Easter 2020

Every Christmas and Easter, one of my duties as State Leader for Tasmanian Baptists is to write a short reflection for the Mercury Newspaper.

My wife and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary during the last days of our 14-day self-isolation. We not only survived 24-hours a day with just the two of us, but surprised ourselves with things we learnt about each other, even after so many years. I’m not unique in unconsciously presuming I know a person, only to be surprised by things I’ve never seen or known before.

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Patience with the World, the Church and Yourself

Patience: The world, the church and yourself.

One of mum’s favourite sayings was, ‘patience is a virtue’. In our fast paced, instant gratification world, patience is often disregarded, but sorely needed. Jesus taught about patience and it has great application for how we live are to live in the world, in the church and with yourself.

Jesus’ parable of the Wheat and Weeds (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43) is foundational to my worldview. In this parable, a farmer sows good seed. Then, in the middle of the night his enemy walks through his field sowing more seeds.

It was a scenario familiar to those who heard Jesus tell the story. The seed sown by the enemy was darnel, a type of ryegrass looking very much like wheat in its early stages of growth. Roman law prohibited sowing it in the field of one’s enemy.

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Christmas 2017

Every Christmas and Easter, one of my duties as State Leader for Tasmanian Baptists is to write a short reflection for the Mercury Newspaper.

My earliest memories of Christmas are a jumble of excitement, carol singing, presents, meals with the extended family and trotting off to church. My grandfather led the choir there and his baritone solos had won him many a competition.

Aged about five, I was taken to hear Handel’s Messiah because Dad was singing in it. I remember going to sleep half way through only to be woken for the Hallelujah chorus. I promptly went back to sleep again! Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I’m deeply moved by the chorus and the carols.

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

The Adventure Continues

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 New Year Calendarare 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 . . .
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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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Religion and Politics

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.”

Religious Candles and Cross
“This is freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion”

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 >>>

Is the Aussie Church Facing Challenges? Or Opportunities?

Karl Faase
Karl Faase

Last week Karl Faase, Australian Christian communicator, media presenter, and social commentator, was in Hobart speaking at Family Voice events. The former senior pastor of Gymea Baptist, is well informed about the challenges faced by the church in Australia today.
Faase suggested that the average Christian attending church regularly on a Sunday has lost confidence in what they believe. The sad result is an unwillingness, even an inability, to engage in conversations about Christianity during the week.
However, he encouraged Christians not to be silenced by the media’s caricature of the irrelevancy of Christianity, its heralding of the Church’s demise and its increasing hostility both. Rather, he said, it is time to regain hope in the gospel and boldness in our proclamation. “We need to move from fearful silence to positive engagement.”
Citing research by Olive Tree Media (his company) and McCrindle Research, Faase explained how Australians show significant “warmth” to Christianity contrary to what is commonly assumed. When asked, “What best describes your current beliefs and attitude towards Christianity?” 25%, who don’t consider themselves as Christians, are warm towards Christianity. This is on top of the 33% who described themselves as Christian (whether they are or not is another matter). What this shows is that nearly 60% of Australians have an open stance towards Christianity and are willing to talk about it.
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How Much is Too Much?

Halve Poverty_HBC_1Sept13
Hobart Baptist Church is a congregation of diverse cultures

Did you know that over 600 verses in the Bible refer to heaven, more than 500 mention prayer, less than 500 relate to faith, around 50 speak of hell, yet there are more than 2,000 passages which talk about handling money?
So good stewardship is a major theme throughout the Bible.
A week ago at our quarterly church meeting, we made some important decisions that will affect the future mission and ministries of Hobart Baptist Church. One of them concerned the formation of a project team to explore how we can make our church more accessible to new people. This initiative came from a special assignment I gave a new family when they joined us earlier this year.
I asked them to document what it was like for a young family to enter into the life of Hobart Baptist Church for the first time.
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