Tag Archives: Christ

In memory of a dear friend

A year ago, I was asked to speak at the celebration of life in memory of my dear friend, colleague and brother in Christ, Ian Demspey. With tears in my eyes, I said these words.

I knew Ian when we were attending the Technical University of Nova Scotia many years ago. He was an active student from day one. He volunteered as the student representative of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers). Ian always carried his signature smile and enthusiasm wherever he went.

We graduated the same year. He went to work for MT&T and I pursued my other interests. It was fifteen years before we met again when Ian joined our teaching faculty at NSCC. I was so glad to see that Ian and I were in the same department! As all his students can testify, he was one terrific teacher. He put his creative mind into everything he taught. He could make electrical principles relevant to everyday life by bringing in LEDS and telephone wires. Ohm’s law came to life as Ian entered the classroom wearing ribbons of resistors and acted like he was Gandolf in the Lord of the Rings, waving a calculator as his staff and said, “Thou…shalt…not…pass!”. (Only electrical people can understand this joke.) He had a boxing match with students that you can find on Facebook. When writing on the whiteboard, Ian would continue to write on the painted wall once he ran out of room… He received the Distinguished Teaching Service Award by the Rotary Club of Halifax in 2009. His students called him the “academic entertainer”. Ian’s classes were just plain fun! If I could only have 10% of his wit…

Ian also cared about his students. After the news broke about Ian’s passing, many students expressed their sadness and said Ian was the best teacher they ever had. This is evidenced by the number of Ian’s former students who are here today celebrating his life.

Ian was also a firm believer in his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Many years ago, he organized a small prayer group at a church adjacent to the IT campus to pray for the faculty, staff and students with whom we rub shoulders everyday. His love and concern for the spiritual well being of those he met daily was very evident in his prayers.

Ian and I car-pooled together when we moved to our new workplace at the Waterfront campus. That was a difficult year for me in my teaching career. While I was driving, Ian would pray out loud for me in the back seat all the way from Dartmouth to Halifax.

Most of you know Ian was fun to work with. He was friendly, humorous, and had a quick wit. We can all remember he would dress up as Santa and give out candy canes on campus during Christmas time. You can never forget his “Ho, Ho Ho”.

Ian also had a serious side. He was sincere about what he believed, especially with his Lord Jesus.

I remember Ian was very upset about an incident. We had an all staff meeting with one of the directors of the College. During the meeting, that director swore frequently and used the name of Jesus in vain. After the meeting, Ian went down to the office of the director and expressed his displeasure. He told the director that he was a Christian and that he did not appreciate how the director used the name of his Lord and Saviour in vain. At that time, I was not quite sure that Ian had passed his probation period but Linda assured me that he had. That was our Ian. He had no fear of confronting what he considered wrong or inappropriate. He was not just a person of faith; he lived out his faith in such a way that it had an impact on everyone. His life influenced hundreds if not thousands of people directly and indirectly.

Ian, you lived a full and abundant life! Now, you can keep on running, biking, and jogging… on the streets of gold in Heaven! Also, it is time to take a rest. For me, I would say to my dear friend, Ian, good night for now, sleep tight. One day, we will all wake up and say to one another “good morning”.

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Losers are winners

We all want success, promotion, higher income, and bigger home…

This is the foundational success of prosperity gospel. We see mega churches where the preachers tell the congregation strive for more, pray for blessings, live with a positive attitude beyond reality…

Let us see who is the one they are supposed to worship.

There was a man who lived over two thousand years ago. Jesus was not well educated. He was a son of a tradesman. Some even called him a child from an illegitimate relationship (Mark 6:3). (Jesus was described as “Mary’s son” instead of “Joseph’s son” pointed to some snickering was going on.) He did not own any property. (Matthew 8:20) He drew no big salary. He had no fixed address. He and his followers were no political or business heavyweight. In fact, his followers and those he helped were mostly social outcast, lepers, women, tax collectors (traitors of the Jews), the poor, and the sick. He and his followers gained no favour among the rich, the powerful and the religious leaders. He died at a young age. He was framed for plotting against the foreign powerful occupying government. He was sentenced to a brutal death on a cross. He followers disbanded right after his arrest.

By today’s standard, this Jewish sect should never have survived. They lack money, political connection, social status, education, marketing skills… In today’s world, they would be labeled with a capital “L” for losers. Yes, they lost. Many of them were captured, slaughtered, fed to lions, burnt alive… They became martyrs. The term “martyrs” actually means “witness”. Those who died for their faith considered dying for Christ was the highest form of witnessing.

Yes, the witnesses of Christ worshipped a God who seemingly lost the battle. For a while, it seemed that there were no hope, no victory, no power, only defeat. It was not that surprising that a group of social outcast were defeated. History books were filled with names of high achievers, rich and powerful people, kings and queens, nobles, and all their conquests. Few, if any history books regarded the poor, uneducated, prostitutes, and lepers as heroes in their narratives. If they were even mentioned, those would be as losers, and people and situation we should avoid.

Time has changed. We want our church pastors to be well educated. Pastors want to be called with their title Dr. or Rev. The church wants to be associated with the rich and the powerful, or help the politicians’ elected to office. The politicians also want to gain votes from the congregation. It seems to be a symbiosis relationship that they cannot live with the other but they also cannot live without the other. The church today thrives on success. No more being fed to the lions as martyrs (witnesses). It tries to gain power and influence on whatever stage it can seek, pro-life, anti-gay, pro-choice…

Church history seems to tell us a different story. Whenever the church questions the establishment, helps the poor, heals the sick, love the neighbor, she wins. She gains effectiveness. The gospel becomes real. Whenever the church becomes the establishment, gains power, accumulates wealth and properties, she losses. Her constituents become oppressed by her own dogma. Her message becomes an empty ritual.

Jesus preached a subversive, anti-establishment message on power, wealth, and most of all love.


God’s Not Dead

I watch “God’s Not Dead” on DVD yesterday. Usually, I do not write movie review. This is an exception.

A movie for evangelism?

If this is a movie to show the redemptive love of Christ, it failed miserably. Bringing in TV celebrity from Duck Dynasty to talk about their faith looked like an odd marketing endorsement than sincere personal testimony of his own faith. The reporter always appeared angry, rude, and had her own syndical agenda towards anyone who called himself Christian. Do journalists really behave like that in an unprofessional manner?

Stereotyping universities are hostile

Do professors in a university really act like that in the classroom? I highly doubt any creditable university professor will force any students to sign a note to declare, “God is Dead” in the beginning of a course. Moreover, I doubt any professor will yell and manhandle a student when he disagrees with his argument. If I do that with my students, I would be dismissed in no time.

Stereotyping Chinese student

I do not know why the director had to stereotype the Chinese student was a nerd and always wore a tie to class. I have not seen any Chinese students wear a tie to class during my teaching career unless they are giving a presentation or going to an interview. To make matter worse, the Chinese student spoke Cantonese (a dialect of the south) when he was talking to his father, but the father spoke Mandarin (the Beijing dialect of the north). These are two totally different dialects from two vastly different geographical regions. Do the director not expect any Chinese viewers to question the inconsistency? Can they pay more attention to detail?

Stereotyping Muslim families

Why do the producer and the director have to demonize the Muslim family? They obvious do not agree with the Muslim faith. They do not need to demonize the Muslim father was an angry, paranoid, violent tyrant who would beat up his daughter when she chose to be a Christian.

Stereotyping all non-believers

The director portrayed all the professors in the university as arrogant, self-absorbed academics love drinking red wine. They have no problem to demean young females when she let the red wine spoil in the trunk of the car. I highly doubt that many professors, especially female professors, treat a female student that way.

I can write more about why I do not like the movie, but I better draw a conclusion. I doubt God’s Not Dead will bring anyone closer to Christ. It is not even good entertainment.


Thoughts on Democracy

After the incident in Ottawa yesterday the three weeks of protest in Hong Kong, here are my thoughts on democracy.

  • There is a real cost to democracy. People lost their lives it so that others will gain from it.
  • People live under democracy system take it for granted. Most people live under authoritarian or totalitarian governments yearn for it.
  • The ruling class of the established authoritarian government usually labelled democracy as “foreign influence”, “against our cultural values”, “not compatible with our religious beliefs”, “lead to chaos”…
  • The ruling class gains benefit from a totalitarian government. The underclass is enslaved by the ruling class (sometimes without knowing it).
  • Totalitarian governments want their citizens to be uninformed. They will try to censor any news outlet. Democratic systems allow opposite views, even though it may damage its own existence.
  • Democratic systems try to limit the use of force. Force is the mean to an end for totalitarian governments.
  • Violence is always bad, just look at any jihadists who kill or the police who used brutal force to suppress the protesters. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28
  • The path leads to democracy is messy. The path the totalitarian government tread will lead to destruction.
  • Jesus or Paul might never preach on democracy, but they definitely spoke on freedom. (Just read Galatians)
  • Democracy is not the panacea, but it is much better than the alternative.

The message of Christ is subversive in his era. Jesus was anti-establishment since the very beginning of his ministry. The Christian faith started out as an opposition to the Jewish religious establishment (grace vs. law) and the Roman establishment (Caesar is Lord vs. Jesus is Lord). No communist or totalitarian government is ever friendly to the Christian faith. Faith other than worshiping the supreme leader or party is regarded as treason in an authoritarian government. If the people, especially Christians do not speak up against injustice, corruption, and abuse of power while they still have a chance, they are in fact siding with the evil system which Jesus, Paul and Peter were fighting against. Being a disciple of Christ carries a cost. Some Christians are so busy to “do God’s work” inside church walls. They do not see a bigger picture of bringing justice to the society. Prosperity and stability become their God. Pleasing the earthly power to gain earthly status should not be a Christian attitude.


Conversation on Freedom and Democracy

A friend asked me can the 1200 representatives be acceptable for the democracy in Hong Kong. Has China absolutely refused the idea of democratic reform? Here is my answer.

We have to first ask who and what do the 1200 representatives are accountable to? They are not accountable to the people of Hong Kong. They are obligated to please the mainland government. They are appointed by the communist government because they are loyal to the “one country, one party” system. All these individuals benefit personally from the Beijing government. Individual members of the 1200 may have different agendas but they have to protect their own business interest. Under the “harmony principle”, they can only nominate a puppet administration.

I am not assuming the mainland government will refuse to let democratic principles to rule Hong Kong. The Beijing government just will not do that. They do not have the desire for diversity of ideas. Democratic value is NOT just “one person, one vote”. The fundamental value should be “free to express one’s view” without afraid of someone arresting me in the middle of the night and taking me to jail without a fair trial. This cannot be said about the totalitarian government. The “black jails” still exist in China. As of now, most arguments are focus on two areas. If you do not agree, you do not love your country. You are a traitor. That is simply not true.

That brings up the second point you mentioned. “It will hurt the economy.” Yes, it will. If you look at history, totalitarian government may build up the economy in a short time, but it will not last. Corruption and controlled economy will ultimately fail. One can look at the former USSR, (Russia is not in good shape now either.) Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Eastern Europe, etc. Those are examples for us not to follow.

The Chinese propaganda usually claims this protest is an American conspiracy. Conspiracy theory is often used to distract people not to focus on the real issue. It’s so easy to blame the foreign devils for their shortcomings than to look at the mirror. I am not saying the Americans are perfect, far from it. The reality is Obama has his hands more than full with the Islamic terrorists now. Do you really believe he wants to start another war with China? On one hand, Beijing wants to have an open economy so it can attract foreign investments. In the past thirty years, China used this strategy to lift it out of poverty and modernized itself. On the other hand Beijing is hardened with its cold war mentality. It actually attached itself more with Russia, a country which had conquered its territory (and still does) but tried to alienate the US (which helped China to fight the Japanese invaders). The Beijing government published racist article against the former US ambassador Gary Locke. It called Locke a “banana”. It accused Locke did not speak the language of his ancestors (He can speak Cantonese, but the Chinese government does not recognize Cantonese is part of the Chinese language set.) It criticized Locke of being of Chinese ancestry, dare to talk about foreign values such as “human rights”. It is easy to use patriotism to cover up the shortcomings of the political mistakes of the communist party. Then use patriotism to stir up racial hatred of another people group. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan used the same tactic to start WWII. No, I’m not the opposite side.

I just want to be one the side of reasons. As I see it, the mistake of the students is they focus on 普選, “universal suffrage”. “Universal suffrage” should only be one element of the debate. “Freedom to think, express, choose…” should be the overarching theme.

In Genesis 2, God created two trees for human. Whether one believes the story is literal or not, the teaching in Genesis 2 painted a picture of “freedom of choice”. Free to choose, to question, to imagine… are first and foremost in the creation of the human environment. As Christians, we should imitate Christ. Jesus let his enemies express, talk, and even hang him on the cross. Jesus explained his view of the Kingdom in ways the people at the times could understand. Even though he is the Son of God, he never imposed his views on others. He let all, including the Pharisees, had the right to choose. He never labeled his enemies unpatriotic. Peter asked Him to send fire to destroy the opposition. Instead, he commanded his disciples to “love your enemies “. This should be our response. I do not believe the communist will ever preach that.

I remember a German pastor, Martin Niemöller wrote this poem when he disagreed with the Nazi government. He was sent to concentration camp for seven years because of his beliefs.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


White Privilege

A colleague asked me a question on “white privilege”. This is my response.

Let me start from the beginning. The term “white privilege” comes from critical race theory that white people hold special privileges implicitly. It implies Black people would never receive such privilege. I am not any expert in race theory or sociology. I only heard about this idea though my own readings. My only encounter with sociology was the only course I took close to thirty years ago called “Sociology in Education”.

Let me first define the term “theory”. The term “theory” is defined very differently in natural sciences such as in physics, chemistry, and biology than in social sciences as in sociology, arts, education, anthropology, and political science.

“Theory” in science is NOT an opinion. For natural sciences, a set of observations has to be documented. Then a hypothesis or a group of hypothesis is formed based on the results of the observations. The hypothesis is repeatedly tested in controlled experiments to verify whether the results could be reproduced. Data from those repeated experiments are then analyzed using mathematical or statistical methods. The hypothesis then has to be modified, accepted or rejected. The experiments have to be performed to justify and make further predictions until there are no discrepancies between observation results. Even after these strenuous exercises, the hypothesis must be continuous testable and falsifiable. Deductive reasoning is used, not inductive reasoning. All data must have both independent and dependent variables. The results must include an experimental group and control group so the conclusion is based on identifiable comparison.

It is very difficult or even impossible to “prove” a theory in natural science. Sometimes we call some natural phenomena “laws” such as “law of gravity”, “Newton’s law of motion”, “law of thermodynamics”, etc. because they are so predictable. Even some of these “laws of physics” have been modified.

In this definition, how we commonly  use the term “theory” describes an opinion or observation is not correct. That is why I do not consider “Creation Science” is a scientific theory. “Creation Science” is not repeatable, testable, falsifiable, or predictable, therefore, it is not science.

In the area of sociology, “critical race theory” cannot be classified as a scientific theory. There may be observations that race plays an important role in how a society treats its own citizens. We can use statistics to show that blacks are twice as likely to be convicted in the courts. Blacks as a group has a lower median income compare with whites, etc… We cannot, however, (and should not) set up any experiments to test our hypothesis. No one can even suggest we can test this observation by setting up an experimental group whom we should deliberately discriminate the members of that group and another control group that we treat all the members with respect. Then we measure their income level and crime rate after a number of years. Such experiment would be unethical and immoral. We can, however, look at statistics from established societies and their cultural characteristics to form an informed opinion to our observation. Then we can investigate our own underlining of attitudes and modify our behaviour and practice.

Back to the question of “white privilege”, we have to ask a few questions. First, does it exist? Second, if it does exist, does it exist in all cultures? Third, in what form does it exist? Fourth, what are the historical and cultural aspects do “white privilege” be manifested? Finally, how can we make sure that we would not abuse this privilege if we do indeed process such privilege?

We do not have the “privilege” to choose our parents, race, and place of birth. We are born the way we are. Out of all cosmic possibilities, we are here! It is not our choice. If you believe in the God in the Bible, you may claim that God put you here on this earth at this time for a reason. It is up to you to find out His will for you on this earth. If you are a Buddhist, being a white male is the result of all your past lives now living in this reincarnated form.

If you consider being born white, Catholic, male… as a privilege, then you just won the lottery of the uterus. Better still, you do not even have to pay for the lottery ticket. Yes, you are privileged just because you are living in a country where we are free to think and form you own opinion. You, as a white male, have a better chance of getting a mortgage or credit card in this society. This is the “privilege” that you cannot even give up if you wanted to. The important thing is not to abuse this “privilege”. Use this “privilege” so the whole society can benefit.

Since you are a person of the Catholic faith, I give you a quote from the Bible. in Philippians 2: 3 – 4,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

If you take time to read the whole chapter 2 of Philippians, I do not think Apostle Paul, a Jewish male with Roman citizenship, a privilege class in its days, is not talking about charity. He is talking about how to live out the life of Christ throughout our lives. He regards all his audience, Jews or Gentiles, as equals, brothers and sisters. Like it or not, we are here and we are going to stay. It is more important that we use what we have to serve one another than to argue about who deserves more privileges.


The Centrality of Christ (2)

I stumble upon the writing of Oswald Chambers, (Go to May 6, 2014)

“A spiritually-minded person will never come to you with the demand—”Believe this and that”; a spiritually-minded person will demand that you align your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals (see John 5:39-40). We are called to present liberty for the conscience of others, not to bring them liberty for their thoughts and opinions.”

What an insight! This is what my thought on the centrality of Christ all about. Our interpretation of the Bible, cultural upbringing, political views, doctrinal views… can be all put aside if we can focus on Christ and Christ alone. The Bible is a record of God’s interaction with the human race. It can never represent God and all His being. Even the Bible admitted that. (John 21: 25)

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