Tag Archives: Jesus

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.


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.


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.