Restoring a broken world: via God’s strength in human weakness

In 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, St. Paul the Apostle shared with the Christians and the Church in Rome about how he was mistreated and suffered persecution. He was comparing his suffering with the Christians who gloried in their power and strength. It’s a very stark comparison.

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.
We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!
We are weak, but you are strong!
You are honored, we are dishonored!
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands.
When we are cursed, we bless;
when we are persecuted, we endure it;
when we are slandered, we answer kindly.
We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

What ought to be the norm in Christianity? Is it suffering or is it strength?  In Paul’s days, it was suffering and persecution. Today in the west, the norm is to choose vain human glory and power as if it were a human right. Today, in places like the Middle East, Christians are suffering greater persecution at the hands of radical Muslim terrorists like ISIL, Al Qaeda, etc.

How do we reconcile the injustice inflicted upon the millions of Christians this century?  We cannot ignore the injustice.  We must deal with it in the right way, otherwise, we could end-up with another catastrophic world war, or chemical/nuclear self-annihilation via Mutual Assured Destruction.  Decades ago, it was the Cold War. Today, it’s radical Jihadist Islam bent on creating a worldwide caliphate vs the non-Islamic world that will never relent to an Islamic caliphate.  Is human rights and justice the true answer?

A rights-oriented society likes to talk about justice in terms of human rights. However, did St. Paul the apostle ever once talk about human rights? I do not recall this ever mentioned in his epistles. Rights was not in his religious vocabulary. Rights, as we know it today, is actually a recent human invention since the Enlightenment Period. It has been engraved with human words in the constitutional frameworks of American and French political lawmakers (e.g., U.S. Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens).

The downside and weakness of trying to fight for justice using a framework of human rights is that it can be abused. Human beings have the potential to argue for unlimited types and levels of rights and still consequentially end-up with the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot, Darth Vadar, and The Punisher.

Example: 1) animal rights rather than the utilitarian good of humankind; 2) economic rights for human subsistence, which leads to Marxism/Communism with its horrific ideological means to an end-type of destruction; 3) rights of women for control over their bodies to decide whether to abort unborn babies; 4) rights of persons to choose to suicide; and the list can go on.

What does the bible say about these issues?  Just for starters, Genesis speaks of created world where we care for God’s creation within God’s dominion rather than environmental justice. Jesus and the New Testament speak of sharing and giving to the poor and less-privileged rather than Marxism/Communism. The bible throughout speaks of the sanctity of human life rather than taking away life.

The Gospel of Christ shows the church and the world that God desires to redeem what we have destroyed and twisted. Humanity has a way of manipulating love to seek out one’s selfish interests in the name of caring for one another. However, the Gospel, whether in the Old or New Testaments, show us God’s redemption of a sin-filled world.

Hope is not lost. God still has the ability and power to turn our evil into good but in order for this to happen, we need to confess our sins and seek reconciliation.  We fear confession because there are repercussions to revealing our human wrongs, which may cause even more repercussions (e.g., in Canada, we have harmed the First Nations peoples. In the U.S., we have abused African-Americans through slavery. In our established churches, we have sexually-abused children).  We want to avoid opening up a can of worms for fear of being levied even greater penalties for our past sins.  Denominations, businesses, and nations can go bankrupt from paying endless penalties due to retributive and distributive justice in the courts’ justice system. We need to get past this fear because in God’s love, we have no fear.

There is still good news for all people; however, it’s too bad the world is not able to see this. It is seen with spiritual eyes because God’s redemption comes in a form of weakness. It is far from glorious according to the world’s standards. It is hidden in the form of our suffering and our weakness, but behind it, is God’s power to restore the nations.

The Apostle Paul exemplified this in his above statement to the Roman Christians here in 1 Corinthians 4. Paul’s way of the cross is not worldly but it is deeply spiritual.  Paul’s theology and spirituality is not the most popular because it is contrarian.  Our human temptation is to trust in our own power and strength to destroy or over-power our opposition or weaker party.

Paul’s theology and spirituality is to trust in God’s power to redeem and restore what was lost due to our human evil and sin. It takes faith and trust, and also patience to wait-out and see the results. This is why I stated that this can only be seen with spiritual eyes; in other words, it happens in God’s timing using God’s means and methods–rather than our human timing, means and methods.

May our world come to a deeper spiritual understanding of how God works in this world. May we be truly enlightened by God’s Holy Spirit and words to follow a path shown by God’s love in his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. It is a path towards God’s righteousness and true justice.

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A Father’s Letter to His Daughters…

Here is a blog post from Brandon Andress about his love for his daughters. It is beautifully written so I repost it here. It is found at: https://brandonandress.com/2013/02/11/a-fathers-letter-to-his-daughters/

brandon andress

I have been thinking a lot lately.

I have been thinking about all of our mornings at Starbucks and the conversations we have had about God and life.

I have been thinking about all the nights we laid in your bed and asked questions and talked about all of your dreams.

I have been thinking about all the hikes we have taken and how we talked about beauty and peace and contentment and joy.

Those are the most amazing moments I have ever had in my life.

I will never forget them as long as I live.

But while we have shared in so many special moments and had so many amazing conversations, in too many ways, I have been the stereotypical man, unable to fully open up and express my heart and my feelings to you.

So first let me say that, even though I tell you every night…

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United Airlines disrespectfully kicked passenger off flight

Yesterday, we returned from Taiwan back to Canada on EVA Airlines (a Taiwanese airline).  I am glad to say that we received great customer service from their stewardesses and customer service reps on the ground. I was impressed with how EVA Airlines took care of us and treated us with respect.  I would fly EVA again and recommend them to anyone flying international. They even offered to change the date/time of our return flight free-of-charge (provided their were available seats due to cancellation), and by the way, the food was good too.


I just saw in the news today about a passenger who had a disastrous experience with United Airlines.  It was all over the news and on YouTube videos gone-viral. This paying passenger was violently forced off flight 3411 because they overbooked.

United Airlines needed to fly four of their own employees and needed passengers to give up their seats. No one volunteered when they offered $400 hotel voucher, which was then increased to $800 and still no one volunteered.  Then they randomly picked four passengers to remove from the flight. This last one refused to leave.  The passenger hadn’t done anything wrong but they treated him in an unbelievably disrespectful way.

United Airlines failed to plan, and handled this in a very disastrous way. First, this is not a criminal matter. It was their own fault of failing planning but yet, they brought in police who used force to remove a customer off the plane.  Unbelievable!  This customer was not a criminal.  Police should only be involved if it’s a criminal matter.  A very bad move by United Airlines. It showed disrespect toward this passenger who was a doctor and had patients to see the next day.

Second, they should have used persuasion.  Customers can be persuaded to volunteer to give-up their seat.  If they had offered a $1,500-2,000 cash credit for a flight of their choice to be used in the future, someone would have offered to volunteer… heck, I might even be tempted to. After this disaster, I think United Airlines will be losing millions of dollars in customer revenue–not just hundreds.  I certainly would not fly United Airlines and I foresee many thousands will not be choosing to fly with United in the future. No one should be treated in this abhorrently disrespectful manner.  Even if UA had a right to decline a passenger their flight, it should never treat any customer in such disrespectful manner.

Years ago, Air Canada messed up a flight my wife and I were on but I will always remember.  The airline asked the entire plane who leave due to engine problems, and it happened twice in the same evening.  It was way past midnight.  The only thing Air Canada offered us later was a $250 voucher off a future flight, without an offer for hotel over night. It was a joke, and I was furious and chose not fly Air Canada for many years after that horrible incident.

When things were “Made in Taiwan”

Some say globalism is good; some say it’s bad for the local economy.  It depends who is benefiting from globalism. What is happening in Taiwan is similar to what has happened in Japan. I remember there used to be a time in the 1980 when a lot of cheap goods in Canada were labelled: “Made in Taiwan.” The economy in Taiwan was booming with industry and factories were producing goods locally.  Today, many of these factories have moved to mainland China (Giant, a bicycle maker; Tatung; Acer and Asus, computer makers, etc.).

The result: Taiwan is much different today from 30 years ago.  The economy has slowed down. The dollar is weak and the younger generation has a tough time finding good jobs and they are leaving the country to find greener pasteurs. South Korea may experience this in its near future if it doesn’t make a change in its domestic and foreign trade policies.

My wife got into a conversation with a gardener who laments the situation Taiwan is in. He knows the opportunity existed for the older generation of Taiwanese but no longer exists for the younger generation.  Some of the older is still supporting the younger generations who are living at home.  Sad.

The only people who will benefit will be cheap laborers in China, and rich multinational and American corporations’ owners and shareholders; while American and Canadian laborers will suffer and remain jobless or have low-paying jobs with decreasing benefits.  This is the reality today for many in Taiwan, and the coming reality for North Americans and the millennial generation in their 20s and 30s. This is a reality the global elite don’t want the common person to think too much about and to just quietly accept the status quo–of a statist or shinking service economy.

The solution is simple. Think “Taiwan first” and your own country first.  America, Canada and other countries needs to do the same.   What Taiwan needs to do to make this country stronger is something similar to what U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to do in America.  Encourage your industries and factories to stay and/or move back to Taiwan so that your young Taiwanese generations can have jobs locally in the same country.  Think about jobs for you, your family and your children’s children.

The Emperors’ treasures

National Palace Museum (Taipei, Taiwan)

In Chinese culture, the finest art was present and used in emperors’ palaces. Some art were used to depict gods and deities for thousands of years, from dynasty to dynasty.  I never knew how much I would enjoy Chinese art until I went to several museums in Taiwan like the National Palace Museum (NPM) in Taipei City (and a smaller local museum here in Changhua City).  I saw some of the national treasures in the NPM that were moved by Chang Kai-Shek when he relocated the democratic national government and officials to Taiwan. There is so much art and culture here in this small island nation that my short experience here has increased my appreciation for my Chinese heritage.

Most fascinating to me was an ivory puzzle ball.  Inside are over 20 individual layers that revolve. The amazing fact is that it was carved from a single piece of ivory with j-shaped knife.

I had the benefit of having a few English-speaking tour guides at the museums.  They have been gracious in sharing their background knowledge of many pieces of artwork, and why they are appreciated by connaisseurs and collectors of art.  The information they shared was what made my trip to the museum interesting.  This has whet my appetite to see more Chinese art. Some can date back to even before Old Testament times (5000 BCE).

Starbucks’ unfair trade

The Starbucks’ franchise system is a success here in Taiwan (vacationing here) but what disappoints me about Starbucks Corp. is how much it is charging for its coffee in a developing country. The owner of the multinational corporation claims it is practicing fair-trade coffee, but as I sit here at Starbucks to read and blog, I am noticing some of their hypocrisy.  The purchasing power of Taiwanese people have decreased, but yet, it is charging customers here a premium for its coffee.

A cup of regular brew is 85/95 NT for a tall/grande, which is equivalent to US$ 2.80/3.12 (or Cdn$ 3.73/4.17).  A fair price ought only be 50/60 NT (according to its U.S. currency equivalent). What does this mean? If an American customer in Taiwan were to buy a tall cup of Pike Place, s/he would have to pay an extra US$ 1.15 (or 35 NT). Is this outrageous or what?!  Does this seem like a fair-trade practice to you?

Starbucks is taking advantage of its Taiwanese customers because it knows it can. People here worship almost anything made in America.  The owner/founder Howard Shultz claims he practices fair-trade but what is practiced and preached just seems a little incongruent to me.

It also makes me wonder where else around the world is Starbucks taking advantage of people.

Happier people are married

Wow. The stats from a study by Dr. John F. Helliwell reveals that married people are happier than single people (link here and source here).  To be politically-sensitive, our first reaction might be that we should be quiet about this because it might irk a negative reaction from single people who are set on staying single and who will want to justify their singlehood.  On the otherhand, this news (or old news) should be shouted from the housetops: that married life is to be celebrated.

People who are divorced may disagree with this though.  Their experience of living together with a spouse in an unhappy marriage is subjective and very personal to them, and can be true because it’s based on their own personal experience.

This can pose another question for us to think about.  What makes a happy marriage?  Maybe we can go back to the bible on this one.

Physical exercise vs spiritual exercise?

As ministers, missionaries, etc. who serve in church and Christian organizations we do work that’s supposed to be good for the mind and spirit…you know, stuff like reading the Bible, biblical commentaries, exegesis, sermon preparation, counselling, and other church-related work, etc.  The work we do is related to spiritual health, but doing this to the exclusion of physical exercise is counter-productive.

As ministers and spiritual leaders, I think it is easy for us to make excuses because we rationalize that spiritual exercise is better than physical exercise.  Out of convenience, we take 1 Timothy 4:7-9 out of context.  Fact is, many of us are overweight.  A better rationale is: physical exercise can extend the length and effectiveness of  ministry.

An interesting website/blog I ran into at Faith and Health Connection is directed toward pastors like me who rationalize spiritual health over physical health. (above image is their Model of Faith and Health).

Here’s a video gone viral that made me think about my health. Maybe it will for you too.