Story of the field mice.

(This is the English translation of my preivous post)
In a certain field was a village of field mice. They lived in burrows. Their diet was mainly grass seeds and roots. Their lives were mostly worry-free except for a hawk living in the nearby woods. This hawk was always lurking around in the hope of catching some mice for food.

In the mouse village, each mouse had its own strengths and occupation. Hulky was the strongest, he was responsible for tunneling.

Fatty had the best taste, he was the chef.

Spectacle had the best eyesight, he was the sentinel. Every time when the mice went above ground to collect food, Spectacle would keep watch at the burrow entrance. Before the hawk could approach the mice, he would warn them, telling everyone to run back inside. Generally the mice never wander too far away from the burrow. So the hawk had little chance of catching them.

The oldest mouse in the village was the mayor. When he was young, he traveled a lot. Therefore he was very knowledgable.

Speedy was the mayor’s son. He was the fastest runner. What was his occupation, you might ask? Well, he was a thief. He was very sneaky, so he was rarely caught. The few times he was caught, he was let off easy on account of his father being the mayor.

One day, Speedy went to Fatty’s kitchen to steal food and was discovered. Fatty was furious and was chasing after him. In his haste to escape, Speedy ran outside of the burrow to the open field, trying to escape to the woods.

Fatty was going to chase him down. But before he ran too far from the burrow, Spectacle, who was keeping watch, suddenly cried out, “The hawk is coming! The hawk is coming!”

This sent Fatty scurrying back into the burrow. Before he went back underground, he looked back and saw the hawk quickly closing in on Speedy. He thought, “Speedy is dead! ”

In fact, the hawk did caught Speedy and took him back to its nest. When the hawk was about to eat him, Speedy begged for mercy. “Brother Hawk, How mercy on me! As you can see, I am small and thin. I won’t make a good meal. You’ll still be hungry after eating me. I promise that if you let me go, you’ll have mice running to you every few days. You can eat mice to your heart’s desire!”

The hawk was enticed by his offer, and asked, “Really?”

Speedy replied, “I guarantee it with my life. If you let me go home, mice will volunteer themselves for your enjoyment. I only have a small request: Can you shake the branches, so that acorns will fell to the ground?”

The hawk said, “That is easy!” It patted its wings, shaking the branches vigorouly. And soon there were plenty of acorns on the ground.

Seeing his chance to escape the hawk, Speedy come quickly descended to the ground. He picked up two large and fragrant acorns, and went back to the burrow.

Inside the burrow, the mice were mourning the fate of Speedy. Fatty personally went to the mayor’s home to apologized, “I am responsible for Speedy’s death! Sure, he stole my food, but stealing food is not a crime that is worthy of death. I should not have chased him. I should not have made him ran outside and be eaten by the hawk.” And he started wailing.

Just as every one was mourning, Speedy’s voice came in from the outside, “Don’t cry! I’m okay! I am back safe and sound!”

Every one was amazed. They surrounded Speedy and started to ask him how he escaped from the hawk’s claws.

Speedy answer with pride, “Because I ran! The hawk was not fast enough to catch me and I was able to run all the way into the woods. When I was inside the woods, I found a lot of acorns on the ground. There was only one of me, so I only managed to bring back two acorns. Fatty! I stole your food and I was wrong. Please accept this acorn as my apology. The other acorn I give to my most beloved Daddy – the mayor! ”

Because the mice had been living underground, most of them did not know what acorns taste like. The mayor, with his vast experience, explained the nutritional benefits of acorn to the mice. Fatty was of course hugely relieved that Speedy returned safely. He used all his cooking skills on his acorn so that every one can have a taste of this novel delicacy. The mayor also donated his acorn for everyone’s enjoyment. Unfortunately, there were too many mice, so each of them could only have a small bite. Nevertheless, the taste of acorn was memorable.

After dinner, Speedy stood up and said, “Folks! The fact that I came back safely proves that the hawk is not as scary as we believed. If we run fast enough, we can go to the woods to collect acorns. Starting tomorrow, I will be your running coach. May we eat acorns everyday! ”

The mice were intrigued by the prospect of eating acorns everyday. The mayor also sparked their interest by praising the benefits of acorn as if it was food from heaven. The next morning, there was a large group of mice following Speedy into vigorous training – with dreams of running faster than the hawk, and winning acorns in the process.

Three days later, Speedy thought the opportune time had come. During their morning practice, he told the mice, “After three days of training, we have significant speed improvements. I believe we are now fast enough to out run the hawk. Let us start our first acorn run today at noon. Let us we bring back our acorns from the woods! ”

At noon, a group of more than thirty mice ran out of the burrow together under the leadership of Speedy. They ran straight towards the woods. What a sight! Even the hawk was admiring the running mice. It knew it had to be patient, so it waited until the mice are halfway to the woods before it attacked.

Hulky was one of the running mice. Although he had great strength, speed was not his forte. Moreover, he had to work his tunneling job, so he had less time to practice than the other mice. Consequently, he was the slowest runner and became the hawk’s lunch of the day.

The remaining mice reached the woods. They were overjoy to discover acorns everywhere. They gathered as many acorns as they could carry. When they were ready to make the return trip, the hawk was already full, and it did not attack them.

As soon as they returned to the burrow, the whole village exploded with joy. The happiest of them all was Fatty the chef. He spent his day planning for various acorn recipes: acorn pie, stir-fry acorn, acorn stew. He was anxiously waiting for the arrival of his main ingredient. With the acorns were there, they were ready for the acorn feast!

Everyone enjoyed the feast, but a few of them remembered of death of Hulky. In the middle of the feast, the mayor stood up and addressed the mice, “Today, we have entered a new era. We have a new source of food which is more nutritious. Henceforth, we will be more healthy, more energetic, and can run much faster! In the outside world there is a famous scientific principle called ‘Survival of the Fittest’. One of us was sacrificed today because he could not run fast enough. This is living proof of ‘survival of the fittest’. From now on, for our survival, we have to run faster!”

That day began a “running fever” in the mice village. Speedy naturally became the village hero. Only Spectacle remained skeptical. Because of this, he quarreled with his wife. He said, “No one in this village knows the attack speed of the hawk better than I. No way can Speedy out run the hawk! It must be a lie!”

His wife said, “He brought home acorns, didn’t he? What proof do you need? Now every mouse in the village is eating acorns. We are still eating grass roots. The mayor says that acorns are rich in protein. You can go ahead and be a coward. But our kid can not do without nourishment or he will grow up thinner and weaker than the others kids. If you do not bring back the acorns, I will divorce you!”

When his wife mentioned their kid, Spectacle’s heart softened. He said to his wife, “For our kid it is worth the risk. If I die, I die!”

One week later the stockpile of acorns was gone. The mice once again had to collect acorns. This time Spectacle was also involved. When the hawk saw Spectacle, it recognized that he was the sentinel. It reasoned, “If I get rid of him, it will be much more convenient to catch mice in the future.” So the hawk picked its target. Poor Spectacle did not even have a chance to scream.

Since then, the mice regularly run into the woods to collect acorns. With Spectacle out of the way, Speedy can now sneak out and make contacts with the hawk. He informed the hawk everything regarding the movements of the mice. The mice on the other hand, had no idea of Speedy’s secret dealings and still regarded him as their great hero. Some mice wanted to emulate the success of Speedy and started their own running schools. Under the co-operation between Speedy and the hawk, one by one these competitors became empirical proof to the principle of “survival of the fittest “.

One day, when Speedy and the hawk had one of their secret meetings, the hawk said to Speedy, “We are perfect partners! Thanks to your arrangements, I am now having too much to eat. Remember the last time you asked me to take care of the fat mouse? Eating him really drove up my cholesterol! At this rate, I am afraid I will soon be too fat to fly! Honestly, I feel sick just seeing a fat mouse.”

Speedy replied, “Fatty tried to buy acorns in the black market from another supplier behind my back. Ha! He gets what he deserves! Don’t worry about your weight problems. I will take care of it! I guarantee that beginning next week, your diet of mice will be sweet, tender, and healthy! Top quality stuff! The best of the best for you my dear friend!”

The hawk said, “That’s great! It is such a pleasure doing business with you!” Then Speedy quietly returned to the burrow.

The next morning, a huge poster appeared in the village:

“Give your children a head start in life!!!”

Why would you want to see God?

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God. – Matthew 5:8

When modern day western Christian read the verse, we tend to think of this verse as a promise to an uplifting worship experience – we sing of praise songs with loud music and those who have pure hearts enjoy the experience deeper because they can feel God’s presence.

I am quite sure the original audience of the sermon on the mount did not think that way. So what did it mean to “see God” in the first century?

To begin, attempting to see God was (and still is) a fearful, dangerous and often fatal, venture. Our God is a holy God and the bible has ample evidences that even prophets and apostles fell down in mortal fear when they encountered God.

So why would one want to see God? In Chinese there is a phrase “上訪”, which means “upward visit”. Imagine you are a poor Chinese peasant. A powerful real estate developer took your farm by force and bribery. What are your options? You can try sue the real estate developer in the district court. That usually does not bring favorable results. What you would need to do is to take the train to Beijing and make your appeal to the officials in the central government. Maybe you can find the sympathetic ears of some one who is powerful enough to make a difference.

The situation of the original audiences of Jesus probably resonates closer to the poor peasants of China than to praise singing worshipers. They were poor Jewish peasants being oppressed by both their own religious leaders and the Roman government.

The message of Jesus to those people was “God is King”. The Kingdom of God is here, and God is in charge. He is making judgement from His throne. You, though you are poor and powerless, can see Him and plead your case to Him as long as your heart is pure. He is our advocate, we are no longer helpless.

Why would you want to see God? When you see Him, what is your plead?

Survival of the Fittest

Last Wednesday was the last day of school for my daughters. To celebrate, the school had a talent show. Obviously, some acts are better than others but it was a lot of fun for everybody. I noticed two girls whose act was just upstaged by another boy. The boy was singing a similar song with more spectacular background music. The two girls looked at each other and said, “we should do this next year!” then sang along with the boy. Not a hint of envy or any negative sentiment.

Later the same week, I had dinner with friends sharing news from Hong Kong. Kids in Hong Kong begin their struggle to get into good schools from birth. Kindergartens have entrance interviews and parents send their two year olds to intensive training to prepare for those interviews. When they come to elementary school, the kids are competing not only in academics, but also in music, sports, experience in world travel, as well as how much their parents donate to “selected charities”.

The most destructive aspect of the theology of evolution (I distinguish between the theology of evolution from the science of evolution) is not that evolution teaches us that God did not created the world. Most people still believe that God created heaven and earth. The most destructive aspect of the theology of evolution is the concept of “survival of the fittest”. Survival of the fittest has permeated through our culture and done damage in our business lives, our political systems, and our education.

Survival of the fittest belongs to the theology of evolution, the science of evolution teaches us instead “survival of the collaborative”. In real life ecosystem, species live in collaborative balance. Without wolves, the sheep will grow too numerous. The grassland will be damage, the ecosystem collapses.

Survival of the fittest teaches that there is no friendly competition, every competition is a fight to the death. Loser don’t deserve to live. We don’t live by words that come from the mouth of the Lord. Grace has no place in life.

Because it is survival that we are talking about, we have to win at all cost. Cheating and backstabbing are just tools of survival. We have to turn everything into competition. Education is competition, music is competition, arts is competition, beauty is competition, worship is competition. Life is one big season of “Dancing with the stars” or “American Idol”: you don’t get the votes, you are eliminated. Bye bye, sayonara, good riddance, go rot in hell for all I care.

Survival of the fitness deny us of grace. We are not allowed to show grace and to receive grace.

We like to think of life as a rat race. And we are all too eager to enter our kids into the same race too. Let me remind you that if a rat starts racing against other rats out in nature, that rat would probably become afternoon snack of some bird of prey.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (I Peter 5:8, John 8:44)

What is God doing in China?

The question “what is God doing in China?” has many answers. Here are some typical ones.

Answer 1: “God is doing wonderful things in China! Last summer our church sent a mission team to China. We cannot share the gospel openly there, so when we go we serve by teaching them English. Nevertheless, our last mission team got the chance to share our faith personally with a number of students. 16 of them accepted Christ! Praise the Lord!”

Answer 2: “God is doing wonderful things in China. Christianity is the fastest growing religion there. Some reports say that there are 70 million Christians in China while some say the number may be as high as 130 million.”

Both good answers, each of them reflect a different perspective. But let me introduce the perspective of Gideon, a friend of mine:

Answer 3: “If you want to know what God is doing in China, turn to the book of Exodus. Modern China is quite similar to Ancient Egypt. Each of them was/is the biggest economy of their time. 99% of the workers work really hard without receiving the benefit of their labor. Their products are shipped overseas so that the other 1% become rich and powerful. In order to keep the economy going, the government build massive infrastructure projects employing more slave labors. If you want to know what God is doing in China, just read what God did in Egypt. God never change, what he had done before, he will do again.”

Do you think that God only cares for Christians or do you think that God cares for all people, especially the poor?

Do you think that God only cares about religious lives, or do you think that God care about economics, international relations, and social justice?

Do you think that God has changed so that He deals with us differently from the way He dealt with previous generations?

Is your God big enough for this world?

BTW, can you tell me what God is doing in your church?

Chinese New Year Greetings

每逢農曆新年,大家都會互相恭賀。傳統的「恭喜發財」、「萬事如意」、「龍馬精神」是大家見面必然的賀詞,代表的不只是禮貌的對答,亦是對來年一份的希望和祝禱。

近年來為求創意,有人會用一些比較另類的祝賀語,如:「不勞而獲」、「百毒不侵」、「彩票多中」等。可算是對來年另類的期望,也可說是對生活的無奈作少許抗議。

 我在想基督徒又有什麼既正氣且另類的祝賀呢?我想到了傳道書3:12-13。

 12 我知道,世人莫強如終身喜樂、行善。 13 並且人人吃喝,在他一切勞碌中享福,這也是神的恩賜。

原來神的恩賜不只是「喜樂」、「享福」,「勞碌」和「行善」也是神對人莫大的恩賜。誠然努力得來的成就比不勞而獲的利益珍貴得多。在「勞碌中享福」是上帝給我們的禮物,也是對現世為富不仁者的警誡。

所以我在這裡祝大家在蛇年:「心安理得」、「自食其力」

 

Blackberry poisoning

Perhaps we remember the thrill of getting a company issued cell phone – we are now important enough that the company is going to pay to allow us to communicate. That delusion is quickly replaced by unrelenting assault that little device perform against our personal lives. In 2008, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that employees with company phones often worked more than 50 hours a week, with 62 percent saying that having the gadgets triggered demands that they work more hours; 38 percent said that the demands increased “a lot.”

European companies have started to wake up against this invasion. For example Volkswagen has banned email to employees outside work hours – with the exception of senior management. Here in the “highly productive” U.S., we probably will never follow the examples of those “lazy” Europeans. We love our Blackberries, even when they are poisoning us.

Let us wake up to the fact that having a company issued phone really does not mean that you are important. When your company downsize, you’ll be gone regardless. To the contrary, the more your business is conducted over the network, the easier it is for your job to be outsourced to India.

“No!”, you might say, “if I miss my message, the company will suffer a great loss!”

Let’s look at this from another perspective. In the computer industry, we all know the value of having backup systems. Every system fails sooner or later – human beings included. To survive failures, we need backup plans. Those backup plans need to be up to date and exercised – that is why we have to have fire drills regularly. A well designed system cannot have a single point of failure, just as any building needs multiple fire escapes.

If your company suffers loss when you miss a phone call during your dinner, you are the company’s single point of failure. A well run company should have arranged for backup staff, and those backup staff should be well trained and authorized to make decisions in your place. In a well organized company, there should be no one who can hold the entire company hostage.

So if you get a lot of emails and phone calls after hours, or when you find yourself having to interrupt your family life to attend to business, do not rejoice and think that you are indispensable. You are just working for a dysfunctional company.

What do you owe?

Just got a letter from the IRS that I owe them about $40 – I have paid off my taxes alright, but that is the interest and penalty from 2 years ago. Uncle Sam always gets you up to the last penny you owe him.

Leviticus 26:33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. 34 Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.

In the Old Testament history of Israel, we learn that Israel have been unfaithful to the Lord and therefore the Lord punished them through exile into Babylon. We have learned that they were punished because of idolatry. Leviticus 26 put the exile in a different light. The exile is also a punishment for violating Sabbath.

When we reflect upon this statement, violation of Sabbath is indeed both a form of idolatry and a result of idolatry. Worshiping idols in pagan temples demonstrates a lack of Faith in one’s religious life, violating Sabbath demonstrates a lack of Faith in one’s social-economic life. If you decide to work on Sabbath instead of honoring the Lord, you are showing the world that you have more faith in your bank account than in the Lord’s provisions.

Leviticus 26 also tells us that when we violate Sabbath, we owe a debt to “the land”. I have explained in previous blogs that “the land” is not a inanimate piece of real estate. Instead “the land” is an organic entity God created to sustain both the rich and the poor, both domesticated animals and wild beasts – what we would call an ecosystem. When we violate Sabbath, the environmental condition worsens; the land cannot adequately provide for the poor, and social-economic conditions worsens.

The land belongs to the Lord, and the Lord will be its advocate. Back to the example of Old Testament Israel: let’s say the nation began with King David, who rose to the throne circa 1010 B.C – give or take a few years as David did not rose to power overnight. The nation was destroy by the Babylonian around  590 B.C. also give or take a few years because the were a few rounds of destruction. (Jerusalem was captured 586 B.C.) So the nation lasted roughly 420 years. For every six years of working the land there should have been one year of Sabbath. 420 divided by 6 is 70. How long was the Babylonian captivity? 70 years. (Jeremiah 25:11) Bad news – God is a good accountant.

How much debt have we accumulated as a society against the environment? How much debt have we accumulated against the poor? How much do you owe personally?

I have bad news for you and for all of us – God is a good accountant.