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.
“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.
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
Greetings to all as another year begins!
The start of every year is often one full of anticipation for many people. It presents a moment of opportunity for a fresh beginning, a chance to start over, and a hope for a better year.
While New Year’s resolutions may not be for everyone, for most of us there lurks in the back of our mind a list of things we would like to do better. Whether we want to ‘turn over a new leaf’ or ‘start from scratch’, looking ahead to the coming year is like a blank canvass stretched out before us. There are 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, or 8,750 hours full of opportunity and promise waiting to be explored. Sometimes our hopes for the New Year are born of disappointments, grief or pain from the past. Sometimes they are born of dreams, visions or the hopes for ourselves or others. Others times they come from the promptings of our heart through the Spirit of God or God’s word to us from the Bible.
Though the Bible doesn’t mention New Year resolutions, it does urge us to examine our lives regularly. The call to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) reminds us how difficult it can be in the midst of a noisy world to find the space to connect with God. Yet Paul encouraged the Corinthians to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5) and Lamentations suggests we “examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lam 3:40). And Jesus often withdrew to isolated places to reflect and prayerfully discern the Father’s will (Lk 5:16).
Perhaps you could take some timeout this January to sit quietly, reflect on your life and spend time with God. Here’s some thoughts to help you on your way . . . Read more >>>
Have you ever heard of a Clayton’s Christmas? It’s a Christmas you have without having a real Christmas.
Back in the 1970s and 80s Clayton’s was a heavily marketed non-alcoholic, non-carbonated Australian beverage that looked a bit like whisky. Its boast was it is “the drink you have when you’re not having a drink”. It was aimed at reducing drinking among those who drank to excess.
Although it hasn’t been advertised for years, the idea of having a “Clayton’s” has entered into Australian vernacular. Today you can have a Clayton’s anything – a Clayton’s Tax: a tax that doesn’t raise any revenue; a Clayton’s marriage; a Clayton’s football team; even a Clayton’s Cake Stall! This is a fundraiser where you ask people to donate what they would have spent on baking the cake rather than baking it.
The shepherds must have been quite overwhelmed and awestruck that night when the heavenly host gathered to praise God proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14).
A quick reflection on world events over the past 12 months reveals the world still needs peace as much now as ever. In every nation and every community there is much pain and suffering, sorrow and injustice, sickness, violence and poverty. We long for peace, and not just any peace. We long for a peace greater than just the end of hostilities, but one where justice is done and the human heart is changed.
Sixty years ago, during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, American Baptist pastor, Martin Luther King Jr, proclaimed, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
This is the peace the world needs and it is the peace the angels sang about. Yet, such a peace is hard to come by. Even in my own life I find it uncomfortably easy to slip from peace to hostility. Read On >>>
Psalm 27 encourages us to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) This is a fitting encouragement as we begin Advent this week.
Advent is the time of celebration over the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve. Although there is no mention of it in the Bible, many people find it not only an enjoyable time but one that is spiritually enriching. It is, like the Psalm suggests, a time of great anticipation, of waiting, expecting, and hoping.
The entire nation of Israel had waited centuries for their Messiah to appear. Luke tells us the devout and righteous Simeon had been “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25) and the prophetess, Anna, was “looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38). Read On >>>
Writing in The Mercury’s TasWeekend recently (Nov 14), columnist Charles Wooley commented, “That’s the principle of the separation of church and state. To be less highfalutin, I think that just as we try to keep politics out of sport, our politicians should try to keep religion out of politics. It’s annoying to the large numbers who don’t share their particular faith and, besides, it only makes politicians look stupid.”
Wooley’s view no doubt reflects what many Tasmanians think, although how many it is hard to say. It is hardly an original suggestion and rather clichéd, yet in today’s society, it is somewhat naïve.
Despite what some might believe, the Australian constitution does not preclude religion in politics. What it does stipulate is that “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion” and “The Commonwealth shall not make any law … for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion”. The aim is to ensure no one denomination or religion becomes the official national church, and no person, no matter what their religious belief, will be barred from participating because of their religion. This is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
The argument that religion has no place in politics stands on a fallacy and an assumption secularism is somehow “value neutral”, while religion remains “value charged”. Read More >>>
Slowly, subtly, and almost unnoticed it happens to the best of churches. It is detectable in churches in the Bible; it is found in churches across Australia.
Quietly we drift away from our core calling. Rather than focusing outwardly into the world of the lost, the lonely and the broken, we gaze inwardly at each other. Rather than caring and praying for those who don’t know Jesus, we spend our time and money caring for ourselves. Church members and church buildings become our focus. Jesus called his disciples to go and make disciples. We are all called to be missionaries. Wherever we live or work or go to school that is the focus of our mission. For those of us who live in Australia, that means being a missionary right here.
Here in Tasmania, and within the denomination of which I am a part, regaining a healthy mission focus in our churches is the heart of Tasmanian Baptists’ desire to be a “mission shaped movement”.
It’s not as easy as it might sound. Once a church has become inwardly focused, there is a tendency to cling to the traditional ways of doing things and change becomes difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible. Quite often the process of refocusing a church outwardly, and bringing mission to its heart, is a very painful process. The tension between adopting new strategies for mission and maintaining . . . Read More >>>