NFL – “Not For Long”

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

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There was a USA Today article the other day that caught my attention. It described how so many NFL (National Football League) players go bankrupt after their career is over. The sobering statistic was that the average football player’s career last only 3.5 years.

This means that after 3 years there are a lot of players who will have to find something else to do to earn a living. But the problem is that the players are not educated and equipped to manage their finances as they enter their rookie year. Therefore, with the allure of fame and fortune, many players end up having financial problems and some even go bankrupt when their careers are over.

Keyshawn Johnson, who was a former number one draft pick and now works as an ESPN analyst sees the trend and coined the NFL as “Not For Long.” He said, “After Uncle Sam comes first, your agent is going to get his cut. Then there’s your wife, girlfriend or baby’s mama. You’re going to hook up your family and homeboys, and get yourself some nice things, like jewelry or some sweet tire rims. By the time you’ve done all of that, you’d be lucky to have $320,000 left.”

We cannot forget that the rookie minimum salary in the NFL is $325,000 USD, which about 7x the average starting salary for a college graduate. It is sad to hear that it is estimated 78% of NFL players will become bankrupt, divorced or unemployed within two years of retirement.

As I was reading this article, I couldn’t help to see some of the similarities with college students who graduate and start their single adult years, as a working professional. As they get their first paycheck, they are amazed at the new financial power. Many end up getting a new car, new wardrobe, new entertainment system, new electronic gadgets, and even possibly put a down payment on a condo.

The sad fact is that many college graduates have not been trained in the area of stewardship. Therefore, after several years out of college, many single adults are in debt. This then puts them in a downward spiral, which affects their ability to steward God’s resources wisely for God’s glory.

This is when the Church really needs to step up and provide various tools so that the college graduate can be equipped to better steward God’s resources. Here are several things that came to my mind:

1) Teach on the importance of stewardship. Before the college graduate starts making the money, it is imperative that there is teaching over the pulpit, as well as classes being offered so that people can learn the biblical perspective on stewardship.

2) Transform the way people see generosity. Often times, people fail to see that generosity is connected to their spiritual lives. The same spiritual muscle that is required to have a constant devotional life is exercised when it comes to giving. If people can see giving as a spiritual discipline then it might just help make the connection with their spiritual growth.

3) Train people in the practical skills of financial management. I was amazed at how people in the church have never learned the principles of tithing and offering. As you probe further, you will realize that many have never learned how to budget either. Sometimes, we just need to be trained up to do the simple but yet practical things to honor God with our financial resources.

4) Team up with financially-sound mentors. Many times we learn the best from people who can walk through things step-by-step with us. It is always helpful to find people who have journeyed on the road and are few steps ahead of us. Sometimes, we can learn the best by observing others and asking them for advice.

I will never forget the time when in the early years of our church, I challenged the graduating seniors that once they get a job to tithe their first paycheck to the Lord. The reasons I gave were twofold: 1) It will remind you that it was God who provided you with the job, therefore learn how to be thankful by giving; 2) It will help you to hold things loosely because just as God gave you the job, He can take it away at any moment.

Whether it was a lack of faith or my lack of confidence in people’s obedience, I was flabbergasted when I found out that there were several people who took up the challenge and wrote a check to the church after receiving their first paycheck.

We would love to see more people raised up in our church who are magnanimous and missions-minded so that they can leverage their resources for the building of God’s Kingdom. Oh what God can do with a church like that in our generation!

The Discipline of Gratitude

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo on beliefnet.com
 
 
 
We have all heard the adage that states, “We need an attitude of gratitude.” I am realizing that having a grateful heart does not come easily. Simply, it is not natural. In fact, it is something that has to be trained in a person. No one is born with a grateful heart. We are depraved human beings, therefore we would rather be complainers and selfish, than live with thankfulness.

Over the years, I have observed that people who have this “attitude of gratitude” display certain traits that are consistent in their character:

1) They are glad people. There is just something about them that exudes joy. They are happier than the ordinary person. Their joy is contagious and makes you wonder why you are not as joyful. It is really fun being around them. There is usually a lot of laughter.

2) They are generous people. I have not met one thankful person that was not generous. They know the blessings that they have received from God and they just want to reciprocate it others.

3) They are gracious people. They understand that they don’t deserve anything, especially God’s grace; therefore, they are abundant in giving grace to others. They are humble. They are forgiving. They are simply, big-hearted and make room in their hearts for people.

4) They are great people. They stand head-and-shoulders above everyone in a room. They command people’s attention. They make everyone think, “Man, I wish I had that person’s attitude and perspective on life!” After a short conversation with them, you always leave feeling better about yourself.

 
 
So if an “attitude of gratitude” is something that has to be trained in a person, how does a person go about obtaining it? Well, here are some things that I am trying to work on because everything inside of me wants to complain, argue and be selfish:

1) Count your blessings. Try to find at least two things to be grateful for throughout the day. As you note your blessings, you will be reminded of how much you have to be thankful for. Remember: this is a discipline, therefore it will require constant reminders. Try putting it in your phone as an item to do with a loud alarm reminder.

2) Consider your life. It always helps to think about what your life would have been if God didn’t bless you. It is the classic: look at the cup half-full rather than half-empty. When we discipline our minds to think about how our lives or our situations could have been worst without God, we begin to grow in gratitude.

3) Commit to blessing others. The less we think about ourselves, the easier it will be to look outward. It is amazing to see how blessing others can transform our hearts. Find little ways to bless people throughout the day. It can be as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee. As we see people getting blessed, we get blessed in return.

4) Call on a friend for accountability. Good friends can see things that you cannot see especially, when your guards are down. They can help spot a bad attitude. The best accountability for me is my family. They see me in public as well as in private. Whenever I fail in my “attitude of gratitude,” everyone in my family, especially my children call me out on it. We have been trying to develop a championship attitude in the Kim family.

 
 
I am trying to commit to this discipline of gratitude and hoping that I will become a better person because of it.
 
 

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”

[Marcus Tulius Cicero]

The Blame is Always on the Leader

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo on guardian.co.uk
 
 
 
In John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, he writes, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This principle is seen in every major area of life. If a family is struggling, then there is some connection with the husband not taking responsibility of leading his family. If a sports team is not doing well, then we have to look at the coach’s ability to lead.

More recently, we have seen this principle play out in the whole fiasco with BP and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP just recently asked Tony Hayward to step down as the CEO and Robert Dudley will take over as the new CEO effective October 1st.

In order to cut Tony Hayward some slack, we will have to concede that there were a lot of factors involved in this oil spill debacle that went beyond just his leadership. Also, we have to look at the overall “system” or “structures” that produce people like Hayward.

But once again, the principle of “everything rises and falls on leadership” applies in this situation with Hayward.

After the oil spill, Hayward made some comments that questioned his ability to lead (at least from a PR and perception perspective). In light of these comments, there are several leadership principles that Hayward failed to uphold:

1) Don’t blame but take responsibility. Good leaders always take responsibility for things that happen under their leadership, even if they did not have a direct influence in the situation. Good leaders always know that the buck stops with them.

2) Don’t over-estimate or under-estimate the situation. Good leaders are able to assess a situation well. They get the facts and process them quickly. This enables them to make good decisions, which often times have to be made on the spot.

3) Don’t make it about you. Good leaders know that they are to serve a greater purpose or mission. The focus should never be on them. They know that being a servant leader entails great humility and sacrifice. Good leaders think less about themselves and more about the greater good.

The Funny Thing about Labels

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 

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I love breaking down people’s preconceived notions of things. I love it when people say, “Pastor Seth, when I first met you, I thought you were….”

It is so innate for us to make judgments on people and things just from the externals. This just proves how different we are from God because God always looks at the internals (1 Sa 16:7). This is why we are wrong a lot of times when it comes to judging people (I have my fair share of misreads).

If this is true, then why do we love labeling people?

I think for some crazy reason it helps us to “distinguish” ourselves from others. It helps us to draw boundaries and keep ourselves at a distance, which insulates us from discomfort and awkwardness. Sadly, it builds walls instead of bridges because rather than keeping us humble, it fuels pride in our heart.

If we are serious about reaching the lost, then we have to give this some serious thought. It also applies to the follower of Christ, who is on this journey of becoming more like Christ. Rather than labeling people with our own tainted judgments, it might be helpful to see Christ as our standard. Then we will see that we all fall short of His glory (Ro 3:23). We will see that we are all in need of His grace. This might just transform the way we see and do things.

John Ortberg in his article, “Category Confusion” gives an excellent perspective on the issue of categorizing people. Ortberg writes,

“Much of how we approach church and the spiritual life depends on our deep assumptions about what it means to be Christian. [There are] two different categories, or “sets,” we use to understand being a Christian.

A bounded set is one where all its members are determined by focusing on the boundary. For instance, ‘apples’ is a bounded set. Whether or not an item fits depends on whether it meets the criteria for apples – having skin and seeds and so on. Membership in a bounded set is static. Whether you’re a rotten apple or a ripe apple does not affect your appleness. The focus is not on movement but position.

A centered set, on the other hand, is determined by a focus on the center. Centered sets are dynamic, in motion. With centered sets, the key question is whether I am oriented and moving toward the center or moving away from the center. I’m defined on where I am, and where I’m moving, in relation to the center.

If we treat Christianity as a bounded set, there will always be a disconnect between the gospel and discipleship. The gospel will be presented as something to get you ‘inside the circle.’ Once you’re inside, we don’t want to say you have to do anything to stay in (that would be salvation by works). But we don’t want to say you don’t have to do anything (the triumph of entropy, or, to use a biblical word, being lukewarm, or to use a theological word, antinomianism). So we don’t know what to say.

However, if we treat Christianity as a centered set, the relationship between the gospel and discipleship becomes much clearer. The gospel is the proclamation that life with and through Jesus is now available to ordinary people. It is a free gift of forgiveness and grace that cannot be earned. If I want it, the way that I enter into it is by becoming a follower of Jesus and orienting our lives with him at the center.

The problem with a bounded-set approach to Christianity is not that it highlights the difference between Christians and non-Christians; it’s that it highlights the wrong differences, and encourages us to exaggerate and claim differences that don’t exist.

If we focus on Jesus as the center, then the key question becomes whether someone is oriented toward him or away from him. We realize that God is in a much better position than we are to know who’s in and who’s out. We also realize that everyone has something to learn, that everyone has a next step to take, and we don’t have to make ourselves seem more different than we really are. We embrace our common humanity.

Somebody wrote that in Australia there are two main methods for keeping cattle on the ranch. One is to build a fence around the perimeter. The other is to dig a well in the center of the property.

I think Jesus is more like a well than a fence.

God Works and So Do We

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

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Recently in my prayer time, God put a phrase in my heart – “Let God do the saving, while you do the serving.” I am constantly reminded of the paradox of God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility. We cannot have one without the other. If we only have one, then it would be like rowing a boat with only one oar – we would go in circles.

Too often we falter in two areas. Either we take all the responsibility on our shoulders and eliminate God from the equation or we get passive and expect God to do everything. But in order to be effective in doing what God has called us to do, we need both.

As I am looking ahead to this coming year, there is an excitement and a momentum that is building within my heart and in our church. We are trying to exercise faith. We believe that God is preparing the harvest field for us. Not only is this in-coming freshman class the largest in the history of University of Michigan, but there will be many new single adults and families coming into the area.

Therefore, as we learn how to sacrifice and do our part by faithfully serving people, God will do His part and save the people.

We cannot get this confused. We do not save anybody. In fact, we cannot by any human means. It has to be the Spirit of God who prepares and prompts people to trust in Christ. We are called to pray and proclaim.

So as we serve, God will save.
I cannot wait to see all that God will do this coming year.

The Plight of Procrastination

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various

 
Sometimes when there is so much to do, it is easy for us to start feeling overwhelmed. This feeling of burden can cause us to procrastinate. It is always easier to deal with reality “later” rather than sooner. It is easier to do everything else but the important things that you need to do. This video describes perfectly how a day can go by and not get anything done.
 
 

 
 
With all the transitions and the things that “need to get done,” I am praying for more focus. Lately, I am seeing the need for taking my own advice which I have given to people for so many years:

1) Spend time in prayer
2) Set some goals
3) Strategize in achieving the goals
4) Start doing it
5) Seek accountability

 
 

Some Shifts in Christianity

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo by psdgraphics.com
 
 
 
It is interesting to note the various shifts that have occurred in Christianity throughout the centuries. A pendulum that swings back and forth until it comes to a halt in the middle can be a good imagery of some of the shifts. In fact, shifts are good because it compensates for people going too far to one extreme. I think about the social Gospel that began to deafen the voices of the fundamentalist in the 20th century. Then there was a shift back to the fundamental evangelical doctrine as the social Gospel opened the doors to liberalism. Now, there is a shift back to the social justice aspect of the Gospel in the recent decades.

Once again, these shifts are good because it helps us from going to one extreme to another.

Recently the Barna Research Group conducted a study where some of their findings re-emphasized the shifts that are happening now.

In this study, the Barna Group gave a snapshot profile of Americans who are active in their faith. They examined various expressions of “group” faith, such as: church attendance, small groups, adult Sunday school programs, church volunteering, and house churches.

Here is a partial list of things that they found:

1. Women drive most faith participation, with the exception of home churches or house churches. A majority of weekly churchgoers are women (53%). Small groups that meet for prayer or Bible study (60%) and Sunday school programs for adults (59%) are also more likely to be attended by women. Similarly, a majority of church volunteers (57%) are females. Home churches are the only type of participatory religious involvement in which most attenders are men (56%).

2. Religious activities are typically missing single adults, especially those who have never been married. Just less than half of Americans are unmarried; however, the Barna study found that two-thirds of those who attend church, go to small groups, and participate in Sunday school are married; and 69% of church volunteers are married. Furthermore, single adults who have never experienced matrimony – that is, they are not currently divorced, separated or widowed – represent fewer than one-fifth of the adults involved, with worship attendance and volunteerism the least likely to attract these never-attached adults. House churches fared better in this regard, reflecting a 50-50 split of married and unmarried participants.

3. Attenders of larger churches involve themselves in the broadest spectrum of faith activities. Americans who typically attend a church of at least 500 adults were among the most likely to also attend small groups, and house churches, and to volunteer. Those attending a medium-sized congregation (101 to 499 adults) were among the most likely to attend small groups and Sunday school classes. No notable patterns emerged among smaller churches.

4. Personal Bible reading is most common among small group attenders. In comparing a personal spiritual activity with participatory involvement, the study showed that two-thirds of church attenders (67%) said they had read the Bible outside of church in the last week – whether their church was a conventional or house church. Small group attenders were more likely to read the Bible personally (84%). Bible reading levels among church volunteers (77%) and Sunday school attenders (77%) were sandwiched between the other forms of group engagement.

 
 
As I read the study, I did not find the results too surprising. In fact, it just shows the trends that many people have been noticing, as well as reaffirming the things that churches are implementing.

Here are my conclusions in light of the findings above:

1) While it is awesome that women are more involved in “faith participation,” it is critical to raise up men in the church. This has always been a weak point for many churches. We need to do whatever we can to disciple men. This is not an easy task, but it is something that the Church needs to commit to or we will find ourselves in a difficult situation within the family structure.

2) We have to reach out to the single adults in the Church. It was interesting that many more single adults participated in “house churches.” I think it is a longing for true biblical community rather than the church structure or institution that they are repelled by at times.

3) The trend of larger churches having more people involved in small group ministry (LIFE Groups), shows the need for people wanting “to know and to be known.” Just by going to Sunday Celebration is not enough, but we have to encourage people to get involved in a biblical community through LIFE Groups.

4) When our lives are mingled in with other people then there is greater accountability. The reason why it is easy to “hide” in larger churches is because there is a sense of anonymity. But when people are involved in LIFE Groups then there is a greater emphasis on daily spiritual disciplines and accountability.

 
 
As things are shifting in the church structure, we have to trust in our God who never changes. He is constantly working whether we notice it or not. Jesus wants to present a beautiful Bride, a radiant church (Eph 5:25-27) and it is for this end we labor and toil, even though the shifts are bumpy at times.

Reverse Culture Shock

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 

Photo by Dias Dos Reis
 
 
 
I have always heard about people experiencing “reverse culture shock” when they returned to their primary culture after spending some time away. I never fully comprehended their experience or feelings, even though I went on many missions trips for 3-4 weeks at a time. But now, I am realizing that until you have experience it for yourself, you will never fully understand it.

Also, the struggle of assimilating back to your primary culture is sometimes directly correlated with the amount of time you have been away. Simply, the longer you have been away, the harder it is (and the longer it takes) to assimilate back to your culture.

Even though we have only been away from the States for one year, my family and I have been experiencing a little bit of reverse culture shock. At first, when we landed in the States, everything seemed so surreal. We knew we were back to a familiar place, but yet things were so different.

Before we arrived in the States, when we were on the runway and getting ready to take off, Christina realized that our kids had tears in their eyes and they shared how they are sad to leave. This is when we concluded that we need another debriefing session with our kids (and probably many more to come in the future).

Once we overcame jetlag, we all went to a park near my parents’ place and we ended up sharing and praying together. Christina and I encouraged our kids to keep a good perspective on things. We have been tremendously blessed with our experience abroad. The friendships that we were able to experience are invaluable. We must always highlight the positives and then prepare for the changes coming up.

Then after our debriefing session, we went out to eat. I think they assimilated to that pretty quickly.

Here are some things to keep in mind with the reverse cultural shock experiences:

1) Keep processing your experience. It will take time to fully adjust back to your primary culture, therefore be patient. There will be good days and bad days; therefore, we have to commit to the process.

2) Keep perspective on things. It is easy to judge or be critical of things back home due to our experience abroad. But we have to realize that people did not experience what you have experienced. Also, we cannot forget that we have all changed; therefore we have to see things with a bigger perspective.

3) Keep persevering in community.
There will be times when we will go though depression because whether you feel all alone or you start missing things and people back in the host culture. This is when we need biblical community where people can listen and pray for us.

4) Keep praying for God’s mission. Since we have seen with our own eyes all that God is doing around the world, we have a responsibility to pray for God’s mission. We need to keep on praying for the people and the work to continue so that God’s fame will spread.

Leaving Indonesia

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Victories, Viewpoint

 
The day is finally here. It is hard to believe that our family has been here for 12 months. As we were eating our final meal in Indonesia, the family and I spent some time sharing some memories throughout this past year. We laughed a lot and we felt so blessed that God gave us the privilege of experiencing His goodness here in Indonesia. God has truly been faithful.

With all the packing and cleaning done, we are about to head out to the airport soon. I just wanted to take this time to share several things that I am thankful for:

1) God’s Providence. Sometimes understanding God’s will is hard. All the different twists and turns can be confusing. But at the end, we always come to the realization that God is a loving God who has our best interest and His glory in mind. I am just humbled at how God has led us to Indonesia to show us more of His heart.

2) God’s People. More than anything else, the part that I am going to miss the most about Indonesia is the people. So often we come with a mentality that say, “I am here to serve and minister to the people” but the irony is that the people in our church ended up serving and ministering to me and my family. I feel like God sometimes brings certain people your way to show us what it means to love and serve people. With all the beautiful examples of servants in our church, I realized how much more I need to grow in my love for people.

3) God’s Provisions. I remember before coming to Indonesia, I asked God, “how are we going to start this church with the little resources that we have?” But without fail, God kept on providing people and various circumstances to remind us that He alone is our Provider. Everything that we were able to accomplish this year was through the gracious provisions that God gave through His people and even through unexpected means. A person’s trust level increases when God continue to show Himself faithful in providing for His children.

4) God’s Power. The more I reflect on the things that were accomplished in our church, the more we have to come to the conclusion that it was the power of God that transformed every single person in our church. We have seen people awakened to the Gospel. We have witnessed people being set free and released to do ministry. We have seen marriages strengthened. We have seen people more excited about living for God’s Kingdom. And the list goes on and on. It is only by His power we were able to experiences these things. We were just mere vessels.

For Christ-followers, it is never, “good-bye” but rather, “see you later” because whether in this life time or in heaven, we will be together again. I want to thank all of you in Indonesia who have blessed and graced our lives in our time here. You will never be forgotten. Though our roads may diverge for a little while, the imprints that you have made in our hearts will stay for eternity.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Php 1:3-6).