Brothers and Sisters, 

A seemingly small thing like a virus has shifted the world. We have all experienced the consequences in our lives in one way or the other. For some of us in America, if not most, it is merely the inconvenience of wearing a mask. For those in nations such as India, the consequences are far greater, and far more dangerous. In the nation of India, some locations are experiencing a government mandated “Triple Lockdown”. This lockdown closes nearly all businesses, prohibits public transportation, and restricts the movement of citizens by police force. 

Due to these governmental measures, it is estimated by some that the poverty rate in India may double due to the financial strain caused by COVID related governmental decisions. It was estimated in April that the number of those in poverty could climb to as high as 623 million people in India. To give some perspective, the population of the entire United States is 328 million. And as we know, with poverty comes suffering. 

As followers of Christ, we are called to care about suffering, both suffering now and suffering throughout eternity. I am reminded of the words in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” With these circumstances we have an opportunity to display a pure and true religion to those in affliction; a Christ centered religion that does not only involve the academic, but a religion that also involves action. 

Since the beginning of COVID-19, Epaphroditus has been in regular communication with Babu Samuel and Grace Christian Ministries (GCM) and he is humbly asking for a special love offering from all his current and past partners to assist the Church in India during these times of affliction. 

We ask that you prayerfully consider a one-time gift to GCM to assist them in this unique time of “Triple Lockdown.” In addition, we ask that you consider a regular and monthly gift to GCM for ongoing ministry needs. If you would like to financially assist, you can give online or by mailing a check to Epaphroditus, 830 Nixon St., Cascade IA, 52033. 

Lastly, above financial giving, we ask for your ongoing prayer for the Church in India. Pray that through this time of suffering, the gospel goes forward and brings about repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. 

In Christ, 

Phil Parsons
President of Epaphroditus

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

With all that seems to be developing in the world with the novel COVID-19 Virus, I have caught myself captivated by the news and other media sources desiring to see what is happening next.  Hour by hour and day by day we wait as the latest numbers on cases, deaths and business and travel restrictions come out.

As I wait in the space in between updates, my thoughts wander in a seemingly eerie silence. What comes to your minds as you “wait” in silence like this? This is an extreme example of course, with everything that is happening in the world right now.  But think about all of the areas of our lives and days where we can catch ourselves waiting in some sort of silence.  Maybe it’s the time between receiving news of an illness and the first meeting with the doctors?  Maybe it is in between the job interview and the job offer? Or maybe it is in the space between hearing the Gospel and responding to it?  Is it well with your soul as you wait?

I’ve found it edifying to reflect on the truth and peace that Psalm 62:1-2 offers in this period of silence. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s take this silence and focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable.  As Paul writes, “if there is any excellence, anything worthy of praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS.” Philippians 4:8

We who know Christ have eternal hope and we set our hope on things in heaven, not things of this world. Now, more than ever, let this truth wash over you.  In times like this your faith will be tested. Your thoughts will wander, you may even doubt God’s goodness. But, because of the Holy Spirit that lives inside each one of us and unites us as the body of Christ, we must choose faith over fear. Our faith, given not earned, not only sanctifies us and strengthens us, but will be an encouragement to one another. Most importantly, our faith will be a testimony to those whose treasure is not in heaven and do not yet have eyes to see or ears to hear the Good News of our Savior Jesus Christ!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Your Spirt lead reasonableness and peace will be recognized by those who you are surrounded by during this time. Think about your family, your co-workers, your neighbors. DO NOT squander this opportunity. There is a great harvest available and God has a glorious purpose in the midst of a pandemic. He alone is your rock and your salvation, your fortress; you shall not be shaken. God bless.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Emphasis added).  This marks the first time the word church is used to describe the followers of Christ, and I find it interesting that Jesus contrasts it with the “gates of hell.”   The Church verses the gates of hell.  So what is Jesus trying to convey when he compares the Church against the gates of hell?

To begin, let’s start with what a gate is.  In first century Palestine (the context in which Jesus speaks) gates were very common.  Cities and homes were enclosed by walls for protection and gates would allow people to enter and leave.  You can see this in Luke 7:12 when it says, “As he drew near to the gate of the town…”  In this passage, the town Jesus was about to enter was Nain.  For Jesus to enter the town to preach the Kingdom of God to the people, he had to enter by the gate.  We see this again in Matthew 7:13 when Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate.”  A gate was a point of entry and exit.

The gate of a city was the weakest part of the wall due to its purpose of being opened.  Therefore, it was substantially important for a town to have a strong gate, one that could withstand a great blow from their attackers and prevent entry.  Many of you are familiar with the medieval picture of a battering ram.  A battering ram was a large object that was able to produce a great force that would burst open a gate so that the army could lay siege to the city.  So what does Jesus mean when he speaks of the gates of hell?   

First, I think we need to understand that Jesus is not talking about Hell as a physical location, like Chicago.  Jesus is talking about Hell in the sense of its power, hence “gates of hell.”  The gates of hell are symbolic of the power of hell.

Second, I think we need to understand who are the citizens of this town who are being separated by the power of Hell?  If we look at verse 13, Jesus begins the conversation with the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  (Emphasis added).  Therefore, I believe the citizens separated by the power of hell are people in general.  The Bible, commonly, refers to these citizens as “the world.”  These people are being held captive by the power of hell.  

I think we see this in other passages such as 2 Corinthians 4:4, which says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  Satan is the ruler of this world.  He has enslaved all of humanity (the world) in his domain of darkness.  He has shut up mankind behind the gates of hell.  And this is what Jesus contrasts the Church against in Matthew 16.  

In contrast to the people of the world, the Church is an assembly of God’s chosen people, called out of the world to trust and follow Jesus their Savior King.  The Church is an army of fellow soldiers serving Jesus Christ.  And Jesus has given his people the means to make entry into the great city of Babylon (the world) to free those who live under the power of Satan.  In verse 16 Peter answers the question of who Christ is by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  To this answer Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my church.” (Emphasis added).  The “this” is not Peter, it is the revelation of who Christ truly is.  Believing in the truth of Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection is the key that unlocks the gates and frees those living behind the gates of hell.

And as Jesus says, “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”  This means that the Church is not defensive, it is offensive.  The Church is moving forward as soldiers advancing into the fallen world and expanding the kingdom of God.  The Church is to be a battering ram bursting down the gates of hell and sieging this world for our King.  

Currently in India, there are over 1.3 billion people.  It is reported that only three percent are followers of Jesus.  From the outside, it appears the gates of hell that surround this nation are strongly fortified, even appearing indestructible, but that is not how Jesus sees it.  He has declared that he, not Satan, will claim final victory over the nation of India.  And it is our commission to use the keys of the gospel to break down the gates of hell and free the captives.  So join us as we partner together as soldiers of Christ to lay siege upon India with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.  You can do this by praying, giving, or going.  Check out our website for more information.    

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.  For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.”  (Psalm 22:27-28).

My oldest daughter, Alex, is currently playing basketball for Pekin Middle School. As a father who enjoyed basketball as a kid, it is simultaneously fun and frustrating to watch. It takes a great deal of self-control not to make a fool out of myself while watching and “encouraging” my daughter. My wife may argue that I fail at this more than I succeed.

One aspect of basketball that can be frustrating for parents, and coaches alike, is the absence of total commitment. Too often you see players merely go through the motions. To correct this halfhearted behavior, a coach my yell “Leave it all on the Court!” The idea behind this phrase is that players should not hold anything back. They should use all their heart, mind, and strength to win the game; being willing to sprint back on defense, dive on the floor for loose balls, and mix it up in the paint…blood, sweat, and tears.

The reason behind this reckless behavior is the desire to accomplish the primary goal, to win the game. Interestingly, being a Christian is not terribly different.  

When Christ came in the flesh, he came for one purpose, to save sinners. He didn’t come to go through motions. He didn’t come to build wealth. He didn’t come to climb the corporate ladder. He didn’t come to create a Pinterest life. Jesus took on flesh, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross to achieve the goal of seeking and saving the lost. As disciples of Christ, our purpose is not different. You can see this in the calling of the first disciples.  In Luke 5:4-11 we read these words:

“[W]hen he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

In verse 10 we see Jesus tell his disciples that they will be catching men.  This was their new purpose as followers of Jesus, to look out upon the sea of faces in this world and throw out the net of the gospel and draw men to Jesus. Peter, James, and John are the first Christians, and in their calling, we are given the first example of what it means to follow Christ, to partner with Him to seek and save the lost.

But how do we do this? It begins with a commitment to leave everything on the court. Notice verse 11, “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Let that sink in…they left everything…everything; their boat, their source of income, their dreams, and even their dad. At this moment they were giving it their all, literally.  

Now…it is time for some self-evaluation. How do you stack up? Do you view yourself as a Christian, as a disciple, as a follower of Christ? Has Jesus called you to be catchers of men? Have you accepted that call? Have you committed yourself to the primary mission of seeking and saving the lost? Have you given it your all? Have you left it all on the Court? Or are you going through the motions?

Remember, when Christ calls you, it is not into passivity, but activity, and it is an activity of total abandonment. Later in the Gospel of Luke Jesus says these words, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33).

Christ calls us to leave it all on the court, to give everything we have, blood, sweat, and tears to the God glorifying, eternal, gospel centered mission of saving sinners.

Your tax-deductible year-end gift to Epaphroditus will help spread the Gospel in the nation of India. Epaphroditus is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that supports Gospel ministry in India through our Indian partner organization Grace Christian Ministries. Help us spread the good news of Jesus Christ in India today!

Did you know you can also have a portion of your Amazon shopping go to help Epaphroditus? Just go to AmazonSmile and select Epaphroditus as your AmazonSmile organization.

We appreciate your help in spreading the Gospel. Merry Christmas and God bless!

Paul, as an Apostle of Christ, was instrumental in establishing the early Church. He did this by the grace of God and instruction of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite verses is found in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

Despite Paul’s God given grace and work ethic, Paul was still a man. He was limited by space and time. He was limited. He needed help, and help he had. Paul was almost always in a group. Very rarely do we see Paul alone in ministry. Some of the men that were a part of Paul’s ministry were Timothy, Luke, Mark, Barnabas, Silas, and Titus. However, even this group was limited. As the gospel spread through Judea, Samaria, and the Ends of the Earth, this band of brothers just wasn’t enough. Similar to Paul, they couldn’t be everywhere at all times. So what was the solution? Pastors.

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—”Titus 1:5

The Apostle Paul commissions Titus to appoint elders. Elder is just another name for Pastor. For the early Church, Pastors were crucial in the expansion of the Kingdom both in depth and in breadth. Over the years, nothing has changed. It is still God’s desire to have Elders in every town, including the towns in India.

This is one of the goals of Epaphroditus and Grace Christian Ministry (GCM), to have Pastors in every town in the nation of India. Having said that, this is easier said than done, for a Pastor is more than a warm body, despite what you might see in American pulpits today. Titus 1:9 tells us that a Pastor “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”.

Pastors must be trained up to know and to teach sound Biblical doctrine, and this is one of the primary focuses of GCM, to train up Pastors to instruct and rebuke. GCM achieves this is two primary ways, a Bible College and Learning Centers. It has been GCM’s past practice to not charge a tuition for their college or their classes so as not to put an obstacle in the way of men who feel lead to become a pastor.

And this is where you come in. Epaphroditus exists to act as a messenger between GCM and the Church in America. It is our purpose to present needs that exist on the front lines of gospel ministry in the nation of India, and then allow God to move in hearts as He wills. One of the primary needs in India is financial support for training up Pastors. It takes only $30/month to support one Bible college student. If God is calling you to support this endeavor, please partner with us to provide an elder in every town in the nation of India.

Grace Christian Discipleship Training Center — Bihar, India

We exist to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20

Continue reading “GCM Missions Report (July 2018)”

India is listed as the the 11th most dangerous country to follow Jesus on the 2018 World Watch List by the non profit organization Open Doors. India rose from number 15 on the 2017 World Watch list to 11th this year. The reason for the rising on the list has much to do with the increased persecution. While this persecution may vary in different regions, it is still widespread over much of India.

Continue reading “Persecution in India”