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...

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.