Read the Fine Print

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo by Dot Communications
 
 
 
I don’t know about you, but I have zero tolerance for false advertisement. Some companies and corporations are very sneaky to put it mildly. They will advertise in their eye-catching ads about a huge sale or a real bargain, but when you walk in to the store, you quickly come to realize that there are “terms and conditions.” In other words, “read the fine print.” Even though they did not flat out lie to the consumer, they were not completely upfront either. Who reads the fine print anyways when the information to lure you in are all in red and huge letters?

This is how marketing works sometimes and it stinks. It leaves the consumer feeling a bit deceived and betrayed, especially when what is initially promised comes with “terms and conditions.”

I am the kind of person that likes everything upfront (in big letters). In this way, I can consider all the factors, count the cost, and then make an informed decision.

As I was thinking about this, I couldn’t help but to think that churches also engaged in “read the fine print” advertisement. How many times have we preached the Gospel by telling the pre-Christian that God loves them? How many times have we shared the Good News by informing the pre-Christian that God can forgive all their sins? How many times have we presented the message of salvation by telling the pre-Christian that God has an awesome plan for their lives?

While all these factors in presenting the Gospel are true, we rarely tell the pre-Christian about the “terms and conditions.” For starters, there is a clear call for repentance. There is also the call to a life of surrender. Jesus’ words are pretty straight forward. He states that no idols and gods can take greater allegiance or supremacy in a person’s life. Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:37-39).

Christ takes it a step further and says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-36).

To follow Christ, it means to live a life of complete surrender. But this is hard to do when we live in a world of competing allegiances.

The Church of Jesus Christ is participating in somewhat of a spiritual false advertisement. When we only preach parts of the Gospel by eliminating the “hard” parts, then we do the pre-Christian and disservice. When we talk about how God loves them, but do not share about repentance and how Jesus demands their whole life, we are not giving them the full picture.

Why don’t we share the “fine print” when we share the Gospel?

This has been the downfall of the prosperity Gospel. This is why many so called “Christians” give up on their walk with Christ at the first sign of hardship or difficulty. This is why the statistics shows that the divorce rate is the same in the world as in the church. This is why many people get disillusioned when they have to finally grapple with the “fine print” as the Gospel demands their whole life. It even contributes to the many Christ-followers who are lukewarm in the church today.

We have given people the Gospel-lite version of Christianity and this is hurting the Church and our witness to the world.

My advice to pre-Christians: “Always read the fine print!”

My advice to the Church: “Enlarge the fine print so that everyone will know what they are getting themselves into when they decide to follow Christ.”

Dr. Wayne Grudem

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Wayne Grudem while I attended seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Not only did I study all my Systematic Theology with him, but I also took some elective classes that he taught in different semesters.

There are two fond memories of him that increased my respect and admiration of him. First, I remember how we would sing a song or two before we started class. They ranged from old classic hymns to some modern praise songs. One time, as we were singing, I saw him get down on his knees and with uplifted hands singing praises to God. It was a humbling moment for me because here was a man, who graduated from Harvard (cum laude) and University of Cambridge, bowing down in humility worshiping God. Sometimes people think any signs of emotions or “charismatic” expressions are equated with a lack of intelligence, but Dr. Grudem definitely debunked that theory.

Secondly, I will never forget when I heard the announcement of his resignation from Trinity. I was in shock. In fact, I think many people in the evangelical circles were shocked. Dr. Grudem was on the height of his academic career. So the question was, “Why in the world would he step down from everything?”

His answer floored me.

It was because of his love for his wife. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It is a disease that brings pain to various muscle groups in the body. There is really no cure for this disease. The only time Margret was able to find some relief was when she was in a place with warmer weather. Therefore, as he wrestled with the decision, Dr. Grudem realized that the most honoring thing to do was to surrender his prolific career at Trinity and go to another seminary out West with lesser credentials for the sake of his wife’s health. You can read his official response in Trinity Magazine here (you have to read it… please have some tissues ready).

Wow!

How many guys who are on top of their successful career can do the same thing?

Not many. This is why I have such admiration and respect for the man.
Real life examples are the best to follow.

Here is a funny video made as a tribute to Dr. Grudem. Check it out.
 
 

Reflections on Asia Trip 05.2010

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Vision, Visits

 

Photo on WordPress
 
 
 
Last week was an eventful week as I made a trip out to Hong Kong and Singapore. In Hong Kong, I reconnected with some of our alumni and met up with some pastors and ministry leaders. It was an eye-opening trip as I heard about some of the great things that God is doing in Hong Kong. Even though I visited Hong Kong a few times before, for some reason this trip was different. I really felt like God opened my eyes to the harvest and gave me a greater burden for this great global city.

God also used my trip out to Singapore to remind me of the great need for believers to be a visual display and a viable demonstration of God’s love. When the Church, which is made up of people begin to live out its calling to be the salt and light of the world, we will see transformation start to happen.

I am thankful for the privilege of witnessing firsthand all that God is doing out in this region of the world. I am also humbled to know that God is trying to raise up people in our churches to take up the Macedonian call (Ac 16:9-10).

During my flight back to Jakarta, I was able to jot down some of my thoughts from my trip. I wrote down five major lessons and reminders from this trip:

1) God is moving powerful through unexpected means. One of our HMCC alumnus is teaching at University of Hong Kong (HKU), which is supposedly one of the best universities in all of Asia. I was able to get a personal tour of the university and my heart was beating fast. When I heard that close to 25-30% of the students were from mainland China, I realized the potential of reaching all of China. If these students were reached with the Gospel and discipled, they can be the missionaries who will bring the Gospel to their own people. I also found out that about 50% of all the graduate students were from outside of China/Hong Kong. Many different nations were represented in this 50% international student population. What a great opportunity to reach the world just through this one university. We also visited another top university in Hong Kong called The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). I was able to meet a student from the UK who was in CUHK to do a one year exchange program that was sponsored through his university in UK. It is a joint venture where 3 years are done in the UK, while the last year is done in CUHK. If we reach the international students at these top universities, we will be reaching the world. It is very similar to reaching international university students in the States.

2) God is giving favor to the Church to penetrate the various spheres of society.
It was astounding to hear that Alpha Courses were being taught in the schools. At first I was a bit skeptical because in the States this will never be possible. But incredibly, it is happening in Hong Kong. Due to various open doors, God is allowing His truth to be taught as a mandatory curriculum in the public schools. Young students are hearing the Gospel and it is making a difference in their lives.

3) God is raising up a new generation of movers and shakers and history makers. The Church in Hong Kong is also penetrating into the entertainment industry and in the sphere of the arts and media. It was awesome to hear that recently some of the top pop artist and musicians have come to know Jesus Christ as a personal Lord and Savior. They are now reaching out to their friends and colleagues with the Gospel. In fact, a group started up a ministry to specifically reach out to the people in the music and movie industry and they are making a huge difference. I was also able to hear about what God was doing in the business sphere of society. There are more entrepreneurs and business people who are committed to the vision of God’s Kingdom. They are leveraging their wealth for Kingdom purposes and missions. It was so refreshing to see, especially in our generation where greed and self-centeredness have taken a stronghold. I am just curious what will happen when they turn 50 or 60 years old. There will be a major shift in Hong Kong.

4) God is bringing different streams together.
The Bride of Christ has always been divided by denominations and associations. Difference in theology and jealous has always put a wedge between the various pastors and church leaders. But in this kairos moment we are seeing great unity. It was inspiring to see how God was bringing people from different backgrounds together to work for His Kingdom. I was personally able to network and make some solid connections. It was just a reminder that God is doing something bigger and greater than just one ministry. In particular, I was able to talk with a leader in Hong Kong, who is leading a ministry where they are bringing people from different parts of China and the surrounding nations together for a 5 day camp. After their time together, they would be sent out as teams to various locations to be a witness for Jesus. Even in Singapore, I was able to meet up with a pastor who just recently started a church but he is already connected with the various pastors and spiritual leaders in the city. They are fellowshipping together and even trying to work together for the building of God’s Kingdom.

5) God is preparing Asia to propel them into the next big missions movement.
By being out here in Indonesia and in the region of Asia, I am coming to the conclusion that God might be possibly preparing Asia to lead a powerful mission movement to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. There is just a different feel out here in Asia than what I experienced in the States. As China and India are now becoming nations that could possibly surpass the States as a great superpower, we are seeing more people being raised to do missions from this region of the world. For some reason, they are willing to lay down their lives to share the Gospel. They are definitely living out the 4-evers (whatever, whichever, wherever, and however) as they have surrendered themselves to God’s purposes.

 
 
As I am seeing some of these things firsthand, it is making it hard for me to go back to the States; but I know that God is calling me and my family to go back and raise up more Kingdom workers who will eventually go to some of these nations and build God’s Kingdom. I am just privileged to have witnessed it. The best is yet to come!

Keeping Things Fresh

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

 
As we are preparing for our return to the States, Christina and I have realized that there are a lot of things that we need to get in order. For one thing, we need to purchase a car. Right before we moved out to Indonesia, we sold our Honda Odyssey.

I thought I would be done with the days of a mini-van since our kids are getting older, but after seeing this video I am thinking that it might not be so bad. This might be Toyota’s way of making a comeback after all their safety recalls problems.

I love it when people try to keep things fresh.
 
 

The Greater Witness

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Victories, Viewpoint

 

 
 
 
One thing great about Indonesia is the amount of holidays they have here due to religious observances. There is definitely a lot of tolerance for the various religions because everyone is trying to live in peace with one another. Couple of days ago was Ascension Day (commemorating the day that Jesus went up to heaven after His resurrection), therefore it was a national holiday.

With the relationships that I have been built with some of the international church pastors in Jakarta, we have been able to build some trust with one another. With this trust, we were able to join our congregations together and participate in a joint worship service for Ascension Day.

It was a powerful time of worship.

It was a powerful witness to the rest of the Body of Christ.

Through this gathering, God reminded me once again of several importance things:

1) We are on the same team fighting the same enemy. No sports team has ever won championships when they were fighting and bickering with one another. Championship teams usually are unified and they work well together. Too often we, as Christ-followers, find ourselves losing some big time games. Instead of seeing other churches and Christ-followers as teammates, we see each other as opponents. Shouldn’t we be focused on fighting Satan, our real enemy? But the sad fact is that we end up making each other the enemy. No wonder, we haven’t been able to do much damage to Satan and his demonic influences.

2) We need to learn how to drop our egos and logos. When was the last time, we rejoiced when we heard that another church was seeing a lot of people being saved through the Gospel? When was the last time, we celebrated the growth of another church, especially in our neighborhood? The problem with the Church today is that we are consumed with making much about ourselves rather than Jesus Christ. The sooner we drop our egos and logos and put more of the focus on Christ, the sooner we will see greater things happen within a city.

3) We are able to make a bigger splash when we come together as one Church. Do you remember when you were younger and you did the cannonball in the swimming pool? I still remember trying to jump into the pool (with one knee up) and trying to make a big splash to get the lifeguard all wet. What would happen if 10 or 15 or 30 of us all jumped in at the same time?! We would definitely get the lifeguard and the old granny on the sun chair all wet! I don’t know about you, but I want to make a huge splash for Jesus and I know that I cannot do it alone. There is power when we come together.

4) We must remember that God loves unity and so does our church members. There is something about seeing children play together without fighting that brings great joy to the parent’s heart. God loves it when His children are getting along and are unified. In fact, this was one of Jesus’ greatest prayers (Jn 17). I have observed over the years that it is usually the pastors and leaders of ministries that promote (or fuel) the disunity in the Body of Christ. When I talk with people who are “just” members, they long for their church to work together with other churches. They are hungering for it. They are praying for it. Maybe some of us who are leaders in the churches need to rethink about how God judged the leaders in the Bible so harshly. With great privileges come great responsibilities.

 
 
One thing that I couldn’t help noticing during this joint Ascension Day service was the fact that we were exactly in the center of Jakarta and lifting up the name of Jesus. It was really a prophetic statement. It is my hope and prayer that we, the greater Church of Jesus will ripple out to reach the city and to all the people groups of Indonesia with the Gospel.

Differences in Christianity and Islam?

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
Whenever discussions revolve around religion, it is always a heated and charged discussion. The reason behind this is simple: Religion is something personal. Therefore whenever our faith is attacked, a religious person will do everything in order to protect and defend the basic tenets of their faith. In this way, religion has been one of the catalysts for some of the wars throughout history. It is usually not a very pretty picture.

This notion of religion being an emotionally charged topic was illustrated perfectly in the recent South Park episode where they parodied Islam and Muslims’ reverence for the prophet Muhammad (note: spelling varies depending on the source).

In fact, after it was aired there were death threats leveled at Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. The threat came from various blogs and websites. One person in particular is Zachary Adam Chesser (a.k.a. Abu Talhah al-Amrikee), who posted something on www.RevolutionMuslim.com. Chesser said that he wrote what he did and put the picture of a murdered Dutch filmmaker to raise awareness and to show the severity of what happens to someone who mocks Muhammad. But he clearly reiterated that it was not a threat, but rather it was just an explanation of what would be the most likely outcome, if anyone criticized the prophet or Islam.

It is very clear – Islamic law prohibits any forms of depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

Even with the recent failed terrorist car bomb attack in New York’s Times Square reminds us of another example. As facts are coming out, there is some speculation that this was linked to the South Park “transgressions.” But as the investigation is underway, authorities are finding out that the car bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad was upset at the U.S. treatment of Islam. The court evidence shows that Shahzad has some ties to the Taliban militants by receiving explosives training in Pakistan’s Waziristan region. Shadzad was also in contact with people in Pakistan prior to the attempted car bombing.

President Obama in his press conference said, “This incident is another sobering reminder of the times in which we live around the world and here at home, there are those who would attack our citizens and who would slaughter innocent men, women and children in pursuit of their murderous agenda. They will stop at nothing to kill and disrupt our way of life.”

Bill Maher has even jumped into the discussion. He challenged the claim that Islam is a “peaceful” religion. I thought it was a very bold and honest interview with Anderson Cooper.
 
 

 
 
 

Incredibly, there are some similarities between Christianity and Islam, well, at least more than what we see at the surface (i.e. theology, Christology, views of salvation, etc). Both religions seek to claim to have the “truth.” Both religions seek to “convert” people. Both religions demand devotion from its followers. Both religions have “extremists” who take some of their holy writings out of context and justify their actions. The list goes on and on.

But in the midst of these surface or general similarities, I couldn’t help but to notice the reaction of people towards the two religions. I decided to put it in a question format to help us think through some of these issues:

1) Why is it that people are constantly defending Islam and saying that it is a peaceful religion?

2) Why is it that people have no fear or reservations in disparaging Christ and Christianity, but when it comes to Islam, people are afraid and very accommodating?

3) Why did South Park, who is well known for ridiculing and satirizing religion (especially Christianity) all of a sudden decided to censor themselves and pull out all videos associated with the episode of the Bear Muhammad episode?

4) Why is there a glorification of “homicide bombers” and “justified killings”?

 
 
As I am asking these questions, I am challenged by the Muslims’ passion for honoring their great prophet. Do I have just as much passion and is my emotion stirred when people attack or negatively talk about Christ?

But as I look at Christ and the various Gospel accounts of his last days here on this earth, I sometimes get disturbed and a bit angry. Why didn’t his disciples do anything to defend Jesus? Why didn’t Jesus call upon the twelve legions of angels (Mt 26:53) to destroy the people who were going to hurt Him?

This is when I realize that strength is found in what seems like an “apparent” weakness (2 Co 12:10). It is always harder to love people than to destroy them. It is always harder to forgive people than to get revenge. It is always harder to be humble than to demand our rights. It is always harder to obey God than to do what we want to do. It is always harder to deny ourselves than to be self-centered.

In essence, Jesus did the harder thing and took the road that many people would never have gone on. Maybe this is why I am drawn to Christ more each day. I am humbled to know how unique He is compared to anyone else in history. I am just amazed at how different He is than me, but yet, He calls me to be more like Him.

The difference? The Apostle Paul said it well to the people of Philippi:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Php 2:6-11)

Appealing to Our Pride and Ambition

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 

Photo by gbcdecatur.org
 
 
 
Recently I received an e-mail that I found very interesting. Here is the content of the e-mail:

You were recently chosen as a potential candidate to represent your professional community in the 2010/2011 Edition of The Global Directory of Who’s Who Online.

We are please to inform you that your candidacy was formally approved April 15th, 2010. Congratulations.

The Publishing Committee selected you as a potential candidate based not only upon your current standing, but focusing as well on criteria from executive and professional directories, associations, and trade journals. Given your background, the Director believes your profile makes a fitting addition to our publication and our online network.

There is no fee nor obligation to be listed. As we are working off of secondary sources, we must receive verification from you that your profile is accurate. After receiving verification, we will validate your online listing within 7 business days.

Once finalized, your listing will share prominent registry space with thousands of fellow accomplished individuals across the globe, each representing accomplishment within their own geographical area.

To verify your profile and accept the candidacy, please visit here. Our registration deadline for this year’s candidates is May 30th, 2010. To ensure you are included, we must receive your verification on or before this date. On behalf of our Committee I salute your achievement and welcome you to our association.

 
 
Just to set the record straight, I did not respond to e-mail. Instead, I labeled it as spam mail and blocked the sender’s e-mail address.

But as I was thinking about it, I realized how smart these guys were in appealing to some of the basic desires of a person. We all want to be known and to know that we have significance. When they use phrases like, “you were… chosen,” “who’s who,” “share prominent… space with thousands of fellow accomplished individuals,” and “salute your achievement” for some reason it calls out to our pride and ambition.

I couldn’t help but to think to myself, “What have I really accomplished? Do I really need some organization to validate me or the work that I am doing for God?”

This just helped me to put all things in perspective. In fact, it was a good heart check for me. Once in awhile it is good to ask questions such as:

1) Who am I doing all these things for?
2) What is the most important thing in my life right now?
3) Why am I doing the things that I am doing?
4) How would I respond if no one ever notices what I do?

It is not easy to develop a heart that does all things for the audience of One, but this is the pursuit. If not, we will be convinced either we are better than we really are or we will forget God’s grace in our lives. No wonder there are many examples and references in the Bible that remind us that pride comes before the fall (Pr 11:2; 16:18; 18:12), but grace is always given to the humble (Pr 3:34; Jas 4:6; 1 Pe 5:5).

As I am getting older and slowing entering into an early mid-life crisis, the appeals to my pride and ambition are greater. This is when I have to keep on reminding myself of what is important. It is simply that my name is written in the Book of Life and that I am known by the One that matters the most. It is hard, but I am thankful that sometimes it takes these kinds of e-mails to remind me of this truth.