Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Outreach Encouragement

Recently Pastor Ben wrote to our care group's Outreach Discussion Coordinators. We thought it could be helpful for all to read. Enjoy!

Feel free to email or read this to your care group. Thanks for carrying the banner of outreach to your group.

While on sabbatical, I read The Unadjusted Gospel. It's a book of messages given at a Together for the Gospel conference in 2006, so its writings include R.C. Sproul, Mark Dever, John Piper, Ligon Duncan, and others.

In the book, Mark Dever writes about how the gospel should reflect itself in the lives of the church in holiness, love, and other ways. Daniel's sermon on 1 Sam 5-6 helped us gain a larger view of holiness. It is being set apart from sin, but this is motivated by a deep devotion to God. Dever writes: "Think of the command, 'Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy' (Lev 19:2). Peter quotes this very verse to some young Christians in Turkey in the middle of the fist century. 'Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy.' (1 Pet 1:15-16)."

This should cause me to stop and ask myself: Does my life reflect holiness of God? Or do I act so much like the world that non-Christians around me have no questions to ask me about the Lord? Is the awesomeness of God reflected in my life? Is God presented in my life as One who is unique, holy, set apart, and distinct?

Dever goes on to say, "In our day, we treat casualness as the height of intimacy with God. But it was not so in the Bible. Consider the responses that people in the Bible have to God." Job 42, Is 6:5, Ez 1:28
These passages point toward people bowing in devotion and worship to a God of Wonders!

Consider the non-Christians around you - neighbors, co-workers, classmates, or family.

First, consider devoting yourself more fully to God as a living sacrifice to Him. Spend time with him, reflect on the gospel, and then spend time doing something for your non-Christian friends in the next month that might make you seem "weird" to them - but you are doing it as unto the Lord. It might just start with you saying, "I know I should know your name by now, but I don't or at least I have known it and forgot it." Then ask if there is anything they need during these winter months that you could help them with. Consider delivering a meal. Bring over some dessert. Or in light of last month's OC discussion, invite someone over for dessert. Tell them, "We just wanted to let you know we care about you because God cares about you and me."

Next steps:
1 - Go around your care group and have each person say a name of a non-Christian with whom there is a relationship or at least a proximity of life like a neighbor.

2 - Then brainstorm ideas together of how you can put your holiness on display to those friends. See some ideas above.

3 - Let your care group know how it goes! Pray for one another.

Have some fun with this! This stuff is exciting!
Ben D.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord: Witness on the Plane

I was flying from Phoenix, AZ to Chicago, Il, at the end of a week-long business trip. I sat in the aisle seat. The lady next to me in the middle seat, Connie, was the wife of a pastor of a Bible believing church in the Phoenix area. The guy next to her in the window seat, Gary, was a leader what we would consider to be a cult. Connie and Gary started to talk about the differences in what they believed. I could only hear bits and pieces of the conversation as Connie faced away from me as she talked, and Gary was facing me when he replied. It did not take long to figure out that Gary was not a Bible believing Christian. I was praying for Connie as they started to discuss the differences in their beliefs. I was content just pray, and refrain from joining the conversation until Gary got to the point where he discounted the importance of Christ's atoning death on the cross and the resurrection. At that point I felt compelled to join what ended up being a three-hour conversation.

I believe that Connie and I did a credible job of loving sharing the truth of God’s Word and the centrality of Christ’s atoning death, His burial, and His resurrection to the Christian faith. And of the need to personally accept Christ as Savior. It was evident that Gary has heard these truths before but has chosen to believe a lie over the truth (Romans 1:25) and that Satan has blinded Gary to the truth (II Corinthians 4:4). We ended agreeing to disagree.

It is amazing that God put two Bible believing Christians next to Gary to witness to him concerning the truth of God’s Word. Who knows what impact down the road this may have on him. But I am also wondering if God arrange it not so much as a witness to Gary, but perhaps as a witness to someone in the seats in front of us or behind us that may have heard our conversation. It might have served as an encouragement to their faith in Christ or planted a seed that may one day result in that person coming to faith in Christ. Only God knows now, but we may find out in eternity.

Through this experience, I keenly felt the importance of the admonition in 1 Peter 3:15 of always being ready to give an account for the hope that is in you.


Jim Pratt

Monday, January 3, 2022

A Prayer Update from Mark and Charity

Dear Partners in Ministry,
Greetings to you as we conclude our 16th year of ministry to China. We praise the Lord for a fruitful year of ministry. Although we experience each day both the blessings and curses of living in a technological age, we are so thankful to be able to use these tools to spread the gospel of Christ, to bring clarity to Biblical Truth, and to help Chinese pastors know and preach God’s Word. Pictured above is a Zoom class on Monday where we continued our study of Biblical Counseling, this week keying in on the importance of forgiveness.

Philosophy of Ministry
The goal of all we do to serve the Chinese church is to raise up and equip nationals to do the work of the ministry under the authority of God’s Word to His glory alone.
...to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ... Ephesians 4:12

It is because the philosophy of our ministry is and has always been about raising up and equipping nationals for ministry that we have not seen a lot of change in our ministry even in the last two years. During that time, our location from which we are doing ministry has changed, but the focus of the ministry has not changed. We praise the Lord that we have seen the impact of the ministry greatly increase in the last two years. The changing political situation in China is deeply troubling. We are reminded of our insignificance and God’s sovereignty as we continue to watch the situation. We often discuss the situation with our elders, leaders at ABWE, and different pastors of our supporting churches. They are helping us to think through the best options to insure a sustainable ministry into the future. Please be praying with us in this. Mark plans to begin courses towards a masters in Biblical Counseling this January. We believe this will help with the ongoing ministry to China, with personal and family growth, and with additional future ministry the Lord has for us.

Impacting churches inside and outside of ChinaWe shared with you in the Christmas letter that our weekly users of the Chinese Bible Study Toolbox (CBST) have increased in the last year from around 1500 to consistently over 5000. Right: Table shows the top ten countries these users are coming from and the approximate number of users per country per week.

“我们属于加拿大的一家华人教会。我们团契目前在用敬虔的丈夫,贤德的妻子这两本书作为我们家庭主题学习内容。” Jennie Liu
We belong to a Chinese church in Canada. Our fellowship is currently studying, The Exemplary Husband and The Excellent Wife as our family study.

The blessings of faithful employees helping to lead the translation work at IRC
Above: Yisa (Isaac) with his wife Xiaofeng at an office fellowship way back in 2016. Isaac began working at the IRC Beijing office back in 2015. He has been a very faithful employee over the years. In the 7 years he has worked for us, he has done most everything at the office and currently oversees the finances as well as the administration of multiple translation projects. This year I have been giving him more responsibility as he moves into a COO type position (Chief Operating Officer). When this picture was taken back in 2016, they did not have any children. Now Xiaofeng is pregnant with their fourth child. Pray for Isaac as he takes on more responsibility at the office, along with the responsibility to care and shepherd his family and serve in various ways at his church.

Each time that I cannot open the CBST, I become very anxious. Thank the Lord that normally there is no problem. I rejoice!

Planning as the Chinese government exerts more and more controls on religion.
In the quote above you can hear first hand an issue that is of concern tobelievers in China. That issue is that the government is stepping up its blocking of religious websites and social media groups. We thank the Lord that it has NOT impacted the Chinese Bible Study Toolbox (the user quoted above is probably experiencing a local internet issue or a time when the website is being updated). In late October, our other website was blocked for users inside the Mainland. We quickly launched a new site with a new web address (www.shengmingbaoxun.com) and it has not had any issues.

We learned several things during this time. One is that we need to have multiple web names for our websites known to the users (for those that understand, they block the name not the IP address). We have now put this in place for the China muzhe website as well as the CBST and continue to think through this issue. In the end, we believe that www.chinamuzhe.com website was blocked because of 1) its popularity, 2) its name contained “China” and “muzhe” - shepherd, and 3) it contained Sunday school material for children. Most of that content on the China muzhe website is downloadable and had been widely distributed on social media. What a blessing that it continues to be used.

Continued work with the House Church
We are blessed to continue to be ministering to different ones in the Chinese house church we were apart of in Beijing. We recently started a class on parenting with 5-6 couples. This is a blessing for several reasons.
1) It is a blessing to see Longqi (upper left corner) take leadership in our study. Mark read a book on eldership with him four years ago and he has taken leadership in his family and at church very seriously. Charity has spent time discipling his wife, Lina. Longqi has invited some other couples to join in and study the same material we taught five years ago at the church.
2) We are thankful that although we have been out of the country for nearly two years, these couples still desire fellowship and discipleship relationships with us.
This illustrates how our philosophy of ministry has worked out in a practical way as we see this couple equipped and doing the work of the ministry.

“感谢上帝,《研经工具》已经陪伴我走过4个年头,受益匪浅。无论是主日学还是平时的查经,第一件要做的事就是把《研经工具》打开。谢谢参与《研经工具》事工所有弟兄姊妹,你们为上帝做工的心志和辛苦的摆上必蒙上帝的记念!” Brother Liu
Thanks to the Lord, the CBST has been my companion for 4 years now, I have benefited greatly. Whether it is preparing for Sunday School or my regular Bible Study, the first thing I do is to open up the CBST. Thank you to all the brothers and sisters who have worked on the CBST. Your resolve to serve the Lord with your hard work is a display that will surely not be forgotton by God.

This is all made possible through your love for Christ, your prayers, and your partnership with us.

We thank the Lord for you! Mark & Charity

Monday, December 6, 2021

A Prayer Update from Gary and Barb Bennett

1. Pray for our colleague Nick Pirolo who has just come back from home assignment and is working on accreditation for our University program CLIR. Praise for wisdom and discernment for him and the others as they meet with officials and try to figure out the way forward. We are reminded of the lyrics from CeCe Winan's song "move the unmovable, break the unbreakable, Lord we believe". It really is going to take moving the unmovable, but that is God's specialty.

2. Continue to pray for one of our NCM professors Alphonse and his radio teaching program. God is using him mightily, so pray for wisdom and direction for Alphonse as he continues to teach God's Word.

Monday, November 1, 2021

A Prayer Update From Catherine Coon


• Praise that my move from Fremont to Cottonwood went well.
• There is still much to do on the house, as well as much catch up from helping my mom move. I’d appreciate prayer for wisdom in handling all that needs to be done.
• Pray that I will settle in well and have a clear sense of how God would like me to be involved in the neighborhood, church, and larger community.

Hope Alive!
• Pray for a smooth transition of the executive director position of Hope Alive! from me to Caleb Smagacz at the end of the year.
• Pray for God’s guidance as we work on my job description for my new responsibilities with Hope Alive! after the transition.
• Pray that the Ugandan government will have a realistic plan to get all students back in school in January. Except for a few very special classes, schools have been closed for 19 months.
• We continue to provide educational classes for our students. Pray for the encouragement of all involved, that good learning will take place in encouraging and safe settings.
• Small acts of terrorism have been taking place in Uganda. Pray for safety for our students, staff, mentors, and their families.
• Pray that our students (and staff and mentors) will grow in their walk with God during these challenging times.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

A Prayer Update from Jill Hostetler

1. Pray for our after-school Good News Clubs. Praise God we have been able to restart 4 clubs.

2. Pray for a 2 week course I am taking at the CEF International HQ (Sept 19-Oct 1).

3. Pray for many children to attend our outdoor neighborhood outreach at our CEF office in October.