature of our gathering for our continuing life as Jesus’ people the elders are determined that we restart gathering together. That will take effort. Nehemiah gives us a little insight into the nature of the work involved in rebuilding something that before its destruction most who lived in Jerusalem probably took for granted, and which a year after the wall was completed was again taken for granted by most, had again become the context for them to conduct the rest of their lives.


Firstly rebuilding the wall was not the work of just one person, or even of Nehemiah and his team. It was as we see in Nehemiah 3 the work of many as each took responsibility for their own section of the wall. Secondly it was unusual work for most. Priests, goldsmiths v. 8, farmers from the country were all contributing – none of them professional wall builders. Thirdly it was work made awkward by fear, the threat of violence by the surrounding nations. They had to work conscious of the danger, taking precautions, with a sword strapped by their side and with a plan to respond to violence [4:15-20]. Fourthly it was an intense work, with people staying the night in Jerusalem, never off their guard [4:21-23]. But it was not a long work and it was a successful work, completing the wall in fifty-two days [Neh. 6:15], although the celebration of that completion had to wait [Neh. 12:27ff.]

This gives us a picture of what will be involved in getting our face to face meetings going again. It can’t be the work of one, or even of a small group. It will, by its nature, only happen if we all share in the work. What we are called on to do might not be the usual service we undertake or even align perfectly with our gifts, just what is needed to be done for this time. And gathering will be awkward for a while because of government directives about spacing, time we can spend in the building, the wearing of masks – a whole host of regulations we need to be conscious of. We will have to keep taking precautions as we gather, conscious of the threat of the virus, and the threat to the reputation of Jesus if we get it wrong – and yes, with a plan to respond to that danger, our Covidsafe plan. It will be intense for a while as we get things going again. But it won’t last forever and like the people of Nehemiah’s time we will be successful if we work together convinced of the importance of our physical gathering.

See the value of our gathering and come, if you are not in a high-risk group, and share in the work of rebuilding it if you can. Share in that work by coming – registering to attend and being there. And share in that work by serving – on the welcoming, cleaning and children’s teams. It will take a lot of willing people to start and sustain our gathering, especially when we move to two morning services. Anticipate the awkwardness, think through the risk, but be convicted that face to face meeting is the God given means of expressing and strengthening our identity as followers of Jesus, the context for sustaining that identity as His word is faithfully taught and praise and prayer given to our saviour.

We know that not all will be able to come, so we will be continuing the livestream grateful for the possibility of including all in our meeting. But if you are able make sharing in the restarting of our meetings your priority, for your own good, the good of your brothers and sisters, and for the honour of Jesus who should be publicly praised and honoured as Lord and Saviour.

Part 2: Returning to Meeting Together.


I have spoken from Nehemiah of the importance of our meeting. But what will coming to a Covid Safe gathering, as we hope we will be able to do from Sunday 29th, be like for us?




Quite different, at least to start. You will firstly have to make sure you can come. We have had to outline conditions of entry. This means excluding yourself if you or your child have any symptoms of a cold or flu and committing to meeting in a Covid Safe way – wearing masks, practicing hand hygiene, observing seating instructions, practicing social distancing. The full conditions of entry are attached to our pre-registration form as you will need to agree with them to register and receive a ticket to attend. They will also be available on our website when they are posted on Wednesday when we have had an opportunity to review them in light of the Premier’s actual announcement about moving to the last step on Sunday 22nd.

And that is the second thing. You will need to register on line to attend. Cat has prepared a video to explain the process but we have had to do this because the limits on our meeting are clear and strict, and also online registration meets the requirements for record keeping for contact tracing. We can only have 100 people, and that includes children over 12 months, in the building at any time. Registration for next weeks service will open on the Sunday before and will also normally be sent earlier to those who are serving that week. Those serving and whatever members of their family attend with them count in the total number and so we need to know how many of them are attending to know how many other spaces there are week by week. I would encourage you to register – don’t not register because you think you ought to leave a space for others. If more register than there are spaces, we will create a waiting list who will be contacted if there is a cancellation, and registering will give us guidance on when we need to start a second morning service.




As the service will continue to be livestreamed, we will start punctually, so I would encourage you to come early so there is minimal movement and noise when we start the service. We will be running a creche and Sunday school up to and including second grade, but older children will need to remain in the service with their parents. This is because we do not have enough space to run our Sunday school normally and observe the density quotient, the one person every four square metre rule which has made our class rooms upstairs almost unusable for a group larger than two. Material for the older children will continue to be provided as it is now and we would like parents to print this and bring their own pencils and textas to reduce the sharing of materials, which is not allowed. We will be encouraging the younger children to go straight to Sunday School and not to enter the auditorium. This is to lessen the movement of people in the building, and also help maintain distancing. Clarissa is preparing a video this Sunday to walk parents through the drop off and pick up but because children will be there for the whole time we would like you to send your child with a snack [clearly labelled as theirs, and without nuts] and their own water bottle.

Creche is a different story. We are conscious that many creche age children will not have seen many adults beside their parents and so we anticipate it will take some weeks [or months] for them to settle. We expect that parents will be in and out and so we have seated them in the hall with easy access to the creche, and we will also be making the service available in the creche. We do ask parents to keep their masks on while in creche. Because of the tendency of very young children to share food it is thought better if the creche team prepare individual bowls for the children – all with the same food. Again, more information will be available from the creche team, and we have prepared a set of FAQ’s  which will be available on the website from Wednesday the 25th, when we have had time to digest the Premier’s announcement on the 22nd.


Having registered and received a ticket when you arrive you will find sanitiser stations on the way in and an usher at the door to guide you and keep a check on numbers in the foyer. Your name tags will be pre-printed and available at a number of pick up points. This allows us to keep a record of attendance and achieve a smoother flow. As we need to put the seating in zones of twenty you will be ushered to your zone and asked to stay in that zone for the duration of the service. More information about seating in zones will come on a video next week but we are encouraging you to think ‘deep, not wide’ in your conversations – to talk with the people in your zone and not to move between zones. The service will run as it has on the live stream and for the coming weeks will continue to have some pre-recorded elements e.g. the children’s talk.

The only people who can sing will be those leading the singing, but the rest of us can hum or mouth the words behind our masks. If the musicians and service leader seem more distant, that is because they are as the regulations specify there has to be 5 metres between anyone speaking or singing with their mask off and the congregation.




At the conclusion of the service we would encourage you to stay in your zone until you either go and collect your children or leave the building. The government has set a 90 minute limit to a service and expects people to be in the building no longer than that. Knowing that, plan to catch up with people after the service at your home, or a café, or a park. We will have to wait to see how things go before restarting a cup of tea after church. The other reason for leaving is to allow the cleaning team to start work – as every space used and surface touched needs to be cleaned.

At the conclusion of the 90 minutes only those involved in cleaning can remain in the building. That means if you are coming with your family you might need to come in two cars, or come in one and get a lift home with me or another on the team.               

Not all will be able to come and gather physically – health and numbers guarantee that. We are committed to being one congregation even when we can’t be all together and we will be continuing the zoom after the service. But if you can’t be in the building you can be with others as you share in the livestream, and you can meet with others for a meal or play after the service. Make use of those opportunities to encourage each other

That has been a lot of information, perhaps overwhelming. It has definitely been a lot for the staff and session to get their heads around. There will be more information videos coming out during next week, being filmed this Sunday. There will be FAQ’s available on the website along with our revised CovidSafe plan but we will delay posting these until the 25th, when we will have had an opportunity to check them against the announced policy. And contact one of the pastors or staff if you have questions or things that are troubling you about restarting our services. If you can we would like to see you there, and if you can serve that would be very helpful in making our gathering possible. Thanks to those who have signed up already.




A Covid Safe service may seem strange at first. It will take a little getting used to. There is work involved in getting back to meeting in person. And it may all may change again in a few weeks time as numbers remain low. We don’t know. But two things I do know. Firstly, if we speak the truth in love, don’t let our anxiety get the better of us but practice patience, forbearance and love towards one another even as we comply with regulations imposed upon us that we may not like but which are designed to keep us safe from Covid 19, we will be able to start meeting in person regularly without too much difficulty. Secondly, it will be good to be able to encourage each other in person. Last week fifty of the evening congregation met outside for their service. It was windy, it was hot, but it was so good to see one another, to have conversation with a few others, to do as we are commanded – to meet to encourage each other to persevere in love and good works in light of the coming day of our Lord.

Please continue to pray for God’s mercy in keeping infection numbers low, for God’s mercy that will allow us to meet. And pray for the staff at this busy time as they work to make us Covid compliant in our meetings. And pray for each other, that we would continue in faith, hope and love, that whether we can meet in person or not our lives would honour our Lord Jesus.


Staying in touch (13th Nov 2020)

"Encouraging, Planning & Engaging in a Covid Normal Community."



Moving towards a Covid Normal.

Let us give thanks to God that zero new cases are being recorded and that we can continue to plan to gather again as churches re-open. Thankfulness to God does not exclude thankfulness to all those who have made an enormous effort and paid a significant cost, like our health care workers and neighbours whose businesses have been shut down, to achieve these numbers. But it does locate our thankfulness where it primarily belongs, with the living God who rules and governs all things, and who has shown us mercy. I am stressing this because in the public pronouncements there has been much self-congratulation and an absence of thankfulness to the living God, God’s mercy misused to support our society’s proud self-reliance. But the godly person, someone who engages with the world knowing the gospel of Jesus is true, will, in Calvin’s words “For benefits received [he will] reverence and praise the Lord as their principal author, but will honour men as his ministers; and will know what is in fact true: it is by God’s will that he is beholden to those through whose hand God willed to be beneficent.”   

But as numbers come down and we move along the steps to Covid normal what are we encouraging, what are we planning, and what engagement are we seeking from you. 

Covid normal should not normalise neglect of our most vital relationship, our relationship with God our Father, the root of endurance and fruitfulness. 

Encouragement in Covid Normal 

So what are we encouraging?  Firstly, that as we all have the possibility of getting busier as things open up you will prioritise sustaining your own relationship with God, that you will not allow daily prayer and reading and meditating on His word to be crowded out. Covid normal should not normalise neglect of our most vital relationship, our relationship with God our Father, the root of endurance and fruitfulness. Secondly, that you will act in love, and consider how the permissions accompanying each stage will allow you to love others – spending time with them, sharing your home with them, helping give their week structure. Thirdly, that you would know yourself, what you feel confident doing and what you are not confident to do as restrictions ease. That will make it easier for you and for others as you talk and plan. All our circumstances are different, and you are best acquainted with your own circumstances and what is appropriate for you. Part of moving together towards normal operations is allowing each other to move at our own pace. 

Planning for Covid Normal 

What are we planning as a church? Here my focus is on our larger gatherings. I know growth groups are making various plans to use even now the ability for ten to meet outside to catch up, whether socially or for study. And we are seeking to use the present permissions while our focus in planning is on what will happen after the 22nd November. So this Sunday the evening congregation will, Lord willing, meet with fifty outside in the church carpark, and live stream from there. Those fifty seats are fully booked already. Please pray for that gathering as it is a new thing for us and has technical challenges, but it will also allow confidence to build in meeting together and us to trial our Covid safe practices. 

But our focus is on the week starting from Monday 23rd November when we anticipate, Lord willing, moving to the last step and being allowed to have 100 maximum in the building. It is, however, not a simple hundred but a hundred total with a maximum group size of 20, so using this permission takes some thought. Kid’s Club and Youth Group are making their own plans for Friday 27th and will be communicating these separately. We are focused on Sunday 29th when we plan to have one morning service at ten in the building and one evening service at 5 in the building. We will be continuing the livestream of both services, and the Zoom meeting afterwards. These first services in the building will be kept as simple as possible and so initially we won’t be serving tea and coffee afterwards. There will be opportunity to chat, but we will be encouraging deep, not wide – that is you stay within your group and talk to the people you are seated with. There will be live singing from the front, but the rest of us will only be able to hum behind our masks. We will be retaining at first some pre-recorded elements of the service. As you might expect, the seating will look a little differently, as the Government has said the maximum group size is twenty and these groups must be in zones separated by five metres from each other. There will be provision for creche and Sunday School, but at first this will only be up to and including grade two because of constraints on space caused by the density quotient, having only 1 person per 4 m2. This first Sunday is only a beginning and we are confident that as time goes on and numbers stay at or near zero, Lord willing, we will be able to re-introduce more and more features of our gathering. 

There are, as you can imagine, a lot of details to be worked out,

There are, as you can imagine, a lot of details to be worked out and so this week the Session, BOM, and staff will be working on building the welcoming, cleaning and children’s teams; the configuration of the seating in the auditorium; refining the booking process; ensuring we have all the cleaning supplies we need; getting our communication ready, including health guidelines for attending. The plan is to have a short video explaining how to register to attend on the 29th go out with this newsletter next Friday along with more details about requirements for those who attend. We hope to shoot videos about what to expect when you arrive and the process for children going to Sunday School and creche next Sunday [22nd] when we plan to practice and test our processes and set up, and then to release those videos in the following week to give you an idea of what you will experience if you come on the 29th.  

One hundred is a number that is a good start but is less than a third of those in the building on a normal Sunday morning. We are not sure how many of you will want to come in person but don’t let the consciousness that not all will be able to be accommodated stop you from registering your interest. We need to know. If there are more wanting to come than we are allowed chairs for, we will start a second morning service. Let’s pray that we move towards Covid normal when things will be easier as quickly as possible. 

Engagement in Covid Normal 

What engagement are we seeking for from you? Fundamentally to engage with these changes as a disciple of Jesus, someone committed to loving your brothers and sisters, to the obedience of faith, and to having your hope wholly in God. As a disciple to be someone committed to meeting together with your brothers and sisters to encourage one another, to stir one another up to love and good deeds [Heb. 10:24-25], whether that be online or in person. As I have already said, know yourself; know what you are comfortable with in your own particular circumstance, and within that seek to encourage others. If you are reluctant to meet in a larger gathering now – for all sorts of good reasons, think through what will need to happen [e.g a month of zero’s, or a vaccine] for your comfort in meeting face to face to grow for that is the goal to which we are moving towards, our normal meetings and all the ministries associated with that. 

Watch the videos as they are released and if you are comfortable meeting, register that interest – let us know you want to come.  

This continues to be a time of uncertainty as well as change, and so it continues to be a time of heightened anxiety. We will need patience and grace with each other,

This continues to be a time of uncertainty as well as change, and so it continues to be a time of heightened anxiety. We will need patience and grace with each other as we restart services in the building – we are unlikely to get it all right the first time, and we will need patience and grace with each other as we move at different speeds in our re-engagement with face to face meeting. Keep talking with each other and with us so that misunderstandings are quickly resolved and we can hear from each other the truth spoken in love that builds up the body of Christ. And please continue to pray. All the good we enjoy comes from our Almighty God’s hand – our health, our capacity to meet, our daily bread. Let us continue to seek from Him the mercy that allows us to meet, the strength and skill to keep live streaming our service, and the wisdom and energy needed to restart our meetings, and that in everything our God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. 


Staying in Touch: The new challenge freedom brings (6 Nov 2020)



The new challenge freedom brings

Just as Proverbs says a person is tested by the praise they receive [Proverbs 27:21] so a congregation is perhaps more tested by its freedoms and opportunities than by its restrictions and limitations [cf. Deuteronomy 8]. Today, Thursday, is, thank God, the fifth double donut day in a row – no new cases and no deaths. We can, I think, confidently look forward to a further cautious easing of restrictions as the Premier foreshadowed on the 25th October, an easing that will allow us to travel further, even to regional Victoria. Those long delayed holidays will become a possibility and there will be more opportunity for catching up with friends and family. If you have been working from home getting out or getting away on the weekend will be a priority. We will have more personal opportunities for refreshment and our lives will become busier. At the same time the freedoms granted for what you can do in your home and for religious gatherings will probably lag behind our personal individual freedoms, and that will mean that for most of us our common ‘gathering’ for the next few weeks will continue to be the livestreamed service at 10 or 5.

The dangers that lie ahead

And this makes the easing of restrictions, especially the time between the beginning of the easing of restrictions and the re-opening of churches for gathering in significant numbers, a perilous time for us as a community. The livestream is, as I have said before, a far less rich experience than our normal Sunday service with everything else that goes on when we meet – children’s ministry, encouraging conversations, the energy of being in the company of other believers, singing with others. I find it takes more effort to listen to the livestream, and I expect that is the case for you as well, and we are calling on this effort when we are tired. The temptation on a sunny day when you have been cooped up working from home and the children are restless is to tune out, not tune in. You might say I can listen to it later – and you may, or you may find yourself too busy or too tired later. Or you might say it is only for this week – and that might be the case, but next week there will be others to visit, or the chance to get away, and the Sundays will pass and you find it is two or three or four weeks since you have tuned in, and you and your family, if you have one, will have fallen out of the habit of gathering with others to hear God’s word, to make common prayer, to give public praise to our God.

Now especially is the time to be vigilant to ‘not neglect to meet together?’ [Heb. 10:24-25]

Why does that concern me, and why should it concern you? Why do I think that now especially is the time to be vigilant to ‘not neglect to meet together?’ [Heb. 10:24-25] Andy in his sermon series in the morning talking about the importance of community spoke last week of truth and grace as central to our individual and corporate life, and I want to answer my questions in terms of truth and grace, or truth and love. Joining the livestream service, keeping on listening to God’s word together, praising God, praying to God together is not just about helping us stay connected in a time of isolation, or sustaining our mental health through the lockdown. Joining the livestream does those things, but the truth is our participation is part of the bigger story we have been caught up into by God’s grace and part of the bigger battle we are to wage every day, and that truth means it is never a good time to fall out of the habit of meeting. That bigger story is God’s determination to exalt Jesus as the Lord, the one to whom every knee will bow in heaven and earth [Psalm 2, Phil. 2:5-11], and the Saviour of His people, those He has ransomed for His Father from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation.' Rev. 5:9 This purpose of God runs like a powerful current through history that sweeps all in it towards God’s appointed end, and we are caught up into it when we become Jesus’ disciples, when we repent and trust the Lord Jesus. Staying in Christ we are being carried to share in the joy of His exaltation, carried along to eternal life, to a future of unimaginable goodness and beauty. One of the chief means God has given for keeping us in Christ, for staying in the current that will carry us to life, is meeting together. In our meeting we both express and experience being in the body of Christ, being united to Him; we hear the implanted word that can save our souls [James 1:21], we encourage and teach each other through song, we pray and nurture relationship with God in prayer, and we join together in the Lord’s Supper which expresses and nurtures our faith and joy in Jesus. You could say that meeting together around God’s Word in response to His calling us to Himself is a way of regularly cleaning our gospel glasses through which we see and interpret our world in ways consistent with the reality that Jesus is Lord, and to run the race of faith to the end we need to keep seeing clearly through those gospel glasses. We meet, and we are diligent to meet, because we have been caught up into the great plan and purpose of God to have a people of His own through Christ.

One of the chief means God has given for keeping us in Christ, for staying in the current that will carry us to life, is meeting together.

And we are diligent to meet because we know we are part of a bigger struggle – not against a virus but against ‘rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’ Eph. 6:12. The devil, says Peter, ‘prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’. [1 Pet. 5:8] We must resist him firm in our faith, must make full use of the armour provided by God. Meeting together keeps this spiritual reality prominent in our thinking and keeps the armour of God close at hand, keeps us engaging with truth and righteousness, being refreshed in the gospel of peace, renewed in faith and hope, enriched in word and prayer. Meeting around God’s Word is a way of stirring one another up to be alert and persevering, to resist what the author of Hebrews calls ‘the deceitfulness of sin’ [Heb. 3:13] through our mutual encouragement.

Make meeting together a priority

Truth tells us to make meeting a priority. And so does love. We can only be known as Jesus’ followers by our love for one another [John 13:34-35], and this love cannot be seen unless we are in relationship with one another. Gracious love recognizes the inadequacies and imperfections of our life together but forbears and forgives because it is eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [Eph. 4:2-3] Love wants to maintain a common life in which all can be encouraged, all can serve and be served, children can be discipled, a common witness maintained. Love is never satisfied with being ok alone. And like the love with which we have been loved by Jesus, love will reckon with and pay the cost of loving, and there is a cost, a cost you may well feel more as your freedoms increase, to maintaining our common life for the good of all.

The challenge is to use our freedom not just to pursue our own personal goals but to pursue what builds up and is helpful, not only to myself, but also to those the Lord has made my brothers and sisters, those He calls me to meet with regularly for mutual encouragement to love and doing good.

I am looking forward wholeheartedly to the further easing of restrictions. They are a blessed relief and present opportunities for good, opportunities for encouragement, for seeing and serving family, for having people over, sharing the live stream, catching up face to face with others. But these times of easing restrictions will also present us with some challenges to our discipleship that we may have become unfamiliar with during lockdown, the challenges of ‘the cares and riches and pleasures of life’ that our Lord says can choke the word and make it unfruitful. The challenge is to use our freedom not just to pursue our own personal goals but to pursue what builds up and is helpful, not only to myself, but also to those the Lord has made my brothers and sisters, those He calls me to meet with regularly for mutual encouragement to love and doing good. As you enjoy these relaxations be aware of the challenge remembering that you are not your own but bought with a price, people called to live not just individually but together for the glory of the Saviour who died to make you part of His own people, the people He will raise to eternal life to the praise of His glorious grace. [1 Cor. 6:19-20].

Staying in Touch: The victory of our Lord Jesus (30 Oct 2020)



The victory of our Lord Jesus

The uncertain victory over Covid-19

This morning I want to talk about the Lord Jesus, His victory, and the confidence believers can have in Him.

That is always good to think of and talk about, but what has prompted me in particular this week is the contrast between His victory and the victory so many are celebrating in moving to step 3, the victory in virus suppression. I am grateful for the low numbers, grateful that we seem to be moving in the direction of the fuller relaxation of restrictions that will allow us to gather, but what struck me is how limited the outcome of this ‘victory’ – for example, I am still wearing masks, still unable to have my whole family around at one time – and how fragile the achievement. Fear of a third wave is palpable, with many still anxiously tuning in for the daily numbers. The contrast between human saviours and the true Saviour is always so marked, and the felt difference has again made me very grateful that in believing in Jesus our trust is not in humans, but in the living God.

The certain victory of Christ

You see, there is nothing uncertain or fragile about the victory of Christ. It is both certain and secure, and its achievement is complete. It is good, wonderful to know and always remember that. Sometimes we can obscure that with our illustrations. Take the illustration that likens Christ’s death and resurrection to D-Day and his return to VE day in the 39-45 war. That analogy is useful in illustrating the now and not yet of our experience of the fruits of victory – the reality that we enjoy now forgiveness and new life of the Spirit, but we await the return to enjoy to the full victory over death, the not yet of the new heaven and earth. But it is misleading if it is used to suggest that the battle between Jesus and His foes is still underway, that there could still be an offensive of the devil or another expression of human rebellion, a spiritual ‘Battle of the Bulge’, that could threaten the outcome.

Jesus’ victory in His incarnation, death and resurrection is complete, the outcome now never in doubt.

Let me give you some of the many Scriptures that make this point.

Jesus, speaking in John 12:31-32 says of His coming death

"Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

From the time of the cross the ruler of this world is cast out – done with. Jesus occupies the throne, and He will be the one all must deal with.

After His resurrection and before His ascension He says

Matthew 28:18-20

"And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

All authority. Not some, with some still contested, some still be possessed. All. No competitor can rival him. All power and government is subject to Him.

Hear the apostle Paul speak of Jesus’ achievement.

Philippians 2:8-11 

"And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Not will, but has highly exalted Him and given Him now the name to which all will bow. He can’t achieve more, for there is no more to achieve.

Colossians 2:13-15 

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him."

So complete is His victory that not only are we forgiven the powers just make up part of His victory parade, the enchained opponents dragged along at the end.

Or the author of Hebrews. 

Hebrews 10:12-14 

"But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."

Jesus is no longer out on the field battling away. His death has done all that needs to be done to save His people. He is sitting down, and it is just a matter of the subjugation of His conquered enemies being made plain by them being made the footstool for His feet.

Jesus is no longer out on the field battling away.

His death has done all that needs to be done to save His people.

These are all well known passages and their message could be multiplied [e.g. Revelation 12:10-12, Ephesians 1:19-22, Acts 2:32-36]. The gospel we preach is ‘Jesus is Lord’ [2 Cor. 4:5]. Not becoming Lord when people trust Him. He is Lord. His dominion is everlasting and His achievement limitless.

Considering Jesus' acheivements

Consider His achievement, and I can only mention a few aspects.

  • HE is a present Saviour. HE is with us, and is near when we call on Him, almighty to help us wherever we are.
  • HE gives the holy Spirit, unquenchable life, assuring us of our future, the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, and transforming our present.
  • Believers are now justified and assured of peace with God [Romans 5:1-11] peace with God now and forever, of being spared wrath on the day of wrath.
  • We can boldly approach the living God. There need be no hesitancy, no masks or veils holding us back from being present in His presence. We can rely on His grace [Eph. 3:11-12, Hebrews 4:14-16].
  • The Kingdom, the longed for reign of God, is what Jesus says it is no matter how it appears to us, spreading like leaven - unseen, growing to be the largest of trees, growing up to the harvest despite opposition, worth everything [Matthew 13:24-50].
  • Even death serves believers because of Jesus’ achievement. It’s a falling asleep, the doorway to rest and then the transformation of our bodies to be like His in the resurrection [1 Cor. 15; Rev. 14:13].

Considering our own frailty

When the limitations and frailty of human achievement is so obvious it is good to remember the greatness and certainty of the achievement of our Saviour. When our own limitations and frailty are so apparent it is good to have our minds filled with the greatness of our Saviour.

And our limitations and frailty have been made obvious by this time.

When our own limitations and frailty are so apparent it is good to have our minds filled with the greatness of our Saviour.

And our limitations and frailty have been made obvious by this time.

Our planning has been exposed as so uncertain by this virus, but the virus serves Him. His plans are sure and we can rely on our almighty good shepherd to guide us to His good goal for us. We don’t need to be anxious.

We have been reminded of our mortality. But He has conquered death, we do not need to fear.

We have seen our personal frailty, how hard to be the people we want to be, to keep an even temper, to be always thankful, to not become irritable in lockdown. But Jesus is always on the job to keep us, and His strength is made perfect in weakness, His Spirit is at work in us. We can rely on Him to have us keep living the lives of His followers.

This lockdown has even exposed our sin, the cracks in our godliness, but our Lord Jesus has brought us into the new covenant where our sins are remembered no more, even the sin of our imperfect faith. We can rely on His grace.

And where the exposure of our sin might make us fearful of our strength to persevere, He has said He is mighty to keep us, that no one can pluck us from His hand.

In a world of insecure and incomplete achievement it is good to think on Christ and His victory. We preach Jesus as Lord. And it is good to live by faith in the light of His victory, with confidence that He is with us, confidence that He hears us and will help us, confidence that even in suffering He is treating with us in love for there is no condemnation, confidence He is through this time conforming us to His image, confidence He will raise us.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Staying in Touch: Engaging with re-opening (23 Oct 2020)



Engaging with the roadmap to re-opening

I was grateful to see the Government responding to the decreasing infection numbers last Sunday by easing the travel restriction to 25 km and increasing the time that could be spent outside. And yes, opening up hairdressers and barbers, although as someone enjoying memories of the long locks of the 70’s getting in to the barber won’t be my first priority.

But in terms of what we are allowed to do as a congregation not much changed on the 18th, and there are only small improvements pre-announced for the third step which, Lord willing, will start on the 1st November. We know the situation is fluid, and we might get more than they have thus far indicated, but there is no certainty. We will just have to keep our ears tuned in to the rolling announcements.

Nevertheless, it is progress, progress in the right direction, in the direction of the last step and covid normal, so today I want to talk to you about how we can make use of what is permitted in step 3 and also about the planning we are doing for the last step and beyond.

Making the most of the 3rd step

According to the roadmap as of the 1st of November, the third step, we will be able to leave home for whatever purpose and without any distance restriction. We will also be able to meet outdoors with ten people and have “two visitors once per day [plus dependants]. The two people may be from different households.” This gives a lot of scope for encouraging each other, catching up as you feel comfortable in person with many whom you have only seen on-line in recent months. You can now have another family over for a meal, invite your neighbour whom you have been getting to know through the lockdown to cross that boundary fence, or have your single friend over to share family life, or have a couple of friends join your household. I encourage you to start re-connecting in person and to build on relationships that may have developed through this time. While some of us may feel tired I think you will find in person gathering energises. Even larger groups of friends can meet outdoors, and with daylight saving and warmer weather there is opportunity to catch up after work. And we would encourage you to consider sharing the livestream with others and follow that up with a meal together. The encouraging each other to love and good works that God calls us to [Hebrews 10:24-25] depends on each one of us, and the capacity to do that face to face will continue to be in our homes during Step 3.

The encouraging each other to love and good works

that God calls us to depends on each one of us

Under step 3 churches are only allowed an outdoor gathering of up to 20 ‘plus a faith leader’, no indoor gatherings. A faith leader is someone who is either an employed pastor or a trainee. From the government’s point of view it does not include elders or growth group leaders, so this is a limited permission. Sadly what is permitted for churches is out of step with what is permitted to hospitality businesses who will be allowed 20 indoors and 50 outdoors per venue, subject to density quotients. Representation is being made to the Government about this by our Moderator and the leaders of other denominations, and we will have to wait and see if they change their mind to give us equivalence with hospitality businesses. Nevertheless the pastors will try and make use of what is allowed by starting to catch up with groups, and by conducting baptisms outside, which we plan to record and include in the livestream.

Our plans for the last step (Lord Willing!)

Hopefully we will not be in step 3 for long and will move steadily to the last step. What are we planning for this stage, when “public worship (not including private ceremonies e.g. baptism, bat mitzvah) can resume in outdoor and indoor settings subject to density quotient?”

Three introductory comments.

Firstly, as said before, we are continuing the livestream of services. We know that we will not all be able to return, nor will we all feel comfortable returning. Health varies, vulnerability varies, the requirement to stay at home if you have any symptoms of infection will mean that not all will be able to come on any given week, and confidence in our capacity to create a safe environment will vary. Even when we are in ‘Covid normal’ there will continue to be many for whom being together in the building is not an attractive option for good reasons. We will be continuing the live stream, and seeking to connect on line with those who can’t be in the physical gathering.

Secondly, we don’t know as yet the details of the government’s requirements for re-opening. Those details, whether for example we open with a maximum of 100 people in the building or whether we just need to abide by the density quotient [one person per four square metres], affect what we can do and who we can have in the building. For detailed plans we will need the detailed guidelines.

Thirdly, there is so much change we want to catch up with the leaders of ministries and growth groups to talk through with them our and their plans for the coming months as we seek to adapt to the changing regulatory environment. We are hoping to do this via Zoom on the evening of Tuesday 3rd of November

What will our sevices look like? 

So what are we thinking to do when we get to the last step, which we hope to arrive at by the end of November? At that stage we plan, Lord willing, to open the church for services.

  • We will start with two services at 10 and 5, while being committed to increasing the number of services as more and more feel comfortable in returning to face to face meeting.
  • We will be operating according to our Covid Safe plan which has already been completed and approved by the BOM, and so there will be, for example, hand sanitizer stations, distance requirements, seating arranged to conform both to the distance requirements and the density quotient, no shared food and drink.
  • We will be asking you to stay away if you have any symptoms or signs of illness.
  • There will also be cleaning requirements both before and after each service, and any activity in the building.
  • The density quotient  [one person per four square metres] sets limits on the number of people who can be in any particular space so you will need to book ahead, and we will share the details about how to do that closer to the time, for the details of the ticketing system do depend on how many will be allowed in the building. This pre-booking will also satisfy our record keeping requirements, which is a good reason to make sure your details in BundyConnect are up to date.
  • In preparation for returning to the building we will be making a series of short videos that will guide you through what to expect.
  • Due to the density quotient we won’t be able to resume a children’s programme for all children. At the moment we are planning to run creche and a program for children up to and including those in grade 2. Those in higher grades will need to continue to join their family in the service.

The need for new teams of people to serve

To make it possible to resume services we will be developing a number of teams of people who are willing and able to serve their brothers and sisters in necessary areas - ushering and registration, cleaning, and children’s ministry [creche and Sunday School].

  • The teams will be different from the rosters we have run pre-Covid.
  • We will be encouraging you to serve on only one team and to be available more than the previous one in six, as we are looking for people to develop expertise in their area and to be committed to getting their team’s job done. This may well require flexibility in when and how often they serve as gaps can easily develop if we are to stay away if we have any symptoms, as we must.
  • We are hoping that there will be in the morning teams a willingness to help get a second morning service going if the need is there.

We need to have an indication of people’s availability to serve on the cleaning, ushering and registration, and children’s teams, as re-opening will depend on the operation of these teams. So, before all the details of what will be involved can be settled, as those will depend on the regulations under which we can re-open, we are asking you to register your interest by clicking on the button on the live stream page, or by following the link in today’s email . This will allow us to plan to re-open with more confidence and also to communicate with you with further details of what will be involved before we start.

We are keen to make coming together possible, as soon as possible

We know that coming together for services again will not happen overnight. Confidence in being in each other’s presence may fluctuate, the regulatory environment will change over the coming months, there may be spikes in infection rates. There will be effort involved and changes to what might have become a comfortable Sunday routine. But we are keen to make coming together possible as soon as possible.

Why? Why when at first it will be a different experience to our pre-covid experience.

Firstly, God in His Word commands us to meet together to encourage one another, and our Creator knows what is best for us. We are embodied people, and physical presence is so much richer than virtual presence.

God in His Word commands us to meet together to encourage one another, and our Creator knows what is best for us. We are embodied people, and physical presence is so much richer than virtual presence.

But secondly, it is love that wants us to meet. Love for new believers, who can come to experience being part of the family in our gathering, get to know more of their brothers and sisters and receive their encouragement. Love of our children, whose discipleship can be supported by being able to grow up with peers who are also engaged in learning the faith. Love of the as yet unbelieving community, for our corporate witness as we serve one another in love is real and tangible, something which commends the gospel to many who are just starting to consider the faith. Love of one another, for at the heart of loving in deed and truth is physical presence, openness to the unintended opportunity for service, association on the basis of Jesus’ choice, not our own. Where it is easy for our hearts to be self absorbed and self concerned we all need the encouragement to keep our eye on the day of our Lord’s return and the community where we can grow in Christlikeness by ‘in humility counting others more significant than ourselves’, looking not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others [Phil. 2:3-4]. At the heart of that community and that encouragement is gathering together around the word of the Lord.

Where it is easy for our hearts to be self absorbed and self concerned we all need the encouragement to keep our eye on the day of our Lord’s return and the community where we can grow in Christlikeness.

So please pray and consider what you will do when restrictions are further eased, and whether you can help us get back together by serving in one of our teams.

Pray for the government, that they would be successful in suppressing the spread of the virus and look favourably upon our requests to speed up the re-opening of our churches

Pray for Session, Board and Staff as we work to ensure conformity in our gathering to government regulations for meeting, and more importantly work to make sure we can meet together safely.

Pray for each other that, in Paul’s words, our ‘love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that we may approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:9-11

Past Updates


Staying in Touch: Our varied responses... (16 Oct 2020)
Staying in Touch: The power of conviction (9 Oct 2020)
Staying in Touch: The road to 'rebuilding' (2 Oct 2020)



Staying in Touch: The temptation to grumble (25 Sep 2020)
Staying in Touch: Keep hearing God's word (18 Sep 2020)
Staying in Touch: Sadness and continuing loss (11 Sep 2020)
Staying in Touch: How do you spot Team Jesus? (4 Sep 2020)



Staying in Touch: Passages in Ezekiel (28 Aug 2020)
Staying in Touch: Promoting the presence of God (21 Aug 2020)
Staying in Touch: Encouragements this week (14 Aug 2020)
Staying in Touch: Thinking about authorities (7 Aug 2020)



Staying in Touch: Preparing to die (31 Jul 2020)
Staying in Touch: The livestream services (24 Jul 2020)
Staying in Touch: God's Word for our prayers (17 Jul 2020)
Staying in Touch: Sustaining our hope (10 Jul 2020)
Staying in Touch: Confidence in the Cross (3 Jul 2020)


Staying in Touch: Dealing with disappointment (26 Jun 2020)
Staying in Touch: Praying big prayers (19 Jun 2020)
Staying in Touch: Encouragement (12 Jun 2020)
Staying in Touch: Endurance (5 Jun 2020)


Pastors Update: As restrictions ease (29 May 2020)
Staying in Touch: Clinton Le Page (23 May 2020)
Staying in Touch: Andy May (16 May 2020)
Staying in Touch: Engaging with God (8 May 2020)
Staying in Touch: Encouragement in Nehemiah (1 May 2020)


Staying in Touch: Waiting and longing (24 April 2020)
Staying in Touch: The same and not the same (17 April 2020)
Pastors update: Changes to our gatherings (10 April 2020)
Pastors update: Grief and loss (3 April 2020)


Responding to Covid 19 (27 March 2020)
Responding to Covid 19 (19 March 2020)
Responding to Covid 19 (18 March 2020)
Responding to Covid 19 (13 March 2020)
COVID 19 Prevention (11 March 2020)