Three months and three days have passed in 2022. In 11 days' time we shall be celebrating Passover, commemorating Jesus' death on the cross 2,000 years ago. After two weeks of writing a commentary on Galatians, I switched back to the commentary on the Song of Solomon. I designed a new cover and printed a hard copy from a printing company. It helped tremendously to get my bearing on the font size and formatting of the book as reading it over the past 6 months on a computer screen had not been easy. It makes me think how important physical books are, despite the popularity of e-books. It is different when one holds a book in one's hands, and flip the pages with words in them. One's interaction and engagement with a hard copy is certainly much more enjoyable, worth the RM20.00 I spent on printing a copy.But when I reflect on the past 3 months without physically being present in a building for worship, it's been a change, to put it mildly. The back cover of my Departure Points has a picture of a house (a church built like a house in Banggi Island) and the verse "How I love the habitation of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells". This is the first time in my life that as a healthy person that I do not attend worship on a Sunday due to some man-made regulations. If we think of the "church" incorrectly, we will err since a public building is bound by certain rules of usage during a public health crisis. If the church meets at home, then there will be less restrictions just as the early church did for three hundred years. I preached on the necessity of home churches and gatherings for 18 months and no one paid much notice. Even when we were free to meet, no leader offered to open their homes. Twice or three times, I said in the pulpit that everyone was welcome to my house, anytime. In fact, as the Covid-19 infections peaked early February 2022, I had about 25 people coming to my house for Lunar New Year. I did visit four or five homes during the time to comfort families facing bereavement or celebration of their child's birthday. There was just one family that was brave enough to hold a fellowship and prayers. One of the families that I visited brought a big bag of village rice to my office a couple of weeks later and I realised that for the past 6 months we survived on the rice given by church members without needing to purchase that ourselves.
When I reflect on this current pandemic or plague, it is like the times of Elijah and Elisha. Jesus said that only a widow was ministered to (Elijah sent by God) and only Naaman, a Syrian was healed, though there were many lepers in Israel (Luke 4). During these dark days, many will go about their business, not knowing God's will. Temple services in Jerusalem went on as usual in the time of Elijah with the call to prayers and slaughter of morning and evening sacrifices daily. Like Isaiah said, "God is hiding His face from His people" (Isa 8). People go about their "church" services, their religious activities without realising that God is no longer with them and not knowing Christ is standing outside. They are happy with their singing and sermonising, going about looking religious and having a form of godliness, but they deny the power therein. How hypocritical people have become. They even dare to say pray for the sick, while the healthy they refuse entry into their gathering. "Don't come near me as I am holier than thou".
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