Tag Archives: Christian

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”.


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.


The Centrality of Christ

As I wrote on my last blog,

“I believe the Bible points us to Christ. Christ is the focus of the Bible. Interpretation of the Bible has to filter through the lens of Christ. Teachings that bring people towards Christ should be encouraged. Teachings that lead us distract from Christ should be avoided.”

On the surface, it is an easy concept for those who claimed to be Christians to agree. Since “Christian” means “Christ follower”, their beliefs, lifestyles, and behavior should be Christ-centred.

There are books written about the Centrality of Christ. I will take it to another level.

If Christ is the centre, the teachings or the interpretations of the Bible have to reflect this over-arching principle. If I use this principle to view any ancient and modern teachings from the church, I gain a different insight from the Bible.

I would like to learn from Jesus like if I had lived in the first century. The apostles and those who personally heard the sermons from Jesus had a better understand of Him than anyone of us today because of the language, cultural, geographical and tempo barriers.

I believe Jesus was the best and only representation of God to humankind. Christ appealed to them though His presence. They learned firsthand by His words, deeds and miracles. Jesus taught them how the Old Testament teachings were actually focused on Him.

He was truly the centre of the Old Testament, the Bible of the time. That was significant!

His teachings and deeds superseded and fulfilled all the teachings of the Old Testament. All previous practices on the Sabbath, cleansing, animal sacrifices, and Jewish self-imposed segregation from the Gentiles… paled or became worthless compared to Christ Himself.

There are significant consequences to how I response to the principle of the centrality of Christ.

If Christ is the centre, we should put Christ in the centre as we interpret the Bible. We should see all the events, teachings, and prophecy as Christ would have intended for us to learn.

Instead of arguing whether a certain record is historically, literally, or factually true, we should learn how we can use that record to draw us and other closer to Christ.

Instead of trying to prove the universe is less than ten thousand years old, literal six, twenty-four-hour day creation, we should look at the beauty of God’s creation. I have not heard of anyone be drawn closer to Christ by hearing an argument of literal six-day creation story.

Let the marvelous work of God speak to us, inspire us and draw us closer to Christ.


The Nexus of Reasoning

As I mentioned in my previous post, I went to a Bible study training on Friday. I am reflecting on some of the discussions.

I heard this argument by the young earth creationists repeatedly.

“It is a compromise on the teaching of God’s Word.”

“Believing in a relatively “young Earth” (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.”

“If I don’t believe in six literal days of creation, how can I believe in Jesus’ resurrection in three days?”

I can list many more. I am not going to use my blog space for their arguments. One can just search on the Internet “young earth creationist” and investigate.

I have no problem listening to their belief. I live in a country where freedom of religion is guaranteed. They have their rights to believe in what they deem correct.

It is the nexus of the consequence of the six-day creation doctrine that I have objection. Since they believe the literal interpretation of every single word in the Bible, these are some of the consequences from Genesis chapter one and two.

  • God created Adam before Eve. Therefore, man is ahead of woman. Man is ordained to be the leader in the household, church and society.
  • God created Eve as the helpmate for Adam. Therefore, the helpmate can never be the decision maker.
  • God created the institution of marriage between a man and a woman. Divorce is not permissible.
  • God ordered Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Continuous and unrestricted growth was God’s plan for the human race.
  • God rested on the seventh day. We have to cease all work on the Sabbath if we have to follow God’s example.
  • God gave Adam authority to name all living creatures. Therefore humans have authority over all animals and nature as a whole. Nature and the environment should be under the control (dominion) of the human race. Nature is here for our disposal.

One can see the fallouts of such logic.

The Chinese character for sin (罪) is a symbol for four wrongs or alienations. I can see all four alienations as outcomes of this interpretation.

  • Alienation from self – When man views himself as he is the first being, he is separated from reality that he is only a small part of a much bigger cooperative.
  • Alienation from others – When man views himself as the head of another gender, he puts half of the human race as subordinates.
  • Alienation from nature – When man views himself as the master of nature, he starts to abuse the environment and everything living in it.
  • Alienation from God – When man views his ideas and interpretation of the Bible as the ultimate truth, he lost the real message that God wants to teach them.

What a shame.


Make a Conclusion with Emotion

I am a Christian. I am not ashamed in admitting my faith.

I just feel at odds with some of my Christian friends. It may be my upbringing. I always feel that believing in Christ should involve one’s emotion as well intellectual rationale. When the emotional aspects collide with the rational evidences, I would try hard to side with the scientific and logical evidences.

On the emotion side, I need to focus our thoughts on a supreme being who can love and comfort me in times of need. I can ask Him to answer our prayers, forgive my sins, and worship Him through my emotional connection.

On the intellectual side, I believe there is the law of physics (chemistry, biology and other sciences), which the universe has to obey.

These are some of my cognitive understanding of God.

I believe apart from a few miracles that God or Jesus performed; God uses established laws of physics to make Him known.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”[1]

I believe God made Himself known though the universe He created. When I say “the universe”, I include all the natural laws that govern the universe.

God is consistent. God will not create something look like a square but in fact it is a circle to confuse us.

“God does not play dice with the universe.” – Albert Einstein

I went to a workshop of leading Bible Study groups last evening. The leader used Genesis 1 and 2 as examples of how to read the Bible “correctly”.

The workshop leader is no doubt a Fundamentalist. In the first five minutes of a three-hour discussion, he concluded a “day” in Genesis 1:2 meant a 24-hour day. Of course, he used some “proof-text” from other part of the Bible to form his argument. I honestly do respect such a person is so dedicated to their belief. He belief causes his emotion to supersede any intellectual reasoning.

First, he omitted the historical context. The stories were told though oral tradition before they became a written record. Even I believe the Bible is God-breathed, I am not the original audience of the storyteller. In order to appreciate the origin intent of the storyteller, I have to know the historical context of the story.

Second, he omitted the linguistic context. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. He was using an English translation. No matter how careful and accurate of the translator, the Hebrew used in the Old Testament was over three thousand years old. The meaning of same Hebrew word used today could significantly differ from the word used three thousand years ago. How can one fully identify the full and true meaning of a passage with such time gap?

Third, most importantly, he omitted the cultural mindset of ancient Jewish literature. The ancient Hebrew cosmology, the earth is flat. The sky is a firmament, which has another layer of water above it. God, heavens and angels reside above the water.

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universe

I can list more reasons why I cannot accept a young universe of less than ten thousand years old. I may post them later.

What are the problems of such interpretation? I can think of plenty. That is for another day.

 

 

[1] Romans 1:20


Change

The only people who like change are babies with wet diapers.

We do not like change. We love the “good ole days”. We feel nostalgic and yearn for the better days in the past.

Were the “old days” really better? Our attitudes change over time, some for the better, some not. Over half of my co-workers had no problem lighting up their cigarettes in the office a few decades ago. It was allowed. No one questioned about second-hand smoke.

Change took place. Smokers have to stand outside the building when they lit up. Bad weather is not an excuse, rain storm, snow, or freezing rain… for non-smokers, this is a good change. The “old days” were not good. Progress made.

Only a few decades ago, inter-racial dating was considered unbiblical. Bob Jones University did not drop its ban of inter-racial dating until March 3, 2000 on Larry King Live. This is a segment of conversation between Larry King and Bob Jones III on Larry King Live.

JONES: Well, being a Bible believing institution, Larry, we try to base things on Bible principle. The problem we have today is that our principle is so greatly misunderstood. People think we don’t let them date because we are racist, in other words to be racist you have to treat people differently. We don’t. We don’t let them date, because we were trying, as an example, to enforce something, a principle that is much greater than this.

We stand against the one-world government, against the coming world of anti-Christ, which is a one world system of blending, of all differences, of blending of national differences, economic differences, church differences, into a big one ecumenical world. The Bible is very clear about this.

We said, you know, way back years ago, when we first had a problem, which was — by the way, we started this principle, back in the mid-’50s, I was a college student at BJU at the time and it was with an Asian and Caucasian is — we didn’t even have black students for another 15 years. So it was not put there as a black thing, I think people need to understand that.

KING: So the fear of one world relates back to two people dating?

JONES: Now, we realize that a inter-racial marriage is not going to bring in the world the anti-Christ by any means, but if we as Christians stand for Christ and not anti-Christ, and we see — we are against the one world church. We are against one economy, one political system.

We see what the Bible says about this, so we say, OK, if they’re going to blend this world — and inter-racial marriage is a genetic blending, which is a very definite sort of blending — we said as — let’s put this policy in here, because we are against the one world church and, way back, 17 years ago when I was on your program, I was saying on programs all across America, we are not going to the Supreme Court fighting for our rule and our — we are fighting for our right to it. There is a religious freedom issue, that’s all we ever fought for.

Jones called it, “We tried to base things on Biblical principle.” However, he could not back it up by the Bible he read. In this case, this stand was based on his personal opinion and attitude. The policy might have changed. I do not know whether the attitude of those who hold a fundamentalist view has changed over the last fourteen years.

We all grow up with ideas or principles of right and wrong since childhood. We determine our present moral and ethics values through the teachings or influences from our families, teachers, friends, etc. In most cases, those learned values were embedded in our limbic system of our brains which controls our emotions and behaviours. As we grow older, we accept and act based on those moral codes as our guide. It is not easy for us to forgo those codes once they are entrenched in our minds. In most cases, those moral codes are good guiding principles that prohibit us to steal, commit murder, etc. which are essential to our social structure. These codes also direct our values such as relationships, priority, beauty, rites and rituals, and even the food we eat. It becomes our culture.

Here lies the problem of the Fundamentalists. Some of their guiding principles are

  • All scientists are wrong. The universe is 6000 years old.
  • All homosexuals will go to hell.
  • For some, races have to be separated. Interracial marriage is against God’s desire.
  • Men are born to lead the households and churches. Women are subordinates and should serve and obey. They should not lead, teach, and control.
  • Alcohol is evil. No Christian should drink any alcoholic beverages.

I can list many more rules and dogma. They can list pages of Bible verses to support their views. I will not waste time to discuss my counter-arguments. It is just pointless to argue with their view, since their minds are already made up and they will not change.