A Letter

If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an under achiever. If God exists, I hope he has a good excuse.
– Woody Allen

Dear friend,

Hi, I’m Ken.

Have you been angry or frustrated with God? Perhaps you didn’t just think he was an under achiever. Perhaps you’ve experienced so much meaningless evil, or you’ve been convinced of a cold deterministic world that is too unfriendly to believe He even exists. Perhaps He is not all loving. Perhaps He derives a strange pleasure in tormenting some? Perhaps He is a figment of our imagination.

I’ve wrestled with these thoughts. Many have as well. But I’ve had the “privilege” of wrestling with these thoughts while experience similar circumstances as the biblical Job. During my brief stint in seminary, people who knew of my story started to call me the “Modern Day Job”.

Kenneth Koh Ezcema Severe LetterstoamoderndayJob Job-20151206

My last 15 years saw me lose my health, relationships and career in a slow process, like a slow motion car crash (while burning slowly along the way), before God started a miraculous process to restore that which I had lost. This arduous fight with an incurable autoimmune problem left me incarcerated in the prison of my home for a many years. I lost my health, my career and many relationships. In the reverberations of my thoughts confined in the 4 walls of this cell, I was being driven to the brink of dissonance as I grappled with the philosophical and existential questions like “if God, why evil?”, “Is the Bible fake?” and “What’s the difference between Christianity, other religions and positive thinking?”, “is this world even worth saving?”, “is there a place for me in this world?”   while being in the simultaneous reality of having what seemed like an incurable debilitating painful disease, and seeing the world and the church unwilling to hold my hand as my world crumbled.

This suffering is only one side of the coin …

But this project is not about a rags-to-riches story, or a sick-to-healed story. That is only 1 side of the coin. The other is being totally rejected by people in the midst of this long arduous dissonant journey. People never understood the magnitude and multiple afflictions that I had. I do not expect the world to give me sympathy, but the greatest tragedy is when even the church that I served in did not offer any real support. I made some mistakes in life to be sure, but very few could understand the hows and whys of what caused my “imperfect” decisions. A man takes very different decisions when there is a sword of Damocles over his head. Lack of empathy from others accelerate such decisions. Very few people will ever experience this, but the world and the church can both be very unfriendly to things that they do not understand. The questionable actions of the church and it’s leader-heads are not always reflective of the true heart of Jesus. However, over time, it is inevitably if a believer continually receives such interactions with His representatives, he will doubt the heart of Jesus as well.

… the other side was unwittingly becoming a Pariah.

That being said, most people in church are good-hearted, but we are still limited by flesh. This flesh we have may manifest itself in pride, favoritism or a lack of wisdom and lack of self-consciousness. Tell them you have cancer, or any disease that is easily understood or popular, and the church can be a place of great encouragement. The problem is obvious. A confirmation bias is triggered into them helping you or being seen to be supportive. But, if you are suffering from something equally debilitating, but for reasons unknown the extent is totally incomprehensible to them; if they cannot understand why you are frustrated, dissonant or on the verge of giving up,  they will judge your moral value and character. I’ve seen this occur with myself, as well as many other pariah friends whom I have had the honor of corresponding with over the years. What was intense pain and a real risk of debilitation that leads to death would be interpreted as having small tolerance for discomfort. Your dissonance will be interpreted as lack of faith. You will know they feel this way about you when it becomes more obvious that they do not give weight to you or your words.

Like Job, I was trapped between circumstances that didn’t make sense, and the whole world turning their backs due to the impossibility of understanding his situation. His friends couldn’t understand what he was going through but assumed they did. In fact, if you read Job 3 to Job 37, you would be tempted to think that his friends are the heroes in the story. It’s harrowing to me, as I remember it like yesterday, how what his friends said is easily celebrated in the church today. How does a person like Job live like this? There is literally no place for him to lay his head. Why remain in this world if you will never be celebrated or made to feel relevant, not because of your sincere heart, but due to the lack of maturity, wisdom in love and self-consciousness in others? What makes it infinitely worse is not that they won’t understand, but many cannot understand, unless they one day go through it themselves.

Yes. I’ve entertained thoughts of destroying the world because of the unfairness. The world treated me like nothing, I want to show them. Then, in futility, as one can’t quite destroy the world, I’ve thought of destroying myself – after all, I was nothing.

So, this project much more than about why or how we “suffer”. It’s about unveiling the Gospel of Grace I never knew, triggering victory and beauty to a life most people would have given up on. It’s about revealing how and why the world can be unfriendly to what they don’t wish to understand. And, how a sovereign and loving God can help people on both sides understand each other. Whether or not you’re a lost son or an elder son, we all need the prodigal Father.

But, my unknowable suffering triggered catalysts to see the truth behind the world and it’s people. When I had :everything, people treated me a certain way. When I didn’t fit into the box of what a Christian “overcomer” looked like, they treated me very differently. But yet, am I not the same soul in all the time? I was still that same boy, on a sincere journey to know God and make sense of this world. Knowing I was that same boy, the same soul yet seeing how the world can treat you based on external reasons led me to believe how unfriendly and fickle this world can be. It conditioned my heart to be hardened.

Today, I want to write about how greatly fickle and disturbing the world can be, and how great the love of God and transformative gospel of Grace can not only help you overcome the world, but transform it as you yourself are transformed.

Is that you today?

Most people will never get to this state where they . There will always be some visible gift that you have that is coveted by other people. There will always be some kind of beauty you have that others will be attracted by. Many people take it for granted. They don’t know people will reject them if they change, the world has always treated them a certain way. But the world can be very superficial, and if you ever get to the point that you lost all the things that made you useful and valuable to the world and it seems you have no place in it, may I share with you something close to my heart?

My story is to tell you from experience right now, that “even if your mother and father forsake you, the LORD himself will hold you close.” (Psalm 27:10)

The church rejected you? God can lead the right people to you, from unexpected places.

Too sick to collaborate with people to further your career? God can give you significant business ideas in the confines and prison of your room.

The best of medical doctors convinced you that you can’t recover? God can intervene directly as well as give you wisdom to find another solution to increase your life.

You can’t forgive yourself for mistakes made? People judge you from past mistakes? God forgave you, and will give you favor when others don’t.

You might say that this is too good to be true. Why would God do all these things for me? One reason: because of Jesus. This is the reason why I am writing this book, and there is much about Jesus to write about. There is a reason why the two men on the road to Emmaus asked each other when they spoke with the hidden Jesus, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). Why would their hearts burn? God’s promises are not trivial. If our hearts are not burning when we think of Jesus, can I suggest that it is not because we are not faithful or pious, it is because we have learnt the wrong things about Jesus, or haven’t been exposed to the divine revelation of his glorious grace.

I hope my experience will be a frame to show how glorious that grace. Every scar I bear, even the residual ones in my heart, is a testament to how transformative God’s grace can be. God’s grace is far from a cosmic feel-good factor, the Gospel far from a cosmic guilt trip (you get to go heaven, so feel sorry and get your act together on earth). God shows you a taste of heaven on earth, we live on this part of heaven, so to speak.

Heaven on this side of earth doesn’t mean the world has no suffering. It means an external force can invade the unbeatable curse and chaos of earth to transform you and the situation and give it meaning. Meaning that will lead to peace that surpasses all understanding. The combination of the darkest pain, and the light that transformed it blend together to weave a beautiful story that could not exist without either. This is Redemption. It is worth much more than the sum of its parts. 

So please don’t get me wrong.

This book is the virtual opposite of self-pity or intellectual indulgence. Neither does it swing to its incomplete cousin of thought that we would be too blessed to be stressed. There is great power in seeing the true redemptive power and nature in Christ as presented in the Bible and not based on our own limited post-modern sensibilities as many are prone to do these days. And if the world or even the church has rejected you, God himself can lift you up. That’s this promise to you in Jesus.

Seeing this redemptive power doesn’t just change your mind or temporarily lighten your mood. It softens the heart so that the seed of grace can open the pathways for personal transformation as well as the transformation of your circumstances. Simply put, it allows God to be God in your life.

This book is a testimony, and compilation of ideas and discoveries to help others who are going though similar existential problems. The heart of this book is my attempt to unveil Jesus so that more can be blessed by the revelation.

The Time for Restoration: Real Grace

Faith ain’t easy to understand, where a bird in a bush is worth two in a hand.
– Newsboys, God is not a secret

Fast forward to 2016. 

Today, I was sitting on my couch. My back firmly enjoying the backrest. Hands on the arm- rest. I never could do that. Either it would hurt an inflamed part of the body, or I was afraid to leave bloodstains.

My body is pain-free. Complexion so much better. Almost like it never happened.

I notice that I actually have a career now. Data analytics, fund management and market intelligence development, and a Christian writer. It was only 5 years ago that I was none of these, starting from scratch. 

It’s like the devil tried to destroy me. In a way, he did. But God simply raised up a new me through the ashes. I used to be conditioned to only live indoors, now I am travelling the world. I used to be an engineer and teacher, never thinking outside of my firm or school, my world is so much bigger now. I am wanting to impact the world in a bigger way now. What a great comfort to know that even if you are pushed to destruction, God can do what the world cannot, He can give a Rebirth. A New Me. A New You. This New You is far better than the old one. That’s God’s style. A restoration is always bigger than what you’ve lost.

I’m sitting here in Nashville. I was dreaming of being in the USA years ago for personal and career development but had a zero chance of going. I wasn’t a “professional” and couldn’t qualify for a work visa. Today, I’m in the place God wants me to do at the moment. I’m slowly entering that New Country which lies the purposes of God. This was a long time coming.

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For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
– 2 Cor 1:20, NIV

What happened in 2016? What happened in 2009, towards the end of my 4 year, 4 wall, incarceration, that started to change the course of my impending demise? Nope, my medical treatments did not change. My worldly circumstance didn’t change.

Jesus happened.

But I would be short-changing you leaving out the details. For this reason do I write this book in order to capture the nuances of beauty and meaning observed while transitioning through the Abyss while wrestling with God and His promises. The abyss seeks to ensnare and pull you back in like a black hole. In Jesus, He is working to bring you to the New Country and for you to become the New You, where meaning and love abounds. You will not be alone. This is not a tug-of-war between the Abyss and Jesus (that’s too one-dimensional for a great God), that’s too small for Him; I find that He is transforming your whole landscape altogether. If only we step up and go through Jesus.

The best part of it is that God loves you and wants to help you regardless of whether you have perfect attendance in church, do a lot of charity or pray mountain-shaking prayers. Even in your dissonance, frustration, and isolation from church, God can and will love you and work with you. That was my experience.

In those 15 years of capitulation, it was unfair, I didn’t know what else I could have done. Nothing could stop me from going down and down. In the last few years of restoration, there were no reasons, it was unfair, there was nothing I could have done except consciously committing myself to God’s grace in Jesus. Nothing seemed to stop me going up and up. That’s God’s timing and God’s grace. Because of Jesus, I didn’t deserve the “punishment”, I also didn’t deserve the blessings by my own efforts. Because of His perfect timing, both are used to paint a beautiful, meaningful picture. God uses the Bad and the Good to create Great.
– Kenneth Koh, Letters To a Modern Day Job
Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more… And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.
– Philip Yancey, What’s so amazing about Grace?

The redemptive journey with God was more than just a physical healing, it was an all-encompassing blessing in the midst of storms . Although the journey still has some residual challenges,  God’s hand  on it is undeniable. My heart to share his journey with other modern-day Jobs, to uncover the gems within the process of suffering and redemption, and to remind them that they have a bright future, even if others cannot or will not see it

In the stillness and isolation of the four walls of my bedroom prison. Even if the world, mother nature, men and even the church disappoints you, I still came to this conclusion:

The answer is still “Jesus”. He is not an object, but He is alive. If we relegate Jesus to that of a vending machine, we miss the point entirely.  He is not a “formula”, but He is the “fullness” of who we live and have our being.

He is your wisdom: use him.
He is your door: step through him into destiny.
He is a savior: let him save you.
He is your shepherd: let him carry you on his shoulders when you are lost.
He is your brother: join him in family matters.
He is your sacrifice and payment: accept the blessings he paid for, and let go of the debts that condemn you.
He is your bread of life: consume him.
He is your water: drink him and not be thirsty.

All these things are in effect because of the Grace and what Christ has done of the cross. That is the basis of the redemptive power of the Christian walk.

May I have your permission to share in greater detail all the darkness that led to dissonance?

May I have your permission to detail out all the nuances of the scary Abyss, thereby removing from it its power?

May I have your permission to share how Jesus was all of these things above in my life?

One day I thought to myself that it would have helped me a great deal, if someone could have shared with me these findings during my own time being lost in the Abyss. What if my future self could have sent letters to my past self? What if I could send letters to someone else who is going through the Abyss now?

This is what Letters To a Modern Day Job is about.

Let us journey together, dear brother and sister,

Ken

Ken 1

To see more details in the story, please do check out the chapters tab. Or, find some of the links below:

Chapters

Introductions 1: Welcome to my Nightmare
Introductions 2: Real Grace. The Great Erase and Replace.
Introductions 3: Perplexing Players. Perfectly placed Props.
Grace is Key – God is not mad at you. He loves you.
Suffering is but the starting point of Redemption
The Crownless again shall be King
Work through your Abyss with Jesus (Part 1): Keep your eye on Jesus to escape the Abyss to the New Country.
Work through your Abyss with Jesus (Part 2): Your LOOK at God triggers God’s LOOK on you.
Work through your Abyss with Jesus (Part 3): Real Progress requires Divinely Inspired Fundamental Changes.
Work through your Abyss with Jesus (Part 4): The journey starts with the LOOK of faith followed by the WALK through DOORS.

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