Closing Out 2009

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo by Getty Images
 
 
 
With only 5 more hours before the close of 2009, I want to take this time to reflect on God’s faithfulness and goodness. Through all the highs and lows, God has not only shown Himself to be worthy of worship, but a God who can be trusted (again).

As I reflect on 2009, I am thankful for:

1) God’s Sovereignty. There is nothing that happened this past year without God’s permission and control. It is always hard to see why things turn out the way it does but at the end, we realize that God was weaving a masterpiece. He is always trustworthy.

2) God’s Leadership. It is amazing to see all the places and spaces that God leads us to if we would just follow His lead. There have been many times throughout this year where I have questioned if I was hearing God’s voice correctly. But time after time, God was requiring a simple display of faith and a simple act of trust.

3) God’s Grace. It is comforting to know that God’s grace is constant – the flow never stops. It is definitely reassuring to know that the degree of the flow varied from situation to situation this past year. I have found the need of grace more in particular situations than in others; and it is humbling to know that God gives the right amount… and then some.

4) God’s Provisions. Whenever God calls us to do something, He will always provide everything we need to fulfill our calling. A God-sized vision will require a God-sized provision because God is always for (pro-) His vision. Throughout this year, I have seen God provide for us with everything we need – it was always the right amount and at the right time.

It is a good reminder that some of the lessons throughout 2009 were the same lessons that I had to learn from the past. But the difference is that the lessons are deeper and have more significance at each stage of life. God and His ways are more real to me than the previous year; and I am confident that this will be the case at the close of 2010 and the year after that. What a journey!

“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 5:9).

Big Dreams, A Big God

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Vision

 

Photo from indiainfo
 
 
 
I was thinking the other day that it must be an exhilarating feeling when you know that you are the first one to do something that no one else in the world has ever done. On May 29, 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary became the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Someone once asked Hillary, just four months before he passed away, “Out of all the adventures in life, how can one become focused on his or her life’s mission?” He responded by saying, “If you only do what others have already done, then you will only feel what others have already felt. However, if you dare to do something that no one has ever done, then you will have a satisfaction that no one has ever had. When one is choosing a project, if it doesn’t cause fear, then it will become boring and you won’t want to finish. When you have decided what you are going to do, don’t procrastinate. Start now!”

Nicely stated by a visionary leader.

How often have we ventured into something that caused great fear, knowing that without God’s help, we will not be able to finish or accomplish it? So often we settle for the predictable, the painless and the petty things in life. Maybe this is why we get so easily bored and lose focus on our mission and purpose in life.

As we are closing out another year and heading into 2010, I have been praying for some “big” things. In my times of prayer, I have been asking God to put in me some big dreams that will not only glorify Him, but that will build His Kingdom. For me, if it does not connect with the Great Commission or the evangelization of the world, then it is not worth doing.

If in the last 5 months, with all the great things that God has been doing, is an indication of what He wants to do in 2010, then I cannot wait to see what God has in store for the future. I know that there will be areas of faith, trust and dependence that will be tested and stretched. But sometimes knowing where God is leading us allows us to endure with joy, until we reach our destination.

Join me in dreaming big because we have a big God!

Importance of the Lighthouse

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
I have always been challenged and inspired by Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

The comparison of Christ-followers to light is pretty humbling in a couple of ways:

1) The Greatness of the Reflection. Jesus said that He was “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12; 9:5), but for Him to say that we are also the “light of the world” is pretty awesome. This not only means that we are like Jesus, but we have a similar purpose as Jesus, which is to bring God’s light to a dark world.

2) The Greatness of the Responsibility. Shining God’s light is something that should not be taken lightly (no pun intended). There are times when we hide the light or we are not good at shining the light due to own shortcomings and failures. Nevertheless, it is a responsibility that we carry as people of the Light.

This video short-take is a reminder of the importance of our light in a dark world. The brighter the light, the greater the impact. With the start of the year 2010 right around the horizon, may we be prepared to shine His Light brightly.
 
 

Christmas 2009 Reflections

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo by Getty Images
 
 
 
It is kind of interesting that the controversy of saying, “Merry Christmas” is not a big issue here in Indonesia. One thing I have noticed in this predominantly Islamic country is that people are usually very tolerant of all the various religions. In fact, Indonesia is one country that has the most “holidays” due to the celebration of all the religion’s observances (this makes working in Indonesia fun).

But I can definitely see how a celebration of the birth of Christ can easily be minimized over a period of time. In many of the malls in Indonesia, there are resemblances of the “consumer” mentality with the celebration of Christmas. There are all the “big” Christmas Sales, all the decorations, and even an Asian Santa Claus to take pictures with.

How does the celebration of the birth of Christ turn into a “holiday” rather than a religious observance?

People see it as a “holiday” because it is a time where people take time off from work and go on vacation. Even Christ-followers fall into the trap of thinking of this celebration as a holiday, rather than a time to deepen their love for Christ.

Also, all the commercialization of the season, help add fuel to the fire of seeing it as a holiday rather than something that has a greater significance to a person’s life. Christmas time always becomes stressful with all the busyness of getting presents for everyone on their list. It tends to distract us from the main “reason for the season.”

The irony of all this is that Christ-followers get so busy with church activities during this season that it just adds to the stress. I remember when I was working as a youth pastor in the States and having to attend all the Christmas services. Something in the back of my mind was thinking, “Shouldn’t Christmas be celebrated with family, as we peacefully welcome the birth of Christ?” But it was nothing but peaceful.

All the people who had to “serve” for the Christmas service were busy that they did not have time for family. Then the services were separate, where the youth would gather in one room and the parents in another. I wondered how many of the families really spent time together on Christmas day. I am sure many of them went out for a meal after the service, but still…

It was at that point, I made a conscious decision – “if I ever lead a church, I will not have Christmas services on the eve of or on the day of Christmas.” My thinking was simple. The family should come together without the pressure of serving or “going to” church in order to celebrate the birth of Christ together. Now, I understand that there are a lot of factors that might make it hard for families to come together (i.e. pre-Christian family, fathers who are hostile to church, parents going to different churches, etc).

But I have decided that as best as possible, our family will celebrate it together without all the responsibilities of “doing” church.

This is why when people here in Indonesia have been asking us, “Why aren’t you having a Christmas Eve Service or even a Christmas Day Service?” I have tried to gracious explain my reasoning for it. It is the Christian culture here to celebration Christmas with a Christmas eve and a Christmas day services.

But with some understanding of people’s situation as noted above, we are going to have an informal gathering of people who are either going to be alone for Christmas (expats who are away from their families) or people who will be separated from their families anyways and there is nothing for them to do.

It is my prayer that in the future, we can raise up a whole new generation of families that will be able to welcome in the birth of Christ with less stress and a lot more focus on Christ. In our family we have started a tradition of waking up together and going over the Christmas story, opening up the presents, eating a meal together and then just RELAXING and enjoying each other’s company. We hope to continue this even in Indonesia.

Christmas Wish 2009

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

 
I am hoping that they will show the Christmas Day NBA game between the Lakers and Cavaliers. The match up between Kobe and Lebron will be good Christmas present wrapped up with cheer.

Here is the Kobe and Lebron puppet commercial to hype things up:
 
 

Times of Refreshment in Yogyakarta

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Visits

 
We just got back from spending some time in Yogyakarta (a.k.a. Jogja). The team and our family went on an 8.5 hour train ride to get away and build some team unity. It was not only cheaper to take the train, but we were able to enjoy the Indonesian scenery along the way.

We were also humbled to see God provide in so many different ways throughout this trip. We had one of our members connect us with a well-know business person who had a “palace” near the center of Yogyakarta. It was a special treat for us to be able to see the elaborateness of the palace. He was an avid art collector. Therefore, there was art throughout the whole place ranging from statues to keepsakes from different parts of the world. Since I love art, I think I enjoyed it the most.

God also provided us with a church member who lived in Yogyakarta. She took us around to various places and helped translate for us. Even though it was vacation time for her, she took a few days to host us. I am constantly amazed to see the generosity of God’s people.

Even though it was a bit tiring going from place to place, it was enjoyable to hang out together and just have fun. We were able to strengthen our relationships together as we went to various famous sites and even stopped by a beach to see the sunset.

As we close out the 2009 year, we are just thankful that God called us here to Indonesia and how He has sustained us for the last 5.5 months. Now, as we look ahead to 2010, we know that God has greater things in store for us. It is amazing to how God keeps on showing us incredible things along this journey.

Now with some of the gatherings that we have for Christmas and New Year, we are ready to go with renewed hearts and renewed strength. God is good!
 
 
 

 
This is just one of the rooms in the place where we stayed for free
 
 
 

 
Sticking our heads out on the Prambanan Hindu Temple, which was built in the 9th century. Can you find the HMCC frisbee that we took with every picture?
 
 
 

 
A reminder for us as to why we do what we do – sending ripples to the nations

Nobodies into Somebody

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
Signs of a Servant
Photo from cruciality.wordpress.com
 
 
 
I am always fascinated to find Koreans in pretty much every part of the world. I don’t know if it is a pioneering spirit that Koreans have or if it is just the desire to jump on various opportunities. But regardless, there are a lot of Koreans in Indonesia. In fact, some people have said that they are the largest ethnic expatriates in Indonesia.

Recently, I had a conversation with a person who deals with Koreans in business. They have articulated something that I have always sensed but never could put a finger on it until now. He mentioned that they are many Koreans who come from Korea and in essence are living large out here in Indonesia. Simply, they were “nobodies” in Korea (or at least lower-class in society) but by coming to Indonesia, they are able to have a life that they have always dreamed about.

They would go golfing, eat at the nice restaurant, and have their drivers drive them around town and have their nannies to watch over their kids. It is truly the good life or so it appears.

But the problem is that there is an aura of arrogance about them.

Now please don’t misunderstand me, I am not trying hate on my own ethnic heritage because I am proud to have a Korean background. Also, I am not a bitter or angry Korean-American who despises all things Korean. In fact, some of the observations are not just with the Koreans, but it is with other ethnic groups who are expats here in Indonesia as well.

I guess more than calling out on one particular ethnic group I want to focus more on the observation of human nature.

I have always mentioned that you can tell a measure of a person’s character by how they respond to privileges. It is not easy handling privileges. Depending on your character, you will either steward it to help others or you will abuse it to serve yourself.

Too often we forget about our humble beginnings. We live as if we have always deserved things.
But when a person really understands the Gospel, they will realize that everything they have is an undeserved gift from God. It causes us to then “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God” (Mic 6:8).

A person who is known as a nobody but has turned into a somebody will truly reflect a heart of gratitude and service. But if a nobody thinks he is a somebody when they are still a nobody, then they will exude arrogance, which will eventually repel people away.

No wonder Jesus had an attraction about Him.

He was a somebody who became a nobody so that people who are nobodies can be a somebody.

Testimonies of Transformation

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Victories

 
Double Water Ripple
Photo by Freightscan
 
 
 
For me, this week has been a time of reflection. It is hard to believe that we have been here a little over 5 months. On one hand, it seems like we have been here longer, but then on the other hand, it seems like we have just arrived. This tension is hard to describe.

It is amazing how God’s grace has carried our family and team thus far. But more than the smooth transition for us, we are humbled by the people we have met and the work of transformation that God is doing here in Indonesia.

This week in our LIFE Groups (the one in Jakarta and Karawaci), we had a time of sharing testimonies and prayer. With the holiday season coming up, we are going to take a short break and start up our regular meetings after our retreat in January.

As people were sharing in both of the LIFE Groups, all I could think about was the word, “privilege.”

It has been a privilege to witness firsthand, lives that are being transformed by the Gospel. It has been a privilege to see people experience genuine community. It has been a privilege to see many of our prayers being answered by God. It has been a privilege to witness the hunger in our members for God’s Word and spiritual growth. It has been a privilege to meet up with the members in our church and hear their stories. It has been a privilege to build strong, God-centered and lasting relationships with God’s people. It has been a privilege to experience all of God’s Provisions in our lives. It has been a privilege to see how God opens doors miraculously without any of our help. It has been a privilege to pray (and even weep) with people. And the list goes on and on.

As people were sharing with tears of joy and gratitude, I just knew this was where God wanted me to be. These testimonies of transformation were reminders of what God can do if we are fully and wholly surrendered to His will.

It is hard to believe that this church was started a little over 3 months and already God is doing so much. God continues to amaze us.

In this Advent season, God is reminding me that Jesus is more than enough.
I am thankful for God’s indescribable gift (2 Co 10:15).

Obama, Nobel Prize and Grace

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
Obama Nobel
Photo by CNN
 
 
 
In light of Obama’s acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, I couldn’t help but to think about a very important biblical doctrine – the doctrine of grace. I have seen the speech on the internet and I have (believe it or not) read through the transcript of his speech.

There has been some controversy regarding President Obama receiving this award. Some people argued that Obama was awarded this prize prematurely. He has just started his presidency and does not have much to show in terms of his working towards peace and human progress. Some people have said that the irony of all this is that he was awarded the prize, even days after making a decision to increase the troop surge in Afghanistan.

In his speech, he addressed some of those controversies by saying,

“I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility… And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.”

But the thing that gripped me the most was how all the controversies reinforced the human nature that says that we all should get something because we have “earned” or “deserved” it. Now, one can argue that this is the purpose or nature of “awards.” Of course, there would have been more approval if Obama accomplished something great or more significant that was “worthy” of the prize.

Nevertheless, the essence of grace is getting something that we don’t deserve. For some reason from his speech, I got this sense that Obama was humbled and thankful. He recognized that in the prestigious list of recipients of this award, he was probably on the bottom of the totem pole. Maybe when he looks in the mirror, he knows deep inside that he is “undeserving” of this award. But I am also guessing that there is something inside him that wants to live up to the ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I am wondering how many of us in the Church express the same attitude towards experiencing God’s grace. The more we understand that we are not deserving of anything, the more we will be able to walk in humility and gratitude. In fact, we should be conjuring up more controversies because of this scandalous grace in our lives. It has always been grace that has transformed a person’s heart – the understanding that they received something that they did not deserve. In a sense, this is what fuels a life to live for the glory of God.

The Key to Doing “Easy” Ministry

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
Peaceful Lake
Photo from Flickr
 
 
 
I was reading the other day from Eugene Peterson’s, The Message of Matthew 11:28-30. It captured my attention and helped me to reaffirm what I have been sensing from God throughout this whole year. Peterson writes,

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

The first two questions, I was able to answer in the affirmative. With the third question of being “burned out on religion” I had to think about it a little bit. It is easy to make something that is good to turn out into something that is bad and eventually become a hindrance to our relationship with Christ. How often have I made my relationship with Christ into some kind of religious duty that puts the attention more on me? This makes us restless.

In Peterson’s translation, Jesus says, “walk with me and work with me.” It is only by walking with someone that you are able to see and witness how they do things. It is incredible that Jesus invites us to work with Him. Maybe this is the reason why we get so tired and burnt out from ministry – instead of working with God, we try to do everything by ourselves.

If there was anyone that was busy doing ministry it was Jesus, but He did ministry so effortlessly and with so much power. This is something I need to keep on learning over and over again.

The “unforced rhythms of grace” is something that God wants to teach us and it is something that I need to learn again. I guess it is sometimes like riding a bicycle. After we don’t do it for a while, it might take us a few minutes but we catch on to it again very quickly.

Failed Commitments

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
Mountain Top
Photo by The North Face
 
 
 
I have always been teaching people in our church that you know what is important to a person not by their words, but by their actions because words are cheap, but actions are costly.

It has been a rough several weeks for me in the area of commitments and with the things that matter the most. I have been trying to remain faithful to a lot of the commitments that I have made to God, family and church. Sometimes priorities change depending on the circumstances, but regardless, there is something important about integrity to what we promised. It is simply doing what you say you will do without excuses or justification.

I need to recalibrate and reprioritize this week.

But I am thankful for Christina. She has been patient with me for all these weeks. It would be easy for a person to take advantage of someone who shows a lot of grace, but then as I see her heart of humility and long-suffering (Greek translation of patience), I am cut to the heart. A person wants to definitely try harder out of gratitude.

As I was reflecting on these thoughts, I was reminded about Christ’s patience and love for us. As we have started our new Sunday Celebration series, “Names of God” for the Advent season, I was struck once again at God’s heart for us. It says in Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” The word “follow” in the Hebrew is “radaph” which is translated as, “to chase, to pursue, to search for eagerly, to track down, and to hunt for someone.”

What a thought?!

Who doesn’t want to be pursued or chased by a God who loves them and is committed to them, especially when we have failed? And guess what? The chasing and pursuing will be for the rest of our lives. Amazing. Now that is commitment.

World AIDS Day

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
World AIDS Day
Photo from bioethics.net
 
 
 
Yesterday was World AIDS Day. It got started back on December 1st, 1988 with the vision of bringing awareness to the AIDS pandemic and to fight prejudice against people with AIDS. Over the years, they have tried to raise money to find a cure and also to improve HIV/AIDS education.

It is amazing to see how far we have come with not only the education of HIV/AIDS, but also perceptions about people who have the disease. Before, it was known as a disease for people who engaged in homosexual relations, but now we know that people can get it through other avenues.

It is estimated that there are close to 33.4 million people living with HIV around the world. The sad part of the statistics is that 2.1 million of the infected are children and millions of them end up dying. The pandemic is a global issue and a global problem.

As I was thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that I do not know anybody who has AIDS. For some reason, it saddened me. Am I that isolated that I do not know anyone who has been affected by AIDS/HIV? Or do I choose not to care by not actively seeking out after people who have AIDS/HIV?

Then, I couldn’t help but to think about some of the parallels when it comes to other issues that deal with our love for comfort and our apathetic tendencies in life.

When it comes to ethnic prejudices, I have noticed that one of the reasons for our lack of concern or understanding is because we do not know anyone from a “different” race. We are surrounded by people who are “similar” to us. We are truly creatures of comfort. We don’t like to feel awkward. But in reality, getting to know people from a different ethnicity requires a lot of awkwardness and uncomfortable moments.

Even with the issue of homelessness and poverty. We are more prejudiced when we do not know anyone in a situation that is different from us social-economically.

This principle is true when it deals with other issues – different political persuasions, different views about life, different views on religion, different sexual orientation, and etc.

It is amazing how our lack of relationships leads to apathy and ethnocentric views about life.

Therefore, yesterday I prayed, “Lord, please lead me to one person who has AIDS/HIV, so that I can be broken with the things that break Your heart and that I can love and show the same compassion that You have shown me.”