Friday, 23 July 2021

"Conspiracy in the Court" (2/2) - Foothold vs Stronghold [SPOILER ALERT]

Continuing from my previous entry about this drama...

When the chief of the local police (Park Chul-Min) first receives a bribe from the merchant Yang Man-Oh (Lee Chun-Hee), he has given Man-Oh a foothold by allowing him to smuggle in a ship load of illegal goods. However, as he continues to accept more bribes from Man-Oh, he relinquishes more and more ground to the merchant who can then keep smuggling in and selling off even more illegal goods.

 

At the same time, Man-Oh is sending bribes to other officials including some high-ranking ministers. Gradually, he builds up a stronghold where he has control over all those corrupted officials who have accepted his bribes. So much so that they give him permission to conduct all kinds of illegal activities under their noses.

 

Similarly, if we sin and give Satan an opening to cause a one-time disturbance then it is a foothold. However, if we continue to sin and allow him to gain increasingly more control over our life, then it becomes a stronghold.

If the police chief had come clean after receiving the first bribe and stopped accepting further bribes, Man-Oh would not have been able to gain control over him. By the time the merchant has extended his control over the many corrupted officials, they already find it extremely difficult to stop him and his illegal activities.

In the same way, we need to confess and repent of our sin that gives the devil a foothold and kick him out. Otherwise, if we neglect to do that and the enemy builds a stronghold in us (eg addictions or negative thought patterns), it would take much more effort to remove his control over us.

Read more about "Conspiracy in the Court" - Power vs Authority

"Conspiracy in the Court" (1/2) - Power vs Authority [SPOILER ALERT]

This drama is only eight episodes long but it was so difficult to understand initially due to the fast pace, convoluted storyline and countless mysteries and secrets that were only unravelled much later. So reading the recaps after viewing each episode really helped me to follow the plot.

While I was watching this series, I also happened to learn about the difference between power and authority in a course that I'm attending. And I realised that some of the characters actually illustrated these two concepts really well!

Police officer Park Sang-Gyu (Jin Yi-Han) serves in a small town and his team consists of a handful of scaredy-cats with no martial arts skills whatever to boast of. As the team leader, he's not much better off. In fact, when they confront a group of smugglers at the dock, he backs up and hides behind his team while ordering them to charge ahead, which of course they don't.

As a result of their incompetence, they are entirely knocked out by just one smuggler! So although Sang-Gyu has the authority to enforce the law by virtue of his position as a police officer, he doesn't have the power to exercise his authority due to the lack of ability.

As he is lying on the ground contemplating his next move (of how to surrender!) a master swordsman flies off a nearby rooftop and single-handedly overpowers the smugglers! It turns out that he is Seo Joo-Pil (Han Jung-Soo), Sang-Gyu's good friend and fellow officer from the police HQ in the capital city. 

After this incident, we see Joo-Pil hanging around Sang-Gyu a lot more than before and he helps provide the fighting power for Sang-Gyu whenever he has difficulty reining in the criminals. Unfortunately, midway through the drama, Joo-Pil is killed in an ambush.

Sang-Gyu is promoted - the King himself bestows him with the Royal Sword which increases his authority greatly. However, he isn't deployed more capable men in his team. So even when he wields the Royal Sword before some villains to signal his authority, they scoff at him and easily overpower him and his ragtag team as he can't rely on Joo-Pil's support anymore.

On the other hand, Sang-Gyu's nemesis, the merchant Yang Man-Oh (Lee Chun-Hee) has gathered a great deal of wealth which grants him power over many of the officials including Sang-Gyu's police chief (Park Chul-Min). Although he doesn't have any authority, he bribes these officials who then allow him to conduct his illegal activities without any liability (see my other post about the impact of this corruption). That's why he can openly taunt Sang-Gyu and challenge him to a power contest.

Because of his trespass, the chief has given over his authority to Man-Oh by default. He no longer has any say and instead is at Man-Oh's beck and call. As Sang-Gyu knows about the bribery, he doesn't respect his chief's authority anymore and defies his order of letting Man-Oh and his minions go about their shady business scot-free. 

We are very much like Sang-Gyu in the sense that we have been given all authority by the King of kings over demons and to heal diseases (Luke 9:1), as well as to defeat the enemy (Luke 10:19). However, on our own we lack the power to exercise this authority. We need a helper like Joo-Pil. And God has sent the best Helper in the form of the Holy Spirit so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can perform signs and wonders, and bring people to Christ (Romans 15:19). Not by our own power or might, but by the Holy Spirit alone (Zechariah 4:6)!

We must be careful though, that we do not hand over our God-given authority to the devil. If, like the police chief, we sin against God, then we lose our right to this authority and the enemy will gain control. Rather than allow Satan to have an opportunity to accuse us and usurp our authority in Christ, we need to keep ourselves pure and unstained by constantly cleansing ourselves of all sin through confession and repentance before God (1 John 1:9). 

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Chasing after 'Happily ever after' [SPOILER ALERT!]

Recently, My Roommate is a Gumiho seems to be doing well in the ratings and keeps popping up in my newsfeed. But I prefer to start watching a series only after it's been completed so instead, I checked out an older one with a similar title and character, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho

It's a pretty simple setup where the female gumiho (Shin Min-Ah) and male human (Lee Seung-Gi) fall in love but find out that only one of them can live. It becomes apparent quite soon that the non-human character will be the one to sacrifice herself in order for her beloved to live. How do we know that? It's because the gumiho is led to read the story of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid with the original ending, where the mermaid would rather die and turn into foam than kill her beloved prince. 


That immediately reminded me of Angel's Last Mission: Love which I had written about before. The Little Mermaid was also used in the drama as analogous to the angel's impending disappearance from the world. However, both of these series culminate in happy endings where the couples' selfless love for each other move the respective deities so much that rules are bent and the supernatural beings can return to be reunited with their human lovers.

So the writers chose to go the way of Disney's The Little Mermaid after all. And it seems like that's what the audience wants too. In those series which don't end with 'happily ever after', like Cheese in the Trap and The Third Charm (both happen to feature Seo Kang-Joon - perhaps he has a penchant for choosing unconventional scripts...), the poor ratings and negative reviews tell it all! 

Even in shows that try to inject a little more realism and portray the challenges faced by lovey-dovey couples after they get married, such as Like a Fairytale and My Love, My Bride (with Shin Min-Ah again), the convoluted plots somehow still manage to twist and turn into a happy ending. Is this an indication that we are all chasing after that elusive 'happily ever after' in every story? 

And is it a reflection of a deep-seated desire for a happy ending for ourselves in real life too? Could it be that we were made to pursue this? Maybe we have been programmed from creation to look forward to a final ending that is beautiful and triumphant?

Just like how K-drama writers are inspired to wind their tumultuous storylines into satisfactorily positive conclusions, the greatest story ever told also predicts that there will be a joyous outcome to all the troubles we face in this world. If you'd like to know how it will ultimately end, and how to acquire that 'happily ever after' for yourself, just check the Bible for the biggest spoiler alert ever!


Wednesday, 16 June 2021

The Lord’s Prayer - "Give us this day our daily bread" (13 Jun 2021)


We discussed this phrase during our family time last Sun, so I thought it would be appropriate to feature photos of the various food items we've received from others in the past two weeks. 😋
Here are some of the points brought up during our discussion...

Give
We have to ask for God's provision. And we also have to receive with thanksgiving when it comes. (Duh... you may be thinking, "Isn't that obvious?" Haha!) Sounds simple but we often take it for granted. The key here is that we need to be intentional in asking, and be thankful for what we receive, so that we are fully reliant on Him and do not start to think that we deserve whatever we have or that we gained it all through our own work.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we won't need to work and can just sit around, waiting for His provision to fall down from the sky (in case you haven't realised, manna days are over!) 😅 It does mean, however, that we should be about God's work, doing what He shows us to do through the Holy Spirit

When we work, it should not be by our own strength, nor chasing after selfish or worldly desires, so we don't labour in vain (cf. Psalm 127:1-2). When we are led by the Spirit to do the work that He wants us to do, and doing it His way, then He will surely provide for us even when it may not be a well-paid job by the world's standards (sometimes it may not even be paid at all).

As long as we are in His will, then we have the confidence that when we ask for what we need, we will receive (1 John 5:14, Matthew 7:7).

Us
This points again to community - and a family is a community. Maybe like me, you've also wondered before whether there's any link between verses 1-2 and verses 3-5 of Psalm 127 as they seem to be about two distinct topics. But if we look at the first two verses in the context of God’s provision (when we build our homes according to His ways), then the next three verses imply that He will continue to provide for us when we have children (and that is why they are a blessing from Him, not a burden).

This day
We must keep asking everyday in order to practise complete dependence on Him, and learn to trust in Him alone.

Our
God has already alloted to each person the appropriate portion, which will always be sufficient (cf. Exodus 16:18). So there's no need to worry that we won't have enough or try to store up extra as insurance. It may very well turn smelly (Exodus 16:20)! 😜

Also, sometimes He may give in bulk to a whole community and then it's up to us to divide it among ourselves. So if we think at a macro level, it could mean that some of the extra provisions that we're getting is meant for someone else. Hence, we need to be sensitive to the needs of others around us and be ready to give to those He directs us to.

Daily
God gives us what we need for each day so we don't have to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). Certainly, it is wise to have savings. After all, He did instruct the Israelites to save up a double portion of manna for the Sabbath (Exodus 16:22-26).

However, we need to be careful we don't fall into the trap of thinking that we need to save more so that we can fund our children’s further education, help pay for their weddings, chip in when they buy their own houses, and even sponsor our grandchildren's diapers and toys and education... and the list goes on and on... When we start worrying about what all the tomorrows may bring, it's never-ending!

Just be contented with what He gives, and if He does grant us more than enough then save it up for there is probably a need that He is providing for in advance. But have faith that He will continue to provide for each day so we won't keep striving to earn more and save more than what we actually need.

Bread
In addition to physical food and other material needs, His bread also includes spiritual food - His Word. In fact, spiritual bread is even more important than physical food (Matthew 4:4), as it's by the Word of God that we can live out Psalm 127 (which we looked at above). So no matter how busy work may be, do not compromise on time spent in studying His written Word (logos) and soaking in His Spirit in order to receive His living Word (rhema) on a daily basis.

Bonus
There were two lies that I had believed in from young (as a pre-believer). One was that I had to prove myself in order to be loved. The other was that I must fend for myself so as to survive. These two lies led to a fear of failure in me.

Over the years, I had already cast out these two lies and replaced them with God’s truth that He loves me regardless of what I do/don't do/achieve/don't achieve, and that He will provide for me. I had also overcome the fear of failure for myself.

However, the Holy Spirit showed me that I had subconsciously imposed this fear of failure on my children. On the surface I kept telling them that they are loved and valued despite their results, and that God will provide the right school and course for them (provided they pass). Yet deep down I still hung on to the fear that if they failed, they might not be able to make a living or even be able to do what God wants them to do.

So when we started praying together after our sharing, I repented before God and sought the children's forgiveness for passing on this fear to them. And I assured them that it'll be ok even if they fail, as long as they have tried their best, for God will surely provide a way for them to go because He loves them unconditionally and our Father only has the best in store for His children (Jeremiah 29:11)!

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

The Lord’s Prayer - "on earth as it is in heaven" (6 Jun 2021)

Recently, I was involved in an arts project in a public space where we tangibly brought heaven down to earth! It happened not only because we featured a wide range of artforms from different cultures and traditions, which gave people a peek into heaven where all nations, tribes and tongues will worship Him with the incredible creativity that He has bestowed on every culture and people group. It was also because we had artists of all ages, backgrounds and abilities including some with special needs, hence reflecting the Kingdom of heaven as described in Luke 14:15-24. Another key factor was how we were able to serve together in unity and display God’s love for one another, such that relationships between artists that are typically broken through comparison, envy and pride were redeemed to reflect Psalm 133.
However, that was just a one-off event. It's much easier to bear with one another, and overlook each other's mistakes or things that annoy us when we know it will only be for a short while. So what would it take for us to enact the Kingdom of heaven on earth on a day-to-day and long term (think lifelong) basis?

As we thought about this during our family time, we realised that when we ask for heaven to be revealed on earth, we become God's agents who have been empowered to bring it about. Hence, when we pray, "Your Kingdom come," we cannot simply sit around and wait for Jesus' second coming. We need to be up and about, using the gifts and talents that He has equipped us with to do the work that He has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), so that we display heaven for the world to see wherever He places us.

In order to do that, we have to be different from the world. We need to live out heavenly values and attitudes. But here we face the problem of not having a complete understanding of these Kingdom values. How do we work out seemingly opposing qualities like grace and truth, love and holiness, mercy and justice, meekness and power? And how do we know for sure whether each decision we make is right, when we have such a limited comprehension of these Kingdom traits?

The only way to be sure is if we hear directly from God Himself and follow His every instruction. And that's what it would be like if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, led by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-26). Rather than acting according to our fleshly desires or be influenced by our own soulish thoughts and emotions, we need to let our spirit be so filled by the Holy Spirit that He is the one directing us in everything that we think, say and do.

Just like how meat is cured by burying it completely in salt or immersing it fully in brine solution over an extended period of time, we need to soak ourselves constantly in His word, prayer and worship so our entire being can be infused with the Spirit. Then similar to every flavourful bite of cured meat, we would ooze His fragrance through every word and action.

Furthermore, we should also be patient and continue doing the things He shows us to do faithfully even when we don't see the expected results. Again looking at the curing process, the salt takes time to thoroughly remove moisture from the meat and thereby preserve it. As the salt of the earth, the impact and transformation we bring to the world surely also requires time and perseverance. 

Saturday, 29 May 2021

"She Would Never Know" (aka "Sunbae, Don't Put On That Lipstick") - some thoughts [SPOILER ALERT]

I have to confess that I only started watching She Would Never Know because of Rowoon. His character in Extraordinary You (which I have an overdue post about, will try to get it done soon!) offered very little scope for him to show his acting skills. So I was curious to know how well (or badly) he would do in the leading role of Chae Hyun-Seung in his latest drama. But as I got into the plot, I became drawn in by the side story of his older sister Chae Yeon-Seung (Ha Yoon-Kyung) and her husband Kang Woo-Hyun (Lee Dong-Ha). 

Some of you may already have read the countless reviews and comments that celebrate the victory of how a same-sex attracted Woo-Hyun found his true identity and was liberated to pursue his deepest desires (for a same-sex relationship). And many of these writers even commend Yeon-Seung for being so supportive and understanding.

Honestly, I find such a narrative extremely disturbing as it is perpetuating the lies that have permeated popular media and culture, and are gradually seeping into mainstream society here in Asia.

Lie #1: Sex is everything!

That's what popular media tells us - if the sex is great, then the relationship must be good. And conversely, if there's no sex (or very little of it) in the relationship, then there's nothing worth saving.

Well, after being married for almost 25 years, I can tell you that sex is NOT everything in a marriage relationship! There are so many times and seasons in a marriage where sex hardly features at all, like when you're having a baby, or feeling sick, or drained after a day of work and running after the kids, and of course there's always that one week or so each month where sex is off-limits.

If sex were everything, then no marriage would be able to survive all these sexless times and periods (pun intended). But the fact that marriages have lasted and even become stronger only goes to show that the husband and wife relationship is based on so much more than just sex.

Trust, open communications, love and care for each other, supporting each other through tough times, partnership in building the family, and more. These are the qualities that help to strengthen a marriage and they are also the indicators of whether the relationship will survive and we can grow old (when sex drive is almost zilch) together till death do us part.

In fact, Yeon-Seung and Woo-Hyun had all these in their relationship even though Woo-Hyun wasn't physically attracted to her. After all, she was the one who helped him to come to terms with and accept his own sexual orientation. Contrastingly, Woo-Hyun's relationship with the man who had awakened his same-sex attraction, Chef Ryu Han-Seo (Choi Jung-Won), had none of these factors. So his relationship with his wife was much healthier than the one he had with his former lover.

Lie #2: Same-sex attraction trumps everything else!

Nowadays, if we do not allow someone with same-sex attraction to fulfil their sexual desires, we are labelled as bigots. And it has reached the extent where the same-sex attracted person should be allowed to ignore all other responsibilities and commitments, otherwise we would be seen as bullies trying to repress their sexuality and identity.

Again, we need to understand that we are not defined solely by our sexual identity. There's so much more to a person than their sexuality! And that includes the roles and responsibilities we each bear in our families, workplaces and society at large. So for instance if you're married, it would be adulterous to have a sexual relationship with someone other than your spouse.

In Woo-Hyun's case, he decided to divorce Yeon-Seung in order to pursue his same-sex desires. If he were not same-sex attracted and had left his wife to pursue another woman because he is no longer attracted to his wife, he would be condemned as being unfaithful. So it doesn't make sense that just because he's same-sex attracted, then his infidelity is justified. He had married Yeon-Seung willingly and without coercion, so he should be expected to fulfil the lifetime commitment that he had made, regardless of whether his sexual desires are for another man or woman.

Lie #3: The kids will get over the divorce.

Moreover as a father to a young child, Woo-Hyun also has to bear the responsibility for his daughter’s welfare. And divorce is never good for the kids! They won't ever get over it either. The destructive ramifications of divorce are life-long. 

The saddest part about all this is that the kids are often too young to be able to express the hurt and pain that they experience. I just read a well-written sharing by an adult of her difficult journey through her parents' divorce and the growing up years, and even through to adulthood.

I was particularly struck by what she said here:

The parents are supposed to be the ones who sacrifice and accommodate in order to support their children, not the other way around! The world has pretty much turned upside-down. Such warped values which promote the selfish pursuit of one's own happiness above fulfilling parental responsibilities are resulting in an entire generation of damaged, orphaned souls. 

Anyway, this has turned out to be a much longer rant than I had imagined. So let's be aware of the lies that are being reinforced when we consume popular media so we don't get sucked in or worse, even start living them out in our own lives.

If you're interested, here's an earlier post on the Brangelina divorce.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

The Lord’s Prayer - "Your will be done" (23 May 2021)

We had viewed episode 2 of The Chosen Season 2 on Saturday night and while we were contemplating the meaning of "Your will be done" during our family time on Sunday, it suddenly struck me that allowing God's will to be done in our lives would mean giving up our own plans and following His plans. [spoiler alert] That was exactly what Nathaniel went through as he sat under the fig tree watching his architectural plans for the temple he had wanted to build go up in flames, literally! And how he sobbed, and rent his clothes, and sprinkled ashes on his head...[end of spoiler] the grief is real. 


But all that was nothing compared to what Jesus must have experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was in such agony when He said, "Not my will but Yours be done," that his sweat was like blood (Luke 22:42, 44). [spoiler alert] That's why in episode 5 of The Chosen Season 2, while pondering the heaviness of what they are called to do, Jesus says to John the Baptiser, "I'm always ready to do my Father's will, but that doesn't make it easy." [end of spoiler] So He understands when we find it hard to surrender our own will and yield to His will... the struggle is real.

God doesn't force us to submit for He has given us free will to choose. But when we willingly choose to lay our own desires down to take up His desire for us out of a heart of worship and love for Him, that pleases Him tremendously. Yet, we often start to look at the world around us and wonder why we should abandon the achievements and successes that others enjoy. Surely God has promised us an abundant life (John 10:10), so how could He be asking us to give all that up? And so... the sacrifice is real.

So what can help us to be confident that we are making the right decision when we follow God's will rather than our own? God is not bound by time, instead He sees the beginning and the end (Isaiah 46:10). In fact, He is the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). Hence, when He reveals His will to us, that is Him letting us in on the good that is going to come out of it, for His plans are never to harm us but to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11). Because He is a loving and faithful Father, we can trust Him to make all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28) when we do His will... the promise is real.

We also need to redefine what 'success' means according to how God sees it. He does not measure our achievements in the same way the world does. When He calls us to do His work, we can be assured that it would bring about something of eternal value, even if it can't be seen by our physical eyes. If we are willing to forsake the things of the world to build His Kingdom here on earth, we not only leave behind a spiritual legacy, our works would also survive the fire when we meet Him on that day (1 Corinthians 3:13-14)... the reward is real.

Finally and most importantly, God yearns for us to do His will because then we would be partnering with Him. That means, we would be working alongside Him and spending time with Him. That is God’s desire, to be with us.  [spoiler alert] Again, in episode 5 of The Chosen Season 2, when Simon the Zealot asked Jesus why He would want him to join His team when he had nothing to offer, Jesus replied, "I have everything I need. I wanted you." [end of spoiler] And of course, when we get to walk with our Father daily, listening to His voice, wrapped in His embrace, watched over by Him, in perfect communion with Him... the joy is real!