He Dared to Dream

The carriage was tightly packed with passengers as they settled down for the long journey. Among them were the regulars, those tired workers returning home from long night shifts in city factories. There were also children returning home after their term at boarding school, and there were some tourists eagerly anticipating their new adventure.

In the corner, near the window, was an old man. Next to him, by the window, was a younger man in his mid-30s. As the train moved out of the station the younger one started talking excitedly and loudly. “Dad, do you see the trees and the way they move in the wind. It’s wonderful isn’t it?” “Dad, look at the rain. Isn’t the way it falls beautiful.” “Hey Dad, look at the grass, what a lovely colour green is.” And so on.

“Hey Dad, look at the grass, what a lovely colour green is.”
“Hey Dad, look at the grass, what a lovely colour green is.”

Everyone heard the running commentary and thought it a somewhat strange. However, the longer it continued the more frustrated they become and began murmuring amongst themselves. The young man, unaware of their discomfort, continued his joyful observations.

Suddenly it became too much for one passenger who turned to the old man saying, “Can’t you keep him quiet? It is all very off putting. If he is unwell take him to hospital.”

The old man gracefully turned to the passenger and smiled.
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Unity vs Diversity

Yesterday at  Hobart Baptist Church we had our monthly combined worship service. It’s called ‘combined’ because Hobart Baptist is in fact four distinct congregations with people of many different ages and racial backgrounds.

Halve Poverty_HBC_1Sept13
“Hobart Baptist is in fact four distinct congregations with people of many different ages and racial backgrounds”

After our service we continued our worship with lunch together, and if you had hung around for lunch you would have noticed that one of the striking features of this church is our diversity.
Hobart Baptist Church is a not only a multiracial church but a multicultural one as well. By multiracial I refer to a church with people from different ethnicities and languages but with a single common culture. By multicultural, on the other hand, I refer to a church not only of people from different backgrounds, cultures and languages, but they are encouraged to retain their cultural distinctives, resulting in more than one culture.
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The Intolerance of Tolerance

Jesus commands us to love others, even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44), and to grant them the respect and dignity we give ourselves. But that does not mean we have to agree with everything they say and do.

I can't bear it!
Despite acting with tolerance we are often branded intolerant and even bigoted

One of the most strongly held values in our society today is the notion of tolerance. We regularly read and hear how important it is to be tolerant of each other. As Christians we normally have no problems accepting this, and by and large the majority of us do act in tolerant ways. Yet, despite this we are often branded intolerant and even bigoted. But why? How is it that we can be tolerant but branded intolerant at the same time?
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Turning from and Waiting for

Over the past 50 to 60 years the church in Australia has certainly faced many challenges, and those challenges still persist today. We face growing scrutiny and increasing critique from many directions, even as our churches experience declining attendance and aging facilities. Often we are left bewildered and lost as to how we should live in this changing and challenging environment.

Map of Mcedonia, including Thessalonica
Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica relates well to the description of Paul’s ministry and movements in Acts 17-18.

Writing to the church in Thessalonica, Paul speaks encouragement from reports he had heard about them. He writes of “how [they] turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thess. 1:9-10).
Paul praises them for two things: for no longer worshiping idols but only the Creator God; and for waiting for Jesus to rescue them from God’s impending judgement. I wonder if the example of the Thessalonians could be helpful for us in working out how we should live.
We don’t talk about idols much today, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
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Hope for the Church

There are many things that can cause us to despair the shape of the church today. Declining numbers, aging congregations and growing hostility can tempt us to think all is lost. However, there is reason to hope. 

child labour
The youngest workers  crawled underneath machines while in operation to gather up loose cotton. Many died when they got caught in the machinery.

In Britain – at the height of the Industrial Revolution in 1740 – poverty, social injustice, child labour, harsh living conditions and long working hours were rampant. Children aged five or six worked 14 to 16-hour days in mines, people were executed for petty crimes such as stealing a loaf of bread, drunkenness was rampant and gambling extensive. It lead philosopher Bishop Berkeley to lament that morality and religion had collapsed “to a degree that was never known in any Christian country.”[i] At St. Paul’s Cathedral London on Easter Sunday morning, 1740, only six people were in attendance for communion.
Jenny and I visited St Paul's Cathedral in 2012
Jenny and I visited St Paul’s Cathedral in 2012

It was in this context that God did a new thing: George Whitefield began to preach to coal miners in 1738. He in turn inspired the Wesley brothers, who turned Britain around.
Over the next five or so decades God transformed the lives of people and the society of Britain. Thousands upon thousands accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, slavery was abolished, child labour laws introduced, trade unions established, and prisons reformed.
Reflecting on the history of the church over a century later . . .
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[i] Introduction to the History of Christianity, Dowley, 2014

All Change!

The “Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.”
Martin Van Buren
In 1829 the Governor of New York at the time, Martin Van Buren, wrote to the American President, Andrew Jackson, demanding his Federal government preserve the country’s system of water canals. He was fearful of “the spread of a new form of transportation known as ‘railroads’”. The result he said, would be “serious unemployment,” “boat builders would suffer,” and that “towline, whip and harness makers would be left destitute.”
The problem with the ‘railroad’ he said was that “carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of fifteen miles per hour.” This was frightening to women, children and livestock, and passengers’ lives were in danger. He concluded that the “Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.”
Change is never easy. Sometimes we love it, sometimes we tolerate it, sometimes it makes us angry, and sometimes it frightens us terribly. We can long for it and plan for it, yet at the same time we will fear it and even actively resist it.
Yet change is inevitable . . . Read more >>>

Oh Lord—It’s Hard to be Humble!

A good friend of Jenny and mine loved the old country song by Mac Davis , “O, Lord, it’s hard to be humble.” (1980)

You can watch a hilarious version here wth the Muppets on Youtube:

(Or if the video doesn’t show up on your screen, then click here.)
Our friend would sing the chorus with a deep irony consistent with what the writer no doubt intended. It reads:
O, Lord, it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
‘Cus I get better looking each day

To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man
O, Lord, it’s hard to be humble
I’m doing the best that I can.

I’m not sure about you, but I still chuckle every time I read or sing those words. There is something humorous about trying to be humble when you think you are pretty good to start with.
The irony comes from the almost certainty that if you think you’re humble, you’re probably not! Trying to be humble, as the song alludes, does not necessarily increase humility. In fact, the opposite is likely to be the truth. The very moment you think you have arrived you haven’t. For all your effort the only thing you’ve achieved is to increase your pride.
Yet, throughout the New Testament we are encouraged, if not commanded to be humble. Peter tells us, “be humble” (1Peter 3:8). So does Paul, “be completely humble” (Ephesians 4:2). Being humble is obviously very important and aiming for humility something to be attempted. But how do we go about it if all that happens is less humility and more pride?
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(Church) Life is like a Jigsaw Puzzle . . .

There are things about doing jigsaw puzzles that can tell us about life

A couple of years ago I was given three jigsaw puzzles for Christmas. Over the years I have at times taken out one of them over holidays as a way to relax – maybe they were trying to tell me something! Interestingly, there are things about doing jigsaw puzzles that can tell us about life, particularly church life.
The best place to begin a jigsaw is to have the solution, normally the picture on the cover of the box. It gives you a picture of what all the pieces are meant to look like when completed. Funnily enough it is the same with the church. It is a mixture of a whole lot of different people, relationships and activities. Without the big picture it is easy to lose perspective of God’s big plan of salvation and to focus instead on all the small pieces, forgetting that they fit into a bigger plan.
But even though we have the picture, a jigsaw puzzle can still only be solved one piece at a time with great patience and perseverance. Similarly the church.
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Violins and Remembering who we are

The story goes that the German violinist Fritz Kreisler had an hour to spare before his boat sailed for London where he was scheduled for a concert performance . . .
The proprietor of the music shop Kreisler had wandered into asked if he could look at the violin tucked under his arm. After one glimpse the proprietor quickly vanished returning with two policemen who promptly arrested Kreisler.MP900382756[1]
“What for?” Kreisler asked. “Because, you have Fritz Kreisler’s violin,” came the reply.
“But I’m Fritz Kreisler,” he protested. But they didn’t believe him. Aware his boat was about to sail Kreisler asked for the violin and began to play a piece he was well known for. It didn’t take long before the store proprietor and the policemen were convinced and let catch his boat.
Kreisler’s story is a great illustration of the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words”. It is not what you say but what you do that really counts. It reminds me of Jesus’ comment that, “everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
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Baptism: Being Immersed in Jesus

Yesterday at Hobart Baptist Church we enjoyed for the second week in a row, three special baptisms. It is was a special time of celebration when new followers of Jesus Water bubble and wavesdeclared their commitment and faith in this way.
If you were able to take a moment to look around our church you would notice we are an international church with many different backgrounds, languages, ages, cultures and experiences.  We currently have three gatherings on Sundays . . .
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