政治、經濟、出埃及 (引言)

原載於 fifteenminutesoverlunch.com, June 10, 2013,以美國教會為背景。有見於近日時局,特別將之翻譯(翻炒)。希望教會可以反省。

https://fifteenminutesoverlunch.com/2013/06/10/what-is-god-doing-in-china/

上帝正在中國做什麼?

「上帝正在中國做什麼?」這-條問題可以有很多不同的答案。以下列舉幾個典型的回答:

答案1:

「上帝在中國有奇妙的作為!我們教會去年差派了一隊短宣隊到中國。我們不能公開的傳福音,所以我們藉著教英語去服侍他們。雖然如此,我們的短宣隊有機會個別地分享個人的信仰,結果有16人信主。讚美主!」

答案2:

「上帝在中國有奇妙的作為!基督教是那裡增長最快的宗教。有些報道說中國有7千萬基督徒,有些報道甚至說中國基督徒數目有1億3千萬!」

以上兩個都是好答案,反對了教會中不同的觀點。但容許我介紹我的好友李業基傳道的觀點:

答案3:

「如果你想知道上帝在中國做什麼,你可以翻閱出埃及記。現代中國很像古埃及。兩者都是當代最大的經濟體。99%的人民努力工作,但享受不了他們努力的成果。他們的出產都是輸出外國,讓1%的人變得富強。為了持續經濟發展,政府不斷建設龐大的基建工程,從而雇用大量奴工。如果你想知道神在中國做什麼,你要讀讀祂當年在埃及的作為。祂永不改變。祂以前所作的事,今天也會再現。」

你認為神只看顧基督徒?抑或祂看顧一切眾生,特別是窮苦人?

你認為神只關心宗教活動?抑或祂也關心經濟、政治、國際事務、和社會公義?

你以為神已經改變?祂對現今世代的要求和以往不一樣?

你的「神」夠這世界大嗎?

Advertisements

Investing in the right direction

Roughly speaking, there are three groups of people in every society – the rich, the poor, and the middle class. When society is changing, the rich don’t want to change, the poor are incapable of change. Therefore the middle class are those who are feeling changes and effecting changes.

Back to our story of the shrewd manager. The three classes are all represented – we have the rich master, the poor debtors who owe the master significant amount of produce, and the shrewd manager in the middle. Now the manager in the middle faces change in his career, what are his options?

He can look up. He can beg his master not to fire him. Or he can go work for another master. He can also take his money and stash it somewhere safe and live on its dividend. These are all things that “regular” middle class do. They invest in upward mobility (e.g. a good college degree), or they invest in a basket of nested eggs.

The shrewd manager acted differently. He knew it was useless to plead his case in front of his master. And he know that the option for his future is limited. (v.3) So he made the best investment – invest by looking DOWN the social ladder. Using his master’s resources, he built relationships with people below him socially.

This strategy worked for the shrewd manager, it works today too. In our corporate world, you can try to please your boss all you want. The moment you become unprofitable, you will be unceremoniously ejected from the organization. Many who climbed up the social ladder realize that the world of the upperclass knows only profit.

Not so down the other side of the social ladder. People in need know how to be thankful. If you help those in need, they will return the favor when the time comes.

Jesus’ commentary on the shrewd manager was very straightforward – so straightforward that it borders being unbelievable. “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” People before money. It is very simple – but those who love money, like the Pharisees, will sneer at this simple principle.

God’s investment plan is simple: Invest in friendship by helping those in need.

When change is forced upon you.

It is happening more frequently to more people:

(All of the followings are real people I know, name changed)

  • John was a software engineer was laid off after more than two decades of service, when he was looking for a new job, he realized that his skills are hopelessly outdated.
  • Mary worked extremely long hours in the financial industry. When her turned 40 and she realized her body cannot handle the long hours anymore. She was promptly replaced by someone younger, cheaper, and more energetic.
  • Edward managed a small investment fund. He found it more and more difficult to make an honest living because most of his competitors had connections with clients with questionable sources of income while he in his good conscience refused to take in such clients. Eventually he quit.
  • Helen was a mid-level manager in a pharmaceutical company. After her company was acquired by its competitor, she was offered either to relocate overseas or take the package. She took the package.

Career changes happen to almost everyone. It is now a rarity to find someone who works for the same company for his or her entire career. Often we not only change jobs, we change our entire careers. I have worked with more than a few engineers who suddenly decided that they want to be real estate agents. I have friends who are fed up with Wall Street and gave up their lucrative careers in the financial industry in search of “something more meaningful”.

For those of us who are “fortunate” enough to keep our jobs, we are not immune to changes. Changes is being forced upon us daily. I work in the newspaper industry, we know we have to adapt to the digital world or be eliminated. 

In the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-14), our main character faces a career change that is forced upon him. He is going to lose his job. Like many of us, he is at a turning point in his career. His old career of being a manager is going to end soon. What he is going to do to cope with this change should be an inspiration to all of us struggling to find a new direction in our careers.

What is more amazing is his boss’ reaction to the manager’s shrewdness. Read the parable and be amazing. More discussion to come… 

A surprising parable

Most Christians and many non-Christians who are exposed to the bible will be familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is one of the all time favorites. The parable impresses us with the love of the Father who longed for the return of his lost son. It is a story of forgiveness and restoration. The story also presents a contrast between the two sons – the young son who lost everything and came to his senses and repented and the elder brother who was self-righteous, unforgiving, and bitter. 

Those who are diligent in studying the bible will also tell you that the parable of the prodigal son is actually the crowning jewel of a triplet of parables recorded in Luke chapter 15. The three parables are the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd left behind 99 sheep to search for the one lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, where a woman who had ten coins search diligently for the one that was missing, and then the parable of the prodigal son. All three stories highlight our Lord’s heart for the lost and how sinners repenting will lead to rejoicing in heaven.

Ok! Here come the surprise quiz: What parable comes AFTER the parable of the prodigal son? Do you know the answer without looking it up in the bible or online?

Jesus told four parables to the assembled Pharisees that day. The fourth one is quite unique and very surprising. The chapter division in Luke does not help us here: the first three are put in chapter 15 and somehow the fourth one ended up in chapter 16. 

Go look up what is the fourth parable. I am sure you will be surprised too. My next post will be discussing how applicable this surprising parable is to our 21st century situation.

 

 

Who said life is a Marathon

Who said life is a Marathon

最近看見一個日本的招募廣告,很有意思,也反映了我寫的田鼠的故事。難得日本這一個講究大一統的民族也有這樣的醒覺。中國人,我們何時才學會走自已的路?

Recently, I came across a Japanese commercial for an recruiting event. It was in Japanese with Chinese subtitle. Here is the subtitle translated into English:

We are running. We are running today. We all run.

The clock cannot stop. Time keep on matching forward.

This is a marathon with no turning back.

We compete with every opponents while racing down this highway of time.

We want to run faster than others. We believe there is a bright future. We believe there is a finish line.

Life is a marathon….

Is that true? Is that life?

NO!

Life is not a marathon.

Who made up this race? Who put up the finish line?

Where should we run to? What direction should we go?

I make my own way! My own way?

Can it be? I don’t know.

The world which we have never seen is so immense. It is much bigger than our imagination.

That is right!

Get off the well trotted path.

We may be perplexed. We may be hurt. But we will run till the end.

What if we fail? What if we go in circle?

We don’t have to compete with anyone.

There is more than one way. There is more than one finish line.

There are as many possibility as there are runners. Each of us is wonderful.

Who said life is a marathon?

A Eulogy to Raymond Fong

(This is a translation of my previous post. Sorry, I don’t have time to write something new. In this April, there has been two deaths in my extended family. Reflecting on Raymond’s life provided me much comfort. Hope it give you strength as well.)

On February 1st, 2014, Raymond Fong concluded his fifteen year battle with brain cancer and returned to Our Father’s house in victory.

 

Jocelyn and I have known Raymond since 1998, the year we were married. Raymond was diagnosed in Hong Kong with a tumor in the middle of the brain. After a diligent search by his brother William, they discovered that Dr. Black at Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston had previous success with cases similar to Raymond. They decided to travel around the globe to Boston for treatment. They did not know any friend in Boston, except that the wife of their pastor at Causeway Bay Baptist Church was once a classmate in nursing school with the mother of my best friend Gideon. Through this connection, Gideon became their host in Boston.

 

Once they arrived at Boston, Raymond had to go through a series of tests and consultations before surgery. So that were a few days when we took Raymond, his wife Shirley and his brother William sight seeing around Boston. Raymond loved to eat, and he was impressed with Boston’s delicacies.

 

On the day of surgery, what was planned to be a 3 hour surgery turned out taking more than 8 hours. Shirley’s overwhelming anxiety can only be quenched by fervent prayers. It turned out that the tumor, which appeared as the size of an egg in MRI, was actually much bigger – roughly the size of an orange. At the end, the surgery was a success; but that was only the beginning of a long road of recovery.

 

Gideon’s house had many stairs, therefore it would be inconvenient for Raymond and Shirley to continue staying at his house after Raymond’s surgery. (William had return to Hong Kong.) Instead, they stayed at our house. During that time, it was as if Raymond had become a baby again: he had to learn to eat solid food, learn to walk again, learn to put on his own shirt, and learn to speak. He had very little energy and slept many hours in a day. Shirley used to wake him up and encourage his effort in rehabilitation by whispering in his ears, “Cheesecake Factory – Now Open!”

 

During that time, Raymond had to take medication to prevent seizure. He could not swallow pills. We tried grinding the pills into powder, but it was too bitter for him to swallow. Our solution was to mix the powder into ice-cream and fed him. He had no recollection of most of the events in Boston, but in his heart he must have wondered why ice-cream in Boston tasted so terrible.

 

Raymond spent more than a month recovering with us. Before he left us, he could manage simple housework. He even planted in our front yard some tulip bulbs, which budded the next spring. To this day, we still have tulips planted in our front yard to remember Raymond.

 

After the surgery, Raymond lost his ability to form long term memory. He memory lasted only for a few minutes. It would take many repetitions for him to remember anything. He could handle simple conversation. If you had the chance to talk to him, you would not notice anything wrong until you had carried on a longer conversation conversation with him. Then you would discover that he had forgotten what you just talked about a few minutes ago. After he finished his rehabilitation in Boston, he returned to a rehabilitation facility in Hong Kong. He conditions did not improve, but instead regressed because the nurses at the facility were not as attentive as Shirley and he did not get the chance to talk to many people.

 

It took a while for their family to adapt to Raymond’s memory problems. He learned to write down everything in a small notebook – which bus to take to get home, phone numbers, name of his nurse, etc. If he had to go to the bathroom at a restaurant, he would find someone to accompany him, or else he would not be able to find his way back to his table. Slowly, Raymond and Shirley learned to cope with the inconveniences of his memory loss.

 

My family visit Hong Kong frequently. Every time we went back, we made an effort to visit Raymond and Shirley. If we were all busy, we would have a quick dinner or desert. When we could afford the time, we would go on a field trip. Raymond remembered nothing about his trip to Boston, but miraculously he remembered me and my wife.

 

Through the years, the cancer never went away. After the initial surgery, Raymond had more than ten surgeries. Sometimes after a surgery he would become more alert. Other times he would become less responsive.

 

Shirley took Raymond touring whenever possible. They had not only travelled throughout Hong Kong, but also went overseas. They even went on a pilgrimage to Israel. People asked Shirley, “Raymond can never remember his travel. Isn’t it a waste for you to take him on trips?” Shirley’s answer was, “He may not remember, but the people around him will remember him.”

 

I once shared with a non-believing relative of mine about Raymond’s condition. He said quite bluntly, “If I were him, I would have preferred death.” If not for the sake of being a witness to Christ, for Raymond to have fought with cancer for fifteen years would have been worse than death. The love of Christ, however, made all his suffering meaningful. Raymond and Shirley showed us how what is sacrificial love. We saw them serving the Lord unceasingly, both inside and outside their church. They were praiseful even in the hospital. Raymond sang so beautifully that his hymns and praise songs moved the doctors, nurses and other patients. He was a beloved angel in the hospital. In his weakness we saw the strength of God. The Apostle Paul once said, “To live is for Christ, to die is to gain.” That was such an appropriate description of Raymond’s life.

 

The last time we met with Raymond, we took him to Hong Kong’s fisherman museum on Lamma Island. The very first sentence Raymond said to us that day was, “Have you had your morning devotion this morning?” His pure heart and his devotion to the Lord put us all to shame.

 

I know many of us had been praying for Raymond and Shirley throughout their years of battle with cancer. We were wishing for a miracle. I now know for a fact that miracle did happened. No. It did not happen to Raymond. Instead the miracle happened on all of us who were inspired by his life. Raymond was strong in his faith, he did not need any miracle to make hime stronger. Instead it was all of us who knew Raymond who benefited. Through Raymond, we learned to have faith, we learned to cherish, we learned to sacrifice, we learned to love. This was the miracle of Raymond Fong!

 

悼方家熾

方家熾於201421 日,即農曆年初二,結束了十五年與腦癌的戰鬥,凱旋回到天父懷抱。

 

我們夫婦認識家熾是在1998年。那時我們剛結婚。家熾在香港診斷出腦中央部份有腫瘤。他哥哥家煒四出尋訪名醫,得知波士頓的 Dr. Black 有醫治類似腫瘤的經驗,故千里來到波士頓動手術。他們在波士頓舉目無親,幸得銅浸的師母和我的好友 Gideon 的母親當年是護士學校的同學,所以他們一家就寄宿在 Gideon 家。到波士頓後先有一連串的掃描和檢查,然後排期做手術。所以在手術前我們有機會和他們一家遊覽波士頓。尤其是家熾饞嘴,自然是要多嘗本地美食。

 

手術當天,原本預計三小時的手術足足用了八小時。杰英自是急如熱鍋上的螞蟻,不住的禱告。原來掃描顯示像雞蛋大小的腫瘤開刀後發現是像橙一般大。最終手術成功,但這只是漫長的復健旅程的開始。

 

手術後,因為 Gideon 家多梯級,不方便家熾出入,家熾和杰英來了我們家休養。家熾那時就像剛出生嬰兒,喫喝要餵,不會走路穿衣,説話也是從新學起。杰英不斷用 “Cheese Cake Factory ﹣Now Open!” 來鼓勵家熾早日康復。那時家熾要服用防癲癎的藥,他不會吞藥丸,把藥磨成粉又太苦,他不肯喫。結果我們的辦法是把藥粉混在雪榚中餵他喫。雖然他對那段時間的事情沒有記憶,但他的心中一定在懷疑為什麼波士頓的雪榚會那樣的難喫。在我們家中休養了一個多月,家熾慢慢的復元。後來他可以做簡單的家務,以至可以在我們家的前園種下鬱金香。(秋天種的鬱金香,第二年的春天才開花。)直到現在,我們家前園還是種有鬱金香,以記念家熾。

 

手術的創傷破壞了家熾形成長期記憶的能力,他的記憶力只能維持數分鐘。新的人和事,他要長時間和多次的重複才可以記住。他能夠應付日常的對話,旁人不會察覺他的記憶力有問題,但多談一會就會發現早前說的話他很快會忘記。在波士頓休養完畢,回到香港入住療養院,他的情況沒有改善,反而因為看護的照顧沒有杰英的細心,又少人和他談話,反而倒退了。

 

過了一段時間,他們一家慢慢的適應了家熾的記憶障礙。他把一切大小事情都記在記事本中,例如乘那一路巴士回家,家中各人的電話號碼等都一一記下來。和他上餐館時去洗手間一定要有人相陪,否則他可能忘記了坐在那一桌。一切的不便,杰英和家熾都適應了。

 

我們一家經常回香港,每次都會探望家熾和杰英。大家沒有時間就簡單的喫個飯,或是去喝糖水;有空就會一起郊遊。對波士頓的一切人和事,家熾都記不起來,惟獨是還記得我們夫婦倆。家熾的病情反反覆覆,多年來又再做了十多次的手術。有時手術後他會變得「精靈」,有時會變得木訥。杰英不單在香港會帶着家熾四出遊玩,也會帶他出外遊埠,幾年前也帶他去以色列聖地遊。有人問她:「家熾反正都不會記得去過什麼地方。妳還帶他四處遊玩,不會浪費嗎?」杰英的回答是:「他可能記不起,但我們這些在他身邊的人都會記得!」

 

有一次,我和一位不信耶穌的親戚分享家熾的病情,他很直接的說:「如果我像他一樣,我倒不如死了痛快。」如果不是為了見證基督,從家熾個人的角度來看,他和癌病的十五年作戰真的是生不如死。但基督的愛令家熾的苦難變得有意義。他和杰英完完全全的表現了什麼是捨己的愛。看見他們不斷的見證主,在教會事奉。以至在醫院中也不忘讚美,醫生、護士、病人都被他的詩歌感動。他是醫院中被愛戴的天使。在他軟弱的身體中顯現了神的剛強。我們最後一次見家熾時,我們相約去南丫島漁民文化村。見到家熾他第一時間就問我們:「你們今天做了靈修沒有?」他對靈命的專一,真是叫我們汗顏!使徒保羅說的:「活着是為基督,死了就得益處。」那樣崇高的心志,家熾做到了。

 

我知道世界各地的認識家熾和杰英的基督徒都有在過去的年月不斷的為家熾禱告。我們希望神蹟會來臨。我可以確切的告訢大家,神蹟實實在在的來臨了。不是降臨在家熾的身上,而是臨在我們這一羣被家熾所感動的人身上。家熾對神有無比的信心,他不需要神蹟。反而我們因為家熾的見證,我們學會了信心,學會了珍惜,學會了無私,學會了彼此相親相愛:這就是家熾的神蹟!