Aussies are Different!

Ayers RockWhen it comes to religion, Aussies behave somewhat differently to the rest of the world. We live, we are told, in one of the most secular countries in the world and the latest census figures tend to confirm it. Today more than 20% of Australians say they have no religion at all. Similar surveys in England and Wales say there are 16% with no religion, and only 1.5% in the USA.
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The Weight Keeps Me Going . . .

There is a legend about a grandfather clock that stood in a corner for three generations, faithfully ticking away the minutes, hours and days. Its means of operation was a heavy weight suspended by a double chain. One of its new owners, believing that an old clock should not bear such a load, released the weight. Immediately the ticking stopped, and according to the legend the clock asked, “Why did you do that?”Clock
The owner replied, “I wanted to lighten your burden.” The clock answered, “Please put my weight back for that’s what keeps me going.” All too often we try to remove the very things that keep us going, the things that make us worthy of the air we breathe and the space we occupy.
As we take a backward glance at our life, we must confess that much of what has contributed to our character was achieved through conflict. Much of what people admire and praise in us, came through the double doors of opposition and frustration. In simpler words, we’re like that grandfather clock: life’s weights keep us going.
So we shouldn’t try to get rid of the very things that give us our strength, especially since there’s a source of help in bearing the burdens of this life. That source is Jesus Christ. He’s promised to help us whenever we need that help if we’re a child of God.
Paul said regarding his thorn in the flesh, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:8-10).
Paul also said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13).
Stephen is currently away on a study tour of Israel. His usual blog will return next Monday.
From http://www.vscoc.org/Bulletinfdr/

God’s Purpose in Our Trials

El Salvador, Map
El Salvador is highlighted in Central America

Oscar A. Romero was an archbishop of the Catholic Church, Archbishop of San Salvador, capital city of El Salvador (1977-1980). In 1979 the Revolutionary Government Junta came to power amidst increasing human rights abuses and an escalation of violence that would become the Salvadoran Civil War.
Although known as a pious and conservative bishop no one foresaw that in three years Romero would be noticed internationally by both Catholics and non-Catholics as an embodiment of the prophetic church, and a “voice for the voiceless” of El Salvador.
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Safe Passage

It was great to have Dr David Jones of Rural Support Services with us at Hobart Baptist a couple of weeks ago, and to listen to the challenging message he brought. The encouragement to be a church that provides ‘safe passage’ for those on the journey of faith echoes what is deep in the heart of the church.

Rural Regions
Although Hobart is a state capital, our population and comparative isolation put us in the ‘rural’ category

David asked us if we were prepared to make a guarantee to the people of Hobart: that if they walked through the front door of our building that we would guarantee to accept them, love them and forgive them. The guarantee to accept is . . .
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Droughts and Flooding Rains

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.

Bushfire!
Even Tasmania has not been immune to
bushfires in 2013

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 >>>

Hope to Face a Growing Hostility

Over the past few decades many in the Western world have witnessed a growing hostility against Christians and churches. Such is the growth in this hostility that the word “christophobia” was coined in 2003 by Jewish scholar Joseph Weiler in his book, A Christian Europe? He used the word not as we might presume to describe anti-Christian behaviour in general, but focussed on what he saw as Europe’s particular embarrassment with its Christian past.

Forgiveness
The more God’s presence is felt in a community, the more opposition God’s presence provokes

However, today, ten years later, the word’s usage covers a wider range of responses. This includes, as suggested above, the refusal by some to concede that Christian moral ideas have a place in the arena of public debate. Here christophobia is more likely to be defined as “having an irrational fear and hatred of Christ and of Christians.”
For example, in our community today it seems that one of the worst things one can be label is “homophobic”. While the technical definition is “having an irrational fear and hatred of homosexuals” more often that not Christians are denounced, as has occurred here in Hobart, as “homohobic” just for maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage.
We live in a strange world. Many who call for Christians to be tolerant of their point of view, are less than tolerant in accepting our point of view. And while they advocate for a diversity of views, they are quick to denounce views they do not agree with theirs.
Perhaps we should not be surprised. Throughout history Christians have faced similar resistance. In fact, the more God’s presence is felt in a community, the more opposition God’s presence provokes. This was true for Jesus, so it will also be true for his followers. The more vigorously the gospel is presented the more the forces that deny it will intensify their opposing efforts.
Yet, while we may detect a growing christophobia here in Australia this cannot compared to the persecution faced by our brothers and sisters in other countries. According to the German based International Society for Human Rights (a secular organisation) some 150,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year (411 each day, and 17 every hour).  It happens in 133 countries, representing nearly two-thirds of all nations on earth. In countries like, Mali, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and Pakistan, Christians are murdered or forced to leave their homes in large numbers. Churches are destroyed and so too are Christian villages.
All this information could lead us to lose hope and despair. Yet, despite what we and our fellow Christians around the world experience we of all people should be full of hope and expectation. Why? We know how the story ends. We are those who live in the light of the resurrection and the promise it contains that Jesus will one day return and establish his Kingdom. We are those who live today with an eye to the future when God’s purposes will be realised and the world will live in peace.
It is in this hope that we are called to live. May God grant to his people around the world the ability to stand firm, be strong and endure in these promises despite what the world may bring against us.
Stephen L Baxter