God’s Unborn Child

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
unborn-samuel-armas1
Photo by Michael Clancy
 
 
 
The above picture is a powerful image which was taken in August 19th, 1999 during an open fetal surgery for spina bifida. The unborn baby was little over 5 months in the womb when the surgical procedure was performed.

You will notice the small little hands that grasped for the surgeon’s hand.

It is pretty breathtaking.

This is not only another reminder of God’s miracle of life, but it also reinforces what King David said in Ps 139:13-16, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I am fully aware that whenever the topic of abortion comes up some people do not feel comfortable with it; whether it is because it is too politically charged or it is because of past guilt with having an abortion. But I think it is important for us to at least acknowledge how science is now affirming what pro-life advocates have been saying all along about the life of the unborn child.

There are new ultrasound equipments that are in 4D, which helps to see the unborn child in a new and powerful way. There are other research that are being done to show the responsiveness of the unborn child.

I read an article by Chuck Colson, titled, “The Smiling Unborn Child” and it really caused me to be in awe.

Colson writes,

     In 1984, a video called The Silent Scream helped change the way people think about the unborn child. The footage of an actual abortion and the fetus’s reaction reminded us that abortion involves the death of a real person.
     A recent bit of footage has similar potential, only it couldn’t be more different from The Silent Scream. The footage was part of a recent PBS special, The Music Instinct: Science & Song. The program was an exploration of, among other things, music’s ‘biological, emotional and psychological impact on humans.
     Part of this ‘exploration’ included how music affects babies. If we are, as some scientists believe, ‘wired for music,’ then babies are ideal test subjects since their reactions are, by definition, instinctual. Part of this research involved the effect of music on fetuses. While we knew that mothers often sing to their unborn children, we weren’t sure that the unborn child could hear them.
     We are now. A segment of The Music Instinct featured Sheila C. Woodward of the University of Southern California, who has studied fetal responses to music. A camera and a microphone designed for underwater use were inserted into the uterus of a pregnant woman. And then Woodward sang.
     The hydrophone picked up two sounds: the ‘whooshing’ of the uterine artery and the unmistakable sound of a woman singing a lullaby. Then something extraordinary happened. Upon hearing the woman’s voice, the unborn child smiled. It was one of those moments that makes you catch your breath. The full humanity of the fetus could not have been clearer if he had turned to the camera and winked.
     Apparently, fetal responses to music aren’t limited to smiling. They have been observed moving their hands in response to music, almost as if conducting. They have been soothed by Vivaldi and disturbed by loud tracks from Beethoven. They have even responded ‘rhythmically to rhythms tapped on [their] mother’s belly.’
     Perhaps understandably, the connection between fetal responses to music and abortion weren’t mentioned in the show. Abortion on demand is only possible if people minimize the similarities between the fetus and us.
     That kind of denial is hard work because what we have learned in the past 25 years makes any denial of the fetus’ humanity absurd. Humans, we are told, are a ‘musical species’ whose brain devotes more to the appreciation of music than even the processing of language. That makes someone who smiles and moves his hands in response to music undeniably human, whether we notice it or not.”

Greener on the Other Side

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
grass-is-greener
Photo by Panoramio
 
 
 
I couldn’t help but to overhear a conversation at a cafe the other day. I was working on my paper and even with the music in the background their voices carried over to my ear. I was not eavesdropping… they just had very loud voices :-)

One guy was talking about how he wanted to live out in NYC. Apparently, he visited NYC and he ended up becoming so envious of his friends. Since he was an artist, he began to lay out all the reasons why NYC was a better city to live in than Ann Arbor.

His voice became more passionate and he was so set on communicating to his friend of how he desperately needed to be in NYC. His biggest argument was the importance of the artist environment. He mentioned how his friends were constantly being challenged to be a better artist because there were so many things that stimulated creativity and inspiration to produce great art.

Even though this person’s argument was from the perspective of an artist, I have heard of the arguments before as people were conflicted in making choices about where to live and where to go after they graduate from UM.

On one hand, there is some validity when it comes to being in a specific environment for certain things; therefore the thought process is not completely off. But I guess the bigger question that we have to consider is – “Should we just look at one factor when it comes to making a decision about where to live or even what to do?”

As I am getting older, I am realizing that there are always many factors to a decision. Sometimes I wish things were simpler, but the fact of the matter is that decisions get harder as we get older.

Is it wrong to bank a decision on just one factor?

Should we take a job in a certain location even though there are other negative factors involved? Should a person stay in a community without any clear direction just because of a biblical community that they enjoy?

No matter where we are, the important thing is that we have to come to some resolutions:

1) Resolution #1 – We have to believe that wherever God is calling us to that it is where God wants us to be, even if that means only for a season. Without it, we will always be wondering “what if?”

2) Resolution #2 – We have make sure that we know our priorities or else we will be constantly on a search to find meaning; and we know from the writer of Ecclesiastes that things can definitely get meaningless.

3) Resolution #3 – We have to develop a greater heart of contentment because the human heart is so fickle. Contentment should never be based on circumstances or it will lead to a lot of frustration and unhappiness, which can lead to depression.

4) Resolution #4 – We have to count the cost. Every decision has ramifications; therefore we should weigh the pros and cons before we make a decision.

5) Resolution #5 – We should not allow fear to dictate our decisions but rather faith in a Great God, who is Sovereign. As the decisions have greater consequences, we need greater faith.

Is the grass greener on the other side?

Well, not always. This is why we making resolutions before we move in a direction is helpful.

Thoughts on Michael Jackson and His Death

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
michael-jackson-king-of-pop
Photo by Sony BMG
 
 
 
It has been pretty incredible to see all the tribute and remembrance to a man that was known as, “The King of Pop.” In the last few days, you cannot turn a channel without seeing something on Michael Jackson and the impact he has made on the music industry. He was simply a music icon.

It has been a trip down memory lane for me, as I have been watching some of the specials on Michael Jackson. What can I say but I was a Michael Jackson fan. Growing up in the 1980’s, Jackson made such a huge splash in our generation. He introduced us to the “moonwalk” and the concept of “popping” in dance. Jackson set the bar when it came to music videos, concerts, record albums, and yes, even fashion. What was up with that white glove?

Now that the shock of his death is slowing receding, people are now looking more closely to his life – the music legacy, the financial issues, and his “apparent” drug addiction. There are even comparisons with the “King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis Presley and his untimely departure.

Here are some of my random personal thoughts:

1) We will never know the legacy we have left on this earth until we pass away. I don’t know why but somehow this is frustrating for me. Since I am so goal-oriented, I want o see the impact that I am making on people’s lives while I am still alive. But the reality is that there are many people who passed away thinking that they were failures or did not make much of a difference. It has been amazing to see all the various people in all walks of life honor and giving tribute to MJ. I am sure if he was alive today he would not have believed the response from all the people.

2) We should live everyday as if it is our last. Even though the lost of anyone is heart breaking, sometimes losing someone tragically is harder. Usually it takes some time to get over the shock. Who would have ever thought that MJ would have passed away at the age of 50 years old? For some reason that seems so young (I guess my perspective changed since I just turned 40). What would I do differently (now) if I knew that I was going to pass away at 50 years old? Would I have any regrets? Would I re-orient my life and priorities to things that matter the most? Since we are not the author of life and death, we have to live everyday as if it was our last… this will definitely give us some purpose and hopefully fuel some passion in our lives.

3) The full measure of a person is perceived from the whole and not in parts. History is a funny thing. As more time passes by, the perceptions of people towards another person begin to change. One good case in point is Abraham Lincoln. It is incredible to read up on all the negative things that were written and said about Lincoln as a person and as a president. But now, when we look into history books, Lincoln is usually spoken of in high regard. Every person has flaws and they will be criticized for something, but when they pass away and as time passes, people start seeing the overall influence and impact made by the person. The weaknesses and flaws are just reminders that they were human. But the difference they made will last. This is a reminder for us that God can always use anybody… and that God receives more glory when the person or the instrument being used is more flawed and weak.

4) People who really care about you will always tell you the hard truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. Now talk is swirling around some of the people that MJ surrounded himself with in the latter portion of his life. Whether the these people were only looking out for their own interest or they had other agendas, it is now surfacing that there were people who might have done some illegal things to enable MJ to live a certain lifestyle. I am just curious if any of them really had MJ’s best interest in mind. Did anyone say anything about the prescription drug use? For some reason, people who are very prolific always find it hard to have good friends. Most of them are lonely and if they do have people around them, they are usually not the kind of friends you want for the long haul.

5) It is always easier to judge and criticize a person than to empathize with them. I have been a bit bothered by some of the commentators on some of these shows. They can give some of their opinions and thoughts about MJ’s lifestyle and things but the truth of the matter is that there is really no one that can fully understand what he went through in his lifetime. Who else but only a small handful of people in this world had to struggle with that kind of fame and pressure ever since a little kid? All the talk about the dysfunctionality of a 12 year old boy being trapped up in a 50 year old body breaks my heart. Who can fully understand what he had to deal with? It is so easy for people and especially Christians to judge others without really walking in other people’s shoes. This is in no way condoning some of the illegal activity or lack of responsibility that MJ has displayed, but it is more of a plea for empathy. Was his pain and loneliness so great that he had to turn to prescription drugs? Who was reaching out to him? Would things have been different if Christ was part of the equation?

 
 
 
Out of all the awesome songs by Michael Jackson, this is one of the top 10 songs. This version with the Gospel Choir brought it to another level.
 

The New Revolution in Iran

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Viewpoint

 
iran-election-march1
Photo by Getty
 
 
 
When we hear of the words “Iran” and “Revolution” some will go back to the year 1979. Iran went through a revolution where monarchy rule was overthrown to become an Islamic Republic. This was a significance moment in history and reverberating went throughout other nations.

Twenty years later, we are possibly on a brink of another revolution. On June 12th of this year, Iran’s presidential election was held and the alleged results had Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with 66% of the votes. But the moderate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, along with his supporters, have accused the incumbent of voter fraud and censorship. This led to various demonstrations in the subsequent days by Mousavi supporters.

In the midst of all the chaos and injustice on the streets, one thing that I could not pass up was the fact that many of the protesters were young college students. What is it with college students and protests? We have seen this combination many times in history.

The dictionary defines, “revolution” as, “a total or radical change” or “a sudden or momentous change in a situation.” College students, whether it is due to their idealism or their zeal, desire to see change. They have a strong distaste for the status quo. They want to make a difference. They yearn to see things transformed for the better.

What would it be like if we raised up a multitude of college students who are radical followers of Christ and who are passionately committed to God’s mission? A new kind of revolution would occur. Lives would be transformed and various parts of the world would be transformed. It would be my dream to see this in my lifetime.

With the constant news reports of all the shootings and killings in Iran, we cannot ignore that God is still in control. We have to remind ourselves that God can use various events in history to bring the Gospel to countries that were once closed. This is the amazing part of who God – He is constantly writing HIStory.
 
 
 
iran-election
Photo by Getty – A student protesting Iran’s elections
 
 
 
iran-election-crowd
Photo by Getty – Young supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi rally together
 
 
 
iran-election-protest
Photo by Getty – A woman making a statement

Father’s Day 2009 Reflection

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
father-and-son
 
 
 
I have always wished that there was a manual on how to be a good dad. Well, in fact there are many books out there and I have read a few of them, but my conclusion has always been – it is always easier reading about being a good dad than being one!

Most men learn about fathering from what they have experienced with their fathers. Some men had great examples and others either did not have a father or they had bad examples. It is incredible to see the significance a father has on a person’s life. Fathers really do shape the future generations.

Today, I was awakened by my kids with a “happy Father’s Day” greeting on my bed. They gave me their presents and a talking card where they recorded their happy wishes. After Sunday Celebration, we went out to eat and enjoyed some good food. I am always humbled by the love that my family shows me on a regular basis.

I think being a dad is one of the greatest responsibilities a man can ever have in their lifetime. It is not an easy path but the rewards and the joys are incredible.

Here are some things that I was reminded by on this day:

1) Fathers must reflect God’s heart. It has been said many times that “children learn about God, the Father through their earthly fathers.” In all my years of counseling, I have come to the conclusion that many of the struggles that people have stem off from their relationship with their fathers. This is why fathers have the responsibility of displaying God’s heart to their children by how they live.

2) Fathers must be promise keepers.
I am realizing the power there is when a father keeps his promise. In fact, for the child, it produces feelings of security, confidence and hope. There is something about knowing that you can count on your dad that lifts up a child’s spirit.

3) Fathers must live out what they preach. It is amazing how kids pick up on little inconsistencies of the father. It is always easier to tell the kids to do something (or not to do something) than to actually live it out as a father. But when my words match up with my actions, it really has a powerful affect on the children.

4) Fathers must always be teaching life principles.
When children are young, they have this insatiable curiosity to know everything. They are like question asking machines. The infamous, “why” question has been asked thousands of times. They are like sponges as they love to soak up a lot of information. I am constantly amazed at the number of opportunities that dads have throughout a given day to teach their children something. It is through teaching and training that a child will grow up living a life to impact others. This is why the writer of Proverbs said, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Pr 22:6).

5) Fathers must learn to have fun. I have caught myself many times being stressed out over things and have missed out on opportunities to just “play” and have fun with the kids. Whenever I do play with the kids, there is a marked difference in how they respond to me. There is a greater and closer bond between us. I am learning to drop everything and just go crazy with the kids. These are the moments that they will remember the most.

Lessons from the Movie “UP”

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint, Visuals

 
up-movie
Photo by Pixar
 
 
 
Let me first start off and say that if you have not watched the movie UP and you are planning on watching it soon, then you want to stop reading this post (this is a spoiler alert).
 
 
 
 
 
I don’t know about you but when I first saw the commercials for the movie, I was a bit skeptical. How can a movie about an old man who flies around in a house that is tied up with helium-filled balloons even be a movie worth watching? But after hearing a lot of good things about the movie, our family decided to go watch it – in 3D.

There were so many good lessons and biblical principles in the movie that it is hard to just narrow it down to just one or two. But there were two lessons in the movie that made me think a lot of my own life, as well as the human heart.

It was incredible how Pixar was able to sum up a person’s life just within the first 20 minutes of the movie. Carl Fredericksen, the main character in the movie, finally arrives at Paradise Falls and fulfills the lifelong dream of his wife, Ellie. As Carl sits in the chair and pulls out Ellie’s scrapbook called, “My Adventure Book,” he realizes for the first time that the greatest adventure for her was being together with him. Ellie had filled the scrapbook with photos of memorable moments together throughout their marriage.

It was at this moment that Carl realizes that he has been living for a “dream” but all the while his wife was living the dream with him. This realization allows him to find inspiration for living life with a greater purpose. So often, we always live for that “one day” which causes us to miss out on life and fail to enjoy and live passionately for today.

The second lesson that stuck out for me was discovered in the young boy name Russell (side note: it was good that they had an Asian character as one of the main characters). We notice the character development of Russell as we begin to find out about his absentee father. It is not clear if his parents are divorced or not but all we know is that he is not involved in Russell’s life.

We quickly discover that Russell’s eager desire to earn the last merit badge, as part of the Wildlife Explorer Club was to please his father and somehow earn his approval. It is amazing how many people in this world so desperately long to be approved by their fathers. This was poignantly highlighted when they were giving out the badges and all the other boys had their fathers present, while Russell was alone. It is also important to note that all the other boys did not have as many badges as Russell. Somehow Russell thought that by receiving all the badges that a Wildlife Explorer can achieve that his father would love him more and come to the ceremony.

But this did not happen.

Instead, when the badge was about to be given to Russell, Carl joins him on stage, as a surrogate father. Then instead of the “assisting the elderly” badge of honor, Carl gives Russell the pin that was given to him by his late wife, Ellie.

This was a glimpse of the Gospel message.

Alumni Rippling Out the Vision

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Vision

 
I have been so encouraged by many of our alumni in recent years, especially the international ones. Whenever I travel around the world and make some stops in Asia, it is always a blessing to reconnect with them in their “home turf.”

In many ways, it brings a sense of fulfillment for me to see the alumni living out the vision and mission of HMCC in their home countries. In fact, recently, one of our alumni in Singapore gathered some of the other alumni together to encourage one another and to pray. They came to the realization that there are many international students at some of the top universities in their country.

Since they know what it felt like to be an international student in the States, God placed a burden in their hearts to reach out to international students in Singapore. There are students from China, Indonesia, India and many other countries. What a great way of reaching the nations. It is almost surreal to think that the international students that we reached out to when they were at the University of Michigan are now reaching out other international students in their home countries.

The exciting part of this whole thing is that as they reach out to some of the Indonesian international students, many of them will come back to Indonesia; and since we are starting this international church in July, they will have a church to connect with when they come back.

I am so proud of our international alumni.

Not only did they catch the vision but they are willing to make the sacrifice and carry on the ministry even after leaving Ann Arbor. The vision is truly becoming a reality through people who are absolutely sold out for God’s mission. No reservation, no regret, no retreat!

I can’t wait to meet up with them again when we head out to Indonesia in July. It is going to be an awesome year of not only planting our first international church, but to just reconnecting with our alumni who are sovereignly placed all over Asia and Southeast Asia.
 
 
jackson-and-singaporean-students
 
Some of our alumni connecting with international students in Singapore

Hope Restored

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
tulip-in-snow
Photo by Everyday Necessities
 
 
 
We live in a world where hope is so desperately needed. There is a longing and an ache in the hearts of humans to live with hope. It has been said, “A person can live 40 days without food… 3 days without water… 5 minutes without air, but not one second without hope.”

Whenever you meet someone without hope, you can tell that the life is sucked out of them. There are many factors that cause a person to feel hopeless. It can be a failure, a mistake, an unmet need, heartbreak, feeling trapped, and disappointments. Whatever the cause, it is important that the person gains a greater perspective or it will lead to apathy, emptiness, purposelessness, and depression, which will cause the cycle of hopelessness to continue.

The writer of Proverbs reminds us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Pr 13:12).

In the Bible, the word, “hope” has the idea of “anticipation,” “expectation,” or “confidence.” This is why it is important to know where we are putting our hope in because if it is in something (or someone) that is temporary, then we will experience disappointments. But if it is in God and His promises, then we will never be disappointed. This is why trust is very important when it comes to having a lasting hope.

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us of God’s word, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer 29:11). God desires to give us His hope.

Max Lucado in his book, Let the Journey Begin: God’s Roadmap for New Beginnings writes about having our hope restored. He writes,

     “What would it take to restore your hope? What would you need to reenergize your journey? Though the answers are abundant, three come quickly to mind. The first would be a person. Not just any person. You don’t need someone equally confused. You need someone who knows the way out. And from him you need some vision. You need someone to lift your spirits. You need someone to look you in the face and say, ‘This isn’t the end. Don’t give up. There is a better place than this. And I’ll lead you there.’
     And, perhaps most important, you need direction. If you have only a person but no renewed vision, all you have is company. If he has a vision but no direction, you have a dreamer for company. But if you have a person with direction—who can take you from this place to the right place – ah, then you have one who can restore your hope.
     Or, to use David’s words, ‘He restores my soul.’ Our Shepherd majors in restoring hope to the soul. Whether you are a lamb lost on a craggy ledge or a city slicker alone in a deep jungle, everything changes when your rescuer appears.
     Your loneliness diminishes, because you have fellowship. Your despair decreases, because you have vision. Your confusion begins to lift, because you have direction. Please note: You haven’t left the jungle. The trees still eclipse the sky, and the thorns still cut the skin. Animals lurk and rodents scurry. The jungle is still a jungle. It hasn’t changed, but you have. You have changed because you have hope. And you have hope because you have met someone who can lead you out.
     Your Shepherd knows that you were not made for this place. He knows you are not equipped for this place. So he has come to guide you out.”

 
 
This is a good reminder of the importance of drawing closer to God during our times of hopelessness. When we turn to anything else (or anyone else) we will perpetuate the cycle of depression and confusion. What we need is to hear the Shepherd’s voice. The song “Still Small Voice” by Brian Doerksen needs to be our cry:

When I hear Your still small voice
Your kindness stirs me within
Lord, I need to hear Your voice
To lead me and break me once again
 
    Speak my Lord, I want to hear
    Your voice is all that I need
    Speak, my Lord, I will obey
    Your voice is life to me
 
When I hear Your still small voice
Your kindness stirs me within
Lord, I need to hear Your voice
To lead me and break me once again.

 

Midway Point in Life

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
mid-life-pic
Photo by Strength For Today
 
 
 
Today I celebrated my 40 year birthday. I was trying really hard to allow it to slip under the radar, but to no avail because Christina threw a big 40th B-Day party with some people in church the other day. It was humbling, not only to see all the people there, but to be reminded that we have some awesome people in our church.

I don’t know if I am in denial about entering into the middle-age stage of life. Not even with all the reminders of people saying, “The 40’s are the NEW 30’s” could change the fact of what I was feeling in the last couple of days.

Christina always would say (back in my 20’s and 30’s) that the mid-life crisis would hit me really hard due to my personality and the way I am wired up. I am trying to take everything in stride. I guess it might take another few weeks or months for things to really hit me.

But as I come to this midway point in my life, I am thankful for all the things that God has allowed me to experience and go through. Yes, that means even all the bad that sometimes comes along with the good.

As I reflect on this day, I am coming to grips with:

1) My own depravity. I think when we are younger we don’t have a realistic view of ourselves (we have a tendency to over-estimate ourselves). But as we get older, we go through various things in life – many times those are humbling things and it just reminds us that we are truly human. Not only human, but we begin to realize that we are more sinful that we thought. It is a humbling process but we all need to go through it. In fact, as we go through it we become awakened to God’s grace more and also learn how to appreciate His mercy and forgiveness in a whole new way.

2) My own deficiencies. It is hard for perfectionistic people to talk about their deficiencies because they are constantly in the mode of trying to improve. But as reality begins to set in, the realization of our weaknesses and limitations become more glaringly evident. It is amazing that in our younger years, we felt as if we can conquer the world. Now, I am just wondering if I can conquer my own heart. This is when the Apostle Paul’s words to the people of Corinth rings true – “I delight in weaknesses… For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Co 12:10).

3) My decisions. I have always been a person who wanted to live life without regrets. This meant that no matter what decisions I had to make, I would always ask myself, “Is this something that you can live with?” The problem with this mentality it that we can be blindsided by our self-centeredness and selfishness. The decision might be something that we can live with, but we forget about the ramifications on people around us. I am realizing how much of my past decisions have marginalized my family, friends and people that I work with.

4) My dreams. As we get older, it is harder to dream big dreams. Whether it is due to all the disappointments or failures, there is something about settling for something less as we get older. This is something that I fear and dread. I still feel there are some dreams that I am trying to live out. But then again, I am also coming to the conclusions that unless it is God’s dream, it will all be meaningless.

5) My destiny. I am a person who is constantly emphasizing the importance of living out our destiny and moving more towards God’s purposes. So often we want to know what our destiny is all at once. This desire to know everything just feeds the need of a person who wants to control everything. But as I am getting older, I am realizing that knowing our destiny can sometimes be more of a mystery and something that we stumble across, than trying to figure it all out. God might just give us glimpses of our destiny but it is crucial that we take the tiny steps in faith. This will remind us that little acts of faith are just as important (if not more) as the final destination. When we get too caught up with the “end goal” we miss out on a lot of things on life.

 
 
Even though I don’t know how many more years God will give me here on this earth, but the lessons in the mid-way point of my life will hopefully be something that I keep growing in with God’s grace.

The Need for One Another

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
man-worshiping
Photo by Tehilla Music
 
 
 
According to the Myers-Briggs personality tests, I am labeled as a ENTJ. People have recommended that another person who knows you well to take the test on your behalf. Christina took the test and answered the questions as if she was trying to describe me.

I don’t know if I am a big fan of labeling people because we are complex people and there are experiences that might not fit the label that is given to us. Supposedly, I am an “extrovert.” In many ways, I definitely would agree with the assessment, but I know that there is a side of me that is more introverted.

At times, I find great delight in being alone, whether it is with a good book or even enjoying a beautiful scenery with inspiring music in my iPod. Sometimes a car ride by myself will do the trick.

But no matter what kind of personality type we might have, there is no denying that in this world we need each other and we find our identity in relationship with others. L.T. Jeyachandran who works with Ravi Zacharias in Singapore writes,

     “God is the basis of all reality. Thus, what God is like in his being and through his activity should provide an adequate explanation for all that we see and experience. The Bible attests that God is holy and He is a relational being. Yet in the amazing providence of God, He stands revealed not in platitudes and abstract universals, but in a breathtaking narrative recorded for us in the Bible that outlines his encounter with his people in creation and redemption history.
     Similarly, we are born to our parents and we grow in our understanding of ourselves as we learn to relate to parents, siblings, and friends. Simply put, I can’t be me without someone else; you can’t be you without reference to someone else. What makes a person a person is her (or his) capability of interpersonal relationship. In fact, we derive our most fundamental sense of identity by relating to God and other human beings. Moreover, the identity that we seek from impersonal entities such as achievement, fame, pleasure, and possessions – the hallmarks of today’s consumerist, shopping-mall existence – can be extremely inadequate and frustrating.”

 
 
His insights are not new, but it definitely reminds us of the importance of community and the need that we have for interdependence in the Body of Christ. Within the Church we have so many lonely people. Too often the “in” crowd is totally oblivious to the needs of others because they are just so content with the status quo and their own self-centered comforts. There are people who are hurting. There are people who are struggling with issues in their lives. Who will reach out to them? Who will minister to them?

But the reason why some of us do not answer the call of helping others is because of the cost involved. Who has time to just sit down and listen to people for 3-4 hours? Who has the energy to try to provide various things for people who are in need? Who likes to be inconvenienced when we have so much to do? Who wants to make the investment in people that might not yield any tangible fruits?

These are all the challenges of learning to relate with one another and to minister others.

L.T. Jeyachandran points our attention back on God and the need for worship. He says, “Indeed, many of the Psalms are in the plural and not necessarily sung to God but to one another (see, for instance, Psalms 95-100; 122-126; 132-144). The Scriptures teach us that when we are discouraged, we encourage one another to lift up our feeble hands in adoration to God. In so doing, we begin to reflect our dependence on one another and thereby reflect the being of God in our corporate worship.”

I am wondering if we worshiped God in the context of “community,” then we would be able to minister to one another in a deep and profound way. Maybe next time in order to help others, we might think about worshiping together. This is what the Apostle Paul recommended for us as we are filled with the Spirit – “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:19-20).

Setbacks and Obstacles

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Viewpoint

 
roadblock-signage
Photo by Stanley Bronstein
 
 
 
Life sometimes gets frustrating when there are unending setbacks. It is like taking a step forward and then realizing that you are two steps back. This can easily produce discouragement, pessimism, despair, and apathy.

Recently, I have been experiencing a wide range of emotions. With our departure date for Indonesia quickly approaching, there have been a lot of ups and downs. One day, we can be elated to hear some good news about our visa situation and then, the next day we hear news about some obstacles that we have to address.

I am coming to the conclusion that nothing is ever completely 100% set in Indonesia. It is easy to assume or to think that things will all work out the way it does in the United States. But this is not how things roll in other countries.

Therefore, we are left with only one thing – faith. The only way we know that a person has faith is by looking at their trust and obedience level. Usually it is measured by their prayer life, as well as to know what they are specifically praying for. People of faith usually pray because they know within their own power and strength there is nothing that they can do. Even when you listen to their prayers you will see how high their trust level is in that particular situation. No matter how bleak or difficult the situation, they have great faith in God’s promises and they pray them out specifically for God to deliver.

Our family and the Jakarta Team are learning the importance of having an eternal perspective on things in life. Without this, we can easily fall into looking at just the here and now and then get discouraged. But everything that we go through is preparing us for something greater. This is what we have to believe in and this is what we have to hope for.

As in the words of Apostle Paul, I was reminded, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Co 4:8-9, 16-18).

The Simplicity of Life

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
Primary Colored T-Shirts
Photo by Michael Flippo
 
 
 
Our family has been in the “get-rid-of-things-that-we-don’t-need” mode as we have been trying to pack for our one-year move to Indonesia. It is incredible to see all the “stuff” that a person can accumulate over a period of time.

Several weeks ago, I went through my closet. It was hard to believe that I had some stuff from 10+ years ago. I don’t know what it is, but maybe it is the thought that I will someday make use of it again. Maybe it is the feeling that we have worked so hard to obtain the “stuff” that to throw it away would be a waste. Maybe it is the idea of having just a lot of stuff in our possession that makes us feel good. Maybe it is just pure neglect that contributed to the amassing of stuff.

Whatever the reason might be, all I can say is that if we are not constantly trying to simplify our lives then there will be a lot of clutter. The crazy thing about clutter is that it distorts and blinds us to what is important. Our vision is impaired. We forget about eternal things. We fail to remember that things in this world will fade away. We disregard the reality that we came into this world with nothing and we will leave this world with nothing (Job 1:21).

One thing good about this transition to Indonesia is that it is helping us to simplify our lives. There are things that we can take and things that we cannot. There are things that we need to throw away and things that we can save.

Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline gives 10 principles for living out the spiritual discipline of simplicity. His list includes:

1) Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
2) Reject anything this is producing an addiction in you
3) Develop a habit of giving things away
4) Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry
5) Learn to enjoy things without owning them
6) Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation
7) Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes
8) Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech
9) Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others
10) Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God

20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint, Vision

 
chinese-unknown-and-tank
AP Photo by Jeff Widener
 
 
 
This picture will be forever etched in people’s minds. It was a powerful statement made by an unknown person, who stood up against the tanks that rolled into Tiananmen Square in Beijing to dismantle the pro-democracy gatherings.

Tiananmen Square was known as the epicenter of the student-led movement back in 1989. Twenty years ago on June 4th, the Chinese military came in and crushed the revolution by killing students and activists. Even until this day, the accurate number of people who died in the massacre is still unknown.

In fact, the Chinese government has such a tight control of information flowing through the internet about the Tiananmen Square massacre that there are many in China who have no clue about what happened in that day in history. If a person was to type in words like “Tiananmen” or “Tibet” they will be tracked. It is not uncommon for various sites such as YouTube and news outlets to be routinely blocked.

This is why it should come as no shock that earlier this week the Chinese government blocked access to Twitter and even Flickr to control what is being expressed about Tiananmen Square on the 20th anniversary.

A good reminder for me in light of all this is that the college students stoked the fire for the revolution. There is something about college students all through history that radically made a difference in history due to their idealism and their courage. Oh, how I long for something great to happen in our generation with college students, who have decided to live radically for Jesus Christ.

Here is a video of the unknown person who took a stand:
 

 
 
 
Check out the incredible story about how the famous Tiananmen Square picture was taken. Click here.

Exercise and Mood

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Viewpoint

 
exercise-together
 
 
 
Christina has always been an advocate about exercise. She has even tried to convince me about the correlation between exercise and mood. She constantly reminds me of the importance of exercise – not only does she want me to live a long time, but she always references my mood and attitude with my unfaithfulness in exercising.

She uses herself as an example. She says, “Whenever I exercise, I feel so much better. I have a greater energy level and a better attitude.” This was her nice way of saying, “Listen Seth, you need to keep up with your exercise so that you have more energy for the family and your attitude will be better.” I think the latter is called nagging and the former is wisdom.

Regardless, she has been inspiring and motivating me to keep up my commitment of running 2 miles a day.

Recently researchers at the University of Vermont did a study that has now bolster her conclusions about exercise and mood. In this study they had two groups of college students. In one group, the students went on an exercise bike for 20 minutes. The second group did not exercise for the same period of time.

Afterwards, they filled out a questionnaire and they found that the people who exercised had a better mood.

Jeremy Sibold, an assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science at University of Vermont said, “It’s clear that exercise is critical for both physical health and mental health.”

Men: Listen to your wives!

You can read the article here.