Christopher Yuen

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Sunday, 25 May 2008

"Finding Freedom and Wholeness in a Sexually Confused World"

Christopher Yuen

25th May 2008




It is good to see so many of you here today.


Sex is literally everywhere we turn. We see it in magazines, on TV, internet and on the billboards when we are walking along the streets. We cannot escape it. Unfortunately the issue isn't so much that we see this topic being talked but the issue is that we are getting the wrong impression. We are getting the wrong perspective of it. We are getting the worldly perspective. You see, sex was created by God for husband and wife, but we've distorted it and have twisted it to what God did not intend it for. But unfortunately the church has been kind of silent; we have not really talked about it much and that has kind of made things worse because the world is not going to stop talking and giving us the wrong perspective. As the church, I believe we need to speak the truth; we need to talk about the honest issues pertaining to sex. There is not just confusion regarding sex but also confusion more specifically about the issue of homosexuality. This is an issue that doesn't get talked about that much. I mean, the question stands "Can homosexuals change"? This is a big question. One side is saying yes, while the other side is saying no. The other question is "How should we Christians respond to homosexuals"? And lastly "How can we help people who struggle with homosexuality or people who are in this lifestyle"? How can we as followers of Jesus Christ help them? So, in this next hour I want to share with you my testimony and maybe with the Q&A session, I may be able to answer a few of these questions. Let us pray.


"Father God we are so grateful for the gift of life that You have given to us and Your mercies which are new every morning. Father I pray that as we talk about Your mercies and about the work that You have done in my life, Lord that you will be glorified and I pray Father that Your name will be lifted up and we ask this in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen".


My Background


Well I was born and raised in the U.S.; an ABC or as some of my friends affectionately call me, "a banana". My parents were born in China, raised in Taiwan and went to the U.S. for graduate school. My parents did not go to church. They were not Christians and did not own a bible. My parents raised me with very traditional Chinese values. These are the 3 values that I believe our parents commonly put on us.


Firstly- Obey your parents.


Secondly - Do well in school.


Thirdly - Got to practice the piano. Ever noticed that, all Asians practice the piano or violin or something?


So these were the values that my parents instilled in me from a very young age. As I was growing up, I never fit in with the other American boys. Here I'd fit in, but there in the U.S. I did not fit in. I mean I look different, I act different and I had different interests. This is a picture of me when I was a baby, I know it is so cute but it is all downhill after that. I never fit in. You see, God had gifted me with music and with sensitivity but, satan who cannot take away the God-given gifts, twisted the perception of them and I was viewed and ridiculed as being effeminate - just being like one of the girls.


The Danger of Internet Pornography



The first time I remembered having same sex attraction was when I was 9 years old after I came across pornography at a friend's house. And at such a young age, I was confused and afraid of those feelings. I mean, I hadn't had the talk about the birds and bees with my parents. But, you know that is not a common thing for Asian parents to sit down and say "Well, let me tell you about sex". Sex is such a hush-hush thing, very private. I was 9 years old anyway and I hadn't had any talk about sex so without any parental input on sexuality, those magazines gave me a distorted view of sex and they soon became my master.


Unfortunately, pornography nowadays has become the master of many kids, youths, young adults and adults, both male and female. We are in a battle for the lives of our youth, for ourselves; and the souls and we're losing miserably. Many parents out there don't even know how big of a problem pornography is and thus, little has been done to protect their home and their family from this issue of the internet.


Just to give you an idea; the pornography industry is a multi billion dollar industry. The combined annual revenue of ABC, CBS and NBC which are the major TV networks in the U.S. is US$6.2 billion. The combined annual revenue of all the major sports leagues, the NBA Basketball, the NHL Hockey, Major League Baseball and the NFL is US$12 billion. But if we combine the major television networks and the major sports leagues, they pale in comparison to the annual revenue of the combined annual revenue of the pornography industry. The pornography industry's annual revenue amount to US$57 billion per year. We are in a battle against the pornography industry over our very own lives.


9 out 10 children, age 8 to 16 have already viewed pornography on the internet? 9 out 10 while doing their homework using the computer. In addition they studied that 1 out of 5 children have already received a sexual solicitation over the internet; chatting or whatever and what is scarier is of these children that have received that, only 20% think that that is weird or something wrong so they don't tell anyone. I think something definitely has to be done. What I propose is that we need to have double internet protection. If you own a computer you should have internet filter. Internet filter blocks any questionable sites from being viewed. Unfortunately, not every filter is full proof. It's not perfect, just like any other computer program.


I know you kids out there probably know more about computers than your parents just like me. I was just teaching my dad how to turn the computer on. Parents probably know less about the computers than their kids do and that is why I propose double internet protection, having an internet accountability program. The two that I use are internet filter (K9 Web Protection) and internet accountability program ( . They are free of charge and I don't want there to be any excuse for people to not to have them. These are things that everyone should have on their computers. X3Watch is good because if somehow programs don't get through or do get through the filter, they'll be recorded on this accountability program. In the event that kids kind of figure how to turn things off, when X3 Watch will record that the filter has been turned off or the accountability program has been turned off.


In addition to all these, we have to talk openly and frankly about sex with our kids because if we don't, the world will and that is one reason why I've been asked to come here and talk openly about this issue of sex and about the issue of homosexuality because we're getting the wrong impression.


How It Began


So, with pornography fuelling my same sex attractions, I had my first encounter when I was 16 years old but I kept my feelings hidden through high school, college and even the Marine Corp Reserves. In my early 20's, I was secretly going out to the gay clubs in the Chicago area. When I moved to Kentucky to attend Dental School, I no longer kept it a secret and lived openly as a homosexual in the gay community. It was also during that period that I decided to go home and break the news to my parents who were living in Chicago. I told them that I am gay and that devastated my mother. To her, news of my death would have been better than this. My mother, who was not yet a Christian then, thought that an ultimatum would bring me to my senses. She told me to choose between my family and my lifestyle. And, you know for us Asians, family is the most important right, above almost everything else. And to her that was a no brainer. You just choose the family. But I didn't see myself as a Chinese anymore. I didn't want to be Chinese. Besides I didn't think that I could choose one way or the other because you see, I had already bought into the lie that homosexuality was an inseparable aspect of who I was as a person. So in my mind there was no choice. I left home and went back to Kentucky. This devastated my mother and the timing could not have been any worse. After years of unresolved issues and after years of living as non-Christians, my parent's marriage was literally a disaster. They had already begun the paper work for a divorce. My mum was at the end of the rope and found no reason to live. On the next day, she had resolved to do the unthinkable. She was going to end her life. So, she bought a one-way train ticket to go down to Kentucky where she was going to say goodbye to me for the very last time.


Although she wasn't a Christian, she felt the need to go see a minister before the train ride. The minister gave her a pamphlet on homosexuality. With only that pamphlet and her purse, she boarded the train thinking that death was the only answer to her problems. Although my mother had never been a good student, didn't like to read a lot, she began reading this pamphlet which shared with her the plan of salvation; that all of us, we're all sinners; and yet in spite of our sin, God still loves us. God opened up the eyes of her heart to see that just as God loves her in spite of her sin, she could love me in spite of the homosexual lifestyle that I was living. She had been an atheist all her life but as she looked out the window at the wonders of creation, she knew that there must be a God. One of her favorite verses today is Rom 1:20; "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature has been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that man are without excuse". Gazing out the window and reflecting upon God's love, my mother heard a still small voice saying "You belong to me". Those 4 words from God were a healing balm to her shattered heart. All her life she wanted to belong to a loving family. She had come from a broken family and as she got married, she had high hopes of creating a loving and warm family but everything fell apart. At that very instant, God was telling her; no, you belong to me. My mum gave her life to God but she didn't know what that meant. She actually thought that she had to become a nun or something like that. Good thing she didn't. My mother who was not seeking God was found by her loving creator. So the healing began not only in her, but in the lives of my parents and after a few months, my father also surrendered his life to Christ. It is funny because when my mother was in Kentucky, she didn't want to go home as their marriage was broken; what did she have to go home to? She called the number on the back of that pamphlet and they connected her to a retired minister's wife where this lady discipled her for 6 whole weeks.


At the end of the 6 weeks, this lady said; you have to reconcile with your husband. My mother said; I don't know if I am ready. This lady said; let me call your husband. She called my dad and told him that his wife has been totally transformed, she's a brand new person; she has given her life to Christ. My dad replied, "That is not good news. This is my worst nightmare because now she's got God on her side". My mother went home after that, they still have some arguments every now and then. Each time that happens, my mother would go off to her prayer closet and my dad wouldn't have anyone to argue with. Well, my dad concluded that since he can't win, he might as well join her. He gave his life to Christ after a few months and together they began the journey of following Jesus Christ.


My mother had gone to Kentucky expecting to end her life, and in reality she did. Another one of her favorite verses is Gal 2:20 "For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who love me and gave himself for me". Christ living in them prepared my parents for the difficult years as I head deeper and deeper into the world of homosexuality.


Sinking Deeper and Deeper


Spending almost all my free time in the gay clubs, I went from relationship to relationship, seeking intimacy and happiness which I found temporarily but it only left me feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied. So, I began experimenting with drugs. But without much money as a dental student, I supported my habit by selling drugs. I sold to friends, classmates and even a professor. I thought I could live this double live of being a graduate student by day and a promiscuous drug dealer by night. But 4 months before I was to receive my Doctorate, the administration expelled me. My parents flew down from Chicago down to Atlanta and I thought they were going to come and fight to keep me in school especially since my dad knew the Dean. My dad's a dentist and he knew the Dean very well and I thought; great, keep me in school. But as we sat in the Dean's office with my parents and me, my mum told the Dean, it is not important that Christopher becomes a Dentist. What's more important is that Christopher becomes a Christ follower. And they said we're going to support whatever decision the Dean will be making.


I know that is totally almost contrary to what parents would most likely do. We pray for children to be successful, to get a good job, to live a comfortable life, but you know when it comes down to it, if you have everything in the world but you don't have Christ, you have nothing. And, my parents realized that if I became a Dentist, had a great career, had everything I needed but didn't have God, I'd be empty. So, you can imagine how infuriated I was when I found out that they weren't going to try and keep me in school. So I moved further away from them, away from Chicago to the bright lights in big city of Atlanta, Georgia. There I quickly took over the drug scene and the gay community and I became a supplier to other dealers in over 11 states in the south-east. In addition it was nothing for me to have multiple anonymous sexual encounters each and every day. According to the world, I had it all. I had money, fame, drugs and sex. I had exchanged the truth of God for a lie and began worshipping and serving the creature rather than the creator. In my world, I had become God.


My parents had no idea that I was doing drugs or even selling drugs, but they knew that my biggest need was to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. My mother would try to reach out to me and pour out her love. She would send me Christian cards every other day. You know those Christian cards you find in the Christian book stores; you guys have Christian book stores here right? You know they are really nice and flowery and cute, you know you can see this little garden and this watering pot, they never have any masculine Christian cards with things blowing up and big machines; I don't know why. Anyway, my mum would get these pretty frilly stuff, shiny card and she would send it to me every other day and she would fill the inside of the card with paragraphs of scripture and on the back she would write in a hymn with all 17 verses and at the very bottom she would sign each card; Love you forever, Mum. And, I would never read those cards, I'd check if there was money of course but I'd throw them away. My mum would call me on the phone and when I checked my caller ID, I will not answer the phone when I saw that it was my Mum who's calling. She will leave voice messages, and record the newest Christian song for me but I will just delete it.


My parents thought that I might come home if they bought me a plane ticket. So on Christmas Eve, my mother went to the airport at Chicago, stood there at the gate waiting for me to get off the plane, and the whole plane got off and I wasn't on the plane. She thought maybe I had missed the flight so she went back home and came back 3 hours later and stood there at the gate looking down the jet bridge. She then realized that I wasn't on that plane and she returned home alone. So, if I wasn't going to go home, my parents knew that if they were going to see me they would have to go down to Atlanta. So they flew down to Atlanta and I picked them up in my brand new sports car; I thought I'd impress them; it didn't work. I took them back and on the second day, I just had enough. They weren't preaching to me, they weren't taking the bible and bashing me over my head with it, but just their life, were so transformed, they were just exuding Christ and that was offensive to me. And I had enough, I kicked them out of my place and I didn't even give them an opportunity to call their friends to pick them up. My father before he left, gave me his very first bible with all the notes in the margins and the highlights. I told him I don't want it. I don't even want it in my house. My father who is very persistent; of course my mother would say a little stubborn left it on my kitchen counter. But, as soon as my parents left, I took his bible and threw it into the trash can. I wanted nothing to do with God, nothing to do with the bible, their new found religion. I didn't want it nor did I need it.



Leaning on the Promises of God


After that visit, my parents knew that I was totally unreachable and completely hopeless. But, my parents committed not to focus on the hopelessness but upon the promises of God. And, along with over a hundred prayer warriors, they began to cry out to God for me. My mother began to pray a very bold prayer, which was; Lord, do whatever it takes to bring this prodigal son back to you; whatever it takes. That's a bold prayer for a mother to pray. She would literally spend hours in her prayer closet interceding on my behalf. In her desperation, she fasted every Monday for 7 years and once fasted 39 days on my behalf. Like the persistent widow, my mum bombarded heaven with her prayers. She knew that it would take nothing short of a miracle to bring this son home. And, a miracle is exactly what God did. And this is one of those prayers; "I'll stand in the gap for Christopher, I'll stand until the victory is won, until Christopher's heart changes. I'll stand in the gap everyday and there I will fervently pray and Lord just one favor, don't let me waiver. If things get quite rough, which they may, I'll never give up on that son, nor will you. Though the enemy seeks to destroy, I'll not quit as I intercede though it may take years. I give you my fears and tears as I trust every moment I plead". My mother prayed those prayers for 7 years. There was no change in me but what God kept reminding her to be still and know that He is God.


Looking back upon those years when my parents prayed for change, the change had not come in me yet, instead God brought the change in my parents. God's intention was that they would change, that they would be transformed, and be trophies of God's mercy. Oswald Chambers says that we are not here to prove God answers prayers. We are here to be living monuments of His grace. As they lived out those years of waiting, they learned to walk and live as monuments of His grace each and every day as God drew them closer to Himself. As we know God not only hears our prayers, He answers those prayers. This answer to prayer came one day with a bang on my door. I opened up my front door step and there right in front of my door were 12 Federal Drug Enforcement Agents, Atlanta police and 2 big German Shepherd dogs. I just received a large shipment of drugs in, not my largest, but they estimated what they confiscated along with my money, to be equivalent to the street value of 9.1 tons of marijuana. With that amount I was facing 12 years to life in federal prison. So I found myself in jail. I'd started with a bright future amongst society's finest in academia and found myself in the ditch amongst society's despised in Atlanta City's jail. So, I began to call all my friends and you know you may have those type of friends you know those kind that say; "hey whenever you need something just give me a call, let me know and I'll be there for you". So I thought I'd give them a call. But, you know my mother knew as long as I had those type of friends around, I would find no need for God and no need for my parents. Remember my mother likes bold prayers, right. She prayed specifically that somehow some way that every single one of my friends would dessert me. On that day nobody answered my phone calls.


So, I was at the bottom of the list - home; and I dreaded making that phone call. I mean, I don't think any of you ever want to be in that situation where you're in prison and you have to call home. I mean I dreaded that earful that I was going to get on the other line. But my mother's first words were; "Are you okay"? No condemnation, no braiding words, just words of unconditional love and grace. Rom 2:4 says; "God's kindness leads us to repentance". Even on that miserable day, God was pouring out His irresistible grace, drawing me to Himself through the words of my mother. Actually, my mother was excited to get that phone call as I had not called home in years and she knew without a doubt, that was God's answer to her prayers. And like that good old hymn says; "we must count our blessings, name them one by one and in spite of her circumstances, in spite of her situation, she had to count her blessings no matter what the situation was, no matter what the circumstance". And so as she got off the phone, she took a small piece of machine tape and wrote down this first blessing. Christopher is in a safe place - compared to before, and he called home for the very first time. As my years in prison passed, instead of focusing upon the situation, the negativity, my mother kept counting her blessings and adding to this blessings list and taping more pieces of adding machine tape to it and today this list of blessings is longer and taller than she is.



My Turing Point


3 days later as I was walking around the cell block and to be honest I was trying to stay away from the other criminals and of course I didn't think I was a criminal and I passed by this garbage can and I thought, that represented my life. I mean I had started with a bright future, I wanted to be a doctor, my father had 2 doctorates, I was from upper middle class suburb of Chicago and now I was among common criminals. With my head down I was about to pass this garbage can but something caught my eye. I bent over and picked it up; it was right on top of the heap of trash and it was a Gideon's New Testament. I took the New Testament back to my cell and for the very first time I opened up the bible and read through the entire gospel of Mark that night. But I wasn't thinking - this is the word of God. I wasn't even thinking this is going to be the answer to all my problems, but I thought I got a lot of time on my hands and I'd better pass it somehow. But, as some of you know, what you have in your bible is not just ink on paper. What you have is the very breath of God and it is living, powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, able to cut through the hardest of hearts and it exposed my sin and rebellion; and it wasn't a pretty sight.


A couple of weeks later I was called into the nurse's office alone. They handcuffed me, chained my hands around my waist and shackled my feet together and I could tell that something was not right. The nurse sat me down. She was uncomfortably struggling with her words, couldn't even give me eye contact. So she finally resigned to writing something on a small piece of paper and slowly slid it across the desk to me. I looked down and I saw 3 letters and a symbol. It read; HIV positive. The days after were dark and lonely. I was sentenced to 6 years which was much better than 12 years to life; but news of my HIV status was like a death sentence. One night as I was laying in my bunk, I noticed someone had scribbled something on the metal bed above me and it read; if you're bored read Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future". At the most hopeless point in my life, God was using the words penned by a prophet thousands of years ago to a rebellious nation to tell me that regardless of who I was and what I had done in the past, He still had a plan for me. I had no idea what this plan was going to be or where it was going to take me, but God gave me enough strength, enough faith to just take that one step to get through that one day.


My transformation was gradual. I wish I could say, I got down on my knees and prayed the sinners prayer and everything was perfect after that. But that's far from the truth. God was convicting me of my dependencies, the most obvious was drugs. But within a few months, He completely delivered me from that. But the last thing that I was holding on to was my sexuality. As I was reading the bible, I came across some passages which seem to condemn homosexuality. So I went to a prison Chaplin and asked him his opinion on this issue and to my surprise he told me that the bible really doesn't condemn homosexuality. He went to his bookshelf and gave me a book and he said; here's a book that explains that view. So with much curiosity I took that book in the hope of finding biblical justification for homosexuality. I had that book in one hand and the bible in the other and from the purely human perspective I had every reason to accept what this book was claiming to justify my previous homosexual lifestyle. But God's indwelling Holy Spirit convicted me that those assertions were a clear distortion of God, His Word and His unmistakable condemnations against homosexual behavior. I couldn't even get through the first chapter and I gave the book back to the Chaplin. So, I turned to the bible alone. I went through every verse, every chapter, page of the bible looking for justification for homosexuality. I never found any. So, I was at a turning point and a decision had to be made. To either abandon God to live as a homosexual or abandon the homosexual lifestyle to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. My decision was clear and obvious. I chose God.


As the days, weeks and months of abstinence passed, I realized that my sexual inclinations are not an inseparable aspect of who I am as a person. I used to tell myself that God loves me just the way I am and He doesn't want me to change; but unconditional love does not mean unconditional approval of my behavior. My identity should never be defined by my feelings, my sexuality or my sin. My identity is not gay, or homosexual or even heterosexual for that matter. My identity as a child of the living God must be in Jesus Christ alone. Scripture says; God tells us be holy for I am holy. I had always thought that the opposite of homosexuality was heterosexuality but actually the opposite of homosexuality is holiness and God was telling me not to focus on my homosexuality or my feelings, my struggles, but to focus on living a life of holiness and purity. I also realized that change is not the absence of struggles, but change is the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of our struggles. You see the ultimate issue is not my feelings or my sin, or my weaknesses. The ultimate issue is that I yearn after God in total surrender and complete obedience. As I live this life of surrender and of obedience, God slowly reveal His plan for my life and He called me to full time ministry while I was in prison and I realized that it didn't matter whether I was in prison or out of prison as my calling in life would remain the same regardless of location. And, with that change of heart, God shortened my sentence from 6 years to 3 years. With only a year left of my prison sentence, I knew if I was going into ministry once I got out of prison, I'd better learn more about the bible than just prison religion. And so I thought about going to bible college after I got out of prison. I called my parents from prison, told them the news that I'd like to go to bible college and asked them to mail me an application to the only bible college I had ever heard of called Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. But then there was silence on the other line, coz I think they both dropped their phones. They were so excited that they air the application into prison for me. I quickly filled it out till I got to the bottom where it said that I needed references from people who knew me as a Christian for more than 1 year. The only people I knew were in prison but I was able to persuade a prison Chaplin, a prison Guard and another prison inmate to write my references to Moody Bible Institute. Praise the Lord for another huge miracle. Moody actually accepted me. I was released from prison in July 2001, I started the very next month so imagine the surprise of my classmates when I answered their question; what did you do this summer?


I graduated in 2005 and just last year in 2007 I graduated from Win College Graduate School (Billy Graham's Alma Mata) with my Masters of Arts in Biblical Exegeses and God has such a sense of humor because now I'm back at Moody teaching in the Bible Tell Department. So from prisoner to professor, sounds like a catchy title; but it is not a route I would suggest to you if your want to be a teacher. God has done far more abundantly beyond what I have asked or thought. As I look back upon my life, I've realized that I've made a lot of bad decisions with some big consequences; one of those being HIV positive. But one thing I've realized is that I am no different than any of you. You see, none of us, none of us is promised tomorrow - nobody; and yet we live with expectation that tomorrow is promised to us. With Sichuan and the earthquake, we are reminded how one day, sooner or later we are going to face our mortality but what is most important is where we will be when we leave this earth. One thing for certain is that God has given us a gift and that gift is - TODAY - you are here for a reason today. You are here today not just to take up space, not just to do your own thing. God has created each and every one of you for a purpose. We live expecting tomorrow to come and we put things off and I think procrastination is in everyone's genes. We love to procrastinate; I'll do it tomorrow. I'll start getting right before God tomorrow; I'll give my life to God tomorrow, after I get my life together. But, you know what? God takes us just as we are. We can't get our life together when we are apart from God. One thing I've learnt from being HIV positive is that, we must live with a sense of urgency. Our time on earth is limited. You may have 70 years from now, but you know 70 yea