Thursday, August 28, 2014

Respecting the Resurrection

Summary of Evidence For The Resurrection
By: Rachael Prescott

“The resurrection is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless, hoaxes ever cultivated on the minds of human beings or it is the most miraculous fact of history.” (Josh McDowell)  Few people, including Christians, seem to realize that the resurrection of Jesus in the cornerstone of a worldview that provides the perspective to all of life.  No matter what tragedies we face, the resurrection gives us the promise of a future of limitless good.  Our wildest dreams of peace, love and harmony can be fulfilled because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The resurrection is the fulfillment of our most basic need for hope, security and relationships.  What happened to Christ can happen for us.  Like Him, we will die, but His resurrection is a promise that we can have eternal life. Death is not the end. 

With the resurrection all prophecies of the Messiah, told in the Old Testament, were fulfilled.  This in and of itself is incredible!  The chance of just one of those prophecies being fulfilled is like covering the whole state of Texas with quarters 3 feet high and tossing one quarter with a red dot on it somewhere into the pile.   Then send someone in to find that one quarter with the red mark on it and only give them one chance to get it correct.  That is impossible!!

I think I take the resurrection for granted.  The resurrection is a serious part of what I believe but I don’t think I appreciate it enough or understand the gravity of what it means for me as a Christian.  Am I really thankful for what Jesus did for me 2000 years ago or do I just go through the motions?  Do I just use it as insurance to do whatever I want to do? Sure, we have freedom in Christ, but that doesn’t mean the freedom to sin.  Sometimes I find myself caught in the middle of sin or contemplating to sin and think, “Oh, God will forgive me.”  That’s such a bad way to think.  But, that’s the way I treat the resurrection sometimes.  How do I stop?  Now, I don’t do it as often as I did when I was younger but the fact that I still do it is a big problem.

My spirit and flesh are in constant battle with one another.  My spirit knows what is the right thing to do but my flesh wants to live for the moment and not live with the hope of the promised future that comes from the resurrection.  We are called to freedom but when we sin we become a slave to the law.  The secret to this battle can be found in Galatians 5 and it is learning to “walk by the Spirit.”

When I live in the Spirit of God or dwell in Him, I allow the Spirit to control me by keeping my heart happy in God.  How do I do that?  Well, doing things like taping scripture, or the promises of God in the area’s I am the most (home and work) can help me meditate on those promises while I work.  These promises can help lure me away from guilt, fear, and greed and remind me of the significant sacrifice of the resurrection.  The fight of faith is fought with the promises of God. 

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” ~Galatians 5:13

Monday, August 25, 2014

North Korea: A Prison of Darkness

"No nation should be a prison for it's own people." ~George W Bush.

     Recently I went on a USO DMZ tour to Panmunjom, South Korea.  It was very informational and really encouraging to see how eager the United Nations is about having the 2 Koreas unite as one peninsula.  This is also a passion I have developed for the Korean Peninsula since my arrival to Korea in February 2013.  In the past year and a half my eyes have been open to the incredible acts of injustice that are being done to the citizens of North Korea.  Before I came to Korea I just thought N. Korea was a communist country and communism was bad but didn’t really understand why. 

     My naïve thinking about communism that I obtained during my K-12 education was completely wrong.  Communism does not promote equality in a fair way.  In fact, communism eliminates freedom all together.  Citizens of communist countries do not have freedom of expression, freedom from torture, freedom to travel, or freedom from hunger.  For the World Cup in 2010, North Korean soccer players were allowed to participate but the minute they were eliminated from the competition they were told to come back to North Korea or their family members would all be “punished” if they didn’t return. 

     Next year is the 70-year anniversary of the division in Korea.  I believe that similar my experience before arriving to Korea, people around the world do not know enough about the problems in North Korea.  There is plenty of information out there but the problem is that it isn’t reaching enough people who will fight to end the oppression and injustice that goes on in N. Korea. 

     In a study conducted of 122 refugees (2008-2009) by the University of North Korean Studies under the direction of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, 76% of refugees reported witnessing public executions in N. Korea, 46% reported that there was no food distribution, 58% reported witnessing people die of starvation.  The UN’s World Food Programme states that one in every three children in North Korea remains malnourished.  It’s not that N. Korea doesn’t have the money to buy food for its people; it’s that it chooses to spend the money on weapons under its “military first policy.” 

     North Koreans suffer from severe lack of freedoms.  The economic operations are firmly controlled.  Education and health care are among the poorest in the world.  Going against the government in anyway -large or small- could end someone in a prison camp.  Many prisoners never learn what exactly their crimes are.   The government’s guilty-by-association policy means that a person’s entire family may be sent to a prison camp for the “crime” of an individual. 
     Radio Broadcasts are tightly secured and monitored by the government in an attempt to brainwash its people.  Still, North Korean citizens have been able to get broadcast outside of North Korea, mostly through government-issued radios that have been tampered with or on radios smuggled into the country.  As more and more N. Koreans learn the truth about the outside world, they are compelled to leave and find freedom.  The increased availability of outside information has changed the people’s perception of their country and its leaders.  They realize they are being brainwashed.  It’s causing the people to depend on themselves rather than the government for sustenance.  It’s a slow but steady change.  The collapse of Korea could happen internally because of this awareness that is being obtained. 

     North Korean refugees have officially settled in 23 countries.  27,000 refugees live in S. Korea and another 2,000 live in other countries all over the world.  According to South Korea’s constitution, refugees that escape from North Korea are official citizens of South Korea and therefore are safe if they make it there.  The Chinese, however, abuse refugees that escaped into China before sending them back.  Around 15,000 a year get sent back from China.  Once back they usually end up in one of the prison camps where they are hung and beaten as a public spectacle.  Sometimes they will even jump on pregnant women.  Escaping to China is easier than escaping to South Korea so more refuges seek out the Chinese route as the South Korean boarder is extremely well guarded. 

     As human beings we were created to have freedom.  God, the Creator of all heaven, earth and everything in it, including mankind, gave mankind the freedom to choose a relationship with Him.  We were not created as robots that are forced to serve, love, worship, and honor God.  He gave us the freedom to choose whether or not we wanted to do so.  

     If God does not force mankind into a relationship with Him then who do these dictators think they are that demand things of people, taking away their God given freedom to live the way they choose.   People are loosing their lives in an attempt to escape for freedom, and they think it is worth it.  The idea of freedom gives them hope.  The desire to have something so many thankless people around the world have, gives them courage to risk their lives. They would rather risk losing their lives to find freedom than live captive in a land of unjust bondage and torture. Let me say that again, THEY RISK THEIR LIVES FOR FREEDOM!!!!!  The idea of death does not stop them.

     When was the last time WE were thankful for freedom?  When was the last time WE were thankful for even that snack we ate between meals because it was just there in front of us and looked appealing to eat, even though we may not have been hungry at the time.  I’m not writing this to make people feel guilty.  I’m writing this because there are bigger issues in the world that I want to encourage people with power and resources to stand up for.  If you are American, regardless of your economic status, you have both of these.  Europeans, Australians, South Koreans and some of my other friends around the world, you aren’t exempt either.

     I’m so tired of hearing “sensitive Americans,” in their “comfortable bubble,” complain about things that really don’t matter.  If you want to complain about something I beg you, complain about this or other injustices around the world.  Adopt an orphan, or give up going out a few times a month and give the money to charity.  Give up your lavish vacation and go on a mission trip, or sell everything, leave America and go to another country to help with the need.  Don’t be afraid and don’t let the “what-ifs” stop you!

     One person can do unbelievable things but they cannot change the world alone.  If mankind would work together we could impact such greater change, the change I believe every human being, deep within, past all selfishness, pride, and vanity, truly wants to see.  It’s not too late!  There is still hope!  You are not dead and that means you can still do something!  Even if you have small children you can do something!  A friend of mine, who just had a baby earlier this year, is moving to Thailand as a missionary.  Don’t let life stop you from fulfilling your desire to make a difference, even if that means making a difference where you are at. 

“You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with finer spirit of hope and achievement.  You are here to enrich the world.” ~Woodrow Wilson

If you would like more information about the injustice in North Korea or how you can help, here is a link from the Justice For North Korea website.

 North Korea at night from NASA Satellite.

 My friend and I standing on the N. Korean side of the DMZ.

 The bridge of no return.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why I Left Facebook

Facebook is supposed to be a place for "friends" to share life and keep in contact with one another but it's not working.  I’m not really sure what sorts of friends watch their friends from a distance without ever saying one word to them.  Those are more like stalkers in my opinion.  Maybe Facebook should change the word “friends” to “stalkers.”  That would make it more realistic.  Stalkers watch people from a distance and assume they know everything about that person, when in reality, they know nothing. 

So I took a break from Facebook, about a 6-week break.  Maybe some of you noticed, maybe you didn’t.  It was nice, wonderful actually.  I really enjoyed it.  I had more time for things.  The first week I was off Facebook, I was the happiest I had been in a long while.  People who noticed I wasn’t on Facebook sent me emails or messages to ask what happened to me.  When I told them I wanted a break but still wanted to keep in touch, they stayed in touch.  They sent me pictures and encouraging words via other social media outlets.  I felt cared for, loved again by people I haven’t seen in over a year.

In my month off Facebook, one thing I realized is how easy it is for people to see what is going on in my life without even saying one word.  They can quietly come to my page without me knowing, see everything I have been doing via photos, and then when they finish, assume I’m doing great when in all actuality I wasn’t.  If they wanted to make their presence known, maybe they would like a picture.  If I was lucky, they would write a comment on that picture. 

You see, for the past several months, life has been overwhelming.  Being a single with no family in a country halfway across the world from them, with friends I’ve only made and had for a year if I’m lucky hasn’t really helped.  I really need my support back home, but it’s not there.   Don’t get me wrong, these friends I have made in Korea are great, but they come and go like a revolving door because that’s just how the foreign community in Korea works.  On top of that, Korea works people to death so there is no time to encourage friends here.

My dad was diagnosed with cancer. I have been working 50+ hours a week without overtime pay while dealing with other crazy work drama. I had frustrations with relationships some were able to be saved, some didn’t make it, and one….well…’s still in the works and I’m praying it survives.  I’m about to loose one of my closest friendships in Korea with 6 months left here.  On top of all this I’m really struggling with making a decision about what to do when my time in Korea ends. These issues just skim the surface of everything else.  For being a city with over 10 million people, it really is a lonely place. 

It’s easy to put up a false persona on Facebook because people only want to hear about the good things.  The problem with this is we think everyone’s life is perfect which depresses us even more (because we are Facebook stalkers, not friends).  We don’t want to read about peoples depressing life but then, when all we read are peoples good things, we are depressed because we are comparing what everyone else has with ourselves.

I plan on going off Facebook forever. The only reason I’m back on is because I left without saying goodbye.  There may be people who do want to keep in touch but only have Facebook contact information for me (and there are some pictures I have been wanting that I only have saved on Facebook so I had to sign on to get them.)

Here are ways you can get in direct contact with me once I get off facebook:

Google Hangout
My blog

If you would like to know how you could reach me on one of these social media outlets please individually message me and I will share that contact information with you.  I really do want to stay connected with the people I love, but I want it to be healthy, and I don’t think Facebook is a healthy way to stay connected.  I’m not really sure when I will go off Facebook again, but I won’t stay on for long.

Let me add one final thing, for those of you who have sent me letters, care packages, and sweet messages, I appreciate you more than you will ever know.  Your love came right at the perfect time and I thank you.  May God bless you for your kindness and friendship.

(Side Note: This post also applies to me.  I'm referring to myself as a "stalker."  Reading this post again it sounds like I'm attacking my Facebook friends.  I have had many keep in touch via Facebook and I am grateful for them.  They are probably better at keeping contact than I am myself.)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Quitting Game

Summary of Basic Christianity: By Rachael Prescott

            I’m a quitter.  When things get to difficult, or I don’t feel like I’m being loved or treated fairly, I quit.  I’ve never had a problem with being a quitter.  After all, what use is all the stress and mistreatment?  I deserve better than this right?  I’ll just move on to the next thing, screw this.  Well, I’ve been convicted of this big time, recently.  (Especially because I have the desire to be married and be a missionary, two things you really shouldn’t quit whenever you feel like it.) 

A couple months ago I read a quote that said something like, if you quit something prematurely, to move on to the next thing, you might miss out on a blessing and may not be prepared for the next stage of life.  That quote really resonated with me, even made me cry.  It made me think about all the times that I know I missed out on a blessing because I quit something prematurely.  I also believe that this is one of the reasons I’m currently in Korea and not Brazil. 

            I have always had a “free-bird” mentality, ready to fly whenever I feel like it.  I hate feeling trapped.  For the past couple of months, and even now as I write this, I have a desire to quit Korea, quit LTM, quit preparing to be a missionary, and just move somewhere else.  I feel trapped by all of these things, like I’m a puppet on display and all of these things are pulling my strings, forcing me to act the way they want me too.  This desire to run has been with me all my life, from the moment I began to crawl according to my parents.  The one thing I’m starting to notice however is I always run into the same problems I had before, just with new people and in a new place.  The cycle continues to repeat itself because the only solution I’ve tried for fixing my problems is running.  Granit, God has met me in my running, and helped me change some things, but the basic problems of relating to others haunts me with each new place I’ve lived. 

            OK, so what does this have to do with Basic Christianity?  Well, nothing, until I got to Chapter 9, Counting the Cost. I’ve read this book and several with a similar theme so many times and TBH, was not thrilled to be reading it but I did.  I decided God has me reading it again for a reason so I should pay attention.  John Stott says,

“The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict,
half-built towers, the ruins of those who began to build and were
unable to finish.  All too many people still ignore Christ’s warning
and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the
cost of doing so.  The result is the great scandal of so-called nominal
Christianity.  In countries to which Christian civilization has spread,
large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent,
but thin, veneer of Christianity.  They have allowed themselves to
become a little bit involved enough to be respectable but not enough
to be uncomfortable.  Their religion is a great, soft cushion.  It protects
them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place
and shape to suit their convenience.  No wonder cynics complain of
hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.”

I was immediately convicted to repent.  I realized that for me, quitting is actually a sin.  How many non-Christians have I impacted in a negative way with my “nominal Christianity” I wondered?  I need to trust God and deny myself of the freedom to run just because things are difficult.  I need to work through my conflicts because through them, I grow into the person God created me to be.  This doesn’t mean I’ll be a doormat, it just means I need to “deny myself of myself.”

            I don’t want to be a missionary that does things halfway.  I don’t want to quit on people that need to know the loving and saving grace of God the Father before they get to that point.  I don’t want to be a mom that quits on her children or a wife that quits on her husband.  I want to do the best I can to raise my children to love the Lord and love doing His work.  I don’t want those I introduce to God, including my children, to have only a “decent, thin, veneer of Christianity.”  I want them to fall deep into the knowledge of who God is and His purpose for their lives.  How can I do this if I’m not even doing it myself?  How can I teach something I do not know?  That is hypocritical. 

            So as I sit and wait out my time in Korea, preparing for Thailand, I will continue to seek God for guidance and strength.  If I run, I’ll run into the arms of my Savior and ask Him to help me.  I want to be so deep in God that the Man He has in mind for me has to seek Him in order to find me.  I know this sounds cliché and maybe even doesn’t make sense to some people, but I’m tired of asking God to put my heart back together.  I want it to ache for the things He aches for, and not because of my own misdoings.