Do They See Jesus in Me

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
Christina and I went to Karissa’s school assembly in the morning. All the first graders were participating as they did various presentations. One part really got to me. The school has been trying to teach the young kids about reaching out to people and having a compassionate heart. They did a specific project, where they invited other students from various local schools to their school. Their goal was to tangible show the other student the love of Christ through games, crafts, food, and interaction.

In the assembly, they had a slide show of the event with the song, “Do They See Jesus in Me” playing in the background. At first, the pictures spoke to me, as it depicted the kids sharing God’s love, but then as I listened to the words of the song, it messed me up.

I quickly sent myself an e-mail to look up the song.

When I got home I did a search and realized that the song was by Joy Williams. I, then quickly went on YouTube to listen to the song again. I came across this video with not only the song and lyrics, but with pictures portraying the heart behind the song.

The reason why it moved me so much is because this has been a long standing prayer of my heart. Many times, I don’t feel like I portray Christ very well in my life. But I am constantly asking God to do His work in me. It is only by His grace we are able to even show Christ in us.

I am hoping and believing in the word of Apostle Paul – “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Co 3:18)
 
 

Leaders Love Challenges

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 

Photo from wanderhotels
 
 
 
I realized that there is something comforting about being safe and secure. It is a basic human need that we all seek after (and desire gets stronger, as we get older). But with a lot of things in life, when something goes to the extreme, it might not be the best for us.

We live in a society, where we wince at the thought suffering, hardships, and challenges. But without challenges in our lives, we will never grow and be the person that God destined for us to be.

In my years of watching and learning from great leaders, I have not found one leader that does not love a challenge. In fact, almost everyone that I respect and know in the field of leadership are constantly motivated by various difficulties and challenges they face. I guess there is something about a challenge that fuels the fire of every leader.

Challenges require faith. Challenges require taking risks. Challenges require leaders to lead. Therefore, maybe challenges are avenues for leaders to shine.

Believe it or not, we will all be leaders to some extent. We will be parents where we will have to lead. We will be managers in a company where we will have to lead. We will be in group projects where we will have to lead. We will be volunteering at an organization where we will have to lead.

Unless we are resolved and resigned to the fact that we will face challenges, we will not be able to lead effectively. This is why being connected to God (Jn 15:5) is a very crucial part in leading. As we are connected to the God of the universe, we are able to not only face the challenge but to overcome it with faith.

John Maxwell, the leadership guru in his article, “A Leader’s Greatest Motivation: A Challenge,” writes,

Leaders love challenges.

I was doing a telephone interview with a magazine not too long ago, and one of the questions was how do I spot a leader. Once you understand what to look for, it’s not very complicated. Leaders love challenges. Anytime there is risk involved and a person backs up and doesn’t want to take the risk, they have already made a statement about their leadership ability.

Leaders love uncertainty. They love being on the edge where they don’t know if they are going to make or break it. They love not knowing how things are going to end up, but one thing is for sure: Good leaders bet on themselves. They will take the potential reward even though it could end up being a potential loss.

If you are looking for leaders in your company, give them a challenge, problem or issue that is way over their heads, add a little risk to it, and see if they are willing to put a little skin in the game.

I get very nervous when someone is about to launch or lead something who isn’t willing to take the risk that I’m willing to take. Because I know what will happen when it doesn’t go well. They will look to me for a parachute to save them. Leaders love a challenge.

 
 
If you are serious about growing as a leader, then remember that challenges are your friend and the very avenue in which to develop as a leader.

Cognitive Dissonance

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 

Photo from saidaonline.com
 
 
 
Cognitive dissonance is a term that I studied in college as a psychology major. In fact, it is probably one of the greatest tools to help us to look at things differently, as well as to bring forth change in our lives.

Usually “cognitive dissonance” is defined as, “the feeling of discomfort or pain when new evidence conflicts with a current belief or perspective, which causes a discrepancy between what a person believes and their behavior. In order to bring some resolution to this state of mind, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the discrepancy.”

In a state of cognitive dissonance, a person has a few choices – either to discard the new evidence or discard the belief that they have held. Some people would try to integrate the new information and lessen the dissonance.

This is something I see that happens whenever we are confronted with the Gospel. I am not talking about just the intellectual assent that many people in the Church ascribe to but rather the real life confrontation, which causes us to re-evaluate our lives.

One good example is something that I witness every year on the college campus. There are students who come to the University of Michigan thinking that have a good grasp of the Gospel and the ramifications of being a Christ-follower. But they are in shock when they realize that the Gospel and being a Christ-follower demands their whole life. When their insecurities and self-centeredness begin to surface and get challenged, they start feeling the cognitive dissonance.

People start realizing that what they knew about Jesus, His call to discipleship and the local church, do not match up with what the Bible clearly lays out. In reality, people have been shaped more by cultural Christianity that reinforces a consumer-mentality, than the biblical standard.

Choice is clear.

Either discard the belief of easy Christianity and start surrendering your whole life to Christ or discard what Christ has stated in the Gospels.

The only way to do the latter is through rationalization – which sadly to say, many people have done.

This same thing happens to many single working adults. When they graduate from college and start working in the marketplace for the first time, they face this cognitive dissonance. Everything that they have learned when they were in college begins to be challenged. These single adults will usually discard everything that they have learned. The hope is that they are able to integrate the new information and stick with convictions based on Scripture.

But it is not that easy.

Sometimes the easier and the cowardly thing to do is to blame people for the cognitive dissonance. Whether the blame is put on a leader or a church, the lack of responsibility for their spiritual lives is pretty amazing.

This is why I am a firm believer of people going through cognitive dissonance. It really shows our true colors and it exposes what we are truly made of. It humbles us. It makes us more desperate. It makes us appreciate the Gospel that much more.

Jill Carattini who works with Ravi Zacharias wrote an article that talks about this cognitive dissonance in a person’s life, she writes,

“Abraham was devastated by the God he loved who asked him to trust, even as he led his young son to be sacrificed. Saul spent three days in blindness and without food trying to comprehend the presence of the Christ he once persecuted. Mary wept at the empty tomb, pleading with the gardener to show her the body. The instances where God’s plans conflicted with the understanding of God’s people are scattered throughout Scripture.

Even so, it is perhaps safe to say that Job suffered from the most significant case of cognitive dissonance known among men. Job’s understanding of a gracious and just God who rewards the righteous and punishes the unrighteous was shattered by new evidence. Grieving the loss of the God he loved, yet unable to discard the relationship, the question of divine justice tortured his mind. ‘As water wears away stones and torrents wash away the soil,’ he cried, ‘so you destroy man’s hope’ (14:19). And yet, against the counsel of his wife, Job was unwilling to discard his belief and allow his hope to be washed away.

Job is the hopeful symbol of a steadfast mind amidst the ashes of our own questions. Why am I so troubled and afflicted? Why would a good God permit suffering? Why does God stand far off in times of trouble? Why is God so absent? The dung heap of life’s most plaguing questions is resistant to decomposition.

I remember the evening my mother had to call my grandparents and break the tragic news to them that their house was burning down. Fortunately, they were away for the weekend, and yet their home, literally built by their own hands, was at that very moment being consumed by fire and nothing would be salvaged. My grandmother’s response was calmly uttered: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

To my teenage mind, her response was both inspiring and maddening. Perhaps I wanted her to cling with me to the sorrow of that moment, to cry out at the unfairness of the situation, to ask as I was asking, ‘Why is this happening?’ Perhaps I suspected she wasn’t feeling the loss as intensely as I was. We all loved that house – so many memories were inside, heirlooms, events, pictures that could never be retaken. Her sense of loss was undoubtedly far more intense than mine. And still, she stood upon the words of Scripture and chose to cling to
God: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ (Isaiah 55:8). God’s stories challenge us to remember that just as there is intelligence behind his creation and design, so there is intelligence behind the one who helps us cope with suffering. That which we don’t understand can still hold within its core the wisdom and mystery of God. This was the knowledge my grandmother held near.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, truth often strikes us from behind, and in the dark. Does the theology of the Cross not bring such a wisdom to light? At Calvary, we were abandoned. Christ was forsaken. God was beaten. God was absent. Death was given the chilling, final word. But on the third day, all of these observations, all of these sensations, however intensely felt, were radically challenged. The Christian does not view the story of the Cross as an eradicator of all of life’s dark and incomprehensible moments; their suggestion is far more aware of the storyteller. Perhaps the reliability of God’s promises and the truth of his Word merit our allowing God the final word.

Though ashes will not rise again to be houses, we hold the promise that broken lives will rise again to see God. Somehow through his suffering and in the dark, Job discovered this assurance. Like Abraham at the place of Isaac’s sacrifice and Mary at the tomb of Christ, Job declared the faithfulness of God in the midst of his situation: ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another.’ Such is God’s final word to his sorrowing children.”

 
 
It is only when we are able to process the cognitive dissonance with a God-given perspective that we will find greater peace and freedom in our lives. This is how transformation starts and occurs, until we face the next cognitive dissonance.

Communicating Visually

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Vision

 
You have probably heard of the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” There are times when one simple and poignant picture can tell a story just as well as, if not better, than a story with a thousand words.

There is something about visually seeing things that captures the imagination.

Since we are all so different, we will focus in on different parts of the picture or video. We will interpret things from our perspectives and experiences. I am just amazed how God can use the arts and the media to communicate a message.

I am hoping and praying that we will be able to see more people within our HMCC churches raised up who will use their gifts and talents with the arts and media to share the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Check out this video which was made by Sussex Safer Roads. It is a message about the importance wearing seatbelts. When I first watched it, it was so powerful that it left me speechless. In fact, I was so mesmerized by it that I had to watch it several times.

It is a powerful video with a powerful message.

What would it be like if we can produce a powerful video with the most powerful message of all – the Gospel?
 
 

The First Follower

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint, Vision

 
I was introduced to this video by Pete Dahlem. I was reminded of an important principle in good leadership. Not only do we need the leader to show by example, but in order to start a movement one of the key components is the “first follower.” Without this person, there will be no momentum or movement. But if a leader has their first follower, then slowly others will follow – more people will join in.

This is how the Gospel spread.

The leader – Jesus.

The first follower or followers – the disciples.

And the rest is history.

God is constantly looking for that first follower. Once God has that first person, everything starts to click and things begin to build momentum, which will inevitably lead to a movement.

We want to see another Student Volunteer Movement in our generation that is based upon a church planting movement reaching campuses, cities, countries, and continents (Ac 1:8) for His glory.
 
 

Ministers of the Gospel

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint, Vision

 

Photo on www.ssa.gov
 
 
 
I will never forget an experience that shaped a lot of my passion and focus on the whole Transformasphere Movement.

Some years ago, I was at a conference with a lot of college students. A pastor who was leading the conference gave an altar call for people who felt like God was calling them into “full-time ministry.” One side comment: I have never been a fan of calling people going into vocational pastoral ministry as people going into full-time ministry. The reason is what do we then call a person who is serving God just as faithfully and just as fervently, but not as a positional pastor – “half-time ministry”?! I am a strong advocate of reminding people that we are all in “full-time ministry” because we are “all in” serving Jesus. We shouldn’t be giving half of our hearts or even half-heartedly to ministry. Sometimes the divisions are dangerous. It might be better to say that we are vocationally doing ministry as – a pastor, engineer, doctor, business person, education, actor, and etc.

But I digress… back to the story.

After the call for people to come forward for full-time ministry, many people came forward. But there were many more people (like a lot more) who did not come up and this is the part that was bothersome. There were close to 90% of the conference participants who just stood there realizing that they were second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom. As I panned out into the crowd, I got this strange feeling that we have just immobilized an army of people that could have been equipped to make a difference for God’s Kingdom.

That particular experience was a watershed moment for me.

Things began to cascade into a waterfall of events. For every missions trip that I went to or conference that I attended, God kept on showing me that the only way we are going to transform the world is if we raise up Christ-followers who are passionate about His Kingdom and the Gospel and are engaging the various spheres of society.

I was reminded of all this when I read Mark Earley’s article, “Preachers and Podiatrists,” he writes,

The story is told about an evangelical college that claimed to affirm the sacredness of all work. But did it really believe this teaching? Every spring the school held a special chapel service to lay hands on, and pray for, students who were going off on mission trips. But then a professor asked if the school could hold a similar service for students planning to start internships at big accounting firms.

The school’s answer? An emphatic no.

My former colleague Jim Tonkowich tells this story in his online article, ‘Christians on the Job: Doing Well a Thing Well Worth Doing.’ ‘Fine words aside,’ Tonkowich writes, ‘the college believes that some vocations are much more sacred than others.’

Sadly, many professors ‘enthusiastically [communicate] that fallacy to its unsuspecting students.’

Christians outside the academy sometimes fall for the same fallacy as well. Too many business people ‘have cut short their careers just before breaking into senior management in order to ‘serve God full time,’ Tonkowich notes. Despite their talk about all work being sacred, their own decisions deny their words.

How do we get back a biblical view of work? We can start with an essay by Dorothy Sayers entitled ‘Why Work.’ As Sayers writes, Christians ‘must get it firmly into their heads that when a man or woman is called to a particular job of secular work, that is as true a vocation as though he or she were called to a specific religious work.’

One thinks of a good friend of Sayers, C.S. Lewis, whose ‘secular’ work at Oxford included writing a series of children’s books that have for generations pointed children to Christ: The Chronicles of Narnia.

Sayers believed that work ‘should be looked upon-not as a necessary drudgery… but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God.’ This is why it is so important that Christian young people find out what their vocation is-whether it be law, medicine, ministry, or some other field-and do the work that God designed them to do.

How do we figure that out? We should ask ourselves what we are good at, what we have a passion for, what God has gifted us in. In what kind of work do we find great spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction?

That, Sayers says, is a good indication of the work we should seek out.

Finding the work that God intends us to do may protect us from one of the great temptations of our times: consumerism. Doing our work well, and finding great satisfaction in it, Tonkowich notes, will ‘keep us from the need to drown out our unhappiness in… [communicate] the assorted amusements our paycheck can purchase.’

What a pity today we can’t invite Dorothy Sayers to speak at evangelical colleges about the truth that God calls us to all kinds of work-and that becoming, say, a podiatrist is just as sacred in God’s eyes as becoming a missionary.

Doing the work that God gifted us for-whether it be government work, writing, or a plumber-does not make us second-class Christians, but people who are worshipping God with the abilities He gave them-and expects them to use.”

The Youth of Indonesia

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo by euromonitor
 
 
 
This past week, God has been putting an enormous burden on my heart for the youth of Indonesia. I had the privilege of speaking to the 11th graders of Sekolah Pelita Harapan (SPH). After some of my sessions, some of the students wanted to talk with me and receive prayer. It was heart wrenching to hear some of their struggles and the situations that they were facing in their lives.

Now, as I look back in reflection, I realized that God has been putting various things in my life within the last four months to build up this burden. First, I spoke at a 10th grade retreat about 4 months ago and God opened my eyes to the need of reaching the youth. Then I spoke at SPH’s chapel for 7/8 graders, 9/10 graders, and 11/12 graders. The burden began to grow. Recently, we had a relationship seminar for the college students at UPH but some of the high school students heard about it and came out. Afterwards, we realized that it was not only high school students, but some of the junior high school students came out as well.

There are other people in our church who have expressed a burden for the youth as well; therefore, I am seriously committing this burden to the Lord. I don’t know exactly where all this will lead to but I am confident that God loves His people more than me. God will either start up a specific ministry to reach out to His people or He will raise up some people to fulfill His plan.

The exciting part of all this is that at SPH many of these students will go overseas to study for college. How awesome would it be if some of these students end up going to one of the campuses where there is an HMCC church? Then we can partner together with all the HMCC churches to help these students get connected.

In fact one recent develop that is still in the works, is trying to train some of the 12th graders before they head off to college. One of the alumnus of SPH went off to college overseas and has a burden to impart some wisdom that they have gained over the years. He is part of our church now so we are in discussions and prayer. We have been talking about training and equipping the seniors to help prepare them for the big transition. If everything goes well, it can be the start of an institute or academy to help prepare other students in the future with SAT/ACT and other helpful skills (i.e. cross-cultural skills, doing laundry, opening a bank account, developing good friendships, etc).

We want to reach the youth of Indonesia by influencing them in all areas of their lives, whether it is through their academics or their spiritual lives. I believe the more we can deposit positive things into their lives, they will be able to make a difference for Christ in the future. Then we will have a nation that will slowly be transformed by the power of the Gospel.

Student Volunteer Movement 2.0

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Victories, Viewpoint, Vision

 

Photo by The Traveling Team
 
 
 
I have always been inspired and fascinated with the Student Volunteer Movement. The foundation was laid in the summer of 1886 at a conference where were 251 people gathered from 89 different universities. It was the first international and interdenominational conference for students of that magnitude. After receiving the challenge of committing to foreign missions, one hundred people pledged themselves to participate in God’s mission. Then two years later, the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions was started with some of the original 100 people who pledged to participate in foreign missions.

Since that time, we have seen many other smaller student movements throughout history. As we examine church history, it seems as if God uses young people to further his plan of salvation to the ends of this earth. This is why at HMCC we are committed to planting churches on or near college campuses. We are longing for and praying that God will bring about another Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) in our generation.

In order for this movement to build momentum, we have to raise up more college students who are willing to lay down their lives for the Gospel. Year after year, I see a lot of college students who come in as a freshmen, not knowing what they want to do with their lives. Then after four years, many of them still have no clue what they want to do with their lives.

This is why we want to be catalytic and challenge students to give up one year of their lives and be a part of a church plant. Some people think that giving up one year of college is too big of a sacrifice to make, but in reality it is not really a sacrifice. When we put one year in the context of eternity, it is really a small dot in the timeline of life.

I challenge people with this perspective – “Do you want to graduate college in four years and not really know what you want to do with your life or are you open to graduating in five years but with a clear direction of what God wants you to do?”

When students are able to get a greater perspective on life, a bigger burden for God’s Kingdom, and a clearer vision for their lives, is it really a sacrifice? Isn’t it more of our privilege?

This is why I am so proud of one of our college students who has heard the call and then answered it. He sacrificed his comforts and familiarities of life, his ability to graduate on time with his classmates, and his own dreams and goals to come out to Indonesia to help start our first international church.

In the last few weeks, we have been in discussion about the future. It was so encouraging to hear that now he is looking at life with a whole new perspective. Not only is he heading in a new direction with his major but he is also going to live in the dorm to be more missional, while a lot of his friends have opted for living comfortably in an apartment.

If we had 100 more of these kinds of college students, we will transform the world. As I prepare to go back to Ann Arbor, this will be my passion and focus. I want to be a part of what God is doing amongst the college students. The more I pray about it, the more I am getting exciting to what God will do in the years to come.

Here is the college student’s testimony. He mentioned that he just wrote it out one day and I told him that I would love to share it with the global internet world. Here it is in his words:
 

“I guess my story starts two generations before me with my grandparents on both sides. Both sides of the family were devout Christians who instilled in both my mother and father the importance of Christ in their lives. Therefore, as my dad left Germany with my mom, his philosophy masters’ studies incomplete, to come to America to start a new life, they decided upon sending me, their first son, to a Christian school. Even with both of them working 12 hour days at the dry cleaners, it was a stretch for them. Then, with the coming of my little brother, their continued dedication to our Christian education my family, and our two dying stores, my family became financially crippled with debt.

This in turn, led them to search for better opportunities, which led us outside of Philadelphia to northern Virginia. There, the daughter of my grandma’s best friend and her husband were looking for people to help them in their dry cleaning venture. With more than 10 years of dry cleaning experience, my parents looked like the ideal candidates. Long story short, after a year of employment, my parents were fired due to a disagreement with the owners them (I’ll leave out the messy details). As they were searching for jobs, my uncle asked my parents to move to Ohio to help him out. He was the new pastor of a small Korean church there and was having difficulty leading the church and was asking my parents to help him out, not only with their 10 + years of ministry experience (they served in the church in Philadelphia and also in Virginia) but also as a friend. He also connected us with someone who was willing to employ them.

So we left to Ohio, leaving behind the posh DC suburb, full of rich, neglected kids swimming in an environment of drugs and alcohol. We moved to the suburbs of Toledo away from the temptations of northern VA, where I enrolled in a well to do high school and made friends with all the smartest kids in my class, helping me to perform well academically. Through moving to Ohio and going to this school, I found out about the University of Michigan, which was only an hour away and had a great engineering program. My senior year I applied to UMich due to its proximity and academic excellence. After waiting less than two months, I received the letter of acceptance.

The only problem was the price tag. A little over $40 k/yr, it was at a little under what my parents made in an entire year combined. Even after financial aid and government loans, the price was at a lofty $18k, something that my family couldn’t afford. With debt still looming over us from my childhood, loans would be hard to find and would only exacerbate the financial difficulties that my family was facing, but I told my dad I wanted to go to Michigan over OSU (the significantly cheaper alternative). He agreed and supported my decision, even though neither of us knew how we were going to pay for it. Due to my family’s inexperience with American colleges and my procrastination, I had missed the deadline for general scholarship consideration, but after I officially accepted, my dad pushed me to ask different departments if there was anything I could still apply for so I did.

Then one day during debate practice, I received a call from someone who I thought was masquerading as a representative of UMich. She told me that I had been chosen to receive a $20k/yr scholarship for 4 years, thereby totaling $80k. I couldn’t believe it and in fact, I repeatedly asked if she was joking and if I could somehow get some verification. I went home dazed, and told my parents what happened in an almost cynical manner, still doubting the caller. Then a few days later, I received an email confirmation and an updated cost of attendance letter that outlined the new scholarship. I remember the night that I showed my parents the confirmation. I went downstairs and my dad, with tears in his eyes, told me how thankful he was to God and how proud he was of me.

Going into Michigan, I had three prayer requests: friends, food, and church. I had always had trouble meeting and opening up to people initially, I had eaten Korean food three times a day every day of my life, and it would be the first time not going to church with my parents. As I told my parents and they told everyone else, my cousin Eunice recommended a church called Harvest to me. I told my parents I would check it out and didn’t think much of it.

In late August, my parents dropped me off at South Quad and said their goodbyes. Minutes after they left, I realized that in a campus of 40,000 people, I knew no one. My orientation friends weren’t scheduled to move in until the next day, and I was left by myself, hopelessly alone. So as I rushed upstairs to set up my computer to chat with my friends back home, I saw a flyer in the elevator that advertised free pizza and video games. So less than an hour later, I mustered up the courage and walked into the South Quad lobby room to meet some people. Much later, I realized that I had walked in, unknowingly, into an HMCC Dorm Storm and had met some HMCC members.

In the following days of Welcome week, my orientation friends and I hopped from event to event to get free food. We ended up going to a free bubble tea give away in the Chemistry. There my roommate, a freshman who room swapped in from Baits, convinced us to go talk to some girls, one of whom he knew. As we were talking to these fellow freshmen girls, they told us that they were going to go to something called New Encounter, a Friday night worship service. We, being guys, followed them.

New Encounter really was a whole new experience for me. My whole life I had gone to three traditional Korean churches, one in PA, one in VA, and one in OH. All of them had less than or around a hundred people. Not only was the worship and sermon in English, but singing songs I didn’t know led by a band that had electric guitars and drums (is this allowed?!) and being with so many people my age was all just really new to me. That was my first encounter with HMCC. Later on, I found out that my cousin was talking about this church and that I had known about it from the get go.

As the semester progressed and as I was church hopping and agonizing over which church to choose, there was an ACCESS at which, through the best kind of bluntness, it hit me that I was a sinner, most unworthy of the grace of God. As I sat there, taking a rest from bawling, I remember this feeling from God that was like, “Why are you still agonizing over your decision? This is where I want you to be. You knew it from day one.” And that’s when I decided that as long as I was in Michigan, HMCC would be my church.

That first year, I attended my first ever LIFE group. Every week, I looked forward to it, even though for a while, I was the only freshman. As our LIFE group started to grow, other freshmen joined me. That year I just jumped into HMCC, looking forward to ACCESS and Sunday Celebration everyday, especially as all of my friends went there. Later on, they announced the Austin church plant and we found out that one of my leaders would be going and started praying for her as a LIFE group.

My second year, the lesson I took away from LIFE group was “live for something greater than yourself”. There was this one LIFE group where this principle was pounded into our heads. We went to Detroit and Dearborn a couple times as a LIFE group not only to have fun, but also to see the need, experience the different culture, and gain a heart for the people.

That second year was a tough one as I went through my first real breakup. It had started the second semester of my freshman year and by the time sophomore year started, I was convinced that it wasn’t healthy, that it didn’t honor God, and that it was holding me back from growing. God led me to a place where I had to make a call. It was God or the girl. Painfully but patiently, He gave me the opportunity to open my hand and surrender the relationship to Him. The process of breaking up was nasty, arduous, and drawn out. Through all of it, the relationship and the breakup, God continued to show me how messed up I was, how much I had to work on, and how following Him meant letting go of other things.

It was that semester that they announced the Jakarta church plant. Being clueless as usual, I was completely taken off guard and had no idea that it was coming. When it was presented and they told us that they were looking for college students, it started getting me thinking. It challenged me, making me think how “surrendered” I was. Was I willing to sacrifice a year and delay my studies to build up the kingdom of God? At one point, I asked myself what would be the most radical thing I could do for God’s kingdom and the answer was to apply for the Jakarta team. Along with that P. Seth won me over with talks about how it could help students find their calling/purpose more clearly and give them a better direction. I was a sophomore, the most opportune time (if such time exists) to take a year off with the possibility of changing directions on return. A couple other influences, such as Crossing, a movie about North Korean refugees, in which the protagonist cries out something along the lines of “Is God a God of only the rich?! Where is this God in North Korea?!” cemented my decision to apply for the Jakarta team.

As I applied for the Jakarta team, my parents seemed okay with it, until I got accepted. At that point, with me going to Indonesia a reality, my parents got cold feet. My dad proposed that I was abandoning my family and role as the firstborn son. As I struggled with such words, God reminded me over and over that He loves my family more than I do and that He is way more than enough, way more than me to watch over them if I left. Not only that, but while I was still trying to win over my parents, a Korean missionary couple to China visited my home church in Toledo. The visit softened my dad’s heart and in the following days he told me that he supported me telling me, “You only have the opportunity to do crazy things like this when you’re young”, how he also wanted to do such radical things in his youth, and how he was now looking forward to doing such things after we all left the house and grew up.

Fast-forward six months to July. After weekly training and saying good byes, we landed in Jakarta, Indonesia. We immediately started our informal Sunday meetings and within the month we started our LIFE groups. Everything just took off from there. The brother’s found jobs, we had our inaugural service, and we started meeting people and reaching out to the college students. God provided us with a place of worship for Sunday’s, brought people our way, and continued to teach us to rely upon Him and Him alone. We were privileged to hold our first Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinner, gathering, and celebration, New Year’s Eve service, and our first retreat. He brought us to a place where we’re now going through Experiencing Membership & Experiencing Ministry and challenging people to commit to building up the local church.

Being here, I’ve really been challenged with if I really know what not only HMCC is about, but what my life is about. It’s been ups and downs as different issues and perspectives that I have had surfaced during my time here.

Previously, I had a loose understanding that our church’s mission was to “transform lost peoples into Christ’s disciples to transform the world”, but never concretely grasped it. I knew HMCC valued serving, but never saw the leaders who took the time and energy to invest in people under them to raise up new generations of leaders and Christ followers. I saw and attended our events, but rarely understood the heart and purpose behind them. I think that most times, I saw our church as my haven, where I could just be loved, grow, and enjoy the company of others, rather than seeing the lost people that we as a church are called out to minister and reach out to. I rarely thought of the Church as the body of Christ, the army of Christ, called out to wage spiritual battle and bring back those who are lost and have no knowledge of the one true God. But now I see how true it is when they say that the church exists for those who are not yet in it.

For myself, when I counted the cost of following Christ, I knew there was sacrifice involved, but recently I’ve been more and more challenged to die to myself and slowly am I understanding that the sacrifice is my whole life, my all. Even here, where the situation and context is set for giving it my all, I struggle time and time again and see how selfish and self-centered I am. One thing that’s really challenged me lately is that the church in Acts grew daily. And the question that kills me is, “How can this happen in my context if I’m not even sharing the gospel daily? If I’m not building relationships daily? If I’m not meeting new people regularly?” And recently, I’ve been blown away as I realize and see again how great God is and how worthy he is. I’ve been reading “Let the Nations Be Glad” and I’m floored as I realize that God alone is self-sufficient, but He allows us to partner with Him anyway.

And as I think about living in the dorms, it just clicks that it’s such a fertile ground in so many ways.

I think about how different the people brought together in the dorm are. A lot of them are people who would and will never step into church unless someone reaches out to them. There are students without purpose, without community, and without God. Some of them are searching for something greater, some of them come from far away, and some of them are already wasting their lives on themselves. Simply put, there are people who have yet to know God, acknowledge his glory, and worship him. There are also those who have been churched, but don’t really know God and also those who do know God and are looking for a church.

As I struggled through this decision, I talked with P. Seth about how I didn’t think I could juggle the different balls of studying, ministry, and being available in the dorms. But he reminded me and challenged me not to dichotomize my life and showed me how leading, serving, and investing in the people in the dorms are all integrated. As I’m becoming an upperclassmen and want to invest in and build up some of the younger guys in my LIFE group, how better to show them how to invest and evangelize than inviting them to the dorm to walk with me and do it together? Also, rather than inviting to our outreaches someone who I don’t have a consistent, solid relationship with, who better to expose to our HMCC community then the guys who live around me? The ability to integrate serving in church and ministering to those in my dorm was what pretty much made the decision for me.

Then we talked about how easy and tremendous the pull is to just be comfortable and create our own HMCC enclave in the apartments. But along with what I wrote earlier, he reminded me that’s not what church, especially our church, is about. It’s about being transcultural and being uncomfortable for the sake of the gospel and God’s glory. How better to minister to students, than to have a presence in the dorms, where the students are?

Honestly, I know it won’t be easy. It rarely is. I love hanging out with my friends, especially my class. But I’ve been challenged to see that giving up those times is part of the cost that comes with being focused and single minded. Even with the integration of ministry and dorm living, I realize that I’m going to have to be at the top of my game with studies and time management if I don’t want to drop the ball. And I know that I talk a big talk, but my walk leaves much to be desired. So I’m trying to grow here as much as I can so that I can back up my talk with my actions more and more.

Finally, I realize that I only got to thinking about living in the dorms because I had another “Here I am God, just take me as your tool and use me as you wish” kinda moment. And at first when I thought of living in the dorms, I thought about the overwhelming challenge of ministering to everybody in our hall or floor. But then, through some guidance from the older brothers, I realized that even if I invest in just 2 or 3 guys regularly and with a focus, then that would be a big enough task for me. Honestly, my capacity is not that big. If anything, right now is the closest I’ve ever been to purposefully investing and walking alongside of someone as the older or more mature person. Even if God just uses me as a test case simply to challenge others to live in the dorms in the following years, then I’ll be happy knowing that what I did was used for God’s purpose.”

 
 
Thanks for sharing! Even though I am your pastor, I am humbled and you inspire me. It is a privilege standing in the frontlines with you. I got your back.

The Boy Girl Thing

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 

Photo by HMCC Publications
 
 
 
I was shocked to see the influence of the Korean dramas here in Indonesia. In fact, I have heard about the K-Drama’s influence throughout Asia, but the reality and the magnitude of its influence didn’t hit me until I got to Indonesia. It was interesting to find Indonesians who spoke better Korean, than some of the Koreans-Americans that I know. The Indonesians pick up various Korean phrases by just watching the dramas.

The Indonesian culture is very relational; therefore there are a lot of things about the love stories of the K-Dramas that they find appealing. But it is a double edge sword.

While there are some important values such as sacrifice, unconditional love, and commitment that are portrayed in the dramas, there are some values that fuel a misconstrued view of a healthy relationship. In fact, it is easy for people to get a romanticized view of what relationships are supposed to be like, which often lead to a lot of disappointments and hurt when it does not happen. My wife heard from a Japanese woman that there are many Japanese ladies who go to visit Korea thinking that all Korean men are like what they see in the dramas. Christina quickly told her that that is a misconstrued reality :-)

This is why I am excited to share some biblical principles of relationships this coming weekend. We will have one for the college students and another one for the single adults who live in Jakarta.

Over the years, I have realized that people who have been in a failed relationship are the ones that can testify to the truthfulness of what is shared in my talk. It is always the ones that have never been in a relationship that have a hard time accepting some of the truth. Then, we have the ones that are in a relationship who end up not showing up because they don’t want to be challenged or scrutinized.

As we have been talking to some of the students, they have mentioned that there really haven’t been too many conversations about a biblical perspective on relationships. The media and the culture have usually been their guides. This is why I am looking forward to breathing some freshness to the conversation. But it is going to be a challenge, since I have to be not only culturally sensitive, but also blunt. In Asian countries, it is all about the indirectness. But maybe this topic of relationship, which makes us or breaks us, can be presented in a disarming manner so that they will be willing to hear the truth. It’s going to be fun.

Our Insecurities Fuel Our Distortions

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo from wordpress.com
 
 
 
I read an article by Carolyn Arends titled, “Our Divine Distortion.” Arends’ honest sharing triggered an insight. Let me first have you read a portion of her article. Arends writes,

“When I found a brand new lap-top for half price on eBay, I told my friend and musical colleague Spencer about my bargain of a find. He was worried: ‘Usually when something’s too good to be true…’

‘I know,’ I replied impatiently, ‘but the seller has a 100 percent approval rating.’

‘Be careful,’ warned Spencer.

‘Of course,’ I assured him, annoyed. I wasn’t born yesterday.

I sent the seller $1,300 and discovered in very short, sickening order that I had fallen prey to a classic scam. A fraudster had hacked someone’s eBay identity in order to relieve easy marks like me of our money.

I felt an absolute fool – and didn’t want to tell Spencer. The next time I saw his number on my caller ID, I didn’t answer. I could just imagine his ‘I told you so.’ Soon, I was avoiding Spencer completely. And I started to resent him. Why did he have to be so judgmental? Why couldn’t he be on my side? Why was I ever friends with that jerk?

Eventually, we had to fly together to perform at a concert. ‘Whatever happened with that computer thing?’ he asked an hour into the flight. Cornered, I finally confessed my foolishness, dreading the inevitable response. But as soon as I told Spencer about my mistake, a strange thing happened. The enemy I had turned him into evaporated. Spencer turned into Spencer again, my teasing but deeply empathetic buddy.

As embarrassed as I was by my eBay error, I felt even dumber about the way I had allowed my shame to distort my perception of a best friend. If my hand had not been forced, I would have remained estranged from him indefinitely.

I’ve always considered myself perceptive, but the longer I live, the more I discover my susceptibility to misinterpretation. This is true of the way I view my friends, truer of the way I see my enemies, and perhaps truest of the way I perceive God.”

 
 
It is interesting how often we find ourselves “avoiding” people due to our insecurities and pride. In Arends’ story the outcome was favorable – not only was she able to confess and receive grace, but through this experience, it helped her to see something deeper in her relationship with God.

But the outcome for many people it is not always favorable.

There have been times when I found myself avoiding certain people due to something that I am ashamed of or something that I do not want people to know about. It is amazing how shame and insecurities make us hide.

On the flip side, I am put in an awkward position. Since I am a pastor, I am usually put in a position where I have to counsel and speak the truth on certain things; and not everyone is open to rebuke or correction. There have been many times when I had to speak the truth on relationships. Sometimes, I had to address certain issues head on regarding the toxic nature of a relationship or the dishonoring nature aspect of the relationship.

Now, you can imagine the response of some of the people – not everyone receives things well, even though I have tried to speak the truth in love. But the worst part of all this is the response I receive when the relationship does not work out at the end.

It just reminds me the fallen nature of the human heart.

But the worst part is the pride that I see in my own heart. Giving grace is not the easiest thing to do because there is always a price involved. If I want to become more like Christ, then I need to give grace.

You can read the full article here.