The Pruning

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

“You Think You’re Strong? Then You’re Wrong”: Understanding Paul’s Words in 2 Cor. 2:14-16

In Charlie Kang on February 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

by Charlie Kang

As famously stated by MC Trebla Kim at winter retreat 2011 (shout outs), those who think they are strong are wrong.  Little did he know that his rap carried such theological depth!  As Christians, there is a great desire for us to declare our strengths by the display of our ability and autonomy.  However, we do better service to Christ when we parade our weaknesses.  Strong people are wrong people.  Weak people are…better.  HAHA.  Paul echoes the sentiments of our very own MC at OMC with his words in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, which state:

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?”

It’s difficult to understand Paul’s words without entering into the world that Paul was writing to.  Let me give you some important historical information in hopes that these facts will make the words come alive and hit you with the force that Paul intended in his writing.  First, we need to figure out what a “triumphal procession” meant to Paul’s 1st century hearers.

The triumphal procession was a parade held by the Roman Senate to honor the victorious Roman general and also to thank the god Jupiter for the war that was won.  This victory parade could last several days and brought great joy to the citizens of Rome as they exclaimed the glories of Rome over other nations.  It functioned much like the Laker parades we experienced in LA when the Lakers won the NBA Finals.  The Laker players would go throughout the city in proclamation of their victory .  Onlookers would join the festivities by coming out onto the street that the parade went through and reveling in the glory of their conquering king, I mean, team.  HAHA.  Not only did it change the mood of the city, but the very smell of Rome was changed as the temples would fill Rome with the smell of incense as thanksgiving offering to their gods.  A triumphal procession brought a parade into the city and filled its people with joy.

What the main spectacle of this procession however, was not the incense or the soldiers, but the captives who marched in the parade.  Those who had lost the war marched to the derision and taunts of the onlookers in total defeat and total surrender to the Roman Empire.  Could you imagine how entertaining the Laker parade would be if the Boston Celtics were forced to march in front of the Laker bus through LA?  That would be one glorious parade.  Anyway, back to 1st century Rome, these captives were marched all the way to the Roman coliseum, where they would soon meet their demise.  The total display of Rome’s power was displayed as the weakness of the captives magnified the strength of the glorious Roman Empire.

This text does not say that we march together hand-in-hand with our Lord Jesus Christ, but states that we march as CAPTIVES being led by Jesus our conquering general!  The purpose of this text in the Bible is to give us this fundamental principle: we display the greatness of Jesus in our weakness.  Paul uses this loaded image of a triumphal procession to remind Christians that it is in weak people, not the strong, that the fragrance of Christ is spread throughout the world.  When we think we are autonomous and put up the front that we’re strong, capable people, we undermine the power and work of Christ and his gospel.  The display of God’s strength doesn’t come when we’re the strong, but His power is made perfect in our weakness. Weakness is our strength because it brings us to the end of ourselves.  Let’s proclaim the greatness of our God in church as we march together as captives of His grace and power.  It is in our weakness that the mercies of Christ shines forth to the nations!  Be weak!

Men, What Do You Look for in a Wife?

In Charlie Kang on February 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm

by Charlie Kang

One of the little tricks that I use in evaluating (aka judging) people is asking for their top 5 non-negotiables qualities of their future spouse.  If “Christian” is not there, I judge you.  If it’s “Christian” and then four worldly characteristics, I judge you.  HAHAHA.  If you said this to me and failed, it’s OK, I probably don’t judge you as harshly anymore.

Throughout my MANY years of asking this question, I have grown a deeper understanding that the reason why many of our relationships are broken in the world today is not because of a chemistry issue, but a problem that can be seen in ourselves before a relationship even starts. We simply want the wrong things.  We don’t want the proverbial Proverbs 31 woman anymore; we want a woman of our desires from 1 Fleshalonians (HAHA).  Some people never look beyond the superficial and are swimming in the shallowness of temporal beauty when a woman’s true beauty stems from her reflection of the image of God.  Men, we do better to get our priorities straight.

Famous American revivalist speaker Jonathan Edwards’ priorities for a wife were deeply entrenched in his love for God.  He was described as a man having a “God entranced view of all things”, meaning that everything he did was seen in light of his relationship to His Creator; even relationships.  See if you can trace some of the qualities that Edwards found beautiful of his wife, Sarah Piedmont in his love letter* to her:

“They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who is beloved of that almighty Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on  him–that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always.  There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love, favor and delight, forever.  Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction.  She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and sweetness of temper, uncommon purity in her affections; is most just and praiseworthy in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything thought wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being.  She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those times in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind.  She will sometimes go about, singing sweetly, from place to [place]; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure, and no one knows for what.  She loves to be alone, and to wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”

Men, let’s value the qualities in women that will not fade away in time.  Women, I hope you want a man who will say these things about you.

* Upon further investigation of the origins of this love letter, tradition states that Edwards wrote this to Sarah when he was 20 and she was 13.  Jonathan Edwards did not follow the “divide by 2, add 7″ principle.  It goes to show that we’re all sinners right?  HAHA jk :]

What Does it Mean When the Bible Says, “God Remembers”

In Charlie Kang on February 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm

by Charlie Kang

God is perfect in knowledge and wisdom; the Bible makes that abundantly clear.  With this in mind, the phrase “God remembered” can be particularly troubling.  When the Bible says that “God remembered,” one might picture God as a forgetful grandfather, who has difficulty remembering all the promises that He’s made to His children.  This phrase comes out numerous times throughout the first five books of the Bible, but we’ll focus our attention on one instance of God “remembering.” Genesis 8:1 states, “God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.”  Again, this verse is not saying that God somehow forgot about Noah.  He wasn’t like, “Whoops, my bad Noah!  I totz forgot you were stranded on an ark!” The word “to remember” used in Hebrew means God’s movement toward a particular person.  The essence of God’s remembering lies in His acting toward someone because of a previous commitment.  To say “God remembered Noah” is to say that God faithfully kept his promise to Noah by intervening to end the flood. God will never forget His promises.  We may not know when the promises will be fulfilled, but know this; God’s promises never have an expiration date.  It may take a while, but God will always deliver on what He has promised.

Hopefully I’ve presented it clearly enough to you that God “remembering” does not mean that God forgets.  He never forgets.  But why do we treat Him like He does?

 

If you’ve seen the movie, “The Vow” (I haven’t, but Tsung told me an in-depth synopsis of it [judge her]).  Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum were set to marry when Rachel forgets 5 years of her relationship with Channing in a traumatic car accident.  The rest of the movie is about Channing trying to re-create the love that he shared with Rachel by trying to make her fall in love with him all over again. We know God doesn’t forget, so why do we try to make Him fall in love with us over and over again?  We often do Christian things like read the Bible, serve at church, or pray as ways to help God “remember” us.  We think to ourselves that doing these exercises of faith will earn us more favor and love than if we weren’t doing these things.  The opposite is true as well.  When we don’t do our QT’s or make time to pray, we think that God will abandon us, ignore us, and give us a miserable day until we repent and make time for Him.  Both are an expression of legalism by trying to earn God’s favor when Jesus’ death is abundantly sufficient to do just that.  In Phillip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace he says this about “earning” God’s love,

“There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more.  There’s nothing you can do to make God love you less.”

There’s no way God can love us more or less because He has loved us to maximum capacity through Jesus’ death on the Cross.  God will never forget your confession of faith in Jesus and starting from that point to the end of your life, He will love you with the maximum amount of love forever.  You can give your life on the mission field, be the next Mother Theresa, but it will never make God love you more than when you first trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior.  The constancy of God’s love for believers will always be the same!  For God, it’s V-Day everyday!  Our works are not a way to make Him fall in love with us more, but rather to grow in our intimacy of this knowledge.  Don’t forget that God doesn’t forget!

Zombies: Understanding My Desire to Die

In Brian Haack on February 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

by Brian Haack

From childhood I had an infatuation with zombies.  There was just something that was greatly interesting to me in the idea of a person who was dead but still moved as if they had life.  I thought it was funny that the natural response of these zombies after they were re-animated was to go find someone to eat.  What hypocrisy, to call something alive that was dead.

Now, then comes the idea as I think about it according to my faith.  In Genesis 2:17 God tells Adam and Eve, “but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”(ESV)  So, we see here, two humans created by God who are fully alive.  They are given a warning: eat the fruit and die.  Well, we know what happens, they eat the fruit.  What’s interesting to note though is what happens when they actually eat the fruit. When we go to Genesis 3:7 the first thing that happens after they eat of the fruit, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew they were naked.”  First, let us make a few observations.  They didn’t die physically.  They continued to be living beings, which were able to interact with the created world.  Also, look at their situation before the fruit in 2:25 where it states “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  There was no guilt or shame.  Then jump back to the first thing they noticed after their, “eyes were opened.”  They suddenly felt guilt and shame, and even fear of God.  The death here was spiritual separation from God.  That once close communion they had with God was now gone and spiritually they were dead, in a “cursed” state of being.  This separation is also instantly seen between the man and woman, the man and the earth, the animals and the man, and ultimately between humankind and God.  Therefore they truly were dead even though they still lived.  Yes, they were zombies.  The one act, caused a rift between all creation, what God once made and declared good, was now tainted with sin and the birth of Zombies was now upon the land.

If we look to the New Testament we see in Romans 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death,” and we know according to Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  I think this has been an interesting fact for me because, those people who don’t have Jesus Christ as Lord and savior are like zombies.  They walk around as if they are alive but ultimately they are dead inside.

Where this hits home for me, is that I used to be suicidal. I would stand with a knife just thinking of how easy it would be.  I once was about to do it but thankfully my friends stopped me.  The only real thing that held me back is because I didn’t want to hurt my family like that.  So, here’s the ridiculousness of the situation, a dead man standing there trying to kill himself.  What is even more ridiculous is dead people who think they are actually living.  I don’t think just of those that deny God, but those that think their saved but are not.

But this is the truth for all those that don’t know Christ.  When we see those that are not saved, when we see those that are just ignorantly living lives for themselves, they really are not.  We hear, “live it up,” or “carpe diem” and other such nonsense, but truly they don’t know what real living is if they don’t know the life giver Jesus Christ.

So what now?  Well, the only answer to this zombie apocalypse, the only thing that gives life to the dead is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you give them anything but the truth, that they are dead to God because of their sins, and that they will be judged for it, and the only way to be given true life is through Jesus Christ that died for their sins and has risen from the grave conquering sin and DEATH, its like sticking a band-aid on a zombies elbow.  It’s worthless.

People that are dead need life, and that doesn’t come from accommodating people in their sin, but from the truth that people are not just sick but dead in sin, and only repenting and receiving Christ brings life.

Then Ironically, when we do this, we see that these physical lives we’re living on earth are temporary anyways.  We realize, like Paul, “to live is Christ, but to die is gain.”  Paul even desired to be with Christ, but knew while he “lived” on earth, he had a job to do.  We go from people wanting to keep our lives, to people wanting to give our lives for Christ.  Also, for those that desired to die, now the reason for dying is correct.  Wanting to die isn’t wrong, but the reason might be.  I don’t want to make people suicidal, I just want to see people willing to give their lives for Christ.  Even more so, I want to see people living real lives for God, even if it means dying for it because now, death only releases us to eternal life.

You are either dead to God, or dead to this world and alive to God.  Either way you’re a zombie to someone.

The Priority of Love

In Charlie Kang on February 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm

by Charles Kang

We learn from a very early age that we are all special snowflakes.  Aw, doesn’t that just warm your heart?  You’re unique.  You’re different and the things that make you different make you special :]  With this mentality in mind, we strive to accentuate the qualities that make us stand out and feel special, which in turn creates competition.  If I feel special because I can rap (I really can’t rap), then a person who raps better than me threatens my spot of being the best Korean-pastor rapper.  This sense of competition destroys relationship and scatters seeds of jealousy and animosity to people.  Sadly, this mindset has seeped into the church.

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to a people who wanted their snowflake to stand out more than others.  These Christians had an unhealthy view of tongues, prophecy, and other spiritual gifts that turned them against one another.  The resentment they had for one another was lucid in their “fellowship” and evident in their chaotic church services.  Paul writes to this messed up church and reminds them in 1 Corinthians 13 that they should all be pursuing love over gifts because love will remain forever (1 Cor. 13:13).  Gifts are temporary, but love is eternal.  Hallmark, if you want to buy that line off of me, send me a holla.  HAHA.  Paul shares with them that love is the most important quality you can have because love will last forever.

William Gladstone, a prime minister of England in the nineteenth century, one night was working late on an important speech he was to give to the House of Commons the next day.  At about 2 o’clock in the morning a woman knocked on his door, asking the servant if Mr. Gladstone would come and comfort her young crippled son who lay dying in a tenement not far away.  Without hesitation the busy man set his speech aside and went.  He spent the rest of the night with the boy, comforting him and leading him to accept Jesus Christ as Savior.  The boy died about dawn, and Gladstone returned home.  He told a friend later that morning, “I am the happiest man in the world today.”  The true greatness of Gladstone was not in his political position or attainments but in his great love, a love that would risk his political future to show the love of Christ to a young boy in great need.  As it turned out, that morning he also made what some historians claim was the greatest speech of his life.  He gained that victory, too, but he had been willing to lose it for the same of a greater one.  Love’s victory was more important.

William Gladstone understood that his job would change, and the imprint he would leave on history would not last.  Sure, he won’t be remembered like a Steve Jobs or Michael Jackson (before this entry, did you really know who William Gladstone was?  HAHA.), but his labor of love will endure the test of time.  Church, what’s more important than being a special snowflake is being a people defined by a God-centered love?  Stop striving to be special snowflakes.  Instead, be a people of cookie dough, who are soft, sweet, and cut into the shape of Christ’s love for you (see 1 Cor. 13:4-7, or if you’re a girl you can watch, “A Walk to Remember” [lame]).  Conform, and love others the same way Jesus loved you.  Love, not personal gifts and achievements, is what matters in the end.

Bye Book

In Charlie Kang on February 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm

 

“Bye book”, said McBain with no remorse or respect for the book.  We, like McBain, tend to treat “the book aka the Bible” this way.  Sure we don’t blow away the Bible with a small hand cannon, but our approach to God’s Word could be just as severe.  It is because we have the wrong mindset approaching the Bible; where we feel the need to “blast away” the parts of the Bible that we don’t like when in reality, the Bible should be blasting away us away (lol).  The Bible is a weapon which reveals and destroys the sins that are in our lives.

Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

God’s living word should be messing up our lives!  The Bible is a double-edged sword, not just for fighting the Enemy, but also for killing the sin that lies hidden in the deepest crevices of our hearts.  One of the reasons why there’s little differences between a Christian and a non-Christian is because of a lack of Bible reading in the Christian’s life.  The sword lays in the scabbard when it sits on your bedroom dresser unopened.  Christian, you do well to read and meditate upon it every single day!

I hope this year at OMC we will be people formed by the book.  That we are people who don’t blow the Bible away, but are blown away by the Bible (HAHA).  I am praying for you all (especially NET and AWANA) to make the Bible more precious to you than it was last year.  God bless, and happy reading!

– PC

For reasons why Bible reading isn’t legalism, John Piper wrote an excellent blog post recently about the importance of reading God’s Word.  It’s way better than mine so you should probably read it.

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/read-your-bible-more-and-more

%d bloggers like this: