Category Archives: Ministry & Family Updates

Twins Update #4

Praise the Lord, the twins were born this past Monday. They are healthy, as well as my wife! Everyone is home and we are adjusting to being a family of seven!

Our little girl was first born.

  • Weight: 2460 g (5.42 pounds)
  • Height: 48 cm (18.9 inches)
  • Birthday: 01/08/2018 11:31 PM

Our little boy was second born.

  • Weight: 2960 g (6.53 pounds)
  • Height: 50 cm (19.69 inches)
  • Birthday: 01/08/2018 11:33 PM

Pray for us as we raise these two new additions and all our children for the glory of God!

Twins Update #3

Still in the hospital and waiting for these babies to make an appearance. Inducing in China is a different process…a three-day process! Today is day three, so we will see. But mommy and the babies are good and healthy so far, praise the Lord. Please keep praying!

Again, we are thankful for our Chinese and American friends who have been helping take care of our children and filling in for us over the past few days so that we can be here in the hospital and take the necessary precautions to have a safe and healthy delivery, Lord willing.

Thank you for all the support as well!

Twins Update #1

On Thursday morning, my wife wasn’t feeling well and had a pretty severe headache. I took her to see the doctor that morning and they decided to admit her. She had high blood pressure and since that could cause complications with the twins, they wanted to take precautions.

After everything was fine (the headache was gone), they wanted to do a CT scan to make sure that the headache wasn’t caused by something else. The results came back fine. (We had to be taken to a different hospital to get this done.)

They also started to give her shots that help the babies develop in case they decided to come early. My wife is 37 weeks along but the babies are still pretty small (between 4-5 pounds).

She has been having contractions on and off over the past three days (two nights) but it doesn’t seem to be progressing at a fast pace, so they should be dismissing us to go home in the next couple of hours or so…(at least that is the plan as I am writing this update).

My wife is doing good. She is just tired from it all. She has done an amazing job with the twins this pregnancy.

We have had a great experience here at the hospital and are so blessed to have good healthcare in our city. They have taken great care of us. (Note: I say “us” because in China when you stay in the hospital, you have to have someone to stay with you to wait on you, the nurses don’t wait on your like they do in the USA.)

We have also been blessed with a great team. We know that our girls are in great hands as our friends have helped watch them over the past three days.

Please continue to pray for our family and my wife as she delivers the twins sometime this month, Lord willing!

Ministry Events Schedule (Late 2017)

Our weekly scheduled ministry events:

  • Tuesday-Friday morning from 8:30-12:30 we host seminary classes (Chinese) at the church.
  • Wednesday evening from 18:30-20:00 we have midweek worship. This includes a meal, 2 songs, a 20 min. sermon and then 30 min. small group Bible studies (Chinese/English) at the church.
  • Friday night outreach. Every Friday night from 19:00-20:00 we have an English corner outreach (English), except for the last Friday of the month we are trying to host a young people’s event (Chinese).
  • Saturday is our a work day at the church preparing for Sunday (Chinese).
  • Sunday is broken down as the following:
    • From 9:30-10:15 we have Kids’ Club (Chinese/English).
    • From 10:30-11:30 we have morning worship (Chinese).
    • From 11:30-12:00 we have a quick lunch at the church.
    • From 12:00-1:00 we have afternoon worship/teacher and worker’s meeting/prayer Groups (Chinese).
  • (Monday is our day off now.)

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.

Weekly Mind Dump: Visa Run

✪ Visas! We were granted the work permit last Wednesday (Praise the Lord!) and left for Hong Kong on Thursday. We applied for our work visa on Friday and we should, Lord willing, pick up the passports with accompanying work visas on Monday afternoon (keep praying). Then the plan is to fly back to China on Tuesday. (The two guys that are training for ministry filled in for me today at the church. Very proud of them.)

✪ This also means we have been living in Hong Kong since Thursday. This is our second time visiting HK. This place really is incredible. The great number of people in any given place amazes you. There have been several times where I have just stopped and watch the flow of unending people go by. Another thing that has stood out is the high prices of everything. Comparing to where we live in mainland China, taxis are super expensive and eating out has almost broken the bank! Everything from the hole in the wall restaurants to the Cheesecake Factory (yeah, you read that right) have been crazy expensive. But don’t get me wrong, the food has been great. Even though this trip has come at an inconvenient time, it has been nice to be with just the family for a few days.

✪ Our middle daughter was diagnosed with tonsillitis right before we left China. She has been on antibiotics and we have been trying to keep everyone else from getting it, but we are all living in one room for five days. Last night our oldest daughters throat started hurting really bad and she had a really hard time sleeping. So instead of passing this lovely gift to one of the local churches (which I found two Baptist churches within a 10-min. drive of our hotel), we decided to just have a devotional time in our room this morning and then visit the local Baptist hospital so we could pick up some antibiotics. Pray for both kids to get better and for protection for the rest of us, especially momma. (Update: as I am writing this, the youngest seems to have caught it as well…leaving to get antibiotics for her now too! Bye.)

✪ Of course, I brought my iPhone with me and my SIM card from the mainland has worked great here. But when I use the 3G all of the same websites that are blocked in the mainland are still blocked on my phone (facebook, google, etc.). But If I connect to the local wifi hotspot, I can access all the websites without any problems. So it seems that the mainland has a deal to still regulate its users when they travel outside the mainland. Interesting.

✪ We have confirmed one intern family coming in November for six-months from our home church. We are excited about being involved in this part of their training. If you are interested in helping a new family as they start out in the ministry through this internship, contact me for more details.

✪ Our home church is putting on TWO great events this coming winter. They are hosting TWO DIFFERENT “OUR GENERATONS SUMMITS” IN TWO DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. The first Summit (Southeast) if located in ATLANTA from December 28-30, 2017 (Thursday thru Saturday). The second Summit (Northeast) is located in BOSTON from January 4-6, 2018 (Thursday thru Saturday).

✪ A lady who we help employ came to us a few days before we left and with tears of sorrow in her eyes, humbly asked more hours so she could make more money. Before she became a Christian, she went through a divorce. Her husband gambled their savings away and he hasn’t helped any with the cost of raising their child. She has to bear the responsibility of raising her daughter on her own. The cost of the city life is high and she simply wants the best for her daughter. It was a very raw and open moment. After discussing it with my wife, we decided to help her, and with tears of joy, she expressed thanks to God not only for the momentary help but for missionaries who brought her the gospel and introducing her to Jesus. Praise God. Please remember this mother and daughter in your prayers and pray for her ex-husband who, Lord willing, we are going to try and reach out to him with the gospel as well.

Looking over the water at the city on a foggy evening (Hong Kong).

The rat race: never ending streams of people whom God loves! Lord, make your Name great among these people!

Took my wife to her favorite restaurant–that never gets to eat at, just a 1-hour-and-45-minute wait!

Overwhelmed

Today, I just want to write some honest thoughts about living in China for seven years. I try to always write honestly and openly, but today I will be a little more transparent.

I am riding a speed train currently traveling 303 km/h (about 188 mph) through Northeast China on my way to the US Embassy. I need to get some paperwork notarized for our upcoming visas. I am typing my thoughts down on my MacBook Air that I bought several years ago. I don’t use a pencil or journal like missionaries of the past. Everything is typed. It helps me think. My phone is plugged in and charging on the train. I have 4G cell service even though all I can see out the window is rolling hills and greenery. China has modernized at an incredibly fast rate and is still growing. It is incredible how China is growing. Today, missionaries can get almost anything they want (especially through the internet importing services) if they have the money to afford it. Most missionary biographies you read about China are completely irrelevant and don’t represent the lives the we missionaries today live in China. This, of course, can be seen as a blessing and a curse.

Today, seven years ago, I took my beautiful wife and our two-year-old daughter and left on an amazing journey for China. When we were on deputation, we set a date by faith to leave for the field and, praise the Lord, we were able to leave for the field on that date. But it didn’t come without hardships. Less than two months before we left for the field, we lost our second child, our son was stillborn. This meant we landed on the field still grieving. We knew our son had a condition that was “incompatible with life” as the doctor put it and we had a long period to prepare ourselves for the inevitable, the Lord even gave us a special peace when it all happened. (There is an incredible story here.) But I didn’t realize how much my wife was still grieving. I didn’t realize how much culture shock, spiritual warfare (that hits you once you land on the field) and the process of grieving would attack my precious wife. The city we moved to had extremely cold and long winters with short days and little sunlight. An environment that doesn’t help a grieving heart and has its own physical and emotional challenges. (A combination of these factors, mixed with the task of learning Chinese made our first couple years on the field hard and probably not the most pleasant to host.) Looking back at it now, I think I failed at leading and protecting her like I should have and being the spiritual comfort and leader that she needed. It was a dark period for her but I didn’t give it much attention. To this, I apologize, my wife.

Out of past seven years, I have spent about 2,368 days in China and 189 days in the USA. That is a lot of days. I use to think about what my life would look like at this point. Here is a quick summary of what it does look like: Language—I have learned to speak Chinese well and have preached more in Chinese than I have in English. I am currently preaching and teaching in Chinese multiple times a week. I am slowly learning characters and am probably about 60% of where I need to be with reading them. I cannot write characters from memory besides the common things I use, such as my name. Family—Thankfully, I am still married to the wonderful lady that I married ten years ago this month. She has been such a trooper. We have been through so much together. Each year brings us closer and makes me more thankful for her. We have been in the war together when everything seemed like the sky was falling—we came through the other side together. This doesn’t mean our relationship has been easy—it has been hard work, but hard work that is worth it and aims to bring God glory in it. I have three beautiful daughters all with unique personalities. All of them constantly brings a smile to our faces as we watch them grow up and get to know them better. We are also expecting twins…so our family is still growing. Also, adoption still isn’t out of the picture. Ministry—after language school we pioneered our ministry in a new city. Getting things going and improving in the language took longer than I expected. But we have now planted one church and have started training two men who have surrendered to full-time ministry. We plan to pour our lives into these two men (and other men the Lord gives us) and see more work done here in China.

The title of this post is “overwhelmed” because I am overwhelmed at the goodness of God in my life and what He has allowed me to do and allowed me to become even though I am not worthy at all. Anyone who knows us knows that everything that has been accomplished has been because of God’s grace. I have grown so much in the past years and I am in love more with Jesus today than I was seven years ago. My identity is solely found in Him and not in being a missionary or in the opinions of others. To this, I am forever thankful.

Another purpose this post is called “overwhelmed” is because of two reasons (1) I live in a mega city doing intercity missions; (2) the thousands of houses and villages I am passing on the train right now. I am overwhelmed by the work here. People often misunderstand China as having no churches or they understand it as having an incredible revival. I haven’t seen either. China does have a TON of churches. Most cities I know about have some churches, some gospel witness, most universities I have heard of have Christian foreign teachers, etc. (not to say the type of these, but at least Christian in name). We have lots of unbelievers visit our church and we also have a lot of Christians visit our church. China is a weird place when it comes to religion. We have had teammates kicked out for church planting but just a couple of weeks ago I walked in a restaurant and every waiter had a shirt on that says, “Jesus loves you” in Chinese.

Let me explain (1) I live in a mega city doing intercity missions—our city has six million people in it. How many churches is enough? Can we plant that many? Could I spend my whole life within just this small radius? You never really feel a sense of accomplishment because you can’t really “canvas” areas with gospel literature. Although we have tried that in certain areas. Everything is always changing and the people are always rotating. You never have the small town feel of every time you go out it is the same people and you are building a relationship with them. People come and go–the turnover rate is high. We are intercity, we are illegal, we don’t have traditional church buildings, we cannot compete (with the government churches like you could compete against in a free society, thus they become the standard)…we are the black-sheep—living in a margin of society that isn’t fully accepted and if too abrasive and open could get you into serious trouble or expulsion from the country.

Let me explain (2) the thousands of houses and villages I am passing on the train right now—when will they get the gospel? Do they have the gospel? Do I go? Do I pass up a few hundred thousand people to go reach a village with just a few families living there? What about that one single house I saw on the side of the mountain and looked like someone was actively living there? How do I advance the gospel forward to all people? It is one thing when you see a picture or read a blog post, but what about when you are living among them? And just like the city seems like an endless sea of people, the villages continue to appear out the windows.

I have arrived at my station….overwhelmed.

Ministry Events Schedule (Early 2017)

Our schedule has changed many times since we have started doing ministry in China. I often write down our schedule to think about what we need to change and do better. I also like hearing from others about their ministry schedules because it gives me new ideas. (Comment and share yours below.)

We have tried many things, and through trial and error, here is what our current ministry schedule looks like (this isn’t an entire daily schedule but just the weekly scheduled ministry events):

  • Monday-Friday morning from 9:00-13:00 we host seminary classes (Chinese) at the church.
  • Wednesday evening from 18:30-20:00 we have a meal and small group Bible studies (Chinese/English) at the church. Currently, we have four groups. Two of the groups are Chinese only and two of the groups are a mix of English and Chinese. I teach a Chinese group and it is specifically for married couples.
  • Friday night outreach 17:30-finished (Chinese). We often try to get together with others in the church to share a meal together and get to know them on a more personal level. We have started hosting these in our house so the whole family can be involved.
  • (Saturday is our day off now.)
  • Sunday is broken down as the following:
    • From 9:00-10:15 we have Kids’ Bible Club (Chinese/English). The kids club is bilingual for outreach purposes. The English is the draw but the Chinese is used to make sure everyone understands the lessons.
    • From 9:30-10:15 we have Adult Sunday School (Chinese). Currently, we have two classes.
    • From 10:30-11:30 we have morning worship (Chinese).
    • From 11:30-12:00 we have a quick lunch at the church.
    • From 12:00-1:00 we have afternoon worship (Chinese).
    • From 19:00-20:00 we have an English corner outreach (English).

Money (8 of 11) What Is The Biblical Understanding Of Tithing?

What Is The Biblical Understanding Of Tithing?

The Biblical understanding of tithing is that God commanded the children of Israel to give multiple “one-tenths” of their agricultural produce and/or livestock as a way to support the Levites, celebrate festivals, to help others in need and worship God. Ultimately, the multiple tithes were fulfilled in Jesus and believers have a new paradigm for giving.

The Misconception Of “The Tithe Offering”

  • The “tithe” in the Bible is often misrepresented and therefore leads to a misunderstanding about the responsibility of a believer and how God has planned for him to be a giver. The definition about tithing that has led many to misunderstand it is: “Tithing is a required universal offering by which you give a total of only one-tenth of all your income to God”. This is an oversimplification and wrong definition of the “tithe” that is found in the Bible because: (1) the Bible presents more than one type of tithe; (2) the requirements for these are specific and not just based on a person’s income; (3) the total amount given of these comprised more than one-tenth when added together (even though the word “tithe” means one-tenth); (4) it is never commanded as a universal obligation for all people for all times but for a specific people for a specific time.
  • The Bible describes four different tithes that were commanded in the law of Moses. We need to examine each of these “tithes” to consider: (1) who was the giver; (2) what were they to give; (3) where was the gift to be given; (4) why were they to give; (5) when were they required to give.
  • The Levitical Tithe—The Israelites were commanded by God to give one-tenth of their seed or fruit and every tenth animal from their herd or flock to the children of Levi in return for their service that they did in the tabernacle of the congregation. They were to give this tithe when their crops were harvested and as their livestock increased accordingly.
    Numbers 18:21-24; Leviticus 27:30-33
  • The Priestly Tithe—The Levites, who were the priest, were commanded by God to give one-tenth from the Levitical tithe that they received from the Israelites as a heave offering for the Lord.
    Numbers 18:25-32
  • The Festival Tithe—The Israelites were commanded by God to give one-tenth of their “increase from the field” including the firstlings of their livestock to celebrate their festivals (i.e., passover, tabernacles, weeks). They were to do this once a year and bring this tithe to “the place which He shall choose to place His name” or Jerusalem to learn to fear the Lord their God always. If you couldn’t take the stuff to Jerusalem, then you could sell the tithe of the crops and livestock so that you have money and then take the money to Jerusalem and buy what you needed to celebrate the festivals with your family.
    Deuteronomy 14:22-27; 16:16 (Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23:1-44; Deuteronomy 16:1-17)
  • The Charity Tithe—The Israelites were commanded by God to give one-tenth of their agricultural produce for that year and store it up in their cities to feed the Levites, the strangers (foreigners), the fatherless children or orphans and the widows that lived in their cities. This was only to be done once every three years. In response to this tithe the Lord said He would bless them in all the work of their hands that they do.
    Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12-15
  • The Sabbatical Year—The Israelites were commanded by God to let the land rest for one year, meaning they weren’t allowed to sow or gather in their crop, thus possibly excusing the need for the tithe in this year. This was only to be done once every seven years. The natural crop that grew could be taken for food by anyone and God would bless the sixth year’s harvest to produce a crop sufficient for three years for them.
    Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7; 17-23
  • What was the total amount that an Israelite was required to give through the different tithes? This is actually impossible to calculate because: (1) it is “possible” their agricultural produce and livestock were only subject to the tithes and not their entire income i.e. money earned like a fisherman or carpenter; (2) they were only required to give every tenth animal from their livestocks, so this would be a different percentage based on how many animals you had at the time i.e. you only have to give one cow if you have fifteen (6.6%). Therefore, the best estimate that we can see from the Bible’s tithing requirements was that they gave around 20% of their agricultural produce and livestock every year but gave around 30% every third year because of the added charity tithe. Thus, it doesn’t seem that 10% was ever a total amount they gave—it was always more. Finally, we must remember that there were still other offerings that were obligatory and voluntary that the Israelites were to give (i.e., burnt offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, trespass offerings, meal or meat offerings, heave offerings—although some might be included within the tithes).

The Different Tithes Before And After The Law

  • Before the law of Moses there is no command concerning tithing—nor any examples of the levitical, priestly, festival, or charity tithes. But there are two examples of people giving one-tenth (both are descriptive and not prescriptive). First, Abraham gave away 100% of the goods seized in his military victory, giving 10% to Melchizedek who was king of Salem and the priest of the most high God, and then giving a portion to the men who went with him and finally giving the rest to the king of Sodom. Second, Jacob promised to give one-tenth to God of all that God gave him when the conditions of the vow were fulfilled.
    Genesis 14:17-24; 28:18-22
  • After the law of Moses was fulfilled in Jesus, there is no command concerning tithing—nor any examples of the levitical, priestly, festival, or charity tithes because each have been fulfilled in the New Testament and are no longer necessary. Instead, we are given a new paradigm for giving. Also, the only time the “tithe” is mentioned in the New Testament is when Jesus is rebuking the scribes and Pharisees, He is telling a parable or when it is referenced in an Old Testament story (all are descriptive and not prescriptive).
    Matthew 23:23-24; Luke 18:9-14; Hebrews 7:1-10 (Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:16-23; Ephesians 2:11-22)

Principals Learned From The Different Tithes

  • Even though the four tithes are no longer binding on believers living under grace like they were for the Israelites living under the law, we can learn the following principals from them: (1) God wants His people to support those who serve Him full-time; (2) those who receive this support should also be givers and not just takers; (3) we should use our money to worship God and lead our families to worship God; (4) God wants His people to care and proved for those in need especially the poor and marginalized.
  • As believers, we live by faith and grow in our knowledge of the Bible. We allow the Bible to change our conscience and preconceived ideas. Not every believer understands these truths concerning the tithes or some may even disagree with these conclusions. Either way, we should not judge or despise each other. Thus, in an effort to not offend others it is “recommended” that giving should be at least one-tenth of your income if you can do so by faith and with an attitude of “giving God thanks”—because no one disagrees with giving 10% or more to God, the contention is always on the minimum.
    Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 8:7-13

Review Questions

  • How many tithes are commanded in the Old Testament?
  • What are the different tithes?
  • What was the total amount of all the tithes?
  • Was their required tithing before and after the law?
  • What are principles we learn from the different tithes?