Testimonies

This is where we shall add personal testimonies for now.

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My testimony

Life provides us with so much wonder. God feels just as cruel as He does wonderful. I’ve spent so much time struggling to do it my way I sometimes forget how much he wants me to live an extraordinary life. I forget how the struggle is meant to forge us into the men and women who fill His kingdom. My hurts are not my own; they belong at the feet of God so His hands can lift me up without mine clinging to what we can’t control. I forget this. I forget that it does not matter I have metal in my head. I didn’t let a too-thick skull steal my years away. He didn’t let being born without a soft spot prevent me from finding the words to share with others. He didn’t let my attempt at suicide halt His purpose in my life. He wouldn’t let me trek to the deepening darkness without his righteous lifeline to pull me back to safety. When I hated Him, He let me. And when my energies were spent and I was too tired to fight anymore, He reminded me He’d been there all along. When I learned my wife didn’t love me enough and wanted things I could not accept, He wouldn’t let me completely surrender to despair. When my grandmother, who battled cancer and Alzheimers, looked at me without confusion and told me she knew me, I felt Him. When she told me I have a bright spirit, that I’ll do great things, I felt Him. When I cursed Him for taking those I loved from me, He waited patiently. When I ran from it, He never turned His love from me. When I got knocked down again and again, when my stubborn pride tried to push my body back to my feet, He was there to give me His hand. When I wept, His arms covered me. He paid all so I could endure. He paid all so I could have a lifeline to grace. This is my testimony: a series of whens that always lead back to Him. I stumble and find my way somewhere in the wrong direction. But, when I raise my heart to Him and lower my knees to the cross, He’s always there, ready to lead me home. Maybe that’s been the point all along.

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Emmanuel’s testimony

As I sat down to write this, I wondered, exactly, what was my testimony. Had I come far enough and walked enough with God for my words to mean something? Was I spiritual enough? Was I honest enough?
But these are all questions about me. Our testimony is not solely for us. It is for others to hear and others to experience. And I pray to the Lord Jesus Christ that through the Holy Sprit this testimony will minster to both my Christian family and those who do not yet know Christ.
As you read this, you may, like me, notice how the Bible has a story and message for every one of us. It is a rich book, but these are not just stories. They mirror our own lives, our own choices. The Word of God has a message for every single one of you. I pray that God show you the one He has for you. 
My testimony, like many, is the one we find in Jesus’ the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I want to start with a passage from the Word because, for so long, I made decisions and started things without consulting God’s word and His will.  In Luke 15, let’s look at 11-16 (NIV):
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

In July of 2016, I set off from my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, to a small island in the prefecture of Ehime, Japan. I had loved Japan ever since I was a child and my dream was to live here. But there was something greater than just mere adventure; I wanted to help share the Gospel in a country that, affluent in wealth and convenience, had a Christian population of less than 1 percent. This country I had come to know and love, who my friends hailed from, had a crucial need for Christ. If someone you love is in need, do you merely stand by or help that need? 
1 John 3:17-18 (ESV) says, ”But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Yes, I came to Japan out of love. It was also my first time living alone as an adult and, with dirt cheap rent, made considerable money. Instead of using it wisely, I squandered most of it. I enjoyed taking trips and going to events across Japan, but I often spent too much. Alcohol and chasing women. It was always the women that got me most. I burned with lust, uncontrollable lust. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says ” So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Instead, I did all for the glory of my satisfaction. My money went into drunkness and debauchery. 
I never truly ‘forgot’ about God, but I did turn away from Him. In America, I had been a regular guy, shy, not very good with women. I was always holding back, afraid to be myself. Now, here in a foreign country, I had become cool and popular just by being a foreigner. I felt like a rock star. At last, I was ‘somebody.’ I wasn’t a loser anymore.
Or so I thought. I felt very lost. I felt empty. I knew I needed to turn back to God, but it felt unnatural.I didn’t want to give up my lifestyle. This was the beginning of my ‘famine’ that the prodigal son tasted. I had money, I had an easy life, a stable job, the means to travel. But inside my spiritual life was empty.
I spent 2 years in Ehime then moved to a city near Hiroshima, where years ago a destroyed city once burnt in cinders. It was here, in a place now so dedicated to peace that one of its roads was named ‘Peace Boulevard’ that I also experienced a new type of peace: New Age spirituality. I had dabbled in Gnosticism and other paths in my past, but found them to be lacking to the fullness of Christ. But now, having turned away from God, I found myself open to new ideas again.
Many of you may be aware of the Law of Attraction. It has followers here in Japan, too. For those of you who don’t know, I’ll give you a brief explanation. The Law says that everything is made out of energy and that our universe is not so much decided as it is a sea of possibility. If all is possibility, then anything can be changed. The human mind has the ability to, if it focuses on and affirms it continuously, change reality and attract the desires of the heart.  There is a lot of talk of aligning frequencies, positive thinking, and following the heart, and awakening our godly selves.
Many of my Christian brothers and sisters may see how a lot of this goes against God, but I’ll go into that later. 
Still unhappy with myself and, frankly, in bad financial need, I knew I needed to change my life and change myself. A friend introduced me to a free online course about the Law of Attraction. He said it had changed his life. He knew it would change mine, too. The online course, on the surface, was good. It talked about gratitude being one of the most important things in life; being grateful not despite bad circmstances, but because of bad circmstances, as even rough times have valuable lessons. I learned how to love myself, how to be thankful for everything, and what I could have in this world. I was smart, funny, multi-talented. Through my friend’s suggestion, I decided to be a star in Japan. I wanted to be famous, to get into entertainment.  I got into radio and started to put my signature voice on the air. I was getting more and more popular. 
I was introduced to a spiritual medium at one point. She had the ability to read chakra. Chakra are points of energy aligned along the spine. When spinning healthily, we are balanced emotionally, physically, and spiritually and become our ‘god selves.’ When chakra do not spin well, we become unbalanced in all areas of our lives and descend into our animal natures. The chakra reading I received said that I had a healing voice, that it would make me famous. According to her, I had lived in Japan in a former life and was here again to help teach the people of Japan with a message of hope and spiritual freedom.
…sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Sounds like the Gospel.
At last, things had come full circle! I knew my pupose again. Through spirituality, I would use my voice and bring light to the country I loved. After all, it’s why I originally came. 
At this point, I’d begun to, as Luke 15:15 says, sell myself out to a foreign country. I don’t mean Japan, but a kingdom different than that of God’s. Quite frankly, it was Satan’s domain. 
It is all too easy to be lured away when we aren’t rooted. That is how Satan works. 2 Corinthians 11: 14 warns us ”For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” (KJV)
He always appears an an angel of light, saying the right words, sometimes quoting scripture directly, to pull us away from the true Word. We are amazed when faced with mediums and marvel at their miracles, but the Bible warns that such ‘powers’ are the mere work of demons. Had I been rooted, I would have tested the spirits. I did not. 
1 John 4:1 (ESV) states, ”Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
From there, my life changed drastically. I grew confident for the first time in my life. I started meeting people who opened me up to many opportunities. Wonderful miracles happened. I wrote how I wanted my life to turn out in a notebook every day; I got what I wanted.
After 6 months, I moved to Osaka, a big metropolis. I moved here because I wanted to get big in entertainment and gain life experience. I found another radio station, started working at a bar, got further into spirituality. I started visiting shrines and temples. At this time, I had made friends with many spiritual people; they taught me about dragons, that they were powerful beings that guided us and gave us power. I meditated and chanted to contact my own dragon. The miracles increased, the chance meetings increased, to almost once a week.
It had come to a point where I proclaimed “I was once a Christian, but not anymore.” But the more I said that, the more unsettled I felt. In new age spirituality, I experienced far more personal freedom, confidence, riches, and miracles than I ever had serving God. If this was a true path, though, why did I feel so uneasy?
There is a fundamental problem with New Age spirituality. Regardless of whether the Law of Attraction is true or not, its very fatal flaw is that it encourages us to attract the desires of OUR heart, through OUR will and OUR power.  Jeremiah 17: 9 says ”The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”The world gives us the worst advice: follow your heart. Why follow what fluctuates? God’s will should be paramount. It is in Him that we live, move, and even exist…not through our own power. Every good and perfect thing comes from above. It is a grave mistake to think that all we have is a result of our power alone.
Although I cannot pinpoint when, I started feeling uncomfortable with my spiritual life. I had even said before others “I used to be Christian” or ”I’m not Christian anymore.” But somewhere inside it felt like betrayal; the feeling would not leave. In early October, the other author of this blog, someone I consider both friend and brother, sent me a message that, simple as it was, left me unsettled. It unsettled me because it brought into the light the doubts I was having about New Age. 
”I think we need to return to Operation Torchlight.” That was all he said. Yet, it made all the difference. I told him that my zeal for God had gone; indeed, I had almost ceased to believe in the Judeo-Christian God. My friend and brother was troubled, deeply so, and I could feel the sorrow in his words alone. Our worst fear had come true: my foray into Japan had turned into apostasy. He told me to remember my purpose and my vows…and I did. And, I did not like it. I was furious, enraged because what I felt had been brought out into the light and I was forced to stare at it.  I hated to remember; I hated to turn back to God because I felt like all the riches, popularity, and miracles that were happening would vanish.
But more than that, I felt the person I’d become, a confident man who’d built his identity from the roots of New Age, would vanish. Who would I be after that? The same loser I was back in the US? That was what frightened me most. 
Eventually, New Age spirituality started to dissolve before me. Disillusionment set in. The ‘awakened master’ who had read my chakra and told me my purpose in life had went from a caring mother figure to a woman who saw people as dollar amounts into her coffers. The visions and prophecies told to me from spiritual acquaintances sometimes never happened, or were so far off the mark, or so ambiguous that no matter what happened they couldn’t be proved right or wrong. The certainty we have in Christ, the clear words we have in the Bible…these are severely lacking in New Age. And of course, considering the belief that all is possibility, that good and evil do not exist, that absolutes are few, it made Christ’s sacrifice nothing but a waste of life. 
Try as I might to find a synthesis betweenGod’s word and the path I’d walked under the eaves of Buddhism, Shintoism, and New Age, they could not coincide in harmony. Even when there was overlap, the cornerstone of our faith, the divinity of Christ and the need for His sacrifice, was missing. 
My friends, it’s easy and feels good to say that all paths lead us to God. That we don’t need to get caught up in rules. That our free will is proof that we can live life our way, based on the wisdom of our souls, the pressings of out heart, what feels right and just. But the truth, actually, is much simpler.
You are with Him or not. And there is no other name under Heaven by which a man may be saved other than Jesus Christ. There are rules, there are absolutes, and we have the will to follow them or not. 
There was one more thing, however, keeping me from committing fully to the Father, and that was a relationship I’d started in December of 2019. While doing this testimony, I debated if I should even mentioning this part. But I believe God wants me to share it, for people similar to me. 
God is a jealous God, and He would have no other god before Him. But we worship creation when the Creator offers us ”fullness of joy.” For me, my desire to have a partner was so great that, truthfully, it outweighed my desire for God. Adding to this, she was not Christian. I felt torn between her and God; though she herself never pressured me or tried discouraging my faith, I feared our differences in belief would tear us apart one day.
I will spare the details about what transpired between us, but it was differences in how we dated and what we valued that put enmity between us. She broke up with me in the end, and in the aftermath, it left me with the freedom to devote my heart and time to God without a conflicted heart.
And that is where I’m at now.
God puts eternity into the heart of everyone, but only He can fill it. And only Christ can bridge us to the Father. You can find happiness in a relationship, but not eternal joy. We are broken, fallen creatures and no person, no amount of money, no fulfilled dream, can fill the space God reserved in your heart for His presence. I have followed New Age, done rituals, and studied how to bend reality to my will.
It left me still wanting. My friends, all you ever want and all you ever need can be found in the One who saves and redeems. Trust in Jesus. If you can’t, just try Him.

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