In His last hours with His disciples, Jesus gave them one final command for them to follow: to “love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
Loving our neighbours these days feels a little different than before. A global pandemic has swept across the Earth and everything has changed. Work meetings have become emails or video calls. Restaurants have changed seating, or closed completely. Even karaoke has been halted for the foreseeable future. And of course, our church has been unable to meet in person for over a month.
How can I love my neighbour if I can’t even be around my neighbour?!
What’s interesting is that while this has changed the way we physically interact with people, the human connection is still very much there. I have had more phone (voice) conversations in the last month than I have in the last 10 years. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s highlighting a truth in our new reality: people need people and our technology is letting that continue.
Underneath all of this is the deep longing we all have for connection. We all feel this desire to be together, and even the limitations of physical space can’t stop us. Humans long to be in community. There is this invisible, spiritual connection that is like gravitational pull we have towards one another. We can’t see it, but we definitely feel it.
I have a friend who went “stir-crazy” from being stuck at home the other night. How do I know? I checked Facebook and I had over 20 notifications from him. He had gone to different friends’ pages and started commenting, tagging, and liking all kinds of posts. This started a chain reaction where multiple people were now involved. All of that activity culminated in a Zoom call with 24 participants - some of those whom I haven’t seen in 25-30 years - that has now become a weekly gathering.
Because of one guy.
He was longing for connection.
He wanted to love his neighbours. How? By just talking. Catching up. Asking questions. It’s so simple.
So in this unprecedented time, we can love our neighbours well like this:
Distance socially, but connect spiritually.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God… in whom you also are built together spiritually (in the Spirit) into a dwelling place for God.” (Ephesians 2:22)
Redevelopment Project PRAYER
Some may think that being bold as believers is all about giant leaps of faith, and maybe that's the way it appears in the rear-view mirror of history. But what you'll find if you look close enough, is that the leaps of faith are always preceded by steps of faith. And that's where our focus as the Building Project Team has been over the past four years as we've searched for permanent premises, to continue taking the next faithful step. In doing so, we believe God has led us to this point where we have a promising update about the future of Island ECC.
You may recall, that last July in our Bold Faith newsletter, we invited you to start praying about a redevelopment opportunity in North Point. Thanks to your prayers, we feel we have had God's favour along the way, and are now excited to let you know that we are reviewing a GIC (Government, Institution or Community) site with other parties for a redevelopment project in the neighbourhood. We sincerely ask for your continued prayers for God's wisdom to the church leadership for this project, specifically in terms of finalizing the agreement for the GIC opportunity. At the same time, we recognize the declining prices in the property market, and will continue to review other building opportunities should it be proven to be a better option. Our calling is to simply be faithful, and we are dedicated to following the path that God is leading our church!
One additional update for you is that the Art Appreciation Night, mentioned in the last newsletter, will be rescheduled to the Fall of this year.
These past few months with the outbreak have taken a toll on our city, our church, our families and our hearts. Everyone's lives have been affected in some way personally or professionally, some outwardly evident, and others through subtle, inward stress. However, it's important to remember that darker seasons also have a way of better illuminating God's blessings and our need for Him. Our church hopes to be the light in helping and serving the community.
Hope of the City has arranged for volunteers, including many of you, to give over 100,000 face masks to the street cleaners and elderly in Wan Chai, Central, Shum Shui Po and other locations throughout Hong Kong. Many other ministry opportunities have been birthed through this crisis as well, blessing low-income families in Sham Shui Po by meeting the practical needs of students, mothers and those affected by the loss of income. In addition, we are so thankful for what Island ECC has continued to do through all of the church ministries, including Hope of the City, Children and Youth, Men and Women, Equipping and Care Group. We are excited about all the opportunities God has given us and are excited by the growth of God's Kingdom.
What we're experiencing now is simply the next chapter of the story God is writing through Island ECC. Take a look at this video in which Pastor Brett Hilliard shares some of our history and the ways God has used Island ECC to impact our city so far.
Each of you has contributed to the church through your generosity, service, talents and community. Without your faithfulness, we wouldn't be in the place we are today, and your continued partnership with us in Bold Faith is genuinely appreciated!
The challenges ahead are opportunities for the glory of God to be revealed in exceptional ways. This is the right time for Hong Kong to be engaged in a historic endeavour.
Bold Faith Chairman
Quarantine was the best thing to ever happen to me. In 2009 I spent ten days in quarantine. I was part of a mission team going from Hong Kong to India, and we had a person on our team come down with the bird flu. So instead of ministering to kids, our days were spent waking up, watching local Indian television, doing a lap or two around the room, and then lying in bed staring at the ceiling trying to do mental exercises. Occasionally we’d have food deliveries from local Indian restaurants which ended up being the highlight of our days.
It’s funny when you are stuck in a room for ten days, the things that used to be distractions in life lose their appeal. I loved television, but in that room I could not stand watching another tv show by the third day. I was a social media junky (back then only Facebook and MySpace existed), but after several days I just ran out of people to follow. All these things that had been distractions for my devotional life were suddenly losing their power, and suddenly I was drawn all the more towards reading my Bible. And in that room for the first time, I read through a book of the Bible, and then a second one, and then I began to explore the Old Testament books. And then I also began to pray. Small doses at a time; a minute here, and a minute there, and then 5 minutes, and then 10 minutes, and then I learned to just linger with the Lord in silence for hours. That hospital room was a turning point in my life, it was like God forced me to pause and spend ten days with him without any distractions.
My encouragement to you in this Covid season is this: don’t waste this time of isolation. Life will go back to normal and the busyness will return, and the distractions of life will again become your coping mechanism from a busy day. But perhaps, for now, we can turn off our Netflix (which we must be so tired of already), shut off the news feeds (it’s the same news every day), log off of our social media accounts (how many puppy videos can we watch), and find delight in being with God. Who knows, perhaps this quarantine is just what you needed.
One of the most famous adages about investing is to “buy low, and sell high.” It communicates that the wise investor is the person who has a long-term outlook and doesn’t let the emotion and anxiety of the day spark unwise choices. As we’ve seen markets dip lately, many advisors are urging people to stay calm and look beyond this anxious season. And you know what? Over thousands of years, not much has changed regarding the human heart and its response to uncertainty.
This is true in many spheres that go way beyond the financial realm, such as the relational, emotional and spiritual realm we all deal with. This frail, human condition that has unwaveringly superseded time and culture speaks to the fact that we weren’t designed to carry the weight of life ourselves. It teaches that, if nothing earthly can truly be an anchor, maybe something or someone beyond earth was meant to be. And so as it turns out, the wisest man who ever lived (Solomon), echoed the same advice we hear from investors today. Yet he is speaking to the whole of life… Proverbs 23:23 Buy the truth and do not sell it-- wisdom, instruction and insight as well. Solomon knew, from God’s gift of wisdom, that it’s easy to sell what we previously knew as true when circumstances get tough and we feel low.
It’s not difficult to see that this is a “low” season all around the world. Optimism is low. Security is low. Clarity is low. Maybe energy and resilience are running low as well. And it’s ok to be low. But what I want to encourage you to do in this season of uncertainty is to resolve to buy the truth. That now, more than ever, we need to set our eyes on a timeline beyond this month and a God who is not anxiously overseeing it.
That especially because things are shaky, we should be investing in spiritual practices that ground us in God’s truth. We need it now more than we did three months ago because the messages we’re inundated with aren’t helping to usher into the peace of God.
So in this low time, don’t give up praying, in fact, pray more. Don’t give up reading Scripture, read more. Don’t give up singing, sharing, meditating, trusting, listening. Double down on God’s truth, it’s the best investment you’ll make.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
In recent weeks I have gotten into the habit of checking multiple times a day for the latest number of coronavirus cases in Hong Kong and abroad. Mainstream and social media are also filled with headlines and videos relating to government and personal measures being taken in response to this disease. And with all the negative and fear inducing news, it almost feels instinctive to want to isolate myself and avoid others. But upon reflection, I am reminded of the many commands and examples in the Bible about the benefits of community and what can be accomplished as a result of being in fellowship with one another.
When David learned of King Saul's intentions to harm him, David found comfort through his close friendship with Jonathan, Saul's son (1 Samuel 20).
As illustrated through Jonathan's friendship with David, we are called to carry each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2) and to love one another, especially in times of adversity (Proverbs 17:17).
God created Eve for He knew that it was not good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2:18). The Lord teaches that "two are better than one" (Ecclesiastes 4:9). In the book of Acts, the early church grew tremendously as the believers shared generously and had fellowship with one another with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:44-47).
But even armed with all these truths (and the many other commandments and promises in the Bible on this topic), I still find myself susceptible to shrinking back into isolation when I see someone sneeze, cough or otherwise look ill. As a result, I am in the habit of praying that the Lord would help me remember verses like the ones above when those thoughts creep in.
Let us put power of relationships into practice by:
• Thanking God for always being near to us and for His strength and wisdom.
• Asking God’s help to maintain community with one another (whether virtually or in person) through all seasons of life.
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