What is forgiveness when the face of evil stares us straight at us? Given last week it is a question we are forced to ask.
In NZ, a single gunman opened fire in a Mosque killing fifty people and in Sao Paulo two hooded gun men opened fire in a public school killing eight people before turning the guns on themselves. Evil is a present reality. and it is so difficult to know how to respond.
You may remember the story from a several years back of the sad shooting in an Amishschoolhouse in the US. In that incident, the gunman took the lives of five Amish girls and injured five others. It was tragic moment where the life of these simple Amish folk became international news.
The simple, 18th century lifestyle of the Amish is quite out-of-place in our modern age. Yet, their unique, genuine and deep faith in God shone through the media coverage.
One of mum’s favourite sayings was, ‘patience is a virtue’. In our fast paced, instant gratification world, patience is often disregarded, but sorely needed. Jesus taught about patience and it has great application for how we live are to live in the world, in the church and with yourself.
Jesus’ parable of the Wheat and Weeds (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43) is foundational to my worldview. In this parable, a farmer sows good seed. Then, in the middle of the night his enemy walks through his field sowing more seeds.
It was a scenario familiar to those who heard Jesus tell the story. The seed sown by the enemy was darnel, a type of ryegrass looking very much like wheat in its early stages of growth. Roman law prohibited sowing it in the field of one’s enemy.
The Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast is an annual event where leaders and Christians from across Tasmania gather to pray for our State and listen to a guest speaker. Each year I give a short introduction to explain the breakfast. Here is what I said in 2017 titled, “The Problem with Losing My Religion.” See here for 2015 and 2016.
Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast | August 16, 2017
As we begin this morning, it is important we take a few moments to reflect on why we gather.
Over the past 12 years the breakfast has carved out a unique niche on the civic landscape of our state. It is a place where leaders from government, business, not-for-profits, community groups and the church gather on neutral ground to honour each other, hear a Christian talk about their life, work and trust in Jesus, and pray for our state, our leaders, our institutions and our people.
It is a unique niche, away from our churches and denominations, away from our politics and lobbying,
In 1999, Australian psychologist, social researcher and writer Hugh Mackay suggested the time was right for a revival in Australia. He promptly went on to predict it wouldn’t happen, and was right. There has been no revival of faith in Australia in the two decades since. In fact, McCrindle Research confirms the number who call themselves Christian has fallen to52%.
Even though the number of Australians identifying with no religion or a spiritual belief has risen to 32% there is still more than two thirds (68%) who do. In fact, the majority of Australians (55%) still believe in God, when God is defined as the Creator of the universe or Supreme Being. Similarly, the majority (53%) believe Jesus is very important to the history and culture of the world. That’s about the same percentage as those who call themselves Christian.
Of all those who call themselves Christian, only 15% of Australians attend church regularly. Less than a third. The figures confirm there hasn’t been a revival. They also suggest Jesus is still attractive to many non-church goers.
One such person was R. M. Williams the Australian bushman and entrepreneur.
“Plausibility structures” is the term employed by American sociologist, Peter Berger. It describes the preconceived personal and cultural assumptions we all hold and inform us what can and can’t be believed.
Plausibility Structures help explain how some people persist in believing things that aren’t true and other disbelieve what is true. No matter what the evidence, if it doesn’t conform to their preconceived expectations of plausibility, they will not accept it.
For example, there is just as much historical evidence suggesting Jesus existed than there is that Tiberius Caesar conquered the Gauls (perhaps more). But which is more plausible in Australia today?
“The future isn’t what it used to be.” French poet Paul Valery wrote these words over 90 years ago. Its just as true today. In our rapidly changing world the future looks scary. As a society we have moved from optimism to pessimism. In Tasmania today, particularly among our young people, their a great fear and cynicism towards the future, not only for themselves but for all of humanity.
The Blue Marble
The first pictures of planet Earth from outer space taken over 50 years ago brought a profound scientific and philosophical shift for many people. For the first time we saw our world as a small and lonely. Although beautiful, it sat suspended amid a vast, infinite and silent universe.
No longer was earth a series of continents, islands, nations, and peoples living in a fixed and unalterable environment. >>> CONTINUE READING
Growing up in Australia, “god” was a word I heard often. At school it was commonly an expletive, at home it was never anything but revered. I’ve lived with God all my life and now into my seventh decade, God still comes easy to me. I can’t say the same for being a Christian though. That’s been tough. Most of my life I’ve been embarrassed to be a Christian, even though today I’m a pastor of a Baptist church.
I’ve always been tall and skinny. For most of my life I’ve worn clothes that haven’t fitted well. It the same with the word “Christian”. Christians come in all manner of shapes and sizes and so do people’s opinion of them. When I tell someone I’m a Christian I can almost feel the shape of their preconceptions redressing me. Suddenly, I’m no longer the person they first met, but an airbrushed caricature made in their image.
“Places of worship are about turning strangers into friends.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Like any good teacher, particularly a Jewish one, Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a question. When the expert asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by asking the lawyer what he thought. The lawyer answered, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” It was a good response and Jesus told him so.
Full of confidence the expert in the law went on to ask a second question. Perhaps he shouldn’t have. This time Jesus answers the question with a story and the expert is caught out. read more >>>
The Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast is an annual event where leaders from across Tasmania gather to pray for our State and listen to a guest speaker. Each year I have the opportunity to provide a short introduction. Here is what I said in 2016 titled, “Biting the historical hand that fed us.”
Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast | August 18, 2016
As we begin our breakfast, let me take a moment to reflect on some of the reasons we are here at a Prayer Breakfast.
It is 50 years since Time magazine published its first every text-only cover. The heading was a three-word question — “Is God Dead?” The article asked whether religion was relevant in a modern, post-atomic world.
Today, many Australians might answer, “God who?” and while they may or may not be sure whether God is dead or alive, one thing is certain, he or she has no place in Australian society. read more
The book of Philippians is sometimes called “The Epistle of Joy”. JOY.
We don’t really know how to define it, but we know that we like it and many of us spend most of our lives trying to find it. We look for joy in our jobs, in relationships, in temporary pleasure.
But at the end of the day, all these things will fall short. They will leave us empty and unfulfilled and we start looking somewhere new the find our joy. But as believers, we have never-ending access to the most powerful source of true joy.
In his spiritual biography appropriately entitled “Surprised by Joy”, C.S. Lewis says joy moved him more than anything else.
He writes, “No one who has ever experienced it would ever exchange it for all the happiness in the world.”
Lewis distinguished Joy from both pleasures and happiness. Happiness is a fleeting emotion based on external circumstances. But true joy is different – it is something that comes from within. It’s a deep abiding peace and sense of contentment and strength that is due to something internal. Joy is deep in the heart, in the spirit, in the essence of our being. The way to pleasure is power. The way to happiness is happenstance. The way to Joy is Jesus.
During April and May the sermon series at Hobart Baptist Church focuses on the gift of joy. By studying Philippians we’ll be surprised by the counter-intuitive, supernatural nature of joy. This joy is something no circumstance can give you, and no circumstance can ever take away.
You can catch up with the sermons by clicking HERE Please let me know if you learn some new insights, or are encouraged by any of the sermons!
Stephen L Baxter