Monday 16 April 2012

2011 Annual Review

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel...”
1 Corinthians 15:1

The gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life, it is the A to Z. That is why the bible keeps reminding us to hold on to the gospel. That is why the bible keeps warning us of the dangers of moving away from the gospel, not because we don’t know the gospel, but because it is easy to assume our knowledge of the gospel, and to focus on something other than the gospel.

The apostle Paul reminds us that the gospel is “of first importance”. In other words, it is the most important thing. It is my prayer that as we look back to the events of 2011 and recognise God’s grace and goodness, we will also be reminded of God’s grace in the good news - the gospel of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

January - VISA
The VISA course is bible study specially tailored for enquirers and newcomers going through basic questions on Christianity, such as “Who is God?”, “What is wrong with the world?” and “Why did Jesus die?” Richard and Jessica Parker were responsible for adapting all the materials and leading all the sessions held each Sunday for nine weeks. We thank God for their faithful service to Jesus and partnership with us in the gospel.

February - CNY
This year’s Chinese New Year celebration was on the theme of “Reunion - the joy of God’s love”. Looking at Jesus’ parable of the two sons - the wayward son who ran away home and the dutiful son who slaved away at home - we learned how Jesus is the true and humble Son. He is the true elder brother who obeyed his heavenly Father, sacrificing his own inheritance to bring rebellious younger brothers and sisters back into God’s family.

March - 1 Corinthians
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth addressing serious problems of pride and sin. The church in Corinth was gifted but took God’s grace for granted. They were wealthy but looked down on their weaker brothers. Despite all of this, 1 Corinthians contains some of the clearest and most stunning passages on the resurrection, spiritual gifts, leadership in God’s church, the Lord’s supper, Christian giving and even love to be found in the entire bible. By looking at the Corinthian church back in the first century, our Sunday messages had much to teach us about what God was looking for in the Chinese Church today.

April - New Word Alive
Fifteen of us spent a week attending the annual New Word Alive Christian conference up north in Wales where we stayed together in caravans, ate together every day, and joined 8,000 other believers in joyful worship under the faithful preaching of God’s word. We were challenged, we were refreshed and we were encouraged to continue living our lives wholeheartedly for Jesus!

May - Baptisms
Yao Shi, Sarah Quah and Faye Yung were baptised as an outward sign of confession to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and as a testimony to the inward work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. We rejoice that they have continued to walk faithfully with Jesus, growing in his love and in the knowledge of God’s grace.

June - Exodus
Rock Fellowship spent a full year journeying through the epic book of Exodus in the Old Testament. We learned how God heard the cries of his people in slavery in Egypt and rescued them by sending his servant Moses, displaying his awesome power before Pharaoh through the ten plagues, and finally through the crossing of the Red Sea. We read the Ten Commandments given to Israel at God’s mountain as a contract and a promise from God himself. We read about the instructions for the Tabernacle and the priests, given so that Israel could meet with God and approach him acceptably in worship. We also read of Israel’s rejection of God salvation through idolatry and the rejection of God’s goodness through grumbling. Finally, we saw how God was preparing the way for the true Exodus - the ultimate rescue that came through Jesus - who was the true Passover Lamb, the true Tabernacle and the true Son of God.

July - Upside-down
Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom but he does so in a very surprising way. We looked at Matthew’s gospel (Chapters 19 and 20) to learn how Jesus demands not our goodness but our humility, how the first will be last and the last will be first, and how he comes as the king not to be served, but to serve us by giving up his life as payment for our sins on the cross.

We rejoiced with Sidney and Zhoujie on their wedding day as they made their vows before God and to one another as husband and wife, promising to love and to serve each other in faithfulness, sacrifice and obedience to Jesus Christ.

August - Revelation
The book of Revelation promises blessing to all who hear it and especially for all who obey it. It is Jesus’ word to his church to stand firm in the gospel in the face of temptation, compromise and persecution, reminding us that he has conquered sin, that he has overcome death and that he has defeated the devil through his finished work on the cross. In our Sunday meetings, we heard his voice speaking directly to the seven churches, we saw the worship of angels before God’s throne and we beheld Jesus as the lamb who was slain, who purchased with his blood a kingdom from every tribe, people, nation and language.

September - Light of the World
What would Jesus say during the Mid-Autumn Festival? It might surprise you to learn that the bible actually tells us in John Chapter 8 where Jesus announced himself as the light of the world. Here, Jesus uses the occasion of the festival and location of the temple to point to himself as the true source of life and the true revelation of God.

October - Hellos and goodbyes
The start of the new university term meant saying goodbye to students beginning their first year (Along Ying and Sarah Quah) but also hello to newcomers at the Chinese Church. 2011 was a year of significant growth in terms of regular attendance: averaging 20 at Rock Fellowship, our mid-week bible study (at many times bursting close to 30) and a consistent rise in numbers as well at our Sunday meetings. More importantly, God has blessed us with discernible spiritual growth, especially amongst the teenagers and students in terms of their maturity, speech and conduct. For those who remain with us, we pray we will continue love them and be faithful in our responsibility in caring for each one of them. For those who are away, we continue to ask God’s grace in providing them with a gospel-proclaiming church to be rooted in and for God’s power to keep their gaze focussed on Jesus Christ as their Lord and Shepherd.

November - Judges
In November, Rock Fellowship began a new series with the book of Judges. What made it so fascinating was how Judges dealt with generation after generation of believers who all went through similar cycles of rebellion against God, repentance towards God, rescue from God and ending with forgetfulness of God. Each generation had to come to a personal realisation of their sin and a personal trust in God to rescue them from judgement for their sinfulness. Our studies served as warnings not to assume our salvation - replacing it with church attendance, with our parents’ faith, with our personal achievements in school or at work - but to trust in Jesus as the one and only basis of our acceptance before God.

December - Christmas & Solid Rock
The theme for the Christmas season was expectation, as we looked at the events surrounding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 20-21, in a series entitled, “All I want for Christmas”. What were the crowds expecting Jesus to do as the Messiah? What did the blind men expect Jesus to do as their healer? What did the religious teachers expect Jesus to say as God’s prophet? In each and every instance, Jesus dealt with their expectations of joy, compassion, truth and love not simply by meeting their expectations of him, but by surprising them and even by surpassing every single one of them. He did this again and again by pointing ahead to the events of the cross and the resurrection: Jesus expected to be betrayed, he expected to die and to rise again.

We ended the year with our annual Solid Rock music event, organised and led by Lydia Lee and Faye Yung with the help of the youth. Trevor Hames spoke from 1 Thessalonians on the hallmarks of a Christian. The event was well-attended - visitors came specially to see their friends perform, the hall was packed (we ran out of seats!) and the Sunday School kids and teachers joined us in singing and praising God for giving us the wonderful gift of his Son, Jesus.

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