Pentecost: A Birthday!

The day of Pentecost is one of the most important days in the life of the church.
Just as each year you celebrate your birthday, at Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the church. The events of that day so empowered a group of people and ignited such a passion in them that the effects are still felt in the world today. Have you ever prayed that God might do it again in your life, in your city?

Birthday candles, flame, wind
Just as each year you celebrate your birthday, at Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the church.

On that day Jews from across the known world had gathered in Jerusalem for one of their annual celebrations. Only weeks before they had come for another festival, the Passover, when there had been a small disturbance when yet another messianic hopeful, Jesus of Nazareth, had been crucified by the Romans. His small band of followers were in hiding fearing reprisal and nowhere to be seen. There were rumours circulating that some people had seen Jesus alive.
Then, something unheard of took place.
Read More >>>

Unity vs Diversity

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.

Halve Poverty_HBC_1Sept13
“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 >>>

Navigating the Landscape

Have you ever thought about the difference between the ability to read a map and the ability to navigate? Despite their similarity they are quite different skills.
To read a map you need to know how different symbols and topographical features are used. For instance, blue symbols are associated with water, and the distance between contour lines shows a slope’s gradient.
Navigation, on the other hand, is the ability not only to read the map, but use this information to locate where you are in relation to the surrounding landscape and from there, determine the way ahead.

Man's hand pointing on street map
“Bushwalkers know that ‘setting the map’ is perhaps the most important of all navigational skills”

Bushwalkers know that ‘setting the map’ is perhaps the most important of all navigational skills. It involves positioning the map so surrounding features line up with your location. It doesn’t matter if the map is upside down or sideways, knowing where you are in relation to everything else is critical.
That’s why it’s dangerous when visibility diminishes and features in the landscape become hard to see. When this happens maps quickly lose their usefulness.
Read more >>>

Havin’ a Break

Hey all!
It’s holiday time. I am heading away for a few weeks with my lovely wife, Jenny.Halve Poverty_HBC_1Sept13
I’ll be back blogging on Monday September 23.
In the meantime check this photo we took at Hobart Baptist yesterday morning – always good to keep our politicians on their toes at election time.
Let’s keep them honest about the Millenium Devlopment Goals the Australian Government agreed to back in 2000.

Facing Change as a City Church

The building Hobart Baptist Church meets in is just on the fringe of CBD of Hobart. It is a stately stone building modelled on Baptist Tabernacle in Stockport, England, and is uniquely located on the main road linking Hobart and North Hobart.

Hobart Baptist Church
Hobart Baptist Church is one of the original ‘tabernacles’ built in Tasmania with help from Spurgeon’s grandson

As a city church the congregation is drawn from across Hobart and across many nationalities. It is the oldest remaining Baptist church in Hobart with links back to the first Baptist church established in 1835.
At various times through its history the congregation has struggled to fit into the building, and at other times it has felt quite empty. Today, the church is made up of three congregations numbering nearly 250 people.
As a church we are on a journey . . .
Read More >>>

It’s January . . .

 . . .  and I’m having a break from blogging for a bit.
Thanks for your support over the last year – it has been great to have so many followers come along for the ride.
I’ll catch up with you again on Monday February 4.
Be blessed
Stephen L Baxter

Get a Second Chance this New Year

MP900441011[1]
“Don’t you just love New Years? You get to start all over. Everybody gets a second chance.”
In a scene at a New Year’s Eve party in the film Forrest Gump, Forrest is asked, “Don’t you just love New Years? You get to start all over. Everybody gets a second chance.” There is something in this statement that sums up one of our attitudes to the New Year. Many of us use it as an opportunity to reflect and dream about doing things differently in the future.
There is something within our human nature that longs for things to be different. The opportunity to start over, or a chance to do better, and the possibility of a clean slate is a longing deep within us.
The truth is we’ve all made decisions we wish we could change, or said things we which we hadn’t, and many of us would relish the opportunity to relive a part of our lives again. We all look back with regret in some way. It’s part of our human existence, so it is not surprising that we take the opportunity of the New Year to resolve to do things differently.
Yet how often do we fail to keep our resolutions. There is something about well-worn habits, lifestyles and attitudes that are not easily changed. This is as true of individuals as it is of communities. How many of the trouble spots across the world are continuing conflicts of past generations that still linger? Just like the Israel/Arab conflict that goes right back to Abraham and his two sons Ishmael and Isaac.
The good news we celebrate as Christians is that Jesus not only offers us the opportunity of second chance, but also the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to live differently.
The Bible is full of examples where God gives a second chance! The people of Israel were constantly and consistently called by the prophets to repent, refocus and restart their life with God. And Jesus repeatedly gave second chances—whether it was through healing, forgiveness or his teaching. Just like the woman accused of adultery whom Jesus saved from stoning, the lives of many people were changed—revitalized, renewed, and restored.
Even high profile people like the apostle Peter was given another chance (John 21:15-23) after he had denied Jesus three times (Mark 14:66-72). And Saul, who later changed his name to Paul, was a persecutor of Christians (Acts 7:58-8:3) before his life was transformed (Acts 9:1-19).

“The Creator of the universe became a human being and willingly suffered death so that you and I could have a fresh start

The good news of the story of Jesus Christ is that the Creator of the universe became a human being and willingly suffered death so that you and I could have a fresh start. The message is the promise of forgiveness, grace and mercy and it extends to every person. No one is exempt from failures and regrets and no one is exempt from the opportunity to receive God’s love and forgives and the promise of a second chance. This is more than a New Year’s resolution, it is a promise of change.
Of course, we can make a fresh start at any time; God’s grace is not restricted to a certain time of year. Yet New Year is as good a time as any to reflect, re-frame, realign and refocus our lives and take the opportunity of God working with us to see our lives take a positive turn in the right direction and for the better.
New Year’s resolutions may not last long, but when we repent and ask God for his help, all things are possible. We are not alone. What is it in your life that needs changing? What things do you think God would like changed? Why not talk to God about it and begin the adventure of a second chance.

Christmas: It’s Just Around the Corner!

Every year I approach Christmas with a certain double mindedness. On the one hand, I welcome the opportunity to celebrate an event that, alongside the death and resurrection of Jesus, is wonderful and overwhelming—the birth of God’s Son! But I also struggle with how secular, commercial, shallow—and therefore meaningless—those celebrations can be.
I shouldn’t be surprised. Ever since the fourth century,when Constantine decreed that the festival of the winter solstice should be combined with the church’s celebration of the nativity, Christmas has been a mixture of pagan revelry and Christian celebration.
In the weeks ahead, millions of people will gather around Australia to sing carols. Whatever the beliefs of those participating, in many of those songs they will find words that offer a clear, incisive and beautiful retelling of the biblical account of Christ’s incarnation.
Paul Roe, National Director of Cornerstone Community discussed the importance of storytelling and commented that, “biblical storytelling has shaped Western civilisation far more than we will admit”. In addition he says, “Our current problem is that we have largely forgotten it or are busily trying to deny it”. At least Christmas is one biblical story that is firmly lodged in the psyche of our culture.
Rather than reject our society’s celebration of Christmas, maybe I should be less quick to respond with cynicism and more ready to pray that, in the midst of the hype, the story of Christ’s birth will affect those ready to hear. As Paul wrote, “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
So this year I choose to rejoice with our community, trusting that some will learn that the goodwill they feel need not dissipate into joylessness and anxiety after the holiday. Christmas, after all, is a story of hope—the narrative of the coming of the One who ultimately
rescued humanity from condemnation and destruction.
In all that we do during the coming Christmas season, let us work to ensure that the biblical story of  Christmas remains so alive that many will receive its message for the first time.
Stephen L Baxter

Understanding the Signs of the Times

While David hid and waited for God’s timing for him to become king of Israel, he was joined by others from the tribes of Israel who risked their lives standing with him. Among them were the “descendants of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
As Christians in the 21st Century, we live in rapidly changing times which bring urgency in facing the challenges of these times with the Gospel of Christ. In many ways we need to be like the descendents of Issachar, and understand the times we live in so we can know the best course of action to take.
But understanding the times is not easy. Living in the midst of rapid cultural change we feel threatened and fragile. Our longing for stability tempts us to withdraw, hesitate and avoid risk, when the exact opposite is needed. David’s men, on the other hand, did not seek stability, but sought to be alert, read the times, and be ready. Rather than stability, they endured fluid structures and constant innovation as they hid from Saul and awaited the moment when David would be king.
Jenny and I have just returned from four weeks in Europe. Among the many things we saw, it was interesting to observe the contrast between the obvious position, power and wealth the church had across Europe in the past, with the seeming irrelevance it has today.

SB outside St P's Basilica
That's me on the right walking towards the massive
St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

Reading the signs of the times, it is clear the church is increasingly moving to the margins rather than the centre of society.  This is not dissimilar to Australia. Whether it is a good or bad thing can be debated. What is not debatable is that it is happening. And because it is happening we need to work out how we can best be witnesses to Christ in the culture in which we are called to live.
It is with both excitement and some trepidation I return to my task as pastor at Hoabrt Baptist. I am excited with the opportunities that lie in front of us, and yet aware of the challenges that are there also.
Let us pray that God may grant to us, wherever you are and whatever ‘brand’ of the church you are part of, to be like the descendents of Issachar who had the ability to understand the times and know what to do.
Stephen L Baxter

Moving On

Hi All
Just to let you know I’ve taken a week off blogging.
My family is in the process of moving house, and my attentions are directed elsewhere.
I’ll be back with a brand new update next Monday evening!
Regards
Stephen L Baxter