A Christmas Devo from Angela – “The Paradox of the Present

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The Paradox of the Present 

by Angela Hsieh

In this Christmas season , songs filled with general holiday cheer are echoed everywhere proclaiming “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” “tis the season to be jolly” and the like. Though lighthearted, these sentiments in cultural may subtly influence our expectations of what this season is supposed to deliver. For many people, however, they are left with deep disappointment, and the holidays are far from “the most wonderful time of the year.” For if Christmas is not grounded in the hope which Christ brings, it can be the most depressing time of the year – it can be a time where the presence of unfulfilled longings and the absence of loved ones may be felt most of all.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior.

Many dear families that I know have tragically lost loved ones this year. When death hits home, gaping wounds are left which cannot be soothed by any well wishes or holiday cheer. In fact, they may make it sting even more. As it often is, there is a strange contrast between the simultaneous life experiences of people. For some, this Christmas is tainted by grief as it marks the first year without a loved one, yet for others, it is joyfully celebrated as the first Christmas for a new arrival. While many gather in warm homes for Christmas parties, others are homeless on the street. While many appreciate the warmth of familial love and companionship, millions of children are in orphanages without a family to call their own. While many feast, others are famished. While people give and receive a bounty of gifts, others lack the basic necessities of life. The human existence is filled with paradoxes like these.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior. Jesus says in Matthew 5:3-8, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God bestowed this message of blessing through the person of Jesus Christ. God drew near to a broken and needy people in a marvelous way – by becoming one of us. Truly Christmas is about how He broke through darkness to “give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The present of His Presence is the most wonderful and paradoxical occurrence in history. Christ, the Lord of all and yet the Humble Servant, reaches out to save all people – those drunk with pleasure and those overcome by sorrow, those enamored with success and those who’ve hit rock bottom, those who are seeking and those without hope. He is the One who fully knows each person’s experience and offers to speak meaning into it. The King of Kings (Rev. 19:16) was not born in a lofty palace but a lowly manger. The Prince of Peace’s (Is. 9:6) arrival would cause the uproar of a nation. The Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32) became the son of a young girl and carpenter. The One robed in majesty (Psalm 93:1) traded His garments for infant swaddling clothes. Christ knows exactly how to address the human condition and bring reconciliation that every person desperately needs.

He is the Present of infinite worth that we could only receive if we come with empty and open hands. This Christmas, will you open up your heart to receive the greatest Present ever given?

Immanuel, God with us.

 

Galen Jee (1950 – 2018) – My Pastor

Galen Jee

Galen giving some pre-marriage counseling to Arthur and Sandra during TD in the ’80’s

Hello TD,

It is with deep sadness that I must inform you that Pastor Galen Jee, our English Department pastor for about twenty years, passed away suddenly yesterday from cardiac arrest.  He was doing what he loved to do – walking in nature and capturing it in photographs.  An avid and talented photographer, he loved capturing God’s creation.

I want you all to know that our English Department wouldn’t be what it is today without the foundation-laying, seed-planting, and personal investment into people that Galen and his wife, Eunice, provided.  What God has done in our congregation in the years since he moved on from our church has been built upon the foundation that God had Galen and Eunice lay; it’s a foundation that was committed to the gospel rather than gimmicks, to people rather than programs, to integrity rather than ingenuity, … to a saving God rather than to self-glory.  This is absolutely true.

Often times, people embellish the facts and persona of someone’s life after they have passed on, out of deference and respect, and sensitivity to the surviving family.  Galen would not have that, nor would want me to do that.  Anyone else who was under his care and leadership would whole-heartedly affirm what I just wrote above.

Pastoring our congregation during the heyday of the “seeker sensitive” church growth movement in the ’80’s and ’90’s, Galen felt the external pressure to grow our numbers more quickly, which forced him to look within and to continually check himself in order to stay faithful to our Lord and His Upside Down Kingdom, where measures of true success rarely look like what we think it looks like (even church goers).  Having his success as a pastor often gauged by others according to the metric of numeric success, Galen stayed faithful and true to what he knew the true church to be, Christ’s Bride; not a platform or a stepping-stone for feeling good about oneself and achieving some sort of self-worth and self-satisfaction through serving and through church-y “success,” which he rightly knew was still, in fact, worldly.  He wouldn’t do that.  He just wanted to be found faithful and obedient, plain and simple.  That was success.

Personally, it was Galen who not only was the official English Department pastor when I arrived at MBCLA, but who became MY pastor.  He saw a young, unchurched, worldly high school graduate and met with me in my home before baptizing me not too long afterwards (announcing to the congregation that I graduated from Marshall HS rather than my alma mater, South Pasadena HS).  Over the ensuing years, he saw something in me, investing in me and showing me the ropes.  As the years ensued, his belief in me grew and he entrusted me with the opportunity to serve our congregation in many ways.  He gave me my wings in ministry, as it were.  Though young, inexperienced, and “wet behind the ears,” he allowed me to make mistakes, and more importantly, he trusted me; for that, I will always be humbled and grateful.  I had the privilege of preaching several times at the pulpit of the church that he shepherded after he left MBCLA.  Knowing that he would only let people he trusted to preach from his pulpit, I always counted it a great honor to do so.

He preferred the private impact of personal ministry over the public show of it.  There is a place for everyone to minister, whether in public or in private; he was quite aware of the potential traps of public ministry.  He was understated in personality and not the dynamic “life of the party,” by any means.  I’m not sure he could’ve actually drawn the attention to himself that other more vibrant, boisterous, magnetic personalities can; nonetheless, he knew that even desiring to do so is tantamount to doing it in God’s eyes.  He knew himself and knew that he could “go there” if he wasn’t alert and careful.  So, he ordered his life to make sure he didn’t “go there.”

I appreciated his down-to-earth humility in that way.  He didn’t want anything to be above the Christ of the gospel, nor anyone to be out of His reach.  Galen was a personal minister who cared about the person and cared about that person living life truthfully, according to the way God ordained, as revealed in Scripture.  He was committed to the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life.  He was not one who could get himself to bend the rules, shade the truth, or to go against conscience, having to turn various people down for different requests, even though he hated to do so.

When Sandra and I got engaged, I remember him asking both our parents how they really felt about it.  Since Sandra and I have a large age gap, he was a little apprehensive of whether our relationship would really work out.  He loved us both and didn’t want to see us take a hasty step that would result in disaster down the road.  He did our pre-marriage counseling with us and gave us his blessing, eventually marrying us.

I spoke to him last week, and as usual, his eyes were ultimately on the Lord.  Over the last couple of years, he often spoke frankly and realistically about the tenuousness of life on earth, saying that God could realistically take him at any time.  A lifelong diabetic, he had to constantly inject himself and was constantly experiencing new ailments in his later years.  He reminded me that he was not scared of death and that he would be with the Lord.

Well, Galen is with the Lord now. and I bet he wishes he had his camera equipment with him.  It won’t be long, however, before realizes that he doesn’t need his camera to capture the splendor of what he is experiencing and seeing.  It’s permanent now.  He lives it 24/7.  I have an idea of who he’s making a beeline toward, who he’s anxious to meet and ask questions of.  Most of all, I know that he is overwhelmed and humbled to be in God’s immediate presence, as we all will be when our time comes.

I will miss my dear friend and pastor.  I’m thankful for his investment in my life and for handing the baton to me.  I pray that I will be faithful to carry that baton well and to faithfully hand it off to those such as you.  Amen.  – Arthur

“A TD Christmas” on Friday! – details inside

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Hey TD!

This Friday is our annual “A TD Christmas” extravaganza! Come dressed like Christmas – red, green, and whatever Christmas clothes you have!  We’ll be having our annual visit to the convalescent home, where we’ll be strolling the hallways to visit our dear elderly friends and sing them Christmas carols.

When we return back to the Hsiehs’, we partake in another TD Christmas tradition – Sandra’s world-famous chili dip, accompanied by Christmas fun!

Meet at the Hsiehs’ home at 6 p.m.  The elderly sleep quite early, so we will need to head over there soon after.

If you would like to bring some Christmas treats, snacks, drinks, or whatever, they will be welcomed!

For more info, ask you small group leaders!

See you Friday!

Taking Finals? Watch This

Video: “Finals Week” by Stefan Vandendkooy

Hey TD’ers,

Some of you are taking finals this week, while some of you will be taking finals after Christmas break.  Either way, you’ve got to pause for 3 minutes to watch this spoken word about Finals Week. He’s right on the money. Let it help change your approach to finals week.

Soli Deo Gloria!

TD Fri. – Look What We’re Doing This Friday! (video)

Video featuring art project with Anabell and Michelle at RZIM’s Refresh ’18

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Anabell’s finished portrait of Michelle/Other portraits hung at RZIM’s Stillpoint Gallery

Hey TD!

We’ve got a great Friday planned at TD as we continue our theme, “Engage: Living Life in HD”!

First, we’re going to engage in a unique way, as we paint portraits of one another.  Not an artist? No worries, neither am I! This art project is imbecile proof. If you know how to trace, you’re good.  More than painting cool portraits, it will be a very neat time of engagement.

Second, we’re going to continue our forum on “Can You Really Know God Personally?” Last week, we had an organic, unscripted, and intimate time of exploring how some of our leaders engage with God through the Scriptures.  This week, we’ll get a raw look at how people engage with God through prayer.

Perhaps you feel like nothing happens when you pray; or you feel like you’re just talking to yourself.  You may be asking if you’re doing it right, or whether God is actually actively listening, etc.  You try to do what you’re supposed to when you pray, but you don’t really feel any different. Through our dialogue, we hope to let the Spirit lead us and minister to us in the way He wants to.

If you’re in need of engaging with God in a deeper, more personal way, you’ll want to be at TD this Friday! – Arthur

 

 

Strive for True Victory (CIF-SS Championship Video)

Recap video of Maranatha’s CIF-SS D-5 Girls Tennis Championship

Hey TD!

Last week, we had a post entitled, We Must Play. It’s a must read.  Well, along those lines, a few weeks ago, Sandra and I had the privilege of coaching the Maranatha High School Varsity Girls Tennis Team to a CIF-SS D-5 Championship.  It was a stressful but thrilling two weeks of intense playing, soul-searching, and figuring out how to be able to produce our best when our best is needed.  The playoffs are not for the faint of heart. Sports is a great revealer of things.  It has been said that when you play competitive sports, the real you comes out.

It is incredibly difficult to win a championship at any level; there is an incredible amount of focus, discipline, character, desire, perspective, and providence that must all come together for the desired result to occur; and even then, there are no guarantees it will.  So many others want the same thing, yet only one will be left standing.

I want to remind you that while only one team or one person can win the championship, it is absolutely possible for more than one to come out a champion.  Your “thing” may or may not be sports; but whatever it is, you can come out a true winner – if you figure out how to do it to His honor, to represent Him well, with your very best effort with integrity, with grace and fairness towards your competitors – regardless of the outcome.  Col. 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men.” If you do that, you are a winner in the eyes of the only One that matters.

We are grateful for God’s generosity and kindness to us in granting us the championship; but as I told our team, it comes with great responsibility of stewardship and giving credit to Whom credit is due.  Our theme verse was 1 Cor. 10:31, “Whether then you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  While our team really wanted to earn championship rings, we agreed that, more than for the ring alone, we are playing for the “King of the ring.”

Your “thing” may or may not be sports; but whatever it is, you can come out a true winner – if you figure out how to do it to His honor, to represent Him well, with your very best effort with integrity, with grace and fairness towards your competitors – regardless of the outcome.  Col. 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men.” If you do that, you are a winner in the eyes of the only One that matters. 

This was the first time in my years of coaching boys and girls tennis that both finalists were Christian schools, both bearing witness.  After the ceremony was over, a long-time CIF official made a point to come to me and let me know that it was the finest display of sportsmanship at the ceremony that he’s seen, and that that’s how high school sports should be.

Indeed, it has been an opportunity to give thanks to God and attempt to represent Him well.  If you’re interested, here are a couple of newspaper articles.  They don’t always include the faith aspects into their stories, even when you share it with them, but you can still catch the drift:

Pasadena Sports Now

Pasadena Outlook

TD’ers, none of us is going to go through the game of life smoothly.  We’re going to have bumps and bruises, successes and failures along the way.  My dad used to remind me that failure is the foundation of success.  He’s right.  Failure can be such a powerful teacher.  I’ve always told people that the mark of a Christian is not whether you fall (you will), but the manner in which you get up when you fall.

I encourage you all during this finals season to prepare well, think well, treat others well, put God first, love your family, live honorably and consistently inside and out, and trust Him. If you do, whatever the results, you will have earned true victory.  Amen.

Go get’ em! – Coach Arthur 🙂

 

 

TD Sat. – “Evening of Christmas: Joy”

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Hey TD!

There’s something special about the arts. The arts are often able to communicate and resonate with us with a depth propositions cannot.

This Saturday night, Maranatha High School’s Performing Arts Department will be putting on “Evening of Christmas: Joy” at the world-renowned Ambassador Auditorium on Marantha’s campus in Pasadena.  Tickets through TD are $5 ($10 to the public).

Let your small group leader know by Thursday night whether you are able to make it or not! Hope to see you there!

 

Here’s what’s in store:

Join us for a festive evening of music and dance and discover the joy of the season at “Evening of Christmas”!

We use the word “joy” so much during this holiday season. We sing “Joy to the World,” and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” We bring tidings of “comfort and joy.” But the joy of the Christmas story is contained in the story of a young couple, separated from home and family and forced to deliver their first child in a stable. That is the difference between joy and happiness. Joy isn’t based on circumstance as much as perspective.

Our presentation of “Evening of Christmas” this year explores the true meaning of that word joy through music and dance. Come join us as we usher in the Christmas season with performances by Mixed Ensemble, Maranatha Orchestra, and Dance Company. It will be two evenings filled with the heart and soul of the true “joy” of the season. “Evening of Christmas” takes place on Friday and Saturday, December 7 and 8 at 7:00 p.m. in the Ambassador Auditorium.