Monday, December 25, 2017

Questions and Answers

After a Sunday service of a local church, a few conversations were over heard in the parking lot:

Q: How did the service go?
A: Good.
Q: The choir good too?
A: Very good.
Q: And the sermon?
A: Very Interesting.
Q: What was the interesting part?
A: Well, don't remember.  My memory loss perhaps.
Q: What did you remember after all?
A1: Good chat with friends which made me homesick.
A2: By the way, the lunch was extraordinary good. There were some homemade sausages mixed with the Johnny Walker Black, I was told. Very tasty, you know.

As far as I can tell the scriptures are full of questions and most answers are rather too traditional and/or predictable. Let me quote two paragraphs from the bible:

And after a time, when men were increasing on the earth, and had daughters, The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took wives for themselves from those who were pleasing to them. And the Lord said, My spirit will not be in man for ever, for he is only flesh; so the days of his life will be a hundred and twenty years. There were men of great strength and size on the earth in those days; and after that, when the sons of God had connection with the daughters of men, they gave birth to children: these were the great men of old days, the men of great name.  (Genesis 6: 1-4)

And he said to them, Truly I say to you, There are some here who will have no taste of death till they see the kingdom of God come with power. (Mark 9:1)

I don't know about you but I do have some questions from the scriptures above. 

Such as where did the sons of God come from?

And why did Jesus emphasize the kingdom of God was at hand and at the same time Jesus said "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not come to an end till all these things are complete. Heaven and earth will come to an end, but my words will not come to an end. But of that day or that hour no one has knowledge, not even the angels in heaven, or the Son, but the Father." (Mark 13: 30-32)  

Let us look at the questions and answers in the gospel of Luke between the young man and Jesus below:

Question: Master, what have I to do so that I may have eternal life?
Answer with question: What does the law say, in your reading of it?
Answer: Have love for the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and for your neighbor as for yourself.
Question: And who is my neighbor?
Here comes the most beautifully and often quoted story -- A Good Samaria story -- followed by yet another question:
Question: Which of these three men, in your opinion, was neighbor to the man who came into the hands of thieves?
Answer: The one who had mercy on him.
Jesus final conclusion: Go and do the same (Luke 10: 25-37) 

What are we really doing in the church service Sunday after Sunday?
There is nothing wrong about the social conversations or enjoying the tasty homemade sausages after the service.  What about the un-answered questions deep inside of your heart?  Have you ever asked the pastor of any of the long time church sisters/brothers?

In case we forgot, we, all of us, whether we are the sheep or the goats, will face the questions at the end of the world as illustrated in the Gospel of Matthew 25: 31-46:

- When did we see you in need of food, and give it to you?
  Or in need of drink, and give it to you?
- And when did we see you wandering, and take you in?
  Or without clothing, and give it to you?
- And when did we see you ill, or in prison, and come to you?

And the King will make answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

Thank goodness that the final question is not going to be whether we are the Baptists or the Catholic, but what we did to the least of the Lord's  brothers and sisters.

p.s. The Bible texts quoted here are from the Bible in Basic English

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Crossing the Line...

        Jesus had been a Jew.

        He taught his disciples to spread the message of the good news within the boundaries of the Jewish territory.

        He walked carefully within the lines set for the Jewish people.

      "These twelve Jesus sent out and gave them orders, saying, Do not go among the Gentiles, or into any town of Samaria, But go to the wandering sheep of the house of Israel,  And, on your way, say, The kingdom of heaven is near. Make well those who are ill, give life to the dead, make lepers clean, send evil spirits out of men; freely it has been given to you, freely give." (Matt 10:5-8).

        At first while encountering the non-Jewish persons, Jesus ignored the crying request of a "Gentile" mother: 

        And Jesus went away from there into the country of Tyre and Sidon. And a woman of Canaan came out from those parts, crying and saying, Have pity on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is greatly troubled with an unclean spirit. But he gave her no answer. And his disciples came and said to him, Send her away, for she is crying after us. But he made answer and said, I was sent only to the wandering sheep of the house of Israel.  But she came and gave him worship, saying, Help, Lord. And he made answer and said, It is not right to take the children's bread and give it to the dogs. But she said, Yes, Lord: but even the dogs take the bits from under their masters' table  Then Jesus, answering, said to her, O woman, great is your faith: let your desire be done.  And her daughter was made well from that hour. (Matt 15:21-27 also in Mark 7:24-30)


Then out of the grace and the love of the Heavenly Father, Jesus crossed that line which separated the Jewish from the outside world for thousands of years. 

Jesus went ahead and healed that foreign daughter who was suffering from the evil ghosts. 

Jesus was a Jew.  

Yet he crossed the line. 

Thanks to that "foreign" mother and daughter. 

Thanks to Jesus who crossed that line. 

By crossing the line Jesus has been the savior of the world. 

Perhaps, when we cross the "lines" of our lives, we'd see the smiling face of God... 

- This brief message was delivered during the adult Sunday School at the  
  Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Greater Chicago on September 17, 2017

-- The Scriptures were quoted from The Bible in Basic English

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Toward a Faith of Honesty and Maturity

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Questions, Answers and Faith Statements

 - By C W Chen

Stephen Chen deeply appreciated the article below presented by C W Chen through which brought up some of the most interesting and discussed points in faith and Bible. 

Abraham is presented not only in the Bible, also in the Koran as a model of Faith, and purely Monotheism. And, at the time of Genesis, he was not a Jew, nor Christian or Islam, correct ? He was summoned by God, pick up by God, became the Father to Multitude of Nations, reverend as the Founder of 3 religions, right? Chapter 12, Sarah was no longer young girl, Abraham as God's chosen man, how comes the Genesis offers no moral judgment on 12:13 ? Chapter 15 and 17, God reappeared after a battle, made a Covenant with him, but who is his descendants, there is still endless war between the Palestine and Israel threatening the world peace. Fear not? What about the terrorized organizations?
This is the specialized area that Politic and Religion can never agree openly with this issue.

Does God shield us all the time?
I personally do not believe that. I don't believe the so called Guarding Angels.

In times of suffering and despair, people will often question that why me ? Surprisingly, the Bible does not have one answer but many answers that often contradict one another.
Do I have the right to complain?

The prophets said that suffering is a punishment for sin.
I absolutely resent or object this type of statement even it is from the statement of the prophets.

But, the book of Job which offers two different answers, one is a test and another one is beyond comprehension – Satan incited God. Ecclesiastes quoted that suffering is the nature of things, so just accept it.
This is the way I'd accept it.

Since we are just human beings and God, after all, is God. So, I’d like to ask that why did God make the earth and us along with it?
I don't see any possible logic answer to this question. I don't believe the Genesis was intended or prepared for this type of question.

The religious people tried to give us many answers from their own theoretical and theological point of view.
If there are more than 3 answers to one question, that means nobody knows the answer. It is quite safe to say that.

Does God really need us? And, why He create everything, including the sufferings?
There are many excuses that I can say to defend the Bible, but there will incur more questions.

I say to you that I have not forget about you and your suffering.


是宗的起源呢?好像自從有人類以來,就有了宗信仰。我看了一下維基百科全書裡面記載很多種種宗的起源的論說。 對我來看,宗的起源不在乎人類對於自己的過去跟將來的不了、還有恐懼而生的。另外一種情形,就是對於這個世界太多的不公平所生的心態。也是說在這個世界上的人生的旅程,不應該就是死了就結束,而是有前世與來世。覺得這個世界的人生不應代表人生的全部,應該還有以前世界-前生以及將來的世界-來生。所以呢,宗就是一種人類對過去的無知、現世不平衡的心態、以及對將來生的恐懼的一種安劑,或者是一種的寄託期待。
我個人出生在基督的家庭,所以呢我理所當然的變成一個基督徒但是我的個性是反對不滿於現況的。現況就是這些在社會上已經建立起來的制度。不滿於現況其實並不是不好的事情。人類文明的進步就是因為你不滿現況。但是在宗上,的不滿現況就不一樣了。不滿現況就有可能是背叛宗,被判是異徒。 基督本身是非常排斥的宗從基督的歷史就可以看到。整個歷史就是迫別人,還是被別人逼迫。殺害其他派或是被其他派殺害。 好現在這種事情少了很多,但並不是沒有在發生。

1. 登山寶訓論八福,那是非常動人安慰人的講道。只是呢,我覺得那講道不是應許而是安慰。馬太福音6:26:【 們看那天上的飛鳥,也不種,也不收,也不積蓄在倉裡,們的且養活們不比飛鳥貴重得多?】的沒有人,因而餓死?
2. 當耶論到禱告的時候,使人充滿無限希望和期待。在馬太福音7:7講到【們祈求,就給們;尋找,就尋見;叩門,就給開門】。這種有力肯定的說話你怎麼不會覺得很動心了呢問題是有沒有什附加的條件呢?
3. 讓我們從另外一個角度來看耶客西馬尼的禱告。耶禱告說:我的父親,若是可以,求不要讓我喝這苦杯!可是,不要照我意思,只要照的旨意。心裡想要要交給人類的是他的期望是最後的決定是在父神 禱告就像他導我們禱告的方式來禱告。但是我們都知道客西馬尼的禱告以後兩天發生的事情。有人解釋說這是呼應了「主禱文」的
最後的訓就是說我會再來、我要再來。我再來的時候就要審這個世界。耶升天以後、最主要的後續是保羅。 保羅調的是望愛。保羅在傳道的時候沒有像耶一樣,行很多的神蹟。保羅在林多前書15:17【基督若沒有復活,們的信便是徒然;在罪裏。】保羅一而再,再而三的調耶的死、耶的復活的再來、以及罪的赦免。所以呢保羅傳福音應許的重點將來的盼望。
有一首詩歌說【神未曾應許天色常藍】。歌詞寫得很好可是在圈裡面,我常聽到的是【神應許什】,們去禱告祈求神會給我很少聽到【神沒有應許什這就是宗信仰的平衡,也一就是人生的平衡馬太福音10:5差這十二個人去,吩咐他們說:*******10:7隨走隨傳,說『天國近了!』10:16「我差們去,如同羊進入狼群;所以們要靈巧像蛇,馴良像鴿10:17 們要防備人;因他們要把們交給公會,也要在會堂裡鞭打10:18 並且們要我的緣故被送到諸侯君王面前,對他們和外邦人作見
們被交的時候,不要思慮樣說話,或說甚話。到那時候,必們當說的話;10:20 不是們自己說的,乃是們父的靈在們裡頭說的。10:21弟兄要把弟兄,父親要把兒子,送到死地;兒女要與父母敵,害死他們;10:22並且們要我的名被眾人恨惡。惟有忍耐到底的必然得救.會裡面很少聽到這些訊息
1. 神未曾應許天色常藍,人生的路途花香常漫;神未曾應許常晴無雨,常樂無痛苦,常安無虞。
2. 神未曾應許我們不遇苦難和試探,懊惱憂慮;神未曾應許我們不負許多的重擔,許多事務。
3. 神未曾應許前途盡是平坦的大路,任意馳驅;沒有深水渠汪洋一片,沒有大山阻高薄雲天。

人不是萬能、人不能勝天。對於天下的事情,人所知道的實在有限。 那麼多的解經家,為了不了解聖經、窮盡一生的功力來解釋聖經。對我來講,不解釋還好,一解釋變出來更多的問題。何必自尋煩惱,相信你能夠相信的,了解你能夠了解的,接受你能夠接受的。

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

A City Without...

Toward the end of September 2015, my wife and I visited some friends in Japan along with a quick sight seeing from Tokyo, Kyoto to Kyushu. With the help of the excellent train network systems, we were able to take quite a few quick views of many cities and villages from the trains, even with the fast moving Shin-Kan-Sen.

Japan must be one of the few countries in the world who knows how to preserve the traditional buildings and keep them well.  With the train quick and brief window views, we heartily appreciate the efforts of the preservation.  The mostly narrow streets; the mountain sides; the yellow/green rice fields; the old roofs, sometime colorful, mostly gray and blue and the unique new high rise buildings…we took them all in with our eyes and a few times with the smart phone camera until we stopped at the city of Hiroshima.

From the view of the station of Hiroshima, we saw virtually all new buildings with only one or two old small houses.  And then we remembered what happened to the city seventy years and two months ago*.  On our way back from Kyushu to Kyoto during another brief stop at the Hiroshima station, we were quiet and solemn while a silent prayer was in my mind - a city without the old buildings

Hiroshima is a city with very few old houses but not a city without the memory.  Memory, one of the few most precious gifts with the human species, serves well among us globally and historically.

Then I remembered while we had lunch with a Taiwanese retired pastor in a suburban of the city of Tokyo just few days before.  He told us that he was somehow upset with some Taiwanese congregations, both in and out of Taiwan, began using the Mandarin instead the Taiwanese language during the worship services. “Even the Taiwanese Indigenous congregations keep their native tongues in their services,” he added.

A city without the old houses like Hiroshima can keep growing because they still have their memory, culture and tradition.  And the lives, past, present and future, are always treasured.

A people without their mother tongue, Taiwanese in this case, one wonders how far and where they can go.

P.S. While it is good and necessary to obtain Multi-language in today’s civilized world, it is sad to see that we would give up our mother tongue somehow.  Language is an important part of our culture that we were born with.  If we lose part of our culture, we lose part of ourselves as well. 

On August 6, 1945, during World War II, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima(廣島市). The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

God Be with Us All

Between September 2011 and January 2013,
I was involved in the learning process with primarily 2 classes: 
1) A class of newly high school graduates; 
2) A class of the ordained ministers who enrolled in 
the advanced study of the theologies.
Almost immediately, I fell in love with both classes. 
Regardless the differences in ages, they are cute in spirit and fresh in the academic adventures.
I searched from both my memory and the up-to-date internet resources to challenge them, also to myself, over the differences due to the cultural and language gaps. 
After all, I have been away from Taiwan for 
some forty years.  
And we still had a lot of fun together!  
Recently I made a quick trip back to the school and  congratulated the graduating students of the class of 2015.  
I have learned that a few of them are going for
advanced study of either M Div. or M Th. program. 
How encouraging this is!
On my way home, I got an email from one of the 
graduating students (see the letter inserted below) 
It reminded me of the scripture from Exodus 3:14 
“…I AM That I AM.”  God said. 
And somewhere back in my mind a more complete 
translation could be: “I was that I was; I am that I am; and I will be that I will be;” to which the Chinese/Taiwanese translation may have expressed better:  我是自有永有的/我是自然而然的.“ (出埃及記 3:14)
It meant that God would be with Moses 
- wherever he went and whatever he did.
It surely means, to all of us, 
that no matter where we’d be 
and whatever we would be doing, 
God is with us as well. 
Laughing, crying, singing, dancing, working...
God is there with us, a little scary
But mostly comforting.  
That is, forever, a good news to us all! 

A letter from a student of the School of Theology, CJCU:
在今年我們即將畢業. 我們每個人的目標也許不同
也許有人委身在, 當兵, 結婚

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