Friday, April 15, 2005

Liquid Kitchen and Proper Perception in Persecution

Had a good lounge and munch at Liquid Kitchen, 185 Upper Thomson Road. The mexican chicken wings were tasty and there were blue and orange cushions to lie on and chat.

Very judicious use of mirrors transformed the claustrophobic floor area to a cosy niche. Newly-opened, the waitresses were gracious and eager to please. Clientele was eclectic, consisting of teenagers playing Magic, yuppies perusing fashion and motor rags, young families still in office wear and guys having a night out in loud hawaiian shirts with thick gold chains. We were informed that Liquid Kitchen hadn't officially opened yet and the launch would be sometime in May or June.

Chris (Chia) gave a really spot-on sermon on 1 Peter 1:10-12 (he should go for conferences more often, is always recharged when he returns!).

Peter was writing this letter to a Christian audience who were finding it difficult to live in this world. They may not have been physically persecuted, but they definitely sticking-out like sore thumbs. They were aliens and strangers in a foreign land (1:1). They were suffering griefs and many trials (1:6) and finding it hard to live God's way.

Peter wanted to put their griefs and trials in the proper perspective. He wanted them not to self-centredly focus on how much they were persecuted or how grievously they were suffering but to focus on God and how privileged and blessed they were to even know him.

Even though they had no merit, God was the one who called them to himself and God was the one who continued to sustain them as Christians, through the Spirit (1:2). He called them to an inheritance and he would also keep that inheritance safe for them until the time came for them to inherit it (1:4-5).

God worked through the actions of others to bring people into his kingdom: the prophets, the apostles, the preachers who taught and continued to teach God's word and the gospel (1:10-12).

And so it is for us.

If we think back past an obvious particular point of conversion, most of us realise that many people and various circumstances were links in the chains of our conversion stories: some first introduced us to God and the Bible (probably in the context of food and drink), some pushed us along by questioning our ideas and value systems, some answered nagging doubts and intellectual pretzels, others inspired us by their loving behaviour to investigate their God seriously...everyone is a link in the chain in the plan that God has ordained before the universe began to bring us to himself. It's not our evangelistic methodology or charisma or persuasive skills that bring people to Christ. It is God who is at work through us and through circumstances and also in the opening of the eyes of those who are blinded to the truth.

No one disputes the ultimate work of God in all this. But we usually just pay it lip service.

Chris gave the example of Hudson Taylor and gang: they were eager to evangelise China. Donations and missionaries poured in from all over the Western hemisphere. When they finally set forth and arrived in China, they fell to squabbling over which evangelistic methods were better, and things turned nasty and ungodly. Then, the Communists came into power and these squabbling missionaries were forcibly expelled from China to South-East Asia. All their arguments and methodologies came to nothing as the Communists clapped down on religion. Reluctantly, they spread the gospel in South-East Asia, their second choice mission field. Many decade later, the growth of Christians in the world is now fastest in China. Far more than Hudson Taylor and gang ever saw in their squabbling years there. And the people who are proclaiming the gospel to the Mainland Chinese now are the Chinese from South-East Asia, who heard the gospel only because the missionaries were forced out of China.

God is truly in control. And he will call people to himself in his own time, in his own way.

In our griefs and trials, as we struggle to hold on to the faith and feel that God is slowly but surely abandoning us, we must also trust that the God is in control, and that he who has called us will also protect us and keep us Christian no matter how far we feel from him. Our relationship with God is not based on our subjective feelings (eg. today he feels close to me or today, he feels far from me) which are disgustingly self-centred; instead, our relationship with God is based on the solid objective fact that Christ has died for our sins, and his resurrection from the dead is what gives us the living hope of salvation from God's wrath (1:3). We were as close to God when we first believed as we are in our deepest darkest moments of despair.

God has promised to keep us, and God has the ability to keep us.

Service ended with the Benediction, to be sung to each other to encourage each other:
Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling,
and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty,
dominion and power, both now and forever.

Jude 24-25. Lovely.

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