Asia Update #5 – 3.2011

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Victories, Viewpoint, Visits

Here are some final thoughts and reflections from my 8 days out here in Asia. The journey started in Hong Kong and ended in Jakarta with an incredible stop in between to Singapore. God is definitely doing some extraordinary things out here. God is on the move and He is challenging us to follow Him with wholehearted devotion and faith.

It is hard to believe that everything out here has happened for us in the last two years. Can you imagine what God has in store for us in the next nine years, as we move towards the 2020 Vision? I am thankful for the privilege.
 
 

Asia Update #4 – 3.2011

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Visits

 
As I am concluding my trip to Indonesia, there are a flurry of thoughts running through my mind. I was in Karawaci for only a day and a half and in Yogjakarta for another 1.5 days. Though my trip out to Indonesia was very short, I was able to see many things that reaffirmed everything that God was doing in this part of the world.

It is always a blessing to see Pastor Andrew and his family. They are doing well as Evangeline is bringing great joy to everyone – she is constantly smiling! I was also very encouraged to see the team from the United States doing well. They are learning how to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty while doing ministry. There are a lot of ups and downs as we serve God. It is not always easy, but it is definitely worth it.

I also enjoyed reconnecting with some old acquaintances, as well as some new people who just started coming out to HMCC-JKT. God is bringing various people to the church, who are slowly understanding the vision and the mission of HMCC.

But the best part of the trip was to go out to Yogjakarta with the missions team. This was the first missions team that was sent out of HMCC-JKT; therefore, not only was it historic but it was a big accomplishment in terms of the vision for Indonesia.

Here are several reflective thoughts from my trip to Indonesia:

1) God is STRENGTHENING the church. It was great worshiping with HMCC-JKT on Sunday. This time around I did not have to preach therefore, I was able to just enjoy everything that was happening in the room. I was struck with the fact that there were many new people in the congregation. A good portion of the new members were students. As the church has been praying for more students, God answered their prayers with open doors to UPH (Universitas Pelita Harapan). I was also encouraged to hear that they will be growing in their leadership team, which will be made up of more Indonesians. The church cultural is slowly being built and people are experiencing God in powerful ways.

2) God is SANCTIFYING His servants. God’s desire is to make His people more holy and more like His Son, Jesus Christ. As the initial honeymoon stage of church planting is slowly fading, now the reality is setting in, as people are dealing with various things in their lives – for some people it is interpersonal relationships and for others it deals with different issues that were not addressed (or at least superficially addressed) in the past. This is the process of purification, which God puts all His children through. It is never pleasant at the time, but it produces fruits that bring glory to God.

3) God is SENDING His people. It has always been our dream to see Indonesians go out and reach other Indonesians. I have always said that we (those from the States) do not make the best missionaries because: a) It takes a long time to learn the language; b) It takes awhile to fully understand and learn the culture; c) It takes some time to get use to the food and way of life. But if you look at the Indonesians who are committed to doing missions, then they don’t have to learn a new language or learn the culture because it comes natural to them. On HMCC-JKT’s first missions trip, it was encouraging to see the reality of this. Half of the team was made up of national Indonesians. I saw how they were able to communicate so freely with the people that we visited in the villages. They knew how to interact with the people and it came very natural. It is my prayer that all the Indonesians in our church will be able to catch a vision and grow a burden to reach their own people in the various islands.

4) God is SOVEREIGN in all things. One difficulty that we faced was trying to enter into a village where we wanted help rebuild houses due to the devastation from Mt. Merapi’s eruption. Towns were literally decimated and many people lost their lives and their possessions. When we arrived in a village called Srunen, we were warmly greeted because a local pastor was able to establish a relationship with one of the elders of the village. But we quickly found out that the door was closing and that we were no longer welcomed by higher level officials because some radical Muslims were afraid that we were going to proselytize (this is a side note, but whenever a religion is controlled by fear then it loses all power to bring forth genuine transformation from the inside out). Once the door was closed, we started praying more desperately before God and seeking His will. In the morning, as we were praying, the Lord gave me this passage in my heart, “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:6-10). After Pastor Andrew had a meeting with some leaders from another village, a door opened up for the team to go in and show the love of Christ. Although, there are times when there seems to be no way, God always makes a way. God is in control and we have trust that He knows what He is doing.

5) God is STRATEGICALLY linking people together. I don’t think we would have been able to enter into various villages without partnering together with local pastors and leaders who are like-minded in bringing the Gospel to the Indonesian people. We are living in a time where we need to link together with people in order to fulfill the Great Commission. In amazing ways, God is bringing Kingdom minded people together. This is when we know that God is up to something big. We, as HMCC want to do our small part in building God’s Kingdom. The more we partner together with other like-minded people, the more we will be able to finish the task of sharing the Gospel to all nations.

 
 
Here are some pictures from my short trip to Yogjakarta:
 
 

Villages were completely wiped out from the eruption of Mt. Merapi
 
 
 

Half of the team went up to a village to help clean
 
 
 

Other villages devastated by the volcanic eruption
 
 
 

John was getting inspired to cook
 
 
 

We were warmly received by one of the village leaders
 
 
 

The lava came down and swept away villages
 
 
 

We helped in cleaning and preparing houses to be fixed and rebuilt
 
 
 

We cleaned various furniture that were affected by volcanic ashes
 
 
 

We helped make bricks to rebuild houses. It was harder than we thought
 
 
 

One of the few animals that survived. Sorry but I was thinking steak!

Asia Update #3 – 3.2011

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Victories, Visits

 
 
Right now, it is hard to describe everything that I am feeling and to put it in words. All I know is that my trip to Singapore this time around has been probably one of the best trips for me in the last 4-5 years. There was something about this trip that was different from all the other trips out to Singapore. Therefore, I spent some time reflecting on my plane trip from Singapore to Jakarta in order to process everything that I was feeling.

I can probably sum up the last 2.5 days in Singapore with three words: relationships, renewal, and reaffirmation.

1) RELATIONSHIPS. Even though, Singapore is one of the greatest cities in the world, I am coming to the realization that what I find most enjoyable about a city are the people that I have built a relationship with over the years. Sure, there are many culinary experiences that would make any person envious. There are spectacular sceneries that take your breath away, but ultimately, a person can get quickly bored and become indifferent to the sensory overload. However, when a love for a city is rooted in a love for the people in the city, then it is a whole different story. When I get to see the leaders of HMCC of Singapore, my heart is just overflowing with gratitude and thankfulness for the partnership we have in the Gospel. I love it when I am able to just sit down with the key leaders and hear all that God is doing in the church. I also love meeting new people – whether they are new to the church or people just off the streets. There is something about special about the unique people that God brings our way. More particularly, in the last few months HMCC-SGP has seen more international Chinese students coming out to church. They are from mainland China on a scholarship program that will keep them in Singapore for 10 years (4 years of school, 6 years of service to the Singaporean government). This was one of the greatest highlights for me because I was able to talk with them and share the love of Christ.

2) RENEWAL. As we get older and as we understand more of who we are, we have a clear idea of knowing what energizes us or what exhausts us. It is very apparent that I am not a meeting (formal) kind of guy. I am more free-flowing and I like to take life in the moment. I love the quintessential teaching moments where life lessons are learned as we do life together. The more structured the times together, the more I feel as if things are forced, rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and dictate where things should go. With all this being said, I was renewed in my spirit as I was hanging out with people in Singapore. In fact, times of spontaneous conversations and discussions of various things were phenomenal as we just allowed the Spirit to direct our time together. Another thing that energized me was hanging out with the Chinese national students. I was shocked to hear that some of them have never heard of the name of Jesus. Yes, we are talking about people who have never had a witness of the Gospel in their lives. I don’t know why but this excites me. I guess it fuels the passion that I have for evangelism. An interesting thing happened as I was talking with these Chinese students. I told them that in very movie that they have ever watched, where they were moved (emotionally) or even cried, there is a Gospel message. I was a bit discombobulated when they asked, “What does the word, ‘Gospel’ mean?” Therefore, I rephrased it and said, “When movies are very good, there is a Christian story behind it.” Then they prodded them to test this theory. After a bunch of movies were names, I proceeded to make the connection for them (i.e. forgiveness, unconditional love, acceptance, redemption, hope, etc). Sometimes I don’t do very well with people who have been churched, but when it comes to doing ministry on the frontlines, where some people have either turned away from God or do not know about who God is, I find myself being energized in my spirit. Even though on this trip, I have been averaging about 4 hours of sleep, there is nothing that compares to the strength that God is providing.

3) REAFFIRMATION. As I have been talking with people in HMCC-SGP, I am just thankful that the global pastors and I took the step of faith and decided to lay down the foundations of this church plant. There are many good churches here in Singapore, but some things that are not emphasized as much are: non-superficial biblical community, non-shallow accountability, non-programmatic discipleship, and non-reproducing evangelism. I don’t know what it is but I think the region of Asia just has a preoccupation with things being “bigger and better.” This is why when we decided to get things moving, there were some raised eyebrows as they heard that we were going to initially start the church as a “house church.” After this trip to Singapore, I am more confident and 110% sure that starting the church when it did (which went against all human conventional wisdom) and in the manner of how we started (house church model) was the will of God. When I heard the two testimonies during the baptism service, my mind started racing – “What if we didn’t start this church when we did?” “Would we have heard these testimonies of God’s powerful work in a person’s life?” I love it when God affirms (and reaffirms) things in our lives. It is as if God is saying, “keep at it, you are headed in the right direction!” God’s timing is impeccable. In fact, it is meticulous and matchless. When we live our lives with an unrivaled trust and faith in an awesome God, then we open the doors of opportunity for God to do incredible things.

I think I can do this for the rest of my life. I am truly a blessed man.
 
 

People mingling together as we start the baptism service
 
 

Sharing the “Christian story” in all the good movies
 
 

Jasper sharing his testimony about how God can change anybody’s heart
 
 

Ivy sharing about God’s grace and redemption to a prodigal daughter
 
 

Rachel joining in the baptism reminded me of the importance of investment
 
 

A group picture with the baptized candidates
 
 

One of Chinese national’s first b-day outside of her country. She was blessed.

Asia Update #2 – 3.2011

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Victories, Visits

 
I just finished off my time in Hong Kong and I am now in Singapore. As I have been reflecting on the last several days here in Asia, my heart is just overwhelmed with thankfulness. Not only do I have the privilege of seeing first-hand all that God is doing in this region, but I am able to connect (and reconnect) with people that God has Sovereignly brought into my life.

The more I spend time with people, the more I am just amazed at God’s persistent love and faithfulness. I am constantly left flabbergasted as God is weaving a beautiful tapestry of relationships all around the world.

Even though it has been tiring with all the meetings, I have been energized by God’s Spirit. Please continue to pray for me and the work that God is doing out here.
 
 

Asia Update #1 – 3.2011

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Visits

 
I arrived in Hong Kong safely on late Tuesday night. Even though it was late, I had dinner with an HMCC alum and I had the opportunity to meet someone who is making a difference for Christ in the music industry. They are the real deal. There is definitely a shift that is happening with more people coming to Christ in various spheres that we would have never imagined.

I’m excited to meet up with some of the other alumni in Hong Kong in the next two days. Also, there are some important connections that God is opening up. I am constantly humbled and amazed at God’s favor.

God is doing some great things here in Hong Kong. I am just blessed to have a close up view of all that God is doing.
 
 

Marks of Spiritual Health

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo on garagefly.com
 
 
 
Recently, I had to get my car fixed. In fact, I probably should have fixed it awhile ago because it was making a lot of noise. But you know how it goes – I didn’t have the time and I didn’t have the necessary funds.

When I finally brought my car in to the service center, I was hit with an enormous repair bill. At first, I thought I miss heard the price, but when the reality set in, I realized that this repair was going to cost me a lot of money. The service representative told me that all my brakes pads and rotors needed to be completely replaced. The damage was so great that he was surprised that I didn’t get into an accident.

It is interesting how our spiritual health is very similar.

There are usually a lot of warning signs as we start deteriorating spiritually, but we always rationalize and reason that we don’t have the time or we don’t have the necessary things to address the issue. Therefore, we continue to go through life in a dangerous condition.

I am wondering if there is a systematic way to measure to see how spiritually healthy we are on a regular basis. Maybe we can call it a spiritual check-up.

Roger Williams, who lived in the 17th century wrote, Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health. He wrote this book in 1652 and noted that there were eleven marks of spiritual health when it comes to matters concerning ourselves. They are:

1) Brokenness of spirit
2) Spiritual battles
3) Godly loathing for sin
4) True self-denial
5) Willingness to stay in hard and difficult service
6) Spiritual contentment in God’s will
7) Joy in sorrow
8) Christians weaned from this world’s comforts
9) God glorified in all earthly businesses
10) The true watch of God’s people over their tongue
11) God’s people shun the appearance of sin

 
 
If we use these measures, I am wondering how healthy we would be as a Christ-follower. This is a good checklist for us to consider, especially for some of us who are feeling a bit apathetic and just going through the motions of following Christ. It is also good for those of us who are so busy running around and serving God.

As we grow in spiritual health, then other things in our lives will grow. I was reminded (again) that when things are healthy, things will grow. If the people in the church were healthy, then the church will grow – not only in numbers, but in love, in evangelism, in giving, and etc. It is my prayer and hope that God’s people will do whatever it takes to grow spiritually healthy, no matter what the cost because the consequences of not growing healthy is far too devastating and we will end up paying more at the end.

Five Lessons from the Fab Five

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo by nytimes.com
 
 
 
On Sunday night, ESPN did a special on the 1991-1993 University of Michigan basketball team known as the Fab Five. The team was made up of five starting freshmen, who were all top 100 high school prospects (4 of them were in the top 10).

They stormed on the NCAA scene by their signature long shorts, black shoes, black socks, and their swagger. They were the only team that had five freshmen starting for the 1992 NCAA championship game; and then they went on to the championship game in 1993 as sophomores.

Even though the Fab Five never won an NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball championship game, they left their mark in college basketball history.

I really wanted the boys to watch the ESPN’s special on these guys because I wanted to fuel their passion for basketball. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to stay up to watch the documentary, but after convincing Christina to let the boys stay up, we watched it together.

There were so many teaching moments throughout the program – good lessons that I wanted to reinforce in the boys. Here are five lessons I came away from watching the Fab Five program:

1) Shared experiences shape you. The people who are closest to you are the ones that you have shared some significance experiences together. It was amazing to see that even after 20 years of their Fab Five experience, they still consider themselves as “brothers.” This is how I feel about some of the people that I have had shared experiences with – they are still some of my closest friends. If you want to build a strong relationship, go through things together.

2) Learn to get each other’s backs. There were some key moments throughout the documentary where you noticed how they got each other’s backs. With all the pressures that they faced (remember, they were only 18 years old), they were able to watch out for each other. They were literally like family to one another. It was a powerful witness of community. If you want to attract people to your community, learn to love one another.

3) Adversity brings you together. I was a bit shocked to learn about all the hate mail that they received during their tenure as the Fab Five. I was especially blown away as all the racist mails were coming from University of Michigan alumni. It was another good reminder that we still have racism, no matter what position or stance a university holds. But it was through these adversities, the Fab Five were able to come together in unity. In fact, it was one of the fuels for their success. If you want to achieve great things, don’t shy away from adversities or difficulties because it might be the very thing that will help elevate you to the next level.

4) Our individual actions affect the team. I think the saddest part of the documentary was when some of the Fab Five guys shared how their achievement were wiped out because of some bad choices by a few of the teammates. It is a good reminder that when we are part of a team, a person’s actions will affect the whole team. This is how the concept of the team works – there is no “I” in the word “Team.” If you want to function as a team, you have to look beyond yourself and look out for the interest of the whole team.

5) You can make a difference no matter what people say. It was surprising to note how much the Fab Five literally changed the face of NCAA basketball. Not only with the new “look” (thank God we don’t have any more of those tight shorts), but now there are freshmen sensations that can come right out of high school and make a difference on the court. The Fab Five had a love for the game and love for one another, which helped them to change a whole generation of basketball players in the future. If you want to make a difference, you have to rise above the circumstances and passionately do what you were created to do.

Jesus Loves the Church

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo on unicef.org
 
 
 
Whenever I have an opportunity to talk about the Church, Christ’s Bride, I always get very passionate. Even with all its flaws and weaknesses, I still believe the Church is the only organization that can really transform the world. It was God’s plan from the beginning that through the church, His eternal purposes in Christ would be accomplished (Eph 3:10-11).

This is why I was so excited when I shared about the Church in our ”Jesus Loves” Sunday sermon series. I will always love the Church because Jesus gave His life for her. I will always stick up for the Church because it is Jesus’ girl. I will always help build up the Church because it pleases Jesus. I will always be a part of Jesus’ mission through the Church because this was His plan from the beginning.

Dr. Joe McKeever who is a preacher and cartoonist wrote an article called, “20 Essential Things to Tell People About the Church.” Some of the things McKeever wrote in the article are great insights from all his years of wisdom and experiences. I thought I would share a partial list. McKeever wrote,

“According to the Spring edition of ‘OnMission’ magazine, published by the SBC’s North American Mission Board, 90 percent of unchurched 20-29 year olds believe, ‘I can have a good relationship with God without being involved in a church.’ That sounds new. But it’s as old as Methuselah.

Some of us can remember the so-called ‘Jesus Movement’ of the 1960-1970s when the beaded, bearded, flower children carried signs announcing ‘Jesus Yes; Church No.’

No one will be surprised that we who have given our lives to serving God through His church believe in the church. We believe in it passionately even though quite a high percentage of us bear scars from our years of service.

Believers in the church’s essential role in God’s plan are not the ‘establishment.’ We were not brain-washed and are not duped or deluded. We are not mouthpieces of some denominational hierarchy somewhere. Neither are we defenders of the status quo. (No one who ever sat under my ministry even once accused me of defending the status quo. Quite the opposite, in fact. Many have wished I could be satisfied to leave well enough alone.)

Most of us have had a love-hate affair with the Lord’s church. We have loved it when it did well, been blessed by it when it was faithful, grieved for it when it got off-track, and sometimes suffered from our proximity to cancerous members.

Our convictions are not shallow or lightly held. They have been through the fires and come through stronger than ever. Each of us has our burden for the church. Here are mine. Twenty things I wish we could say to every church, and repeat them at regular intervals until they take hold.

1. The church has always been under attack. So, when people criticize it, Christian, don’t panic. How does that line go? ‘There is no such things as ‘news.’ There are only old things happening to new people.’ Like all those fake petitions in cyberspace we can’t seem to be rid of, the same ‘news’ about people’s religious views keep recirculating every few years. Someone discovers that Christians get divorced at a high rate – oh, horrors! That early Christians decided some so-called epistles were spurious and discarded them – oh, no, ‘Banned by the church!’ And that people who do not want to have anyone telling them how to live decide they can please God without the church. Ho-hum. Any day now someone will come out with ‘revolutionary’ evidence that Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead, there was no Virgin Birth, there never was a historical person named Jesus, and/or that His grave has been found in a cemetery in Milwaukee. Yawn.

2. That the church has survived the attacks from its enemies and the failings of its own members for two thousand years and is still going strong stands as a remarkable testimony of God’s plan for her. God’s people were told to expect attacks from the outside – Paul called these people ‘savage wolves’ – and divisive sneak attacks from the inside in Acts 20:29-30. The one constant of ecclesiastical history has been those two disruptive forces. Expect it, Christian. And remember this elementary lesson from your high school physics class: A fire under pressure will burn brighter. Since the devil never took physics, he doesn’t understand this, so he keeps persecuting the Lord’s people and attacking the Church and slandering Jesus. What he cannot figure, though, is why all such efforts only spreads the Gospel.

3. The apparent weakness of a particular church is generally deceptive. God delights in using weak things, ordinary people, and unlikely prospects. He can take a young child’s simple lunch and feed thousands. So, the next time you look at your church service and decide that you are tragically out-of-date in the hymns and technology and that you need a younger pastor because the one you have is too boring, bite your tongue. You are in the kind of church where God delights in showing up and doing something remarkable. Drop to your knees and start asking Him to do one of His patented God-things among your group.

4. The Church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Matthew 16:18, it’s Jesus’ church. According to Acts 20:28, it’s God’s. Same difference. Pastor, I know your name is on the sign out front. Thank you for your faithful work, but it’s not your church. Deacons, thank you for your years of sacrificial effort and service. But it’s not your church. Church members with seniority, thank you for hanging in there through good times and bad, but it’s not your church. Those who have given the most money, thank you for your generosity and sacrifices, but it’s not your church. And church polity aside, congregation, thank you for coming and working and giving and praying, but it’s not your church. It’s His Church. And the only question on our lips every time we meet to do His business should be ‘What would you have us do?’

5. Whatever we do to the church, Jesus takes personally. Scary thought, isn’t it? Jesus told Saul of Tarsus that when he touched one of “the least of these my brethren” to harm them, he was ‘persecuting me.’ (Acts 9, 22, 26) The New Testament calls the church the “Bride of Christ,” the “Body of Christ,” and other names such as the household of faith, the family of God, a holy priesthood, and so forth. Jesus taught that when we helped even one who believed in Him, He took it personally (Matthew 25:40) Likewise, when we failed to minister to such a one–or even when we brought harm to that one–He took that personally also (Matthew 25:45). This is consistent with the Old Testament where God put His reputation and Honor upon the Jews. However the outside world treated them, God repaid them in kind. However, the Lord went one step further and told His own people that whatever they did for “the House of the Lord,” they were doing for Him. In Malachi 3:8, God told the Jews that by withholding their tithes and offerings, they were ‘robbing God.’ Serious, serious stuff. Just today, a friend quoted Dr. Adrian Rogers who said concerning the Church and the Lord Jesus: ‘They’re not identical – but they’re inseparable!’

6. God sends pastors, not to make the church members happy, but to make them healthy and holy and Himself happy. At least one pastor out of ten – I don’t care what denomination – has been ousted from a church because the members were unhappy with him. (That’s just my number; nothing scientific about it, so don’t quote it as authoritative, please.) ‘Well,’ one church honcho says, ‘My understanding is that if the people are not pleased with him, it shows the preacher is failing at his job.’ I am not saying that every pastor whose people want him to leave is automatically doing a lousy job. He might be. Or maybe not. Show me one place in all the Scripture where the pastor (or any other leader) is sent to please the people, and I’ll show you ten where the people rose up in arms against a faithful leader who was serving God well. We’ll start with Moses and go to Jeremiah and on to Paul. You will notice we skipped the best example of all, the Lord Jesus. May I suggest the best response when someone suggests the pastor ought to leave because some of the members are unhappy with him? Laugh at them. That’s all. Laugh out loud. And then add, ‘Are you serious? Read your Bible, man.’ And then walk away.

7. The toughest part of belonging to a church is the requirement for submission. That’s why we rarely hear about it. Submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21) To submit means to give in to the other. Two men disagree; one gives in. Two women disagree; one gives in to the other. Only in matters involving life-or-death issues (the inspiration of Scripture, the efficacy of the cross, the Virgin Birth, etc) do we dig in our heels and say with Luther, ‘God help me; I can do nothing else.’ To give in to another is to practice the command of Philippians 2:3. In humility, consider others as more important than yourselves. Two motorists met on a one-lane bridge. The first one leaned out and yelled, ‘I never back up for fools.’ The second throws his car into reverse and calls, ‘I always do.’ Which of the two men is the stronger? Practicing submission could stop 90 percent of church divisions in their tracks.

8. If you do not like change in your church or your personal life, you will want to avoid Jesus. He’s all about change and growth. The Lord Jesus said believers were to be like ‘new wineskins,’ a reference to their flexibility, their adaptability to change, their skill at making adjustments to fluid situations. (See Matthew 9:17) The image of Christians as defenders of the status quo, of resisting every new idea, of reacting against anything foreign – that is anathema to the spirit of Jesus Christ. The seven last words of the church, it has been said, are ‘We never did it that way before.’ Jesus knows this and understands it. In fact, we could make a case for our having been created this way so we will not too easily trash the best things of our past. The Lord said, ‘No one, after drinking old wine, wants new. For he says, ‘The old is better.’ (Luke 5:39) So, we have to work against our innate resistance to change and growth. I once heard Rick Warren say at his church, they are continually introducing new ideas and innovations. The idea – one of them, at any rate – is not to let his people get too comfortable with any one way of doing things.

9. Healthy churches have conflicts. It’s not all bad. My friend George Bullard has written a book and conducts conferences with the title, ‘Every Church Needs a Little Conflict.’ The way to build a muscle is to apply stress to it. The way to strengthen a congregation is to send conflict in healthy-sized doses. Working their way through the problems develops muscles for the bigger issues when they arrive. But woe to the congregation that gets hit by a major problem when it has not had to deal with one of any size in ages.

10. You know that wonderful church you left behind and would like to find one like it? There’s not one. In fact, that one is not like that any more. It changed the moment you moved away and someone stepped into your place (see the next point). God’s churches are like His children: no two are alike. Think of the varieties He has established in creation. No two humans alike, no two fingerprints, hair-patterns on the head, voice prints. It would seem that the Creator has an innate dislike to repeating Himself.

11. Churches are always in a state of flux. Every time a member moves away, that church changes. When someone joins, it changes. When a member begins reading his Bible or tithing or witnessing, the church grows. When someone backslides, it grows weaker at that moment. People speak of wanting the church to be ‘a New Testament church.’ However, the congregations in the New Testament are as different as the ones in your city. The Corinthian church seems to have been as carnal as any we could find today. And five of the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3) had serious defects. As with our physical bodies, every church is in a constant state of change – growing, expanding, deflating, weakening, moving out, pulling in.

12. The most reliable indicator of the faith of a congregation is whether the people pray. Nothing we do speaks of faith so eloquently or forcefully as does our praying. Most of the prayers we utter, we never see the answer. We pray for the president and other rulers of our country, but we have no way of knowing the difference our intercessions made. We were not in the Oval Office when the president had a sudden flash of inspiration and did something brilliant. We are not alongside the missionaries across the globe who are protected or empowered or guided as a result of our prayers. If we are foolish, we quit praying. If we believe the Lord’s promises concerning praying, we keep on praying.

13. Far more important than the growth of a church is its health. We’re indebted to Pastor Rick Warren for the quote that the chief issue of the 21st century church will not be growth but health. A healthy church will grow in a natural way, he said, and will not require gimmicks. I recall in one of my first pastorates looking out at the congregation and seeing scattered here and there unsaved people who were close to stepping out in faith, and unchurched believers who had promised they were going to join our church. And yet, day after day, when we preached and offered the invitation, no one responded. One Sunday, I told the church about this state of affairs. To the shock of the members, I said, ‘I don’t blame them for not joining this church. I wouldn’t join this church either. This is a sickness in this congregation and God is not going to bless us with growth until we get our hearts and lives right with Him.’ It was the truth, and when, in the next service, people began repenting and confessing, we saw how true it was.

14. The church is always radiating something which outsiders can sense quicker than the family members can. The person standing outside our sphere often sees our condition before we do. He may see our hypocrisy when we still think we’re getting it right. He may pick up on the dissension in the congregation by the gossip throughout the community. He hears our talk of faith and sees that we are begging the banker to lend up money. He hears our promises to love and sees the groups we exclude from our membership and/or leadership. He senses the joy before he knows its source, and as soon as he finds it’s the real thing, he wants in on it. Churches radiate faith, but they also emit fear. They give off beams of light, but if darkness is calling the shots, the outside community will see that in a heartbeat. Churches radiate grace and love, but they can also give off prejudice and bias. We in the church may fool ourselves from time to time. But we never fool the outside world. Not ever.

15. There are two scary aspects to the church’s assignment: submitting to the leaders (the members) and giving account before God for the members (the leaders). Obey your leaders and submit to those who have the rule over you in the Lord, as those who will give account for your souls. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for that would not be profitable to you. (Hebrews 13:17) Get that? Church members are expected to obey their leaders and submit to them. But the leaders will some day stand before the Almighty and account for each of those church members. Both are frightening prospects.

To A Code of Honor

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo from Flickr
 
 
 
I don’t know if you have heard about the “big news” that came out of Brigham Young University (BYU) recently, but it has definitely made a lot of people raise their eyebrows. To bring you up to speed if you haven’t heard the news, BYU dismissed Brandon Davies, a starting sophomore basketball player due to a violation of the school’s honor code.

The school made the announcement of Brandon’s dismissal on Tuesday, March 1st. This was the same day that BYU’s basketball program was ranked #3 in all the polls. Then on Wednesday, in their first game without Brandon, BYU lost to New Mexico, which began to fuel the discussion about the situation.

There are several things to consider:

1) Brandon Davies is a key player on the team. He averaged 11.1 points per game and was the team’s leading rebounder with 6.2 per game.

2) The BYU’s honor code is something that every student, regardless of being an athlete or not agrees to when they enter into school as a freshmen. You can read BYU’s honor code here.

3) If BYU does not uphold its own honor code, then it loses its credibility for what it stands for. But if they uphold the honor code then they jeopardize a great season (just to note, BYU lost to New Mexico this past Wednesday – their first game without Davies).

 
 
As more facts are coming out, it was discovered that Davies violated the second part of the honor code, which states, “As a matter of personal commitment… students of Brigham Young University… seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will… live a chaste and virtuous life.” Simply, Davies had pre-marital sex.

People in the secular world were going crazy about this and were asking, “how in the world can a college student live up to a code that says you cannot have sex outside of marriage?” In the blogosphere, people are calling this “ridiculous,” “insane,” “stupid,” and the list goes on.

But the more I thought about this, the more I began to realize that people are not really understanding all the principles that are in effect.

Now, first of all, if we had an honor code like this in the church, then I would say there will be a lot of people who will no longer be serving or hold positions in the church. On one hand, I was thinking as a Bible-believing person, “is it wrong to put a code of honor which reflects a biblical command?” I don’t think so. Even the leaders in our church agree to a “Code of Conduct” which is enforced to keep the standard and the integrity of our ministry. Then on the other hand, I am thinking about the doctrine of grace and how a person who is repentant and seeks to correct their ways, should be given forgiveness and grace.

The thing that shocked me the most is that there were sports commentators who disagreed with the honor code, but they respect what BYU did.

Pat Forde, a well-respected ESPN new analyst wrote,

“Would I have wanted to attend college at a place that has rules governing just about every aspect of your daily life, including how you dress and whether you’ve shaved that morning? No, thank you. In my youth I was not sober enough, chaste enough, conformist enough, dogmatic enough or decaffeinated enough to have been a very good student at BYU.

But today I am impressed by the school’s commitment to its rules, even at a potentially tremendous cost to its basketball team. He won’t play again this season, just as the games become the team’s most important ones. And in the grand scheme of things, that really doesn’t matter to the school.

What makes this such a powerful testament is the fact that so many schools have cravenly abandoned their standards at such a time as this, embracing athletic expediency over institutional principle. It happens so often that we don’t even raise an eyebrow at it anymore.

Player arrests or other antisocial behaviors are minimized as youthful mistakes, with strenuous institutional effort put into counter-spinning any negative publicity. Academic underachievement is dismissed as merely the price of being competitive in big-time athletics. ‘Indefinite’ suspensions often last only as long as they’re convenient – timed to coincide with exhibition games or low-stress games against overmatched opponents.

That certainly didn’t happen in this instance at BYU.

Consider the situation: Key player on probably the best team in school history gets in trouble in the final week of a 27-2 season. With a Mountain West Conference title and a probable No. 1 NCAA tournament seed there for the taking, the school learns of an honor code violation on Monday, a violation that school officials said was not a criminal offense. On Tuesday, Davies is suspended for the rest of the season.

The first impulse is to feel sorry for Davies – if only he’d gone to State U, where the punishment might have been a week of running stadium steps at dawn. In April.

But Davies knew what he signed up for. Literally. He grew up in Provo and went along, eyes wide open, with the agreement saying he’d live by the BYU honor code.

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s remarkable that the school has been able to thrive athletically despite a code of conduct that would seem to be very limiting in recruiting.

Given the context in which it operates, Brigham Young might be the most unlikely success story in modern college athletics. But it won’t let chasing that success compromise what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says the school is supposed to be about.

BYU isn’t willing to subordinate its principles for victories. That’s a rare stance these days, and a respectable one.

 
 
Forde was spot on regarding the whole situation and looking at it from a bigger perspective.

There are several things that were reinforced for me through this story:

1) FAITHFULNESS to commitments. It is easy to make commitments, but often times it is hard to keep them. Once we make the commitment, by God’s grace we need to stay faithful to it (Ecc 5:4-5).

2) FOLLOW through even when it is inconvenient. Our convictions will always be tested. God uses trials and various circumstances to see if we would follow through in our obedience to Him or if we will give in to our selfishness. God is constantly building character in us so that we can be mature and complete in Him (Jas 1:2-4).

3) FOCUS on the bigger picture. Sometimes we lose sight of the forest, when we are too focused on just one tree. We cannot forget that there are things in life which have connecting consequences. Nothing is just an island by itself, but rather, one decision can affect other things; therefore we have to see the bigger picture of things (Ex 20:4-6).

4) FIND God’s grace in our failures. Satan loves to use failure as a weapon to destroy us. Time and time again throughout the Bible, we see how God uses failures of humans for His glory. We cannot look at only the here and now, but we have to look into the future and see how God’s Sovereignty is greater than anything else in this world (Jn 21:15-23).

5) FORGIVE even when it is costly. It was encouraging to hear that Davies apologized to his teammates. This showed true character because he was taking responsibility for his actions and the negative consequences the team had to face. But the best part of the story was when his teammates forgave him. We are able to experience God’s love, forgiveness and grace when we have people who demonstrate it in a tangible way (Ro 15:1-7).

More Than I Deserve

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 

 
 
 
So far, this week has been very interesting. Christina went away for three days with a few of her good college friends, so I was given the lone responsibility of watching our kids. This time away for Christina took months of planning. I realized that trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule is not the easiest thing to do. But by God’s grace, we were able to lock down these few days so that Christina can do something that she has not done, in literally 15 years.

It is hard to imagine that in all our years of marriage, Christina has never had time “alone” with her friends because she has been so busy taking care of the kids and holding down the fort when I do all my traveling. It blows me away that she has sacrificed so much for the family, for so many years.

The part that has been humbling me is discovering all that she does for the family. It has only been two days and I am feeling overwhelmed at all the little details of running the home in an efficient and orderly manner. My first thought was, “how in the world does Christina do this on a regular basis?” Being a pastor and overseeing a network of churches is hard, but I think what Christina does is harder.

It is not until you walk in someone else’s shoes, where you begin to understand the magnitude of what they do. It is so easy to take things and people for granted. It is easy to think that your work is harder or more important than someone else’s work. But the truth of the matter is that each person’s work and contribution are very important.

This is why I have been feeling this overwhelming sense of gratitude for Christina.

She has been a constant river in my life. She has refreshed me with her words, her kindness and her love. She has watered the soil around me with her sacrifice, her selflessness, and her steadfastness. She has splashed me with her joy, her laughter and her optimism.

Why has the Lord blessed me so much with someone like her in my life?

I am realizing more than ever before that I have received so much from her. I have received more than I deserve.

I remember making my wedding vows to her on June 1st, 1996. For the last 15 years, Christina went above and beyond what she promised to do. As I reflect on my vows, I know that I can do better. She is constantly showing me the power of grace. When a person receives something that they do not deserve, they are reminded of their unworthiness.

It is in this realization that the person, who has received more than they deserve, begins to live out a life of service to the person that they feel indebted to.

This is the Gospel.