Twelve Days of Christmas Potpourri

December 25. On the first day of Christmas…

NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with theologian Eboni Marshall-Turman of Yale Divinity School about the message of Christmas this year.

Click to hear podcast

December 26. On the second day of Christmas…

Michael Gerson declares that the Defiant Hope of Christmas is “God is With Us.”

“In enforced isolation and loneliness, God is with us. In chronic pain and degenerative disease, God is with us. In a shattered relationship or a cancer diagnosis, God is with us. In an intensive care unit or a mental ward, God is with us. In life and in death, God will not leave us or forsake us.”

December 27. On the third day of Christmas…

Peter Wehner (NY Times) writes about “The Forgotten Radicalism of Jesus Christ.”
“First-century Christians weren’t prepared for what a truly inclusive figure he was, and what was true then is still true today. We want to tame and domesticate who he was, but Jesus’ life and ministry don’t really allow for it. He shattered barrier after barrier.”

December 28. On the fourth day of Christmas…

Rev. Jim Wallis speaks with Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil about her latest book, Becoming Brave. McNeil shares how to find the courage to pursue racial justice now and her leadership in the church during the Black Lives Matter movement.

Click to play podcast

December 29. On the fifth day of Christmas…

The Bible Project podcast begins a new series about “God’s Global Family.”
Jesus unites his followers across cultural and ethnic lines as members of his global family. But that doesn’t mean cultural differences disappear. In fact, Jesus resurrects and glorifies what is unique and beautiful about every culture. In this episode, listen in as Tim and Jon discuss what it means to be part of the family of God.

Click to hear podcast

December 30. On the sixth day of Christmas…

The Reclaim Podcast talks to Jeff Liou about “Justice and Critical Race Theory.” Other critically important Asian American Christian voices such Russell Jeung, Sam George, Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Nancy Yuen, Jenny Yang, and yours truly have been interviewed – more to come!

Click to hear podcast

December 31. On the seventh day of Christmas…

Let us conclude the year and consider the implications of Mary’s “Yes” to God. What might Mary have pondered now that her child has been born? Here is Debie Thomas’ Advent meditation for the National Cathedral in Washington. (Brought to my attention by Bill Newsome, is the Vincent V.C. Woo Director of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute and Harman Family Provostial Professor at Stanford University.)

January 1. On the eighth day of Christmas…

Which is also the first day of the new year! Isn’t it remarkable how the Christian calendar acknowledges but doesn’t treat New Year’s Day with all that much respect? I present a historical perspective on revival that suggests that we need focus on renewal, not restoration.

Click to view my blog post

January 2. On the ninth day of Christmas…

Check out these “Square Inch Stories” from Katie Antilla and Nathan Wei! Be sure to view the other SIS from Grad students in the GFM Pacific Area on the GFM Pacific YouTube Channel.

Katie Antilla’s Square Inch Story at https://youtu.be/XXB9AAVp8Vs
Nathan Wei’s Square Inch Story at https://youtu.be/pTWpAYL0-24

January 3. On the tenth day of Christmas…

Podcast: “Not a ‘White Man’s Religion’: Church History and Biblical Thought” (with Vince Bantu).

Western Christians tend to emphasize Western church history and culture at the expense of the global church. Many have cursory understanding of the Greek Orthodox tradition, but know little about early Christianity in Asia and Africa. This ignorance of church history leads to more than just historical inaccuracy; it can alienate those of other nationalities and ethnicities with a false portrayal of Christianity as a European- or white-only religion.

In this episode, Dr. Dru Johnson interviews Dr. Vince Bantu of Fuller Seminary about global church history. They give special attention to the origins and spread of Christianity in Egypt, Nubia, and the broader African continent. Along the way, they highlight Western misunderstandings of non-Western Christology and the issue of racism in the ancient world. By expanding our perspective beyond our own historical and cultural tradition, Western Christians can improve our ability to truly preach the gospel to all nations.

Click to hear podcast

January 4. On the eleventh day of Christmas…

Colton Bernasol’s “Between Plainfield and Barrio Three Theological Reflections on Home and Belonging” in Inheritance Magazine.

Click to view

January 5. On the twelfth day of Christmas…

And last, but definitely not least – let us resolve to follow Jesus’ way in the new year! Here is Dion Forster‘s inspiring devotional “On the Politics of Overcoming Evil.”

Dion Forster’s “On the Politics of Overcoming Evil

Christmas 2020 Greetings!

Christ is born!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Because of the pandemic, it has been a year of separation. But because of the Incarnation of God in Jesus, the Messiah, no separation from his love is permanent. With this in mind, we wish you God’s love and presence in the coming year!

I’m glad to report that Betty and I have not been too negatively affected by the pandemic. Betty had planned to concentrate on home projects this year, anyway. And my work was increasingly based in my home office. But 2020 was an emotionally stressful year as we wrestled with how politics, protests, and the pandemic have impacted our neighbors and relatives.

The pandemic has had an impact on our sons this year. Nathaniel’s work in autism services has been limited to remote work. His start-up, Imaginary Horizons Productions, has also encountered several pandemic related obstacles despite their community building software being in greater demand at the moment. Benji moved out and co-owns a home with a church friend. But he lost his job because of the economic downturn due to the pandemic. He is now looking for new employment.

Through it all, we are hopeful. We are also grateful for your prayers, your thoughtfulness, and your support! May you experience a new year of health, fruitfulness, and renewal!

Christmas Gifts for you!

Because you’ve been such a blessing to me, our students, faculty, and staff, allow me to share the following. Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to:

Other gifts: stories of transformation and outreach.

  • This professor’s testimony of how God transformed her during her grad studies is one of the reasons why I love my ministry. It also shows why Christian work among grad students and faculty is key to the future of Christianity.
  • This fall, the Haas Christian Fellowship at U.C. Berkeley decided to affiliate with InterVarsity’s GFM and with our area. We welcome them to our MBA ministry!
  • Janice Goh, one of the leaders with Acts Christian Fellowship at U.C.S.F., writes for the university’s student newspaper. Through her writings, she has drawn attention to the chapter. Have a look!
  • A testimony from Taylor Lee and Jessica Marotte, our IV staff at the community colleges in Sacramento, CA (edited):

At our first meeting, one of the faculty that came invited another that I had never even heard of and she came without hesitation with only a day’s notice! And this faculty really ended up inspiring us the most with her stories of how she has been interacting with students before and during covid. This professor, L. is an immigrant woman from China. She teaches in the business department at ARC and oftentimes has international students in her class who are also from China. She said that they can tell she has an accent and will sometimes linger after class to ask her about her story –how she became so successful moving here, what it was like, and any advice she has to offer. She is so bold and always shares with them how intricate God was and is in her life’s story. Because of this, one student decided to join her for church before the pandemic really hit and things were shut down. She shared about this student with us during our first prayer meeting together and was overjoyed to tell us that they had just texted her recently saying they were super grateful that she had invited them and introduced them to faith because they had made a decision to follow Jesus and was baptized at their church that morning!! Because of L’s boldness to share about her faith and eagerness to invite students into that, one more person has joined the Kingdom of God! Praise God!

Allow me to introduce you to Dr. Denise Thompson, ‘s new National Director of Black Scholars and Professionals Ministry. She and her husband, Andre, have lent support to the Graduate and Faculty Ministries at Stanford University and the area. Our area has partnered with BSAP to host “In Search of Shalom,” a monthly zoom series that addresses Race, Justice and a variety of contemporary issues. Have a look at this fall’s episodes!

The GFM Pacific team would like to thank you for your support and prayers! Have a blessed Advent and Christmas!

For more immediate updates and resources, visit these links:

Special request. 2021 will be a challenging year for me and InterVarsity staff to sustain their ministry budgets. I anticipate devoting much more time to support raising during a critical time for our students and university faculty and staff. Would you be open to chatting with me about my specific financial needs? Let me know and I’ll be happy to arrange a zoom or phone call.

If you’d like to give a special end of the year donation, please click the picture below. Thank you!

Sermon: God Alone (Dec 29, 2013)

I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the Lord has done for us—
yes, the many good things
he has done for Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
He said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will be true to me”;
and so he became their Savior.
In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old. — Isaiah 63:7-9 (NIV)

God Alone [summary of sermon delivered on Dec 29, 2013 at Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church English Service]

I. God has blessed us in 2013

During the sermon, we separated into small groups and reflected on ideas and phrases from Isaiah 63:7-9 that best spoke to their experience in 2013. We spoke of God’s kindness, compassion, love and mercy in the midst of distress, God’s presence, etc.

We also recognized that God’s goodness was not only provided for us individually and with our immediate families. Today’s scripture reflected a concern for and identification with the nation of Israel. This means that faith is not just a personal or private affair. It is not just between me and God. It includes my participation in a faith community, in Canaan for us. And partaking of a faith community is true for all Christians. God has been watching over Canaan and our English ministry as well as our individual needs.

We then watched some images of Canaan EM in 2013 accompanied by “The Afters” song entitled “Life is Beautiful.”

These are illustrations of God’s goodness, God’s presence, God’s love and mercy to us. They show God’s desire to lift us up and to carry us through life!

II. We often neglect to respond to God’s goodness to us.

Yet, behind the happy pictures and memories are some lies.

In verse 8, God said of his people Israel, ““Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me.” God values faithfulness, honesty, transparency from his people. But notice verse 10….

Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.

Have we neglected God’s goodness by ignoring God’s church in 2013?
– For every new member who joins us, how many leave us because we don’t invest in building relationships with them?
– For every new middle school youth we gain, how many of our high school students lose their dedication and interest in our faith?
– For every college student we send off, how many return to our church?
– For every young adult who visits us on Sunday, how many have actually stuck with us?
– For every new baby born, dedicated or baptized, how many parents or families became less engaged in our community because of busy-ness?
– For every volunteer request that our pastors and leaders have made, how many completely ignore the emails or texts?

One consequence of neglecting God’s people is a feeling like we’ve reached a “point of diminishing returns.” Despite all the blessings of life, this is also part of our experience at Canaan in 2013.

Why? Perhaps, we are like children who have receive too many gifts for Christmas. Like them, “happiness” is something that experiences diminishing return. Maybe we are too blessed. Has good education, comfortable living made us more self-centered and entitled?

Indeed, Israel’s wealth and success was one of the reasons why they turned away from God and loss that sense of connectedness with him and his people. All “successful Christians” face the danger of living as if our lives belong to ourselves and our blessings were earned by ourselves. God no longer becomes the sole source of our lives.

Will 2014 be a year of diminishing return for Canaan? No!

How can we stay centered on God alone in 2014?

III. Protect that baby!

Each year, one of the scripture passages that is always read on the first Sunday after Christmas is the story of the baby Jesus’ escape TO Egypt:

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” — Matthew 2:13-23 (NIV)

If we want to stay focused on God alone in 2014, let us treat our faith and the Canaan community the same way that Joseph and Mary cared for and protected the baby Jesus. We are experiencing a baby-boom at Canaan, so I’m sure that all our parents of infants can identify with this point. Just as our babies require our attention, care, and protection, so does our faith and our church.

So let us nurture our faith, our church, and the people of our generation in 2014. Doing so will ensure that God’s presence alone is our source of joy and not just the blessings we receive from him.

One small example of how we can protect our faith and Canaan is by repurposing our family celebrations. Because I was raised in a pastor’s family, I rarely had Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations with just my immediate family. Last night, we had our family Christmas celebration three days after Christmas. We have chosen to give up celebrating those holidays just for ourselves. Instead, we entertain others at our home. Families without extended relatives, visitors to our church, international students, indeed, anyone who is on the margins of our faith community.

By making this sacrifice, we remind ourselves of God as priority. He wants us to reach out to others for the sake of the Gospel. By living as if God’s household (or family) comes first, we not only bear witness, but also protect this truth with our actions.

Next year, could we sacrifice Christmas gatherings, ski trips, or vacations just for our own family? Instead, could we celebrate Christmas with newcomers, the lonely, and the marginalized? Maybe we can set up a rotation so that some of us will serve the Lord in this manner. In any case, it is my hope that we will dedicate ourselves to nurturing, protecting our faith and Canaan’s English ministry much more in 2014. Let God alone be our hope and salvation!

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