Author Archives: Mark

Proverbs 2:1-22 The Pursuit And Protection Of Wisdom

Memory Verse: Proverbs 2:6

2:1-9 The Intentional Pursuit Of Wisdom Leads To God

  • 2:1a The admonition continues (from chapter 1) in the sense of a parent to a child or more specifically a father to a son—meaning that you can sense the care, concern, consideration, and calculated (intentional) involvement of a father in his son’s life so that he can teach him what is right and wrong (according to the wisdom gained from God’s law). He first starts with a strong statement about the importance of accepting, seeking after, and practically applying wisdom (which is found in God).
  • 2:5 “If” is a key word in verses 1-4 meaning that “on condition that” he does the following things, “then” he will “understand” (discern; learn) the fear (reverential respect) of the Lord (to view God for whom He truly is and respond with reverential respect in our attitudes, actions and words that His nature and character demands), and he will find (discover; arrive at) the knowledge of God (to not only comprehend who God is but also to know Him). So what does he need to do? He needs to give his utmost pursuit. Such wisdom and understanding doesn’t come to the unwilling, uninterested, inattentive, indifferent, prideful or wicked, but it comes to the humble and diligent seeker through intentional pursuit. How intentional are you about your pursuit of God and His ways?
  • 2:1b He needs to “receive” (to accept willingly) the words (statements) that his father is telling him and “hide” (store up; treasure—to regard as highly valued) them within himself. Are you earnest in your pursuit?
  • 2:2 He needs to “incline” (listen; pay attention) or turn his ear to wisdom and “apply” (incline; to make receptive; to make willing) his heart (“inner person”) to understanding. Are you teachable in your pursuit?
  • 2:3 He needs to “criest” (to call out) after knowledge (insight; discernment) and “liftest up thy voice” (cry aloud; to raise his voice) for understanding. Are you passionate in your pursuit?
  • 2:4 He needs to “seekest” (look for; to get) it as for silver and “searchest” (look for; to locate or discover) for it as for hidden treasure. Are you intentional in your pursuit?
  • 2:6 God is the source of all true wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. It is the LORD who gives wisdom. Out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. His Word is truth. And not only that, but He has positive principles of protection for those who truly pursue Him, His ways, and then lives accordingly for His honor and glory (true believers living in accordance to His will). Does your lifestyle pursue Him?
    Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:20-21
  • 2:7a The Righteous: He “layeth up” (to store up; to hold or keep aside for future use) sound wisdom for the “righteous” (an upright person according to God’s standard). 
  • 2:7b Walk Uprightly: He is a “buckler” (shield) to those whose whom “walk” (behavior) “uprightly” (integrity, blameless).
  • 2:8 His Saints: He “keepeth” (guards; maintains) the paths of judgment (justice) and “preserveth” (guards; protects; watches over) the way of His “saints” (faithful ones; godly ones; devoted lover of God).
  • 2:9 This verse picks back up on answering the “if” phrases in verses 1-4, meaning “on condition that” he does the things mentioned in those verses, “then” he will understand “righteousness” (what is right) and “judgment” (what is just), and “equity” (what is fair). Simply put, we will receive understanding about “every good path”. 

2:10 Wise Living: Godly Life-change From The Inside Out

  • 2:10 When our pursuit not only finds God as the source of all true wisdom, knowledge, and understanding but continues to daily pursue Him, then wisdom enters our hearts (“inner person”), and knowledge will be pleasant (enjoyable) to our souls. In verse 2 and 10 the “heart” is mentioned. The heart represents the “inner person” or the real orientation, belief, motivation and attitude of a person. It is from the heart that we think, feel and make decisions. It is the source from which everything we do in life is issued from. We need to intentionally incline our hearts to understanding and as a result wisdom will enter our hearts and cause godly life-change from the inside out. This is wise living.

2:11-19 Wise Living Rescues From Evil Men And Adulterous Women

  • 2:11 Part of this godly life-change is having safety through God-given: (1) “discretion” (judging wisely and objectively)—which will “preserve” (guards; protects; watches over) you, and (2) understanding—which will “keep” (guard safely) you. Having godly discretion and understanding delivers (rescues) us from all kinds of evil (especially those whose attitudes, actions and words don’t fear God but are contrary to Him), including the following examples of evil people and adulterous women:
  • 2:12-15 God-given discretion and understanding will rescue us from “the way of the evil man (person)”—one who speaks froward things (perverted; perverse); one who forsakes the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; one who rejoices in doing evil, and delights in the frowardness of the wicked (perverseness of evil); one who whose ways are crooked (dishonest and immoral), and froward (devious; deceitful) in their paths.
  • 2:16-19 God-given discretion and understanding will rescue us from “the strange woman” (adulterous woman)—one who flatters with her deceptive and seductive words; one who forsook the “guide” (husband) of her youth, and purposely forgets or ignores the covenant she made before her God (marriage covenant). The house of this type of woman “inclineth” (sinks) down to death, and her paths unto the dead—meaning it is destructive for those involved. Nobody who goes to her returns again, nor do they take hold (regain; attain; reach) the paths of life—meaning it has devastating consequences and leads to death.
    Genesis 2:24; Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10; Malachi 2:14

2:20-22 The End Result Of The Righteous And The Wicked

  • 2:20-21 Another part of this godly life-change and God-given discretion and understanding is being on the right path. Not only is there safety from the wrong path in life, but is leads us to walk in the way of “good men (people),” and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the “perfect” (blameless; those with integrity) will remain in it—results in blessing such as the possibility of a long life on earth and eternal life thereafter.
  • 2:22 On the contrary, the wicked will be cut off from the land (earth), and the “transgressors” (treacherous; unfaithful) will be rooted out of it—results in cursing such as the possibility of shorten life on earth and eternal damnation thereafter.

Review Questions

  • Who is the source of all true wisdom, knowledge, and understanding?
  • How is the pursuit of God and His ways described?
  • Wise living is what?
  • Wise living rescues from what?
  • What is the end of the righteous and the wicked?

Proverbs 1:1-33 Wise Living Starts With The Fear Of God

Memory Verse: Proverbs 1:7

1:1-7 Proverbs, Persons, Purposes

  • 1:1a “Proverbs,” is the genre of this book which are “sayings of wisdom.” This means that they are general principles to help guide us in living our lives and obeying God. They are not magical spells or things to do with a guaranteed outcome, but it is advice that helps us live our lives in a wise way, a way that honors God. This shows that God cares not only for our spiritual lives but for our daily personal and practical lives.
  • 1:1b These proverbs mainly come from “Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.” God gave Solomon special wisdom, knowledge, riches, wealth and honour. This was such a special endowment from God that no one before him or after him would be like him.
    2 Chronicles 1:7-12; 1 Kings 4:29-34
  • 1:2-4 The purpose of these proverbs is described through the following synonyms: (1) To know wisdom and instruction—wisdom is the knowledge and skills to live a godly life and instruction is the direction to do right morally. (2) To perceive the words of understanding — to discern and have insight. (3) To receive the instruction of wisdom (wise behavior, we can govern ourselves), justice (righteousness, doing right according to God’s standard), judgment (justice, right behavior), equity (fair and impartial). (4) To give subtilty to the simple, meaning to give prudence to those who are naive or don’t understand the ways of God, the ways of wisdom. (5) To give the young man knowledge and discretion, meaning allowing each new generation to have the knowledge and discernment necessary to make responsible decisions.
  • 1:5-6 Proverbs is like a school for a wise person. If you are wanting to gain wisdom you first need to be willing to listen and increase learning. Understanding will lead you to obtain guidance (wise counsels), as well as, how to understand a proverb, interpretations, the words of the wise (meaning being able to discern what is and isn’t wise) and understand the riddles of the wise (dark sayings), meaning your mental capacity will be sharpened to understand harder sayings and truths.
  • 1:7 There are going to be two kinds of people, the wise and the foolish. The wise person hears the starting point for knowledge—which is “the fear of the Lord”. Thus it increases his understanding and as He starts to follow the path of God. Fear means to respect. It means we have the highest reverential respect for God because He is the creator of everything. On the contrary, the fool isn’t willing to fear the Lord and his rejection of God means he despises true wisdom and instruction.
    Psalm 147:10-11

1:8-19 Parental Wisdom: Stay Away From Enticement, Greed, Murder

  • 1:8-9 The first admonition was given in the sense of parents to a child. The instruction and teaching (law) that a child is given from his parents is to be received and not forsaken. The idea here is that this wisdom is for their benefit, as loving parents teach their children for the child’s good and success in life. The one who embraces this wisdom is like wearing an ornament of grace on his head and chains about his neck, meaning your obedience will make you beautiful in wisdom and character.
  • 1:10 The first advise is simple: “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” Who we hang around with is of utmost importance, because there is the possibility of temptation to do wrong if we hang out with the wrong crowd—the crowd who doesn’t fear God.
  • 1:11-14 The first enticement from sinners (those who don’t fear God) is that of murder and stealing. The son is warned against a group of people who are trying to get him to join them in their greed for unjust gain. They desire to kill others only for the reason of stealing what they have and sharing it between them. Their greed causes them to kill the innocent.
  • 1:15-18 The son is warned not to join these sinners but refrain from their path of false promises of gain and riches. Everything these sinners do is to their own hurt, not benefit. If a net is spread in the sight of a bird, the bird is smart enough not to be caught in it, but these sinners are not. They are controlled by greed and in a hurry for gain, thus they will be their own ruin. Evil deeds will be met with bad consequences.
  • 1:19 This enticement from sinners is summed up: The above verse 11-18 describe everyone that is greedy of gain and decides to follow this greed to the point of taking away the lives of the owners of the stuff they desire to gain. Beware of the invitation from those who are greedy of unjust gains and the means by which they try to obtain it. Their reckless lives for quick riches will lead to a path of self-destruction. 

1:20-33 A Choice To Follow Wisdom

  • 1:20-22 Wisdom openly cries out for all to hear. It is not secretly trying to entice us to do wrong but publicly and boldly cries for us to do right. Wisdom challenges us to follow its ways, and calls us to make a decision. It calls the simple (naive) to choose a path. It calls for the mockers to stop mocking. It calls for the fool to stop hating knowledge. Everyone has a decision to make: to choose or reject wisdom.
  • 1:23 If you choose wisdom, and turn at its reproof, then it will pour out its spirit on us and cause us to understand its words. You will be given the power to know and carry out the actions of wisdom. Choosing wisdom means you are choosing to fear the Lord, for this is the beginning of instruction for wise living.
  • 1:24-31 If you don’t choose wisdom, don’t turn at its reproof, and refused its calling, then when you are in trouble and call upon it, there will be no answer. Choosing not to fear the Lord will end with you eating of the fruit of your own way, meaning you will deal with the consequences of your foolish decisions. 
  • 1:32-33 There are only two decisions to be made: to fear God or not to fear God. Choosing not to fear God will be your end. If you are too complacent to turn to God it will lead to your destruction. Open rejection or satisfaction with ones own life to care about God will all have the same consequences in the end. On the contrary, if you do turn to God and choose to fear Him, you will be safe and at ease from the fear of evil. 

Review Questions

  • What is a proverb?
  • Who wrote most of the proverbs?
  • What is the purpose of the book of Proverbs?
  • What is the first advice of wisdom from the parents?
  • What is the result of following wisdom? Not following wisdom?

June 2021 Prayer Letter

Church Plant Update | Pandemic: Level 3 – Ban on Religious Activities

  • Last month, as I was writing our prayer letter, there was news that the epidemic situation in Taiwan had entered community transmission. Up to that point, Taiwan had been blessed during this pandemic, with the virus almost being none existent on the island. Unfortunately, that news was true, and a semi-lockdown soon followed with restrictions on churches, schools closing, no in-person dining, and a limit on how many people can meet together inside and out, etc. In fact, it was announced that “Persons who violate the ban on large gatherings and religious activities, or enter venues that are supposed to be closed, will face fines of between NT$60,000 ($2,166) and NT$300,000 ($10,832).”
  • This semi-lockdown slowed down hosting more events and doing more evangelism this month. Before the semi-lockdown: we had a successful mother’s day service with serval visitors and a family event afterward; we had just launched a new English corner event for young people; we had a guest preacher from our teammate’s, John Walz, ministry; also, we had just started and seen results from an advertising campaign in the housing complex behind the church. But then everything had to be stopped or moved online, which hasn’t proved to be very fruitful thus far for outreach ministry.
  • The church plant quickly pivoted to online for our Sunday morning services. We are thankful that all of our regular attendees have been able to stay connected through this means as we worship, give, pray, preach and fellowship online. Also, my wife and another Sunday school teacher from the church have made Sunday school available to the children by recording a video for them to watch online. On Sunday afternoon, our family took craft supplies and goodies to their apartments for them to do and enjoy. The families then took pictures of their kids doing Sunday school “at home,” which was a huge encouragement. Even though it is not the ideal situation, we are thankful we can still make an impact.
  • We know many of our supporters have been through similar situations over that past year, so you understand our situation. Please pray for us as we do what we can to keep ministering to our people during such a hard time. We are trying to be creative and use the resources at hand to make an impact during “today.” And when “tomorrow” comes, we will decide what to do then! We desire to adapt for a season cautiously, yet longing to physically assemble again and take action when ready.

Victory Building Fund Update  | Thank You, Over 12% Raised

We are continuing to raise funds for a church building. We have raised a little more than 12% of the projected cost. If this is a project you would like to give towards, you can give online, www.TaiwanMinistry.org, or by sending a check to Vision Baptist Missions, PO Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009, with a note in the memo: “Tolson – Victory Building Fund.”

We labor abundantly by the grace of God and for the glory of God—the One who loves us more than we ever dreamed, even though we are more sinful than we ever imagined. Furthermore, we don’t travel on this amazing journey without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, following, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward toward the mark and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, be happy in Him, and make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

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May 2021 Prayer Letter

Stories of God at Work | Missionary Visas Issued

Two missionary families from our home church have completed their deputation and started applying for their missionaries visas for Taiwan. The process included lots of paperwork and finding the right kind of church or ministry that has the ability to invite them to Taiwan for missionary work. We were having trouble getting the paperwork needed, but the Lord opened doors, and both were able to find a sponsor! After completing all these steps, they could finally apply. But at the beginning of the year, Taiwan stopped all of its visa applications because of the pandemic. In March, Taiwan started processing applications again, and we are happy to announce that both families have successfully been issued their missionary visas. We are excited for them to arrive on the field, Lord willing, within the next few months. Please be praying for the Pepperdine and Till family as they get everything in order to move to the field. Praise the Lord for working in the small details and moving the paperwork along.

Church Plant Update | Growing From the Inside Out

  • The church plant slowed down since Chinese New Year in February—many take off work for the holidays, traveling, etc.—and we have taken the opportunity to get many things in order in our own lives. Still, things are starting to pick back up now as we are looking forward to hosting more events and doing more evangelism this month. But as I am writing this prayer letter, there is news that the epidemic situation in Taiwan has entered community transmission. Up to this point, Taiwan has been blessed during this pandemic, with the virus almost being none existent on the island. Please be in prayer for the success of our outreaches and wisdom if the epidemic advances any further.
  • I am consistently studying with two different men. Pray for the Lord’s guidance as they have shown a possible interest in ministry in the future. Also, pray that God will give us young men to train for the ministry. We desired to see multiple churches started and men trained for ministry.
  • On the first Sunday of this month, we had the Adam Walz family with us. Adam filled in for me on Sunday morning as I was out preaching at another Baptist church. Pray for their language studies.
  • Many of the church folks have mentioned how they have grown over the past year, and we are excited to see this growth. We desire for this continued growth in the Lord and as they serve outwardly.

China Update | Threats of Persecution Continue

Pray for one of the Chinese Pastors in Dalian who was visited by the police at the beginning of the month. One of the men in the church was thinking about starting ministry training, and the boss at his current job reported the church (because he didn’t want the man to leave for various reasons). The Chinese pastor said the police warned him: “The police told me that if I do it again, I will be arrested.”

Victory Building Fund Update  | Praise the Lord, More Funds Provided

The Victory Building Fund continues to increase each month from faithful givers, and we have already raised around $31,736! There is much more to be raised to reach our goal, but we continue to trust the Lord and His timing. Please pray that (1) the Lord would lead us to the right piece of property or building to purchase; (2) that the church will have everything needed to purchase when the time is ready. As always, if you want to give towards this church building fund (all financial gifts are tax-deductible), you can give it online, www.TaiwanMinistry.org, or by sending a check to Vision Baptist Missions, PO Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009, with a note in the memo: “Tolson – Victory Building Fund.”

We labor abundantly by the grace of God and for the glory of God—the One who loves us more than we ever dreamed, even though we are more sinful than we ever imagined. Furthermore, we don’t travel on this amazing journey without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, following, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward toward the mark and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, be happy in Him, and make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

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April 2021 Prayer Letter

Stories of God at Work | Baptisms and Partnering With Others

  • Baptisms in Taiwan and China: In our February prayer letter, we reported that during the Winter Day Camp, three children made professions of faith. Two of those three children, who still come to church regularly, were baptized on Easter Sunday. The father of each child taught them what baptism was and helped prepare them for it. Amen! Also, I heard from one of the churches in Dalian, China, that they had three adults baptized on the same day. Please continue praying for these new believers as they grow in the Lord. Also, pray for the salvation of the mom of the daughter who was baptized—the dad was baptized in December, but the mom isn’t saved and comes to church very little.
  • Partnering with a New Church Plant in Kaohsiung: During a Sunday morning and evening services in March, we enjoyed having a Taiwanese pastor, Sam, and his family visit and speak for us. He and his family have been sent out to start a new church plant, and our church plant in Taoyuan has the privilege to financially and prayerfully partner with them. This family was trained by our teammates in Kaohsiung, John and Alisha Walz—who have done an excellent job at preparing them and others for the ministry. Pray for Sam and all involved in planting Second Mile Baptist Church.

Victory Building Fund Update  | Over 12% Of Needed Funds Provided

There has been consistent giving towards the Victory Building Fund, and it is has grown to $30,736 already! Please continue praying for the Lord to provide the remaining $219,264 for this fund and that the Lord would lead us to the right piece of property or building to purchase. If you want to get financially involved in this church building fund, you can give it online, www.TaiwanMinistry.org, or by sending a check to Vision Baptist Missions, PO Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009, with a note in the memo: “Tolson – Victory Building Fund.”

China Pastor’s Fund | Being A Bridge of Help and Hope

Currently, many missionaries still can’t enter China, but we can help the Chinese pastors who have boots on the ground to further the gospel in China by giving and praying! The China Pastor’s Fund is an opportunity to directly support Chinese pastors (or pastors in training) by helping them rent a building for their church location. This allows the local church pastor in China to have a rent-free place as if they had a paid-for building. Over time, as the church grows and matures, the goal would be to have the local congregation support their pastor full-time and pay for their own rent/church building. With China’s current situation, we know this could be a long way off; thus, we want to be a bridge of help and hope. A secondary goal is to help these pastors with any other church planting expenses or temporary support that might be needed. We hope to raise $3,000 a month for this need and have already raised 70% of that. Thus, we are looking to raise the final 30% or about $900 monthly. Note that 100% of your financial gifts given towards this fund are used for the ministry in China (and not for us). If you would like to help alleviate some of the financial stress of being a pastor in Communist China, you can visit www.ChinaMinistry.org/china-pastors-fund or send all donations to Vision Baptist Missions, PO Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009, with a note in the memo: “China Pastors Fund.”

We labor abundantly by the grace of God and for His glory—for the One who loves us more than we ever dreamed, even though we are more sinful than we ever imagined. Furthermore, we don’t travel on this amazing journey without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, following, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward toward the mark and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, be happy in Him, and make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark 

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March 2021 Prayer Letter

Stories of God at Work | Church Planting During a Pandemic—God Can!

Last year, on Sunday, March 1st, by the grace of the Lord, we hosted the first service of our new church plant in Taiwan, Victory Baptist Church. Within the next three weeks, the USA would declare COVID-19 a national emergency, and Taiwan would bar foreign nationals from entering the country to mitigate the pandemic’s spread to the island. It was an unusual time in our world. We were unfamiliar with pandemics and uncertain about what was going to happen. Everyone dealt with unexpected situations, especially as governments started taking unprecedented actions, and the future was unknown. It was in this environment the Lord called us to plant a new church. As many church doors were closing around the world, ours was opening, and we haven’t had to close it since. The next year would be a wild ride! We would end up moving church locations after launching in a particular area and were forced to take a two-month “visa furlough” to the States when the church plant was only five months old. But amid the chaos, Jesus started building His church; people visited the services, Bible Studies were initiated, souls were saved and discipled, and believers are growing in the Lord. As I look back over the past year, I am in awe of what the Lord has done. I can understand a little more clearly now what the Lord was doing when it was too dim for me to understand it all. As the pandemic is still raging around the world and there are hopeful whispers of change this year, whatever the outcome, I will continue taking small steps of obedience, following God’s leading on this amazing journey.

Victory Building Fund Update | Over 10% Of Needed Funds Raised

We are excited about all God is doing and will do through this church, especially with the opportunity to purchase a building. The Lord has already provided $25,236 for the Victory Building Fund. As we go forward with this, we’ve been reminded our trust isn’t in man, but we trust God every step of the way. Will you pray with us about this? If the Lord leads you to give towards this church building fund, you can give online, www.TaiwanMinistry.org, or by sending a check to Vision Baptist Missions, PO Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009, with a note in the memo: “Tolson – Victory Building Fund.”

Ministry In China Update | Weekly Blessings From the Mainland

  • Although some are still making online services available, the situations where our team’s churches are in China has improved, and they are meeting in-person again. I am encouraged to see them making these wise decisions on their own as they seek the Lord and His guidance.
  • Every week I have the opportunity to teach our small team of Chinese pastors on the mainland over the internet. Currently, I am teaching them verse-by-verse through Proverbs, and my teammate, Austin, is teaching them Soteriology—the study of the doctrine of salvation.
  • One of my favorite times with them each week is to hear the “reports from Sunday” and everything that has happened since the last time we talked. I hear of their struggles in ministry and family and get to rejoice with them over the stories of God blessing them. In our last online meetup, they told of being able to meet again in-person; one of them was excited about a new visitor at church; another was recounting a story from that week of taking a group of church members out to the village to minister to some who don’t have a church near them and how someone was saved during that trip. Thank you to all who pray for and give to support and encourage these works in China!

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 every day to know Jesus, to be happy in Him, and to make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

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February 2021 Prayer Letter

Stories of God at Work | “…for of Such Is the Kingdom of Heaven”

One of the things we learned about Taiwan since moving here is the popularity of day camps during the children’s breaks from school. They have many different kinds of camps, but we wanted to do one that would teach the children about the gospel. Last year we held our first one in the summer and had a good turnout. We learned a lot from that experience. We decided to host two a year—the second one during the winter break. Because of the Lunar New Year holiday, the winter break here is much longer than in the States. We hosted this Winter Day Camp the first full week of the kid’s vacation last month and had around 23 kids participate. Some of the children were church kids, but some were kids that had never been to church or had very little exposure to the gospel. My wife, our missionary teammates, Kanon and Nancy, and some church members all led the week, going from 9-3 each day—Tuesday through Saturday, with the final day ending on Sunday morning when the kids would perform at church—hoping that the parents would come and have a chance to hear the gospel. And that is exactly what happened; we had a great turnout that Sunday and each of those visitors heard the gospel. But even more significant than this was during the week the children heard Bible stories, the gospel preached, learned Bible songs, and three children made professions of faith. Each of these children found a counselor on their own time and told them they wanted to get saved. They are ages 6, 8, and 9. Two of the three children come to church regularly, and the other comes occasionally. Actually, one of the children is the daughter of the man who got baptized recently, and I reported it in our last prayer letter. Praise the Lord for saving sinners! 

Victory Building Fund Update  | Over $24,000 Given for Victory

The Lord has already provided $24,718 in this short amount of time for the Victory Building Fund. Praise Him and thank you to all who have been obedient to the Lord and given an offering! If you haven’t already, will you prayerfully consider partnering with us by giving any amount to see these church building funds raised? All donations of any amount can be given online, www.TaiwanMinistry.org, or sent to Vision Baptist Missions, PO Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009, with a note in the memo: “Tolson – Victory Building Fund.”

Prayer Requests & Praises | Church Plant, Band of Men, Balancing Act in China

  • Church Plant Update: Praise the Lord that the church plant is eleven months old. We have seen God do so much in this short amount of time. We started with just our family, and now there is a small local church trying to reach its community and supporting gospel efforts in other places! Pray as we continue to follow up with the many visitors. Also, pray for our official registration with the government to go quickly and smoothly.
  • Men: Pray that God will give us a band of men here in Taiwan to be trained to take the gospel here and worldwide. The Taiwanese have a unique opportunity to get into other places that are harder for people like me to go. Pray that God will give us laborers for His harvest.
  • China: The virus has continued to be a problem in mainland China. Please pray for the pastors as they continue to have to do a balancing act with the meeting-in-person and hosting their services online.

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 every day to know Jesus, to be happy in Him, and to make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

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January 2021 Prayer Letter

Stories of God at Work | “Children, I Am a follower of Jesus”

Back in October, we received a message on our official church “Line” account. A man in his 30’s sent a message saying that he lived near the church, and that day, he saw an advertisement for our church and added the account. I asked Kanon, my co-laborer, to follow up with him (I was still in the mandatory 14-day quarantine). Kanon followed up with him and led him to the Lord, and started studying the Bible every week together. This new brother in Christ is a guitar teacher that works on Sunday mornings so that he couldn’t attend church then. But in December, we relaunched our Sunday evening services, and on the first Sunday evening service we had in December, he got baptized and has been serving in the church since. Before he got baptized, he gave testimony. After saying how he got saved, he looked at his wife and said he wanted to be a man of God and love her right, and then he looked at his kids and said he wanted them to know he was a man who follows Jesus. None of his family is saved yet. His children have been coming to church, but his wife hasn’t shown much interest. Please pray for the salvation of his family and the spiritual growth of this husband and father.

Victory Building Fund Update  | Stretching Faith—Stepping Into the Uncomfortable

Thank you so much to those who have already given or have contacted us about wanting to give! We have already raised $13,754 of our needed funds. As I have mentioned before, this has been a giving church from the beginning. The church paid all of its bills in December and gave $492 to missions and another $533 to their building fund in December for a total of $3,153 to date (in just three months)! We are trying to raise around $250,000. One of the things we realized and where our faith has been stretching is that prices in the big cities are high, but that is not an excuse to ignore them (especially since they are the population centers). Our God can. It is such a small thing to Him. We pray His will be done. We want to be a blessing to this church to have a permanent place to meet and be a lighthouse in this community and around the world. God often works through his people, so will you prayerfully consider partnering with us by donating any amount to see this church building funded? All donations of any amount can be given online, www.TaiwanMinistry.org, or sent to Vision Baptist Missions, PO Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009, with a note in the memo: “Tolson – Victory Building Fund.”

Church Plant Update | The Church Plant Is Ten Months Old

God is moving in our midst! Praise His Holy Name! December was packed with celebration, many Christmas outreach activities, and progress in the Lord’s Work.

  • Services: Our Sunday morning average attendance is slowly but continually increasing month-after-month. In December, we had 11 first-time visitors. We also relaunched our Sunday evening services.
  • “Firsts”: (1) The church had its first baptism. (2) The church had its first Lord’s Supper on Christmas Day. (3) The church had its first missions Sunday, where I taught the church about faith promise. On the first Sunday in January, we collected our first “Missionary Faith Promise Offering” commitment, and the monthly amount promised was $392 a month or $4,704 a year! We currently support three national pastors in China and one national church planter here in Taiwan, each for about $100 a month.
  • Training: My wife’s Bible study was split into two groups. She trained up a lady to teach the first ten lessons of our discipleship material to the groups’ unbelievers. Then in the other group, she is teaching a 10-lesson marriage course. Also, another soul was saved in their Bible study group. Lives are being changed and transformed by the Word of God! Amen!

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 every day to know Jesus, to be happy in Him, and to make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

DOWNLOAD THIS PRAYER LETTER AS A PRINTABLE PDF

My Phil 4:8 Version of 2020

The following is from Natasha:

My Phil 4:8 version of 2020… One of my mentors started this and so I wanted to share mine as well.

Think on these things :

  • God moved us to one of the only countries in the world that was able to contain and eliminate the coronavirus in early 2020.
  • Skyla was able to enter a Taiwanese school halfway into the school year and passed her mandarin (Zhuyin & Traditional Characters) and Taiwanese classes with flying colors.
  • God lead us to 2 amazing preschools for our little ones. The teachers have become our friends and we have been able to share the gospel with them. Our little ones have been loved and cared for, taught so so much, excelled in their Chinese, and adjusted to the Taiwanese food and culture after only a year in their programs! Praise the Lord for His leading in this area! Most schools in our area are completely full and yet He prepared for them these vacancies!
  • God allowed us to start a brand new church in a new city where we knew absolutely NO ONE in the middle of a pandemic! Hallelujah! 
  • God gave me the opportunity to start a Bible study with stay-at-home moms in a small community in Taoyuan city. 
  • God used the people in our church to give us a burden for an area we had never heard of and ended up leading us to move the church there.
  • We received multiple visa extensions to stay in Taiwan during the outbreak which gave us time to settle in and prepare our brand new baby church for a necessary visa trip to the States. 
  • God sent me 2 friends right after Chinese New Year. I had specifically prayed for this. One unbelieving, one believing. Two ladies to disciple in totally different ways. One to salvation and one beyond it. Both have encouraged me and taught me so much about Taiwan… the culture, the language, how to live and eat and cook and play just like them… Again, I prayed for this. 
  • God miraculously healed our pastor in the States! 
  • Our teammates from China were granted visas to Taiwan and were able to help our family and church for several months! 
  • God gave us unexpected time with family and friends, many of whom we hadn’t seen in years, including our pastor who had just been miraculously healed, our yokefellows John and Sandy Pearson, and our mentors, Mark and Amy Coffey.
  • We were able to spend time with one of our supporting churches in Tennessee. We got to know many of their people personally, and our children were able to build relationships as well. We were so so blessed by our time there! Jana Grubbs Wilkerson, we absolutely love your church and family! 
  • We were able to make some of the most amazing memories with our family despite the virus. 
  • God gave us the most precious moments with Mark’s grandfather, Carl, while he was still healthy. 
  • We were able to stay healthy ourselves and did not catch the virus during our trip to the States
  • We received our visas for Taiwan at the perfect timing!
  • Taiwan did not require us to have Covid testing done before returning which saved us a lot of stress.
  • We were only confined to our house for 2 weeks of the entire year! 
  • God grew our church even in our absence (while in the States).
  • God saved 3 moms in my Bible study!  
  • God allowed our church to have the finances to take on our first missionaries! 
  • My children’s Sunday School class outgrew its classroom.
  • God allowed us to have our first baptism service in Taiwan.
  • God allowed us to have a wonderful Christmas in Taiwan making so many special memories… this was after a very difficult holiday season last year (It was cold too!!!!! #anotheranswertoprayer).
  • God gave us the most special relationship with a family he sent to our church. They have become some of our best friends in the world and they have only known us for less than a year. Only God could do this!
  • I had the privilege of watching God absolutely transform one of my Taiwanese friend’s lives.
  • We had enough saved believers to have our first Christmas candlelight service where we received the Lord’s Supper together.
  • We, in the last week of the year, found a rental house in Taoyuan City. It was nothing short of a miracle. There were no rentals available with enough space for our family in the area we felt called to. But God made a way! And we found the most beautiful place for our family to call home for the rest of this term!
  • God healed my heart. Leaving China was one of the most difficult times of my life. The pain and grief felt unbearable. I couldn’t understand what God was doing. And while I still don’t understand it all… I’m in awe of all God did to prove Himself to us this year. To show His loving Kindness to us. I cry thinking about how amazing this year has been. And that is no exaggeration. 2020 will be a year I absolutely never forget… and not because of a worldwide pandemic. 2020 is a year in which I saw God work miracle after miracle right before my eyes… the memories of this year are ones I will keep in my heart forever 

How was your Phil 4:8 version of 2020? 

Missionary Faith Promise Offering

The missionary faith promise offering is a method of giving to fund a local church’s missionary endeavors. Members of a local church, individuals or families, follow this plan to give consistently and orderly to missions. First, you pray and ask God how much he wants you to give to missions. Second, you make a promise to God by faith to give a certain amount, in certain increments and for a certain amount of time. Third, each month you plan and trust God to supply your “faith promise offering” and give it according to the frequency you chose (weekly, monthly, yearly), along with your other regular offerings. As you are encouraged by God to give, know that He also supplies the gifts, and you are trusting God to take care of your needs, for the Bible says, “he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-10

The New Testament Paradigm For Giving Applied To Missions

  • The missionary faith promise offering is not a “specific command” in the Bible. Still, it is a “method of giving” derived from Biblical principles that help believers be more intentional about their giving to missions. It follows the same principles of the New Testament paradigm for giving but focusing on giving specifically towards missions.
  • The New Testament paradigm for giving is generous grace giving. This resembles the Old Testament freewill offerings. Its principles are as follows: complementary—a balance between the spiritual and material workings within the church; proportional—the amount is given is “within” our financial ability and “sacrificially beyond” depending on God to provide the means to give (by faith); regular—a pattern to follow so that we can excel in our giving; cheerful—a joy because it is a privilege and not an obligation; honest—the process of dealing with money that is given through the church needs to be done in an accountable way, so there would be no reason for criticism.
    2 Corinthians 8:1-3; 8-24; 9:1-15; 1 Corinthians 16:2-4
  • The principles of generous grace giving are applied to missions and are formed into a plan to support the Lord’s mission around the world: complementary—we give to missionaries and pastors to take the gospel to places we can’t go, and they minister on our behalf; proportional—we make a commitment to give to missions from what we have, but also try to sacrifice so we can do more, give by faith, trusting in God to provide for our giving and to care for us along the way; regular—we can give monthly or weekly, but we choose a pattern to follow so that we can be faithful in our giving; cheerful—we don’t “have to” give to missions, we “get to” give to missions so other can hear of Jesus; honest—everything is done orderly and truthfully with accountability.
  • New Testament Motivation: The missionary faith promise offering isn’t given out of obligation or command, but out of love and done all for the glory of God!
    1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 8:8; 9:7

Other Biblical Principles And Practical Applications
2 Corinthians 8-9

  • The missionary faith promise offering is a voluntary offering given to the Lord’s great commission work around the world so that we can be a blessing to others. We are blessed to be a blessing. This life’s greatest blessing is knowing Jesus. Biblical Principle: We are to eagerly and enthusiastically be willing to give to God’s work. But were aren’t only to desire to give, but match our desire with our giving. The Bible says, “Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.” Practical Application: Do you desire to give so that the world can be evangelized? If so, will you voluntarily and enthusiastically choose to give to this missions program?
    2 Corinthians 8:8-15
  • The missionary faith promise offering is a promise by faith to give a certain amount of money as an offering for missions for a certain period of time. At the end of that period of time, a new commitment is made. Biblical Principle: You can see a time frame when Paul is talking to the Corinthians. He refers to “A year ago”—meaning a year before they were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so, and then he encourages them to complete or finish that giving they had originally planned. Practical Application: “One year” seems like a reasonable time to promise to give a certain amount of money towards missions (for example, I promise by faith to give $500 each week for one year). After that year is up, you can reevaluate your giving, increase your faith, and, Lord willing, give more for the following year. (Note: Once a year, the local church should have a “Missionary Faith Promise Sunday” to make new commitments for the following year.)
    2 Corinthians 8:10-11; 9:2
  • The missionary faith promise offering is given alongside your other offerings that are part of the firstfruits of your increase. Biblical Principal: Giving to God should be a priority. Giving goes against our sinful nature of selfishness, but believers are to be selfless and generous givers. God even offers to bless us for obedience. Practical Application: Each month, we should first take the amount we promised and give it or lay it aside to be given when needed. This protects against spending everything and having nothing left to give or only having a little leftover to give. Each week, before you come to church, make it a priority to prepare your missionary faith promise offering so that you can give it joyfully and consistently.
    Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:24; Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 16:2

Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense

  • The missionary faith promise offering is an offering that is above and beyond your normal giving or tithe. It shouldn’t replace it, but it is in addition to it and given alongside it.
  • The missionary faith promise offering is not designated to be given to just one missionary or organization, but it is used to support different missionary families, missions organizations, and the missions mobilization and outreach efforts of the local church. Our goal is to support those who are evangelizing the lost, establishing local churches, and equipping national leadership. The distribution of these funds is agreed upon by the local church.
  • The missionary faith promise offering is not a pledge. It is not a legally binding agreement. But it is a promise or vow which is encouraged in the Bible.
    Ecclesiastes 5:4-5; Psalm 76:11
  • The missionary faith promise offering is a decision made between you (or your family unit) and the Lord. No one will have knowledge of your decisions, nor will anyone come and collect this offering from you. You cheerfully decided in your heart to give by faith for world evangelism.
    2 Corinthians 9:7-8
  • The missionary faith promise offering should include every member of the family. Parents and children all need to be involved in giving and watching God provide as the family gives to spread the gospel worldwide. Your heart follows your treasure. We want to raise children whose hearts are consumed with making Jesus known around the world!
    Matthew 6:21
  • The missionary faith promise offering should include two promises: First, you commit your life to take the gospel to the world. Second, in dependence upon God, you will endeavor to make a faith promise to contribute to world evangelism.
    Mark 16:15; 2 Corinthians 8:4-5

Review Questions

  • What is the three-step plan of the missionary faith promise offering?
  • What is the New Testament Paradigm for giving? What are its principles?
  • How are the principles of generous grace-giving applied to missions?
  • What are some Biblical principles and practical applications?
  • What are some practical wisdom, good judgment, and common sense?