Money CAN Buy Happiness

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint


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Yup, you read the title correctly. When I first heard this statement from Michael Norton, it caught my attention because everyone knows the famous adage, “money CAN’T buy happiness.”

Michael Norton is a professor at the Harvard Business School and he gave a TED talk titled, “Money Can Buy Happiness.” Norton shares an interesting research that he conducted to show how money can buy happiness but the big caveat is it all depends on who you spend the money on. He presents various data to show that when money is spent not on yourself, but rather on others, there are a lot of benefits for the giver as well as for others.

Norton says, “The specific way that you spend on other people isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you spend on other people.”

This once again reinforces what we have always known in the Bible when it says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). If all this is true, then why are we so selfish with our time, talents and treasures? I am wondering if some of us who have a lot of “stuff” but are feeling this sense of emptiness and lack of satisfaction is because we are selfish and just too focused on ourselves.

What would happen if we are more generous?

What would happen if we learned how to give more to others?

What would happen if we contributed to the work of the Kingdom?

I would bet that we would, not only find a greater sense of fulfillment, but we would find greater joy and happiness as we see other people getting blessed by our generosity. Let’s not hoard things to ourselves. Let’s not spend everything we have just on ourselves.

Find someone to bless and blessed them with what God has given you. Also be faithful in giving to God’s work throughout the world. You will not regret it.
Here is the TED talk by Michael Norton. It is worth the 10 minutes.

Attitudes Toward Money

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint


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In the last several months, I have been very blessed to see the generosity of our church members. There were specific needs within the church and people stepped up in their giving so that we can accomplish what God has called us to do. Whether it has been with their time, talents or treasures, people have been giving faithfully and fervently.

Back in January (in the hype of Tim Tebow), I talked about the new 2012 budget. I challenged everyone to avoid the “Tim Tebow Tithing.” Translation? It means not waiting until the fourth quarter of the year (October-December) to step up in our giving and fulfill our commitments. What we need is simply consistency.

Also, with the academic year slowly finishing off, it is easy for a lot of the students to stop their giving. But I want to challenge every student in our church to remain faithful even throughout the summer months so that we can continue to transform lives here in Ann Arbor and throughout the world.

Recently, I read an article by Clayton and Charie King called, “The Real Reasons You’re Bad with Money.” It was pretty insightful and it reinforced a lot of the values that we are trying to teach here in HMCC-AA.

They give a short list of questions to help us discover what our true attitude toward money is:

1) On your credit cards, do you currently owe more than you make in a month?

2) Do you buy things to make yourself feel better? Do you get a good, settled feeling after you make a purchase?

3) Do you envy the lifestyle your friends have or the things they own? Do you fantasize about owning those same things and having that same lifestyle?

4) Do you eat out more than four times a week?

5) How much food do you have in your house?

6) In regard to entertainment, do you spend more than $250 per month on your cable bill, going to the movies, video games, downloads on iTunes or the latest technological toy? What about your cell phone bill? Ouch.

7) Do you immediately get defensive anytime someone begins to ask for your money –your church, a charity or a nonprofit organization? (This is a sure sign that you actually want to hold on to your money and that you have difficulty sharing your money with others, even those in dire need.)

8) Are you cheap when you leave a tip at a restaurant, thinking the server doesn’t really deserve the money and you could use it better somewhere else?

9) What percentage of your salary or income do you give away? This could be in the form of a tithe, donations, helping out a local charity and so on. (Donating old clothes you don’t wear to Goodwill or the Salvation Army doesn’t count.)

10) Do you ever have an internal struggle before you make a big purchase (try to talk yourself out of it, think of all the other things the money could be used for), or do you spend freely with little regret until hours or days later?

11) Do you fear what life would be like without the safety you think money brings you? Do you find yourself devoting more time to worrying about money than being concerned about people who have no job, no food, no health insurance or no one to love them and care for them?

12) Do you even know how much your monthly bills are, right off the top of your head? (These include health insurance, auto insurance, rent, tuition, credit-card payments, student loans, phone bill, water and power.) If you don’t know this amount automatically, you are in trouble, because it shows you are not paying attention to where your money goes each month.

13) Could you, in 30 seconds or less, summarize your basic budget? This includes how much you make, how much you save, how much you give and how much you pay out in bills and payments each month. If you can’t, then you don’t have a budget at all, even if you claim you do.

14) How long does it take you to pay a regular, basic bill? Do you let bills stack up on your desk? Do you open them when they arrive or put them off until after they are past due? How much do you pay a year in late fees due to fear, laziness or forgetfulness?

15) Right now, how much money do you have saved up? Add up what you have in your checking account, your savings account(s), IRAs, life-insurance policies, stocks, bonds, cash in coffee cans buried in the yard and loose change on your desk. Now, compare that number to what you currently owe, including all credit cards, student loans, car loans and any other outstanding debt. Which number is greater? By how much?

Wow! It is challenging to answer these questions with brutal honesty. We sometimes go through life without considering a lot of things; therefore we have no direction in life. What would happen if some of us are able to reign in our finances? Would we have more resources to invest in God’s Kingdom work? When as the last time you actually “saved up” so that you can bless someone with something (i.e. meal, dessert, gift, etc)?

Whenever the topic of money comes up, it is always a sore spot for people. It brings up a lot of different emotions. We get uncomfortable because we feel like this is one area that people should not stick their noses in.

I have been telling our members that the same spiritual muscle that is required to give regularly and faithfully is the same spiritual muscle that is required to keep up our spiritual discipline such as reading the bible and praying. In many ways, there is a clear correlation. If we are growing spiritual (exercising our spiritual muscles) then we will be more willing to be faithful in our giving. I have seen this to be true not only in my life, but in the lives of so many members throughout the years.

Ultimately, when we are generous in our giving we are reflecting more of God’s heart because God set the example for us – “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…”

Last Words Sermon Series

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various


Photo by HMCC-AA Publications Team
As we look ahead to this weekend, I am looking forward our new Sunday Celebration series called, “Last Words.” With graduation service tonight and with the end of the school year approaching, this series will be appropriate for many of our members.

But when you look at life in the bigger picture, you will realize that one day someone else will speak words for you in your eulogy.

People have said that the last words of a person are very important. They usually cut out all the fluff and just speak those things that are very significant to them. What would your last words be? What would you want to leave behind for those you love?

We are going to look into the Bible and examine some people who spoke some last words before passing away. Through those words, we are going to see what matters in life. Hopefully, we can apply the biblical principles into our lives and live a life that will count.

The Crazy Life

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint


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I realized that when someone calls another person “crazy,” it is all relative. Something that may be crazy for one person just might be normal for another. When you look at Christ and some of the things that He was teaching and doing, people thought He was crazy. When the disciples and the early Church lived out their faith, people called them radicals.

This morning I was wondering when was the last time someone called me “crazy” or a “radical.” In some ways, this might be one of the best compliments a Christ-follower can ever receive.

This poem that hangs on the wall at Mother Teresa’s orphanage in India is a good reminder of the “crazy life” that Mother Teresa lived:

People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered (including me). Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the littlest people with the littlest ideas. Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth. Give the best you have anyway.

The Proof of a Vision

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


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One day we will all die. I have learned that the sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we will be able to live our lives with purpose. Even though many of us might know our end destination, it is interesting to see how many people are not living their lives with a clear vision. Some people cannot even see what their lives will be like a year from now, let alone two months from now. Therefore we relegate ourselves to a subpar life.

A vision enables us to catch a glimpse of what the future might look like. Then out of that vision we can start setting our goals and objectives. One thing we have to keep in mind is that a vision has to be developed and nurtured; therefore, it is a process and it takes time. There will always be circumstances that will come against the vision, but those who are focused will see their vision become a reality.

But the question is, “How do you know if your vision has traction and is able to influence others?” Dan Reiland in his article, “Evidence of a Vision” gives a list of evidences that will helps us to know.

Here are a handful of traits to consider. Reiland writes:

1) A deep passion that captures people’s attention. Your vision will only burn as bright as you do. This idea is not about you ‘working up’ something or ‘turning on’ the hype. When this passion comes from deep within you, people will sense it. The impact is palpable. It is inescapable. You will have the people’s attention. They will be excited. They’ll ask questions and want to know what’s next. They will be eager for more information. They will be proud of the vision and tell their friends.

2) A largeness that creates enthusiasm. This is not about numbers, though numbers matter. The idea of largeness is more about being bold for the sake of the Kingdom! It’s the ‘go big or go home’ idea. The vision needs to be large enough to require God in the mix or it won’t work. You can see the need for balance between ‘believable’ and large! Leadership is an art and crafting the vision is just as important as communicating it. There is a direct connection between the size of the vision and the level of enthusiasm.

3) A dedication that inspires sacrifice. This is similar to passion. The difference is found in your tenacity. Passion can be big, but short term. Dedication is long term, and requires determination and resolve. Candidly, it’s easy to be passionate for a short time, but to be dedicated for years, even decades, takes an uncommon leader. This will result in a dedication found in the people. Much like passion, the people will not be more dedicated than you are to the vision. The outcome is a willingness to sacrifice. The sacrifice can be seen in time, energy, and financial resources.

4) Resources flowing toward the vision. Now we really get practical! Money! Let’s be candid, money follows vision. Without financial resources, no matter how godly you behave, the mission can’t move forward. A worthy vision shouldn’t be free, and a vision that is truly worthy will attract financial resources. No church ever has ‘enough’ but God will supply what we need to accomplish the vision.

5) A soundness that stands up to scrutiny and the test of time. You know the difference between fluff and something of substance. Your vision needs to have a biblical soundness and a solid nature that stands up to examination over time. It needs to make sense and have obvious evidence that it was well thought through. This does not suggest that you should make it complicated. In fact, sometimes making something simple, which is in reality complicated, is far more work than the reverse!

6) You cannot be silenced! When my kids were younger and they really wanted a certain toy for Christmas, there was no silencing them! They dream big and never give up! I love this thought. It’s simple but powerful. If God has breathed a vision in you, you simply cannot and will not be silenced. That’s it! Compare this to the things we want silenced like negative talk and gossip. Wow, what a difference. Don’t let anyone shut you down. Keep talking your vision!

With these evidences to consider, do you have a vision in your life that is worth living for? When I was younger a mentor told me something that helped me as I was struggling to gain a vision for my life. He said, “If you don’t have a vision, borrow one until God gives you a clear vision for your life.”

Now, this is the same advice I am giving to people who are having a hard time gaining a vision for their lives. One good place to start is to barrow the church’s vision. We are praying together for the 2020 Vision to become a reality. We know that we are just playing a small part of the greater things that God is doing all over the world. Join us and be a part of God’s greater vision for transformation!

African-American Churches

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint


Recently, I had an opportunity to speak at Canton Christian Fellowship, an African-American church lead by Pastor David Washington. He has an awesome church that is transforming lives. Pastor David also has a ministry that is even going beyond his local church.

In the past, I had a handful of other opportunities to speak at various African-American churches and every single time, I came away with the same sentiment – I love being in their church community. There is something about the African-American church that ignites the preacher in me. There is a connection with the people that is hard to explain in words.

As I gave it some thought, I realized that there are some traits that are consistent in “most” African-American churches, which would encourage any guest speaker. Here are some of my observations:

1) AFFECTION – You cannot enter into an African-American church without receiving a huge hug or a strong man hug. It’s just how they roll whether they know you or not. They make you feel welcomed and accepted as part of their community.

2) AFFIRMATION – You cannot go through a conversation without hearing words of affirmation such as, “Uh huh,” “Yeah,” “Exactly,” “Come on,” “I hear you brother”. It is especially encouraging when I hear it during my preaching. For some reason, it always makes me want to preach like this.

3) ATTESTATION – You cannot be in an African-American church without having some time allotted for “testimonies.” I am always encouraged to hear people attesting to the power of God and the goodness of God in their lives. It really has a way of uplifting the whole Body of Christ to have greater faith in what God can do.

4) APPRECIATION – You cannot help but to feel the heart of gratitude and thankfulness from the members as you serve them. It is interesting how in the African-American church culture they have a high view of their pastor and his wife (a.k.a First Lady). I was humbled to see many of the members coming up to me after the gathering to greet me and express their appreciation. It humbled me to see their humility and experience their appreciation.

5) ASPIRATION – You cannot go into an African-American church and see the purpose for their existence is just within the four walls of the church. I am constantly amazed at the number of outreach programs they have to their community. They really take seriously the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Their aspiration to bring the blessings of God to their community is inspiring. They are truly aspiring to be “a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.”

I am grateful that even though I am not pastoring an African-American church, God is bringing more African-Americans into our church. The Revelation 7:9 vision is becoming more of a reality within our church. We still have a long way to go, but I am hopeful that as we continue to stress the importance of being transcultural, we will see more people from every race and nation joining our biblical community.

2012 Easter Sunday Reflections

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


Photo by Maila Kue
Even though it is the day after the Easter Celebration, I am still glowing from the blessings that God poured out to our church. We hit a lot of key markers at this Easter. We have seen the highest number of people attending an Easter Celebration in our 15 year history. We have seen the largest number of newcomers in any church gathering we have had in the history of our church. We have seen the largest number of people receiving Christ in one gathering. We have seen more members in our church come together serve for a gathering. And the list goes on.

It is pretty humbling. All we can do is give God all the glory.

The most exciting part for me is to hear about all the first time commitments that people made to follow Jesus Christ. Even talking and praying with people after the Easter Celebration, I sensed that God was moving and speaking to the hearts of people.

As another Easter is recorded in HMCC’s annals, I realized that this Easter was a special one for us. It is not just because of the key markers that we hit, but rather some of the key lessons that God was trying to teach us (again).

Here are some lessons that God reminded me of throughout our whole preparation:

1) TIMING – God’s timing is impeccable. I still remember back in 2011, we found out that all the larger venues on the University of Michigan campus were booked. We were trying so hard to figure out how we were going to fit everyone in our church facility, especially with all the friends and family members that people were going to invite. It wasn’t until February 2012 that someone from the UM facility reservation office contacted us regarding a venue that opened up. But the incredible thing about all this was that God quickly opened up not only one venue but rather two – we had options! It is in these times when I am reminded that God is always in control. He is never too late or too early, but rather He answers prayers just in time.

2) TRUST – Once the venues opened up, we realized that we did not budget the rental of the Easter facility for the 2012 budget. This was not a good situation because the rental of the facility would cost some money which we did not have. As the Board of Directors and I prayed, we concluded that it was God’s will for us to have our Easter Celebration at the iconic Michigan Theater and that we needed to trust in God. Therefore as we moved forward with this decision, the people of God stepped up and gave generously. It is humbling to know that when God gives us a vision, He will always provide the provisions because He is always “for” (pro-) His vision to come to reality. God always honors those who honor Him in obedience no matter what the cost.

3) TEAMWORK – Every time I think about the commitment level of our church members, I am just humbled and grateful. Months before the Easter Celebration, many people invested their time and energy in getting things ready. Then on the morning of Easter, many of them got up early in the morning (4:30AM!!) and some even stayed up all night to get everything prepared. It was great to see every ministry team in our church working together to make Easter Celebration all about Jesus. The more I think about it, the more I realize how I just play a little part in the overall worship experience. While the preaching of the Word is important, there are so many other things that go into an Easter Celebration. I am thankful that I am part of an incredible team. When all different types of people from all different lifestages can come together to serve God, it is one of the most powerful testimonies to God’s love and grace.

4) TRUTH – Too often people are afraid to invite their friends to church because they think that their friend might feel uncomfortable, especially during the preaching or even the worship time. But we have to be convinced that unless the truth of the Gospel is preached and the power of God is experienced, people will not come to place in their lives to trust in Jesus Christ. This is why both, truth and grace are needed. It is always tempting for the preacher to “water-down” the truth because there are a lot of new people or even pre-Christians in the audience. But as we unapologetically preach the truth in love, then we know God will take care of the rest. Ultimately, it is the Truth of God’s Word and promises that will set a person free (Jn 8:32). This is why it was encouraging to see many people respond for the first time to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

I am still amazed that God allows me to be a part of all this. The journey keeps on getting better and better with each passing year. Even now, I’m looking ahead to next year’s Easter!

Easter 2012 Promo

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Viewpoint

You don’t want to miss our 2012 Easter Celebration this year! We are expecting great things from our Great God. HMCCers don’t forgot to intercede for, invest in and invite your friends and family members. If you need more information, check out