Pastoral Emails from Lockdown: Part 2

Editor’s note: As China maintains its commitment to no Covid within her borders, citizens in many cities across China have been placed under draconian lockdown. These lockdowns, which are more severe than anti-Covid measures used in the West, have occurred in cities from Shanghai to Xinjiang, from Jilin Province to Chengdu. During them, many have been confined to their apartments for weeks, and have reported shortages of food, medicine, and basic necessities.

This is the second installment of a series of emails a pastor sent to his congregation during lockdowns this past spring. (Part one can be found here.) The pastor reminds his people that God has not forgotten them; that the Lord uses evil to accomplish good; and that waiting on God is an indispensable part of following him. They encourage and exhort weary Christians to continue following God, even when they do not understand his ways.


April 12, 2022

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”

Although many people pray this prayer, neither cries for release, nor press conferences, nor even the Bible give us the answer. Instead, in Mark we find a different truth.

Jesus told the disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” The disciples did not choose the wrong path and then run into waves; instead, they met the waves after they accepted Jesus’s invitation. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” they grumbled. The huge waves shocked the fishermen. They began to complain that Jesus brought them into the situation and was responsible for it.


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“Do you believe God has deliberately placed us here and now, so that we can experience hardship and know him better?


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“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Jesus rebuked his disciples because they lacked faith. Of course, he calmed the waves before allowing the disciples to ask, “Who is this?”

Jesus led his disciples into tribulation; he left them on their own; he saved them; he rebuked their faithlessness; and he made the disciples more aware of who he actually is. Jesus was not just a descendent of Abraham and David, but the One who created heaven and earth!

Brothers and sisters, do you believe God has deliberately placed us here and now, so that we can experience hardship and know him better? Our Lord was cast into the sea like Jonah, and he bore judgment for all his disciples. Are you willing to get in his boat and go through the waves with him?

I hope that during this Holy Week, we will go with Jesus as we enter the Holy City with him, are buried with him, and rise again with him.

Wang Jianguo


April 19, 2022

After Holy Week, life is returning to the new normal: PCR tests, antigen tests, mass buys of shared groceries, and cell phone swipes. Over the past weeks, I have shared with many brothers and sisters how one phrase repeated through Scripture has reformed my understanding. I call this the “but God” vision.

In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers: “But God meant it for good.”

In this lockdown period, and even before, it is common to hear Christians (including me) look at the present like this: “God is sovereign, but my circumstances…”; “God is good, but my sin…”; “Christ is all-loving, but our church…”; “Jesus sits as King, but our country…”

This is not the “but God” vision; this is the “but I” vision. The Israelites had the same problem: although the pillar of cloud and fire was ahead of them, they could not help but look at Pharoah’s army.

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“Waiting patiently was an indispensable part of the process of the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land….Staying still in the wilderness was God’s way of refining his people.

We humans always turn from God and look at man. Yet when Joseph was old, he said, “but God.” This “but God” vision did not make Joseph’s days in the pit or in prison any better, but when he tasted God’s blessing and saw how God blessed his traitorous enemies through him, he experienced a great and final turning point. His previous suffering became light and momentary.

After Easter, let us remind ourselves: “But God… has risen!”

Wang Jianguo


April 27, 2022

According to our incomplete statistics, at this point people in our city have been under lockdown for between 25 and 70 days. The question on everyone’s lips is: “How long is this going to take?” The goal is to wait until lockdown is over. The implication is that lockdown is abnormal, and many things can only be done once this abnormal period is over: “We cannot do anything but wait.”

In the world’s most efficient city, it is only natural we would think like this when the pause button is suddenly pressed. We feel compelled to do something to be “who we really are.” At the moment, we cannot do anything.

At last week’s small group, I shared a passage from Numbers 9, which occurred chronologically just after the end of the book of Exodus. The Israelites had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, received the Law, worshipped the golden calf, and were temporarily spared by God. Then they again received the Law, took a census, built and sanctified the tabernacle, and (at last!) received God’s glory in their midst. It was time to depart.

Numbers 9:17-22 reads:

“And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out.”

This passage is like a commander telling the Israelites: “Let’s go! Listen to my command!” Reading on on, you will be amazed:

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“This is a meaningful time, not a waste. Do not waste these days when you cannot do anything.

“Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out.”

Sometimes the cloud stayed for two days, sometimes for a month, maybe even for a whole year! This sounds a lot like our situation. The people of Israelites are held in place by the cloud of God. Perhaps they asked, “How long will this take?” or “When will the cloud go up?” or “God, where are you?”
Where is God? Just look at the cloud! It is right here, and it never leaves! God was with the people of Israel wherever they were. He gave them manna, provided for their daily needs as they worked six days and rested one, and he gave them the law. Sinners who were in “lockdown” together could depend on each other, hurt one another, and reconcile with one another. God gave them the tabernacle so they could worship and offer sacrifices. Although the Israelites could not do anything, with the presence of God, they had no lack.

Waiting patiently was an indispensable part of the process of the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. The detour to the Red Sea was God’s training. Staying still in the wilderness was God’s way of refining his people.

It does not matter whether you have been home for 25 days or for two and a half months. I want this passage to remind you this is a meaningful time, not a waste. Do not waste these days when you cannot do anything. The Bible contains enough knowledge for us to live godly lives and be trained to become more godly: pursuing worship, devotion, prayer, love for one another, using our gifts well, working faithfully, and loving our neighbors. You can also turn to the church for help in your spiritual life and to be equipped for the work of ministry.

I look forward to the day when the clouds will rise, the camp departs, the lockdowns are lifted, and we see the growth in Christ in one another.

Wang Jianguo


Wang Jianguo is a collective pseudonym for a group of urban Chinese house church pastors committed to preaching the gospel of grace.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Chinese facing lockdowns to trust God as they wait on his timing.

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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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