It is never easy to fully appreciate how others see the world. As an Australian Christian who believes in one God, my first visit to India opened my eyes to the completely different world of polytheism (many-gods). What was fanciful and strange to me, was normal to millions of people. Bowing, praying and worshiping to multiple deities was way outside my understanding of what religion was all about.
Just as strange, but in a different sort of way, is the view of some that there is nothing but the natural world—no God, no gods, no higher intelligence—nothing. However, I am yet to find a “pure” atheist, most seem to accept that there may be something.
Did you know that the early Christians were considered atheists by the Romans? It started with the Jews. Read More >>>
Everyone Is Welcome!
It’s my belief that it is getting more difficult for Christians to live in our community which is founded on Christian values yet increasingly rejects the God of Christianity. We have much to learn about living in such an environment.
While on holidays recently, walking around Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima, Jenny and I became increasingly aware of the yellow tiles with raised patterns, about 30cm square, running along almost all footpaths. In shopping malls and railway stations, on footpaths above and underground arcades below, there they were again. We’ve seen them in Hobart, but not in such abundance. They tiles are for the blind so they can find their way. Using their stick to run across the patterns,they can navigate their way around.
It’s perhaps one thing our world should be commended for – giving attention and care to the disadvantaged in our community, in this instance the blind. Yet, while it should be applauded most people are totally unaware that this valuing of all people is part of our community because of its Christian heritage.
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Life! In All Its Fullness
Jenny and I had a wonderful two weeks in Japan despite the heat and humidity, because of course, it is the middle of summer there in August.
Towards the end of our time we were sitting on the cool second floor of the Starbuck’s overlooking Shibuya crossing, Tokyo – a five way intersection with a pedestrian-only segment in the cycle. Some say is the busiest crossing in the world. Up to 3,000 people walk across at any one time and an estimated half a million people every day. That’s more than double the population of greater Hobart. But it’s not so surprising, when you consider Tokyo’s population of 13.35 million people.
As we sat watching a series of traffic light cycles, with thousands of people swarming across, I wondered what they might have been thinking. Most of them, no doubt, were just going about their normal lives made up of the same things I do: eating, sleeping, working, playing, raising children, caring for loved ones, carrying burdens, worrying about the future and so on. Some were possibly racing to their next appointment, others were lost in a daydream and most were using their smart phone in one way or another.
In that moment I found myself marveling at the wonder of life itself.
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God’s Intended Complementaries
In a recent interview, British theologian, N. T. Wright, warned when “anybody — pressure groups, governments, civilizations — suddenly change the meaning of key words, you really should watch out.”
It happened in Nazi Germany and in post-1917 Russia, and, he suggests, is happening today. He gives the example of trend to speak of “assisted suicide” rather than name it as a “killing.”
Wright then turns the current debate around same-sex marriage. He says that the word marriage has “for thousands of years (and across-cultures) meant between man and woman. Sometimes it’s been one man and more than one woman. Occasionally it’s been one woman and more than one man . . . but it’s always been male plus female. Simply to say that you can have a woman-plus-woman marriage or a man-plus-man marriage is radically to change that, because of the givenness of maleness and femaleness.”
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You Foolish Galatians!
Recently at Hobart Baptist Church we recently began a new series of messages based upon Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I’m looking forward to all that God will bring out of it for us.
When he wrote this letter, Paul had just arrived back in Antioch in Syria after his first short term mission journey that lasted about 18 months. It was here he heard news that the new communities of faith he helped establish in the region of Galatia were struggling. Concerned for their welfare, Paul wrote a very firm, even angry, letter to them.
Now when we say Paul ‘wrote’ a letter, it is good to remember this was 2000 years ago when literacy was sparse and the cost of materials high. Paul was not skilled at writing so he would have engaged a professional scribe.
Traditional Christian art often depicted Paul at a desk, pen in hand. But this is not how it would have happened. Nor is the image accurate of him pacing back and forth dictating furiously to his secretary. Rather, for Paul, letter writing would have been a very time consuming process.
He most likely would have been with his team in a room tossing around ideas that were captured laboriously by the secretary.
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Let’s Throw a Party!
Tony Campolo, an American sociologist, writer, pastor, and public speaker, tells a story of a time when he was speaking in Honolulu, Hawaii. Due to jet lag he was awake at 3 o’clock in the morning so went out to get breakfast and the only place he could find open was a bit of a dive. Assessing the food may not be good for him ordered a coffee and donut.
As he sat there, in walked eight or nine boisterous prostitutes who promptly sat next to him. Feeling out of place and about to leave he overheard one woman say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39.” Her companions responded quite sarcastically, “So you want cake? You want us to throw a party?”
“I’m just saying it’s my birthday. You don’t have to hurt my feelings,” the woman responded, “I’ve never had a birthday party in my life.”
After they had left Campolo asked the cook if they came every night. Responding “yes” the cook asked, “why d’ya wanna know?” Campolo mentioned he had heard her say tomorrow is her birthday and suggested they throw a party for her. The cook and his wife thought it was a great idea and mentioned her name was Agnes.
So that’s what they did. Read More >>>
I have no doubt that every parent’s patience has been tested during the “why” stage of their child’s development. No matter where you are or what you are doing, a small voice incessantly asks the simplest of questions, “Why?”
It is staggering the number times the simple query can be asked before breakfast. Eager to understand the world in which they find themselves, children seek explanations for each, and every, thing they touch or see.
Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese industrialist, inventor and founder of Toyota Industries in the 1930s based his widely used technique on the same question. It’s called the “5 Whys”. 5 Whys is a practical problem solving technique that asks series of questions designed to uncover the underlying cause of a problem or defect. It is very simple. You simply keep asking the question “why” until you reach the essential cause of the problem you need solved. A quick search of the internet will explain how to use this quite effective tool.
Yesterday morning at Hobart Baptist we concluded our short series on God’s Mysterious Ways. God and life is full of mystery, causing us to often ask “Why?” Perhaps the greatest of these is, “Why do things exist?”
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The Mystery of Working out Your Faith
“God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform,” so wrote English poet William Cowper in 1779. God’s Mysterious Ways is the current theme of our Sunday morning messages at Hobart Baptist Church.
One of the mysteries of our Christian lives is how God works within us. The apostle Paul expresses the mystery well when he writes, “my dear friends . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12, 13).
Even though God is at work within us changing us to be more and more like Jesus, we have to work at it too.
The reality of God’s grace is wonderful. His unmerited favour is the foundation and centre of our faith. We can’t earn our relationship with God, it is a free gift which can only be received. It is not a one-off event because every day of our lives God’s ongoing mercy, compassion, love and grace is there for us.
However, there is more to the Christian life than passively receiving God’s grace. Read More >>>