Executed?! That’s Not Fair!

After months of letters, appeals and pleas from citizens, lawyers and parliamentarians, including Australia’s Foreign and Prime Minister, the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and Amnesty International, the Bali Nine ringleaders, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, were executed nearly two weeks ago by Indonesian authorities.

 Bali Nine members (top L-R) Myuran Sukumaran, Andrew Chan and Martin Eric Stephens, 2nd row (from L-R) Chen Si Yi, Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen and Matthew Norman, and 3rd row (from L-R) Scott Rush, Michael Czugaj and Renae Lawrence. Picture: Supplied Source: News Limited
Bali Nine members (top L-R) Myuran Sukumaran, Andrew Chan and Martin Eric Stephens, 2nd row (from L-R) Chen Si Yi, Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen and Matthew Norman, and 3rd row (from L-R) Scott Rush, Michael Czugaj and Renae Lawrence. Picture: Supplied Source: News Limited

In response, the Australian Government recalled its ambassador to Jakarta, the Australian Federal Police responded to criticism of their actions, and the Australian Catholic University created two “Mercy Scholarships” to be awarded annually to international students from Indonesia. It was a national outpouring of grief, regret and outrage, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott describing the executions as “cruel and unnecessary“.
Although some maintain that Chan and Sukumaran got exactly what they deserved, most Australians have responded in anger at Indonesia’s refusal to consider clemency. We were not happy with the way they were treated.
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Living BEYOND the difficulties

Our Easter celebrations have come and gone so quickly!

Back to our routines
“We stopped to celebrate Easter only a week ago, yet we are back into our normal routines before we know it.”

We stopped to celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ only a week ago, yet we are back into our normal routines before we know it. Yet, the resurrection is so profound its truths transform every part of our lives, and in a very real way Easter lives with us every day.
In his first letter to the believers living in Corinth Paul writes how “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, [and] that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). While his death dealt with our sins, God vindicated Jesus by raising him to life again. His resurrection changed everything.
It transformed Peter from a mistake-prone bungler who denied and disassociated himself from Jesus, into a bold provocative advocate who stood in front of thousands of people on the day of Pentecost and called them to repent. What changed Peter? He later wrote, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). The resurrection radically changed Peter for ever.
Peter’s life demonstrates a powerful insight, that the resurrection is more than a victory to be celebrated it is a reality to be lived.
It’s not by chance that the early church began meeting on Sundays, the day after the Jewish Sabbath. Read More >>>
 

Church: There for us? OR There for others . . .

I think we sometimes forget God has entrusted us with the task of bringing the good news of his love, as demonstrated in Christ, to our local community – wherever it iswe are.

We can so easily be tempted and fall into the trap of believing the church exists only for us, and conveniently ignore God’s desires. In recent years here are Hobart Baptist where I am the Senior Pastor, we have reaffirmed we want to be a mission-oriented church and we are steadily moving more and more in that direction.

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For decades we sent missionaries overseas to various tribal groups
To be faithful to our task we not only need a renewed and refreshed understanding of the Gospel, we need to have an insightful understanding into Australian culture. Without it we repeat the mistakes of the past and fail to understand the changing nature of our community.
For decades we sent missionaries overseas to various tribal groups armed with the task of carefully and painstakingly exploring and documenting the cultural narratives and history of their people group with the aim of discovering how best to bring the Gospel to them.
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Australia Day: Love-Respect-Tension

A couple of weeks ago we commemorated Australia Day – a day to celebrate all that it means to be Australian. From barbeques to beach cricket, in community and family events, from community awards to the new immigrants, the nation takes a day off thankful for such a wonderful country.Australia Day 2015
For some it is just another excuse for a day off work, for others it is less than a celebration. The date, January 26, marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the British ships of the First Fleet at Port Jackson, New South Wales. There are descendants of those who lived in this land before their arrival for who find this day difficult.
While the arrival of the First Fleet heralded the beginning of modern Australia, for many of the original inhabitants it signalled the end of a way of life. It brought with it suffering, disease and increased death rates thus making January 26 more a day of mourning than celebration, and more about invasion than foundation.
It is not hard to see why some feel this way. Read More >>>

Living Expectantly this Christmas

[Please note I am having a break from blogging during January. Ill be back in full swing in February! SLB]
Christmas Day is almost here and the lead up to it is full of waiting, longing, expecting, and hoping — and not only for children. For centuries Christians have set aside the four Sundays prior to Christmas as a time to rehearse again the anticipation of Christ’s coming.
Advent – the word comes from the Latin meaning ‘coming’, ‘appearance’ or ‘return’ – inspires us to look backward to Christ’s first coming, and to look forward in expectation of his coming into the world and our lives today.NativityJesus_s[1]
With a quick look at our Christmas celebrations, one could be excused for concluding our longings consist of cute babies, worshipful farm animals, humble shepherds, and camel-riding astrologers. But these are just the backdrop to a much grander and more profound story – God visits planet earth with the aim of restoration and renewal that is nothing short of a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17-25).
Fuelled by the prophetic writings of Isaiah, Jews and Christians alike look forward to a day when God’s Messiah will set the world aright, bringing justice to the nations (Is 42:1) and producing a world of full of peace and harmony (Is 9:1-7; 11:1-9).
It was the same on that first Christmas. The Israelites were looking to God to send the long promised Messiah to rescue them from their plight at the hands of the occupying Roman army. Their world was in turmoil, their future looked bleak, and they cried out to God.
Throughout history, people have longed to be rescued. As the recent siege in Sydney illustrates the world is often a very difficult place to live in. Read More >>>

Living IN the World (but not OF it)

In his longest recorded prayer in John 17, Jesus prays for his disciples and notes how we are “not of the world” but are “sent into the world” (John 17:15-16). His expectation is that we will continue his mission by remaining in the world although we will live differently from the world and be his transforming agents within it.
Ever since that prayer, Jesus’ followers have struggled to maintain the tension of living ‘in’ the world yet not being ‘of’ the world. It is not as easy as it sounds and so Paul reminds us, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould” (Romans 12:2 Phillips), suggesting we need to be on guard or else it will happen.

Christmas Rush
“For many, Christmas is little more than time off work and an opportunity to over-spend, over-eat, and over-celebrate”

This is perhaps never as true as with Christmas. For most of our community Christmas is little more than time off work and an opportunity to over-spend, over-eat, and over-celebrate. It’s a time to party with colleagues and mates and for the vast majority a time to catch up with their birth family.
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Emmanuel . . . God is With Us!

As we draw towards the end of another year and focus on the astonishing reality of the incarnation—when God entered into our humanity in profound ways—we are again reminded of our own fragility, weaknesses and the need to rely on each other.

Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus
“Vulnerable and defenceless he committed himself into the care of a teenager and her fiancé”

When Jesus was born, like every other new born baby he was totally reliant on those around him. Vulnerable and defenceless he committed himself into the care of a teenager and her fiancé. Then throughout his life, Jesus never rose above that fragility of humanity but experienced it to the full, right through to death.
We don’t like feeling vulnerable, weak or fragile so it is no surprise that so much in our lives is committed to alleviating these feelings. We use our jobs, our finances, our organisations, families and friends to mask the inherent feelings of brokenness we carry with us every day.
Some suggest “we never look our best in transition” and change is perhaps when we most likely feel vulnerable. When we navigate changes in our lives it is often hard to be at our best. It takes so much energy to deal with change . . .
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Great [Christmas] Expectations

Even though Christmas is still a way off the retail season is in full swing. Whether we are ready or not, decorations are in our shops, parades are in our streets, and carols ring out in our shopping malls.

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“For most, it is nothing more than a holiday, a time to catch up with family and an excuse to part”
The Christmas frenzy descends on us again. Sadly many have little or no appreciation of the deep mystery lying within it and no expectation of its profound implications. For most, it is nothing more than a holiday, a time to catch up with family and an excuse to party. There is a huge gap in expectations between our community and our Christian viewpoint, and even we Christians get caught in the sweep of our community celebrations and struggle to stand against the tide of shallow expectations.
Expectations are perhaps one of the biggest challenges in our lives. We all live with them every day whether they are realistic or idealistic, positive or negative. These unspoken yet personal assumptions of how things will, or could, work out are projected upon events, people, ourselves and God as well. In a myriad of ways, in every facet of life, they dictate how we approach the future ranging from exhilarating delight, debilitating fear and everything in between.
Christmas too is full of expectations.      Read More >>>

Take Heart!

Despite the many challenges facing the Australian today there are good reasons not to despair.

Tom Frame
Tom Frame of St Marks National Theological Centre

In his book, Losing my Religion, Tom Frame, Director of St Mark’s National Theological Centre in Canberra concludes, “unless there is a turnabout in the fortunes of all community organisations . . . the Christian Church will be a marginal player in Australian life with a few surviving remnants”.
While this may sound somewhat melodramatic it nonetheless it reflects what many believe about the church in Australia.
Yet not all is doom and gloom, there are signs that God is at work even if it is in areas we are not accustomed to. One area that is cause for celebration is the impressive growth in independent schools.
Today more than 40% of Australian high school students attend private or non-government schools. This is up from 20% in the 1960s and has been primarily driven by the establishment of new religious schools. It is perhaps the most defining change in the educational landscape in Australia over the past twenty years.
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Forgiving the Unforgivable

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Rwanda is the land-locked country marked in orange

At Hobart Baptist we are currently in the middle of a series of messages on forgiveness, and how important it is not only for the church, but for society to be a forgiving community.
More often than not forgiveness is not easy and quite costly. This is certainly the case for the communities that were caught up in the genocide of 20 years ago that claimed an estimated 800,000 in Rwanda.
Now, two decades later, organisations such as World Vision and AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent) are still at work endeavouring to bring healing through reconciliation and forgiveness.
Australian John Steward first arrived in Rwanda in 1997 to manage a peace building and reconciliation program for World Vision. Now after 19 visits he has seen the program, based on the value of forgiveness, cautiously grow bringing a level of healing to communities once destroyed by hate.
Upon arriving he saw people, “full of fear, struggling to get food – frantic to get jobs, dislocated and separated from their communities.” Although the government was looking for justice and the church preached forgiveness, the message was too hard to hear because people were hurt and traumatised.
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