Author Archives: Mark

Update #4: Pastor Austin Gardner (Keep Praying)

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The latest updates (newest to oldest) from pastor’s sons:

14th | Friday Evening Update:

Just got off the phone with the hospital. He had his 4th plasma exchange today and responded well. His peep is still at 12 and the oxygen is at 60%. Blood pressure is good now. No fever. The kidney is still working well. They aren’t planning on “proning” (putting on his belly) him again unless it is a necessity.

Note from Mark (me): Also, David Gardner (Pastor’s son) and his family arrive safely back to their destination in the USA from Peru. Thank you for praying and giving!

May 29th, 2020

13th | Friday Afternoon Update:

Dr. just called, says he is hanging in there. They have given him 3 plasmas so far, there hasn’t been much of a difference but at least it has kept him from getting worse. Numbers and all are the same. Yesterday and today have not been the best of news, just have to hang in there. This Dr. will be with him over the weekend so he will let us know about any changes or improvements that he may see.

May 29th, 2020

12th | Friday Update:

Hospital just called. Chest X-ray is looking a lot better than yesterday. They pulled fluid out and that has helped. It even has helped the swelling in his face. Yesterday he was having nose bleeds but now he isn’t having that problem. There is more air in his lungs instead of fluids. Peep is still at 12 and oxygen at 70%. They are going to do another plasma exchange today. He is still receiving the Remdesivir (medication).

May 29th, 2020

11th | Thursday Night Update:

Today hasn’t been a day with a lot of up numbers. Peep is at 12 and oxygen at 70%. They do not act upset, it is just a part of it. We are hoping and praying for a better tomorrow.

May 28th, 2020

10th | Thursday Update:

Peep is back up to 10. Oxygen is at 60%. He Is on his back now and will be turned at 4:30 PM. His face is very swollen from being so many hours on his stomach and face. His kidney is producing an excellent amount of urine. You could hear a lot of fluid and they are getting ready to suck that out.

May 28th, 2020

9th | Wednesday Night Update:

Doctor called. He was very enthusiastic and extremely happy. He even said he is loving how he is progressing and how the treatment is helping him. He is on his stomach because they believe he prefers that position than on his back (which is true). He will make a note for the day staff to know that he has always preferred sleeping on his side. They will probably start trying to keep him on his side and see how his numbers change. His own oxygen is great at 100%. The oxygen on the machine is at 45%. While on stomach he is back on the paralytic medication. We asked when he thought they would start waking him etc. and he said that Pastor Austin Gardner would be the one that decides that. His blood pressure is a little high but he says he can work with that and it is no concern. He was extremely happy

May 27th, 2020

8th | Wednesday Update:

I was just on the phone with Dr. He said that he continues to improve. The plasma from yesterday is working and they are getting ready to give him his second dose in a few minutes. His peep # is at 8 now. Usually, 5 to 8 is normal range from what we understand.

May 27th, 2020

7th | Tuesday Night Update:

The nurse we talked to is the same one he had last night and he personally sees an improvement. They did the plasma exchange and will do an X-ray and all tomorrow morning so we will know if it helped him or not. No more turning him on his stomach because he is doing so well on his own but they do prop pillows and turn him sideways etc. every two hours to avoid bed sores.

May 26th, 2020

6th | Tuesday Morning Update:

Doctor says he is the same, no change really, so they are going to do the plasma exchange later today. Normally there is an immediate improvement, might be small but normally there is some. They can do this plasma exchange several days in a row. He is still on his back and oxygen is at 55% which is great for being on his back. Peep number is still 10. His kidney is functioning well and still ok.

May 26th, 2020

5th | Last Monday Update:

He is still on his back which is good cause the goal is to keep him on his back. If his numbers change or he starts struggling they will put him back on his stomach. His oxygen is at 70% right now but they lowered his Peep number to 10 so it compensates with increasing the oxygen. His Peep was at 14 now at 10 which he said was a good sign.

May 25th, 2020

4th | Monday Update:

He is back on his back and doing very well breathing on his own oxygen at 60% could possibly even be at 50%. Doctors words were it has been a good day, looks like we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Still a process but looking good.  
If there is a turn for some reason they will do a plasma change but hoping that doesn’t happen and how it is looking it won’t.

May 25th, 2020

3rd | Last Sunday Update: 

He is on his stomach again, because of him being on his back so long they turned his oxygen up to 70% but now that he is on his stomach they will start to lower it to 50% again. They took him off of the paralytic medicine or machine which is a good sign because that means he is not fighting the ventilator. He is ventilating well on his own. His own oxygen is at 100%. He has no fever. Still sedated and on pain medication. Thanks for praying guys.

May 24th, 2020

2nd | Sunday Update:

He is on his back still on 50% oxygen. He gets his last dose of that medicine today. Depending on labs and everything else they will eventually start trying to wean him off of the different machines. Still a day-by-day thing.

May 24th, 2020

1st | Sunday Update:

They have him on his stomach again and they are pushing in 50% oxygen. He is on day two of Remdesivir (medication). The doctor says that he is responding well to everything and they are encouraged. Thanks for praying everyone.

May 24th, 2020

Previous Blog Updates:

Update #3: Pastor Austin Gardner (Keep Praying)

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The most recent update:

Pastor Austin Gardner’s oxygen that was being pushed to him was at 100% but they watched it go down to 80%, 70% and now it is down to 50%. This means that his body is recovering and doing more of the breathing on his own! Doctor friends of the family have said that he might be able to be taken off as early as 40%.

Also, the nurse said that they could tell a major difference and he seems to slowly be improving. He is stable and they say he is responding very well to treatment.

He is fighting COVID-19 as well as double pneumonia.

It also was told that we need to understand it isn’t over and there will be ups and downs.

Please keep praying for him.

Trust God

The last point of the last sermon that Pastor Austin Gardner preached before being hospitalized was: “Trust God to care for you.” We are not only trusting God to care for us but we are also trusting God to care for Pastor Austin Gardner.

Thank you for helping out a friend!

Pastor Austin Gardner’s son, David Gardner, was able to raise the money needed to purchases plane tickets from for his whole family from Peru, South America to the States. Lord willing, they will be traveling back next week and adjusting back to life in the States to be with the family during this time. Thank you for giving and your generosity.

Previous Updates:

Update #2: Pastor Austin Gardner (Keep Praying)

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As last reported:

On Wednesday, May 20th, Pastor Austin Gardner was taken to the hospital by ambulance because he had very low oxygen levels. He was admitted into the ICU and is being treated for pneumonia and COVID-19. He is in serious condition and could use your prayers.

Urgent: Pray for Pastor Gardner

The most recent update:

On Thursday, May 21st, Pastor Austin Gardner was intubated. He will be asleep for 5-15 days and hopefully this will help him get better. There were also going to start plasma treatments.

He is in serious condition and was very sick when he was admitted.

Pastor Austin Gardner and family.

Please continue to lift him up to the Lord with us. I have combined different prayer requests list from friends to help us know how to pray.

  • Pray for God to heal his body – to restore and sustain his health.
  • Pray for his oxygen levels to return to normal and remain there.
  • Pray for wisdom for the doctors and nurses to give the right treatment – they are serving us by serving our pastor.
  • Pray for a peace that passes all understanding and a strong faith that continues to reject anxiety and panic – trust God in this situation.
  • Pray for comfort for the family (and all whom this affects), especially since they can’t be together at this time and family that is currently on the mission field.
  • Pray for his wife Mrs. Betty – peace, comfort, wisdom, strength in the Lord. Pastor rarely gets sick so this is not something she is accustomed to, not to mention she can’t be there with him at this moment.
  • Pray for his kids: Chris, Stephanie, Joy, and David; and also their spouses, and grandkids. Also pray for David and Katie as they are trying to get back to the states to be with the family.

May God grant our petitions. May God’s will be done.


Please help out a friend if you are willing and able!

Pastor Austin Gardner’s son, David Gardner, is a missionary serving in Peru, South America, and is currently there. We are trying to help him and his family to return to the States. But like other countries around the world, Peru is in lockdown and it’s expensive to leave the country. He needs approximately $15,500 to cover the expenses for his family of 6. His home church has already given $5,000 towards this need.

If you would like to help you can give through Vision Baptist Missions or PayPal. (Note: Designate for David Gardner.)


Thank you for your generosity, love and prayers during this time.

We are looking to the Lord.


More Verses of Encouragement

Jeremiah 17:14
14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.

3 John 2
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

Psalm 115:1
1 Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But unto thy name give glory, For thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.

Urgent: Pray for Pastor Gardner (Update #1)

NEXT LATEST UPDATE (CLICK HERE)

On Wednesday, May 20th, Pastor Austin Gardner was taken to the hospital by ambulance because he had very low oxygen levels. He was admitted into the ICU and is being treated for pneumonia and COVID-19. He is in serious condition and could use your prayers.

It is time to mobilize all our prayer warriors to pray for my pastor and friend. He is a man of God who has helped so many of us. I know he would do the same thing for me if I was in his situation.

As I sit here in Taiwan, in relative safety and health, my heart is broken for my mentor. I feel helpless, but I know I can pray. I believe God still has much for him to do here on this earth, thus let us pray! Will you join me in prayer?

  • Pray for God to heal his body. To restore and sustain his health.
  • Pray for wisdom for the doctors to give the right treatment.
  • Pray for a peace that passes all understanding and a strong faith that continues to reject anxiety and panic.
  • Pray for comfort for the family (and all whom this affects), especially since they can’t be together at this time and family that is on the mission field.

Thank you for praying!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark


Verses Of Encouragement

Psalm 46:1–2
1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Philippians 4:6
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

1 Peter 5:7
7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Psalm 23:4
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

2 Corinthians 1:10–11
10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

Psalm 57:1
1 Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: For my soul trusteth in thee: Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, Until these calamities be overpast.

COVID-19 | Updates For Taiwan And China

The COVID-19 virus is still causing chaos around the world. The wickedness of men and their hunger for power and control is on full display. Many facts are unknown or unclear; statistics and data are inaccurate or incomplete. All of this is a reminder of the fallibility of man, the deception that lies within men’s hearts, and comes roaring out when opportunities arise, and ultimately, the reminder that we are not in control. The good news is: God is in control, He is infallible, He isn’t confused, and all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.

Taiwan: Praise the Lord, we are still on the field. Taiwan has given two 30-day extensions which gave us an extra 60 days on our current visa-free entry. This means we now have until mid-July before we would need to make a visa run. Please continue to pray for the ban to be lifted. The island of Taiwan continues to have little exposure to the COVID-19 virus. It has been over three weeks since the last reported case of a person that was “locally infected” by the coronavirus here.

China: Praise the Lord, one of the pastors reported the salvation of a young man in China! Concerning the virus, some places are doing better while other places are still having many problems. Currently, one of the greater concerns is the resurgence of persecution. We were hoping that the pandemic would ease the persecution, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, the government seems to be taking advantage of the situation. One of the pastors has been called and visited by the police. He was even offered money to turn over evidence on our missionary work there. Also, we were informed through “a friend of a friend” that two of our pastors and a missionary was on an arrest list for a crackdown happening in May. They have been working to see if this is a legitimate threat and what they can do to get their names off of the list. There was some hope that two of the three names were off of the list, but we can’t be 100% sure. Now that May is upon us, please be in prayer for them.

May 2020 Prayer Letter

Stories of God at Work | Two Souls Saved In Two Days

Our oldest daughter and I set out to spend the day passing out tracts and invite others to church. After spending several hours out on the streets, we went to a certain coffee shop to drop off flyers for them to leave on the counter for customers coming in. The owner is a Christian. There was a 30-year-old Taiwanese man there reading the Bible. I was introduced to him and encouraged to help him with his understanding of the gospel. I started a conversation with him and that led to about two hours of sharing the gospel. By the end of the conversation, he was in tears, and finally, he lifted his head and looked me in the eyes and said, “I believe!” Praise Jesus! The next morning, I took an Uber to a friend’s house. I prayed for the Lord to give me boldness to witness to the driver. Once I was in the car, I started talking with the 34-year-old Taiwanese driver. Come to find out, this man had never been to church, but he had watched preaching on YouTube. He was interested but didn’t have a full understanding of the gospel. We talked the whole car ride and once we arrived at the destination we continued to talk until he bowed his head and prayed to the Lord for salvation. Praise the Lord for saving another sinner!

Women’s Ministry | A Prudent Wife Is From the Lord

There are so many things that happen behind the scenes that go into getting a church plant going. In our ministry, I am blessed with a wife who is willing to serve and as a result, our family and ministry are blessed. Not only does she manage the household, but she builds discipleship and evangelism relationships with those that she can. She serves in serval ministries, which include: playing the piano and singing during our services; teaching a children’s Sunday School class; hosting a nursery when needed; leading a mom’s Bible study in Chinese with unbelievers; teaching a kid’s English club on Friday nights as an outreach to the community. As the Lord gives the increase, she will train others to take over many of these ministries and become the spiritual mother to many women here on the field.

Online Ministry | Reaching Into the Mainland From Taiwan

As many of you are already aware, the borders of China have been temporarily closed because of COVID-19 and many have had to move their services online, some using video and some just audio. Not only China, but many around the world have moved to online services for a short time. Thus, I was also challenged by this to try a “live interactive online service” to encourage and challenge the believers in mainland China. (Note: In Taiwan, we were never required to stop meeting in person.) On April 2nd, we hosted our first service and have hosted a service online every other week since then. The believers there seem to really enjoy it and many have even prepared songs and shared testimonies as the service online is interactive. One of the blessings, that I wasn’t expecting, is that we have had believers join us not only from multiple cities in China but also from the villages. There are two villages that I know about specifically, neither have I personally been to, but I was able to preach there through technology. Apart from these online meetings, I am hosting a weekly class with the pastors to train and encourage them in the Lord. Since my “in-person” outreach was hindered in the mainland, this “online” outreach has been a tremendous blessing.

Church Plant Update | Our Church Plant Is Two Months Old

We have now completed the second month of our church plant. We had around 8 first time visitors in the month of April. We had a high day on Easter of 22 people in attendance with 3 first time visitors. Besides our family and visitors, we now have around 6 who are faithfully attending every Sunday. We are still limited in some of what we can do, but each day we are taking more liberty as people are more at ease and willing to attend different outreaches, etc. Please keep praying for: (1) the salvation and discipleship of those coming; (2) young men to reach and train for ministry.

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

A Review In Needed Lessons

It is good to be reminded of truths that we know but sometimes forget. Reviewing Biblical truth will be an encouragement but also it gives wisdom about how to make the right decisions in the midst of hard times! As noted before, COVID-19 is one of those times.

Below are some lessons to remind us of some of the important truths we ought to think upon during a time such as this. We are in a spiritual battle and we always need to have our guard up. Feel free to read through the lessons or just skim the highlighted areas. I hope this is refreshing and an encouragement. God bless!


A Review In The Biblical Hierarchy Of Authority

The Bible teaches that authority is hierarchical, meaning there are different ranks and classifications of authority. In this hierarchy, God is the highest authority. All other authorities are under His sovereign rule. As believers, we are called to be responsible in our positions of authority and submissive to those whom God has placed over us.

The Hierarchy Of Authority

  • God has authority over everything because He is the Creator of everything. He has the absolute right, according to His own will, to make decisions, give orders and carry out punishment for disobedience.
    Psalm 24:1; 92:8; 93:1-2; 103:19; Genesis 2:16-17; 3:24
  • God has authority over Jesus, but He gave Jesus all authority in heaven and in earth; therefore, obedience to Jesus’ commands is obedience to God himself.
    1 Corinthians 11:2-3; Matthew 28:18
  • Jesus has authority over man. Man has authority over woman. The husband is called to lovingly lead his wife and she is called to respectfully submit to him. The children are to obey both of their parents until they are old and leave them to start their own family.
    Ephesians 5:22-6:4; 1 Peter 3:1–7; 1 Corinthians 11:7–12
  • Jesus has authority over the church. Men are called by God to lead the church as pastor and deacons. They have authority over the church in spiritual matters.
    Hebrews 13:7, 17; Matthew 16:19
  • Government has authority over its citizens. They are to act as the ministers of God to mankind for good. Their purpose is to encourage good, discourage evil, and use force to accomplish this mandate.
    Romans 13:1-4
  • Mankind has authority over the earth and all the animals. We are to use this position to care for the animals and environment.
    Genesis 1:28, 2:15
  • Employers have authority over their employees. The employees are to be obedient to their employer, and the employer is to lead properly.
    Ephesians 6:5–9; 1 Peter 2:18–25

The Authority Of The Government

  • God has ordained the authority of the government so that mankind will have order and be protected from evildoers and their unjust causes. This means they will seek to preserve human life, property and justice. They are never given permission to do wrong. Therefore, if the government is carrying out the function that God has established for them to do, we who are under their authority should be subject to them. If we resist them, then we are resisting the ordinance of God.
    Romans 13:1-2; Proverbs 21:1
  • God has ordained the use of force by the government. The government has the right to make laws concerning what is right and wrong and its citizens are obliged to obey the law. The government has the right to reward those who do good and punish those who do wrong.
    Romans 13:3-4
  • God has ordained the collection of taxes by the government. Because the government serves in this position of authority, they have the right to justly tax their people so they can have money necessary to fulfill their duty.
    Romans 13:6-7; Matthew 17:24–27; 22:15–22
  • God has ordained the authority of the government to be in accordance to His will. No government is autonomous, but they are all under the sovereign rule of God. No government has the right to make a law that is contrary to the commands of God. Therefore, God is the foundation for knowing what is right and what is wrong, not man.

The Separation Of Church And Government

  • The functions of the church and government are different. The government has been ordained to promote justice and punish evil. The church had been ordained to preach the gospel and be ambassadors of Jesus. Therefore, the government doesn’t have the authority in the affairs of the church, nor should it regulate its spiritual functions.
  • The methods of the church and government are different.  The church does not have the right to use “force” to carry out its mission. This is only the right of governing authorities. The church carries out its mission through the proclamation of the Word and living their life in obedience to it as a witness to all men.

The Believer’s Response To Authority

  • Believers are to submit to the authority that is over them, like they are submitting to the Lord Himself. We are to be servants of God that are full of good works, honoring all men, loving the brotherhood, fearing God, and honoring the king.
    1 Peter 2:11–17; Titus 3:1–7
  • Believers are to obey their governing authorities (even if they are corrupt) because: (1) we will be punished by them if we don’t, and (2) because of conscience sake, we know that we are opposing God’s authority if we don’t obey. There is no perfect government because it is governed by sinful people.
    Romans 13:5
  • Believers do not have to obey the authorities over them if they are commanding them to do something that is contrary to what God has commanded. For example, your authority doesn’t allow you to teach in Jesus name, your boss wants you to be involved in fraud, or your friends and family want you to get an abortion.
    Acts 4:19–20; 5:29

A Review In The Loyalty Of Believers

As believers, we pledge our allegiance to Him above all else and strive to remain loyal to Him in all situations—even the hard ones, in spite of the outcome.

Believers Know That Jesus Wields The Ultimate Authority

  • All Power: As believers we live out our lives and fulfill God’s mission in this world under His authority. Jesus’ authority supersedes all other authority structures and governments. After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to the disciples and told them that, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”—absolute and sovereign authority. From this position of authority, He commanded them to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. Thus, the church has been God’s active witness in the world since then. And since then, as they have fulfilled this command, Jesus has gone with them, and will continue to do so through the entire process until the end of the world.
    Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:19-23
  • Counting the cost: Thus, as the church goes forth in their local communities and sends missionaries around the world making disciples, there will be individuals, communities, governments, and nations that reject Jesus’ authority and persecute those who come in His name. But we have a declaration from the King of kings and the Lord of lords to go forth into every part of the world where there are people to reach with the gospel of Jesus—there is no where we can’t go carrying the good news. But this will come at a cost because even though all people need the gospel, they aren’t always welcoming to it. Thus, to obey the command of Jesus we have to be willing to endure persecution if necessary. For example: God tells His prophet to go into a land with a hostile government. He gave him a specific duty to do (sacrifice) for his protection against the government (undercover) in order to carry out his ultimate mission (anointing). So the choice is left to the believers: obey God and possibly suffer persecution because of it or disobey God.
    1 Samuel 16:1-13
  • The Apostles’ Example: The Jewish leaders questioned Peter and John, saying: “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, told them very clearly that His authority was “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” and He continued to tell them that, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” They understood that they were going in the authority of Jesus, were eager to declare He was the ultimate authority and willing to suffer for it if need be.
    Acts 3:11, 25; 4:1-12

Believers Pledge Their Allegiance To Jesus Above All Else

  • Believers pledge their allegiance to God over man to fulfill His mandate. When the Jewish leaders saw the boldness of Peter and John they commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus so that it wouldn’t spread further among the people. They had to choose who to obey: God or man? They responded by saying they, “Cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” They were released and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Then as the apostles were doing many signs, wonders and teaching they were arrested again and asked, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
    Acts 4:13-31; 5:12-42
  • Believers should obey the government but ultimately pledged their allegiance to Jesus. God has ordained the authority of the government so that mankind will have order and be protected from evildoers and their unjust causes. God has also ordained the authority of the government to be in accordance to His will. No government is autonomous, but they are all under the sovereign rule of God. No government has the right to make a law that is contrary to the commands of God. Therefore, if the government is carrying out the function that God has established for them to do, we who are under their authority should be subject to them (even though they are not perfect). Only when the authorities over us are commanding us to do something that is contrary to what God has commanded or prevents us from obeying God, should we choose not to obey.
    Romans 13:1-4; Proverbs 21:1

Believers Exercise Abiding Loyalty In Hard Situations

  • Our loyalty to Jesus will be tested. The wicked will test to see if we truly pledge our allegiance to Him or if we will renounce Him. There are numerous situation in which this can happen, but we are going to look at the following two Old Testament examples that encourage us to exercise abiding loyalty in hard situations.
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego remained loyal to the true God when they were commanded to worship an idol. King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded all the people, nations, and languages to worship the idol when the music was played. Whoever would not worship the idol when the music was played would be cast into a burning fiery furnace within the same hour. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego only worshipped the true God, thus they refused to obey the kings order to worship the idol. Instead, they made a very calculated risk and told the king that, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…”—meaning they believed that God could deliver them from being persecuted. Then they said, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods…”—meaning that even if God chose not to deliver them from being persecuted they wouldn’t worship the false gods or idols. The three men were cast into the fire but God did a miracle and delivered them. This caused the King to repent and bless the true God.
    Daniel 3:1-30
  • Daniel remained loyal to praying to God even when it was made illegal. Certain government officials were jealous of Daniel and tried to find something against Daniel to tell the king, but they could find no fault, so they said, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” They knew He was faithful and loyal to God. So they tricked the king into making a law that would force Daniel to have to choose between his loyalties: the king or the living God. Daniel remained loyal to God and was cast into the lion’s den because of it. But God delivered Him and the king made a decree, that in every dominion of his kingdom people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
    Daniel 6:1-28
  • Abiding loyalty means that we pledge our allegiance to Jesus even if we don’t know the result. Every believer will receive different types and degrees of persecution. King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, planing to persecute them. He killed James the brother of John with the sword. Then he proceeded further to take Peter also, but the Lord had delivered him out of the prison. Why did God deliver Peter and not James? We don’t know but both men exercised abiding loyalty to Jesus.
    Acts12:1-17; Romans 1:16; (Another example, Jeremiah was delivered but Urijah was killed: Jeremiah 26:10-11, 20-24)

A Review In Going Forward In The Face Of Uncertainty

Go Forward In Wisdom And Harmlessness

  • Jesus sent His disciples forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. In this scenario the sheep is the one in danger—meaning that the persecution was imminent for the disciples. Jesus knew that persecution was going to be a reality if they obeyed His command to go and preach the Kingdom and He sent them anyway. Thus, the advice He is going to give them wouldn’t mean they were to suspend their mission if they were persecuted or even at the “chance” of being persecution. Ceasing to preach or speak in the face of persecution was never intended, but His intention was to encourage them to “go forward,” but as they did, they were to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”.
    Matthew 10:16; (Context: Matthew 10:1-42)
  • “Wise as serpents”—in scripture, serpents are used both in a bad and good way. Here we are told to have this good characteristic: wisdom. Snakes have to be wise because they often live in hostile environments (not many people like them). The first aspect of this wisdom is being shrewd and having a sharp sense of judgement. They pay attention, are watchful and careful. The second aspect of this “wisdom” it to cause the disciples to keep from becoming “slothful” out of the timid, cautious and circumspect characteristics that come when facing danger. Thus, in the same way, we need to have this sense of wisdom as we face persecution.
    (Compare to prudence: Proverbs 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 15:5; 16:21; 18:15; 22:3; 27:12)
  • “Harmless as doves”—doves have no real defense or offense. They don’t fight back when attacked. They aren’t seeking to hurt others, take advantage of others, nor are they attacking others. They easily put themselves in danger so that is seems silly or stupid. A dove is vulnerable. It isn’t fearful nor does it hide. As a messenger of the gospel “harm” shouldn’t be characteristic of who we are. Though people will mock, hate and hurt us because of the gospel, we shouldn’t fight back. They might harm us, but we don’t harm them. To apply this to our lives we have to understand that God uses suffering for the advancement of the gospel. Our suffering is a testimony to the grace of God.

Go Forward Ceaselessly Proclaiming The Gospel

  • Go forward speaking the gospel and do not be silent. As believers we are sent forth preaching the gospel and when we are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, we should continue being witnesses to them. In the face of persecution we should always be proclaiming the gospel message, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us. Jesus said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace”. Also, after Paul was arrested He used this opportunity to preach the gospel. Never cease preaching.
    Matthew 10:18-20; Acts 18:9-11; 21:27-26:32
  • Go forward speaking the gospel and if needed flee to another location. Jesus tells His disciples that when people persecute them in a certain city they were allowed to flee to another city. We should be aware and alert to the danger that could happen and if needed move to another location as long as we keep on preaching the gospel. We are permitted to leave a city because of persecution but we shouldn’t stop preaching the gospel. Thus, the task is more important than the location—even if the location can’t be changed.
    Matthew 10:23
  • Go forward speaking the gospel and if persecuted keep speaking the gospel. Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city and left there supposing he was dead. But when the disciples stood round about him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe and preached the gospel there. Even after being stoned and left for dead, Paul was faithful to preaching the gospel.
    Acts 14:19-23

Go Forward Doing Right Regardless Of What Happens
1 Peter 4:1-2

  • Go forward obeying God even if persecution is inevitable. Paul was told by a prophet that the Jews at Jerusalem would bind him and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles when He went up to Jerusalem. When the believers heard this, they pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. But he would not be persuaded by them, saying, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Finally, they said, “The will of the Lord be done.” Paul was willing to go forward knowing that persecution was inevitable.
    Acts 21:10-14
  • Go forward serving God even if it is against the law. When Daniel knew that the writing was signed (that said if anyone prayed to any god or man, except the king, during the next thirty days they would be thrown into the lion’s den) he went into his house and prayed just as he had done before the law was passed. He did what He had always done: he prayed with his windows open toward Jerusalem in his upper room; he did this three times each day—kneeling, praying and giving thanks before his God. He didn’t allow fear to keep Him from obeying God even though it had become illegal.
    Daniel 6:10; (Daniel’s obedience to prayer: 1 Kings 8:35-36; 44-50; Psalms 55:16-17)
  • Go forward by faith and not fear. After spying out the land, Caleb stilled the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and posses it; for we are well able to overcome it”. Then the other men that went up with Caleb to spy out the land disagreed with him and said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we”. The other men were focused on the facts and looking at all the reasons why it couldn’t be done. They had a list of fearful reasons. This caused them to fear and caused the children of Israel to fear and doubt the promises of God. But Caleb had a mindset of faith. His report wasn’t focused on the giants but on God. All the same conditions were true, all the same giants were in the land just as the other men reported, but Caleb had faith that God was going to bring the victory.
    Numbers 13:30-31; 14:7-9, 14, 24; Examples of faith: Hebrews 11:23-28, 32-40
  • Go forward assembling together with the local church and not forsaking it. Some of the Hebrews were habitually abandoning and neglecting the local gathering of the church. This was wrong. The reasons why some stopped assembling together isn’t given, but whether it was because of persecution and the fear of gathering publicly and being identified with Jesus and His church or another reason, they risked abandoning the faith over time by not assembling. We assemble because we need to exhort (encourage) one another—especially to: draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith; hold fast the profession of our faith (hope) without wavering; and consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Thus if we need this at normal times, how much more in times of persecution and as we are living out His mission in this world. This is a nonnegotiable.
    Hebrews 10:19-25; Matthew 12:30; Acts 2:42; 14:19-23 (Persecution in Hebrews 10:32-34; 12:3-4, 12-14; 13:3)

Links

The above articles are taken from the following lessons:

Ongoing Conversation:

The Paradox of Compassion

Why is trying to figure out what to do so hard? Why are believers having opposing views on a situation? Because it is hard to know what information to trust in a world flooded with so many ideas, opinions, stats, and so-called facts. You add in the emotional and stressful component in the situation—how this is affecting me and those closest to me, gives a different end result. Some more musings:

Preservation of self can lead to disregard for others and thus harm awaits them. We can’t disregard our neighbor across the street nor those across the world. We are to be world-impacting and world-changing Christ followers.

Compassion is in our DNA.

Love for others, on the other hand, places others before self. How to properly love others in times of crisis is based on what is “best and right” for them according to the facts of the situation and applied through a Biblical filter. When the facts are unknown and the statistics are inaccurate that means the results are incomplete. Thus, what is the proper way to love our neighbor in “this” situation? This lands in the grey area. This is the paradox of compassion. But there is one thing that we do know. We can and should have compassion, grace, love, peace, kindness, selflessness, and sacrifice no matter how we try to apply the “best and right” thing in this situation. Ugliness, namecalling, lack of compassion, and political self-defense isn’t to be our reputation. Even is some things are permissible and good, we need to remember to keep the main thing, the main thing.

To stay home and protect others from getting the virus is loving. But also if needing to open the economy back so that millions around the world don’t go into starvation. Which is worse? Which is just fearmongering? Which is just the natural course of an unfavorable situation? These are hard times and hard decisions. Churches will be starting back. Some won’t be. Some never quit. How can your church best love and serve your community and at the same time strive to be a light all around the world reaching beyond the borders of your local community? (Side Note: God didn’t call you to just reach “your mission field” or local community, He called you to go to the world. Do Both.)

Cast your cares upon Jesus. Don’t let the emotions and stress of this situation to cause you to rant against others, but choose love. Love them through it. Show them the way of living the victorious Christian life in the midst of suffering.

Ongoing Conversation:

Cloudy Discernment (Quick Thought)

As things *try* to go forward, keep in mind that not everyone is going to give good advice. I have already seen several articles that give bad advice to churches. 

Some quick thoughts to think about:

Will a Christian leader’s advice and judgment be clouded when he receives money from the government? Is it hard to be critical of or stand against the government’s wrongdoings when they fund your church (especially if the offerings aren’t enough)? This is true in other realms, could it be true here as well?

Will larger churches and ministries, especially those with a lot of debt have a different perspective than smaller local churches without debt and a paid-for building?

Will different size churches have different plans for returning to a normal assembly, thus each advocating for their own position, judging those who don’t do like they do, turning each other against each other?

What other things could cause someones judgment to be cloudy?

Brave The Dark, Let Your Light Shine! #resistance

This post is somewhat of a continuation of my last post “COVID-19 and the Local Church” and I want to give some more thoughts from the unique perspective that I have concerning all that is going on in our world in relation to the local church.

There are many words we can use to describe this time: uncharted, uncertain, unusual, unexpected, unprecedented, unknown. And even though I agree with all of these and everything does feel unfamiliar, there is one familiar feeling to everything that is going on. There is an attack against the local church that is all too familiar. After doing ministry in China for eight years and continuing to train and work with pastors there, there are some things that we learned from this “closed country” that might help at such a time as this.

1) God Over Government.

One of the constant frictions that you see in the Bible is God over the government. Worldly governments, even though ordain by God, they aren’t the ultimate authority. Governments have been ordained for a certain purpose, from which they can overstep the bounds of that purpose. As believers, we ALWAYS put God before the government. This is a notion that most governments or authorities hate. We have one loyalty, Jesus, above all else!

Thus, don’t be surprised when your government seems to turn on you as a believer. In China, all the missionary work we did (evangelize, church planting, etc) was illegal from the standpoint of the government. But the decision for us was already made: God over the government. (For more on this topic of authority and government, read these articles: What Does The Bible Teach About Authority? and Where Is Our Loyalty In The Face Of Persecution?)

2) Assembly Over Fear.

I have often told people the most dangerous thing we did in China as missionaries was assemble for our Sunday morning gathering because it was our largest gathering and if the police came, we were simply caught red-handed. Now, understanding the truth above, that the “government doesn’t have the authority in the affairs of the church, nor should it regulate its spiritual functions,” we didn’t decide what we did as a church, such as having services based on the government’s permission or recommendations. This was a decision made by our local church in obedience to our head, Jesus. Yes, we might have to pay a price for it, but we are followers of the Persecuted One, we don’t expect anything else. As we follow Him, they will treat us like Him. (For more on going forward in hard situations, read this article: How Can We Go Forward In The Face Of Persecution?)

A local church does not make decisions about assembly based on what the government says. We can choose as a church what is best for us and our community. We can listen to certain recommendations but ultimately it is a church’s decision to choose to meet in spite of anything else.

A snow day. I grew up in Ohio. Many churches would cancel services when is snowed because they didn’t want to put their people in harms way for one service. Understandable. With this virus, many are doing the same thing with moving to online services. No Church wants to become the center of this epidemic and cause the virus to spread to all of its members and community. But this where common sense and wisdom comes in. Understand this isn’t just about a virus, but there is *still* a spiritual battle raging, the enemy would love to do nothing more than to take advantage of this situation and cause chaos in local churches to prevent them from assembling for the longest duration as possible. As believers, we have a different worldview. Fear and misinformation CAN come in the name of safety and health to keep the church from assembling. (Think about it: there is no guarantee that social isolation without a vaccine or cure will fix any problem long-term; there is no proof that a local church cannot take proper measures to keep the virus from spreading and continue to have services. If government offices, hospitals, grocery stores, and gas stations can all continue to function and yet take proper safety precautions to function… the church could do the same thing.)

After all, one of the main reasons that I believe we as believers need to keep assembling according to Hebrews 10 is because we risk abandoning the faith over time by not assembling.

How long can you wait? How long will you wait? I understand this is a controversial topic and it is all based on how to interpret the information you are given. Some agree with the assumptions while others disagree with it. But it does seem that those who are fine with social isolation and not assembling until the government gives approval, even if it takes a year, and those who don’t long for that fellowship with their church family, are most likely those who were already not faithful to church to begin with. This is not trying to down anyone just simply saying we view church assembly differently.

A side note, and possibly a topic for another article, one thing that we have experienced through persecution is that it causes maturity and purging in the church more than numerical growth. We usually report the encouraging stories, but there is a toll taken on the churches. I think the same idea applies here, when the church has to make a tough decision and there are hard times, even if it isn’t persecution like we experience in China, I think you will see a natural purging of those who “were not of us”.

3) One Another Over Individualism.

In China, as I mentioned, just about every aspect of our ministry is considered illegal. The only part that is technically legal would be having a “personal faith”–meaning you can believe it but you can not live it out in any public form (unless approved by the government). Sure you can pray, read the Bible and sing in the privacy of your own house with just yourself or family, but that is not what we are called to do as followers of Jesus and that is not what a local church is. (Note: If you are in the government or part of the communist part, then you aren’t even allowed to believe it.) We are to live out the Victorious Christian Life in a community of faith and reach out to those who have yet to become a follower of Jesus. “One another” is a key component that can’t be dismissed.

I think many are realizing that “online community” is not satisfying. Yes, it is helpful and a “stop-gap measure” meaning that it is filling a void until something better can be done (at least until the internet companies realize that our message is offensive), but it doesn’t check of the relational boxes that we so desperately need. And it shouldn’t be. Certain things can’t be virtual or at least shouldn’t be virtual. Any online community I’ve ever been a part of has not ultimately brought the community that I need. It is dangerous because it engulfs your time but leaves you missing in your real life interactions from those that need you the most, specifically your family. For what online community can actively include your wife and your children (spanning all ages).

I feel this pain with the pastors I am training in China. Sometimes I have to communicate hard truths to them, and I wish I was there to “be with them” so they can feel my love and concern. To share a meal and know that fellowship of being in person. Paul shared this longing. He longed to be with the brethren. He could write letters, even send others in his place, but that longing was still there. He knew that only certain things can be truly done in person and taught in person. (See: 1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19-30; 1 Thessalonians 2-3; 2 Timothy 3:10-11.)

4) Hard Path Over Easy Path

Thus, knowing that everything we do in China is illegal, what changes for us? Practically, nothing changes unless we are forced to do so. This means that we would continue to have church services even though we are told not to until we were forced and are physically unable to do so.

5) Love Over Hate

We have learned not to be known for an “anti-government” stance, even though the government is extremely anti-Christian. We try to succeed in our love for the people that make up the government, pray for them and see them as souls that also need to be reached with the gospel. (Note: I believe that one of the reasons for persecution is so that those in hard to reach places, such as government leaders and officials, have a chance to hear the gospel…in the midst of persecuting believers. Under normal circumstances these people often don’t have a chance to hear the gospel.)

6) Occupational Hazard Over Isolation

When we make decisions for our local church, it can’t be based on a arbitrary information. Rumors, misinformation, scare tactics are a constant normal within ministry in China. If we cancelled services based on that information, we would have to be cancelling services all the time. We have to look for accurate and trustworthy information, listen to those who have our good in view and understand our perspective. If a decision is made to stop assembly for a “time” the heartbeat should always be to try and assemble again as soon as possible. But we need to remember on thing: there is going to be risk (health, persecution, etc.) in assembly. Assembling has always been hazardous for the church its entire existence…its an “occupation hazard”.

7) Independent Church Over Government Church (A Warning!)

If you did some quick research on China, you would quickly find out that there seems to be a thriving public Christian community there. But what you are seeing is a government-controlled church. They offer peace, safety and even financial help in place of control over your church. How much control? They tell you where and when you can meet. The regulation who can and can’t attend (under 18 not allowed – that is brainwashing). They regulation who can preach and what they can preach about (not all messages and books of the Bible are approved.) Not to mention all the bad doctrine and the false gospel often spewed from false teachers.

That is why it is important to keep the government separate from the church…because they will want to control certain aspects of your church life and ultimately turn it into something that isn’t a church.

In Closing,

Have your guard up. Know there is a spiritual battle. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be foolish with the virus either. Take precautions. Use Wisdom.

Expect there to be an anti-assembly tone…even from within the “church”. Purging will take place. True colors will be shown. Avoid them.

Belief in the mission will be challenged. People will move towards self. World evangelism will be on the back burner for many. You have to decide what you believe is right.

Church, we are on a mission…

#noreserves

#noretreats

#noregrets

…let’s go with courage, conviction and compassion.