You’ve probably heard the story of the scientist who prays to God saying, “God, I’m sorry but we just don’t need you anymore. We have finally figured out how to create life out of nothing. You know, the way you once did right at the beginning.”
“Oh, is that so?” replied God, “Tell Me about it.”
“Well,” says the scientist, “we take dirt and form it, we breathe life into it and, there you have it, we’ve created a man!”
“Amazing,” says God, “that’s very interesting, could you show Me?” The scientist bends down and scrapes up some dirt and begins to mould the dirt into the shape of a man.
“No, no, no…!” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt!” Boom-Tish!
Despite what many presume, only God has the power and intelligence to create life out of nothing. Science observes and experiments, and does wonderful things, but only. . .
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At Hobart Baptist we are currently in the middle of a series of messages on forgiveness, and how important it is not only for the church, but for society to be a forgiving community.
More often than not forgiveness is not easy and quite costly. This is certainly the case for the communities that were caught up in the genocide of 20 years ago that claimed an estimated 800,000 in Rwanda.
Now, two decades later, organisations such as World Vision and AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent) are still at work endeavouring to bring healing through reconciliation and forgiveness.
Australian John Steward first arrived in Rwanda in 1997 to manage a peace building and reconciliation program for World Vision. Now after 19 visits he has seen the program, based on the value of forgiveness, cautiously grow bringing a level of healing to communities once destroyed by hate.
Upon arriving he saw people, “full of fear, struggling to get food – frantic to get jobs, dislocated and separated from their communities.” Although the government was looking for justice and the church preached forgiveness, the message was too hard to hear because people were hurt and traumatised.
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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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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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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).
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English poet and hymn writer, William Cowper (1731 – 1800) wrote these words, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.” Cowper was no stranger to God’s mysterious ways.
His mother died when he was six, he was ill-treated by his father and boarding school left him scarred for life. He became a Christian during one of his numerous spells in care overseen by a believing doctor who later became his friend. His life-long battle with depression left him institutionalised many times with many unsuccessful suicide attempts.
His friend John Newton, writer of the hymn Amazing Grace and aware of Cowper’s disposition towards melancholy and despair, proposed a collaboration on a book of hymns together. “God moves in a mysterious way,” is the first line from one of those hymns.
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Over the past months we have seen many natural disasters across Australia. It seems this summer we have lived up to Dorothea Mackellar’s description that we are a land of “droughts and flooding rains”. In fact Tasmania has not been immune with even the chaplain of our own Hobart Boy’s Brigade losing his family’s house in the bushfires.
While there are quite a few differing opinions regarding the extent to which humanity’s actions are the causes of recent climate change; that the climate is changing is quite obvious. How fast and in what ways it is changing is still open to debate.
These recent events serve to show that despite our best efforts we cannot control the weather no matter how much we would like to think we can. They remind us that we are at the mercy of weather patterns that are more powerful than we are.
Yet our desire to control the weather reveals, I believe, how we struggle to maintain a biblical view of our responsibility over creation. While we are called to be good stewards of creation we are never called to control it, but rather treat it with appropriate care.
Today the consensus of scientists is that the level of CO2 in the air and global temperatures are increasing, polar caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. The subsequent call for more care of our environment resonates deeply with our God given responsibility. However, I tend to agree with those who suggest . . . Read more >>>
There’s a wonderful thought in the middle of Isaiah where God says he did not create the world to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited (Is 45:18, MSG). While many may agree with environmentalists that there are parts of the earth worth preserving in pristine condition, it seems some environmentalists believe the world would be better off without us.
This is a different view of the world than the Bible portrays. Throughout the Bible and reflected in the verse from Isaiah, the world was made to be to be inhabited by us. We may not have always been good at doing our job; nevertheless God has never taken the responsibility for caring for the planet away from us.
With the population of the earth continuing to increase, albeit at a reduced rate since the highs of the 1960’s, there are many who would believe that the Earth is in crisis and we are in the midst of an ecological emergency. They fear the world will be unable to sustain an increasing population. What is more, there are many who place the blame at Christian traditions. Rather than accepting the biblical view that the fallen-ness of humanity is the root cause of our problems, they suggest it is the Judeo-Christian belief that God assigned humanity to rule over the earth(Genesis 1:28) that is the cause of much of its exploitation and abuse.
Some go further to suggest that monotheism itself is a problem. A belief in one God has separated humanity from its ancient connections to earth. To preserve the earth, they believe, monotheism must be rejected so that the old earth-centred myths can be revived and humanity can reconnect to Earth’s spirit. It is only then that we will rightfully and truly care for our world.
Given that such a view is one of the influences at work in the Greens movement, it is not surprising that Christians feel the rising tide of hostility against a biblical view of the world.
While many, including some scientists, encourage us to dismiss the idea of a Creator, and embark on a form of earth worship, it is good to be reminded that the earth is not here by chance. There is creative genius behind it all. As I mentioned above, Isaiah says there is no creator but God, and God created the world to be inhabited by us. Such creativeness did not result in a world of chaos or disorder, but a beautiful, mind-blowing, self-sustaining planet of immense intricacy and grandeur that is full of life, meaning, and purpose.
Such knowledge will help us not only to appreciate the world we live in but also inspire us to care for it. The earth was not made to be human-less, God created it for us and our enjoyment. So let’s enjoy it. Its majestic mountains, tall trees, crystal clear lakes, churning oceans, magnificant skies, delicate flowers and myriad insects, are there for us.
Stephen L Baxter