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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Does Hope Have Any Value in a Fast Food World?

I frequent fast food restaurants. I don't necessarily like their food. I like getting my order quickly. I have very little patience when I enter these establishments. I have an expectation of speed rather than quality.

These restaurants are always crowded. I see people who are just like me who want their desires fulfilled quickly. They also have very little patience. They want what they want right now. Tomorrow they will not be able to tell you what they ordered. Their motivation is to get in, get what they want, consume it and get out.

Does this sound like the contemporary church? Let me explain.

Hope has a different meaning for contemporary Christians than it did for New Testament Christians. Their hope was not built upon God's removal of the tribulations they were experiencing. They were looking for the return of Christ when all things would be made right. They were concerned that they would be found faithful when He came. They looked for His return daily.

I don't think most contemporary Christians see hope in that way. Their concern is that God get them out of their present situation. They ask Him for new jobs, more money, people to love them and healing for sicknesses. Of course, there is nothing wrong with praying for these things but, unfortunately, there is no thought of Christ's return in any of their prayers. The long-term hope of the redemption of the whole world is foreign to their thoughts. They see God as one who fulfills their orders for the present time rather than the One who will set all things right.

Admittedly, it has been a relatively long time since Christians began the hope for Christ's return. True faith requires continual hope because of the promise that has been made and does not waver no matter how long it takes for the promise to be fulfilled.

There are only a few contemporary preachers who speak of Christ's return. There are many more sermons which speak of a God who promotes those who believe in Him. They tell of how He removes all the obstacles which keep His followers from having what they deserve. They say that being a Christian is good for business. These sermons provide Chrisitans means for transferring God's power to themselves. As one preacher said, "I know the streets of heaven are paved with gold but I want some gold right now!" (It may not be an exact quote but it is close. I was so surprised by his audacity that I didn't write it down.)

I am sure that the New Testament Christians disliked tribulations as much as contemporary Christians. They, no doubt, also prayed that God would remove their hardships. Paul, himself, prayed that his "thorn in the flesh" would be removed.  Yet, this does not seem to be their ultimate hope. They looked to the coming of Christ. They saw their salvation in His return. In fact, they knew that they would not truly experience their salvation until they were in His presence.

Oh, I still plan on praying for current needs for myself and others. But, that can't be the whole understanding of my Christianity. I want to be found faithful even if God never answers any of my present requests. (I say this with the expectation that He will indeed answer some of my requests.) I want my hope to be built on His return rather than what I will receive from Him immediately. I want to see my own salvation being fully realized at His return. I want to work as if He is returning today.

And yes, I will still go to fast food restaurants and have the same expectations as I have always had. I just don't want my faith to take the character of a fast food patron. I haven't come to my faith to get in, get what I want or get out. I have come to stay because He is coming.

And He just might come today.

Romans 8:24-25 (NIV) 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

7 comments:

Kelline said...

I related to this post so much. I'm currently struggling with my church attendance because I'm not getting "fed." I knew when I began attending this church that the spirit of Ichabod was there and that if I didn't get out, the quenching would be inevitable. But, preachers preach faithfulness so I felt like it was wrong to just leave based on dead services. But this turned out to be detrimental to my spiritual well-being and I've missed 3 weeks in a row. Not like me at all. I desire to be plugged in but the church isn't holding me up. I feel all alone while surrounded by my own people. Please pray for me. I need revival, refreshing, and renewal. I have to trudge on, forge ahead and, like you, look forward to the return of my Savior who will make all things right. Thank you.

Anthony Chia said...

Indeed Rom 8:24b said that "hope that is seen is no hope at all", or should I say, no longer a hope. Is salvation already consummated? Or is salvation to be viewed as being "truly experienced only when we have come into His presence (or we have passed on)", as Ps Prentis puts it? Or is it like some contemporary Christians said it, your salvation is finished, the moment you are born-again or accepted Jesus as your Savior; purportedly, claiming after the saying of Jesus on the Cross, "It is finished"!? If you are a Christian, is salvation, a past tense or present tense or a present continuous tense?

Of course, we can hope for many things, but the "Hope" that we, Christians, are expected to NEVER let go, is the hope of salvation. Again, if you are a Christian, is salvation, a past tense for you? Finished? If it were so, than there is no more hope (salvation hope). You see, a person buys a lottery ticket, and in his mind, he may think, "I hope (or wish) I will win the 1st price". Now if he has just been informed that his ticket has turned out to be winning ticket for the 1st price, is there still a hope (or wish)? No, it has happened, a past tense; he has won the price, no more hope (or wish). It is the same, if the winning number has been announced, and his ticket number was NOT it, also there is no more hope (or wish), for it is over.

You have to think about it yourself, are these contemporary Christians, many of them, in the “overly grace” grouping, right, to project salvation as a past tense! If there are only 3 multiple choice answers to choose from, as below, which do you think is the closest answer, and so, is the answer you will pick?

1) You got a ticket, and the draw has been announced, and your ticket is the winning ticket, you have won the grand price.

2) You got a ticket, and the draw date is some time down the road, to be announced, and so, you have to wait for the draw to be done, and the result announced.

3) You have NOT a ticket, regardless when the draw will be made, you cannot win.

I am NOT saying our salvation is like buying a lottery ticket; I am merely using the lottery as a parable or metaphor to illustrate an aspect of a hope (or wish), thereby, more clearly posing the pertinent salvation question that Christians have to ponder on.

Which is your answer? Obviously, you have NOT chosen (3), for there is no true salvation possible under (3); this is the scenario of the non-believer. Regardless when Jesus comes back (or the non-believer dies before Jesus’ coming back), there is no hope or wish to talk about, for the non-believer.

If I have to choose one of the three (with no other choices), I will select (2) as what salvation hope is all about. Sure, it may NOT be a ticket, as such; it is a “surety measure” of the Holy Spirit, we, (all believers), have (some version of Bible puts it as “a deposit of the Holy Spirit”), indwelling us. Like the lottery in (2), which has NOT the draw been done, and the result thereof, made known, the timing of Jesus’ coming back again, is NOT known, or we know NOT when we will die; and so, we have a hope.

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Anthony Chia said...

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Of course, we CANNOT equate salvation to striking lottery. But like I stated it at the onset, if there are only the above multiple choices, which would you pick. The closer understanding to the real thing is perhaps as follows:

When we enter into salvation, i.e. be born-again, or be converted or accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are granted entry into the Kingdom of God; in other words, we have been granted citizenship (Apostle Paul said it that way), we have been granted sonship (the indwelling Holy Spirit has adopted us as sons or children of God), or we have been granted zoe life.

Did I just say (in the preceding paragraph), that salvation is past tense? No,
3 words, we will take a look at, to understand, despite what I have said in the preceding paragraph, I am still NOT saying that salvation is past tense; and the 3 words are: phase, hope, relativism.

What do we need to understand concerning salvation phases? First, let me ask you, “What did Jesus teach in His first sermon?” Yes, it is “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand or near”. Also, what did Jesus teach the believers to pray concerning the coming of God’s Kingdom? Yes, “Thy Kingdom comes; thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven”. What Jesus was trying to say was that the Kingdom of God does NOT begin only when He comes back or when you, a believer, passes on. “At hand” means “within reach”; the Kingdom of God is within reach of a pre-believer. What is a kingdom? What makes up a kingdom? A King and His subjects. Kingdom is NOT a place, as such. A place is part of a kingdom, when and only when the King has dominion over the place, and history showed us that where a King has dominion, there, he has placed his some of his subjects to exercise influences. In other words, we, believers, are His subjects; and we, together with our King, Jesus Christ, form the Kingdom of God. Heaven is our home base, earth is NOT, but God has decided to establish dominion over earth, in other words, making earth part of His Kingdom, and we, believers, are the ones, He is expecting to exercise the influences of His rule here, on earth. When Jesus told the believers to pray “Thy Kingdom comes; thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven”, the understanding is NOT that, the Kingdom of God has NOT come, for us, but it is our praying for more and more of His rule and His will be established here, on earth, like they are established in the home base, Heaven. In other words, we are in the earthly phase of the Kingdom of God; we are God’s subjects in this phase of the Kingdom of God, expected to exercise influences for Him. So, in terms of place, there is the Kingdom of God in Heaven, and there is the Kingdom of God on Earth. There are other angles one can look at, concerning the phases of the Kingdom of God: there is the phase of Kingdom living as a man, in the possibly scores of years on earth (earthly living phase), there is the “passing on” phase of the Kingdom, and there is also the living after we passed on or raptured (for those who live to see rapture), in the Heaven (heaven-living phase).

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Anthony Chia said...

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As far as a place, we, believers, who are alive (natural life), we are living in the world, Jesus was very clear about that; but we are also to understand that we are already in the Kingdom of God. So, we have to know this point - that we are already in the Kingdom of God, and that our Christian life is NOT entirely a future thing, or “when we die” thing! Because, we are NOT transferred to Heaven upon entry into salvation, we are still in this fallen world, and so, this fallen world has “forces” at work, and it is NOT perfect. That there are troubles and calamities still, does NOT mean that we are NOT already in the Kingdom of God; this, a believer MUST know and understand. Jesus said that although we are still in the world, and there would be troubles, we are NOT to lose heart, for He has overcome it (the world). It means, if we live according to His ways, we too can have His support to live victorious, here. It, of course, does NOT mean we will NOT die; we have to die, or be rapture to move on to the next phase(s) of the Kingdom living, but until then, we are to live our lives as demanded of us.

Some people said that Christianity is a way of life. While it is true, it is NOT just “a” way of life; it is living out the zoe life God has rebirth us into, upon entry into salvation. It is we have to live out that life, and NOT it is an optional thing; it is NOT we can do anything we want, or do nothing but just basking in grace. Identity and knowing that you, as a believer, are living already in the Kingdom of God, is very important, but is NOT enough. So what, you are a prince or princess of God, every believer is a prince or princess of God! Please, live out your identity; if you are a prince, carry yourself as a prince. In other words, think, behave and act like a prince (for you are a prince). I believe, like the Apostle James, “the test of the pudding is in the eating”. James said, “Show me your faith, and I will you my faith by what I do!” I believe God does apply such to us! This pudding, good? Test it by eating, then you will know; you are a prince, let us examine your conduct, and then we will know. God said in Scripture, amounting to: “You love me? Let me see if you love your fellow neighbor!”

Some may be predicting that next, I would say “we need to work our way to Heaven”! No, I am NOT dwelling into that issue; rather, I will say a few words more, on the nature of “hope”. We have already covered the aspect of hope that says, “it is NOT a past tense”; or in other words, what is hoped for, has NOT happened. But there is still one aspect of hope, we must all bear in mind, and that is, that if it is hope it means it is NOT a sure thing; in other words, it is NOT guaranteed or assigned a 100% success. I am NOT going to dwell on what would account for the lack of 100%, but I hope we set our heart to be attentive to watching our lives, for our future glory (this glory is after we passed on {in our earthly living, don’t take any of God’s glory; ascribe it all back to Him}) is a hope; it is a hope, NOT a guarantee, otherwise, it would NOT be called as such, “hope of glory”, in Scripture. Before you go there, you can be sure that it is NOT 100%, NOT due to the “lack” on God’s part; in other words, it is NOT because God can be less than faithful, less than capable (Scripture tells us that God’s hand is NOT too short); or that Jesus can only save some but NOT some others. If it is NOT about the imperfection of God, then it has got to do with us, that it is NOT 100%.

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Anthony Chia said...

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The last of the 3 words, is the word, “relativism”. Both the Apostles Peter (in 1 Pet 1:6) and James (James 4:14) used the phrase, “a little while” to denote the relatively short time we live on earth (earthly life) compared with the eternality of the life after-death. In fact, the passages from which these 2 sets of verses of the 2 apostles are taken from, give us how we are to handle our earthly life. Nowhere, in either passage, is the exhortation of believers to strive for material successes, per se; NOT even in view of the short time available to us. All the quick, quick, and quick rises to fame, to material and financial successes; no time to waste, is the exhortation of the world, NOT the Word. With God, there is the only “just in time”, but NOT the quick, quick (no time already!), rises or increases. Time on earth, is indeed, short, possibly only scores of years; because it is so, it is important we know we have only a short window to be yielding under the Potter’s hand. 3 things are certain, from Scripture: men will die, there will be judgment by God, and one either goes to Heaven or to Hell. In the relatively short time we have, don’t you think it is wise NOT to spend too much time on the things that count NOT?

Before I go, I just want to say a few words on the important attributes exhorted in Scriptures? “Quick, quick and quick” is NOT it. Instead, patience (or longsuffering), perseverance, faithfulness are exhorted. I just want to touch on a particular scenario, and that is when one is nearing the end of life (everyone has to die, one day). In my adult life, so far, I have had only faced one death in my immediate family, my father; and that was many years ago, and he was over 70 years old and was stricken with pancreatic cancer. My father, from his young adult life (this is as far back in life, that I know of), he was interested in the Christian faith, but he did NOT give his life over until he was diagnosed with cancer. It was a matter of weeks, and he was “gone”, but gone home to be with the Lord. It was a painful and unbearable few weeks, for it was physically painful for him, my father, and very painful indeed for us, his spouse, and children to watch him suffered. But he accepted the Lord and held on to the faith, clutching his cross (we gave him a wooden cross). I was NOT at his bedside when my father died; I was away, and so, it was somewhat regrettable, although, when he passed on, only his wife, my mother, was at his side; the other children missed it, too. Shortly after his death, I had a dream, and in that dream, I was in the dream, having a meal with my family, and my father was looking on from Heaven. The dream was a beautiful closure, for me – he was old, over 70 years old, and in his final days, the Lord was so gracious as to take him home to Heaven.

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Anthony Chia said...

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As I have said, my dad then was old, and so, it was easier for us to accept, he was passing on; but in recent years, because of my little ministry of praying and ministering to the sick, I have had to visit believers (and deal with their loved ones) who were NOT old, but could NOT receive healing for their sicknesses, medically or divinely. It was difficult for the sick, his/her loved ones (like spouse and children), and it was also difficult for me, to face them all. Two ladies (mothers) died of cancer recently, one, in another country, a few months ago, and another, just a couple of days ago, on New Year’s eve. The latter, I even visited at the hospital on Christmas morning. These 2 cancer-stricken ladies, I followed them through for well over a year. Both ladies, despite seeking medical and divine help since first diagnosed with cancer, did NOT get healed, yet for the period of time of 1½ to 2½ years that they had left, they continued to be patient, persevere, and remain faithful unto the Lord, as long as they were conscious. The things these sisters did, included ministering and praying for other cancer patients, leading their loved ones to Christ, served in church, and undertook classes to understand the faith further, and were encouragers to others.

In their last days, it was difficult for me, for I have prayed with them for a long time, consistently encouraging them to be positive to live life, for the inevitable was coming, they would die on me, so to speak. When confronted by their loved ones as to what to do, in the sick’s last days, I plucked up my courage to advice to help the sick to stay steadfast in the faith, to continue to hold on to the hope of glory. And so, I encouraged praying for the sick, by the bedside, reading Scriptures to the sick, and letting the sick listen (with headsets, {in hospital}) to Christian songs; for the sick has entered coma or semi-consciousness, or was unable herself to do these things. This scenario, showed to us, ultimately, the test of faith, are in such things as patience, (longsuffering), perseverance, and faithfulness, holding on, to the hope of salvation. I say, “Sisters, welcome me, when I come.”

To me, I am in salvation, always holding to the hope (even while I am having my fast food) that I will get to Heaven to be with my Lord, and to see the fellow brothers and sisters whom I know, here; meanwhile, I live out my earthly phase of my Kingdom life, knowing that I can ask for divine help, yet respecting His wisdom and sovereignty.

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