Back in the 1960s, our Hobart Baptist church building was full to capacity and overflowing on a weekly basis. There are a number of people still attending the church who remember it packed every Sunday with around 400 people. An all-aged Sunday School met at Elizabeth College next door because there wasn’t enough room for everyone in the church building. A lot has happened in the past 50-60 years, both in the community and the church, and those days have long since gone. Yet, there is no reason why it can’t happen again at some time in the not too distant future.
Today Hobart Baptist Church is made up over 250 people. Whether people attend the 10am service, the Karen language service, the Church With No Walls ministry or our communities of faith meeting in homes, we are a sizable number. There is no doubt God is at work amongst us and there a signs of growing and healthy church. There are many reasons to be very encouraged. As with all organisms, the church goes through times of growth . . . Read More >>>
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. 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. 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 >>>
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 >>>
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.
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? 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 >>>
An old Chinese proverb says, “If you want to know what water is, don’t ask the fish.” A fish has never lived outside its watery environment, it has no experience or language to describe its natural environment, and so it has no means to convey what it takes for granted. The same can be true for us. Much of what we accept as normal, because we were born into and it experience every day, is beyond our ability to appreciate and describe. It is only as we get older that we might begin to realise our experience of life is unique and special in certain ways and is not the experience of everyone. We take so much for granted. Compared to the rest of the world, living in Hobart is very comfortable. We are amongst the richest people in the world with access to some of the cleanest water and air on the plant. We are surrounded by magnificent beauty and most of us do not need to worry about shelter or food. At the same time we live in a society that is very secular, consumer-driven, and individualistic. Most people take it for granted and assume it is the only way to exist. However, as Christians there is much we find about our community that is contrary to our values and way of thinking. We are constantly confronted by them and often feel like a fish out of water. Across the centuries in many and various ways, Christians have been at odds with their surrounding culture, which is not surprising as we are called to stand firm against conforming (Rom 12:1-3). For us, it is a constant challenge to preserve our Christian worldview when our values clash with prevailing attitudes of our community, neighbours and families. The pull of the surrounding environment is compelling and often causes us to drift from our values without even realising it is happening. Over the past 50 to 60 years community values have changed so much we are now living our Christian lives in the midst of a hostile environment. We are in the middle of a spiritual battle which competes for our hearts and minds. Our beliefs are constantly challenged, and often rejected. We can easily feel overwhelmed and begin to flounder against strong intimidating forces. Yet we have a job to do. It is not to retreat but stand firm and relearn how we are to live as Christians in our changing world. We have to learn how to be missionaries in our community, our neighbourhoods and our families. This will require God-given insight, wisdom and passion. It will require theological reflection and a good dose of compassionate courage. It will require refreshed minds understanding again what we believe and why we believe it. It will require recharged hearts and strengthened wills. It will require deepening relationships as we walk and work together in being the witnessing community of faith God calls us to be. With God’s help we can do what the fish cannot do – we can grow to understand and describe the environment we live in so we can live differently. Paul the apostle said we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” and to “not let the world squeeze you into its mould” (Romans 12:1-3, JB Phillips). May God strengthen us as we allow him to change and equip us to be living witnesses to him in our world today. Stephen L Baxter
The school holidays finish this week in Tassie and the Year is about to begin with gusto. How has your year started? How did you fare with your New Year’s resolutions? How is your relationship with Jesus going? While not many Australians associate the New Year with God and historians tell us that New Year has no religious background, nevertheless it can be an important time for us. At this time of year when the pace of life is a little slower, we can take time to reflect, reframing and realign before fully entering fully into the New Year. Recently I was reading again the story of the Exodus when God liberated the children of Israel from Egypt leading them across the desert to the Promised Land. As they prepared to leave Egypt on the night of the Passover God said to Moses for the Israelites that this time of year will be for them “the first month, the first month of your year” (Ex 12:2). While modern Israel follows the Georgian Calendar as we do, nevertheless God instructed them . . . Read More >>>
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? Read More >>>