Pray for God’s wisdom to guide President Trump

Pray for President Trump and an ethical and moral leadership to carry his Administration through the unilateral attack on Syria’s airbase.

President Assad used chemical gas Sarin to kill innocent Syrian civilians including men, women and children. He is a cruel authoritarian who destroyed his own country and created a huge refugee crisis around the world.  Assad has shown a disdain toward his own Syrian people, forcing them to leave their homes and their country because he didn’t like their views.

This is a crucial time for President Trump because he is exerting a much-needed American leadership in a chaotic world.  There is a need for a more stable Syrian situation in the world.  Pray that God would guide President Trump and give him wisdom.

Doing Good Works: Praying, Fasting, Charitable Giving

Some devoted Christians around the world will be observing Holy Week starting this coming Saturday till Sunday, 9-15th of April 2017. For many this can be set aside as a holy time for praying, fasting, giving alms and doing charitable deeds to help the underprivileged. What a special time!


An angel in Acts, announced to the devoted Cornelius that his prayers of thanksgiving and almsgiving were remembered by God. He is about to come to know Christ.  Acts 10:3-4 says,

3 “About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror, and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God…” (RSV)

Here’s a seemingly simplistic but a spiritual question:
If God recognizes and remembers our prayers and charitable giving, then shouldn’t we be encouraged to pray more and give more? 

Our obvious answer would naturally be “Yes!” but our good works of praying and almsgiving can either be both a good work or they can be done purely out of genuine faith.  Martin Luther cautioned that none of our good works can earn any merit toward our salvation, or earn God’s recognition to merit more approval.  According to Paul, our human righteousness is worthless as rags.  Salvation and good works ought to be done only in faith.

Now here’s a bit of theology to get your head around… If you are past the “human religion” stage and couldn’t care less about trying to earn salvation or earn God’s favor by being a good person, then that’s great!  You are set free to act in good faith to move on to do even more good works.  Since you’ve already been created into God’s beloved child, then you are set free from a human striving in order to please God (see Luther’s quote below).

Be encouraged to observe Holy Week with passion. Pray more, fast more, and be more charitable. Praise the Lord! Do your good works boldly. God loves it and hears it. 

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Martin Luther states in his A Treastise on Good Works (1520):

XVI. But you say: How can I trust surely that all my works are pleasing to God, when at times I fall, and talk, eat, drink and sleep too much, or otherwise transgress, as I cannot help doing? Answer: This question shows that you still regard faith as a work among other works, and do not set it above all works. For it is the highest work for this very reason, because it remains and blots out these daily sins by not doubting that God is so kind to you as to wink at such daily transgression and weakness. Aye, even if a deadly sin should occur (which, however, never or rarely happens to those who live in faith and trust toward God), yet faith rises again and does not doubt that its sin is already gone;…

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.

Gospel of John: a partial account of signs and wonders

In the Gospel of John 21:30-31, Jesus said:

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Sidenote: a fragment of an Egyptian papyri containing a text of Gospel of John 21:20-23

These few verses are rarely discussed, as to its implications, in how we perceive Jesus’ earthly ministry. Upon taking a closer look at what the writer of John’s Gospel said himself, the Gospel represents only a partial account of the totality of Jesus’ earthly ministry because he explicitly said, “…which are not recorded in this book” meaning there are many more signs and wonders that we haven’t read about but that were performed and witnessed by the apostles.

If so, then is it possible that we also may have a partial written account of miraculous signs in the Acts of the Apostles, and of the New Testament epistles? 

Then does the bible as a whole represent a full or partial account of Jesus’ and the apostles’ history and ministry on earth? 

On the surface, this question itself is suspect and smells of heresy because the sufficiency of scripture is questioned.  Before I went to seminary, I might have thought so because I was taught to believe the bible was the entire revelation of God. The word of God was the be-all and end-all.  Do I believe that God is fully revealed in Jesus and that the gospel is fully sufficient for our salvation?  Yes, indeed! But this differs from what some call Bibliolatry.

Acts 5:12 says,

“Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.”

Let’s allow ourselves to ponder… how many of these signs and wonders were actually recorded in the book of Acts?  Back then, it is a fact that few people knew how to write, and to even find a scribe or writer to record everything would have been next to impossible.  The actual total number of acts of God’s miracles and healings would fill up multiple volumes of books. The books of the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles are only a fraction of what Jesus and his apostles actually did on earth. It only gives us a small impression of what their earthly ministry was like.

Moreover, to say that some things were not recorded means that the accuracy, validity and historicity of recorded signs were important to the writer of John’s Gospel. He also implicitly understood that the visible and powerful signs of God would have a major influence in the faith of future generations of believers.

He says that these were written with the intention that future Christ-followers would come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God; and that by believing, we may have eternal life.  Today, this has come true.  Our belief in Jesus as the Son of God was the goal of the disciples in these written instances of God’s signs.

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).

Art and artisans since Moses

The contemporary church has failed to appreciate the value of art, artists, and artistry as an expression of our worship. The Protestant Church in the 16th century expelled much of art and believed that it was unnecessary and extraneous from the core of the gospel. This is why we have not seen much Christian art since the rise of Protestantism.

In the Old Testament (14-13th c. BCE), God had Moses commission the best of the artists, Oholiab, to design items of worship for the sanctuary. These items were not merely for practical uses, but were also meant to be beautiful and artistic–thus, demanding the best of the best artisans to design and craft the holy hardware.

“…and with him was Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an artisan, a designer, and an embroiderer in blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen.” (Exodus 38:23, NET)

During the exile of Jerusalem, the Babylonian King, valued the artists so much so that they were taken captive along with the best military officers, soldiers and craftsmen.

“King Nebuchadnezzar took all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans—10,000 in all. Only the poorest people were left in the land.” (2 Kings 24:14, NLT)

Art was highly valued in worship and is common in all cultures. Why should Christianity not also value artistry in our worship of the Lord?

Asking for whatever you wish

John 15:7 says: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Someone less familiar with the bible who reads this might easily take this to mean that God will grant whatever wish he or she wishes.  I have heard of Christians who innocently asks the Lord for a miracle or healing and receive from the Lord the answer they prayed for. Is this coincidence or for real.  Probably a bit of both.

As a devil’s advocate, I wish to ask: Do we treat God the Father like an earthly father who gives good gifts, or as a genie in a bottle?  The bible directs us to approach God like we would approach a good earthly father.  For some of us Christians, we might hesitate to do so because it would be wrong to treat God our Father like a genie in a bottle who grants whatever wish we desire, but for many of us Christians, it is also practical and simple approach to understanding God. But for many Christians who do ask but do not receive, I have empathy for them.

As a father myself, my daughter will ask me for this and that, and anything she sees and likes. But as a father who loves my dear daughter, I know that some things would be unhealthy or bad for her.  I also don’t want to spoil her.

Our Father God also knows what is good and what is bad for his spiritual children. Wouldn’t God also keep things away from us in order to protect us just like a good earthly father would want to protect his children?  I certainly believe He would.  We have a Heavenly Father who knows exactly what would be good or bad or unhealthy for us.  We would not know it at the time but God knows the future and foresees what would be bad or un- or counter-productive for our lives.

Do you trust our Heavenly Father even if He were to withhold some seemingly good things back from you?

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.