Author Archives: Mark

Understanding Speaking In Tongues (Part 4)

Interpretation Is Needed Or It’s Useless (1 Corinthians 14:13-17)

  • 14:13 Therefore—if the goal is church edification—then if a person speaks in an untranslated tongue he should pray that he may interpret—to clearly explain meaning to the hearers so that the church can be edified.
  • 14:14-17 Paul continues his sarcastic tone and once again points out the silliness using an untranslated tongue or gibberish to pray. If a person prays in such a manner, he is praying with his “spirit”—his inner being, passion, human spirit, heartfelt, sincere—but his understanding or his mind is completely unfruitful. So what should this person do? Paul simple says to pray with your spirit, but also pray with understanding. This means he should stop praying in a language we don’t understand because there is no comprehension. The same thing goes for singing. We are to sing with our spirit and with our understanding. Otherwise, when we sincerely (with the spirit) bless but we are speaking gibberish or an untranslated tongue, how will others (“he that occupieth the room of the unlearned”) agree and say, “Amen” when we give thanks? They won’t because they don’t understand what we are saying. We might be giving thanks well, but the others are not edified. 
  • Conclusion: Any believer who was given the gift to speak another known human language that they have never studied was to only use it within the church if it was interpreted into the language of hearers in the church. 

Only Speak What Can Teach Others (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)

  • 14:18 Just to make sure everyone knew that Paul was not against the use of real “tongues” he thanks God because he actually spoke with tongues more than the church at Corinth. The difference is that Paul used the gift properly and for the right reasons. (Note: There is no record in the Bible of Paul speaking in tongues, which is important to note because he had the gift and used it a lot, but it wasn’t important enough to write down.)
  • 14:19 Paul continues, even though he spoke with tongues more than those in the church he was writing to, he makes it very clear that in the church he would rather speak five words with his understanding, that by his voice he might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an untranslated language or gibberish.
  • Conclusion: Even though Paul spoke in tongues, he never misused it or chose to speak in a foreign language instead of speaking in the language of the hearers. To Paul the important part of any gift is the ability to teach others.

The Purpose Of Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:20-25)

  • 14:20 Pauls next step is for us to understand the purpose of why tongues were given as a spiritual gift. First, he chides the Corinthian believers for being children in their understanding. He tells them to be children in “malice”—(perverting moral principles) but to be men in their understanding—that is to be mature and think carefully about the situation that he is presenting to them. They need to grow up in the Lord.
  • 14:21 Then he shows them the prophecy about tongues, saying that in the law it is written (Isaiah 28:11-12), “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” This was a prophecy that God was going to use people who spoke other languages (Gentiles) than that of Jews, and speak to the Jews, but they would also reject this message. This was fulfilled in Acts 2:3-12 (Jews) and 10:44-46 (Gentiles) when God gave men each different languages. (Note: Some languages the hearers could understand and some they couldn’t understand, which is probably the reason for them mocking, saying, “These men are full of new wine. ” From what we have already learned, if you don’t know what someone is saying, he is like a barbarian to you.)
  • 14:22 Therefore—because of the prophecy—tongues were for a sign to unbelievers not to them that believe. But prophesying on the other hand serves for them which believe not unbelievers (1 Corinthians 2:14). 
  • 14:23-25 Paul makes another comparison through a hypothetical situation. He says if the whole church comes together into one place and everyone is speaking with “tongues”—all kinds of different earthly languages probably at the same time—and there comes in those that are unlearned or unbelievers they will say that the church is mad—insane, uncontrolled emotion and chaos. This is obviously not the response that we want. So this was an example of misusing a real spiritual gift. On the other hand, if everyone was prophesying—speaking one earthly language, that of the hearers—and there comes in those that are unlearned or unbelievers, there is the opportunity that they may be convinced of all, judged of all, the secrets of their hearts made manifest and so falling down on their faces they will worship God and report that God is really among you. Thus, even though tongues was a sign to unbelievers, prophecy does a better job at evangelizing the unbelievers—it is superior.
  • Conclusion: The main function of tongues was to serve as negative sign to unbelievers. Thus, as tongues were properly spoken, it did positively edify the church thorough allowing people to hear in their own language the wonderful works of God—but don’t forget this fulfillment and blessing itself was the sign of judgment given to the unbelieving Jews. This also gives temperance to this gift.

May 2019 Prayer Letter

Dear Pastors, Partners & Praying Friends,

As we were out soul winning on a Friday morning, my partner and I were walking down the steps from the third floor of an apartment building when an Indian man greeted us. We exchanged some words with him and I asked him the question, “If you died today are you 100% sure you would go to heaven?” He almost instantly replied, “50/50”. We continued talking and he invited us into his apartment. We spent the next half hour or so explaining the gospel to him and helping with some of the confusion that he had, apparently from his upbringing. By the end of our conversation, he got on his knees and prayed to ask God to save him. After he got done praying he said, “Now I know 100% that I am saved!” Praise the Lord for saving another sinner!

Special Projects and Needs:

  • Church Planting Fund: $10,000 – Lord willing, we are heading back to China this fall and will plant another church. In preparing for this church plant, we are raising funds to be prepared for all the cost in starting a new church. This covers, Lord willing, about a year’s rent, utilities for that year, church furniture, materials, Bibles and any of the small expenses that come with planting a new church.
  • Reentry Setup Fund: $20,000 – As we prepared for furlough, we put much of our things, furniture and vehicle into storage, but also several things were sold because of the need to upgrade to meet the demands of our growing family, etc., when we return to the field. Thus, we will not only be looking to purchase those items that need to be replaced (certain furniture and appliances), but also need the funds for plane tickets, at least three months rent, and the cost of visas before we return.

Praises, Prayer Requests, Updates and Announcements:

  • Persecution/Church Update: The persecution in our China ministry seems to have settled down, although one of the men reportedly still gets phone calls from the police to keep tabs on him. The church we started has rented a new space and continue to have services.
  • Teammates Update: Our teammates who had to flee the country because of persecution were able to return to China and setup in a new city without any problems. Praise the Lord.
  • New Support Update: We have raised additional new support this past month which makes our new support goal almost reached on furlough based on promised amounts, but we are only at 90% of that goal based on what has been sent in. This goal was set as the minimum we needed to raise before we return to China and any above it is needed and will help us to do more than we expected. We have truly been blessed and want to be a blessing.
  • Furlough Travels: Sine our last prayer letter, we had meetings in: TN, IN, OH, GA, and MT. I was also able to teach a “Discipleship Course” at the Our Generation Training Center.

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

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

Understanding Speaking In Tongues (Part 3)

Prophesy Not Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1-5)

  • As a side note, before we study this chapter, the following has been noted as a helpful guide to properly understanding this chapter. In the original language (Greek), there is a singular word “tongue” and a plural word “tongues”. Some translations clearly note this difference, but sometimes it is lost in translation. Thus, for a possible clearer understanding, read the singular form “tongue” used in the following verses of this chapter: 2, 4, 13, 14, 19, 27 as “untranslated language” and the plural form “tongues” used in the following verses of this chapter 5, 6, 18, 22, 23, 39 as “foreign languages”. Other uses are as follows: verse 9—“tongue” is speaking of your actual tongue; verse 21—“tongues” uses a different word but means foreign language as well; verse 26 uses a different word but it is also in the singular and thus can be read as “untranslated language”. If this is not helpful to your study, then you can simply read all the uses of “tongue/tongues” (except verse 9) as “foreign languages” for a simpler understanding of what is meant and the problems within the church.
  • 14:1 This chapter starts with three things that we should do: (1) We are to “follow after” or strive for “charity” or sacrificial love—the type of love explained in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; (2) We are to “desire” or be zealous for spiritual gifts—every person is given different gifts by the Holy Spirit for the profit of all or the church—as explained in 1 Corinthians 12:1-10; (3) We are to a greater extent (“but rather”) be zealous that we may prophesy—communicating God’s word in the known human language of the hearers. 
  • 14:2 Paul starts by mentioning about people speaking in an “unknown tongue”—which is an “untranslated language,” a “none human language” or “gibberish”. Whatever they are “speaking,” they are not speaking to people because no one can understand what they are saying—which voids the purpose of spiritual gifts: to profit all. Instead they are speaking unto God (or they think they are)—at first glance this seems like a good thing, but here are two considerations: (1) anyone speaking gibberish to Almighty God is not respectful of Him—it was as if they were treating God like they did their idols (1 Corinthians 12:1-2); (2) they were speaking in the untranslated language and only God knew what they were saying. Also, they were speaking by their own human spirit (not the Holy Spirit) and they spoke “mysteries”—things that were not understood. Again, this can have two understandings: (1) if speaking gibberish with new mysteries—this is opposite to the other teachings about “mysteries” because God is now “making known the mysteries” (Colossians 1:25-27; 2:2-3; Ephesians 3:5-10; 1 Corinthians 2:7-14; 1 Timothy 3:16); (2) if speaking an untranslated language—it was a mystery what they were saying because now one understood and there was not translation taking place.
  • 14:3 On the other hand, the person who “prophesieth” speaks to people for their edification (upbuilding, strengthening) exhortation (encouragement, support), and comfort (consolation). This is a spiritual gift that if used properly will accomplished its intended function—especially because not translation is needed.
  • 14:4 Paul then goes on to sarcastically make a comparison: a person who speaks in an untranslated language or gibberish does so to edify himself, but a person that prophesies edifies the church. This is not a prescription for how a person should edify himself and edify the church. A few possible understandings: (1) This is a contrast. One is right and one is wrong. Edification is always other focused. See the following verses for a study in edification: Romans 14:19; 2 Corinthians 12:19; Ephesians 4:12, 16, 29; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Timothy 1:4. (2) Selfishness described as self-edification is never the goal of the spiritual gifts that we are given by the Holy Spirit and therefore to use them for to edify yourself and not the church is wrong (1 Corinthians 12:7). (3) Maybe the person understands what he is saying even though the church doesn’t so he can only edify himself, but it is still not the best way.
  • 14:5 Paul then says he “would” or wishes them all to speak in “tongues”—to have the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak authentic foreign language. He is not contradicting what he already stated about the gifts (the Holy Spirit distributes different gifts to different members and not all will have the same gifts; 1 Corinthians 12:11, 30), but is just emphasizing through using a hypothetical situation to show that even if he could make everyone speak in tongues (foreign languages) that he would wish to an even greater extent for everyone to have the gift of “prophesy” because it is communicating God’s word in a known human language and the church would be edified. (Compare 1 Corinthians 7:7 where Paul also said that he “would” or wished all men single.) Thus, “prophesy” is greater unless it was accompanied by interpretation—translation into the language of the hearers—and thus able to edify the church.
  • Conclusion: The emphasis is on “prophesy” the superior and “tongues” as the inferior. There was a possible “false tongue” and a “real tongue” being spoken. Prophesy was better than both because of its ability to edify the church without translation. Thus, the goal of all spiritual gifts is to edify the church, in which prophecy is superior.

Excel To The Edifying Of The Church (1 Corinthians 14:6-12)

  • 14:6 Paul then says that if he came speaking to the church with the real gift of “tongue” that it wouldn’t be profitable for the church unless he was transmitting, by interpretation, understandable revelation, knowledge, prophesy or doctrine.
  • 14:7-8 To help our comprehension of this basic logic—understanding is needed for edification—Paul gives us some examples: (1) lifeless things that make sounds, such as a pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, we won’t know what is being played; (2) if a trumpet gives an uncertain sound then people won’t know to prepare themselves for the battle.
  • 14:9-11 In the same manner as the examples above, unless we speak intelligible words —words easy to be understood—with our actual tongues, no one will know what we are saying. We are just speaking in the air. Gibberish is just speaking into the air with absolutely no benefit. There are all sorts of real human languages spoken in the world and they all have meaning and significance when they are spoken—people don’t just speak gibberish. Therefore, if someone doesn’t know a certain language when it is spoken to him, then he will be a barbarian (an incomprehensible foreigner) to the speaker and the speaker a barbarian to him. Languages spoken that can’t be understood between the speaker and listener divide not unify (Genesis 11:1-9).
  • 14:12 So the same principle applies to the church and its members who are zealous (enthusiastic and fervent) of spiritual gifts: they are to seek or strive to excel to the edifying of the church. A language spoken without significance is worthless—gibberish or an untranslated language does not build up the church.
  • Conclusion: All spiritual gifts should be used to edify the church, especially all the “spoken gifts”. This means real “tongues” shouldn’t be used unless there is translation and the church can be edified. Gibberish should never be used.

Understanding Speaking In Tongues (Part 2)

The Second Use Of Tongues In The Bible—Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48)

  • 10:44-48 Peter was preaching the word (Acts 10:34-43) and the Gentiles heard, believed (Acts 10:43) and received the Holy Spirit. They even started to speak with tongues—because of Acts 2:1-11 this would mean to have the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak an authentic foreign language that you have never studied—and what was the content of this speaking in tongues: magnify, praising and extolling God. (It also seems apparent that the believing Jews could understand what the tongues speakers were saying.)
  • Conclusion: So this is a gift for Jews and Gentiles with the common factor being that they are believers. This also seems to fulfill in part what Mark 16:16-20 had meant.

More Gentiles Speak In Tongues (Acts 19:1-7)

  • 19:1-7 Paul laid hands on about 12 Ephesian male disciples and they received the Holy Spirit and they began prophesying and speaking in tongues—again because of Acts 2:1-11 this would mean to have the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak an authentic foreign language that you have never studied.
  • Conclusion: More fulfillment of the purpose signs was given is taking place (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).

Tongues Is A Spiritual Gift (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)

  • 12:7 There are a diversity of spiritual gifts but there is unity in all of them (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) and everyone who is given the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is for the “profit withal” or the common good.
  • 12:10 Some believers were given the spiritual gift of “divers kinds” or various kinds of “tongues” or foreign languages. Thus, some believers were given the special ability to speak an authentic foreign language that was previously unknown to them. Some believers were given the spiritual gift of “interpretation” or translation of “tongues” or foreign languages. Thus, people were given the ability to translate an authentic foreign language that was previously unknown to them. 
  • 12:11 All the gifts are the work of the one and the same Holy Spirit, and he distributes them to each person as he will (1 Corinthians 12:18).
  • Conclusion: The supernatural ability to speak foreign languages and to translate foreign languages was part of the spiritual gifts mentioned. God through the Holy Spirit gives to people according to His will and not everyone has the same gifts but we will have different gifts. The purpose of the gifts is to profit everyone not self. Thus, not everyone will be able to speak in tongues or translate tongues.

Tongues Aren’t Given To All Believers (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)

  • 12:28-30 Again it is stated that God gave the church “diversities of tongues” and then the questions are asked, “Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” It is a rhetorical question—meaning the answer is an obvious “no”—not every person will have the same gifts in the church body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). He ends by telling us to covet earnestly  or desire the best gifts—as this is a good thing to do—but he will show us a more excellent way—love. Spiritual gifts are good, but love is better. Some believers speak in tongues and some will translate but every believer should love.
  • Conclusion: The spiritual gifts are not a sign of spiritual maturity but “love” is. Every believer will have different gifts, not the same ones. We are to covet the best gifts—tongues is not in that category (1 Corinthians 14:1, 3-6, 24, 29, 31, 39).

Tongues Are Temporary (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 8-10)

  • 13:1 The clear object of this chapter is to show “love” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) is the more excellent way. It is more excellent than any spiritual gifts that we could have. He strongly states that we could be doing many great things for God, but if we didn’t have love, then it would be useless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). He uses many hypothetical situations (“though I give my body to be burned”; 1 Corinthians 1:3) to emphasize the great importance of love in every situation. There are two examples that we need to address in our study. First, “Though I speak with the tongues of men…”—Paul starts off by saying that if he spoke in “tongues of men”—which is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak authentic foreign languages and “have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal”. Tongues without love is just noise. He adds “of men” which clearly indicates he is talking about genuine human languages. Second, he adds “of angels” or the “tongues of angels”—which means to speak the same as angels do. But what do angels speak? Every time an angel speaks in the Bible, those whom the angel is speaking to understands what is being said without translation. Thus, from the evidence we have in the Bible we can guess they probably have the ability to speak human languages without studying them. So it seems then that Paul is saying that even if he has this ability but didn’t have love it would be useless. Angels serve as messengers in the Bible who always clearly give the message to the intended receiver of the message (so Paul is probably saying, “If I could be like that!”). Thus the notion that there is an “angelic language” or the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues is an “angelic language” has no Scriptural support. (Angels Speaking: Genesis 16:9-11; 21:17; 22:11; Matthew 1:20; 2:13; Luke 1:19 and many more verses.)
  • 13:8 Again, love is the emphasis of this verse because love “never faileth”. Then he goes on to show “tongues” is inferior to love because “they shall cease”. The word “cease” simply means to have an end. When tongues have fulfilled their role they will no longer be a gift that the Holy Spirit gives to believers. So what was the role of tongues? (1) Tongues were a sign to confirm the message and messengers of the gospel before we had the completion of the New Testament to guide us (Mark 16:16-20; Hebrews 2:3-4); (2) Tongues were a sign of judgment to Israel and unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:21-22; Isaiah 28:11-12). Thus, in the “early church” (in Acts etc.) these two signs were fulfilled, which makes sense why this gift seems to have ended. Outside of Acts and 1 Corinthians (which were of the same time period) no other believers are recorded in Scripture to be using this gift nor is it mentioned again in Scripture. Where did it go? It seems that it fulfilled its role and then ceased. Note: the two other gifts in the verse “prophecies” and “knowledge” will also come to and end one day, but the words used are “fail or vanish away”—which technically have the same meaning “to become inactive”. But When? “When that which is perfect is come”. These two are specifically mentioned in verse 9  (but tongues is not) which leads into verse 10. This state of perfection is most likely referring to our eternal state with God when things will be completed and not “in part”.
  • Conclusion: Tongues is an inferior gift. It is only useful when exercised with love. There are no known angelic languages in the Bible. Tongues will cease and it seems apparent that they have already ceased. Therefore, it seems tongues are no longer being given to believers by the Holy Spirit.

Understanding Speaking In Tongues (Part 1)

Speaking in tongues means that the Holy Spirit would give a believer the supernatural ability to speak a real human language that the person had never studied as a “sign” to the unbelievers and Jews of judgement against them. The positive side of this sign is that God was now using Gentiles and Jews as the church (and in every human language) to carry forth His mission in the world. Because it is a spiritual gift with a specific purpose it wasn’t given to every believer and the gift seems to have ceased because its function has already been accomplished. If a believer believes that this spiritual gift still exists, then it should only be used as according to the prescribed rules Paul gives us (1 Corinthians 14:26-33) with the emphasis being on interpretation—meaning it translated into an intelligible speech to the hearers so that it can edify the church, otherwise, no believer is permitted to use this gift. Non-languages or “gibberish” are not to be used because it goes against the very character of God who is not the author of confusion, but of peace.

Definitions

  • By “tongues” we mean an “authentic foreign languages” which are existing human languages. (For example: Chinese, English)
  • By the “gift of tongues” we mean a believer miraculously speak in an authentic foreign language that was previously unknown to the speaker. (For Example: A Chinese believer can miraculously speak English.)
  • By “counterfeit or false tongues” we mean a person speaks in non-languages, gibberish or speech that isn’t made up of words or the structure of known languages. This type of “tongue” can’t be translated because is contains no cognitive information.

Tongues Are Promised (Mark 16:9-20)

  • 16:16-20 In the context of the great commission, it is recorded (although many doubt this passage was in the original, but was later added, either way, it has been accepted and is in the Bible) that Jesus told His disciples that certain “signs” will follow them that believe. In Jesus’ name they would perform the following signs: casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, protection from serpents and drinking any deadly thing (poison), and healing the sick. The purpose of these signs were to confirm the word or gospel that they were to preach to every creature (and new believers as they joined in preaching the word). There are three clarifications we need to make about this verse (two in relation to understanding tongues): (1) Baptism is not part of salvation. The way verse 16 reads can be taken that baptism is necessary to be saved, but it’s not, it is part of the great commission which is the reason for its inclusion. So the statement is true, a person who believes and is baptized will be saved, but as the verse continues is clarify “he that believeth not shall be damned”—meaning “believing” is the way we accept the gospel and are saved. Thus, baptism is just something that believers do as our proclamation of believing in Jesus and not something that must be done to be saved. Other verses also help us see this verse in this light: Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-9; 1 John 1:7; Colossians 1:20. (2) The signs were especially promised to the apostles of Jesus (Matthew 10:1; 2 Corinthians 12:12) and not to “every person who believes at all times,” but “some believers—those who believe and are given these gifts” would be able to perform these signs like the apostles. Every believer has been given different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). (3) These signs are not meant to be a test for true salvation—meaning we aren’t saved because we can or can’t perform these miracles. Only believers can truly perform these signs but not all believers will perform these signs. (4) Signs have a purpose. The purpose here is to confirm the word that was preached everywhere. After it was done, the sign ceases. Also, the signs are not to be used for other purposes or reasons apart from what the Bible describes. For example, the goal of healing someone is to cause others to believe the gospel, not the actual healing itself (otherwise no one would ever have to die, we would just continually heal people). (5) One fo the signs is “new tongues” or to miraculously speak a language that is “new to you” (you never studied it before) which we see happen in Acts 2:4.
  • Conclusion: Once the Holy Spirit came and the apostles started to fulfill the great commission, there would be signs to follow and confirm the word they preached. Speaking in tongues would be one of those signs.

The First Use Of Tongues In The Bible—Jews (Acts 2:1-11)

  • Acts 2:3-11 The twelve Apostles and about 120 disciples (Acts 1:15) on the day of Pentecost (Exodus 23:14-19) were all with one accord in one place. Then, suddenly they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Each person received divided (coven) “tongues” and they began to speak with “other tongues”—other known human languages than their mother tongue—as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. At this time, there were devout Jewish men out of every nation under heaven dwelling at Jerusalem. (This included the following: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, dwellers in Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and visitors from Rome—both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretes and Arabians. This list includes as least 15 different places.) So when the believers started speaking in tongues, people started to hear this sound of probably 120 people speaking different languages and wondered what was going on. The multitude came together and were confounded because that every man heard them speak in “his own language”—this proves they were speaking real human languages. They go on to say that they even heard every man in their “own tongue, wherein we were born”—meaning they were even speaking in the very dialect of their home towns. The disciples who were speaking were “Galilaeans” and they supposedly weren’t known for being part of the intellectual class of society—which gives reason for everyone being amazed and marveling that they were speaking other languages that they obviously didn’t study.
  • The “listeners” which came from “every nation under heaven” had one similar response: they all understood. But they also had two different responses: (1) amazement—they were astounded but also “in doubt”—meaning they were perplexed not knowing exactly what they were experiencing meant. (2) mockery—others mockingly said they had too much wine to drink and were drunk. Why would they say this? The following are possible explanations: they could understand the one person who was speaking their language, but they couldn’t understand what everyone else was saying (so many people speaking different languages) and so it seemed that they were drunk because they didn’t know the other languages; because they didn’t understand, maybe they thought they were just speaking gibberish like a drunk person might do, but in reality it was another language they didn’t understand; or they understood the message they were proclaiming “the wonderful works of God” and because they didn’t like or agree with the content they claimed they were drunk—like a drunk person who just babbles about a certain topic—as a form of contempt for the message they proclaimed.
  • Conclusion: Since this is the first and most descriptive use of the gift of tongues, we should use it as foundation in our understanding of what it actually is: (1) Speaking in tongues is a work of the Holy Spirit. (2) Tongues is speaking real human languages and dialects, not gibberish. (3) The message of speaking in tongues was the wonderful works of God. (4) It fulfilled its purpose as a sign to the unbelieving Jews and confirming the word (1 Corinthians 14:21-22; Mark 16:16-20).

Happy Easter!

The resurrection makes all the difference! Praise the risen One!

Romans 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

This Easter I want to praise the Lord for how he is helping us reach the Chinese here in America:

  • In our August 2018 prayer letter I reported:

“I was able to meet a Chinese man who was participating in an ESL class at our home church and started studying the Bible with him in Chinese. Please pray for his salvation.”

Once I started traveling full time, I turned the Bible study over to my friend Andy. He has been studying with him ever since. Andy has also started a Chinese Sunday school class at our home church. That Chinese man now believes in Jesus and is getting baptized tomorrow, Lord willing! Amen!

  • In our September 2018 prayer letter I wrote:

Pray as we reach out to the Chinese community we meet as we travel.”

Since then I have had the opportunity to teach at least two groups in Chinese and share the gospel with them. And just in this month’s (April 2019) prayer letter was I able to report of another Chinese man getting saved: During one of our missions conferences, I was able to teach a Chinese Sunday school class. The class seemed to really enjoy the lesson, especially since I taught a good portion of it in Chinese (usually the class is taught in English). Following the Sunday school hour, we all sat together for the main service. During the invitation, the teacher of that class brought one of the first time Chinese visitors over to me and said he wanted to know more about being saved. I didn’t have a Chinese Bible on me, so I opened the Chinese Bible app on my iPad and walked him through the gospel. At the end, I asked him, “Is this something you want to do now, or do you want to understand it more first?” He responded with, “Now,” and then he bowed his head to ask Christ to save him. Praise the Lord for saving another sinner!

Pray for another Chinese man who I was able to witness to last week in Tennessee that showed a lot of interest in the gospel.

Finally, I want to ask you to pray for Grace Baptist in China and the other churches we are associated with as they celebrate Easter. Through the recent and past persecutions there must be some anticipation about this Sunday, but pray they will boldly proclaim, “Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead!”

Holidays From A Biblical Perspective

Holidays are any days we set aside for a special purpose and celebrate instead of working (or doing the normal daily routine). From a biblical perspective, there is no moral mandate to celebrate any specific holiday. Instead, believers are given the freedom to choose how they will engage the holidays as long as it is pleasing and glorifying to the Lord.

There Are No Biblical Holidays For Believers

  • The Bible does not command believers to celebrate or avoid any holidays (including the Old Testament celebrations). It does not commend or condemn any special or holy days that we have to observe as part of our faith. Believers have the liberty to apply biblical principles and being fully persuaded by their conscience as they choose wether or not to celebrate the holidays of the surrounding culture or traditions they have grown up with. This means that it is possible for different believers to come to different views about the same holiday and both are permissible.
    Romans 14:5; Galatians 4:9-10; Colossians 2:16-17
  • Traditionally, Sunday has been seen as the “Christian Sabbath,” or the day that believers are to not work in order to gather together as a church to remember and worship the resurrected Lord Jesus. It is true that Jesus resurrected on Sunday and that we are commanded to meet together as local churches, but we are never prescribed to do it on Sunday. The bible does describe that the early church meeting on Sundays (as well as other days) and this has become norm for most churches but it is not the law. As believers, we can’t be legalistic about Sunday, but we should be committed to our local churches and the necessity to attend its services. (Note: Because of the New Testament example and church unity, I do think Sunday is the possibly the best and greatest choice.)
    Acts 2:46; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 10:25

Christian Cultural Holiday Wars

  • Traditions: Many popular holidays that are celebrated by Christians, especially those in the Western part of the world and that have spread to the church globally, have become sacred traditions among believers (such as Christmas and Easter). Secular culture and retailers have also secularized and commercialized these holidays which has caused a culture war between believers and unbelievers. When unbelievers don’t recognize the holiday with the same credence as believers do (and vice versa) a cultural war is started. As believers, we should remember the following:
  • Our traditions, no matter what biblical significance we bestow upon them, are not mandated by scripture and are just traditions. Defending them and their significance is not the same as defending the Bible and its truths.
  • We can’t and shouldn’t compel unbelievers to participate in what we deem a Christian holiday. There is no reason we should expect other believers, let alone unbelievers, to cater to the specific way the we choose to obverse a day.
  • Misleading: Often believers look for historical significance to dictate their desire to claim a holiday or to justify their behavior in celebration a certain tradition or holiday. But it is often misleading to the newer generation of believers, because even though historically many holidays have Christian roots they also have pagan roots. Because we live in a fallen world, our cultures often get mixed together. As believers, we need to make sure that we are redeeming the culture around us.
  • Secularization and Commercialization: We can expect the culture that we live in around us to secularize and commercial any holiday where they can cease from work to find pleasure, entertainment or make a profit. Maybe this is why the Bible doesn’t give us any holidays. The one observance that we are given is the Lord’s Supper (although it is not necessarily a holiday). This was given to the church. Only believers can participate. (Who would even think of inviting an unbeliever to participate?). There is no specific day that it must be observed but the observance is irregular. It is beautifully designed to be guarded from secular and commercial influences so that its observance stays pure and true.

Being A Witness In The Culture

  • Salt and Light: As believers, we are salt and light among the unbelievers around us. Jesus doesn’t want us to war against them for not following our traditions or go into hiding because their traditions are evil, but He wants us to be engage the culture so that we can keep truth from decaying and people from spoiling their lives. We are to enhance their lives through the works, gospel and word of God. We should be aware that those around us are watching us and they know what our works are like (wether good or bad). Therefore, we should intentionally live out our good works, not so we can receive praise like the Pharisees, but so that they will glorify our Father in heaven.
    Matthew 5:13-16; John 1:14; Matthew 20:28; Acts 17:22-34; Luke 5:29
  • All believers are faced with deciding what they are going to do with the culture around them. There are parts of the culture that we see as morally bad and other parts that we see as morally good. Many things fall into the category of just being amoral—not right or wrong. Therefore, believers who desire to engage the world as salt and light need to remember the following biblical principles:
  • Don’t love the world—any human way or system that is against God. If something is obviously morally bad or sin is involved in the celebration of a holiday, then believers should not participate. We are called out from the unbelievers around us at this point and should shine our light through our difference.
    1 John 2:15-16 
  • Do glorify God. As believers we can take the morally bad and transform it—not through participation in the sinful ways, but through exchanging the sinful with the God glorifying. Just as the thief who is redeemed stops stealing and starts giving—he doesn’t avoid money or material possessions altogether. We should look at every situation saying, “How can I transform this to please and glory God in this?” It doesn’t matter if the thing is originally good, bad or amoral, we have a new motivation that says to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God.
    Romans 14:4-8; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17
  • Pilgrims: As believers, we need to remember that this world is not our home. We are  citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Our lives should be more characteristic of the gospel. Therefore, we are to set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth
    Philippians 1:27, 3:20; Matthew 6:20; John 17:24; Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:4; Colossians 3:2

Review Questions

  • What holidays does the Bible commend or condemn?
  • What are two things we should remember to avoid culture wars over holidays?
  • What does it mean to be salt and light?
  • What two principles do we need to apply when engaging culture?
  • What does it mean to be a pilgrim?

Saving and Raising Funds

We have truly been blessed financially over the past 8 months or so of furlough. We have been able to raise some much needed support (not at our goal yet, but getting there) and even pay off the debt that we accumulated. Now as we look forward to our return to China later this year, Lord willing, we are looking to save and raise funds for the following two reasons:

  • Church Planting Fund ($10,000) – Lord willing, when we return to China from furlough we will be launching another church plant. Our next stage of ministry is to become a multi church planting ministry. With the recent persecution against our ministry, it just reemphasized the need to train men for full time ministry because one day we might not be allowed to return or be kicked out of China. But until that day, we want to do as much as we can with the length of days the Lord gives us in the country. So we want to be able to continue to help that church that was established but also press forward and plant another church and train more men to start more churches.
  • Reentry Setup Fund ($20,000) – As we prepared for furlough, we put much of our things, furniture and vehicle into storage but also several things we sold because of the need to upgrade to meet the demands of our growing family etc. when we return to the field. Thus, we will not only be looking to purchase those items that need to be replaced (certain furniture and appliances), but also need the funds for plane tickets, at least three months rent, and the cost of visas before we return.

Our supporters have always been so generous to our family and we don’t take it for granted. I pray God’s richest blessings upon you.

Also, please pray as we get some medical issues taken cared of before we return.