Albert Chang, a former Buddhist monk, shares his story of surviving the atrocities and genocide in Cambodia in 1970 under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. More amazing is his story of how God rescued him from 3 years in a prison camp and the jungle. But even freedom after coming to America wasn't true freedom until he came unto a relationship with Christ. It was only in Him that he found ultimate peace and life.
No Mean Love
The Sovereignty of God in the Sabotage of Judas
When Jesus Took Up the Towel and Loved us to the Uttermost
Israel and You: A Good Example or a Horrible Warning
For This Purpose He Came: Unveiling God's Glory in His Humiliation
John: Where We've Been and Our Intention Moving Forward
A Perfect Message if you "Wish to see Jesus"
King Jesus: Why the Leaders Missed Him, Why You Must Not
Albert: A Living Picture of Lazarus a Man Once Dead
Lazarus: A Dead Man Who Becomes a Picture of Life
The Pivot Point That Is Personal Belief and The Rightness of Radical Response
What Should and Shouldn't Matter To You
Jesus versus the Ultimate Predator
The Reason for Everything and How We are to Respond to It
The Identity of the Good Shepherd and the Attributes of His Sheep
The Good Shepherd: What He is Doing, Why He is Doing It, and How it's Going to Get Done
A Blind Man You'd Better See Yourself In
Sons, Slaves and Freedom Indeed
It is always great to get back in here and not just dive ahead, but as the Scripture says, remind ourselves of these things. In Psalm 1, it says, "Blessed is the man who meditates on the law of the Lord," not just who blows by it. The goal is not to get ourselves through the Bible. The goal is to get the Bible through us. Jesus says that the man who hears the word and doesn't apply it is a fool.
What I want to do today is take a moment and give you a living illustration. I'm going to give Lazarus' antitype before you. What's that mean? Last week I told a buddy as we were talking about the service. I said, "Did you understand it? Did you get a lot out of it?" He goes, "Oh yeah." I said, "Well, what's a type?" He goes, "I have no idea. What are you talking about?"
I go, "Well, that was a lot of what the whole service was. Go back and find out what a type is," but suffice it to say, it's a foreshadowing. It's an anticipation of a fuller reality that is to come. Jesus is the antitype of many of the figures in the Old Testament, who were literal historical figures fully and completely revealed in Jesus Christ. He is the one we have always anticipated that God would bring to us. The greatest revelation of himself, full of grace and truth.
We talked about Lazarus last week, specifically, being a type, not of Jesus, but of all true believers. It's one thing to hear about a story about a guy who was brought forth from the grave some 2,000 years ago, but what if I could bring to you somebody who was brought forth from the grave today. I'm going to do just that.
It wasn't a literal grave. It was one that there was a sentence of death over him, that he survived horrible things. He's a member of our body. He's been a member of our body for a while (plugged in, connected, in community, serving, growing, being discipled, discipling). I want you to meet him. I want to say it right now. The goal of today is to remind you of what it is that God wants and expect and calls all of us to be. We're all supposed to be the fulfillment of what Lazarus was a picture of.
Lazarus, because he was a son of Adam, was dead. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. Lazarus was called forth by the sovereign kindness and grace of God, just like all of us who have come to believe. We're saved by God calling us out by his efficacious and kind work that we, by grace, which is not a result of works so that no man should boast, that we respond to, and get new life. We leave our grave clothes behind. Our old life is changed. We have a new longing, a new fellowship. We desire to be with Jesus, to sit at his feet, to learn from him. We become his witnesses, and we willingly suffer for him.
Frankly, one of my great frustrations at Watermark as we've gotten bigger is that I hear stories all the time that are happening around here now and I meet people all the time who have had incredible things. There were hundreds of us who were up in Estes Park in June. I met people up in Estes Park who have come out of incredible death, incredible darkness and despair and pain and suffering, whose lives have been changed.
They've come to know Christ through this fellowship and through God's great work and were not just saved here but were discipled here. They are now leaders in ministries that I am encouraging you to be a part of. I thought to myself, that is both incredibly encouraging and incredibly frustrating because I love stories.
The goal really is that I could sit any true believer across from me this morning, and we could have a conversation about the darkness and death that God called you out of by his grace that led to a transformation in your life where the old things are gone, and new things have come. They gave you a heart for God that the Spirit of truth inside of you longed for more intimacy with the origin of that truth, the God who is the Spirit of the truth, the Holy Spirit that led to you being a powerful witness for him and willingly suffer for him. That should be your story. If it's not, I pray it begins to be your story today.
I want to start just by diving in because you're going to hear some things. Frankly, the first hour, we showed a four minute video which was a compression of a video clip from a movie called The Killing Fields, which really talks about Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge (the Communist infiltration in 1970s Cambodia) which lead to Genocide and tremendous atrocities even to this day that create a lot of horror and suffering. We collapsed that movie into four minutes, and we're going to regain that four minutes by just letting you hear some of that story in this service.
I set it up this way. I said you're going to hear some things today. You're going to wonder, "Where is God in the midst of that kind of suffering, that kind of horror? Why does God allow those things to exist? If there is a God, why would he allow the genocide of Rwanda, of Nazi Germany, of Cambodia, of, frankly, just the abuse that happens right here in this city? Where is God in that?"
God is at work, and there is an explanation within the Christian worldview which gives a coherent explanation for evil. It's not an illusion. It's not something we meditate our way out of. It's something God himself wants to eradicate and will eradicate it, and all that are not redeemed to righteousness by faith in Christ with it. But until that day, he's calling us out of that ultimate judgment and wanting us to live in new life and hope with him.
You're going to hear this story, and before we set it up, I'm just going to explain to you one more time why there's evil. I'm going to do it by taking you to Hosea 4:1-7 very quickly. What we want to look at here is God's explanation for why there is trouble in any land: Israel, Cambodia, America. I'm going to look at it with you. This is what it says.
It says, "Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel…" I would just say, "Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Cambodia," or, "Listen to the words of the Lord, O sons of America." "…for the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land." That lack of knowledge of God, that knowledge which is known to all men through creation, through conscience, through many others through special revelation, is suppressed, the Scripture says.
We might even hear it, but we don't deal with it. We are, the Scripture says, fools. We don't acknowledge the intelligent designer and the evidence behind all that we see and the culpability we have to the one whose imprint is all throughout creation and stamped on our conscience. So we create gods in our own image, or we elevate ourselves to god, and that lacks knowledge and wisdom and integrity.
The Scripture goes on to say this. "There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery." Does that sound familiar to anybody? "They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, and also the fish of the sea disappear."
Because of the oppression of godless rulers, there is great pain and suffering in all of creation. There's poverty. There's hunger. There's death. There's poison in the wells, if you will. It goes on to say this. "Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; for your people are like those who contend with the priest."
What he's saying is that in the midst of this spiral of rebellion, there's this spiral of silence, and nobody really speaks out against the obvious choices we're making that lead to this increasing chaos, this worldview which leads to this pain. He says, "You are like people that when the priest, the representative of God, offers to you solutions, you contend with him. You go, "No, we reject that. That is not the cause of our problems. It is not sin and death in man. There are other reasons."
It goes on to say in verse 5, "So you will stumble by day, and the prophet [those who are there to speak truth, your wise men of the land] also will stumble with you by night [because they don't have any insight] ; And I will destroy your mother." It's saying, "I will destroy those who are to care for you, and it'll be chaos."
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest [my representative] . Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children."
** ** Let me just tell you, what happened in Cambodia in 1970 is not too different than what happened in Cana when God came in and brought great suffering on that land. It's not too different than what happened in Israel when God brought great suffering on that land in AD 70. It's not too different from what comes on every land that after a period of time when the time of God's patience runs out, and it's been appointed throughout history when that will be for every nation.
In fact, if you go back and look, God had given Abraham, in Genesis 15 and 16, the promise that he would send his people into this land, but he said, "I'm not going to let you there yet because the time of the Amorite is not yet full." In other words, I still want grace to come to them. Jonah, go to Nineveh before I destroy them. Preach repentance. But if they don't repent, I will destroy their land." True of Israel and will be true of us.
It was true in Cambodia in the 1970s when a nation that for years had suppressed knowledge and run away from the God who is and followed the teachings of Buddha, followed the teachings of others who could offer them enlightenment, separate from and apart from God, from looking into their inner man, or by overcoming their inner tension to lust for more and want through meditation and find the middle way, not in asceticism or self-denial or in great abundance, but the middle way. "That's where peace is."
Jesus says, "No. I am the way, and there is no right or left from it." In 1970, judgment befell that country in a horrible way. It left many scared and dead. I want you to meet one of our members who lived through that. God called him out what should've been a certain physical death through suffering and torture, execution of all educated classes, and I want you to hear his story. Albert, come on up here, my friend.
This is Albert Chang. You've heard of Albert the last two weeks in the Watermark News if you've read his story. Albert has been at Watermark for several years, and he and I have become friends. I'll tell you about how we met in just a little bit. I think it will encourage you. I want Albert just to share with us this. First of all, let's just deal with this. Your God-given name is not Albert; your God-given name means potential, right?
Todd: The potential one. What we're going to see is with incredible grace and foreshadowing, this is the name his mother had given him. There's great potential in this man, as there is in all men if they are just reconciled to God, but in a way that she never even understood, the potential that God had for this young man was going to be born.
The name Albert…people go, "It looks like Albert to me," which if they watch cartoons, Bill Cosby, Fat Albert. Are you familiar with Fat Albert?
Todd: Yes. "Why aren't you calling him Albert?" Well, because when he came to America, when you got asylum here, you had to choose a name. You chose the name Albert because of…
Albert: Because one day I was at a school and one of the books I picked up was the philosopher whose name is Albert Camus.
Todd: Right. You could've picked a good Christian name like Todd or something instead.
Albert: Right. I wish.
Todd: Instead, you went with Albert. So Albert Camus, who was born in French Algeria, is a writer, philosopher in the twentieth century (lived in the 1900s). Albert Camus is a guy who has a lot of great quotes. He was not really the father of absurdism, but he talked about the absurdity of life. That happiness can't be found out in men, and happiness can't be found in dying. He was not a nihilist who didn't believe there was hope. He just couldn't really place that hope.
But in your study at the university, you remembered some of his writings. It was encouraging to you. So when you needed to find a Western name, you chose Albert. That's why I called him Fat Albert. This is my friend Albert. Albert, up to 1975, Cambodia had been led by a monarchy. Buddhist, as far back as we know. Your family is Buddhist for thousands of years, yes?
Todd: This monarchy was not bringing great prosperity to the land. He was himself oppressive and selfish. So hope came in the form of Pol Pot and others who were educated in France who came back with this communistic worldview. They came into the city, and people were maybe optimistic on one end that this new worldview could provide maybe some relief, but then they weren't really sure, and they saw some atrocity. So you're studying at the university at 17 in the capital city of…
Albert: Phnom Penh.
Todd: …Phnom Penh, and you, like everybody else, start to run from the city because here comes the Khmer Rouge (the red Khmer). Why don't you walk us through what happened from there?
Albert: That was the year the freedom fighters completely lost the battleground to the Khmer Rouge. From that moment on, it was life-changing, the most chaos, and death that I have ever faced at that young age. It was all night of bazookas and bombs and rockets, and by the morning, there was an army full of black uniforms. It covered the whole Cambodia face. They began shooting and evacuating people from place to place.
Again, it was just the most chaos that I ever, ever experienced. My brain was numb because of death, heads being cut off, bodies being blown up. They just kept shooting at people so that they could completely evacuate from the city.
Todd: So you ran. What I didn't share with you at this time is part of your desire to honor your mother and father, and Buddhism was a long part of your family heritage. Your great-grandfather built the Buddhist temple in your town. You became a Buddhist monk. So you'd shaved your head, got rid of your eyebrows, robed yourself in red, studied the Sanskrit, sacrificed chickens, and ran the temple with others, yes?
Todd: You sought to be a means through which others could understand enlightenment. So one of the things I want to bring out to you this morning… We're talking a little bit about Buddhism here in just a moment. There's so much curiosity in the West about some of the Eastern religions.
We often think that the wisdom of the ages comes down through these societies and civilizations that have spent much time writing down their ideas and their philosophies. That's all Buddhism is. Buddha means the enlightened one. He didn't claim to be God, but he thought he'd give it a good shot, right?
Todd: Just briefly tell them about the basic tenets of Buddhism, and what Buddhism encourages you to do, and what their offering of life is. Do you want to take a shot at that?
Albert: As a matter of fact, there is no life with that kind of offering at all. The true life is in the Lord Jesus Christ. He himself offered me life. The teaching is all based on self-reliance. Those are the kind of things, to me, that are nothing more than the curiosity of the flesh of human beings trying to find their own way to earn salvation.
As a matter of fact, salvation, in my mind, is no salvation at all. It would end up that you're alone. People tend to continue to do that because of the fulfillment, even though they know the fulfillment comes out to nothing. Instead, frustration, destruction, and death.
Todd: Yeah, so nirvana, which is the ultimate goal of a Buddhist is to move to nirvana, means to waft away or to move to nothingness. Right?
Todd: Where the reality of suffering and pain around us doesn't exist anymore. My understanding…tell me if this is wrong…is that part of the idea is that one of the reasons there's so much suffering is we long for things, and that longing is such power it brings forth life. That's why there's reincarnation and karma. You keep coming back for life because you long for more. You haven't yet evolved to peace. If you would just stop longing and move to nirvana, you wouldn't be born again back into the suffering that is in this world. Fair? Could I be a good Buddhist monk?
Albert: You don't want to.
Todd: Thank you. But that's part of the idea. The idea there too is the way you erase that aversion, and the way you do attain happiness is for the four truths and the eightfold path, which is, as you've already said, a work-based system that doesn't work. Now, we'll talk about that in just a moment. When the Khmer Rouge came in and people fled, it wasn't long before they got further out in the countryside and they started to set up little booths and stations. What did they tell people in those stations?
Albert: What they were doing was part of the Communist set up. They tried to find educated people (doctors, professors), and they were saying they needed them to go back and help the government. But they were just drawing people to come in. Then what happened in the evening when I walked down the Mekong River is those who were enrolled were all tied up, and they shot and killed them and pushed the bodies in the Mekong River.
Todd: So when this initially happened, they set up these booths and said, "If you're a professor, if you're an educator, if you're a journalist, if you're studying at the university [as you were at that time] in the capital city, come and help us. We'll work with you." You just said, "I don't know if I should trust these people," and so you watched.
Later that night, you snuck and watched them murder those people who had self-identified. They didn't want anybody who could form a cohesive thought and lead people in any kind of semblance of rebellion against the establishment that wanted to oppress any religious idea.
In fact, you said that they would come into the temple, and you watched them murder other monks to mock Buddha and mock his power and say there is no god. "Follow us. We will give you life. Our way is the way for Cambodia." It was really man's way to find themselves in power and to oppress people through their own systems.
So you sat there. You speak five languages, roughly. We've talked about it. Yet, you chose to never speak in anything but your native Khmer, and even there with more of the undeveloped dialect, the country-dialect of Khmer. You were very careful with the words you chose. Because any sense that you were educated meant certain death.
So you ran when you saw this about 120 kilometers (you told me) into the jungle, to the west, to try and find some asylum in Thailand. Talk about what you went through. You were eventually captured by the Khmer Rouge and were, I guess, there for three years in prison.
Todd: For those three years in prison, Albert suffered incredible torture and saw things that brought a great amount of pain. You saw some of the killing fields you ran through. Capture that three years, if you can, a little bit for us to help them understand what we're talking about.
Albert: I was taught to continue to move forward to escape from place to place. I thought that was the end of my freedom because they caught me. They blindfolded me, and with a motorbike, they took me to one of the camps. I was there for three years. It's beyond your imagination: the torturing, the beatings, and the starving, and forced working nights and days.
It also came to the point where I was so sick of being tortured and suffering, I even asked one of the soldiers, "Go ahead and take my life." But, it turned out to be that he turned around, swung at me with an AK-47, and smashed me to the mud. From the many, I remember one of the days that brought me hope. I was stuck in the mud in the rice paddies, and one of those white cranes flew over the top of me. I wished at that point that I could just have wings and fly.
Todd: Yeah, you sat there, and you said, "I wish I could fly away like that bird." You talked about the reason they were torturing you is they were convinced that you were a spy, that you were with the CIA or with some other intelligence organization, that you were sneaking away to give information about them. Frankly, they had more fun torturing you than just killing you. They told you that, and they kept you alive.
Then the North Vietnamese, another communist regime, was going to attack on Cambodia, encroach on their land to try and expand their borders. They bombed the prison camp you were in, and the Khmer Rouge fled, and you were there. Before the North Vietnamese got there, in the midst of the rocket fire on that camp, you and 15 other men ran again into the jungle.
Albert: We would just continue to run. As a matter of fact, I use the word run, but I couldn't even move forward because the body… Like you said, my eyeball would fall from the socket. I had to put it back in.
Todd: Yeah, you were so emaciated, that the sinew, the muscle fiber, the structure that was there, that your eye, you said, when you leaned over would fall down. That's how emaciated, sick, beaten, and malnourished you were.
Albert: Correct. Yeah.
Todd: So you ran into the jungle with these men, again moving west.
Albert: Moving west. To survive in the jungle, we would catch anything that we could: black cobras, wild rats, monkeys, and those other things.
Todd: You said black cobras, wild rats, and monkeys.
Todd: Listen, I'm obviously curious. I watch Bear Grylls. How do you kill a black cobra?
Albert: When you see those kinds of things, it just like here. It's your snack, your lunch is coming along your way. What I did was I grabbed a stick to distract the cobra. It would stand up like that. The reason that cobras move left to right is because of their eyesight. I would move as close as I can and hit it with a stick on the head.
Todd: Yeah. Of course, you did. We talked about this. You said you ate so much cobra that you sweat cobra, you smelled like cobra. That after a while, you thought that cobras were afraid of you because they looked at you, and they smelled you, and they said, "That is the biggest cobra we've ever seen," and they ran away.
But you ate plenty of cobra, and you survived through minefields and through the horrors of the jungle. You're in the midst of that jungle, and there are times that you hear the Khmer Rouge coming back looking for people, making their way through. Talk about how you made your way through this dense jungle. Talk about the density of the jungle. Sometimes sunlight couldn't even make it through, correct?
Albert: No, not at all. Even the sun rays couldn't penetrate into the jungle. There would be points where we were completely exhausted and fall flat to the ground. There was a man with the white clothes, bright lights, and at that moment, he told us to get up and leave. We did just that. I turned around, and he disappeared. As soon as I moved forward, surely enough, the Khmer Rouge threw hand grenades and were shooting right in the spot where we left.
Todd: Okay. What I heard you just say is that you'd be in this jungle, and you'd be sleeping or resting under a tree, and you would hear either a voice or see a man in the white robe is what you've called him. He said, "Move. Get up. Let's go." What did you think that man in the white robe was?
Albert: I thought it was the spirit of our ancestor because I didn't know anything besides the mentality of my culture and the Buddhists.
Todd: So this man in the white robe. Did the other guys with you see this man?
Albert: No, they didn't see him.
Todd: They thought it was your ancestor. All they knew was he was a good ancestor. They often times said, "Get the ancestor," and you said…
Albert: I would say at that point that I have no control over the supernatural. There was no way that I could communicate. There would be the time and some certain place and point that I needed him, and he was right there.
Todd: Yeah, he would come to you. You wouldn't conjure him up. So there were times, too, that there were just directions that you received, in a sense. You said a light led your way.
Todd: You made your way through the remaining kilometers until you got to the border. You could see Thailand. You could see the tents with red crosses on them, and you all began to run. Of the 15, between the rocket fire, the shelling, and the guns and the minefield, two of you made it.So you're in Thailand. You've found protection. You start to get a little bit of nourishment back in your body. You actually saw some films there for the first time in your life.
Albert: The first time of my life to see these white crosses in the rice paddies, and they showed the Jesus film.
Todd: There were some people there in the refugee camps showing the Jesus film.
Todd: And it wasn't in Khmer. It was English or some other language you didn't know.
Todd: You didn't really understand except that there was a kind man, an enlightened man, and they heard him, and they nailed him to a tree, and you didn't understand that.
Albert: As a matter of fact, I think he dressed in white as well at that point.
Todd: Yes. But there was still no great connection there.
Todd: Through some Christian organizations that were looking to sponsor and provide hosting so you could get asylum, you applied for some stuff, and there was a group that brought you to the United States. You landed in California, knew no English, had nothing but the clothes on your back. There were some funny stories about others who were on that plane with you, but we won't go there, who literally had never been out of the jungle before, who were smoking dope in effect with what their little…
Todd: Their little bamboo. That's all they knew, right? Next thing they know, they're on a Boeing 747 flying to America. Then you were off to Houston for a brief bit, and then you found your way to Dallas. You're in America. You have asylum. You're free. But are you free?
Todd: What was going on with you then?
Albert: It had traumatized… Revenge, the anger. Those are the things that ate me alive constantly and daily.
Todd: Let's just talk about this. We talked about Albert Camus a little bit ago. Some of his quotes I think are rather insightful. When he talks about the absurdity of man… A week ago, I put in my journal this little statement by Camus where he says, "A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world." The need to teach truth, and the need to give knowledge from God to others, and when you don't… You had seen some real bestiality in Cambodia, right down to some of the most awful acts where you saw the Khmer Rouge decapitate, murder indiscriminately, and eat human flesh. Some of the stories…
I share this with you because we sit there, and we listen. I can be more specific because we've talked about this and know his story. It's unspeakable. Like the Aztecs, to eat the heart of their enemy they thought would give them strength. That kind of behavior was happening. You wonder, Where is God in this? Why is this happening?"
Let me just tell you, there are things that happen all around us that I don't think we understand the level of offense it is to God. When we take any human life that we don't see as valuable or as a nuisance or in the way, and we destroy it because it isn't utilitarian or isn't valued to us. Bloodshed upon bloodshed. Does that sound familiar from Hosea? It's the children who suffer. It's the weak who suffer. It's those who aren't empowered who suffer. It's a form of judgment on the land when you see that kind of atrocity.
You saw that. Those images were clear in your mind. Even though you were in a completely different environment, the death was still in you. Now, this is where we get to what you did. It's what any man would do. You went back to the Buddhist temple. You began to meditate and seek peace through the four steps of noble truth and the eightfold path of enlightenment. How was that working out for you?
Albert: The more that I set forth to do all that I knew how, all that the old master taught me, it would end up with frustration after frustration. When that moment came, it was just too powerful for me to handle it. That was the night that was the moment of my darkness but also a moment of my life as well.
I even planned to commit suicide at that point, right inside the Buddhist temple during my meditating. That was the time that the Lord himself showed himself and reached me by the hand. That's how I met the Lord, the one who I saw all along from the jungle (the Lord himself who saved my life.
Todd: So once again, the man in the white robe appeared to you in the temple.
Todd: Now, let me say this. There were times in the jungle that you were suicidal. There were times in the prison camp that you were suicidal, and there were times in America that were…
Albert: Also suicidal, yes.
Todd: …suicidal. And you sought healing and peace in every way that you knew how, but you couldn't find it. You even looked it up in the Webster's Dictionary to see it, you told me. "What is peace?" You came to understand, though. One day in that Buddhist temple, in the midst of your desperation, wanting to kill yourself again, declaring that in your meditative state, that's when the man in the white robe appeared again. What did he say to you? What did he reveal to you?
Albert: The word that I remember at that point… He clearly said, "You are the treasure of the earth." At that peaceful moment, again, I would try to describe that peace, even from the dictionary. Now, I come down to the point that, "That peace is not something near to just understanding. That peace is the life of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. That peace that he gives. That peace is his life, and that is in my life.
Todd: So you found that peace was a relationship with Christ.
Todd: It wasn't in meditation. It wasn't in a process. It was in a relationship with the King and the Prince of Peace, you told me.
Todd: In that moment, you weren't physically dead there. You should've been numerous times. But the grace of God took this walking dead man, who wanted to be dead, who begged others to kill him, who was planning to kill himself, and he called him from that death by the sovereignty of his Word.
Somebody is out there, and they might go, "If God appears to me consistently as a man in a white robe, then I'll trust him." But they're not in a Buddhist temple. The Scripture is very clear that there is enough evidence of who God is in all of creation and in conscience that all men have enough to respond to him. It's also clear that none of us really seek after him, but God, in his grace, seeks us.
The man in a white robe doesn't need to appear to you in a dream or vision, which is very typical of folks in cultures like Albert's. God's always looking for a remnant. He's always calling out individuals and giving them a chance to respond to his grace. He does that here in America today.
You're not in a Buddhist temple. You're in the house of God where me, as his messenger…that's what the word angel means: messenger…is telling you what the man clothed in white says. He's telling you to come. You don't need that dream or vision. If you did and that was the means through which you could know Christ, he'd give it to you. What I'm telling you is you are here today, and he's saying, "Come. Come. Trust in me," and in a more clear way, frankly, than Albert experienced it.
You had to respond to that word, though, Albert, and when he said, "You are my treasure. I love you," you had been exposed, at that point, to the Bible. Buddhism is not afraid of Jesus. They think he's another of the many enlightened ones. Somebody had given you a Bible, and you'd been reading it, but it was bouncing off of you, you said, until Jesus said, "This is who I am." Talk about the third thing that happens.
Lazarus, because he's the son of Adam, is dead. Lazarus, by the kindness of God and the gracious work of God in his sovereignty, calls him out of death to life. He says, "I am the Prince of Peace, Albert. I am the one who's led you. I am where life is. Trust in me." You trusted in him. Talk about Lazarus leaving his grave clothes. The new man has come. What happened then with Albert?
Albert: After that moment of my new birth, new life I enjoy very much with the one true God, the one who I love and who fulfills my heart at that point. According to my circumstance, you need to understand that I was fed up with my mentality. I was fed up with religion and all those deaths and hells of life. I needed Jesus. I needed the one true God.
The experience from all of that is I experienced the deliverance and the restoring and my life put back in order. So is my family. The fellowship was the most transforming in my life, as well. For me, it is hard to understand the God who created the heavens and the earth, and he longed to have fellowship with human beings. With the old Adam, in my old religion, I had to do something in order to earn my way to favor and their god, while this God emptied himself, and yet he longed to come right inside of me to fellowship with me.
Todd: So you didn't need to be enlightened because the light of the world humbled himself to come to you.
Albert: There's no way that I can be enlightened because of my old Adam. People need to understand that. There's just no way that a human being can try to go to God unless he himself came to us.
Todd: You talk about that, because one of the goals of any sort of meditation is to find truth deep within yourself or even on your own discovered outside of yourself. The problem is, you've shared this, that you're dead. When you look to yourself, and even within the Buddhist monks that you knew and yourself at the height of your obedience to that way, you said, "No matter how much I meditated on it, I always came back to the old me. The anger, the lust." Buddhist monks take vows of chastity. There's no impurity involvement with the world, right?
Todd: Yet, just because you didn't act on it, was sin alive in you? Was lust there? Do Buddhist monks have this ability to overcome that?
Albert: Not at all. Matter of fact, the thing they do (shaving the head and the eyebrows and part of their body sacrificing), but what is inside of each individual was screaming daily with lust, with whatever the old Adam is in each individual. Those are the things… It's only God alone who can do that.
Todd: Who can change that.
Albert: Who can change that.
Todd: The fear, the bitterness. You had visions of going back to Cambodia, but it was to exact revenge (to slit their throat, I think is the exact verbiage that you've used) of the Khmer Rouge and others who had murdered over half your family that you knew. You found out later. You didn't know if any of them were alive.
But all of a sudden, there was something else that came. That old was going and new had come. One of the new things that had come was a desire now to fellowship with Christ, his people, and his Word. Talk to them about what the Word of God became to you.
Albert: The Word of God means so much to me. The Word of God is the spirit and is life, and I cannot live without the Word because the Word of God is God himself. I can't live a moment without the Word of God because of how truthful it is and how blessed it is. Every time I read the Word and the Word greets me at the moment that I can also worship and love more and more.
Todd: This new fellowship, again following this path we're talking about where the old things have gone, new things have come, and a desire to have intimacy with Jesus. I know we've done this a couple of times, but I think the words you said were, "God became to me like…" What? How did you begin to view it?
Albert: So sweet as honey. It just melts in my heart.
Todd: Yeah, because it was teaching you more about the God who loved you and had a relationship with you. Albert was not just led not by this inner warmth. You became a disciple. You memorized hundreds of verses even before you fully understood it. It was even in English. You were still learning English, memorizing the Word in English. You would read the Bible and wouldn't always understand it, but you obeyed it.
Todd: People began to see this difference in you. They said, "What happened to this man?" In fact, we're going to talk about this because the Buddhist family that you had wed into here in America, when they saw you begin to follow Jesus, what happened?
Albert: What happened was that they thought I was out of my mind. As a matter of fact, yes, I was completely out of my old mind. My new mind now is this amazing true life and the presence of God constantly in me. Because of that, my former ex-wife and her family plainly said to me, "Buddha or Jesus." If it was Buddha, I would still have my wife and family. If it was Jesus, it would be the end of it. I chose Jesus, and sure enough, they left.
Todd: They left you, and they went back to Cambodia, in fact. So you were a single dad for…
Albert: For10 years.
Todd: You had two children at the time. You raised them here in Richardson. They went to J.J. Pearce. You then eventually got to go back. Let's go to the next thing, because one of the things we see in Lazarus is, because he's the son of Adam, he's dead… He's called out by the gracious and sovereign work of God. He changes. His graveclothes were left behind, and he had dressed himself in peace and not anger and lust and wrath because God has given him a new life.
The old is gone; the new has come. The desire to have fellowship with God. It's not a task to spend time with Jesus. It's the delight of your heart. It's not something you do to earn his love. It's what you do because you love him. Then Lazarus, we saw, was a witness for Christ. Talk about how you began to be a witness for Jesus, and even how that led you back to Cambodia.
Albert: It is impossible when you know the gift of God and the Lord himself in you and me for you and me not to tell anything. Especially, according to my circumstances, 2 million died without knowing the Lord. Those are the things that will flow from within me, full of compassion and love, for those people to meet the one true God. That's why I went back, and to share with the woman who I had been married to for the last 10 years, "This is the one true God, and he loves you regardless of who you are."
Todd: So you went back, and you found your ex-wife. She had remarried. You had since gotten married here. You now have a boy in our children's ministry (2-1/2-year-old Samuel) along with two 20-year-old children who are here. You and your wife are here at Watermark and in community, and all that, seeking fellowship with his people. You went back, and you tried to witness to your ex-wife and to the Khmer Rouge. You saw people who had committed awful atrocities against you. Talk about that.
Albert: At the moment that I saw him face to face, just know that the old Adam of me wanted revenge. I wanted to just do whatever evils were in me at that point (the revenge I wanted to do). At that moment, it was just another person who was in me, the peace that I received that night, it was he himself who came at that moment to turn hate into love, at that point that I shared all the compassion and love for God toward that person. He became a believer to this very day, as well.
Todd: Yeah. So you led this man who had done these things to Christ. Albert, I'm looking in this book that's about your life. The story about how so many people misunderstand the whole salvation by grace through faith and not by works and faith without works being dead. They completely misunderstand that. We talk about in here about how that wasn't a dilemma for you. You completely understood it, and it wasn't that you had to be a witness for Christ. You go on to say, "How could I not be a witness for Christ?"
That's one of the things that true believers, people who know God… There is this sense of, "I want to tell you about the who's loved me, who's brought me out of death." That is a characteristic that is consistent with believers. Another one is that they suffer for his faith. Talk about that.
Albert: Yeah. The suffering that I also had to carry on and knowing that the suffering is the fulfillment of my own faith and also the fulfillment of the existence of God's presence and the Lord Jesus Christ himself grabbing hold of me. The suffering. At the moment that I knew the Lord, the line of my family began to reject me as well as my Buddhist friends as well as many friends. They also began to reject me because of the new faith, new God, that I received at that moment.
Todd: We talked about that suffering, and you said, actually, you thought of suffering as…what?
Albert: To me, suffering is the gift. It's not so much of focusing on the suffering itself, but I know that at that moment, God is already ahead of me, and God has already come for me as he brought me from hell and death. I consider it as a blessing.
Todd: Yeah. You saw suffering as a blessing, a chance to show your love for your King and the sufficiency of your King.
Todd: Albert, one last thing. You said this. One of the things that troubled you when you came here, and you started to be around even some gatherings like this one… I remember when we met, you were working here at Watermark on the custodial staff. There was a company that was doing some cleaning, and you were here.
One day you grabbed me. I was walking through several years ago, and you said, "Pastor Todd, can I have a moment with you?" I said, "Absolutely." You just started to thank me. Then you started to share with me this story for the first time. I want you to share with them what you shared with me about why you were thanking me.
Albert: To begin with, I want to thank each one of you. Even though you may not know it, the thing that you continue to witness Sunday after Sunday, and the witnessing that you continue to pray for one another either in here or in the parking lot blesses me so much.
My first time, when I walked in and I saw that, I knew at that moment that I saw Jesus in each one of you in here. Also, the message is the most powerful message that I needed. I need Lord Jesus Christ himself, the message where the Word that brings the life of the Lord Jesus Christ to life, and this is the place, and that's why I wanted to thank you.
Todd: Yeah, because you saw Christ here. One of the things that confused you and frustrated you is you saw in so many of the churches in this country an unfamiliarity with the Jesus who had led you out of death into life, and it confused you.
Albert: It confused me. It confused me even to the point that the one who I knew, the one who delivered me from hell and death… When I came to this state, I still longed for Jesus. "Where is the Lord Jesus, the one who delivered me?" The true matter of fact is there are so many others who dress in coats and ties and have the logo of a Christian, but I didn't see Jesus in their heart, which is inside of each individual.
In a circumstance like mine, I need Jesus. I didn't need anything else. I was fed up with religion. Religion was passing on from generation to generation. I was fed up with that. Why am I coming back to be under the same religion and religious people while the Lord himself has nothing to do with it. The most incredible of relationships is that the Lord gave up himself for you and for me.
Todd: Yeah. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about speaking out against the dead church. Let me just say this. People are looking for life. They're looking for Christ. When they see us go through ritualistic motions, when they see us not joyfully seeking fellowship with Christ, not devouring his Word, not yielding to it, not having the old graveclothes being done away by the power of Christ, not by our own doing, that we don't celebrate the grace of him calling out of our lack of knowledge and departure from God, still finding life in material things or physical pleasures… People like Albert, who are everywhere, go, "Where is this Jesus?"
He knew him, he just couldn't find gatherings of others who he felt like he could run with. That's one of the reasons he thanked us. He said, "I see my Jesus here in you, and I see others who know him the way I want to know him." I believe God wants every church in the world to prevail and be the church that honors God.
All I will tell you is if every church in the world is going to prevail and honor Christ, this one has to. So that's our job to purify ourselves and to be that. I want to ask you. Do you understand the death that you were called out of to by the grace of God? Has there been that transformation in your life? Is there a hunger for fellowship with Christ?
Do you see his Word as sweet as honey, as Albert has said? Are you meditating on it, memorizing it as he did? Are you reading it and when you're confused asking questions, seeking to be discipled as he has? This man has been through hundreds of hours of training to know more about Christ so he can witness about Christ. Are you anxious to tell everybody about this Christ, even your enemies, as he is? Are you willing to suffer loss of relationship because of your love for Jesus, as he was?
This is the antitype. This is the fulfillment of what Lazarus is the picture of. It's not some 2,000-year-old story. This seat should be occupied by every believer, and we should be able to do this with you. This is what your Community Group should be; this telling and encouraging and reminding each other of this. This is why we're here again today: to remind ourselves that that's the fullness of what Christ intends.
As we get ready now to dive back into the coming of the King in the book of John, I want to ask you…Has the King come to you? Do you know him this way? The man clothed in white is the Light of the World. His name is Jesus, and he says you are his treasure, and he died to save you. He longs to have an intimate relationship with you. Will you come? Will you be healed? Will you find life and peace? It's not through Buddha, the enlightened one. Jesus did not need to be enlightened. He is the Light of the World. Let me pray for you.
Father, I thank you for this morning and for the chance to be reminded of this truth through Albert's life, for the amazing grace that is captured in his story. Even as you use that song to bring Albert to a place of deep peace and awareness of what you have done, we celebrate it this morning. I pray that there would be others who would know that grace, would walk in that grace, and would be set free from the bondage to sin and death.
Father, we celebrate you. We lift up Jesus this morning. This is not about Albert. He is just a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God. That's all we are. So I pray for anybody in this room who doesn't know Jesus, that we would be Christ's ambassador, begging they would be reconciled to this God who we have found. I pray we love our Cambodia, our America, our enemies in the way that you have loved us. We thank you for your grace. Amen.
As we get ready to leave, I just want to tell you that one of the things that Albert told me when he came here is he said that people loved him, they embraced him, they called him brother, not just a custodian. This is a man who God plucked out of the depths of darkness in this world that he wanted to disciple and grow and love and send back to be a light in the land that he came from.
Everybody that you pass is an Albert who God is looking to have his people love and reach out to and understand their story and to tell them the story that will give them the treasure of the earth, dignity. He said, "Todd, I came here, and people loved me. They called me brother, and they taught grace and truth. 'The light came into the world. The world did not comprehend it, but we beheld its glory, the glory of the one filled with grace and truth.'"
As you go into the world today, can I just tell you something? There are Alberts all across this city (refugees and native Americans), people who were born here who look just like you and who look nothing like you, people who were sitting next to you in this service today, who God wants to know love, truth, grace, and care, that Jesus is the way. Not a way, the way. Be his ambassador. Worship him. Come if you don't know him. Go in love if you do.
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.