Blog Writing Sabbatical

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various

 
I have told people that one trait of an effective leader is the ability to communicate. Whether it is through speaking or writing, it really doesn’t matter, just as long as they are communicating. The reason for this is because in the words of the leadership guru, John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.”

Sometimes we get so caught up with influencing and leading others that we fail to lead ourselves first. The hard work of looking within and trying to change is not something a seasoned leader wants to do. But once in awhile it is good for the heart and most of all, it is absolutely necessary.

I feel like I am at this juncture.

In the past 3+ years (I started my blog on January 1st 2006), I have written in my blog consistently (religiously?). At most, I have gone for two to three days without writing something.

I always saw writing in my blog as my opportunity to reflect, review, refocus, reinforce, reiterate, and redistribute things that God has been speaking to me about, but now I just need to remove myself for a little bit.

I am going to take a two week sabbatical from writing in my blog.

To the 6.78 billion people in the world today, they could care less; but to the handful of people who read my blog, thanks for reading (even though you cannot even comment on it). Lord willing, I will be back.

Refreshed and Ready to Go

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

 
For the last 4 days, I was away with a handful of pastors to challenge and sharpen one another. In fact our group is called, chadad, which is the Hebrew word for “to sharpen.” It can also be translated as, “to be fierce.” This word is used in Proverbs 27:17 where it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
This is the group of brothers that I need to be fierce with and help to sharpen them as their will reciprocate the process to me. I am always challenged to love and know God more after I spend some time with these brothers (it is hard to believe I have known some of them for 26+ years). We had some great discussions as well as opportunities to speak into one another’s lives. The prayer times were good.

Now, I am back and ready to head out to the Board of Directors Summit. We are going to try to spend our time in prayer and reflection. There are so many things coming up for us as a church that we really need to hear from the voice of God. We are also going to use the time to write up a lot of our HMCC documents.

I am praying that it will be a fruitful time together. The Board members from Chicago and Austin are here so it will be a great time to fellowship together as well.

Breaking the Routine with CityServe 2009

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
cityserve
 
 
After being a Christian for some time, it is easy to forget that some of the greatest lessons are the really simple ones. It is easy to take “worship” for granted and just make it about “our songs” and the “preaching” when we gather together on Sundays.

It is interesting that the Hebrew word for “to worship” (‘abad) can be translated as “to serve” or “to work” (Ex 3:12; Dt 6:13; 11:13; Ps 72:11). This is why in Ps 100:2 it says, “Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” in the NIV; but in the NKJV and NASB it translates it as, “Serve the LORD with gladness.”

When we look at it from this perspective we have to confess that many of our worship experiences have been more about God “serving” us, rather than having the proper perspective of our need for “serving” God every Sunday. No wonder we have become a consumer generation when it comes to our worship of God, hence all the church hopping, complaints, backseat attitudes, mediocrity, and the list goes on.

Therefore, the staff and I were challenged to make this Sunday Celebration “different.” Especially in light of our Easter sermon series called, “Inverted,” we were reminded that Jesus left all the riches and glory of heaven to come down to this filthy earth to “serve” us by dying on the cross. We also love the “rags to riches” stories but we have to remember that Jesus went from “riches to rags.”

Jesus went further and turned the attitude of service on its head (inverted). Jesus said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

At HMCC, it is our goal and passion to be like Jesus; therefore tomorrow we are going to gather together and “give worship” (our service) to God through serving our community. I know that all the Pharisees and the self-righteous people will criticize or say something to the tune of – “Hey, why are we NOT having our ‘normal’ Sunday Celebration?”

It is my prayer that it is through these “out of routine” moments that it will help us to pause and think about why we do what we do.

This reminds of me of what happened at Soul Survivor church in Watford, England, where the famous song, “The Heart of Worship” was penned by Matt Redman. Mike Pilavachi, the pastor at the church decided to get rid of the worship band as well as the sound system for a season. They just came together with their hearts and voices. This experience helped them to think through the importance of genuine worship before God.

No wonder the Psalmist said, “Doing something for you, bringing something to you – that’s not what you’re after. Being religious, acting pious – that’s not what you’re asking for. You’ve opened my ears so I can listen” (Ps 40:6-8, The Message). Even David said, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:16-17, NIV). In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase it says, “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.”

Therefore, instead of just going through the motions, we are going to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty and find ways to love and serve our community through CityServe. This is going to be our “worship” (service) to God for this Sunday. It is going to be an exciting experience. We will have to just wait and see what God does.
 

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus

Grad Night 2009

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

 
grad-night
 
 
I am getting pumped for the Grad Night tonight. It is always a bitter sweet moment for me. It is exciting that we will be able to commission another class to go and engage the world with the Gospel message. But yet, it will be sad saying bye to many of these students that I have gotten to know over the past four years.

I always look forward to the testimonies. It is a reminder for me and the other staff that everything that we do have significance. As we hear the various testimonies, we are going to be reminded of the mission – transforming lives, transforming the world. The presentations by the various classes are always a blessing. It is going to be a good night.

My sincere prayer is that every single one of the graduates will remember what God has done in their lives while they were here, and that they will live for God’s purposes with passion. We only have one life to live… I pray that they will make it count!

Facebook and Lower Grades

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Viewpoint

 
facebook-logo
Photo by Xinhuanet
 
 
OK, all you Facebook lovers out there, I was reading up on this article about how a survey found out that people who use Facebook have lower overall grades.

Hmm… I don’t know if there is a direct one-to-one correlation (the researcher is from OSU so we have to look at this more carefully… ha!). But the funny thing is that those same exact people surveyed also said that being on social networking websites do not interfere with their studies. Oh the ironies of life. I always find it amusing when reality and perception never match up.

Regardless of how well the surveys were conducted or how sound the study was, there are several principles that are in play. Here are some things to consider:

1) Discipline. Without belittling a college student’s woes of not having enough time in life, I always try to give some perspective on their situation – “Life will ONLY get busier.” Not everyone likes to hear that statement, but the reality of that statement is true. I am amazed as I look back to my college years how busy I was (or so I thought). But looking back, it was not as busy as now. Growing in discipline is part of life. As we learn how to juggle things now, we are strengthening ourselves for what is to come. We all have to build up those muscles of discipline. Without it our lives will be a mess!

2) Sowing and Reaping. In the study, there was a stark difference between the number of hours studied by Facebook users and non-users. The difference? Facebook users studied anywhere from 1-5 hours/week compared to non-users who studied 11-15 or more hours/week. Excluding geniuses and those who do not know how to study effectively, the fact is that we have to put in the time to study in order to do well. I don’t know if I have ever said, “Man, I think I have studied way too much for that exam!” But I have found myself saying, “Man, I wish I could have studied more for that exam!” Nothing comes easy. In our consumer-oriented generation, it is easy to think that things will come automatically for us. This is what many Christ-followers think about their spiritual lives. But the reality is that what you sow is what you reap.

3) Focus. You can always spot them out from a crowd. The people who are living life with a purpose have a focus like mosquito to human skin! (I know, bad illustration). It is amazing how a vision can help give people a focus in life. Have you ever been confused or not really sure about what to do with your life? In those moments. did you feel as if you were focused? Probably not. I know that is how I felt many times even after becoming a pastor. There is something powerful about a vision or direction in life. It just helps us to focus. Even if you don’t have a clear vision for your life (the specifics), we all do have a vision for the Kingdom and what Christ wants us to do in our calling as a Christ-follower. If we can tap into that, I am pretty confident that you will be able to do what God has called you to do. The reason why it is hard to study sometimes is because we don’t see how our studies fall into the overall plan of God… but it DOES! As you excel in your studies (not necessarily getting all A’s but doing the best that you can with the time and talents that God has given you) there will be open doors for the future – whether it is a job, graduate school or even opportunities to share Christ with classmates.

4) Community. One of the big reasons why Facebook (and other social networks) are popular is the ability for people to connect with one another. It is amazing to get “caught up” in looking through all the pictures and videos that our friends post up and the next thing you know, you have just spent 2+ hours on Facebook. What this shows is our innate desire to be connected and to have community. Facebook and other social networks help us to connect to people, therefore I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing. But once in awhile it is good to use the time that would be spent on Facebook to do community with people face-to-face.

 
 
You can read up on the article here.

Breaking the Routine

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Victories

 
There is always something powerful that happens to us when we realize that we have been going through life in a mundane way. Sometimes we miss out on the joys of life and even in the little simple pleasures that brings a smile to our face.

It is always good to have a heart check like these people did at a train station in Belgium. Check it out and let your day be filled with a smile on your face!
 
 
 

Underestimated But Undeterred

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
I don’t know if you have ever been underestimated for anything, but it is the best position to be in at times. The reason? Well, just watch this video first (CLICK TWICE).
 
 

 
 
 
Some observations:

1) We all judge things by the externals and sometimes we don’t get it completely right. Just check out the girl’s face at the 1:24 time mark… it probably expresses what everyone was feeling in that room. It was awesome seeing the judges’ faces when she belted out the first few notes.

2) It is humbling when we have our prejudices and judgments exposed. Sometimes it easy to hide behind facades; but when our true feelings get exposed, then we are able to judge ourselves and see what’s in our hearts.

3) Never stop dreaming. I thought it was interesting that she decided to sing, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. Often times people will laugh at your dreams because dreams are things that seem too far-fetched. But that is the beauty of dreams! When it is birthed in our hearts, many people will not believe it or support it. This is when we have to keep on pressing on and not let the dream die. Too many people have died without their dreams coming to pass because they listened to their critics.

4) We all respond to underdogs. As she was singing the first few lines, you can tell that everyone was now on her side, rooting for her. There is something about underdog stories that hit a chord with everyone, regardless of age, nationality or culture. Something caused everyone to stand up during the performance… it must have been a hope realized. Isn’t this the Gospel message?

2009 Easter Reflections

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Viewpoint

 
What a great Easter weekend we had at HMCC! It really began from Maundy Thursday as we focused on the last days of Christ on this earth and then His crucifixion on Friday. As I am getting older, I am reminded of the need of grace and mercy that much more in my life.

Usually after a big weekend like Easter, it take the morning after or in this case, a few days after to process everything.

PRAISES:

1) The power of the Gospel. When we are faithful in preaching the pure Gospel (yes, that entails the reality of hell) then God will be faithful in drawing all men and women to Himself. We praise God for those people who responded to receive Christ for the first time.
 
2) The power of a team. It so encouraging to see all the various ministry teams in unity and focused for the mission at hand this past Sunday. What would it be like if every single Sunday was like this past Sunday? I am thankful for all the great people we have in our church – they make the church run (in 3G speed).
 
3) The power of relationships. I was amazed to see all the newcomers that came out to our Easter Celebration. It has always been said that next to Christmas, Easter is the most attended service throughout the whole year. I met parents and friends of our members and it reminded me that evangelism is best done in the context of relationships. Those who did not cross the line of faith YET, we are going to keep on investing and inviting.
 
4) The power of the resurrected life. I am just thankful that we serve a risen Savior. This means that Jesus is alive and is rooting for us to finish the race. I desire what the Apostle Paul desired – “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Php 3:10-11).

 
 
PRAYERS:

1) We need to pray for the new believers, as they now start their new journey of faith.
 
2) We need to pray that the heart for evangelism in our church does not die out after this weekend.
 
3) We need to pray that we will have the same level of faith and expectancy, as we come to the Sunday Celebration or any of our church gatherings.
 
4) We need to pray that the Gospel will motivate us to take active steps of faith in radical living.

Optimism on Good Friday

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Viewpoint

 
passion-of-christ
Photo by “The Passion of the Christ”
 
 
I have always wondered why they call one of the most gruesome days in history “Good Friday.” How about calling it “Shocking Friday” or “Horrific Friday”? Maybe that will put more of an emphasis on what Christ went through for us on the cross.

I am truly an enigma. People have called me a “pessimistic optimist.” No matter how oxymoronic it might sounds, I think in many ways it describes me pretty well. I am very cynical of myself, as well as other people, which confirms my pessimistic side. But at the end of the day, I am hoping and rooting for the best in people – a forever optimist or as some would call me, a “hopeless romantic” (yes, I love the cheesy happy endings in movies).

Zig Ziglar, the famous motivator said,

“Most of us would rather be around a person who sees hope in the future than one who sees nothing but trouble ahead. I’m talking about the kind of optimism which sees a solution in every problem, optimism that looks for the solution instead of concentrating on the problem. In his 1828 Dictionary, Noah Webster said that optimism is the ‘opinion or doctrine that everything in nature is ordered for the best, or, the order of things in the universe that is adapted to produce the most good.’ The pessimist and pessimism are not identified by Noah Webster in his dictionary.

Optimism is a valid approach to life because when we encounter difficulties, if we are optimistic we will immediately start thinking about a solution to the difficulty, whereas the pessimist will look at a problem and ask, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen next?’ or say, ‘There’s nothing I can do.’”

 
 
I am wondering if it is ok to be a pessimist when we look at our situation without Christ. Our hope in the future would definitely be bleak and we would see “nothing but trouble ahead.” This is the reason why so many people lose hope – we are just too focused on ourselves and our situation.

But with Christ, “everything in nature is ordered for the best” and “adapted to produce the most good.” Dr. William Arthur Ward said, “Deep optimism is aware of problems, but recognizes the solution; knows about difficulties, but believes they can be overcome; sees the negative, but accentuates the positive; is exposed to the worst, but expects the best.”

It is only in Christ.

Therefore on this Good Friday, may we be pessimist as we look our situation and self-righteousness, but a true optimist as we look to Christ, who died on the cross and resurrected from the dead to give us new hope.

See, there is always a happy ending with Christ. Today is a “good” Friday.

The Power of Music

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
I have been a strong advocate of the universality of music and how it is an incredible medium to communicate a message. There is something powerful about music and how it speaks to the heart. It really does supersede culture, language and nationality. This is why I believe that the next great evangelist of the future might be an artist – a musical artist.

I came across this video of an a cappella group called, Naturally 7. They were singing a popular song in the subway of Paris. Not only were they good, but I couldn’t help but to notice the reaction of the people. It just confirmed for me the important using music as a channel to share God’s love. We need to see more artist raised up in the churches, so that they can go beyond the walls of the church to spread the message of Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Check it out:
 

 
 
 
They opened up for Michael Bublé. This is an awesome introduction of their instrument sounds with only their voices.
 

 
 
 
It is hard to believe that they did with only their voices (click twice):
 

Passion Week Reflections 2009

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

 
stain-glass-of-jesus1
Picture of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral
 
 
As we have started the Passion Week (Jesus’ agonizing journey to the cross, hence “Passion” = “Suffering”), I realized that it is so easy to just go through the motions and forget the significance of it in the midst of our busy schedules. But the way we focus and journey through the last week of Jesus’ life will help us to approach the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus with greater awe, appreciation, and acclaim.

Passion Week is also known as the Holy Week. It is the last week of the Lenten season, where there is a concentrated focus on the last days of Jesus Christ. As we reflect on the last days of Jesus, it helps us not only to focus on Christ but also to examine our hearts.

1) Palm Sunday. This Sunday is dedicated to the observance of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There were crowds of people gathered for the Passover feast and they were waving Palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!” as a welcome to the Messianic King. The irony of this whole scene is that five days later the same crowd would shout out for his execution. Isn’t the fickleness of the human heart amazing? We change all the time, while God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Thank God for that because we would not be able to trust in someone that might change on us.

2) Maundy Thursday. The word, “Maundy” is derived from Latin (mandatum), in which we get the word “mandate.” It means to “to give,” “to entrust,” or “to command.” Jesus on this day “gave” the disciples the “command” of loving one another. Maundy Thursday is also known as “Holy Thursday.” It focuses on the last day of Jesus before his arrest. This is where Jesus had his last Passover meal, washed the disciples’ feet, prayed at Gethsemane and was betrayed by Judas. It is a time to focus on the important commitment of servanthood and loving people. I still don’t understand how Jesus washed Judas’ feet when He knew that Judas was going to betray Him. This is probably one of the most profound things for me.

3) Good Friday. I have always wondered why they called it Good Friday on the day that Jesus was crucified. It was a sad day for all His followers. But with a bigger perspective (having the luxury of seeing things after the fact), we understand that it was “good” because through Jesus’ death on the cross, now we have our sins atoned for and access to the Father. It is a time for us to focus on Jesus’ trial, suffering, crucifixion, death and burial. It is usually a sober time for reflection. Often times the last words of Jesus (7 phrases noted in the Gospels) are read or observed. Usually Christ-followers try to fast on this day in order to remember the suffering of Christ.

4) Holy Saturday. Most churches don’t celebration this day, but in tradition, some people remember this day as the day that Jesus rested in the tomb. People who observe this Holy Saturday try to mediation on the fact the world is in darkness without the hope of Christ. It is also a reminder for people, who have lost a loved one that one day they will be reunited with them if they were believers in Christ Jesus.

5) Easter Sunday. The Easter has been taken in the secular world to mean “Spring is here!” or even the idea of a “bunny rabbit.” Therefore some people call it “Resurrection Sunday,” in order to keep the true meaning of Easter. It is a time of joy and celebration because of the resurrection of Jesus now gives us hope. This day compared to all other days in Christianity is pivotal to our faith. Without the resurrection, we would not have Christianity.

 
 
 
In light of this year’s Passion Week, I want to encourage people to do several things:

1) Spend some time in reflection. Don’t let the busyness steal the significance of this season. Maybe you can take an evening off or take your lunch break to just read the Gospels (the latter portions) so that you can “walk” through Jesus’ journey in his last 7 days of life here on earth.

2) Spend some time in fasting. As we fast, it will be a practical reminder of Jesus’ suffering for us. In the past I have fasted just on Friday and sometimes I have fasted from Thursday night until Sunday afternoon. At least do a minimal fast on Friday if you have not fasted for awhile.

3) Spend some time in prayer. This is a great season to commune with God through prayer. As we are reflecting on the Passion Week of Jesus, we will be able to pray more fervently and passionately.

4) Spend some time in preparation for Easter Celebration. Too often people come into Easter Sunday Celebration the same way they do for any other Sunday. Sometime through our worship, it seems as if we are worshiping a God that is still in the grave (gloomy). This coming Sunday should be the best time of praise and worship. It is my hope and prayer that God’s House will be rocking with people who know that their sins are forgiven and their names are written in the Book of Life. In fact, I am hoping that if there are pre-Christians this Sunday that they will be challenged, even enticed to want to have what we have. Let’s come ready to rock.

Cultural Faux Pas

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

michelle-obama-and-the-queen
PA Photo
 
 
Many of the British news outlets caught it right away, while some of the other foreign journalists did not notice it at all. Now, talk is circulating in the media that Michelle Obama made a huge cultural faux pas, when she placed her hand on the back of Queen Elizabeth II as they were talking together. You can check out the video here.

Supposedly, it is understood in British culture that you are not to touch the Queen! The only time would be if she stretches out her hand for a handshake. Even this, it is reported that the handshake is suppose to be gentle.

TIME Magazine’s article gives a quick explanation of where the “rule” of not touching royalty comes from (last paragraph).

As journalists around the world have been trying to decipher this cultural faux pas, there are mixed reviews. Some people think it was an incredibly offensive mistake and the Obamas should have been brought up to speed about various protocols. Other people are brushing it off and saying that in the context of the interaction that it was “allowable.”

On another note, President Obama made a cultural faux pas within the first few weeks of being President. When British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown was visiting the United States he presented President Obama with gifts. The gifts were pretty incredible in light of the context. First, Obama was presented with a first edition of Sir Martin Gilbert’s authorized biography of Winston Churchill. Secondly, Obama was given a framed commissioning paper for HMS Resolute, which was presented by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. Lastly, a pen holder carved from the timber of HMS Gannet, a sister ship of the Resolute that also served for a time on anti-slavery missions off Africa.

It was noted by The Heritage Foundation that the, “HMS Gannet was not, as a casual reader might guess, employed against the trade of slaves from Africa to the New World, and since it was built in 1878, it has nothing to do with Lincoln or slavery in the United States. It sailed the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, patrolling against Islamist slavers. In the Red Sea, the Africans it saved would have come, among other places, from Kenya. Obama has made mention of his grandfather’s antipathy to Britain, stemming from his experiences in colonial Kenya. It is quite possible that grandfather’s ancestors would, had it not been for the Royal Navy, have been carried away to slavery in Arabia.”

Wow!

In light of these gifts, Obama then gave the Prime Minister a DVD set of Hollywood movies. Hmm… isn’t this something the Prime Minister could have purchased or rented back home?

Maybe following some of his predecessors might help. Here is a list of some gifts that were given by some of the former presidents

All these faux pas reminded me of how often we, Americans make the same faux pas when we visit other countries. Sadly to say, some of the faux pas come in the name of “missions trips.” I have made my fair share.

Therefore, what do we learn from all this?

Some things to consider:

1) Know before you go. Doing research and trying to know as much as you can shows that you care about the people that you are going to meet. The person walking into the culture of the other person has the responsibility of doing their part.

2) Ask your host. Some of the mistakes can be definitely avoided if you would ask the host first. This shows that you do not want to offend people and that you are thinking about their culture and norms.

3) Be a good observer. Keep your eyes wide open. See how people are reacting to certain situations. Look at their facial expressions and non-verbal communication.

4) Have a listening and learning attitude. When people from other cultures know that you are trying your best to learn and listen to what is being said, they will usually be more forgiving and gracious. Please, no colonial mentality!

 
 
I am so curious as to know what the Queen was thinking. She definitely showed maturity and grace by not over-reacting. This is something we have to always keep in mind as we try to be transcultural and interact with people who are different from us or come from a different cultural.