Archive for February, 2012

February 27, 2012

Power Hungry

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When I was younger, while most kids found cruel joy in burning ants with a magnifying glass, I resorted to a much simpler method of this kind of animal torture: I ate them.  Yes, it’s gross; and no, I don’t know why I did it; but I have a very distinct memory of doing it, and enjoying it.  It’s a wonder I turned out half as normal as I am now (some of you may disagree).

Sometimes I would just walk outside to find an ant hole, and just start squishing away with my thumb and licking the remains off of it.  Other times, my schemes were much more methodical.  I don’t remember doing this myself, but my mom and brother recall that I would place a leftover pancake from breakfast in the microwave with the door open, leave it there, and wait a couple hours.  By the afternoon time, because our apartment was the bug-infested joint that it was, the inside of the microwave would be swarming with a newly attracted ant colony from my bait trap.  I would then proceed to close the microwave door and turn on the microwave.  Thirty seconds later, I was enjoying my midday snack.  I was quite the intuitive 5-year old if you ask me.

For those of you who don’t know me that well, and/or have never heard this story of me, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you about it.  A lot of times I wonder how my brain processes my thoughts the way it does.  But there is a point behind this random, nausea-inducing, overly-disclosing anecdote from my childhood.

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Gospel Connection:  Whether we ‘re baiting ants in a microwave, incinerating them with a piece of bended glass, or- I would even go as far as to say- taking care of any kind of pet, we are engaging in the act of “playing God.”  While God commissions mankind to have dominion over Creation (Gen. 1:26), sin distorts that divine mandate with self-centered motives.  Why did I choose to eat ants?  It probably wasn’t because I thought they were a good source of protein.  Instead, I remember feeling joy in being able to exercise power over helpless creatures.  While I was engaging in my responsibilities imprinted on my heart from the image of God, the effects of the Fall were reorganizing the priorities in my heart to the point where I found enjoyment from a sick and shameless act.

Often times, I used to feel like God was the cosmic “Big Kid” with a magnifying glass.  I was taught that God’s providence extended beyond all reaches, and our sole duty as human beings was to “give Him glory.”  It was no wonder I viewed my Christian faith as an arbitrary, one-way relationship not unlike one between a puppet and his puppeteer.  Sometimes, I would think that it would have been easier if I had just not been born; that way, I didn’t have to be subject to anything or anyone else.

I was then confronted with the doctrine of the Trinity.  God is one and three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?”  The initial part of the response is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God…” and there I was confronted with the image of an authoritarian god again.  But as the response continues, it concludes: “…and to enjoy Him forever.”  Because the essence of God exists in the perfect harmony of three distinct persons, He seeks to share that fellowship found in the Triune Godhead with His Creation.  He then is no longer the tyrannical ruler of the universe demanding subjection from all living things, but the personal Provider looking to share what we’ve been missing out on this whole time.

Jesus is the king we never expected, but desperately needed.  Who will you let rule your life?

February 20, 2012

HELLO, my name is…

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You meet a lot of people when you’re involved in ministry.  On any given Sunday, I’ll meet at least one new person. So the inevitable point of every conversation comes when I have to introduce myself.  Now that may not seem like a daunting task for most people, so I guess I have to give some background on my dilemma.

Like most Korean-Americans, I have both an English and Korean name.  If you’ve known me long or well enough, you probably call me by my Korean name.  However, given the context in which I introduce myself, most people can’t pronounce “Nameun.”  Even for Korean people, they get it wrong most of the time (“Na-Meun,” or “Na-Moo,” and I’ve also gotten “Ra-Myun” on multiple occasions).  So to avoid any confusion and make it easier to remember, I usually just go by “Dave.”  If you went to high school with me though, you probably knew me as “Cho,” “ChoCho,” “Choseph”, or “Chobo” (don’t ask).  Therein lies my pickle.  I have potentially two, or even three, different names that I could go by.  In college, there was one girl who thought “Dave Cho” and “Nameun Cho” were two different people.

My Facebook name is listed as “Dave Nameun Cho.”  Whenever I fill out a name tag, I write out the whole thing.  Whenever I introduce myself to a large audience, I say the whole thing.  Whenever I write emails, I sign off as “dnc.”

Most celebrities strive to be known by only one name (e.g. Madonna, Usher, Cher, Fabio, Oprah, Bono, etc.).  I’ve always admired those who used their full names.

I wonder if Neil Patrick Harris signs his emails “nph.”

Gospel Connection: No matter what the world calls me, my identity rests in Him who calls me His son.

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February 12, 2012

Our Idiot Brother

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There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good meal, with great company, and maybe even a movie or two.  A couple months ago, I was able to have all those things in the form of a long overdue reunion with my friends I grew up with in Connecticut.  Some of the guys and I were able to go golfing during the day, the rest of the gang joined us for dinner as we feasted on a hearty home-cooked meal, and we ended the night by poppin’ in a mild comedy.  The ideal hangout.

Usually, the quality of the movie doesn’t matter too much to me.  Good movies are always a plus, and even really bad movies can be entertaining (if you want a recommendation on one of these types of movies, try a butchering adaptation to the anime classic, Dragon Ball Evolution… don’t even get me started).  I’m not so much looking to be entertained by the movie, rather just enjoy my friends’ presence and good fellowship.  But the movie we watched that night was really thought provoking and I couldn’t help but come up with a GC as soon as the credits started rolling.  That movie was Our Idiot Brother.

Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen the movie and plan on it, there will be spoilers from hereafter.

In Our Idiot Brother, Paul Rudd plays the main character named Ned Rochlin.  Ned is a happy-go-lucky  guy who made a living growing and selling produce from an organic farm.  But after an ill-advised incident with an undercover police officer and marijuana, Ned is thrown in jail for his naivete.  Right off the bat, Rudd does an amazing job portraying Ned’s innocent nature and idealistic tendencies.  As pictured above, he has a bit of a “hippie” aura.

When he’s released from jail, we find Ned unemployed, homeless, and forced to spend time living with his mother and each of his three sisters:  Liz, Miranda, and Natalie.  As the movie progresses, the audience gets a look into the lives of each of his sisters and the problems they are dealing with.  Liz pretends to overlook her husband’s blatant affair, Miranda does anything to get ahead in her career as a magazine columnist, while Natalie is stuck between the two worlds of her bisexualism and can’t bring herself to tell her girlfriend that she got pregnant from a one night stand.  Now that the scenes are set, enter Ned.

Trying to impart the same happiness he has in his lifeview, Ned improves his sisters’ lives by instilling more communication between them and their life partners.  But what Ned construes as “helping,” his sisters deem “idiotic.”  And because of his overly ignorant nature (in Korean culture, it’s better coined as having no 눈치), Ned doesn’t even realize what he’s doing.  One by one, Ned begins to uncover each of his sister’s insecurities and problems as he lives with them.  Liz is forced to confront her husband, Miranda gets fired because of her unethical conduct, and Natalie’s girlfriend is in an utter outrage after finding out about the pregnancy.  Blaming Ned for making their lives a mess, each of the Rochlin girls kicks Ned out of their respective homes.

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Gospel Connection: Often times, we treat Jesus like our idiot brother.  As soon he enters into our lives, it is but a natural reaction that our sins are uncovered and brought to the surface.  Blaming Christ as if he was the problem, we kick him out of our hearts time and time again.  But what we don’t realize, as the Rochlin sisters didn’t realize, is that those problems were there way before Christ was even the picture (or at least what we perceived “the picture” to be).  When we’re forced to confront our sin face-to-face, we cower away from the thought of insecurity.  Our inclination then turns to pointing the finger at anybody but ourselves.  “If Jesus wasn’t in my life, I wouldn’t have to deal with this mess right now…”

If you’ve ever uttered that same thought, as I have before, I hope you felt the great sorrow behind the sentiment.  Jesus is more than our “idiot, hippie brother.”  In fact, if we profess to be Christians, Jesus is LORD.  He is the Christ.  From that truth alone, it is natural to feel a sorrow and a distaste for our sin.  Because He is the Holy of Holies, God detests our sin all the more!  So when Jesus Christ becomes the Lord of our lives, we aren’t left in the angst and filth of our sin, but in fact, have been set free from its bondage and made anew!

If Jesus really is the Lord of our lives, the Christ, our perspective of him changes in the most radical of ways.  We no longer have to put up a stiff-arm to guard our hearts from him.  The greatest miracle in life is that God looked at our sin, assured us He still loves us in spite of it, and took it upon the Cross so that we are ruled by it no longer.  Now let us live as if the Resurrection and Ascension matter.

February 6, 2012

Time Management

Being a full-time seminarian alone, setting aside my involvement in ministry, has led me to conclude that many things vie for my time and attention.  Naturally, that doesn’t bode well for my inability to manage my time well and affinity for procrastination.  Thousands of pages of reading, prayerful reflection on course material, lengthy papers, and integrating my education with my spiritual life are all taxing tasks in and of themselves.

But the funny thing is, I didn’t realize all the above until now (more than halfway into my seminary education).

So what brought me to this epiphany?  As with any life lesson, you learn the most about yourself when you are overwhelmed and running on empty.  Granted that this is my second year at Gordon-Conwell (and what I’m told is the most grueling year here), I probably should have realized this last semester.  But it wasn’t until these past couple weeks, when I was faced with more than just demands from school- family praises & crises, future life goals, personal relationships, and my own spiritual development – that I was humbled right where I stood.

Regardless of what you’re doing or what field you specialize in, “busy-ness” and work are a part of life.  One’s ideal lifestyle should not revolve around reducing the amount of commitments made, but refocusing these commitments to serve a greater purpose.  No one can completely rid themselves of stress or responsibilities, and no one should want to.  Even in my future vision for retirement, I hope that my daily life isn’t defined by the concerns of which golf course to play on that day or what new hobby I want to take on.  Instead, my life then becomes a matter of managing my time in a productive manner, a manner in which God has called me to live.

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Gospel Connection:  My quiet time reflections in the past couple days have led me to the Creation narrative.  God spoke the world in motion, and everything He created was good.  On top of all that, the fitting way He chose to bring closure to His work was to rest of the seventh day.

Often times we go through life jumping from one obligation to the next.  At least in the Western tradition, after high school comes college, then grad school for some and/or a stable job after that.  In the picture of Creation, these aren’t inherently bad things.  As human beings created in the image of God, we are mandated to have dominion over the created world to work and keep it.  But if we move from one life-stage to the next in a manner where we’re sucking up all the resources we can from our immediate contexts, we’re not honoring what we’ve been made responsible for, but just taking advantage of it.

Academic degrees, meaningful careers, and personal relationships are all outlets in which we are called to serve.  But when we tackle them with this “consumer mindset” and suck them dry until we feel satisfied, we engage in an idolatrous, one-way interaction that only brings to surface the pattern of our sin.  How are we utilizing our studying so that our peers recognize a fundamental difference in the way we achieve our diplomas?  How are we fulfilling our careers so that our co-workers sense a motivation that stems beyond a strive for money/status?  And how are we engaging in relationships that seeks the good of the Other, so as to mirror Christ’s pursuit of his children?

The Sabbath is a great way to keep ourselves in check.  Not only does it allow for us to take a break from the daily grind that we’re faced with, but it helps us reassess priorities and reflect on God’s presence in our lives.  The purpose of Creation extends well beyond the need for a place to live for human beings, but it establishes a dwelling place for God in our lives.  Once in a while, we need to take the time to remember that truth.  As Christians, Jesus serves as the reminder that our purpose in life is not rooted in the things we plan.  Consequently, the biggest worry we have on our plates right now doesn’t seem so big anymore, because we can rest assured in the hope that Someone else has overcome it for us.

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I know that I’ve been sporadic in my posts and some of my followers have expressed a desire for me to be more consistent with it.  So as a practical means to implement this epiphany in my own life, I hereby promise to update this blog once a week.  Regardless of how busy I can get or how lazy I can be, I know that’s there’s always time to share my story with those who are willing and eager to hear it.  But even more than for your benefit, I pray that this will be a tangible way for me to take my Sabbath in Christ.  I praise God that I have something to write about worth reading, and I credit the Holy Spirit entirely for enlightening me to do so.

Readers, feel free to take any means to keep me accountable to this promise!  God bless.