September 11 2020
Dear TCCBC church family,
As I began this writing, it was particularly dim and eerie outside the window during the day instead of at dusk or night. It was not heavy overcast leading to start of rain either. No rain hit the ground after several hours. I began remembering the recent wildfires around California. The condition appeared to be improving last week, yet the entire state seemed to have fallen into a deep hazy condition. Let me once again remind everyone to please refrain from going out unless it is necessary to avoid breathing in the smoky air. The weeks of fire and smoke led us to the caution from the Bible, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29) The apostle, John, also tells us upon the breaking of the sixth seal, “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood.” (Revelation 6:12) Certainly, we cannot say that darkened skies must be a sign for the second coming of our Lord. But it could be a revelation that remind us that while we will always have light with us, there will come a time when we do not expect, heaven and earth could both change dramatically. We must be well prepared to welcome our awesome Lord if these were the signs preceding the second coming of our Lord. “The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.” (Acts 2:20) Hopefully, we all remember that our Lord has told us, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:4)
In the past several weeks, a number of reports about churches related the pandemic which are worth our attention and prayer support. Because of the extensive length of sheltering restrictions having reached 6 months, some Christians in the U.S. began doubting the government’s intent on the strict restrictions on in-person church gatherings. For as long as three months, while churches were not permitted to meet onsite, large scale protests or riots were permitted to go on. This was perceived as being overly harsh toward churches, and the inappropriate policy looks suspicious. Roughly 12,000 Christians gathered outside the California Capitol building to demonstrate and protest, and held a “Let US Worship” rally this past Sunday (9/6). This event was organized by Pastor Sean Feucht from the Bethel Church in Redding. They considered the California state government had infringed on the religious liberty provided by the Constitution. (This report was from the September 8, 2020/7:01/CBS NEWS).
This type of dissatisfaction toward the government did not just start this past Sunday. In reality, many churches have taken actions to protest or did not follow the government’s shutdown mandate, and have resumed in-person gatherings. Of course, the churches that are not cooperating with the government’s orders are not ignoring the health and wellbeing of their congregants. They claimed that they have thorough preparation on stringent sanitation, frequent hand washing, wearing masks and other preventive measures before, during and after the church gatherings, even safer than many other places. Based on the Constitutional right on freedom to worship, some churches no longer observe the government’s restrictions, and have begun reopening their churches for worship and gatherings. The North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara County had decided not to continue to follow the government’s restrictions and had reopened the church, they were fined $102,500 to date. (This report was from September 7, 2020 9:27PM by Dan Noyes, ABC News.) They are still facing daily fines. Pastor Jack Trieber is appealing the fines before the judge in court. “This is not Caesar’s money. This is God’s money,” he said. If he is unsuccessful with his appeal, they may be unable to pay the fines even if they were to sell the church.
Another piece of news is from Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Southern California. He initiated a lawsuit against the California state government for violating the Constitution by not permitting in-person church events. The onerous coronavirus restrictions had seriously limited the believers’ activities. Even though a judge ruled in mid August that Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, can continue hosting indoor worship services and does not have to adhere to any attendance caps or bans on singing (from 8/14/2020 Tré Goins-Phillips, Faithwire), the legal proceeding is still ongoing. But the Los Angeles city government fined the church on 9/4, claiming the fine was not because of the church gathering, but because there were no coronavirus cautionary signs at entries and exits. However, this claim was disputed by the church. The signs can be seen in online video recordings, showing all entries and exits had cautionary signs displayed. Instead, it was the government that was lying, their charges were unsubstantiated.
What churches in the U.S. are facing are unprecedented. Honestly, churches responses and actions facing the pandemic are not all the same. It is inevitable you have doubts or have your own perspective on such reports. But please refrain from casting criticisms lightly toward the government or our own church congregants. If you have opportunities to look into the website of these churches or reports, you will see that they have their specific discernments. I believe the decisions they made must have come from their positions and convictions. More importantly, they desired to glorify God through their actions, and not allow the reputation of God’s churches to suffer or be shamed. I also believe that even though I cannot say that our church handles it better than others, but please trust that all our deacons and council members and our pastors have given the utmost considerations for everyone in the church, and we hope you will agree with our decisions and the direction. Let us wait upon our Lord together, ask Him to deliver us from the physical and psychological burdens from the pandemic, and the soon arrival of onsite gatherings again. If you have good news to share, please let us know also. Thank you, everyone!
Waiting upon our Lord prayerfully with you,
Pastor Job Lee, Senior Pastor
With fellow church leadership team