The 4 Seasons of the Christian life
oAs with many things in life, the Christian walk can draw many parallels from other experiences. The faith can be like a roller coaster at time: long waits, going fast, slow, up and down and for a lot of loops. Faith can be like a plant: waiting for a seed to germinate, pulling out weeds, pruning, harvest and so forth. And when we look at a calendar year, we see a very unique parallels that shows deep truths we must understand to grow as close to the father as we can on this planet.
Despite our zodiac signs, our age, every last person who comes to Christ is born in the spring, fittingly after a few months of the year already in winter to represent our life before him. Here everything is new, we learn, we grow, and things start to sprout and bloom in ways we never imagined. Yet, in all the new life, hazards can arise. Allergies to beautiful flowers can trigger reactions in us, and they attract the dangers of bees. We soon realize that we are only in the first stage of many more to come as truths and lessons should not sting this bad. Yet, no matter where we end up, we will always remember this season as being the most exciting, informative and formational in our walks.
In the summer things get hot. Any Christian who has not had to endure any trials is likely not a Christian. Jesus predicted it, and Paul explains precisely the reason these hardships will arise: so we can emulate Christ, prove our faith, and also be done with sin. In this season forest fires may arise, we might suffer heat exhaustion, and we may need to get baptized in a cool river or pool of his amazing grace . Still, despite whatever may come about in this second season/stage of our walks, this is the most pivotal, as the most progress can come about in hardships. These, with failure, will ironically grow you the closest to God as you learn the meaning of reliance on the cross, despite how difficult they seem at the time.
The fall brings about one of the most amazing phenomena in the year: the falling of the leaves. In this season, we shed that which is holding us back from a full embrace of Christ. The longer we serve God, and the more we know His word, the more glaringly obvious it becomes that we are not anything close to what the word describes, and we are hopeless to get there alone. Here we can learn to rely on the Holy Spirit to do the work that we cannot. In this season you will know beyond doubt that both the spring and summer were necessary to get you to this stage. You can draw on the lessons learned and your understanding of who God is, how He works, and the true extent of of his love and mercy for you. Your faith will solidify and you will no longer be thrown around like a wave in the ocean, but you learn to stand firm in the cross. Fittingly, we reap the greatest harvest here.
Finally, in winter, all seems dead. This life, as long as it may be lived, is still nothing. And, it is a very fortunate reality that it will end at an appointed time. In this season, there is no fear of the inevitable demise that will soon befall us as we know we are entrusting our selves into He who can rise us. Here we can eager await the new spring that will arise in the life of the believers who are growing. We can impart the wisdom that we have learned and leave a legacy that will remain long after Christ has called us home. Many tasks may be off limits from the things we used to love to do, and we may not be able to serve in the capacity we used to. Still, in this brief moment, we can draw an excitement of the promised of a resurrected, glorified body that he has promised us.
It is important to note that each season has its own full cycle year. So there is a winter for the summer, and a summer in the winter time. It is also not completely linear or in exact time frames. It is an ongoing process that is never complete this side of eternity. It is very easy to get stuck and stay dormant if we are insistent on doing things our own way and if we tie God's hands with rebellion and a stubborn heart- Israel did it many times over to teach us a lesson. We must recognize that God is a gentleman and he will not violate us and take us places we refuse to go. But if we trust in Him, and surrender our lives over, we know that despite where we are, despite our past, or how dreary the future may seem, our lives are in His hands. We know from the book of Philippians 1:6 that He will complete the good work that he has started in us. Praise the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
The Unprofitable servant parable
During the course of His life, Jesus spoke in many brilliant parables that brought to life deep spiritual truths into digestible bite-sized nuggets. It was later revealed, though, that he also used these to speak in code and purposely hide information. Probably one of the most puzzling and difficult to ingest was that of the unprofitable/unworthy servant (Luke 17:5-10). While at first glance, or in isolation, this may seem as a degradation of brothers in Christ, deeper reflection truly demonstrates this truth that must be understood in the lives of believers if we ever have any hope of truly becoming profitable.
The unprofitable servant story can be understood more as an illustration than an actual parable. In most the parables that Jesus spoke, there were clear references to representation and multiple characters and/or items. This story, however, is pretty straight-forward and the master is clearly shown to be God Himself and we His servant. Frankly put, it merely states that a servant who works in his job would not dare come home and serve himself first. Rather, he would wait on his master first, and only take care of himself after. Yet, even after this, he wouldn't feel as though he actually did anything worth being praised or thanked for, he would only feel that he was actually inadequate to serve in the first place.
Taken by itself, this may seem like a harsh assessment. I clearly remember reading this as a new believer and thinking, “Man, Jesus sure could sure be a jerk sometimes”. Pardon the raw, borderline blasphemous feedback of a 2 weeks believer, but this was my honest to God take. As the years have passed, however, I have seen more and more the relevance and importance of understanding the severity and truthfulness in this too brief story. By even grasping just a mere jist of this example, we see the most beautiful truth of the gospel: the most unjust and illogical act of an offending party paying the bounty on a condemned criminal only to take his place.
Part of what makes God good is that he is just and injustice displeases Him. We can imagine a scenario which would prove to be the epitome of injustice. Imagine cutting off a hand for telling a lie, or killing a person who jay walked. Next, imagine giving a verbal warning for the act of murder, or giving a literal slap on the wrist for a bank robbery. On an extreme mixed spectrum, try to fathom a dice with arbitrary punishments randomly rolled after each offense. The mere thought of these are cringeworthy for anyone who is interested in maintaining order or seeing some kind of balance in the universe. This moral law has been ingrained in us by the creator and it is one of his many gifts he so freely bestowed upon us and it is, in fact, one of the many ways we are created in his image.
Zooming into the story with the lens of common sense, it may seem ridiculous or too severe. Yet, when we examine the whole gospel, we truly see how amazing this grace is that Jesus provided with his very blood. We deserve death. It was us who deserved to be on the cross. It is us who rejected God, and his law, and a fiery punishment separated from God is the right punishment fit for the crime. But the mercy of the cross is an injustice that we claim the benefit of unmerited grace. His pain, his ridicule and torment gave us a new life and pardoned our deserved death sentence.
And here is where the story turns. John 15:15 states, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”. We are Christ friends. Once worse than servants, we were His enemy. His sacrifice elevated us from scum to royalty. When we truly grasp this, we can be so utterly grateful that we can serve in even the smallest capacity. Judgmentalness that has given Christians and Christianity a foul stench, suddenly makes no sense. Only a desire to see others realize this same grace should be our only strive on this planet.
Being in Christ is the equivalent of having a bigger bowl at a soup kitchen than other people. By no merit of our own are we here and bragging about handouts we are given makes absolutely no sense. The more we grasp this, the more effective we can become. Knowing our place, knowing our past, knowing our roots sets us free to do His good works. And this recognition paves the way for a new kind of religion that embraces the lost with open arms, that gladly reduces ourselves in service, and seeks to be the lowest we can possibly get. This is where healing is and this is where we are most profitable. Praise your precious redeeming name!
The smallest speck
For all that can be said negative about Kane- the first murderer- in the book of Genesis, a lack of wit and audacity can not be one of them. In one of the most ironic stories of the whole Bible Kane rebuked God himself with the rhetorical and satirical question, "Am I my brother's keeper"? Clearly implying he was not and avoiding the obvious implications of God's inquiry. We are not told how the story fully played out, but I am sure if God did answer his snide question it would be an emphatic "yes"!
One of the biggest criticisms in avoiding church is that it is full of liars, hypocrites, and hateful/unmerciful judges. If this logic were applied across the board, no one would step foot in gyms in the fear of seeing obese patrons. Additionally, no sick person would ever visit a hospital, as one is bound to encounter other ailing souls. It is precisely for the reason why Christians are so hurtful and hateful in their actions that they are in need of the loving care of the ultimate physical: Christ Jesus Himself, pretending otherwise sets us up for fail.
My missions motto is simple: "reaching in, reaching out". This most basic anthem proclaims that if anyone is in need of change, it is first and foremost me. Along my journey with Christ, I have had more failures than successes. I distinctively remember my first year, and failing the test of righteousness at least 8-9 times out of 10 tests. As the years have passed I can soundly say I have increased maybe at the rate of 1-2 more triumphs each year. And still, on even my best days, I can hope to hit the mark a 7-8, if I am lucky- but these are sporadic at best. If this trend continues, I can well hope to be batting some solid numbers consistently in the next few years, but perhaps perfection will always be out of reach.
Like the whack-a-mole game, I have found that sin is next to impossible to defeat completely. Once you smack one area about, another area appears seemingly out of no where. Mind you, this may merely be a point of perspective. For instance, an alcoholic may discover he has an anger problem once he is sober. However, that problem may have always existed, but the fixation on getting sober may in fact totally eclipse and overshadow other sins. The more we rid ourselves of unrighteousness, the more we realize how much more work we actually got to do. This should be the sincere journey of anyone truly seeking to find God or make any spiritual progress. The great thinker Socrates declared he knew nothing, and this is truly understood in comparing what we currently know to how much knowledge/progress is actually available.
In our walks with God and attempting to reach the lost, honesty is always the best policy. I can say as a recovered alcoholic, beyond any reasonable doubt that the 12 steps of substance abuse recovery make perfect sense in regard to other sins: recognize we are helpless to help ourselves and God alone can restore us. Once we make this basic proclamation, we can begin to submit and surrender our will, desires and intentions over to him. It is only here where we can begin to seek lasting change that will steam roll this world that seems to be more and more irreparably damaged and straying even further from the light. For the lost to know this truth, we must be emphatic when applying it also to ourselves!
When we start with our own specks, however big or small they might be, we give a good example to those who still need to confront sin in their eyes. By doing so, we also demonstrate a humility to seek change, and be proper stewards of God's amazing grace. Refusing to acknowledge sin, becoming defensive, and worse justifying actions, give a terrible precedence that will ultimately undermine our message and collapse the whole foundation of the gospel. Starting first and foremost with ourselves, we show that change is possible and fully acknowledge that we are still works in progress. This vulnerability and honesty disarms the defensive and paves the way for a rich harvest of embracing Christ, and also a crop of souls just waiting for a message of consistency. In doing so, we set a foundations for fertile growth and become, emphatically so, our brother's keeper.
,One of the biggest forms of irony I have ever experienced was being pushed into the deep end of spiritual warfare. I was an atheist for many years and I absolutely, positively rejected anything remotely related to the spiritual realm. I literally believed that science was God and not even remotely in an analogous way. Also, I was under the foolish assumption that reason and logic were well above scripture and consequently God. After my experiencing in spiritual warfare, both as an unbeliever and a believer now, there is quite a lot I can add to an unbelieving world and disengaged church.
Two months into my spiritual rebirth I experienced something so evil and sadistic it was what the worse nightmares are made of. I could, and probably will, write an entire book about that experience alone. Suffice to say that after several stints of intense fasting and prayer, God told me that the idolatry in my life was causing this attack. I saw the words "ECCLESIASTICS" written in my mind and after I read that book he told me point blank to put all the possessions I gathered while traveling in a box and then in the trash. My postcards, money, tickets, and stubs were my most prized possession, next to my pictures. I had those on my computer, 2 hard drives, and backed up 2 times online. I had to also delete those, and after that obedience, I was shown a peep behind in the spiritual realms that was straight out the images of the Old Testament.
After barely emerging with my life and sanity, I can tell you beyond doubt that the vast majority of churches and Christians are not even in the ball game as far as spiritual warfare is concerned. Most people who fill the pews each Sunday are either non-combatants, or even worse pawns in the enemies hands. As harsh and uncomfortable to say this, it is completely and positively necessary to even begin to truly rage effective warfare. From my study in the scriptures and through personal revelation of the Holy Spirit I can say beyond a doubt that the following is trust and needs to be said.
1. The enemy we fight is nothing we can see. Perhaps because it is based in another dimension all together, this enemy is invisible and may not actually even be on this planet, but very active nevertheless. We can see this in the books of Job, Daniel and Genesis. Thinking we can vote away or protest against, vote away or handcuff these principalities is not only wishful thinking, it is foolish.
2. The primary weapon we have is the word of God. This seems so basic to say it shouldn't even need to be written. However, so many Christians are led by what their opinions are or that of politicians, friends, well meaning preachers and TV evangelists. If you truly, deeply wholeheartedly take a dive into the scriptures, you will see beyond doubt these forces were at work in the Old Testament, New and very, very much active now. You will also see that most of what most churches and Christians do makes little sense inside the realms of scripture and without regard to tradition .
3. Fasting is the equivalent of nuclear bombs. I can tell you I had a hard time fasting for 1 day. I could make it till about 6 or 7 and then always cave. However, the spiritual battle I endured gave me absolutely zero choice in doing so. I went 3 days, heard from God and then went 5 days and heard from him twice. Since then I have been on several 10 day and 20 day fasts and I am believing for God to take me to the holy grail of 40 days. Jesus said that some things come out only by prayer and fasting and if you want titanic results, be prepared to deny yourself and your stomach. The humility it takes to go to God in tears will absolutely rip apart demonic strong holds in your life and in the lives of your family and friends.
4. Prayer works, really, really works. With exception to the first few months of being a believer the vast majority of my prayers have been for God to ELIMINATE things from my life and not add a anything. God already knows my needs so its pointless for me to beg him for a car, or house or a million dollars. A very well needed caveat is in order: God will almost never answer your prayers in ways that you like. I can say God has almost always answered my prayers in a way in which I absolutely, unequivocally despise. In fact, the very fact that I experienced spiritual warfare was me obliviously praying for me to be able to surrender everything to God. I had no idea he would used that circumstance to get me to throw in all my chips, but man did it work. Another time I prayed for God to take me deeper in faith and prepare me for full time ministry. His response? He got me sick to the point of death. I hated it during the process, but the jewel he produced was well worth my physical and mental pain I endured.
5. A lot is at stake. We are not talking about the potential of gaining anything you can hold. But literally whole lives and generations of people are at risk. By idly sitting by, we are absolutely helping the other side. This isn't a battle in which you can sit out. By not actively engaging the spiritual realm we actually assist Satan and his forces. As the world and society is headed to hell in a hand basket, many believers are content to stay up to date on the latest NFL stats, political polls, Netflix releases or 401 K investments. We need a change of priorities.
6. We win. As scary and dark this seems, we know what the end result is. However, in saying so, we should certainly proceed with caution. In the parable of the talents ( Mathew 25:14–30) we see that if we sit back and do nothing, we will be severely punished. This is why there is no "time outs" or sitting on the bench. We need to win this war. 1 Peter says in 3:12 that we can actually speed the return of Jesus Christ. If we can do so, then we can also delay it. Everything we do, say and even think ultimately is influencing this spiritual battle. We know we win from the scriptures. This battle which has raged for eternity will soon be finished. What day, we do not know but we know that Christ will ultimately prevail. In the mean time, let us take note that we are needed. Sitting this one out puts us, our family, friends and countrymen in further jeopardy. To be the best solider we can, we must untangle ourselves from earthly affairs and set ourselves to the heavenly realms.
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4
I had a long standing and disturbing fascination with communism, which arose during childhood thanks to John Lennon’s Imagine (I actually could imagine it). For several years I considered myself an (academic) socialist and undercover militant atheist. Although I was aware of the dark history of ideology, it did not deter me from my desire to see all humanity live in peace and harmony together, once we did away with the religion that was dividing us. I think a huge part of being young is being idealistic and perhaps unrealistic, and I was on an extreme end of that spectrum as with almost everything I found interesting.
Suffice to say when the opportunity arose to go to the DPRK in 2008 and 09 (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), I jumped on it. I wanted to be able to experience the plight of the North Koreans and write about the experience. I had to sincerely weigh this with the moral dilemma of giving the Kim Jung Il regime my money and allowing them to further enslave their people. In the end I thought I could do more good by educating myself and in turn others. I even had a sadistic and demented self- righteous idea of purposely getting detained there to experience imprisonment. Ironically, some genius from my hometown of Bakersfield, California did that exact thing in 2014.
There are far too many details to go into in this story. I will have to curtail the account of myself nearly getting arrested, making illegal videos, the superhuman power North Korean acrobats (I saw a guy riding a unicycle and jump roping with a man on his shoulders). There were truly too many intriguing/ seemingly unreal stories that occurred. They are interesting by far, but it would simply take up far too much space. I am going to focus on a few experiences and how they impacted me on a personal level till this very day.
The power and utility of propaganda was something that burned its way into mind long after seeing it. I have often contemplated how the average German person could kill so many innocent people in such a horrific manner, yet I have no way of truly understanding the brainwashing that went into that. I got a taste of that, however, in North Korea. The terror, imagery and emotion has never left me and I highly doubt it ever will. There are some things that just cannot be unseen or unlearned, no matter how much effort is exerted. But I now can easily imagine how entire populations can be under a spell after the temporary stay.
Everywhere I looked there was propaganda of epic proportion. There were statues, murals, inscriptions and of course song. Everything was designed to portray the Kim’s as God-like beings. I could very well understand how the worldview of the average Joe (or average Kim) would be shaped by being exposed to this at every turn of eye. Everything that they were supposed to believe was shoved down their throat without time or chance for chewing or much less digestion. There was no room for dissent or questioning the authority. Doing so could lead to your death or the imprisonment of not just you, but your entire family for multiple generations. This was and is 1984 in 2020 which was far worse than what even Orwell envisioned.
Two pieces of “art” really stood out to me there. One was of a young Korean school girl yelling in the distance,“Grandmother, let's go destroy our top enemy the USA”. The brilliant nature and not too subtle satire of the piece really made an impression on me as it was overtly implying even the weakest of the country could destroy the brittle USA. The other was of a Korean man pointing and yelling at the audience and probably imploring them to do… something. I don’t know what he said, but till this day I can never forget the look on his face. His face was contorted in the most evil, vile and sadistic manner imaginable. Every time I picture that man, chills run down my spine and this is a full decade later. I know even if I wanted to I could not make myself forget. I tried.
As vicious as it is, propaganda is incredibly powerful in its purpose. This came forever well known to me when I befriended 2 refugees from up north and told their stories on Youtube. Even though I had helped them out financially and unfortunately failed to reunite them with their daughter, they still couldn't quite get over the brain washing. I was shocked beyond belief when the father told me how he was 100 percent sure that everything his government told him was a lie, but yet the Anti-Americanism was so inbred in him, he had a hard time fully letting go and trusting me. This revelation broke my heart, but it also helped me to realize the misappropriated and metaphorically transferred baggage is not so easily lost, no matter how hard we may try.
Crossroads of Humanity
The next consequently notable incident I experienced happened so briefly, most people didn’t notice its significance. However, my ears and eyes were soaking up everything in a 360 degree, 4-D panoramic shot that irreversibly etched its way on my self-denying soul. I was about to cross a red line (no pun intended) and a point of no return that would forever change the trajectory of my life, and it completely and utterly caught me off guard without anything resembling a warning. Unfortunately, I purposely let it slip my mind for as long as I could drown it out.
At the mock village they had created for us, we were given certain paths in which we could freely walk and explore. The nature was pristine and mostly untouched, as is one of the few undeniable merits of communism is the lack of development and thus preservation of nature. And while all the other stops we saw were closely monitored (the tour guides and military created a human perimeter), we were given relative “freedom” here. However, we could only go certain places, such as the adjoining wealthy North Korean village, and we were not permitted to talk to North Koreans, as there was a 50 dollar fine- for all their anti-capitalist rhetoric, they amusingly tried to squeeze every last penny out of you (there was no irony lost on the fact that the US dollar was the only currency which could be used). The prices of the hotel’s mini bar were ironically the most expensive I have ever seen- which says a lot.
The North Koreans had a similar situation as the wide eye tourists they were forced to see on a bi-weekly basis. The gates in which they could walk in to go about their business were designed to keep them from talking to the corrupt capitalists vermin, though their punishments were much worse- such as beating, reeducation camps or worse. As chance happened, we met at a crossroads in the village. Both of us looked like deer caught in headlights of an avalanche riding a tsunami. We didn’t know what to do. Should they go? Should we go? Who had the right of way? We just stared blankly into the whites of each other.’s eyes. A few awkward moments went by and a military man came yelling and wielding a whistle. We quickly went along in complete shock and terror. It was intense.
As we walked away I had a brutal epiphany loomed over me. These people were being herded, like swine and cattle. They were being told where to go, what to do and henceforth, what to think. They had no freedom whatsoever. This coupled with the propaganda everywhere, virtually ensured they were going to believe and behave in one way and one way only. I never have before or since been so traumatized. In fact, for weeks after I had nightmares that I was back there, stuck and unable to leave. Even when I awoke, I was in a sweaty state of utter fear and panic, with a feeling of being trapped. How relieved I was to figure out it was just a nightmare, which is far more than I can say for them.
When I left that country I started to examine my own beliefs. In my atheistic worldview, this actually made sense. The Kim’s were higher evolved, more intelligent creatures. They were simply using their citizens as they would any other animal, such as a sheep or cows. As much as I tried to reconcile my atheism, with my knowledge that this was wrong, I could not. Although I did not become a theist overnight, this was one of the first and biggest cracks in that mental ceiling. I knew this was wrong. I knew it. I may not have had a logical, rational foundation for it, but inherently I knew these people had value. To who, the how, the why, the what would take many years to discover.
After sometime, I decided to try to educate my friends and family about the situation here. I wrote a few blogs, posted videos and pictures (some taken illegally and some were deleted by guards after I tried to pose like Kim Jung Il) and tried to talk to people about it. Eventually, I got involved with a North Korean refugee organization. I made some appearances, spoke, donated time, goods and money, and did what I could to help them. My church donated school supplies and we tried to teach the children English. The organization helped incorporate the refugees into society, as the transition was next to impossible to smoothly make, even with lots of help.
Later the opportunity arose for me to interview survivors and tell their unbelievable stories of escape and will to survive. From the comforts of my house, and in the cover of darkness, (I had to keep them anonymous) I heard the most gruesome stories of cannibalism, torture, rape, executions, escape, survival, and the rest. I posted these videos online and continued to learn more about the topic. It was my goal to make a huge, monumental impact. I strongly believed at the time I could do something drastic. That sometimes misplaced enthusiasm has a way of being subdued by reality all too frequently.
However, I soon came to realize most people simply did not care. If there was one country I could depend on to care for the blood of ethnic Korean, surely it would be South Korea. Nope. More people were more interested in K-Pop music, Samsung phones, foreign import luxury cars and plastic surgery to give a good god damn about their own flesh and blood. It was a sad realization that I had no real way to help those that were still oppressed. If I couldn’t get fellow Koreans interested, I didn’t think I stood a chance in hell at getting others to care. In a last ditch attempt, I tried to write a book, but it didn’t materialize like virtually all the other grand ideas in my head.
The disgusting feelings I felt there was something truly hard to explain with mere keystrokes alone. As I tried to write about it before I came to understand that some things are truly, hard to describe solely with words. That level of ugliness and brutality is hard to convey with mere language as it literally deals with the very souls we possess. There was a time I was happy that I couldn’t do this properly, because I didn’t want to be a burden to any reader. Now, a few years down the road, I have a different opinion. Perhaps if I could make people see, they would get involved and there would be a difference for those poor beings. Then again, maybe not.
One thing I learned for sure is that no one was born with any particular set of beliefs. Whatever North Koreans might believe was thoroughly inbred into them. Kim Jung Un himself, was bred from the same stock as the rest of his fellow country men. His traits were learned from his dad, and his dad’s from Jung Un’s Grandfather, Kim Il Sung. How much more careful I am to every thought or action, knowing that even the smallest dysfunctions could not only trickle to my daughter and down to my grandchildren and in turn theirs. How much easier it is to look to another country or family to divert the reality of my own shortcomings, but today I choose to own up to it all.
And even in this realization, I must philosophically digress if only for a paragraph. The same roadblocks and pathways which governed the life of those people are about us all, if only in our head. How much of our lives and limits are pre-programmed, instilled by parents, institutions and society as a whole? How much of it are we responsible for? How easily can this be tossed off the vessels of our lives? I know it is possible and I have seen it in others, and partook myself. But in this recognition, the same empathy I share with the Koreans and my fellow comrades around the world becomes ever binding and self realizing. The slavery and prison which engulfs us all is so easily escaped in that moment of recognition. Even the worst prisons and concentration camps could never limit a truly free mind who is aware. And we all too often make the worst and most unforgiving guards of that often self-imposed cell which binds and keeps so many captive.
Mokpo in light
Mokpo is quite the sight to see at night. As with many places in South Korea, neon lights flash about all throughout the sky. Advertising ranging from singing rooms to restaurants and all night PC rooms illuminate the otherwise dark sky. This is quite the contrast that can be seen from satellites to North Korea, as the limited energy consumption is strictly controlled by the oppressive Stalinist Kim Jun Un Regime.
The change of atmosphere in Mokpo, as with anywhere in the world really, is noticeable. Walking the streets at night there is certainly a sense that the sin is about to begin. Most the bars and all night singing rooms (which often serve as a front for prostitution) start to bristle with life, as they are closed most the day. And there is no shortage of people just itching to mitigate the stress of a strict Korean society.
St. Paul put it quite clearly in his letter to the Thessalonians 'For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night'. This is truly the truth. It is this time as Christians we need to be most vigilante. As a former alcoholic, I can tell you that the vast majority of my drinking took place at night, and sometimes till the early morning. When I worked at Gangnam (yes that Gangnam) it was no strange sight to see people stumbling out the bars at 8 a.m as I made my way to work.
I can assure you my mission to be a night street evangelist was no choice of mine. On at least 3 occasions I was asked to participate in street evangelism, but I cowered in fear of rejection. The one time I did go along, kind of by coercion, I was only able to ask one person one question and it had absolutely nothing to do with the gospel. This fear I had was suffocating to me and I couldn't square it with the fact that I Jesus literally speak to me in my room. This anxiety I knew was unbiblical and I felt like the world's worst Christians.
Fast forward 6 years into my walk with Christ. I had been praying for years for him to open the opportunity for me to serve, in any capacity. I wanted to use my gifts and I truly knew that he was preparing for my next step. As with almost anything in life I always had a few complaints with God: he never answered prayers in ways I liked or enjoyed, he virtually never paid any mind to any of my complaints. As a father now I can only imagine how much he protected me from and how many times he must have been rolling on the floor laughing from such idiotic and insane prayer requests. But when he did finally open that door and made it clear why I waited for so long and endured so much in the process.
The first few days I could get zero rest. My apartment was filthy and looked as though no one lived in there at least a year. I had to clean the whole apartment for a good 5 hours and also search for items, as there was nothing but one stand. The next night I futilely attempted to sleep, but I was so excited to be in this new place. I wanted to fast for at least week to lay a good foundation and I spent many hours walking up and down the streets. The Lord appointed several people to cross my path and it was a good first foot in the deep end of the pool.
The point of this blog is to really show a few things I have learned in my time as a believer. One, to truly, truly follow God, we must be absolutely, unequivocally ready to surrender everything and simply walk away. Salvation that will rock the world does not have strings attached, and neither should we when we get baptized in a symbolic act of death and Resurrection. Second, is that God can work anywhere, at anytime through anyone. Several times in the bible God used non-believers, and even animals. To think we are so righteous and holy in approaching God is not wise. Jesus himself said that God can raise rocks to follow him. TO be most effective we need to be ready and willing to serve in any capacity and extremely grateful that God would dare have the audacity to work with sinners like us! The more we think of ourselves as being
Quite simply put philosophy means the love of knowledge. Fittingly, my mission philosophy is the love of people One of the most profound and moving aspects of Christianity its its emphasis on love. Even when I was an atheist I had a very hard time to find nothing but respect for Jesus, even if I hated Christians and Christianity. This Jesus character was very, very hard to dislike.
While reading the gospel we can see a few simple facts about Jesus' idea of missions philosophy: he met people where they were and he met their needs. He used metaphors that people could relate to, and told stories that simply made it impossible not to be compelled by. He also fed people, healed their illness, and made their spiritual life his prime concern. This is what will always govern my work.
As a non- believe there was virtually nothing you could have said to get me into a church. I found church extremely boring and I would much rather be in a bar. I also could not stand Christians: they were judgmental, hypocritical and solely emphasized things that were convenient to them. Being in a missions field, I am constantly aware of my own baggage and how it could potentially be a source of a stumbling block in the life of a non believer.
The first person I got to minister to here is a prime example of all this. I was on a phone call and I saw him sit down behind me. As I saw him making calls I went over and bought him a coffee. The likelihood that he would not talk to me after that was about 0 percent. As we shared it I got to find out that he was Nepal and had a 5 year old son he was working to support. We instantly connected on this as my daughter was in Seoul, the capital.
After we talked for a while I got to invite him on a boat ride in a canoe. Again, after this kind of interaction, the likelihood he would have said no was getting smaller and smaller. We got to talk about life as a foreigner Korea and his job and so on. Later that week I got to come to his Indian restaurant where he was a cook. I later brought them some coffee and snacks. I have yet to invite him to church but the foundation for a friendship is absolutely primed. I plan on first inviting him to a non threatening skating park outreach that is being planned. I have laid the foundation with a friendship and the love of him he sees me will always be that of Jesus Christ!
Built in brokenness
, as ' oIf there is one thing I learned about my salvation it is a brutal honest truth that I am not good. As much as I would like to claim so, this is not the case. On one hand it brings about quite a depression to recognize this fact, and the other brings the greatest peace in the world that Christ loved me and died for me still knowing this about me- years before I did mind you. But like Paul, I recognize beyond doubt, that I am the greatest sinner. Paul never met me or I am sure he would recant.
Growing up in a minister's home I was quite assured of my righteousness. There were days I would go to church, give a dollar, raise my hands, jump, sing and dance. Check. Check. Check. I would ridicule others who did not live up to my standard, and I would ironically even do things like open my eyes during prayer so I could take note of those who were laughing or eyeing each other- Shakespeare himself could not create such irony.
As the years passed, I became exceedingly good at not only convincing others of this righteousness, but hiding that side that would remove all doubt there was anything close to truth to this delusion. I would routinely give sermons and hear, "Oh Isaiah, that was the best sermon I ever heard". "Yeah, that's right. God is so lucky to have someone like me", was my thought. As much as I would like to say this is a lie or exaggeration, it is the God's honest truth. If the truth is to be told, I did not have faith. I would look around and see people praising God, and couldn't relate to a single damned thing. I knew all the songs and stories, but I had no idea who this Jesus was. Even worse this was absolutely, positive 100 percent certainty that this facade was an obligation to get my parents approval.
As ministers I don't think they could have possibly understood the damage they were doing. As a parent now, I get their concern. But I learned to follow rules, and yet simultaneously living a double life, to make sure that approval was never lost. When I informed my mom I would go visit my cousin in Bible college, she immediately ran in the kitchen and called everyone saying, "Isaiah is going to bible college!". I never had or since seen her so excited or proud of me. Years later when I returned to bible college, she proudly proclaimed "Good, now I have something to brag about you again". The most brutal hatred of her and God was brewing in me and it was only a matter of time before it would spill over.
8 months into being at Bible college I was turned into an atheist. I had enough doubts growing up, that was always met with punishment or disapproval. Asking questions was not allowed and was meant with scorn, anger and a sense that I was being "disobedient" I wasn't, I just wanted to know logically why some things didn't add up. This doubt was permanently set in stone that freshman year as the professors werent able to answer many of my questions. But the nail in the cradle was when I heard Christians making fun of Clinton, mimicking "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" in an irritating southern drawl. They would also refer to the oval office as the "oral office". With so much sexual dysfunction in my own life, I knew these people would stone me alive if they knew about me. So I hid it again.
The story how I came to Christ and why I deconverted at the second Bible College is the topic of another blog. Suffice to say that after I left, I was filled with so much hatred of my parents, God and Christians, I literally told God, I WILL COMMIT SO MUCH BLASPHEMY, FORNICATION AND DRUG ABUSE YOU WILL NEVER. EVER BE ABLE TO FORGIVE ME". I got over 30 tattoos with all the major world religions, including Islam, Buddhism and Judaism a Egyptian mythology, drank as much alcohol as my stomach could handle-and many times not handle- and had a strict do-on-site policy of any drug that happened to come in front of me. The sexual immorality only grew worse and more twisted.
After I came to Christ many years later I was BEYOND furious. I questioned why he didn't reveal himself to me when I begged for faith to get my parents approval. Why did he allow me to get so brutalized by Christians and a desire to throw my immorality in their face. Why didn't he meet me when I made a sincere, honest attempt to go to bible college and accept him- twice. Worse, so much worse, was the regret I lived with. I had cheated on my wife and she left me. I spent my life in such a crazed, downward spiral, I ensured there was no future I would be able to live, and I fully planed on taking my own life. To top that all off, had to also try to undo the desire I had to get drunk and sleep with any woman who was willing.
Fast forward to 6 years into being a Christian. I fumbled, rumbled and stumbled. There were days, so many days, I absolutely, positively was assured I was not a Christian. Even though he saved me from the garbage truck wreck of a life, I frequently found myself so easily going back to my old actions and ways of thinking. This pig returned to his mud. Yet, that made that hate arise again. WHY DID YOU LET ME DO THIS. YOU VIRTUALLY ENSURED I WOULD GO SO FAR OUT OF MY WAY TO SIN YOU MADE IT TO NOW MY LIFE IS TOTALLY NON-REDEEMABLE. The distrust my wife also had for me after became reunited made that misguided and directed anger arise. One day, she would tell my daughter. I knew beyond any reasonable doubt that day would come. She already used it against me. And her insistence made me really want to give a reason to be so skeptical about the new me.
On the first week of my missions trip I had a 7 hour visit from the Holy Spirit. He showed me precisely how evil, sinful and full of pride I truly was. He showed me for a season he let me go off on my own thoughts, power and will. He showed me beyond any doubt, why I had been so unsuccessful and able to truly make an impact, besides great efforts on my part. If there was any hope of us working together, I had to fully, wholeheartedly and unequivocally acknowledge it is God 100 percent, Isaiah 0. My desire to give 1, 5, 10 or 20 percent was putting me in the position I was in. This revelation changed my life.
This was simultaneously the worse and best thing he could have done to me. I saw how futile it was for me to lead my walk, and how reliant on him I actually was. I have so much more to write about this in the future, but I can say beyond doubt the following:
1. My contributions are worthless and I will ALWAYS return to the vomit.
2. Without his illumination I will blame others, and refuse all responsibility.
3. My good actions are even done with improper intent.
4. Looking to others sins to make myself feel better from this reality only puts me further and further from him.
5. As long as I fail to grasp this, I will only turn people further off to both me and him.
There's so much to write, but this will come a later day. I am only sharing how this has affected me and started to turn my life around just by the recognition. I know beyond any doubt now that there was a reason why I was allowed to stray away on the short lease he did give me. Now I was able to relate to all those immoral souls I once cast judgment and abuse on. Now I knew the power of his hand to undo the filth I created, and give me a sense of peace I could never find. The great peace maker has brought healing, forgiveness and restoration that has given me so much love and appreciation and I will never roam again!
It is an extremely difficult and sometimes uncomfortable reality that pain is a mandatory investment for progress. The Israelis wandered for decades in the desert so their descendants not only would later live in the land of promise, but also had cautionary tales of their error and rebellion. The prophets who later reached those generations, were abused, mocked and even killed to pave the way for Christ. And when the savior himself came, he served as the ultimate sacrifice of atonement for humanity.
The story of missionaries of the world is an inspiring and convicting tale of suffering. To those Christians living in first world prosecutions it can be an unrelatable honor. But Paul the apostle gave the ultimate word of advice when he declared. " Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church". To think we can/should avoid pain, suffering and even persecution is illogical when all those who paved the way did the same. It is in fact a disservice to ourselves, and a dishonor to all those who have paved the way for the gospel to pierce our very hearts.
Nearly 200 years ago Robert Jermain Thomas laid down his life in love for the Koreans of the Joseon epoch. His sacrifice of blood would later fertilize the futile tree that would see South Korea transformed from an impenetrable fortress, to one of the largest Christian populations. To this day the gift has been paid forward as Korea is a world leader in the field of missionaries sent abroad. In addition, the great Pyongyang revival of 1907 would not have been remotely possible without the dedication and perseverance of the spiritual giants who blazed the way in selfless toil which transplanted laborers far from their mother lands to the fields of harvest.
Numerous Koreans were praying for a revival in 2007, to mark the 100 year anniversary which saw the current stalinist North Korean. The DPRK capital referred to as the "Jerusalem of the East" was transformed from the land of decadence, only to be reclaimed by the missionaries of Satan. However, many were dismayed when a group of Korean missionaries were kidnapped and the head pastors given the gift of martyrdom. God rest the souls of Bae Hyeong-gyu and Shim Seong-mi. This ironically was seen as a sign of failure, even though the road paved before this gospel was forged in the heart of the fire of persecution. The seeds which were germinated, now are springing to life in the wave of hardships throughout the world.
In studying the revival of the past, there is a truth that we can learn beyond any doubt: progress begins with confession. Several of the prominent pioneers of the society changing culture began with simple acts of confession (Robert Hardie and Graham Lee), that lasted for several days and led to inspiration of others. In addition, many who had wrong others not only confessed, but also sought atonement in making rights of the wrongs. An emphasis on justice of our sins must be forefront in any change. When Isaiah commended a certain fast to be heard from God (Isaiah 58) he spoke of easing the yoke of oppression and injustice. Easing the pain of the world through sharing of our food and shelter must be factored into the equation which has created the apathy that requires revival.
Additionally, we must we remember a spiritual truth taught by Christ when proclaiming the church to be built on the rock of Peter, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Gates indicate defense and it is an absolute truth that as uncomfortable of a reality as it is, spiritual rulers inhabit this world. They have delayed messages from heaven (Daniel), postponed progress (Paul) and even tormented (Jesus). To truly see this revival occur, a reliance on God, the holy spirit must be prevalent. As Christians we are positively helpless to these principalities and we created as lower beings. Self reliance will produce zero fruit in this battle. A steady diet of humility and reliance on God will nurture our body for this spiritual battle.
Finally, for revival to stick and spread, a deep look inward is needed to break from our own sin. In the book of Acts on two separate occasions, (Act 16:16-2119:23-41) Paul and the apostles were actually affecting the local economies. Both in the case of the fortune teller and the silversmith, their immoral profitterings were directly damaged. The same events were mirrored in the revivals of the past when people stopped going to bars and visiting establishments of fornication. For this to truly make a lasting impact, as believers we must repent and relent of our sins of indulgence of the flesh. In 2 of the most Christian nations in the world, pornography, alcohol abuse, and an indlugence of materialism and nationalism reign supreme. For God’s hand to rule with righteousness, a forsaking of all that hinders us must be placed at the foot of the cross.
The revival of 1907 did not stop the long arm of colonial oppression of Japan that followed. A mere 2 years after, Korea was formally annexed and would remain a colony for the decades to come. The outbreak of Christianity, did, however, give many believers the strength to endure the atrocities and captivity of the oppressors. The apostle Peter, who was also a martyr, proclaimed in his first epistle,” it is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil”. So in the pain of trial and battling the worst enemy we will ever face- ourselves and flesh- let us rest in the comfort of Christ who suffered for giving us the ultimate gift of Salvation. Amen.
The first week
I received the call to serve God on 5-16-2014 in the USA. As I sat patiently (and impatiently) over the next 6 years I grew more and more eager to get into the field. I asked God for a sign on my 6th year anniversary, and he did not disappoint! After 2 weeks of tying loose ends, I made my way to Mokpo, Korea with borrowed money, while leaving my wife and baby in Seoul, till I could secure more support.
Several times in those 6 years I was asked multiple times to participate in street evangelism. I positively, enthusiastically denied every time. I felt my calling was to write, teach and preach from behind a pulpit or computer. When I was asked to walk to streets here, I thought, "This person really does not know my spiritual gifts". But, the seed was planted!
It has been my desire to share my faith... but I had not the faith to do so! I have cowered at the unorthodox nature of my testimony (hearing from Jesus Christ, seeing into spiritual realms, experiencing miracles). Additionally, like both Paul and Moses, I highly doubted I had the ability to lead anyone to Christ because of inability to articulate my faith. But the Saturday before I left things would take an abrupt, unexpected change.
I can't explain it with words, but a "governor" was taken off of me, which was severely limiting my ability to have faith, go forward and have any major break throughs or serve to advance his kingdom. That day as a I spent some final moments with my wife, the Holy Spirit ministered to me for several hours. I had felt his presence cover me for several minutes in the past few years, but this was a tsunami. He showed me how he had been preparing me for this exact moment, and assured me he was going before me!
The last 13 months had been the worst year of my life... by far. 5 months I was subjected to the misery of the abuse of an alcoholic man I had brought from the USA to help with medical treatment. His disregard for my family, business and mental and physical health lead me to really start to question why I was attempting to do good. Almost right after he left, I got a sickness upon me that lasted 2 months and I was certain I would not live as I was unable to stand for a month and would routinely experience more pain in a 24 hour period that my whole life combined. Just as soon as I recovered corona virus happened. these three events left me with zero money, hope or direction on to where I would go, until God showed up!
As I arrived and got to my room I found that it was beyond filthy, just as Christ found me! There were bugs, trash and a build up of dirt every where. As I cleaned my room for the next 4 hours, I searched surrounding apartments to find some additional bedding that I might use (Koreans love to put things out for others to use!). As I walked the streets I started to pray over this land, these apartments and everyone in them! I started to proclaim healing over this land and the power of Jesus to reclaim this territory for him, as he is the one who created it! I prayed for the reunification of North and South Korea, just as the Lord had reunited me and my wife!
I didn't sleep at all that night and was positively certain id be beyond tired the next night. As I laid in bed I had an uneasiness in my spirit. I had intended to go on a 10 or 40 day fast if God permitted to set a solid foundation here. Usually, I need 3 days of resisting hunger to get into the flow, and then my hunger seems to disappear. This was different! Since I started I did not feel the slightest sensation of hunger for 5 days! Even though it was 2 a.m and I had not slept for over 30 hours, I could find no rest and peace of mind! I got up, and started to search my way around.
I found a bunch of drunk foreigners in their 20's. I started to make small talk and just thought about how that used to me. I overheard some ungodly talk, and just remembered being that lost and certain I knew everything there was to know. As I left my new friends, I ran into another couple. They saw my tattoos and asked about them, and it opened the door to share my story. I got "Juche" (주체) tattooed on my right hand, while in Joppa, Israel (where Jonah fled God). I later counter balanced it with 5-16 on my left wrist, which was the day Jesus Christ spoke to me and changed my whole existence. I got to share my story of reunification with my wife and pictures of my beautiful daughter Leah.
As soon as I left my new friends, I ran into three young attractive college students drinking alcohol, who spoke incredible English. They offered me a drink, but I declined. In another life time I would have happily drank, and been only interested in getting one of them in my bed. in this life time, i just wanted to see them in church! I got to tell them about my alcoholic past. How I spent my honeymoon in a tub of my vomit for 40 minutes because I was too drunk to crawl out. I got to share with them how much Jesus Christ saved my life, and how grateful I am to them. And just as quick as we exchanged information, I realized my calling as a night street evangelist!
Over the next few days I got to share and talk to so many people. Each night I was convinced his would be the night I got to sleep, but that was not the case! I got to tell so many people how much Jesus Christ loved them, and how much his love made me love them! I got to buy snacks and shine and radiate for him. The last day of my fast, I used the last 10 dollars in my account to go eat a meal with a cook, who I met the first night I was there. As I left that place, I just had to share how much I loved the owner and both those cooks. With my account having 4/10ths of 1 cent in it, my mouth was almost frozen into place from the smile I could no even attempt to hide.
The next day something happened that I did not even think was possible. Because I broke my fast, I was determined to sleep. I was tired and I just wanted a good nights rest. But once again, there would be none of that. I left out of obedience and prayed like I never prayed before. I cried out for God to hear me, and allow me to show his love to these people. I walked all along the coast to the end of the town and all the way back again, sharing with anyone I could. During this time, I vowed to consecrate my life to him. I vowed to give over all those parts I had been holding on to. Whether it was the secret sins of the heart, mind and hands, or my desire to dictate how he should peruse salvation of this world AND my life. His spirit descended on me for 7 straight hours and he illuminated his plan for this world and for me.
As I got back home I was on a spiritual high that I have never felt before. As I walked in the door I turned on the computer. Over the next 20 minutes, God would confirm what she showed me BACK TO BACK TO BACK TO BACK through people messaging me through Facebook. I knew beyond any doubt his spirit was alive, and active and preparing me for this next step. I thank you Jesus and pray I am the best servant you called me to be so I can live up to your spirit of evangelism and love, hitting these streets to the early hours and sharing your love all along the way.
Isaiah Perez- father, husband, world citizen, servant of the most high.