The Gift of Joy

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 Joy sermon series logorelationships, 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 preached so far by clicking HERE

Please let me know if you learn some new insights, or are encouraged by any of the sermons!

Stephen L Baxter

Merry (Clayton’s) Christmas!

Have you ever heard of a Clayton’s Christmas? It’s a Christmas you have without having a real Christmas.
Seasons greetings
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.

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Peace on Earth

Angels sing

“the heavenly host gathered to praise God”

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.

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Patient Waiting | Hopeful Expectation

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 Wreath

Advent is the time of celebration over the four Sundays leading up to Christmas

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).

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Jesus : Church : Unity

In his longest recorded prayer as found in John 17, Jesus not only prays for his immediate 12 disciples, but for the many who would believe their message. And what was his prayer? Over and over and again he prays for their unity.john-17-20-26

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23).

What would happen in our churches if we all joined Jesus in his prayer? What would it mean for Hobart and Tasmania (or your town and region) if all churches, despite our differences, operated with the unity Jesus prayed for?

The heartfelt nature of Jesus’ prayer calls attention to the reality that genuine fellowship among Christians is one of the most powerful tools for evangelism.

Forward! >>>

Christians: The new non-believers

At the Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast last week I had the opportunity to provide a short introduction to this annual event. I thought you might like to read a transcript of my speech as many attendees were very encouraged by what I said:

As we gather in the name and spirit of Jesus of Nazareth, we do so in the midst of great cultural turmoil. Within our community are forces at work endeavouring to overturn century-old norms and practices around key moments in life – at birth, marriage, and death. I speak, of course, about abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

Outback Cross

“Despite the place Christianity has played in Australia’s history . . . to call oneself a Christian in Australia today invites responses of curiosity, condescension and cool dismissal.”

In that maelstrom of competing voices and visions of the future, many find the very notion of a ‘prayer’ breakfast somewhat strange, antiquated and even dangerous.

Despite the place Christianity has played in Australia’s history, and despite its ongoing contributions, to call oneself a Christian in Australia today invites responses of curiosity, condescension and cool dismissal. Christians are often painted as intolerant, naive, superstitious, and even backward. It is not uncommon to hear Christians put down, not only in casual conversation, but across social and mainstream media.

This caricature, I suggest, is quite false. It falls a long way short of many Christians who join with others to care for millions of Australians in homeless shelters, refuges, aged care facilities, disability services, soup kitchens, detox facilities etc. The contrast between them and the Christianity portrayed is quite striking.

But why? Why such a contrast?

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What Seems to be Foolishness is God’s Masterstroke

It was the Christian German philosopher Georg Hegel (1770-1831) who wrote, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” It’s a brilliant paradoxical statement that contains two seemingly contradictory statements: we learn from history and we do not learn from history.Pinocchio

Which is true? Well, actually, both. That’s the nature of paradox. It is a statement that consists of two truths laid side by side that appear self-contradictory or even absurd. Yet the statement itself is ultimately true.

The Christian life is a life of paradox because there is much that is wonderfully mysterious about God. And a paradox is profound way of communicating that mystery.

Jesus said, “All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) Paul wrote, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Now, how can you be humbled and exalted at the same time? And how can Paul be weak and strong at the same time? Don’t they cancel each other out?

It’s the nature of paradoxes that when two true statements that contradict each other are combined the result is not a contradiction. Rather, in putting them together an even deeper truth is revealed. As physicist Neils Bohr affirmed, “The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth.”

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Brave New World (for Christians, anyway)

Barney Zwartz

Barney Zwartz

There are many implications for Christians in the increasingly secular and Christophobic Australian culture. The decline in comprehensive, considered and constructive religious reporting in our media is but one of those.

In accepting the Ridley Marketplace Institute and ETHOS Faith and Work Awards earlier this year, recently retired Age journalist, Barney Zwartz, lamented that the time is fast approaching when religion “will mostly be ignored in the news columns… and that will accelerate wider society’s dissociation and ignorance.”

In many ways his insights reflect an ignorance already at work in our community. Most Australians think of Christianity as outmoded and irrelevant to modern society, yet despite this 60% of them still tick the “Christian” box on Census night. Strangely they are willing to criticise Christianity while at the same time continue to label themselves Christian.

Such an ironic contradiction illustrates just how ignorant Australians are of what it means to be a Christian and to follow Christ.

The typical stereotyping of Christianity as a white, male, European, English speaking religion also adds to the misunderstanding. The reality is quite different.

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Dark Night of the Soul

We are getting to the shortest day of the year when the sun sets early and rises late. The nights are long and there is little sun. While scientists admit it is still a mystery, they do agree that some people do suffer from a winter depression.

Long dark nights

With the shortest day of the year nearly here the nights are long and there is little sun

There are all types of depressions that afflict people and it is not uncommon for Christians to experience a spiritual darkness far deeper than the passing of winter. John of the Cross, a fifteenth-century Christian writer, called it ‘la noche oscura’ or dark night.

Martin Luther was so afflicted by melancholy that it threatened to destroy him; CS Lewis suffered following the death of his wife; Mother Teresa struggled from the founding of her Missionaries of Charity for the rest of her life; and Charles Spurgeon spoke of how he was “almost completely crushed in spirit” and experienced “deep spiritual depression”.

They are not alone . . .

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Taking Up Your Cross

Change is at the heart of the Christian life. It’s about repentance and renewal, commitment and character. It is a journey towards maturity and an embracing of God’s values all in the process of becoming more like Jesus. Yet, it is never easy.Change

The good news that God loves us, that Jesus died for us – that we are set free from sin, death and Satan – is made more wonderful by the reality that it comes to us absolutely free. It is God’s gift. We don’t deserve it, nor can we earn it, all we can do is receive it. But! Although our salvation is free, following Jesus is a different story, it costs everything.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The challenge was not immediately understood by Jesus’ disciples. He’d just let them know for the first time that he was going to suffer, die and be raised again. Even at his crucifixion they were confused.

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