[Please note I am having a break from blogging during January. Ill be back in full swing in February! SLB] Christmas Day is almost here and the lead up to it is full of waiting, longing, expecting, and hoping — and not only for children. For centuries Christians have set aside the four Sundays prior to Christmas as a time to rehearse again the anticipation of Christ’s coming. Advent – the word comes from the Latin meaning ‘coming’, ‘appearance’ or ‘return’ – inspires us to look backward to Christ’s first coming, and to look forward in expectation of his coming into the world and our lives today. With a quick look at our Christmas celebrations, one could be excused for concluding our longings consist of cute babies, worshipful farm animals, humble shepherds, and camel-riding astrologers. But these are just the backdrop to a much grander and more profound story – God visits planet earth with the aim of restoration and renewal that is nothing short of a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17-25). Fuelled by the prophetic writings of Isaiah, Jews and Christians alike look forward to a day when God’s Messiah will set the world aright, bringing justice to the nations (Is 42:1) and producing a world of full of peace and harmony (Is 9:1-7; 11:1-9). It was the same on that first Christmas. The Israelites were looking to God to send the long promised Messiah to rescue them from their plight at the hands of the occupying Roman army. Their world was in turmoil, their future looked bleak, and they cried out to God. Throughout history, people have longed to be rescued. As the recent siege in Sydney illustrates the world is often a very difficult place to live in. Read More >>>
Despite the many challenges facing the Australian today there are good reasons not to despair.
In his book, Losing my Religion, Tom Frame, Director of St Mark’s National Theological Centre in Canberra concludes, “unless there is a turnabout in the fortunes of all community organisations . . . the Christian Church will be a marginal player in Australian life with a few surviving remnants”. While this may sound somewhat melodramatic it nonetheless it reflects what many believe about the church in Australia. Yet not all is doom and gloom, there are signs that God is at work even if it is in areas we are not accustomed to. One area that is cause for celebration is the impressive growth in independent schools. Today more than 40% of Australian high school students attend private or non-government schools. This is up from 20% in the 1960s and has been primarily driven by the establishment of new religious schools. It is perhaps the most defining change in the educational landscape in Australia over the past twenty years. Read More >>>
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 >>>
Salt and light are important ingredients to our everyday living. A little salt makes a big change in the way food tastes and a little light transforms a dark room. These ordinary everyday things are very powerful change agents. When Jesus called his followers to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) he was affirming a familiar theme in scripture. God’s first command to the first human beings on earth was “to work it and take care of it.”(Genesis 2:15). Then, even after the fall of humanity when most have rejected God, he reiterated the call to Noah (Genesis 9:1-3). Then when the people of Israel are in exile in Babylon he calls them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7). Similarly, in the New Testament Peter encourages Christians to see how they can impact those who don’t believe by the way they live their lives (1 Peter 2:12). Read More >>>
Perhaps one of the more difficult things to do in our contemporary society is to take an opposing stand on any popular moral issue.
If you try to present an alternative view on a subject, such as same sex marriage or abortion, you find yourself on the end of strong criticism and being branded intolerant. This makes life difficult for Christians and has great implications for the way we evangelise. When Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) he was making a bold claim. When he told his disciples to, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15–16), he was revealing the truth. But such statements are not welcome today and are branded intolerant. Read More >>>
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.
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. Read More >>>
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.
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. Read More >>>
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.
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. Read More >>>
A little over a week ago, Tasmanians voted resulting in a change of government. There were no military action, riots or bloodshed just a smooth transition, somewhat abnormal relative to the rest of the world. It is something we can celebrate about our country and be very grateful for.
However, many of us are not content or happy with some of the decisions and actions taken by our governments. In fact, there are things that distress us greatly such as abortion law reform and the treatment of asylum seekers. It is not difficult to become cynical, even bitter and then ultimately become prayerless for our government. Is there another way to respond? Recently I’ve been pondering whether our disappointment and disdain is fuelled, at least in part, by an overly optimistic expectation of the potential and character of governments. Much of the commentary in the media operates with the presumption that governments should somehow solve all the problems of our society. Read More >>>
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 >>>