Personal Testimony of C.L

Bethel or Ai?

Ecclesiastes 3:11b He has put eternity in their heart

Gen. 12:8a And [Abraham] proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east

Salvation

I was born in 1982 in Taipei, Taiwan, and I received the Lord at around the age of 7 through my aunt. But about two years earlier, the Lord had prepared me for my salvation through a very unforgettable experience. One morning the phone rang, and as my mom hung up the phone, she told me in a shaking voice: “Grandpa just died”—my mom’s adoptive father, whom I adored very much, had just died of stroke that very morning.

That was the first time I faced death and experienced someone related to me snatched away by it. Deeply shocked and troubled, I couldn't sleep that same night and couldn’t stop asking: "What is death? Where is grandpa? Where did he go? Why is there such a thing as death? What comes after death?" As these questions kept spinning around my head, I, for the first time of my life, also came to the unbearable realization that all men must die, and this includes my dear mom, dad, brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, everyone I know, and eventually, and most unthinkably, myself.

"What is this? Why must we die? I don’t want to die!" I cried out in my heart out of great fear and frustration. "Why do we live if we are all doomed to die and there is no more?" Seized by this horrific sense of utter meaningless and emptiness, myself being too young and unprepared to confront such cruel reality, I couldn’t hold back my tears and started to weep bitterly. I still remembered vividly how my cousin, who was then in her mid-20 and came to stay in my home that night, woke up at midnight, saw me, and asked me anxiously: "What's wrong? Why are you weeping?" I remembered how her questions only brought me to more tears because I simply had no word, no vocabulary, to communicate to her what was troubling me deep within.

Later I realized, with much thanksgiving to the Lord that this experience was the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), like the woman sweeping the house to find the lost coin in Luke 15:8. That was the Lord's mercy in awaking the eternity planted in my heart (Eccl. 3:11b) to make straight the paths of my heart and prepare the way of the Lord for Him to come into me to be my Savior (Matt. 3:3) two years later.

So when my aunt, the first Christian among all my family and relatives, told me that there is God and His name is Jesus and He just wants to come into me to dwell in me, my heart simply felt so sweet toward this good news. She further told me that to receive the Lord Jesus, all I need to do is to call upon His name, “O Lord Jesus” (Rom. 10:13). All these sounds so simple and wonderful! However, I didn’t call upon Him immediately. As a 7-year-old, I went home happily with this gospel seed sown in my heart and was soon distracted by other things and put Jesus at the back of my mind.

But the Lord came. Since around that time, I started to have serious asthma and frequently had a hard time breathing. One cold winter night, my asthma attacked again and it was so severe this time that I could hardly catch my breath. In a literal moment of life and death, I all the sudden recalled my aunt’s words about Jesus. Out of desperation, while lying on my bed, I then started to cry out and call upon His name: “O Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus!” I exerted all the strength of my whole being to call upon Him, and He came. Like a flood or tide of warm water, He came into me and filled me from deep within. The pressure upon my chest was lifted up and fresh air started to flow in again. Amazed and overwhelmed with what just took place, I shouted in my heart: “Jesus is real! Jesus came into me! Thank You Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus!” Almost 14 years later, I realized that this is none other than the experience of God’s unfailing Word, Romans 10:13: "For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved".

So since then I have known that God is real and that I can contact Him whenever I want by calling on His name. Then when I was 12, one day my father had a serious motorcycle accident and underwent an emergent ten-hour brain surgery overnight during which many saints prayed for him and our family. By the Lord's mercy, the surgery went well and he recovered miraculously. A year later, my aunt invited my whole family to a gospel meeting held by the church in Taipei, and we were all baptized that very night. However, after the baptism, my parents did not have the heart to pursue the Lord nor enter into the church. As for me as a 13-year-old, I was fully captured by music and decided to dedicate my whole life to it and dreamed to become a great classical musician. I had no desire for God more than knowing that "I am saved” from eternal perdition. No one told me the real meaning and purpose of Christian life. And I also found nothing in this world more attractive, valuable, and meaningful than music, because it transcends time, space, and cultures, and reaches nearly into eternity by its unfading spell to touch, heal, comfort, and capture the souls of men throughout the ages. This characteristic of quasi-eternal power and value thrilled me and seemed to fulfill the deep yearning in my heart for something eternal since I was a kid, and it also seemed to quench the thirst deep within me for finding the ultimate meaning, value, and purpose of human life.

Lost Sheep Found

Then when I was 16, one day my father went home with the shattering news that he has been diagnosed with final-stage liver cancer. Upon hearing the news, my Christian aunt gathered many saints to come to my house, many of whom I had never met before. As soon as they came into our house, I was stunned by what I saw— one by one, they all knelt down to pray for my father, so genuine and desperate as if they were praying for their own father. I had never met nor imagined there is such kind of people in the world.

Since then my father started to read the Bible and our home were opened for the saints' visits. By the Lord's mercy, his first tumor removal surgery was successful. So in the following months, he continued to read the Bible and meet with the saints. Slowly, to our surprise, praises and God's words started to come out of him. Living in the shadow of death and fear, a gradual yet amazing change in him was noticed by us that we had never seen before---an expression of unexplainable joy, peace, love, and "shine" that none of us had. Seven months later, the tumor returned again, and he needed another tumor removal surgery. Before entering into the operation room, he was praying, singing, and praising the Lord with the visiting saints, while we were all very much in fear and trembling. However, this time, the surgeon made a serious mistake and my father passed away in about a week. We were devastated and couldn't accept the fact. A brother gave us Isaiah 55:9: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts", but there was no way for us to be comforted. I remembered vividly the morning my father passed away---I deeply felt that the world is but a play, and I could just die with him and leave it right there! Because to me at that time, who did not know God's economy (www.godseconomy.org), which is God's eternal purpose (Eph. 3:9, 11), life loses all its hope, purpose, and meaning in the face of death. "There is no meaning in life because death puts an end to everything!! Life is a meaningless play!!" I protested just as I did when I was 5. Now as I looked back, I realize: without God's ecoomy, the life of a Christian has nearly as little meaning as that of an unbeliever. However, during the memorial meeting, a brother stood up to testify for my father and said: "The Lord has taken our brother Liu and we all wish that he could stay longer with us. However, if his children would remember their father as he was in the last half year of his life and follow his pattern of pursuing the Lord, then his passing will be fully worthwhile." I couldn't understand nor appreciate this word at that time, but it was engraved indelibly into my heart. Afterwards, my mother and brother lost their heart and turned away from the Lord. I, awaken from my youthful dream of fantasy, started to pursue musical career even more and I dedicated myself fully into instrumental practice and language study for going abroad. I realized I need to stand on my own, be a grown-up, and be serious in planning for my future now. Therefore, my heart drifted far away from the Lord and I had no idea behind all these things He was actually preparing to bring me back to Himself for His purpose.

Under His sovereign hand, I came to Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. for college in September 2000 where I would meet a schoolmate who is a very devoted Christian. She started to invite me to her Bible study in our second year, so I went and started to have Christian fellowship, through which my heart was softened by the Lord very gradually and gently. Meanwhile, the Lord mercifully prepared a family from the church in Beltsville who would be burdened for me and my campus and started to drive with others for several hours every Friday to my campus to hold a love feast and small group meeting for us. For the next two years, I was shepherded by them in every possible way, although my heart was still fully occupied by music and career pursuit. In December 2002, they afforded me all the expenses to come to the one-week Winter Training in Anaheim, California (www.lsm.org), which is on the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians. I couldn't refuse their fervent and kind invitation, so I brought my cello there and everyday I would skip all the fellowship in the morning just to stay in the hotel to practice my cello until the first meeting at 4pm. Despite such stony heart, the Lord still had His way to gain my heart bit by bit. There, for the first time, I saw 4000 some saints from every race around the earth coming together in oneness for nothing but Christ and very strangely to me at that time, they all spoke the same thing (1 Cor. 1:10). Unaware of the Lord's doing, something of Christ was infused into me during that six days through His Body. Therefore, after sleeping through most of the meetings due to language barrier and the lack of heart, I came back and couldn't help but fervently sharing the "gospel" and the things I have seen and heard with almost everyone I met. Meanwhile, I started to have the urge within me to pray, without anyone's teaching, in a very particular way: "Lord, I give my graduate school to You. Bring me to wherever You desire." Thank the Lord, He did. He brought me to a new school where He would reveal His economy (Eph. 1:10, 3:9; 1 Tim. 1:4), His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11), to me in a clear way to capture my heart for His plan.

By the Lord's wisdom, after graduating in may 2003, He brought me to France for a 2-week summer music festival. There, by His sovereinty, out of more than a hundred of participants, He put in my chamber music group of 3 a very gifted pianist to whom I would be very attracted. This unexpected situation forced me to come to Him desperately in prayers. Immediately, I sensed in my heart His desire for me to preach the gospel to her. Therefore, coming back to the U.S., for the next few months, I spent almost all my free time everyday looking up Bible verses and ministry books, recalling my past experiences with the Lord, and starting to write her "gospel e-mails" one after another. Under the twofold pressure of a much more competitive school environment and this difficult, long-distance relationship, I couldn't help but turning to the Lord and opening my heart to Him fully, and in return, He started to flow into me like "water breaking forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert" (Isa. 35:6) to be my supply of comfort, peace, joy, strength, hope, and everything I needed. For the first time in my life, I started to enjoy the Lord in its most real and purest sense, and I started to enjoy attending the meetings, reading the Word and the ministry books. The Lord also arranged a brother to have daily morning revival (i.e., morning time to enjoy the Lord through praying and reading the Word) with me on phone at 6:30am. As a result, under this ministry of the age (Eph. 4:12), God's economy was gradually unfolded before me. I started to see and experience God's economy, which is nothing other than His working Himself as life and everything into us in order to grow in us unto the building up of His Body. After enjoying the Lord in this way for a while, one day I came to Rev. 2:4: "But I have one thing agaist you, that you have left your first love". This word greatly disturbed my heart because I realized I was far from His desire to have Him as my first love. At the same time, the girl to whom I was writing these "gospel" e-mails started to shun from further discussion on God with me, and right away I sensed that it's time to make a choice between the Lord and her. Much frightened by this thought, I simply confessed to the Lord that I couldn't do it and I just gave the whole matter to Him. O, "For [His] love is as strong as death, Jealosy is as cruel as Sheol"! (S.S 8:6) So I went on without ever trying to deal with it and I simply continued to contact and enjoy Him everyday. Hallelujah! A few months later, one day as I was walking on the street, to my own amazement, I discovered that the Lord has secretly replaced her in my heart with Himself and has made Himself sweeter and better than anyone else. About the same time, I encountered and started to read "The Spiritual Man" by Watchman Nee (www.ministrybooks.org) which changed my life by opening my eyes to see one of the greatest truths in the Bible that within my soul, I have a human spirit within me (1 Thes. 5:23; Rom. 8:16), which is the unique organ God created in me to contact, receive, know, fellowship, enjoy, and to have anything to do with God. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and therefore He is in the spiritual realm, not psychological. So the only way to contact Him is through our spirit, not our mind, emotion, or will as parts of our soul! No longer would I struggle to "think of", "feel", or "sense" Him somewhere in my being, but I have found the definite organ to touch Him and commune with Him by using my spirit!! This opened my eyes and cleared the sky above for me to receive further revelation of Him and dispensing of His riches (Eph. 1:17; 3:5, 16).

Later, by His wise arrangement, I was accepted for that summer (2004) to the Banff Music Festival in Banff, Canada, so I decided to go to visit my aunt, who brought salvation to my household, in Seattle beforehand. There in the church in Seattle, for the first time in my life, I met a group of young full-time serving brothers who deeply inspired me because I had never imagined in this world where every young person is seeking his own gains, there would be such young people who as anti-testimony would give up their whole life for the Lord's interest on earth. Something deep within me rose up to echoe with their absoluteness for the Lord and even caused me to envy "the things" they possess that I don't. So I was drawn to attend, as the first time in December 2002, the one-week Summer Training in Anaheim, California, on the book of Colossians. By the Lord's mercy, there, for the first time in my life, my eyes were opened to see the incomparable worth, the preeminence, the centrality and universality of Christ in God's economy, and such an all-inclusive, all-extensive, unsearchable, and knowledge-surpassing Christ's being in me and all the believers (Col. 1:27) to be our life and everything as our daily enjoyment and experience to transform and constitute us unto the building up of the one new man (Eph. 2:15; Col. 3:10), the highest aspect of the church in which Christ as her Person is all and in all (Col. 3:11) to fulfill God's eternal purpose to express Himself and to rein over all things through humanity (Gen. 1:26)!! It was by far the best week of my life at that time. Then under His wise arrangement, right after the training, I, as planned, went to Banff where I was surrounded by the most spectacular mountains, lakes, and forests; the best music performances, classes, art exhibitions and lectures; the most accomplished musicians, artists, and scholars; and the most luxurious food, facilities, and services. Yet surprisingly, as I woke up the next morning and recalled the week in Anaheim where materially everything was far poorer, all these things and people in Banff immediately aroused in me an unprecedentedly deep sense of vanity and emptiness which I had never have before. To my own amazement, I started to realize that all these things surrounding me are temporary, but only Christ in me is eternal; all these things are shadows, but only Christ in me is the reality (Col. 2:17) of all the positive things; all these things belong to Satan's kingdom, the world (1 John 5:19), but Christ in me will grow to be part of His bride as well as His kingdom to fulfill His eternal purpose---I gasped at the realization that the living Christ in me is worth immensely and immeasurably greater than anything else in this world (Phil. 3:7-8)!! I felt to cry out to everyone in the festival who came here to seek pleasure and satisfaction---"Christ is what you have been looking so hard for! Christ is what you need! Christ is the answer to all things!" Therefore for the next six weeks, I felt as if I was trapped in the most luxurious prison in the world, and my whole being just cried out for Christ in the saints (Eph. 1:23)!!

Hence, coming back to school in the fall semester, I began to have a new heart and new goal to gain Christ. And by the help of some brothers, for the first time in my life, I learned to consecrate myself, my whole life to the Lord for the building up of His Body (Eph. 4:16). From then on, by the Lord's mercy, day by day He continued to use all things and persons to reveal to me the vanity of the world and the exceeding worth of Himself. For example, my cello professor, who is 80 some years old and has one of the most enviable musical careers in the world, whose achievement was the dream of my childhood, started to tell me and even the whole class how he is still searching for "the answer", "the ultimate perfection and beauty (Lam. 2:15)" through music, while he already knew from his experience that he could never find it because only God is the answer, the ultimate perfection and beauty in the universe. "The best music brings us only closer to God...practicing the cello is like going to the church; we are seeking an answer from God", He said. He believed he will only meet God after he died and then he will find the answer to his life-long pursuit. Therefore, believing there was no hope in this life to find the answer, he also said: "Don't be too serious about your success or failure. Life is a joke...people will forget about you once you get old...playing the cello is just like selling potato chips; we are just selling a product to make money." Comments like these stripped off the beautiful mask of all my lofty musical idealism and fantasy, and scourched me with the pitiful reality of a human life in the world without Christ and without knowing God's eternal purpose. All the sudden I started to see my life laid in front of me so simple and clear with two possible roads and ends: one leading to Ai, the heap of ruins, and the other leading to Bethel, the house of God. Daily walking around my campus among those three-hundred-year-old buildings of some highest human achievements, "Ai" and "Bethel" in Gen. 12:8 started to jump out before my eyes as a vivid reality:

Gen. 12:8a And he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east...

Then after the Winter Training in Anaheim on the books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, around January 2005, the Lord began to touch me concerning my daily living, and I was eventually brought to a point where almost everything besides Christ has lost its flavor---I couldn't practice my cello, listen to music, be in a concert, and even sit in a class without having this same question in me: "What am I doing here? Where do all these things lead to? Ai or Bethel?" Sitting in an orchestral rehearsal was especially like sitting on a needle chair. All my taste for music was gone, and the vanity of my daily routine became increasingly unbearable. The idea of going to FTTA (www.ftta.org) started to emerge in my heart. For a month I struggled with the Lord for this matter because there were still many things entangling my heart and holding me back. After much prayer and fellowship, a week before my audition for further study, I finally submitted to the Lord, dropped my audition, and told my professor that I would attend the FTTA after graduation. The moment I finally surrendered to the Lord and walked out my professor's studio after telling him my decision, I was walking "in the third heaven" and the joy of the Lord flooded m. However, the Lord had something else on His heart. 10 days later, I found out that I actually couldn't join the FTTA because of my visa status. Adding salt to the wound, my mother, who never wrote e-mail, e-mailed me by my brother that very night to oppose my decision severely. Within a few days I felt as if falling down from the highest heaven to the lowest pit. However, by His wisdom, a brother timely shared with me the story of God's visitng Abraham to give life to the dead (Rom. 4:17-19), God's giving him Isaac, and later God's requiring of him to offer up Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. He encouraged me to learn to offer up my Isaac, my desire for FTTA, which is not something of myself but a free gift from God, back to Him by putting it on the altar. My eyes were opened and my heart were much comforted. Later, the Lord also faithfully opened the way at my school and brought me back for an one-year program. Later, in June 2005, He further brought me via a musical performing tour to visit the churches in Korea where by living with the full-time serving brothers there for a week, I was deeply inspired to see the Lord's move in His recovery for the building up of His Body on another side of the globe, and I consecrated myself to the Lord this time to serve Him full-time one day. However, my heart was to be examined, exposed, and proved further to be a sheer work of His mercy rather than any human virtue of my own. Since August 2005, the Lord began to bring in many gospel contacts around my school area, and the need for brothers and sisters on campus thus steadily increased. Meanwhile, my mother continued to raise her opposition to my joining the FTTA, and I could not talk to her for many months. In addition, my professor continued to urge my stay at school for doctoral study with him and lay upon me more responsibilities to take care. All these things subtly started to dwindle my determination for FTTA and complicate my heart for the Lord. After some fellowship with the leading brothers, I followed their suggestion to pursue staying in school for yet another year or even getting into the doctoral program. However, deep in my spirit, I knew that's not the answer yet because I had no peace and rest from the Lord. So I sought much after Him continually but found no answer from Him.

By the Lord's mercy and in His timing, in January 2006 right after the Winter Training in Anaheim on the Crystalization Study on God's building, He brought me to a special meeting at the church in Cerritos for which I attended as a substitute for a brother in New Haven who was originally invited but couldn't come. Unexpectedly, it was a meeting calling for full-time serving ones. For the next three days the splendor of the Lord's glory and faithfulness shined forth from the testimonies of many elder full-time serving brothers, and the fragrance of Christ coming forth from their spirit of martyr overwhelmed me and exposed all my lukewarmness, oldness, deadness, compromise, love for the world, idols, ambition, vainglory, self-seeking, unbelief and so on. For the first time I also realized that the Lord saved each one of us for a definite purpose, that is, not only for us to grow in life to be sons but also to function in life by utilizing His allotted talents to serve Him as slaves for which we ought to pray and endeavor earnestly to find out our ordained portion and run on our ordained course by God (2 Tim. 4:7) until the day we will render an account to Him (Matt. 25:14-30). Therefore I repented and worshipped the Lord for His mercy and came back home with a clear and determined heart to apply for the R-1 visa, the visa needed for FTTA. By His mercy and faithfulness, in His timing, He answered my consecration and all my prayers with the saints, and issued me the R-1 visa on June 24, 2006. In addition, after praying for my mother for a whole year with the saints and sending her two letters with a DVD of introduction to FTTT (Taiwan), the Lord also has softened her heart to approve my going to the training for one year. Furthermore, this past "delayed" year turned out to be an invaluable year of enjoyment and experience in the church life, and by His mercy, the church in New Haven had its first Lord's Table meeting on January 29, 2006, meeting as a local church standing on the unique ground of the oneness of the Body of Christ for His recovery (www.lordsrecovery.org). Hallelujah!! Praise the Lord for His rich mercy, grace, and faithfulness which has brought me to this day. May the Lord continue to preserve me in His economy and make me an useful vessel for His Body. Now I would like to consecrate myself again to Him unreservedly to be an overcomer for the building up of His Body to bring Him back. Lord Jesus, I love You!!

By the Lord's mercy and in His timing, in January 2006 right after the Winter Training in Anaheim on the Crystalization Study on God's building, He brought me to a special meeting at the church in Cerritos for which I attended as a substitute for a brother in New Haven who was originally invited but couldn't come. Unexpectedly, it was a meeting calling for full-time serving ones. For the next three days the splendor of the Lord's glory and faithfulness shined forth from the testimonies of many elder full-time serving brothers, and the fragrance of Christ coming forth from their spirit of martyr overwhelmed me and exposed all my lukewarmness, oldness, deadness, compromise, love for the world, idols, ambition, vainglory, self-seeking, unbelief and so on. For the first time I also realized that the Lord saved each one of us for a definite purpose, that is, not only for us to grow in life to be sons but also to function in life by utilizing His allotted talents to serve Him as slaves for which we ought to pray and endeavor earnestly to find out our ordained portion and run on our ordained course by God (2 Tim. 4:7) until the day we will render an account to Him (Matt. 25:14-30). Therefore I repented and worshipped the Lord for His mercy and came back home with a clear and determined heart to apply for the R-1 visa, the visa needed for FTTA. By His mercy and faithfulness, in His timing, He answered my consecration and all my prayers with the saints, and issued me the R-1 visa on June 24, 2006. In addition, after praying for my mother for a whole year with the saints and sending her two letters with a DVD of introduction to FTTT (Taiwan), the Lord also has softened her heart to approve my going to the training for one year. Furthermore, this past "delayed" year turned out to be an invaluable year of enjoyment and experience in the church life, and by His mercy, the church in New Haven had its first Lord's Table meeting on January 29, 2006, meeting as a local church standing on the unique ground of the oneness of the Body of Christ for His recovery (www.lordsrecovery.org). Hallelujah!! Praise the Lord for His rich mercy, grace, and faithfulness which has brought me to this day. May the Lord continue to preserve me in His economy and make me an useful vessel for His Body. Now I would like to consecrate myself again to Him unreservedly to be an overcomer for the building up of His Body to bring Him back. Lord Jesus, I love You!!

Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way;Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me After Thy will,Till I belong Thee, Yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way; In Thy presence, Lord, Humbly I lay. Search me and try me, True self revealed, Heal me and cleanse me, Purify all.
Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way;Free from self fully, For this I pray. Break me and strip me, Bring me to naught,Dig through and empty, Leave not one dross.
Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way; Hold o'ver my being Absolute sway.Pass Thyself through me, Many to fill,Unto one vessel, Thy Body built.
Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way;None for myself, Lord, All for Thy aim. Build me with others, Thy Bride prepared, Hasten Thy coming, Thy wedding shared.

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