Category Archives: Mind Dump

Convicting Thoughts This Morning

I was going through some old notes and I came across the following, which I believe was written after hearing from Don Sisk:

If your church isn’t growing, ask three things:

1. How is your personal outreach?

2. How is your relationship with your family?

3. How is your prayer life?

Those are very simply and yet honest questions that we ought to ask ourselves. As we prepare for this upcoming church plant, it reminded me of some things that are foundational. It is not about money, budgets and plans, but it is about being a man of character, a man of God. I want to do great things for God, but who does God use? Are we doing our part of the process?

Let me ask these questions in other ways:

How many hours a week am I soul winning? Evangelizing? Personally giving other people the gospel? Of course there are advertisements, tract distribution, passing out flyers, Facebook ads, etc. but am I using the time I am with others and/or purposefully scheduling time to go out and win souls?

How can we plan to have a healthy church if we don’t have a healthy family? What areas does my family need to grow in? Am I helping them grow in those areas? Am I leading my home? Am I pastoring my home? What is the spiritual condition in my home? Is my family excited about church? Why or why not?

How much time do I spend really praying? Am I asking? The following quote came through my email recently: “Don’t ask for easy lives, ask for the strength to live your life. Don’t ask for work to equal your power, ask for power that will equal the work. – Philips Brooks” Am I praying throughout my day, having a habitual lifestyle of prayer.


Then a passage I studied last week cam into my thoughts as well:

Titus 1:5-9

Edlers Qualifications

5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Blameless in Family

6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

Blameless in Character

7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

Right Attitudes and Actions

8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

Skilled in the Word

9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.


How can we expect God to work if we aren’t who we need to be?

Effort + Reliance | None of this is accomplished in our strength, but there is effort that we put forward in all of this, striving to be like Jesus and empowered through the Spirit to actually do it. None of the voids our effort, but our effort is useless if we don’t rely on Him. It becomes just busy work.

Rejecting Slothfulness | On the other hand, can we be accused of being spiritually lazy, just waiting on God to do everything and not putting forth the effort that He requires or has commanded us to do. Are we sitting under the Word, soaking it all in and just souring because we aren’t doing anything with it?


To do great things, we need to be men of God blameless in family and character, putting forth effort in the right attitudes and actions, busy about the ministry (skillfully using the Sword of the Lord, His Word) and have a constant reliance on Him in everything through prayer.

And at the end of the day, as I wrote down in my devotions this morning: It isn’t just about using God to do great things, but it is about knowing God, because no matter what great things I do now, those are temporal but my relationship with Him is eternal.

Pray for us as we go forward with the church plant. Pray for me, that I would be the man that I need to be.

Resurrection is coming…

If you have been following the series of events that have been taking place in our lives, then you understand somewhat of the journey that we are on. If you are seeing this just now, you can catch up here:

I feel like there is a lot to say but at the same time I feel at a loss for words. Writing things down seem to help. It helps me think through what I am feeling and helps you to know what I am thinking and how to pray.

What I have been going through seems to be a mourning. Deep sorrow at the death of a dream. And as I thought about this more, I also recognize the familiar pattern, a gospel-pattern if you will, that is taking place. There are three stages.

The Death of a Dream (Crisis)

Something in your life happens that drastically changes everything around you or the course of events that your were planning on taking. The doors have been shut. The pathway has changed. It seems you have come to a dead end. Everything in life is shaken up and you are struck down to your core. Even if you did or didn’t see this coming, death strikes and this stage happens instantly and things are forever changed.

The Burial of a Dream (Mourning)

Once everything happens, you move into a period of mourning. No one enjoys the burial or the funeral. It is a time of mourning. Mourning is not fun. Nor is it wrong. It is natural and necessary. It shows that of a caring heart. And it should cause us to refocus our attention to the Heavenly Father (Read: Psalm 62:5-8). For there is a right way and a wrong way to mourn.

The wrong way focuses on self and what “I” lost. It grieves but doesn’t follow the Bibles admonition to “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27). It lets the grief turn to sin through wrong attitudes, words and actions. Loosing temper. Irritable. Mad. But we should not allow this to turn to sin. I failed in the past couple weeks. To my family I am sorry for not mourning well.

These thoughts helped me: This is a time of testing, putting everything you believe to the test. Will you mourn well? Suffer well? Remember this isn’t all about you. Others around you are hurting too. They need to see you mourn well. They need to see you suffer well. They need your patients. They need encouragement. They need to see the positive. They need to see how a man of God responds when he is stressed to the max. They need to see your mourning yet without sin.

And stress is maxed. Mourning. Plus the culture shock of setting up in a new place, new food, language nuances, new traffic and navigation, plus the care of our family in the midst of all of it. The stress of having to purchase “everything” again, and not knowing how it is all going to be paid for. Having part of your stuff in another country. Having to do all new paperwork and documents just to get bank accounts and visas.

I am being raw at the moment. And maybe too raw, but that is what has been happening.

Yet, at the same time I know what I needed to do. Refocus that attention off of self and back on to the Lord and live by faith…even in this. These verses are helping me get focused:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Psalm 61:2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Matthew 28:20 …and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

Psalm 16:1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

Psalm 16:8-9 I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

KJV

(More on mourning well may come in another post.)

The Resurrection of a Dream (Victory)

We can’t stay in that place of mourning. For a person who doesn’t know God, there is death and mourning. But for a believer, our story doesn’t end there…there is a resurrection.

We have hope. We have trusting God’s plan. Resurrection leads to something better and greater.

I have been through the death, I am in the burial, but I know the resurrection is coming…

Heartbroken

I have a lot to say, but I haven’t had much time to write. My normal attitude of “adjust, adjust, adjust” isn’t playing out as smoothly as I hoped it would. Relocating, busyness and culture shock have been hitting us hard and me the hardest.

There have been many emotions that I have experienced since we returned to China. We were excited to return, although I told my wife it didn’t feel the same. Then once we found out the news, I was sad. That soon turned into anger. But then on the horizon was excitement for what the future holds.

I eventually came to a reckoning: “Honestly speaking, the move out of Dalian and the mainland has been hard. But I am reminded of the advice that I often give others: our calling is not primarily to a place but to a mission, a task, a ministry. Thus , even if the location changes, whether by choice or force, our calling doesn’t. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, and as we become more familiar with this new city, one thing is for sure…millions of souls hang in the balance needing the message of reconciliation and God has brought my family here for such a time as this…to tell them.”

But there was still something lingering: heartbreak; heartache.

We truly were heartbroken to leave China. Our team in China was heartbroken. Our friends were heartbroken. So many people felt the pain that we did. There was so much excitement for our return. There were many plans in the works. Hopes. Dreams. I preached that Sunday morning for about an hour and challenge the church the best I knew. But it still seemed somewhat like a funeral.

There are two events that I won’t forget:

(1) When I told our two older girls what had happened and why we had to leave. They asked where we were going. I told them Taiwan and they responded with excitement, as if this was another adventure. But they immediately realized what we were leaving. As we talked, their eyes filled with tears. They really loved this place they called home and these people they called family. I won’t forget those tear filled eyes.

(2) The second event happened in the airport as were were walking to security and I was talking with the Chinese pastor, Charles. I explained that I was so looking forward to returning from furlough so we could go forward planting more churches together and working together over the next term to do great things, and yet here we were being forced to separate. His eyes filled with tears and it was hard to muster up any words afterwards. The thought of leaving him and he having to face this on his own was very heavy on me. The only thing that gave peace was truth–knowing Someone much greater than me is always with him: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”.

So we are working through this. I am working through this.

“The future is as bright as the promises of God.” – William Carey

There is a plan. We just have to follow. Heartache and all. Trust and obey.

Was it worth it? Absolutely, Jesus is worthy.

More thoughts to come…

On Homosexuality: On Open Letter Of Love

To Whom This Concerns:

In the world we now live in, this topic of homosexuality is one that causes a multitude of reactions and confusion. It causes many and often unfettered amounts of reactions. This makes it uncomfortable to talk about. But there are many reasons that compel me to speak on this issue and to speak from a vantage point of love. So please hear me out.

A Firm Biblical Position

I am not writing this post to explain why I think homosexuality is a sin. But I will state my position below so that it can be seen separate from all the mess that is out there. Also, you can know that I have read the books on “pro-gay theology” (which have done a great disservice to God’s word) and more importantly I have studied the Bible and here is the position:

The truth that the Bible teaches that should guide the moral actions of man about sexuality is that all sexual activities outside of the marriage relationship (between a man and a woman) are wrong.

Thus, we can conclude that fornication, homosexuality, pornography, bestiality, sex before marriage with the person you’re dating, sex with your family members, sex at parties, group sex, prostitution, rape, molestation, sex slaves, orgies, sexual fantasies, child molesting, etc. are all wrong and sinful. (And by extension transgender, cross-dressing)

Thus, my goal is not to call out homosexuality particularly, but all sin. It doesn’t matter what your attractions are, attractions are never to guide our lives, but the unchanging truth of God’s word does. (For example: Sexual pleasure can be received inside or outside of marriage. It can be received in heterosexual or homosexual relationships. But that doesn’t make it right. I am married to my wife. I can find sexual pleasure outside of my marriage, but I choose not to do so because of what the Bible teaches. I want to honour God and be faithful to my wife. In the same way, even though a person can find sexual pleasure in a homosexual relationship, they shouldn’t because of what the Bible teaches.)

Note: The Bible never has and never will accept any committed homosexual relationships. It is not possible to be a true believer and practice homosexuality habitually. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

For more about this position and the Bible references you can click here to read a post called: “What About Sexuality?

This position is not a position that comes from culture. I live in China. Many things are different here. I have learned to and am continuing to learn to adapt to the way of life here. But many also deny the existence of God. This is the cultural norm. In this aspect I don’t, can’t and won’t accept this cultural norm. In fact, I am here to challenge that very notion and declare the eternal existence of God seen from the creation of the world. Thus, my position is not political: conservative or liberal; it is not cultural: city or country; it is biblical—this is what God’s word clearly says. (Again, this post is not a Bible study about this topic, but it is an application of the stated position after coming to a conclusion from studying the Bible.)

For Those Who Are Homosexual

I believe the Bible with all my heart. The Bible states that homosexuality is a sexual sin. Sin has consequences. Sin brings death and after death eternal damnation in hell. Sin separates man from God. But God loved us so much that while we were yet sinners, He sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus died for our sins. He was raised for our justification. Through faith in Jesus, our relationship with God can be restored. We can never do this on our own because we are hopeless sinners.

That being so, in love, I can only say to turn from your sin. Turn away from any sinful lifestyle. Turn away from homosexuality. Turn to Jesus. Turn by faith. This is the most important thing in life. Embrace Jesus, not sin. Embrace Jesus, not homosexuality. You can’t embrace both–it is a contraction in the most offensive terms.

My Attitude Towards Sin As A Follower of Jesus

Thus, as a believer I hate sin. Sin kills. Sin condemns. Sin is punished. Sin separates. Sin destroys. As a believer, I fight against sin. I am at war against it. I don’t want to commit sin, even though there are times that I do, I want to live a life that is holy unto God. I am a man in submission to the will of God. I am not my own. I live for Jesus. If my desires, lusts, or wants are contrary to God or His word, then I must submit to His will, not my own.

For that reason, I hate homosexuality. Because it is a sin. But I don’t hate you, the homosexual. But I hate your sin. I hate the temporal pleasures it gives and how this pleasure deceives you to live in rebellion against God.

Even in our changing culture, where sexuality is being seen in a positive light and promoted, it doesn’t make it okay. The definition of what is or is not sin never comes from what the majority of people think at a certain given time in history. This judgment of sin does not come from ourselves. The Bible is judging. If you are a homosexual you are wrong. It is sin. But you are loved. And there is hope for you. Jesus made a way to free you from your sin. Through repentance and faith in Jesus, your life can be radically changed.

Applying What It Means To Love God And To Love Others In This Circumstance

Finally, love compels me to care about others. To care for others I must say the truth. To show my affection for others I can’t approve of their homosexual actions or relationships. This has several practical applications for daily life. I am to be so concerned with their souls that I don’t want to do anything that would show approval for something that leads to eternal separation from God.

Nor do I want sin to be commonplace in my life. I love my family. I desire to protect myself and my family from the influence and normality of sin that our culture inundates us with on a daily basis.

Accordingly, there are some practical stands I desire to take because I don’t want to mistakenly confirm anything that leads people to hell. Generally, I cannot accept nor endorse any sin—any way of life that causes people to live in continual rebellion against God. Specifically, concerning homosexuality, which is a very public and private sin…

  • I cannot celebrate homosexual relationships.
  • I cannot support homosexual relationships.
  • I cannot participate in anything that would endorse homosexual relationships.
  • I cannot attend homosexual weddings.
  • I cannot pretend a homosexual partner is part of our family (immediate or extended).
  • I cannot condone the open affection between you and your partner.
  • I cannot pretend there is nothing wrong with the homosexual relationship.
  • I cannot normalize homosexual relationships.

Please don’t misunderstand, these convictions are not because I want to disengage from or alienate friends and family who are homosexual from myself or my family, but their decisions to sin against God and to openly live a life of rebellion against God is them choosing to alienate themselves from me and my family.

A Final Plea

If you are a homosexual or you accept homosexuality, you are wrong according to the Bible, but I love you enough to tell you the truth. Repent of your sins before it’s too late. Believe in Jesus. Today is the day of salvation.

With Love,

Mark


P.S.

A Note To Christians

Many well-intentioned Christians have been put in awkward circumstances concerning this topic. They don’t know how to choose what to do. They are told not to judge others. But ultimately to not say or do anything is to have a hating attitude towards that person who lives in sin and not a loving one. Real love hates sin. Real love accepts the truth. To celebrate, support, participate in or condone the sin of others is to sin yourself. It is time for you to take a stand, it is time for you to truly love others.

Have the right reaction to sin. Two common but wrong reactions are: (1) To talk about how wrong homosexuality is and to reject it and those who are homosexuals. But you never talk about Jesus and what He did on the cross for homosexuals to be saved from their sin. (2) To accept their homosexuality and condone their homosexual lifestyle in words or actions, not talking about anything negative. But you completely void what Jesus did on the cross for homosexuals to be saved from their sin and minimize the gospel. Both reactions are wrong because they avoid Jesus. The first one never explains grace and the second one doesn’t see the need for grace. The proper response is to inject Jesus into the conversation. Don’t be a lazy Christian who tries to avoid the pressure and stress of preaching the gospel and sharing the good news. Your friend or family member will die and go to hell without Jesus. Speak up.

Mind Dump: Christian Bookstore Pics

  • If you haven’t listened to our latest podcast (Episode 11) then check it out and you will better understand these pictures.
  • For more information about this topic, check out my past posts “China & Bible Smuggling” or “Bibles in China?“.
  • Also, you can check out my other teammate’s post about this topic: here or here.

Bibles at a Christian bookstore in China.

A Christian Bookstore in China.

Mind Dump: Family Fall Party

✪ Our “Family Fall Party” was a great success. First, our church people were involved and serving. We hosted about 10 games at the event so we needed many volunteers. Second, we had a great attendance. There were more than 120 people. We had people register as they came in but not everyone did. The registration count was 124 people. This is our highest attendance at any event or service. We were praying for at least 100 people. Third, we reached out into the community through our kids. Two of our kids are in preschool and took invitations to school and invited their classmates. Many of them came. Fourth, it built faith and boldness. This kind of event is very risky because you don’t know who is in the crowd or who the parents of our kids’ classmates are, but at the same time, we didn’t think the risk factor was high enough to not do it. We openly told them we were a church and invited them to our services and kids club. Fifth, I think we had at least two new parent/kid units visit the church this morning that was also at the event.

✪ We finally started the seminary classes back and we will be going for the next twelve weeks. What are we teaching this semester? Here are the classes: Bible Doctrines 2; Preaching (Men); Home Economics (Women); Biblical Finances; Church Guidelines/Doctrinal Distinctives; Galatians; 1/2 Thessalonians. Also, we have an hour every morning of Bible Reading/Prayer–everyone spends 40 minutes just reading the Bible individually and 20 minutes in individual prayer. This is a spirit of unity when everyone is doing it at the same time. It has been a blessing.

✪ The church has been doing well but we have suffered in attendance since the summer…losing about 22 people (members/attendees) in attendance or so this year. About 14 of those went to help with the new church plant at the end of last month and the rest were from those moving out of the city for various reasons (work, etc.). But we still have a strong core and are working hard. Our attendance has been between 20-40 recently.

✪ We also have changed some of our church schedules. One of the changes that I have really liked is our afternoon service. We start with two songs, and then we have a 20-minute preacher. We have three men on a preaching rotation. Then I lead a 15 min. teachers’ and workers’ meeting followed by 15-minute prayer groups. Then we end the service in prayer. To see our full ministry schedule, click here.

✪ A few other updates: We finally received our residence permits for a year. Praise the Lord! We also finished the rest of the remodel and had the carpet installed. The nursery is ready to use!

Look closely, there is a kid in there!

One of the games from the Family Fall Festival.

Windy and cold day on the coast.

Weekly Mind Dump: New Video

✪ Watch our new video: 2017 Ministry Update.

✪ Giving Opportunity: Discipleship material, books, and bibles. (1) We are getting our discipleship material professionally printed instead of printing them in-house. We have a total of five books. Each book has 30 lessons in it (except for the special edition one). Two books are still in the developmental stage, but three of the books are ready to print. We would like to print anywhere from 100-500 of each book. Of course, the more we buy per printing the less expensive it is. But it will cost around $1.50 per book to print. (2) We buy Bibles in China and give them out to every first-time visitor that comes to our church or anyone that needs one free of charge. We recently gave a new church plant many bibles to use. Our stock of Bibles at the church is running low and we will be putting an order in to buy some more bibles soon. We would like to buy several hundred more. Bibles cost anywhere from $3-$5 per Bible. (3) There is also a book that we buy and give out to first-time visitors that is the testimony of a Chinese man who got saved. It has been a witness and help to many people. We are also running low on this book. These are three ways that you can give directly to help the church stock up on materials, bibles, and resources. If given for this purpose, we will use 100% of it for this purpose. Contact me for details.

✪ Our “Big Day” we had a couple weeks ago went well. We had three lost people in the service who heard the gospel. Last week was a slow week because everyone was on holiday for the National Day and Mid-autumn Festival. I enjoyed the extra time with family.

✪ In family news, our youngest is finally potty trained…or getting there. We are also looking at getting her into a preschool soon. Our middle daughter has started preschool every day. Our oldest has started homeschooling. We found out that the twins are….one boy and one girl. My wife is having her ups and downs…it has been a tough pregnancy but she is doing good.

✪ Lord willing, we will be starting a new school semester for our bible college students in the coming week. Pray as we are making the final preparations.

✪ Do you or someone you know want to “become a missionary to China”? What are your next steps? It depends on what life-stage you are in. Click here to read my three recommended steps from where you are now. It is my desire to help you make an impact in China.

Beautiful weather as we run on in the early morning.

A car caught on fire near where we live. The firefighters did a great job.

One of our recent lunches…it was awesome (crabs, clams, etc.)

Evening Traffic :-)

Weekly Mind Dump: Pray For Tomorrow

✪ So the last steps of our visas are underway. We received our “work permit” card which was a huge blessing and we have applied for our “residence permit” which should be given to us in about three weeks or so and everything should be done. Thank you for praying with us about this visa process. Hopefully, this will be the new path that we will be using to serve in China for years to come, Lord willing.

✪ Last Sunday we had a send-off service for the American family and the Chinese man who is leaving our church to start a new work in the city. It was a great service and they have been a blessing to our ministry over the years. Please pray for them as they are in the process of renting a place to start meeting in.

✪ This coming Sunday we are having a “big day” event playing off a Chinese holiday. There are two major holidays that run into each other. The national day is on Sunday and most people will be going home because they get off work/school for eight days or so. But for those that are local and don’t have a family event or haven’t left the city yet, we are trying to do a special event. Pray for our services tomorrow and that we will have some first-time visitors who will hear the gospel.

✪ After Sunday, it will be a slow week in the ministry because all our students and many of our church people will be returning to their hometowns or where their parents/in-laws are currently living to celebrate the holidays. But I am looking forward to spending some extra time with family and getting caught up on a few things to prepare for our upcoming new semester with the students when they return.

✪ We have had a great and productive week this week. We have been having class every morning for four hours and making preparations for our events over this upcoming year.

Send-Off Service

Work Permit Card

A barbequed chicken head I ate this past Friday night.

Sun starting to set over our city as we cross the road.

Weekly Mind Dump: North Korea

✪ We had another great week. Our Kids’ Club has started back, but it has been very slow. Each week there are more kids, but it looks like we might have lost some along the way. Time to go out and find some more!

✪ We visited a Chinese city on the border of North Korea and took a big boat into North Korean waters. We used binoculars to get a better look at everything. It was really sad. People washing their clothes in the river. The soldiers (I am guessing guarding the border) were fishing with nets up and down the river. The hard part of these tours (I have taken many) is that we can do nothing. Here I am on a nice boat with a bunch of Chinese tourists gawking at the North Koreans (like a zoo) and can do nothing to reach or help them. At least when we have taken the small boats in before, we were able to give out some Chinese tracts (even though they didn’t read Chinese) to the North Koreans who met us in the middle of the river on their boats. Pray for North Korea.

✪ In a previous update I mentioned about starting a new church plant in October, but we are holding off on that for now. One of the Chinese men who was going to go out and start it wants/needs more time and training before he steps out. I think this is a wise decision.

✪ Although we aren’t starting a new church this October, one of the American men who has been serving in our church for the past couple years is stepping out to start a church in October and one fo the Chinese men in our church who is a faithful member will be going to help him as they get things started. We will be having a send-off time for them this Sunday.

✪ One of the church members recently commented on our three girls personalities and I thought it was interesting and almost spot on. She said our oldest daughter was 透明 transparent (she really likes to talk about everything), our middle daughter was 温柔 gentle and soft (she loves to smile and cuddle), and the youngest was 淘气 mischievous (yep, she likes to laugh and cause trouble in a playful way).

A busy airport in the mornings! Seeing our friends off…glad they came!

About a 20-minute drive outside the city and you see this…

Going to the local mall for dinner, a busy time of the day.

One of the men practicing music as he looks out over the city from the church window.

Looking into North Korea with binoculars… a mom and child washing clothes in the river with a guard nearby.