Grow Up!

Everyone loves to watch their  children and grandchildren growing up, and Jenny and I are no exception.
As parents, one of our key responsibilities is to help them grow up well. It begins with things as simple as eating. At the start we feed them, hoping it isn’t too long before they can feed themselves. We read them stories looking forward to the time they can read on their own. As they get older we become their taxi driver eagerly anticipating the day when they get their driver’s licence.

Baxter Family
We are very proud of our growing family. Here we are at our son’s recent engagement. Grandson Eli was otherwise distracted!

We want our children to grow to be mature, self-supporting, capable adults whose lives will make a difference. To do that we nurture and discipline, explain and discuss things, train and mentor them. Sometime we allow them to go into difficult and uncomfortable situations hoping they will grow. Sometimes we withdraw our presence and support so they learn to do things without us. As they grow we add more responsibilities hoping to encourage them to take responsibility for all aspects of their lives.
Some kids can’t wait to grow up, others find it difficult. Either way, growing up is something we all face and can’t avoid. In fact, it continues throughout our lives. The moment we stop learning, growing and maturing is the moment we die.
The same is true following Jesus. Read More >>>

The Incredible Power of Forgiveness

At the moment, the monthly men’s discussion group I am part of is reading through Philip Yancey’s book, What’s so Amazing about Grace.

Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey

Last month we month we discussed the chapter “Why Forgive?” In it Yancey quotes author Lewis Smedes, “The first and often the only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness… When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.”
Strangely, we forgive not only for the benefit of the one we forgive, but also, perhaps more importantly, for ourselves.
Last month Desmond Tutu, the, now retired, South African Anglican archbishop, Nobel Peace Prize winner and social activist released his latest book, The Book of Forgiving. Co-written with his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, Tutu draws on his experience as the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa to guide people along a process towards forgiveness.
Why? Forgiveness is incredibly powerful.
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Pentecost: A Birthday!

The day of Pentecost is one of the most important days in the life of the church.
Just as each year you celebrate your birthday, at Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the church. The events of that day so empowered a group of people and ignited such a passion in them that the effects are still felt in the world today. Have you ever prayed that God might do it again in your life, in your city?

Birthday candles, flame, wind
Just as each year you celebrate your birthday, at Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the church.

On that day Jews from across the known world had gathered in Jerusalem for one of their annual celebrations. Only weeks before they had come for another festival, the Passover, when there had been a small disturbance when yet another messianic hopeful, Jesus of Nazareth, had been crucified by the Romans. His small band of followers were in hiding fearing reprisal and nowhere to be seen. There were rumours circulating that some people had seen Jesus alive.
Then, something unheard of took place.
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Mothers: Not taking them for granted

Wikipedia tells us, not surprisingly “that Mother’s Day has the highest number of phone calls.”
Interestingly, “the most collect calls are made on Father’s Day.” Obviously dads can pay. On Mother’s Day yesterday, many people rang their mothers or sent cards or even took them out for a meal or something similar.

“On Mother’s Day many people ring their mothers or send cards or even take them out for a meal”
Although it is not a biblical day and many are discouraged by the commercialism of Mother’s Day, God calls us to honour our parents. Anytime that happens is surely a good thing, even if people are unaware they are following God’s desire.
This often happens the world over where people embrace a good thing unaware that God, the Creator, has already said we should do it. God is always at work in the world and in people’s lives even if they are totally unaware of it.
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Avoiding that Final Journey?

Death is one of those things we avoid in any way we can. We fill our lives with things, we immerse ourselves in books, movies or other fantasies, we focus on our careers neglecting everything else, we party, play and distract ourselves from the impending, inevitable reality.
However, we don’t do death like we used to. Once afraid of ‘meeting their maker’, today people are resigned to there being no meeting at all. No longer afraid of going to hell, most are fearful of going nowhere at all.

Religious Candles and Cross
Often today’s funerals are not even about the person who died but about “managing our grief.”

Today people want to die quickly, preferably in their sleep. In the past when most people had a Christian worldview even if they were not Christians, they wanted to know when death would come so they could be prepared. “Prepare for what?” you might wonder.
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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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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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God Is Waiting

God is patient if nothing else. Although it had been a long and painful nine months for Joseph and Mary, God had been waiting since before the creation of the world.

“It had been a long and painful nine months for Joseph and Mary”

It was in the fullness of time that he came. The Creator born a creature; eternity inhabited time; God arrived as a fragile, small, helpless and dependent baby. The destiny of the entire human race implanted in the uterine wall of young virgin girl. As Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “God’s infinity, dwindled to infancy.”
God went from everything to nothing (2 Cor 8:9) and emptied himself (Phil 2:7) in the process. He had lived in eternity and had created all things, now he was part his own creation.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” John writes (1:14). Though he was the designer of the Universe he came incognito as a baby – God in human flesh; God with skin on.
Here lies a mystery at the heart of our faith.  Read More >>>

Christmas is Coming!

Advent is a time where our hopes are rekindled, our hearts are revived and our longings revisited. Christians around the world will again declare their deep yearning for Christ to return and make all things new. They wait with great anticipation. Expectancy is perhaps the best way to describe it because there is a significant difference between expectation and expectancy.

Christmas is Coming!
“Advent is a time where our hopes are rekindled, our hearts are revived and our longings revisited”

Expectation is the anticipation and belief that something will happen, or is at least likely to happen. Expectancy, on the other hand is what you experience when you are hoping that something will happen. Expectation has a picture of a preferred outcome, expectancy knows something is about to happen but it is not quite sure what.
Sadly, however, our consumer culture is full of expectation rather than expectancy.
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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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