The Pruning

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Learning How to Fall Well

In Charlie Kang on March 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm

by Charlie Kang

Some of you maybe surprised to know, but at a stage in my life I was a martial arts master.  Well, not quite a master, but I was pretty high up there at my Hapkido dojo!  Because of my short legs, I wasn’t much of a fighter and would get regularly demolished by the other black belts in my class.  There was utterly no hope for me to make it in my dojo as a fighter, but if I had one thing going for me was that I knew how to fall.  One of the first and most fundamental things they teach you in Hapkido is how to properly fall so that you take the least amount of damage when you hit the deck.  When it came to falling, I was a natural.  I knew how to fall properly from every single angle that the attacker came from.  Not only that, but I looked good doing it.  I was soon recruited to my dojo’s traveling demo team; not as the guy who could splice wood boards into pieces or the guy that could do a bajillion spin kicks, but I was recruited as the guy who got beat up and thrown around by the others.  Demeaning?  Maybe, HAHA. But I took pleasure in the fact that my art was appreciated by onlookers, who would see me thrown 100 feet in the air (exaggeration, it was more like 50 feet HAHA) and come up seconds later, fine and dandy.

Many of us live as Christians who don’t really know how to fall well.  When things don’t go our way, we fall flat on our face and wreathe in pain at the injustice that God has done to us.  We bicker.  We complain.  We post angry facebook statuses.  All signs pointing that we suck at falling.  When life is hard, we don’t know how to “fall well”.  This brings us finally to the meat of this blog post: how do we fall well?

I believe one of the ways we fall well is when we memorize relevant Bible verses that apply to our circumstances and recite them over and over until we believe it.  This process is what’s called “meditation”.  Simple enough right?  But is this a simple mind over matter exercise to trick our brains to make us think “happy thoughts”?  Not exactly.  The reason why memorizing the Bible helps us in life is because memorizing the Bible makes us see the world and our circumstances for what they really are.  It forces us to take off our self-centered lenses that we use to imperfectly see the world and put on God-centered lenses, which gives us a truthful, accurate view of our reality.  We start seeing the world in the way that God sees the world.  God’s truth, not our feelings or circumstances, becomes our reality when we meditate on His Word.  Let me give you some examples of how this works.  When life doesn’t go the way we want, memorizing Romans 8:28 reminds us that God is sovereignly working everything for good, even the delays and disappointments of our lives.  We might not like what’s going on in our lives, but we are convinced God’s reality is true; thus, we yield to Him knowing that He has something better in store for us.  When we worry about finals, what college we will go to, or what job we will have outside of college, we do well to memorize Matthew 6:32-33, which reminds us that we shouldn’t worry because we have a loving Father who takes care of us and our future perfectly.

When we allow ourselves to memorize the Bible, it takes abstract, biblical truths and makes them concrete and real in our lives.  Allowing God’s Word, not our circumstances to tell us what reality is will give us the faith to fall well even in the most trying of circumstances.  This discipline will develop in us a faith that is both powerful and practical; making our lives unshakeable even in the most unsettling of storms!  Memorize the Bible!  It will help you fall well when life gets tough!

If you would like a great way to start memorizing the Bible, click on this link to Desiring God’s fighter verse app.  It’s not free, but it’s worth the investment!  If you want to learn more about Hapkido, come at me bro!  HAHA.  God bless!

A Song for Every Season: An Overview of Psalms of Lament

In Charlie Kang on March 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm

by Charlie Kang

            Reading a blog post about prayer is in some ways similar to a dentist urging his patients to floss.  Both scenarios produce guilt-ridden people because of their woeful neglect in doing something that is “good for them”.  For you blog readers, I try to floss every day HAHA.  No one will ever deny that flossing or prayer is good for you, but whether that makes you actually put it into practice is another subject entirely.  Knowing this, I’ll try to make this blog as quick and painless as possible (unlike flossing. HAHA).  Many of us only pray when things are going wrong.  We willingly turn ourselves to God in prayer when we need Him the most, which are in the midst of our struggles.  These times are usually the most fruitful and blessed time of prayer that we have with God.  It is in these times I would like to offer a suggestion for you by giving you a biblical overview of the psalms of laments that are found in the Bible.

One of my professors described the book of Psalms as us eavesdropping on godly people’s honest prayers before God.  These godly people, who wrote these songs of lament (Psalms 3, 22, 57, 139), were distressed and despondent at their present circumstances.  It’s easy to see that they didn’t have much “joy^3” in their hearts.  They were very vocal to God about all the wrong and harsh things that were going on in their lives.  These prayers of laments didn’t spare any detail about what was going on in their situation.  They would spew everything to God, about what they felt or who was upsetting them, but would wrap up their prayer of lament very succinctly by simply ending with, “Lord, help me.”  The ending of these prayers were a magnificent display of faith in God, showing their trust that God would bring the best possible result in their hard times.  They were satisfied to leave the prayer at that; “God, help me” because I know that you know the best for my life.

When we come as broken people in prayer, we love giving God a five-step plan to solve our problems and woes.  We say, “God my life is messed up because of ‘x’, so here’s solution ‘a’, ‘b’, and if you don’t like those God, you can even do ‘c’”.  We need to come to the conclusion that, firstly, that God already knows the alphabet HAHA, and secondly, that we to exhibit faith in our sovereign God when we leave the outcome up to Him.  This is the freedom that prayer can bring into our lives.  Many times we come to the throne room of prayer and tell God how to do His job.  Prayer is not instructing God, but is in the end, submitting to Him that “His will be done”.  When we come to God in prayer, we must have a big view of God that He is sovereign and that He will work out what’s best for our lives (Rom. 8:28).  Nothing else will give us more comfort than in believing and trusting in His sovereignty in the midst of our hard times.  God bless, and may your prayers be saturated with faith in our sovereign God!  Lord, help us!

What “Tangled” Can Teach Us About “Idolatry”

In Charlie Kang on March 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm

by Charlie Kang

Truth be told I didn’t like this movie very much (sorry ladies [John and Kat]), but something about this movie struck a chord deep within my soul while I was watching it.  For those who have never watched this movie, the story is about a wicked woman who steals Rapunzel and raises her as her own because her hair held the key to what she wanted most in life: eternal youth and beauty.  The beginning scenes of the movie depicts Rapunzel’s kidnapper as an exceptional mother; cooking for her, singing her songs, and looking out for Rapunzel’s best interest.  However, all of these good deeds were stained with “mother’s” self-interest because those good deeds were but a means to get the youth and beauty that she craved.  Here we have a perfect picture of idolatry: someone who centers his/her whole life upon something other than God.  “Mother’s” desire for beauty enveloped her whole life and even the good things she did for Rapunzel were based upon her quest to stay beautiful.

It’s a scary thought, but it could be that the most successful people in our society today are idolaters.  Sports stars, pop sensations, and wealthy people are single-minded, goal-driven individuals who focus on one thing in their lives.  Their lives are constantly subservient to their gods and for their services to these gods, they may get the thing that they want most in life; at least for a time.  Because you see, these gods are not interested in your well-being or success, but are only interested in your offerings and sacrifices to them.  They don’t care about you.  They just wish to make you a slave.  “Mother” was a slave to her idol, and watchers of the movie soon see how quickly she unravels from the beginning to the end of the movie in her service to the beauty god.

Here lies the incentive for us to worship God above idols: false gods need to be served while our God is the one who serves.  In John Piper’s book, Let the Nations Be Glad, he comments on this very idea:

“Isaiah sees everywhere he looks are gods who have to be served rather than serve. For example, the Babylonian God Bel and Nebo:

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols are on beasts and cattle; these things you carry are loaded as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop, they bow down together, they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity. “Hearken to me, O house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isa 46:1-4; cf. Jer 10:5).

The difference between the true God and the gods of the nations is that the true God carries and the other gods must be carried. God serves, they must be served. God glorifies his might by showing mercy. They glorify theirs by gathering slaves.”

Do not be lulled into believing the false sense of security and recognition that idolatry promises to give you.  “Mother’s” worship to the beauty god caused her to kidnap, conspire, and even kill Flynn Rider.  The gods demand too much in service of them.  Worship the God who carries, bears, and saves His people.  Don’t be like “mother,” be like Rapunzel.  Wait, she idolized freedom, which turned her into a liar.  That’s not a good example.  No, you should be more like Flynn Rider.  Wait a minute, he idolized money.  That’s not a good example either.  You should be like the horse, but wait.  Horses don’t have souls.  What a crappy movie.  Lesson learned: don’t watch movies, read the Bible.  HAHA.

^ this could be you.  HAHA

“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!

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

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