Pastor's Sharing

It is Most Honorable to Serve the Lord

It is Most Honorable to Serve the Lord

By Rev Wayne Cheung

September 24, 2023

       At church, I know a leader who has faithfully served in the same role for many years. Whether the environment is good or bad, he works steadfastly to walk with believers in their spiritual growth. Another leader holds an important position in the workplace and yet he is still very humble and polite. At worship services, he serves in an inconspicuous, supportive role. And recently, I have got to know some “retrained” leaders. Very experienced people, they are nevertheless willing to spend time to review what they already know and learn new ministry skills. They have an open and receptive approach to learning. I am grateful to God for the NPAC family.

        I have found that all these ministry leaders, whichever area they serve in, have one thing in common. They cherish an attitude to serve that is close to the heart of God. They show spiritual qualities in line with our faith – faithful, good, humble, kind… And amid the ups and downs of serving, they know clearly God’s calling for them, which is why they can willingly glorify God and build others up. They well understand the will of God. Their service is not for applause nor for show-off in the limelight. Rather, they really love the church and they serve to build up the body of Christ for the greatest benefit of the whole congregation.

       As the pandemic eases and things gradually return to normal, a good supply of manpower and resources is the key to success. Governments across the world deploy various means to attract talents. Some try to stem the outflow, some get talents from others, some train up, others preserve or bring in bonuses. No doubt about it, if you want the city to develop, you need the talent. In the post-pandemic church, what sort of ministry resources and packages do we need?

       Through studying the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the theme of the sermons of this quarter focuses on how we can experience the guidance and grace of God on the road to resuming normalcy. Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah were key leaders in the period of return from exile. To enable smooth implementation of various plans, they needed unity of the people including leaders at various levels so that, together as one, they could fulfill what God entrusted to them in different periods: to rebuild the temple, to rebuild the walls, and to remold the holy people. What these two books of the Old Testament emphasize time and again is that the graceful hand of God is among them, a testimony to the fact that God walks and works with His people, and that He establishes and is pleased with the work of their hands.

       I mentioned a 3S-principle in my ministry leader classes: Servant, Shepherd and Steward. Whatever the change in our circumstances, whatever the discrepancy between our serving environment and the reality, believers must still humbly serve the Lord and build others up. If we are lacking in certain areas, we should do our best to care for others and shepherd one another. Even in unfavorable situations, we should insist on caring and keeping watch over others in a people-oriented manner. Finally, everyone who serves is the Lord’s steward. Knowing that we have to bring our books before the Lord one day, we must faithfully do what we are entrusted with seriously, respectfully, and with continuous self-improvement.

       After all, what an honor and blessing it is to serve the Lord of grace!

Pastor's Sharing

What NPAC’s Mission Stories Tell Us

What NPAC’s Mission Stories Tell Us

By Rev Arnold Chow

September 17, 2023

NPAC’s mission stories over the years and the pioneer church planting history of the forerunners of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) tell us seven things:

  1. The path of mission is pitted with challenges and hardships, many of them beyond our imagination. Going on mission is not an honorable option to escape predicament in real life. It is a life choice for total offering, voluntary surrender, and absolute obedience to the LORD’s will. Such courage, faith and commitment are something today’s believers need to learn.
  2. Even if the worst possible situation happens, mission is still a path of grace. Missionaries shed blood and tears on the hard soil for the gospel, offer prayers, toil and sweat. Their work may not bear instant fruit but in hindsight, the fruit the LORD brings forth is always evident. C&MA mission work is one of such struggles and persistence. Looking back at the missionaries to China, who would have thought that more than a hundred years later, Hong Kong would become a base for mission among Chinese?
  3. Mission is the LORD’s plan, not the church’s achievement. What the church needs to do is to actively tie in with God’s plan and do its best to arrange the work. No single church or mission agency can do all the mission work. The church cannot confine itself to its member churches, region or denomination. Collaborating with others and forming alliances for the gospel is still the most effective strategy.
  4. Mission calls for a great deal of human and financial resources, but ultimately it is the LORD who provides. When the church is willing to do it, the LORD will use the church to accomplish His work. If brothers and sisters are willing to make a faith offering pledge, the church will be able to continue, by faith, to support mission work. The church has to shoulder the responsibility of furnishing supply according to its own scale. For well-attended churches with plentiful financial offering, they should, just like the Egyptian storehouses managed by Joseph, stock up during the good years and distribute when famine strikes. This way, mission work near and far can continue to be provided for.
  5. Mission work will be difficult to progress without some in the church to mobilize. Teaching believers to care for mission should be an ongoing effort of the church. In fact, a lot of passion for mission ignited within the church could grow cold once the believer steps outside the worship hall. Over the years, the church has been mobilizing through mission conference, short-term mission trips, missionary care groups, short-term missionaries and mission ambassadors. Hereafter, the church will need to find a new model suitable for this era.
  6. The home front for mission cannot really “stay behind.” The warfare does not just take place on the frontline. Everybody must be assigned tasks. We can win the war only when everybody recognizes he has a part in mission, that he is not just a bystander waiting for others to help. It is the same with the Great Commission. Paul first liaised with believers in different churches. Whether they are rich or poor, everybody could serve as missionaries, helpers, financial supporters, or prayer warriors.
  7. The networked world and the world in post-pandemic times is still one that our Heavenly Father deeply loves. Mission has been the church’s mission since the early church. If the church stops having mission, there can only be two reasons: first, Christ the Lord has returned; and second, the church is no longer the church. That is why the church should continue to send people, to take the gospel to unreached peoples and lands where the name of Jesus has not been heard before.

       (Excerpt from the epilogue of The Path of Grace – A Quest for Mission Corners)

Pastor's Sharing

Order in Chaos, Confidence in Life

Order in Chaos, Confidence in Life

By Rev Yina Chow

September 10, 2023

       What are you doing this Christmas? Thinking about how to spend your holiday? Only want to go on a trip? Right now, do you happen to be faced with some changes, and are feeling bewildered by the many decisions you have to make?

      Here is an invitation from the Lord Jesus to you: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31). The action “come” arises from a desire and willingness within the heart. It is a voluntary act by which people come before Jesus to listen to His teachings. When you come “by yourselves,” you free yourself from the matters and the people bothering you and focus on letting the word of God reset your being and your doing. “A quiet place” is somewhere away from your familiar environment, away from the resources you used to rely on, in order to train up your simple faith in Jesus. Finally, “get some rest” means to let your soul rest and reposition yourself in a safe environment where you can reconnect with the source of strength.

      The theme of the 15th Winter Camp is “Order in Chaos, Confidence in Life.” In the past three years, we have experienced fear and felt lost in “a world that fell short of expectations.” It is as though our city was hit by some turbulent wind, leaving the streets littered with yellow leaves. Does this happen to represent our weary and exhausted inner life? In such a state of chaos and disorder, we still need to catch up with the pace of resuming normalcy. But where can we find strength?

      The name of the prophet Ezekiel means “The LORD strengthens.” In his times, the prophet’s hometown was ruined and the Israelites were exiled to Babylon. All hopes were gone with the grief of the fall of the nation. Yet, God gave Ezekiel the vision of dry bones coming to life again. This led the Israelites to recall God’s acts and His presence in history and regain the promise of revival! Under the slogan resuming normalcy and not the old ways, we need to take one step further – to revive! Believers in the post-pandemic times face a number of difficulties in faith: Being abandoned within their community, leaving God in church, being unfaithful in their covenant, and seeking short-cuts while waiting. At the Winter Camp, speaker Dr Johnson Yip will bring out the themes of his four sermons based on four key words (bewilderment, reversion, remembrance and waiting) on selected readings from the Book of Ezekiel: Experiencing God in Utter Despair (Ezekiel 1-3); Experiencing God amid Strife and Judgment (Ezekiel 11); Experiencing God in Going One’s Way (Ezekiel 16, 23); Experiencing God in Waiting on Him (Ezekiel 40-48).

      Early bird enrolment for the Winter Camp is about to begin. The Camp is free, and freewill offering is encouraged. The organizing committee of the Winter Camp sincerely invites you to reserve Dec 25-26 for joining us in the NPAC family to find “Order in Chaos, Confidence in Life”!

      “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Pastor's Sharing

40 Years of Missionary Care

40 Years of Missionary Care

By Rev Kenneth Chong

September 3, 2023

       The leader of a missionary care group received the news from a missionary that his brain surgery was imminent. So, the missionary care group immediately sprang into action to pray for the operation. Thanks be to God who answers prayer, the operation went well. The tumor was removed and the missionary tested normal for eyesight after the surgery. He could continue to drive in the mission field as his transportation.

       During the pandemic, a missionary returned to Hong Kong to take care of some personal business. To prevent the seniors in his home from catching COVID, he first stayed in a hotel for self-quarantine. Members of one missionary care group knew where he was staying and so they brought him various supplies, cooked some dishes and bought his favorite food to show support.

       While missionaries work hard on the frontline, the missionary care groups are the heroes who render support on the home front. The groups pray fervently for the missionaries and the gospel needs in the mission fields, providing essential spiritual support. Their sustained care for missionaries gives them strength. They also care for and attend to the needs of missionaries’ families in Hong Kong on their behalf.

       In fact, some missionary care group members have various difficulties of their own. However, they still insist on praying for the missionaries. In some missionary care groups, a few members have serious illnesses. They are also among those who need care and attention. Nevertheless, their service in the group continues unabated. They also pray for one another, and the whole group prays for the missionaries without ceasing. There are a few others who cannot participate because they have to look after their family members who are seriously ill. Other group members would then pray in supplication for them. They embrace the same mission and so the members also have their fellowship life. They hold gatherings occasionally, bringing and sharing their favorite food with one another.

       Currently, the NPAC family has 16 missionary care groups. Each and every member joins the same mission. Forty years have now passed since the first missionary care group was formed in 1983. All along, the groups have worked hard to care for missionaries. In the third year since the inception of one group, a missionary involved in pioneer church planting in Taipei suburbs received the largest birthday cake he had ever received one day. It came from a missionary care group. The family of the missionary was greatly pleasantly surprised.

       Rev Philip Teng has said mission is the will of God and everybody should participate. If we are not missionaries on the frontline, then we should be mission supporters on the home front and be prayer warriors. Whether on the frontline or on the home front, have you found your serving role in mission?

Pastor's Sharing

God Turned “Darkness” into “Night”

God Turned "Darkness” into “Night”

By Rev Arnold Chow

August 27, 2023

       When I was meeting with some friends, we shared memories about our trip years ago to the countryside where we spent the night at a farm. Deep at night when it was very dark, it got a little scary to stand outside the house. But as we looked up, we saw that the night sky was dotted with bright little stars. They were all across the sky from one end to the other, surrounding us. What a magnificent sight. The uneasiness of being in the darkness instantly became a sense of delight.

       In the beginning, God separated the light, the sky, the dry ground and the waters. He named everything and set boundaries. God has sovereignty over the time, space and matter that He creates.

      “God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night” … God called the vault “sky”… God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”” (Genesis 1:5-10)

       Even “darkness” was regulated by the light that God created. And God called “darkness” “night.” Upon naming, the scary, endless darkness turned into the night in which people can sleep in peace.

       Today, if we are going through “darkness” in our lives, please remember that God can turn “darkness” into “night.” What, then, would you be afraid of?

       Upon leaving Egypt and before reaching the Red Sea, the Israelites were pursued by an entire army of Egyptian horsemen and chariots. The Bible says: “The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long” (Exodus 14:19-20).

       God brought the pillar of cloud and the darkness to separate the scared and anxious Israelites from the Egyptians. God also brought the Israelites light to protect them.

       A small village in the African country of Kenya is situated just outside a national park which is also a wildlife reserve. The villagers were cattle farmers. But there was no fence between the reserve and the village. The protected wild lions from the reserve would enter the village at night to devour the cattle. Some villagers have shot the invading lions due to their loss.

      An eight-year-old shepherd boy came to be aware that the lions would not approach the shed if they see some moving, flickering lights. So he and his family took turns to guard the shed with a torch. That was not a good idea because it would keep the family up throughout the night. The shepherd boy had another idea. He put together some old cables, a couple of electrical parts and a small light bulb and invented a small device with flickering light that could be put inside the shed. Seen from a distance, that would look like someone moving about with a torch.

     The lions were kept off. There seems to be an unseen fence between the village and the reserve. That gave villagers good sleep as their cattle were protected. The lions in turn were also protected from gunshots. The villagers, the cattle and the lions were at peace due to the boundaries.

     Today, we are convicted that “darkness” cannot stop the mighty hand of God. God will continue to guide us through life with His light.

Pastor's Sharing

Resume Normalcy and Not the Old Ways Be Ready, Steady, and Go

Resume Normalcy and Not the Old Ways

Be Ready, Steady, and Go

By Rev Maggie Tang

August 20, 2023

       I finally feel that we have resumed our daily lives. The impact of the pandemic in the past few years is fading away. This is most apparent from the fact that throughout the summer vacation, friends and relatives take turns to travel abroad. Some are even on the final stretch and are ready to go on their third trip before the end of August! During this period, many friends and brothers and sisters overseas also return to Hong Kong to visit families they have not seen for a few years. We would jokingly say this is to pay off the travel debts.

       As for me, I also traveled with my family for a few days to repay my debt to them. At the same time, I also think of another debt, or obligation, that we need to repay after normalcy is resumed. It is what Paul says: “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome” (Romans 1:14-15).

       As Christians, we are all debtors of the gospel. More precisely, we are debtors to unbelievers with the gospel we have. To all of us who have received the grace of the gospel, Christ Jesus has already entrusted us with the gospel, which we are obliged to preach to those who have not heard of it and those who have not received God’s grace. We cannot just let the gospel rest with us and not repay our debts. Rather, like the attitude we have towards traveling after the resumption of normalcy, we must do our utmost to spread the gospel to repay our debts with it.

       On the other hand, while our daily lives have resumed, many things are no longer the same. Not only can we not return to ways life used to be, but we have also been shifted towards new horizons – restaurant orders by QR code, online meetings at work, and the same applies to the work of the gospel. We need to come up with new concepts and ways to carry out the Great Commission. Here, I would like to cite the July issue of “Letters to the NPAC Family” to restate a fact: The church is already in the new horizons. We are resuming normalcy in an environment that has changed. If we think more carefully, God through Christ Jesus has forgiven our transgressions. He has given us the Holy Spirit, changed our old selves and let us join His new community. Is it not the best portrait of our brand-new life without resuming the old ways? We are faced with new circumstances on resuming normalcy. We need to get ready and steady to go and testify to the world about God’s mighty gospel in new ways.

       In July and August this year, NPAC’s Community Witness Department in conjunction with the Wind of the Spirit Fellowship have organized six interest classes on Pastel Nagomi Art at Living Stone, G/F, Truth Center. The initiative was to create a lively and relaxing environment where students on summer vacation and families can get to know the gospel while experiencing the joy of artistic creation. God has entrusted us with the gospel and given brothers and sisters at NPAC vibrancy and zeal. He has also prepared necessary venues for NPAC so that would not be a concern. We can now try to use different ways to reach unbelievers and create new opportunities to receive those who have not come to the church before. May God bless and send NPAC, and we will do our very best to preach the gospel to everyone.

Pastor's Sharing

Testimony of the Disability Ministry

Testimony of the Disability Ministry

By Rev Jenny Ching

August 13, 2023

       “Discern God’s work in your daily life and share the story” is NPAC’s theme for this year. We are grateful that one of our counselors has taken the initiative to design a Thanksgiving Book in hard copy format while another sister has helped us design an e-version so that our fellowship members can record things they are grateful for.

       When we first encouraged brothers and sisters to use the Thanksgiving Book, some frankly shared that thanksgiving items to be put down in the Book must be something special. One member wrote: “I always thought that only some special events are worth giving thanks. If a day passes just like any other day, I would not know what to write down to give thanks for. But I am very grateful today. Our Heavenly Father helped me discover suddenly that it is a blessing to write down matters of gratitude in the Thanksgiving Book. I have no idea why I changed, but I am really grateful for this.”

       From that day onwards, this sister became a frequent writer in our Thanksgiving eBook. And thanks be to God, their sharing inspired others to do the same. Indeed, we can give thanks for everything, big or small. Below is the sharing of some brothers and sisters:

     “Thank the Lord for watching over us. On Saturday afternoon, usually the podium on 6/F of Fortress Metro Tower is quite busy with various vehicles. But yesterday was miraculous. Not a single car was there, and so two or three of our rehab buses could enter at the same time. We were able to pick up members quickly so that they could go home earlier.”

     “Last night I played table tennis. While collapsing the table, the entire table closed up on my two wrists. I immediately went to the emergency room at hospital for x-ray. I am thankful that none of my bones were hurt. There were only some bruises on both hands and some external wounds on my skin. I really do not understand why the table, which weighs more than 100 pounds, collapsing on my hands did not cause any major injury. My wrists are really only skin and bones with no muscles to protect the wrist bones. Thank God for protecting me in secret!”

      “The other day after eating out with my two children, they insisted on going home by bus. We waited for a long time, but no bus was in sight. My two sons ran out of patience. The younger son yelled, and the elder bumped his head on whatever surface he could reach…I tried to calm them down and suggested that we pray together. The younger son prayed aloud, ‘Lord, I wanna take Route 85 bus home. We have waited for so long and still there is no bus. I am very unhappy. I pray You will help me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’ I am so thankful that a bus soon came as if it fell from the sky. It saved me.”

      “On April 30, my son’s breathing machine suddenly stopped working at noon. His face immediately turned pale. Thank God he could still breathe. We immediately switched to a backup machine. My son’s condition became stable and finally resumed normal breathing. Thank the Lord!”

       I can tell from the above sharing that our God is mighty and He can bring about change. He is also the Lord who watches over us, protects us, listens to our prayers and saves us. Recording and sharing what we are thankful for turns out to be a fountain of joy. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Pastor's Sharing

Gatherings and Anticipation for Our Faith Life

Gatherings and Anticipation for Our Faith Life

By Rev Samuel Tam

August 6, 2023

       The recent months have seen the church opening up all venues and relaunching ministries and meetings, allowing brothers and sisters more opportunities to gather together. We candidly shared and listened to one another concerning the needs for our faith life. While meeting together, brothers and sisters who attend in-person meetings would sometimes express: “The times have changed. There are now fewer who attend in-person fellowships and groups at church and it is difficult to gather people. We cannot expect much about plans to share the gospel and testify to the love of Christ!” How would you respond to such a sentiment?

       I am reminded of the prophet Jeremiah. He was already set apart in his mother’s womb. The LORD’s calling already came to him when he was young. He was sent by God to proclaim to nations “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:4-10). As a matter of fact, the current pandemic has reset the usual operation modes in many countries and societies. Although our lives have resumed normalcy, everything has changed and is never the same again. Likewise, as we relaunch our faith life after the pandemic in the hope of restoring the old face, we are bound to face some disappointments and despair.

       Past gatherings in the NPAC family were certainly great. For now, even though we do not have large numbers of people, we must still look forward to our worship of and service to God! In the past, the Lord Jesus was never disconnected from the Father whatever the circumstances and they were closely connected as One. He proclaimed that He was in the Father, and the Father was in Him. The Father living in Him was always doing His work (John 14:10). He also exhorted His disciples: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” (14:12).

       As such, perhaps we can launch a sheep finding exercise in our fellowships or groups, reconnecting with our long-lost members and encouraging them to return to church meetings. Like the numerous short-term mission trips this summer, we can again take the aroma of Christ to old and new mission fields to support the work of local missionaries, and experience and testify to the presence of God. At the time of writing, I heard that a number of short-term mission teams have completed their service. Some shared, “God has blessed and kept the church in the field during the past three years. Brothers and sisters have also grown spiritually. Whether they are pursuing further studies or starting work in society, they could see God’s grace with them, helping them overcome lots of difficulties. All glory be to God indeed.”

      Perhaps the faith life of old has become totally different and we may have to start afresh. But in the eyes of God, we are still honored, and God is our strength. While our lives are preserved and we look forward to faith revival, we must know that God will make us a light for the nations so that His salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:5-6). As the Lord has brought us together as one community to be His vessels, we should look forward to doing great things for Him and being partners in the work of the gospel. On the path of relaunching our faith life, may we be as the psalmist puts it: “Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path” (Psalm 44:18).

Pastor's Sharing

Do Not Hide Your Light

Do Not Hide Your Light

By Rev Gordon Siu

July 30, 2023

       In the sermon for the anniversary worship service of a church last month, I shared a message on “The Church is the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World.” I was once again encouraged during the preparation process.

      Upon delivering the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord pointed out clearly and explicitly that the people of God have a unique identity on earth – they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mathew 5:13-16). We are salt. That does not mean we are one kind of food on earth. Rather, we are set apart from the food, we are salt that is different by nature. The purpose of the existence of salt is to make an impact on food, to bring out its flavor (goodness) or be used as a preservative. We are the light of the world. The purpose of the existence of light is to shine on people around us and dispel darkness so that people can live in the light. Christians are not to boast about ourselves. It is because the light of Christ shines into our lives and we become a new creation. The nature of our life truly becomes the salt of the earth and the light of the world and can impact the world. Moreover, the Lord’s word solemnly reminds the church it is possible that salt can lose its saltiness, making it good for nothing. Likewise, light can also be hidden and can no longer shine on others, making people lose hope in the dark.

       How can salt lose its saltiness? In New Testament times, the salt carried a lot of impurities. When the elements of salt are lost leaving only the impurities, the “salt” loses its saltiness. If God’s people and God’s church no longer commit to the Lord, and no longer pay the price to keep up the goodness received in life, they will lose the “saltiness” that can impact the world. The Lord therefore told His disciples that if someone is not willing to take up his cross, to love the Lord more than anything else, or to give up everything that fills his life in order to follow the Lord, that person will be like salt that loses its saltiness. Even its basic values for removing weeds and being fertilizers will be lost. It can only be trampled upon (Luke 14:34-35) – The value of the existence of “salt” is to impact food. We should not be afraid of the price to pay for impacting the world. Otherwise, we will lose our saltiness and thus the value of our lives.

       If we are light, we should not be hidden. If someone lights up a lamp in the house, he will not use black cloth to cover up the source of the light! In times of power outage, some people would not light a candle for fear that it will break or will burn out. If the people of God see the needs in this world but would not use the capacities they have to help, then they are hiding their light. If they see people suffering injustices but would not speak out, then they are hiding their light. If God’s people see opportunities and needs to share the gospel or explain their faith but would say nothing, they are hiding their light. The Lord has asked us not to fear but let our light “shine before others,” even shine in a high-profile manner, so the world can see it. That will be the way to “glorify your Father in heaven.” How today’s society where the church thirsts for the taste of salt and for light to shine in darkness!

Pastor's Sharing

Finding Him in Good When Gathered and Peace When Dispersed Follow the Gracious Lord against All Odds

Good When Gathered and Peace When Dispersed Follow the Gracious Lord against All Odds

By Rev Wayne Cheung

July 23, 2023

       The emigration tide that has emerged in recent years has indeed impacted different churches’ ministry directions and modes of pastoring. But thanks be to God, churches, theological seminaries and Christian organizations are not complacent or stagnant. Rather, they boldly tackle the issue of “dispersion and gathering.” Often with creativity, being forward-looking, and offering care in emotional counseling, they help both who stay and who are dispersed to ponder deeply on the spiritual support in God’s walk with man.

       The Apostle Peter was in Rome, coded as Babylon (1 Peter 5:13), when he wrote the first epistle. He was writing to the chosen people in the local churches scattered among what is now Turkey (1 Peter 1:1). It can be clearly seen from the content of the epistle that the shepherd’s heart of Peter was not high-sounding or pretentious. Rather, being observant of people’s life situations and understanding the real-life difficulties of contemporary believers, he provided spiritual nurturing to those facing “dispersion or gathering” so that they would learn from the Lord and persist in being upright and doing good even in suffering.

       Facing an era of drastic changes, the Book of 1 Peter offers three points of light. First, whether gathered or dispersed, we need to be sure about our identity before God. On the one hand, we are sojourners and exiles. This world is surely not our home. It has never been ours. We are Christ followers in and not of the world. On the other hand, we are grace receivers consecrated by God for Christ has led us out of darkness and into His light. Since an inheritance is kept in heaven for us, we can, without hesitation or fear, live out an extraordinary life endowed by our faith.

       Secondly, politics and economy around the world is getting increasingly uncertain, and wars and persecutions have no sign of easing. Christians will face tests like fire whether we are gathered or dispersed. The tests are coupled with a broken world, directly impacting our faith in God at this very moment in time. Amid uncertainties for the future, interpersonal alienation, pessimism and despair, we do need strength and hope from God so we can stand firm with dignity and strength to break through the predicament. Suffering for our faith is a fact we as Christians need to face. It is also the cost and honor that our Christian faith has taught us.

       Finally, whether those staying or those who choose to leave have to face lessons on survival and life. Peter has a good exhortation: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply…Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others…” (1 Peter 4:7-10). It remains Christians’ mission to do good through good times or bad, through sweet or bitter circumstances. We should remember God’s calling and keep watch over one another in love. With God’s lively words of grace, we will testify that God has led us forward and has also empowered us to walk with others with compassion.

       It is good when we are gathered and there is peace when we are dispersed. There is calmness from within. And as long as we follow the Lord against all odds, we will go forward even when the path is rugged.