December 2018 Prayer Letter

Dear Pastors, Partners & Praying Friends,

“Are you willing to take these with you when you visit China?” was the question I asked a missionary friend. He is the brother of one of our teammates in China. He and his wife were going to Asia for a visit. Our ministry was given hundreds of solar-powered audio devices that contained the Chinese audio Bible, preaching, etc. But we needed to get them into China. However, with all things like this, there is a risk. He agreed since they were going to be visiting China on this trip. He took the first batch of 250 devices into China without much of a problem—meaning they were stopped, asked questions and then released—successfully getting them into the country. But on their second trip into China with another 200 devices they had bigger problems—meaning they were stopped by customs, their bags were opened and security was called. Him and his wife were put into separate rooms for about two and a half hours. Eventually, someone showed up to interview them. Afterwards, they were released but all the devices were confiscated, as they found out it was “religious propaganda” (in their terms) from listening to the content on the devices. Finally, they were told that the devices were not allowed to enter the country but they could get them out of customs and take them to another country. They didn’t have the time to do this on their trip, thus we are still working on getting them out of customs. Praise the Lord for their protection and the devices that got in. Pray for those officials who listened to the content of the devices to realize that they are not listening to “propaganda” but “truth” that can set them free! Pray as we use the devices that are in-country to help reach into the cities and villages of China.

Praises, Prayer Requests, and Announcements:

  • New Support Update: We have raised about an additional 2% of new support this past month which makes a total of 10% raised on furlough. We are at 80% of our new support goal, which means we only need 20% more.
  • Furlough Traveling: Sine our last prayer letter, we had meetings in: SC, NC, TN, GA. Again, it is a blessing to serve God, see people respond to His working in China, and make new partners in the ministry as we travel.
  • New Project: Our China team, Vision For China, has written a book entitled, “A Thousand Lives” about the great need in China. Lord willing, we will be launching it at the end of this month. 
  • Event Reminder: December 28-29, 2018 is the Our Generation Summit in Mt. Sterling, Ohio. Our whole family will be attending this conference, Lord willing, and we want to invite you to come too! For more information contact us or visit: www.ogsummit.com.

Thank you! We know that we couldn’t do anything without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive everyday to know Jesus, to be happy in the Him, and to make Him known! 

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

How Do We Endure The Persecuted Life?

Enduring persecution is part of God’s plan to evangelize the world, thus, we endure the persecuted life by: following Paul’s example; resting in the all sufficient grace of God; knowing there is a better and greater reward; and allowing God to avenge the persecuted.

We Endure By Following Paul’s Example

  • Enduring the persecuted life was exemplified by Paul. Paul and the apostles lived “the persecuted life”—meaning they were constantly under siege from different types of suffering because of the gospel—“as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God”. It was as if they were on exhibit in a Roman arena where men are sentenced to death. It was a life that seemed foolish, weak and despised—but it was the will of God because it was founded on the truth of God. Paul even goes on to describe their life (His and probably Sosthenes’ life) at that time. They were hungry, thirsty, naked (poorly dressed), buffeted (beat or punched), homeless (no certain dwelling place) and laboured by working with their own hands (financially support themselves and others). There were made as “the filth of the world” (like scummy water) and “the offscouring of all things” (like dirty scrapings). But Paul didn’t allow all of this to defeat him, instead He tells us what he did to endure the persecuted life and then urges us to be followers of him.
    1 Corinthians 1:1; 4:1, 9-16
    • “Being reviled, we bless”—endure verbal abuse with verbal blessings—to respond with truth, kindness and a godly disposition.
    • “Being persecuted, we suffer it”—endure harassment and attacks by bearing it—to patiently and tolerantly suffer it even though it is really unpleasant and difficult.
      James 5:10-11
    • “Being defamed, we intreat”—endure slander with entreatment—answer kindly in truth and love any false accusations brought against us or the gospel.

We Endure By Resting In The All Sufficient Grace Of God

  • Our infirmities, His strength: Paul gladly boasted in his infirmities because of the sufficiency of Jesus’ grace. Jesus’ strength is made perfect in weakness. Thus, Paul was wanting the power of Jesus to rest upon him. He realized that when he is weak, then he is strong through Jesus. Thus, for the sake of Jesus, he learned to be content with or take delight in infirmities, reproaches, necessities (hardships), persecutions, and distresses.
    2 Corinthians 12:7-10
  • Our weakness, His power: As believers, we have “treasure” in earthen vessels. The treasure that we possess is “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. The earthen vessels or jars of clay represents our human weakness. Thus, God works through us who have received His salvation to show that the excellency and all-surpassing power belongs to Him and not to us. Paul was constantly being persecuted because he was always bearing in the body the death of Jesus—meaning that because he was being persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Through this suffering “the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body”—meaning that it would serve as a witness to others of Jesus. He evens says that they were always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake—meaning that believers are always going to face the potential of death if they live boldly for Jesus and try to reach the world with the gospel (like Paul and the other Apostles did). Through this risk of death “the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”—meaning that we are willing to put our lives at risk of death so that others might receive life. God’s grace gives us the faith to say the following:
    2 Corinthians 4:6-12
    • “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed”—endure difficulties and suffering with hope in God knowing that He provides grace for us in the time of need.
    • “We are perplexed, but not in despair”——endure doubts and confusion with faith in God knowing He gives you the needed emotional and mental composure to endure.
    • “Persecuted, but not forsaken”——endure harassment and attacks with confidence in His presence, He will never leave us or abandoned us.
    • “Cast down, but not destroyed”—endure being thrown down with victory—we are never defeated because we have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
      John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

We Endure By Knowing There Is A Better And Greater Reward

  • Believers who endure the persecuted life will be rewarded. Jesus promises a great reward in heaven for those who are persecuted. Also, the Hebrew believers knew they had a better and an enduring substance in heaven—eternal salvation. When they first believed they endured a lot of persecutions. Then Paul encourages them that they are to continue in this “confidence”—their relationship with Jesus—and not cast it away because of continuing persecution because there is a great reward for them. To do this we need to patiently do the will of God, and in the end we will receive the promise of eternal life. As believers, we live by faith to the saving of the soul.
    Luke 6:22-23; Hebrews 10:32-39; 11:23-28
  • Our persecution is noticed by Jesus and rewarded. Jesus praises the church Smyrna for: enduring tribulation—being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus; enduring blasphemy—being accused of doing wrong and slandered by unbelieving Jews; enduring poverty—being financially poor, most likely due to following Jesus. Jesus warns that more persecution is coming. They will be cast into prison for “ten days” and may even face death. He advises them to “fear not” and to be “faithful unto death.” A reward for enduring this type of persecution is the “the crown of life,” which probably refers to eternal life or a literal crown, either way it would be a just reward from Jesus Himself.
    James 1:12; Revelation 2:9-10

We Endure By Allowing God To Avenge The Persecuted

  • God will avenge the persecuted and the martyrs. We don’t have to avenge ourselves, but rather leave it to the wrath of God. In Revelation, the souls of the tribulation martyrs—those that were “slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” are described. They were killed because they were faithful to the Bible and boldly proclaiming Jesus in spite of the opposition to the message they preached. They cried out from under the altar and asked God when He was going to avenge their blood. They were told to rest for a little season because there were other believers who would also be martyred like they were. But afterwards, He is coming to judge and avenge their blood.
    Romans 12:17-19; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10; Revelation 6:9-11

Review Questions

  • How did Paul exemplify the persecuted life?
  • Why did Paul gladly boast in his infirmities?
  • God’s grace gives us the faith to say what?
  • We endure persecution because we know what?
  • We should allow God to avenge who?

Exciting Things Happening!

✪ Our team Vision For China is working on a book, Lord willing, that we will have ready by the end of the year. You can find out more about this project here. We have been spending a lot of time on it recently and I am excited about how the Lord may use it!

✪ We are also praying that God will give us a man to help lead up our efforts to reach the villages in China. While most of our missionaries are going to be working in the cities, where the majority of the populace reside, we don’t want to forget about those living in the villages—God loves them and they need the gospel too!

✪ Our friends were taking solar-powered audio players for us into China that contain preaching and the audio Bible in Chinese, but they ran into some trouble. There were able to get the first shipment into the country with only some minor problems, but the second shipment was confiscated and not allowed into the country. Our friends were held and questioned but eventually released. We are now trying to get those players shipped to Taiwan since they can’t go into the country.

✪ Praise the Lord for our support continuing to be raised. We had two more churches partner with our ministry recently.

✪ The Our Generation Summit is coming up at the end of this month. I hope that you will be able to make it. It is going to be an incredible time. We are praying for God to do great things!

How Do We Respond To Persecution?

After persecution we need to (1) learn how to respond appropriately—without retaliation so that we may be children of our Father who is in heaven; (2) rejoice because we are counted worthy to suffer for Jesus and blessed by God; (3) at all cost, refrain not from boldly living for Jesus.

Respond Appropriately And Don’t Retaliate Inappropriately
Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-28

  • We are not to retaliate against those who persecute us. The Bible says that we are not to “render evil for evil unto any man” but instead we are to always strive to “follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” Also, the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord,” thus we don’t have to avenge ourselves, but rather leave it to the wrath of God. Jesus and the Apostles help us to understand how we are to appropriately respond to persecution without inappropriately retaliating against it.
    Romans 12:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10
    • Respond with love. We are to love our enemies—those who hate us and wish to hurt us. God demonstrated His love to us in that while we were His enemies Jesus died for us. Jesus was hated, persecuted and crucified, but He only responded with love.
      Romans 5:7-10
    • Respond with blessings. We are to bless them that curse us. We are not to respond with the same negative manners of speaking that invoke harm and evil to a person, but instead we are to use positive manners of speaking that invoke favor, kindness and ultimately God’s blessings—of which the greatest blessing is to know Jesus.
      Romans 12:14
    • Respond with doing good. We are to do good to them that hate us. We are not to respond with the same kind of great dislike and aversion towards our persecutors, but instead we are to act and behave in a way that treats them well and in a proper manner. Our behavior helps us win people over to Jesus. We should be willing to adapt that we might “by all means save some”.
      Romans 12:20-21; Right behavior helps converts others: 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Peter 3:1-2
    • Respond with prayer. We are to pray for them which despitefully use us (verbal abuse) and persecute us (physical abuse). We are not to respond by using verbal or physical abuse, but instead we are to passionately call out to the Lord in prayer. Remember:  before, in the midst of, and after persecution, we are still “on mission”—we desire to see even our persecutors repent and believe in Jesus. Prayer is powerful and we have three strong examples that hep us understand this point: (1) Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him; (2) Stephen prayed for those who stoned him to death. (3) Paul prayed for the Jews who beat him with 39 stripes five times.
      (1) Luke 23:34; (2) Acts 7:60; (3) 2 Corinthians 11:24; Romans 10:1
  • Our motivation to respond appropriately to persecution is so that we are like our Father in Heaven. He is our Father and we are His children—thus we need to act like it. We are to be living the victorious Christian life—a life that is radically being transformed into the very character of God. God, our Father, is a merciful, gracious and good God. He makes the sun to rise on the good and evil. He also sends rain to the just and the unjust. We are to do more good than sinners do. If we only greet other believers and ignore unbelievers, what change has taken place in our lives. There is no reward for loving those who already love you, anyone can do this, but there is reward for loving those who don’t love you. This is a growing process to be more and more like our Father. The standard is to be perfect like God. Thus, persecution and our right response to it helps make us more like Him.

Rejoice Because You Are Counted Worthy And Blessed

  • Respond with rejoicing because you are counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. The apostles were arrested and put into prison, but an angel set them free. Then they were arrested again and brought before the authorities to be questioned. They were being persecuted for teaching in Jesus’ name. Peter even taught Jesus to the authorities when they questioned Him. This only made them more mad and they wanted to kill them. But a man named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, stood up and advised them to not kill them. They heeded his advice. So they beat the disciples, charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. After being persecuted, the Bible says that, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” We should rejoice if we are counted worthy.
    Acts 5:17-38; 39-41; Colossians 1:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5
  • Respond with rejoicing because, as a believer, the kingdom of heaven is yours. Blessed are believers who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake—those who receive any form of action that punishes them for being a believer or obeying God’s will. We are blessed when, for Jesus sake, men revile, persecute or says all manner of evil against us falsely. We are blessed because the kingdom of heaven is ours—we will be saved and God rules in our hearts and lives. We can rejoice and be exceeding glad because great is our reward in heaven. Thus, we can rejoice because true happiness is found in a real relationship with God—no matter the cost of obtaining or maintaining it, knowing that one day God will wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. Finally, He reminds them that the prophets which were before them were also persecuted, meaning as they experience persecution they will be numbered with the people of God.
    Matthew 5:10-12; Revelation 21:1-4

Refrain Not From Boldly Living For Jesus

  • Respond with boldly preaching and teaching Jesus no matter the cost. Before the disciples were released, they were commanded to not speak in the name of Jesus. But they didn’t allow the persecution they suffered or the fear of future persecution to keep them from obeying God. After they were released, they Bible says, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
    Acts 5:42
  • Respond by intentionally, boldly and openly living for and bearing witness of Jesus that all men through this witness might believe. Even though Jesus tells His disciples they will be persecuted, He also tells them they are “the salt of the earth”—meaning as His disciples, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they should be willing to forsake all, endure persecution and live as peacemakers in the world. Jesus uses another metaphor to further explain this, saying they are “the light of the world”—meaning it is their responsibility as believers to shine the light of the gospel so that unbelievers can see the truth and be saved. Jesus says that a city that is set on a hill can’t be hid nor do people light a candle and put it under a bushel (basket). Finally, He concludes saying, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Thus, this is an unashamed, bold and public witness for Jesus in our words and actions.
    Matthew 5:13-16; Psalm 27:1; Ephesians 5:8-9; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 2:9, 12; 4:1-2

Review Questions

  • Should believers retaliate to persecution?
  • How should believers respond appropriately to persecution? 
  • What is the believer’s motivation to respond appropriately to persecution?
  • Why should believers rejoice when persecuted?
  • After persecution, should a believer refrain from boldly living for Jesus?

Living The Dream

✪ We had a great Thanksgiving and I trust you did as well.

✪ My brother-in-law and his family finished deputation and left for South Africa. It is an exciting thing being a missionary. He is living the dream. Continue to keep them in your prayers as they travel and get settled.

✪ We were at Newton Baptist Church in Covington, GA this past Sunday. I was honored to preach both services. We especially enjoyed spending time with some dear friends and mentors of ours, Pastor Tony and his wife. It was exciting to see how God has blessed them over the years.

✪ Tonight I have the privilege of preaching at our home church, Vision. Please pray for me. Lord willing, I will be preaching on “Joy”.

✪ I just want to say how thankful I am for all of you who support, pray and partner with our family. I truly do believe I get to live the dream as a missionary. I truly believe Jesus is the one and only way for a person to be saved and that God has ordained the means of a preacher to tell the world so they can believe and be saved. I am one of those preachers. I get to serve fulltime because so many of you make it possible. Thank you. May we do a little more, reach a few more souls and run a little faster this coming year. Amen!

How Do We Prepare For Persecution?

Before persecution we need to prepare our minds, emotions, hearts and intellect to be ready for suffering and be in submission to the Bible. Also, we can be prepared by having a “now” and “then” mindset—meaning that we need practice these truths “now” and make them a habitual part of our Christian lives so that they are natural actions we take when we are persecuted “then”.

Prepare Your Minds, Emotions, Hearts And Intellect To Be Ready
1 Peter 3:13-17

  • Prepare your mind to know that persecution is not fair but it can be a blessing. The moral should be: the wicked is punished and the righteous is rewarded. Thus, the question should be, “If we are eager to do good and be righteous who will harm us?” But we know that this world’s morals are not aligned with God’s, so even if we do right there is a chance for us to be persecuted. But even if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we will be happy or blessed—meaning that we are honored to be counted worthy to suffer for doing right or for being identified with Jesus. It is God’s will that we do right, even if that means to suffer for doing it. Therefore, “It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”
  • Prepare your emotions to not fear persecution. Fear is an emotion caused by the thought or feeling of something dangerous or bad is going to happen. Fear can cause us to be paralyzed in our ministry and witness for Jesus. But we are told not to fear. We are not to fear them, their threats or their terror. We are not to let it troubled us—meaning the anticipation, anxiety and distress of living the persecuted life should not hinder us.
    Isaiah 8:12; Matthew 10:28, 31; Luke 12:7, 32; John 14:1; Acts 27:24; Philippians 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 11:27; 13:6; 1 John 4:18; Revelation 2:10; (Fear Hinders: John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42-43; Galatians 2:12)
  • Prepare your hearts to sanctify Jesus. The Bible says, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”—this means that we are to be dedicated and devoted to Jesus as the Lord of our lives; it means to reverence, honor and trust in Him even in our most difficult situations and persecutions; it means believing that He is in control and not the persecutors. Thus, we are not to have fear of men, but to have a holy confidence in Jesus’ sovereignty.
    Isaiah 8:13; Matthew 10:26-33; Luke 12:4-7
  • Prepare your intellect to always to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a reason of the hope that is in us. When we are persecuted, the opportunity to be a witness for Jesus often comes suddenly and we need to be prepared to give a defense to prove our belief is reasonable and right. We are to give this answer with meekness (gentleness) and fear (respect), having a good and clear conscience (a holy life before God) so that those who speak evil of us and falsely accuse our good behavior in Christ may be put to shame—meaning their slander will be silenced and hopefully cause them to consider the true nature of the gospel.
    Examples of being ready to give an answer: Acts 22:1-21; 24:10-24; 26:1-23, 25b-29

Ways To Prepare “Now” For Handling Persecution “Then”

  • Now: Expect persecution; Then: Don’t be caught off guard. Persecution and suffering as a “Christian” is a normal part of following Jesus. Thus, we shouldn’t think that it is strange or be surprised as though something weird was happening to us when we have to endure it. Persecution is to be expected. Peter calls it a “fiery trial which is to try you”—meaning an ordeal that causes agony and pain like a burning sensation causes. But persecution isn’t just suffering, but it is suffering with a purpose. God allows us to be tried through it and it builds our faith.
    1 Peter 4:12
  • Now: Establish an attitude of joy; Then: Keep an attitude of joy. Believers are to rejoice always and Peter also reminds us that inasmuch as we partake, share and participate in the sufferings of Christ we are to rejoice. If we are suffering for Jesus then we are suffering like He did—the righteous being persecuted by the wicked. If we rejoice in His sufferings, then when Jesus’ glory is revealed—meaning at the “second coming” we may be glad also with exceeding joy. Our focus is on that victory that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
    1 Peter 4:13; (Rejoice: Philippians 4:4; Partakers of Christ’s sufferings: Matthew 5:10-12; Galatians 6:17; Philippians 1:29; 3:10; Colossians 1:24)
  • Now: Be filled with the Holy Spirit; Then: Sense God’s special blessing. Believers are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter also reminds us that if we are reproached, insulted or harshly criticized “for the name of Christ,” then we are happy or blessed because “the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us”—meaning that God’s presence is with persecuted believers in a special way. Thus, through the Holy Spirit’s work in the believers life, although the persecutors might be saying evil things about God, on the believers part God is glorified.
    1 Peter 4:14; (Be filled with the Spirit: Ephesians 5:18; For the name of Christ: Acts 4:12; 5:41; 9:15, 16; 15:26)
  • Now: Unashamedly glorify God in everything; Then: Don’t be ashamed but glorify God. As believers, we are to be living the victorious Christians life today and Peter also reminds us we are to suffer “as a Christian”—meaning because of identifying with Jesus and obeying the will of God. We shouldn’t be involved in activities that cause us to endure suffering if it isn’t for the name of Christ, such as being a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a meddler (“a busybody in other men’s matters”). When we suffer for the right reason, we have nothing to be ashamed of (to feel guilt, embarrassment or remorse) but instead we are to glorify God on this behalf—that we proudly bear the name of “Christian”. Know this, often when someone persecutes us because of Jesus it verifies that we are following in His footsteps. Thus, we need to glorify God for this.
    1 Peter 4:15-16; (Not Ashamed: Romans 1:16; 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:12; Glorify God: 1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Now: Understand the temporal and eternal perspectives; Then: Remember trials are temporal but God’s rewards are eternal. God judges His church (the house of God) for the purpose of purifying and cleansing it. Persecution is a type of “examination” that refines us and helps us grow. If God allows believers to be persecuted to help make us holy, then how much worse will the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?—meaning that even though enduring persecution here on this earth is hard, it far outweighs the eternal punishment and damnation in the lake of fire that unbelievers will receive. But we will receive eternal reward in God’s Kingdom with Jesus.
    1 Peter 4:17-18; (Perspective: Proverbs 11:31; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:9-11)
  • Now: Commit your works unto the Lord and trust Him with all your heart; Then: Continue to obey God’s will and entrust your life to Him. We are to commit to God with our souls for our care and protection. When we suffer according to the will of God, we are to commit our entire lives to God who is our faithful Creator—the one who gave us life, and to continue to do good. Peter also reminds us that it is better to suffer for doing good according to the will of God than for doing evil.
    1 Peter 4:19; (Commit and Do Good: Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:3; Psalm 37:3; Galatians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 13:16; 1 Peter 2:22-23)

Review Questions

  • How should we prepare our minds?
  • How should we prepare our emotions?
  • How should we prepare our hearts?
  • How should we prepare our intellect?
  • What are some ways to prepare “now” for handling persecution “then”?

“Thank You” This Thanksgiving!

✪ Thank you for following and caring about our family. We are thankful for all the Lord has done in China. We know that we couldn’t do it without our partners. Thank you for praying, giving and loving on our family over the years. From our family to yours, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

✪ This past Sunday night I was honored to preach a charge at my brother-in-law’s ordination and be part of the ordination council. I am excited to see how God is going to use his life in South Africa. They are at 97% of their support and leave next week. If you are looking for a missionary to South Africa that is arriving next week, they would be a family worthy of support!

✪ We are in Tennessee for thanksgiving and look forward to celebrating with family.

✪ Our team of church planting missionaries serving with Vision Baptist Missions has launched a new team name: “Vision For China“. Check out our website and follow to learn more about China and what you can do to be involved.

✪ Our team should be sending around 79 SD cards monthly now into NK as part of our initiative. Check out more about it here.