Monday, December 23, 2013

Unwinding & Rewinding

This is the first holidays I have had since moving to Singapore in 2008. I could really unwind, doing nothing, relaxing my mind without writing new courses, reading chapters of theses and examining theses as I had done in my past holidays. But too much relaxation is not good for the soul and I am thankful that 2 weeks ago I could preach in a village church and get back preaching in Malay. Tomorrow I shall be preaching in a Christmas Eve service followed by Christmas the next day. Two more messages in Sabah and I am about done for 2013 except for a New Year Eve's sermon in Singapore to welcome 2014. It has been a busy year. I preached the first Sunday of January 2013 and I shall end the year by doing what I have been called to do so that we may be filled with the fruits of righteousness that come through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of iur God (Phil 1).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Moses' 40 Years in Wilderness

What did Moses do for 40 years in the wilderness? Looking after his father-in-law's sheep and goats. Quite similar to his forefathers, Jacob and the 12 patriarchs and David who came after him. There must be long days and nights, year in and year out, for 40 years. Moses was 80 years old at the time when the Psalmist thinks only the strong could last. Yet, Moses began his career afresh at 80. At an age past retirement when the world has no more use of aged men, but what the world thinks worthless is chosen by God. Our God is a god of reversal, reversal of worldly standards as Jesus said in Luke 16, "what is highly esteemed by men is abominable to God". In that context it was money highly prized by the Pharisees but Jesus saw through their religiosity, a smokescreen for their love of money and greed.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Righteous shall Live by Faith

This is a key text for Paul in Romans. It is the key for Christian living. What does it mean by living by faith? First, it means believing in God and believing in the One whom God sent, Jesus Christ (John 6). By believing in Him, we gain life, eternal life with the Father and the Son. Living by faith means trusting in God from day to day, not just for spiritual salvation from sins and condemnation but also for daily sustenance. It means looking to the Lord for our bread, our daily needs. Often faith does not seem to be relevant in day to day living. If it is not so one may rightly ask, "Am I righteous before God?" For the righteous shall live by faith. It means obeying God though outward circumstances suggest perhaps it is best to rely on human plans and human efforts.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Winter in Jerusalem (Matt 24.20)

Jesus commanded his disciples to pray that when the End-time comes, their flight from Jerusalem will not happen during winter. Jerusalem's winters are normally mild but the past couple of days have seen snow storms so severe which cut off routes and flooded several places in or near the holy city. Is the end-time near? This Christmas, Christians will ask the question afresh with greater urgency, seeing that we have seen several portents and signs during 2013.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Old Friends & New World

I had a visit from a friend after sending a message to his dad that I was hoping to contact him. He was one of my closest friends during the secondary school years that lasted until we were starting our careers. He did very well for himself financially and the first question he asked me was how I was coping financially since I was serving God. To many serving God is unimaginable since how can one survive if we don't work for money. I told him how God provided for me for 19 years in full time minstry. We talked over tea and 1.5 hours passed quickly. On our way back he asked me the same question about how I could cope finanicially. He was surprised that I had supported my son in New Zealand for 6 years. I gave him the same answer that God had provided and will provide.

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Old World

The security guard was eyeing me when I continued taking photos of my first school, primary for 6 years and 2 years in Secondary before leaving Sandakan for good. Not wanting the guard to be worried I chatted with him on my way out and tokd him that I was an old boy, exactly 36 years ago. The school did not change much but looking at the football field brought back many memories. I played soccer at noon before claases started at 1pm for the afternoon stream. I competed in athletics and high jump.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Making a Fresh Start from where it Started

It has been exactly 12 years since I last visited my hometown in 2001. At that time 12 years ago I had no idea where my career was headed, whether I could even finish my PhD. But within a year I was appointed pastor of my homechurch. NOW I have arrived at another cross-road, not knowing by middle of next year where I shall be headed. BUT always trusting in God who chose this little town called "Little Hong Kong" to give birth to me, almost 50 years ago. I looked up a close friend from my secondary school days, someone I had not met for more than 20 years.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bitter Sweet

I had such joy returning from a weekend ministry in Kota Belud, near the place where I started ministry in 1994. It was sweet, sweeter than the honeycomb when you know you are proclaiming God's word, blessing many people. The church was full to the brim on Sunday morning with 350 adults and over 100 children in attendance. But Monday came the bitterest experience. Indeed it was a like a thorn in the flesh almost stole the joy I had on Sunday. Like Elijah after his great triumph on Mount Carmel he had a valley low experience of dealing with Jezebel. What I learned is humility ready to be villified for Jesus' sake and not let elation take too much place in one's soul since we are still in the flesh and there will be many thorns until we meet the Lord in the air.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Into the Interior of Borneo

When I told my wife that I am a home missionary she thought I simply did not fit the bill. Normally a missionary is someone sent to a far away land, but as an urban Malay-speaking Chinese preacher I have ministered among the indigenous peoples of Borneo for a quarter of a century. Tomorrow I shall be travelling to a village 2 hours from KK and will preach in a church over the weekend.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

7 days at the Watch-tower

The prophet Habakkuk tells us that he stood on a tower waiting to see what the Lord would say to him. It is rare that I have the opportunity in the past 7 days to wait on the Lord without busying myself with work or study. Surely on the 7th day I had this impression on I was going to do in the next few years. The Lord impresses upon me to teach His Word to reliable men and those who are able to teach others as well. When I look at my home denomination, the need to reach and impact the next generation is never greater.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Flowing with your Gift

I think it is Proverbs that it is written a gift will make one's way to the King. We have been given gifts and talents from the Lord. These gifts should be used to the maximum in the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth. Often times the gifts are used for personal gain but not for the glory of God. Sometimes these gifts are not used effectively and the returns are marginal. At times these talents are hidden and they are useless and laid forlorn. But he who uses his gifts to the maximum will be blessed by the Lord and the anointing follows the gift for whom the Lord has given he will empower to the full. Young Christians sometimes fail to recognize their giftings and it is important for leaders to identify and nurture these gifts and give encouragement to all to use them effectively to build the house of the Lord. In his house there are many utensils and each is so set to work according to its purpose. So you need to determine your gift or giftings from the Lord. You will need to use them to the maximum and seek the greatest returns.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wedding & Church

I attended a wedding at church yesterday and went for the dinner reception last night. It was an easy decision for me to return home earlier as it was my elder's daughter's wedding. This elder was especially supportive when I was a new member, joining his home group and seeing his children growing up was a joy. When I became a pastor, he was the deputy chairman and did a large share of work in the ministry. I remember well how he took me to my first of 3 inter-faith dialogues at a public university.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

God of Jacob

Today I had a wonderful time worshipping the Lord together with his saints. It was a powerful experience. I experienced God's grace and glory in large measure. Lord you had mercy on me, a sinner! I had vision after vision and could not keep my eyes dry. Lord you know my wanderings and you keep my tears in a bottle. After more than 5 years in this church (though the first time in 3 months), for the first time the pastor encouraged us not just to shake hands with those sitting next to us but also asked their names. I introduced myself and prayed for a brother, Desmond. I also got to know an architect who was most friendly and we exchanged name cards. It was a message from the throne of God. How important it is that worship allows God's Spirit to have full reign in our hearts and prepare us for His Word. The speaker spoke for 1 hour 15 minutes with translation and I thought he could go on for another 10 minutes but the time showed past 1pm. The anointing flowed freely and touched many hearts. After I prayed for a brother I saw his hands half lifted to the Lord. How heavy it would be and how hard it is to lift our hands unto the Lord if our hearts are hard and our hands heavy for the lack of the Spirit's touch. Lord, you are the God of Jacob. If you read Genesis, Jacob is the real star or the central character, perhaps more than Abraham and certainly more than his illustrious son, Joseph. God is not known as the God of Joseph but the God of Jacob.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Why was the God of the Old Testament known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? It is because this God is a god for those who will entrust his life to him without reservation. What does it mean by following such a god? It is by walking in faith, trusting that this God will lead and will provide and will protect those who dare to believe in this god. Jacob did not have an easy time. He was cheated out of his wages 10 times by Laban. Even when it was clear that God was blessing Laban on account of Jacob, Laban still did not favour Jacob and at the end Jacob saw that Laban's countenance towards him was changed and Jacob knew that it was time to go. But going back home has its own problems.

Friends of Prophets

Prophets have few friends. That's why they are known as loners. But yet Scripture tells us prophets had friends and some of them took immense risks to be friends with the prophets. Jeremiah had Baruch as his scribe and Ebed-Melech rescued him from dying of hunger in the water pit. Isaiah had a small circle of disciples (Isa 8). Elijah had Obadiah who was prepared to feed the prophets who hid in caves. But some prophets are not said to have any friends. Even their wives could act wayward like Hosea's wife. Ezekiel appears to have a wife who was the delight of his eyes and his faithful companion until her death just before the Temple fell to the hands of the Babylonians.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Returning to Singapore for New Year

One of my close friends came to my office and thought I was going back to Sabah for good this Christmas. Not so fast. I am returning to Singapore to speak at a New Year's Eve's Service. Today I had such joy in serving the Lord, preaching three consecutive services in the morning. It was 312, meaning that my best sermon was the last and first one I was happy with and the second was pretty average though I received the most appreciative comments for my second sermon. It was based on Hosea 10: "A King - What can a king do for us?" (v. 3) and as I never repeat my sermon verbatim, each sermon has different illustrations. During the sermon at the 2nd service, I shared how I became a Christian in Christchurch and how I loved the Lord's church, often walking for 2 hours even during winter from Ilams' Flats to my first church in the city centre. How exciting it was and it is to love and serve the Lord. A young man led worship for the last service and I was refreshed in my spirit and that perhaps explained why I experienced the Lord's anointing in large measures. I was in full flight. I could have gone on for 50 minutes but I respected the time given to me (30 mins) but still felt free to speak for 36 minutes as that was the final service for the day.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Preparing for a Sermon on Hosea 10

I love the Prophets. I preached 3 sermons on Amos 5 & 7-8 two weeks ago. This Sunday I shall be preaching on Hosea 10. I have been reading a couple of commentaries (NICOT by J. Andrew Dearman) and the excellent small book by Hans Walter Wolff, Confrontation with Prophets. Abraham Heschel's classic on the Prophets is always on my desk for quick reference. I read again for the 4th or 5th time, G. W. Ahlstrom's essay on "Hammoreh Lisedaqah" (trans. "the teacher of righteousness") in Joel and the Temple Cult of Jerusalem (1971) even as JPS (Jewish Publication) Bible translated the Hosea 10:12 passage as "Yhwh shall give you a teacher of righteousness" instead of "rain righteousness on you", following Joel 2:23.

Going Home for Christmas

In the midst of grading papers (just finished NT 1 exams and many more essays yet to mark), I think of home. Do I have a home, Lord? For You are my dwelling place. You said, "The Son of Man has no where to lay his head" and You know Lord that I am a sojourner with you. Like Ezekiel, the refugee prophet, I am always packing and on the move, moving my baggage from one place to another. Humanly, perhaps I can comfort myself that my exile is about to end and I will return home even as You commanded Jacob after his 20 years away, "Return to your home country and your kinsmen, for I shall be with you."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

7 Stages of Life (Solon)

Reading Jerome Murphy-O'Connor's Paul: A Critical Life (1996) today was a great delight. In his first chapter on Paul's chronology, O'Connor cited Philo and Solon and how they regarded the number, 7 as defining various stages of life. According to Solon (d. 560 BCE), after a fourth seventh has passed, "his strength and vigour's in its prime", i.e. when one is 28 years old, a full grown man. "At forty-two, the wisdom's clear to shun vile deed or folly or fear....When seven times seven years, to sense Add wit and eloquence..."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Looking Forward to June 2014

I am about to finish my innings. My spell is almost over. This morning I received a beautiful 2014 calendar from the Bible Society of Singapore. It reminded me that I must forget the past and look forward and strive towards the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. For the past two years, I have had this feeling that my time is almost up. I have lived from Semester to Semester. The conclusion to another year, 2013 is already a bonus and by June 2014 I will have finished my race here. What comes after is in God's hands.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wrap Up

We had just concluded the first Semester this morning with the Closing Communion Service at Chapel. The Principal as usual preached a solid message on Resurrection with wonderful exegesis and pastoral application beside. Yesterday I invigilated the NT 1 exams for 36 students. One reported stomach-ache and had to sit for the exams in the afternoon (grace and more grace was given to the student!). On Tuesday I listened to 17 presentations from my Romans class. Excellent work by my students and almost all did extremely well with creative delivery. We had a good laugh on many occasions to the chagrin of those next door and we toned down after being ticked off. It has been a fun-filled Semester with lots of laughter and joy. Not only teaching Paul's letter to the Romans which to me was certainly the highlight (on average I wrote more than 3,000 word notes running to 40 points for each 3 hours' lectures) but NT 1's class had a certain vibrancy not felt in the past cohorts.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How do Prophets earn their Living? (Amos 7)

I was asked to preach from Amos 7-8 today. Preached I did for 50 minutes, one of my longer sermons to date in Singapore. In the context of what I had gone through in the last two days, I can only thank the Lord for his grace and mercy, again anointing me for the ministry of the Word for the building up of Christ's church. I did not prepare powerpoint as I felt that would be too restricted and once there are slides you need to follow through. Today as I saw the time running out on me, I cut short my sermon and skipped two major points. I spoke about Amos as intercessor and prophet. We need men and women that can move the heart of God so much so that God's mind is changed from wrath to mercy and from judgement to favour. I spoke about how the locust plague could devastate crops and harvests in a matter of minutes and hours over hundreds hectares of land. I spoke about the plumbline and how as a builder uses a plumbline to ensure that the wall or structure is vertical and straight, God has measured the house of Israel and found the whole edifice crooked and ripe for destruction. Jeroboam the king will fall by the sword and Israel will go into exile. Then came the key passage of Amos 7 where Amaziah confronted Amos, a contest between a priest and a prophet. Here we see what and who is a prophet - one that speaks only what he hears from the Lord, no more and no less. I referred to 1 Kings 22 where all the prophets agreed as one voice and Micaiah was put under pressure to speak the same thing, Micaiah, being the true prophet of the Lord spoke only what he heard the Lord said to him. The false prophets and priests like Amaziah served the king and the State. They earned their living from the largess of the State under the King. A prophet is no man's employee, least of all any State puppet or lackey. A prophet is the mouthpiece of the Lord for he speaks only of what the Lord speaks. He cares not for human approval or applause for the prophetic Word can only elicit a hostile reaction from those who care only for their stomachs and do not seek to exalt the Lord.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Earthquakes in Israel (Revelation 11:13)

The New York Times reported that a series of minor tremors have somewhat unnerved the Israelites with one minister warning that in the event of an earthquake 7,000 people could die. I quickly looked up the book of Revelation where in 11:13, it is written, "And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.As I write, this morning brought the news of another above 7 Richter scale earthquake in Japan, the third major earthquake in the past fortnight, north of Mindanao in the Philippines, and also in Papua New Guinea. The frequency of earthquakes above 7 Richter scale has increased significantly in the past decade, especially since the major earthquake in north Sumatra and resulting Tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. I submitted my revised dissertation for publication with T & T Clark just days after the 26th Dec 2004's earthquake and I wrote in the Preface: "The disaster [Sumatra earthquake & tsunami] happened close to home and it reminded me that the book of Revelation speaks much about earthquakes...". As Jesus said in Luke 21:11, "And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. Great signs from heaven and fearful sights. The day before I conducted an end-time seminar in Sabah (16th Feb 2013), a meteorite fell in the north of Russia and injured hundreds. Are we seeing the signs spoken by Jesus and John of Revelation? If you are interested in the study of end-time prophecy, I shall be offering an elective on the book of Revelation, focusing on the events of the last 3 and a half years before the dawn of the kingdom of God on earth by looking at the middle chapters of Rev 11:1-14:5. Although I have taught Revelation twice before, but for first time I shall be using my book as textbook and prospective students are advised to get hold of a copy (Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Eisenbrauns) and read the first couple of chapters in advance of class starting on 7th January 2014 (every Tuesday at 8:30 to 11:20am until 29th April). The course description is given below:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Firstfruits: My Soul Exults in You, Lord!

As a teacher, I would see myself a near perfectionist and demand high standards from my students. As not everyone can reach such lofty goals, I can feel despondent at times even though there are only two or three who cause heartache and discouragement. But the good essays I am reading at present soothe my spirits and lifted my soul. My soul exults in You, Lord! I set the topic, "Jesus was a Jew": Discuss this statement in the light of the four Gospel accounts, a pretty tough one for first year students. However, I had dropped hints along the way over the course of the Semester and tomorrow is the due-date for the essay submission and I have received four or five papers already. As I was reading and grading one essay tonight, I rejoiced greatly in You, Lord for You have shaped and are shaping Your servants and they are being equipped for effective service. I am seeing the first-fruits and they are ripening, ready to be harvested.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paul’s Inclusive Gospel: An Essay on Romans 14-15

A theologian friend of mine told me recently that, “Romans 14-15 is the easy part, only application and no theology”. It can’t be further from the truth. After reading Carl Toney’s 2008 book (Paul's Inclusive Ethic: Resolving community Conflicts and Promoting Mission in Romans 14-15) a couple of years ago and now re-reading it for Romans elective I have found that rarely can we say that any part of Paul’s writing is purely application and no theology. If we read Romans 14-15, theology is everywhere. Why do we welcome those who we consider weak in faith or different from us? It is because God has welcomed them (14:3), a clear theological statement that we should welcome whom God has welcomed. He is the great patron and benefactor and we are made in his image and reflect his character and person that if God welcomes someone, it is incumbent for us to do likewise without disputing over opinions or scruples. Second, we are asked not to pass judgment on our weak (and strong brothers), again theological in that judgment belongs to the Lord and to God, the person will stand or fall just like everyone else. Third, everyone is God’s servant and not our servants and hence, it is not for us to patronize or worse cast aspersion on another’s servant. God is the Master and Lord and all of us are equally subject to God, irrespective of our stand on matters concerning foods, wine, Sabbaths and holy days.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Soldier with a Book and a Tie

When I preach I wear a tie and today was no different. Usually even with many e-books and articles saved in my tablet I will still carry a book and today's choice was Studies in John. I spent the usual 1.5 hours or so in prayer and devotions before setting out at 7:10am. I knew it was going to be a long journey and I had to transfer from bus 67 in the East coast to an MRT station before walking to the church. As it was my 2nd time to this place in 3 years I lost my way a little and had to ask a few people walking by before I found my way to the school when the meeting was held. By the time the meeting started I had spent almost 2 hours on the road and I was feeling a little tired as I stood and worshipped. It was vibrant and lively being among the youths and I felt refreshed as I sang some of my favourite songs. I saw the Lord lifted high, checking on his army in heaven - the Lord is ready to come as we his people are prepared for the Lord's coming - Straighten the crooked paths, fill up the valleys and blow the trumpet in Zion. I was asked to preach quicker than I thought at 9:35am and I preached for 34 minutes until 10:09 and the meeting ended at 10:22 after the collection and song of response. But I felt a sense of disconnect with the congregation today. I could not say what I wanted to say for that would be giving too much solid food when they were only ready for milk. I spoke about dying to self, and ridding ourselves of attachments to the things of the world by dying with Christ - I have been crucified with Christ nevertheless I live but yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me. Unless we die to self, we will be alone, like a kernel of wheat, unfruitful. If we die, saith Scripture, it will bear forth much fruits (John 12). I talked about the glorification of the Son of Man in his death. The world's view of glory is different - wealth, power, prestige and social rank. I quoted the verse in the Lukan temptation account that the devil took Jesus to the corner of the wing of the temple and in a moment showed him the glory of all the kingdoms of the world and offered to give to Jesus all worldly glory if he would worship Satan.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Introduction to the Gospel of John

Today I lectured on the introduction to the Gospel of John. After 20 minutes speaking about the main essay, "Jesus was a Jew" and the final exams I launched into introducing my favourite Gospel in just under 2 hours with a 20 minutes break in between. I spoke about the difference between the synoptic Gospels and the Fourth Gospel, authorship, dating, provenance, and spent 30 minutes on the structure of John divided into 5 main sections according to the Feasts of the Jews listed by the evangelist.

Scholarship & Devotions

If anyone claims scholars live on ivory towers or just have just heads filled with knowledge, do not believe him. For the past week, since I prepared lectures on Romans 12-13 by reading 4 or 5 commentaries and monographs, the contents of Paul's words in Romans 12-13 are still speaking to me. Even during early hours of the morning as I lie awake or at mid-night I hear Paul's words ringing in my mind - "Present your bodies as living sacrifice, Put on the lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh". I was so moved by Romans 13:14 that I consciously think of what things that could stumble me either in thought or word or any possible idol in my heart that provides an occasion for my flesh to overpower me. I repent Lord, let no sin have dominion over me!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Offering our Bodies as Living Sacrifice (Romans 12-13)

I lectured on Romans 12-13 yesterday. It was a fruitful study of Paul's exhortation on presenting our bodies as living sacrifice for our rational worship ten logigen latreian. At the end of Romans 13, an imperative on "putting on our Lord Jesus Christ" and making no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires serves as an inclusio to these 2 chapters of Paul's advice to the Romans to act out the Gospel in church (Rom 12) and society (Rom 13). In church, one has to exercise the gifts which God in his grace has given to each one of us and the exercise of such gifts must be in accordance with the measure or proportion of faith with the view to edify the whole body since there is one body but many members.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Was Jesus Rich? Managing Unrighteous Mammon (Luke 16)

I lectured on Luke 16 today. For NT 1, we cover the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles over 14 weeks which gives me about 2 weeks per book. For the first week on Luke, it was a survey and we focused on the first 5 chapters. But today I launched into Luke's theology of wealth and poverty. I had already finished preparing for my lectures two days ago and yesterday during Community lunch, a student commented how he listened to a number of Youtube sermons on "Jesus was rich" and that it was God's will for all Christians to be rich. When I watched the 3 youtubes, each lasting about 15 minutes, I was shocked and saddened how Scriptures especially in Luke's Gospel were twisted. There were several claims made by this well-known pastor:

1) Jesus was rich
2) Jesus owned homes (note the plural)
3) Jesus had a treasurer and that proved that he was rich
4) Judas Iscariot carried money boxes (plural again to the preacher) and that proved Jesus had a lot of money to give away and helped the poor

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Methodist Month

After my 33-minute sermon on "Godliness is Great Gain", I conducted a Bible Study on the topic, "Divine Guidance." I was pleasantly surprised that three-quarters of the 50-strong congregation stayed back for the seminar. I spoke for 55 minutes and took questions for 20 minutes and we ended at 12:30pm sharp. Among those present were at least 25 young people, something heartening to see. And most questions came from them. This is my 6 th year since Sept 2008, speaking at this little flock, a preaching point of a larger Methodist church.

Waiting to Preach

I don't know how long I could continue doing what I am doing. Perhaps one of the most difficult things about preaching is the time waiting to preach. Last week I waited for 5 hours to preach in an 11.30am service. This morning the service will start soon but I have already waited up to 4 hours. May the Lord's name be praised as I wait on You and on Your Word.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Deuteronomy as Jesus' Favourite Book?

For the past month, I have been scouring the book-lists of many publishers looking to buy a commentary on the book of Deuteronomy. I almost bought the one authored by Jeffrey Tigay but at the end I settled on Daniel Block's NIV application commentary on Deuteronomy. Perhaps I would have preferred a more academic and critical commentary but as my budget is tight (I bought Danker's Shorter Greek lexicon and Chamberlain's Septuagint lexicon as well), I had to choose one and I hope I shan't be disappointed.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Lord, who has believed our report?" (Isa 53:1)

Apostle Paul cited Isaiah 53:1 in Romans 9-11 as part of his Scriptural arguments that the Jewish people as a whole has not responded to the good news preached by Paul and the other apostles. The Jewish nation and the Israelites were the among the most religious peoples on earth and they had among others, the Law and Prophets as the oracles of God. Lord, who has believed our report? I felt the same in the past weeks; it seems so few people wanted to know the truth; some have a form of zeal but not according to true knowledge. Some busied themselves with many things, even in the name of theological education and theological pursuits but what empty slogans if theological education is not focused in knowing the one true God and the primary way of doing that is the study and engagement of Scripture through which God reveals Himself to those who believe.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tabernacles' Last Day

From a blogpost I read this: " The 7 days of Sukkot are dedicated to the 7 Ushpizin, distinguished guests (origin of the words Hospes and hospitality): Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. They defied immense odds in their determined pursuit of ground-breaking faith and principle-driven initiatives. The Ushpizin should constitute role models for contemporary leadership" (see link). I have been thinking about leadership a great deal in the past few months. I like the expression that these heroes of faith "defied immense odds in their determined pursuit of ground-breaking faith and principle-driven initiatives." As we are entering the great day or 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles when Jesus cried out, "If anyone believed in me, as Scripture says, 'out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:38).

Sharing with Staff

I was so tired this afternoon that I skipped Community lunch and went back to my flat for a nap. I got up before 6am to prepare for 12 minute staff devotion which I shared with the College admin staff once a Semester. This morning I spoke about prayers from Eph 6 in that we do not contend against flesh and blood but against principalities in dark places and rulers of the unseen world. I also spoke from James 5 about the need to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. I spoke about the lack of constant prayers in many churches in Singapore and I shared how the Lord by his power protected the state of Sabah when SARS hit early 2003. I just started as pastor of SIB KK and I led prayers day and night for weeks and months so that the contagion did not reach Sabah. I spoke about how staff should love one another and those in authority should be slave of all to care for the welfare of their subordinates. It was a heavy message, only 2 felt blessed and the Word of the Lord shall not return void but accomplish what it was intended to do, declaring God's will and putting into effect God's purposes in the lives of his people and through them the world may know that the Father had sent the Son.

Final 3 1/2 Years according to John's Revelation

Master of Ministry (Jan 2014)

The Final 3½ Years according to John’s Revelation

Course Description:
This course will examine the events of the last three-and-a half years according to John in the book of Revelation. The focus will be on the middle chapters (Rev 11:1-14:5) where the temporal period of three-and-a half years is mentioned 5 times (11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5) in 3 different ways, namely, 1,260 days, 42 months and a time, times and half a time. It will discuss John’s vision of the holy city and the Temple as the loci of eschatological prophecies in this final period. This study will pay special attention to various characters that John portrays as the main protagonists in these last days, especially the two witnesses of Rev 11 and the two Beasts of Rev 13. A brief survey of Jewish apocalyptic thought in Second Temple period to the time of John’s Revelation in the first century CE will serve as introduction to John’s apocalyptic thought in Revelation. John’s creative and innovative use of the Old Testament in Revelation will be critically examined and highlighted. This course will utilize Hebraic rhetorical methods or rhetorical criticism to analyse the structure and composition of the middle section of John’s Revelation. It seeks to establish that the text of Rev 11:1-14:5 is marked by several key words and motifs with the figure of 3 ½ as the temporal and literary marker that unites seemingly disparate episodes and characters into one literary whole.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Testament 2 (Romans to Revelation), Assessment & Textbooks

New Testament 2 Assessment & Textbook list (Jan, 2014):
Textbooks:
1.       Walter F. Taylor Jr., Paul, Apostle to the Nations: An Introduction (Fortress Press, 2012).
2.       Richard Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdsman, 2005).
3.       Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Liturgical Service: All Scripture is God-Breathed

Yesterday I preached in a Liturgical Service at a Methodist church here in Singapore. I enjoyed the more structured service as I normally preach at contemporary-style services even among mainline churches like Anglican and Methodist churches. The thing I liked most is that I was called to preach after 25 minutes and the congregation was still fresh and I did not see anyone fidgeting or nodding off in my 28-minute sermon. In fact, I preached 3 minutes longer than the allocated time but I believe my delivery was fluent and sound and no one was made worse to listen to a slightly longer sermon on 2 Tim 3:14-17 with the title All Scripture is God-breathed. After the service, a number of members took the trouble to speak with me and engaged with me on the sermon which is unusual but something that is music to the preacher's ears.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Loneliness of the Just One (Psalm 1)

This is the title of an essay I read from a book called, In the Shadow of Your Wings: New Readings of Great Texts from the Bible ed. Norbert Lohlink. There are many quotable quotes: "...the single person who is called happy, the one who has made a different life decision, appears almost as an example of great worth because of its rarity....the one who has decided against the dominant world of perception."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Blessed Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles)

It is sunset in Singapore. I wish all my readers who love Yhwh adonai and Jesus, His Messiah, a blessed Sukkoth. It is a season of great joy when God gathers His people into His land and all nations to come to Zion to worship Him on the holy mountain. This Feast (15th to 21st Tishri) reminds us that we are temporary aliens on earth and hence, the commandment to build booths (sukkot) as a commemoration of Israel's wilderness wanderings before entering the promised Land. Now a greater Yahshuah has come to save us and will lead us into the true promised land where everlasting rest and peace dwell.

Monday, September 16, 2013

From 4am to 4pm, from 6am to 6pm

I have had two incredible days. Lord, have I spent my strength for nought? I woke up at 4am yesterday and by 5am I was revising and reflecting on my sermon. At 7:30am I took the early bus to church. Due to some misunderstanding I went to the wrong address and the pastor had to come to fetch me. It turned out well at the end as during the 10-minute trip to the venue, the pastor shared with me a number of things which helped me to understand the two congregations better (English and Mandarin). I had a wonderful time in preaching especially in the second Mandarin service, though it was interpreted it went smoothly and the 100 strong congregation or so was blessed. After lunch at One North shopping centre I took the MRT to the circle line to Buona Vista and then onwards to Clementi. I stopped for a short time as it was raining and enjoyed my usual cup of coffee at Toast Box. By the time I reached home, it was about 4pm, 12 hours since I woke up and I had the satisfaction of preaching twice and enjoyed some wonderful fellowship with the pastor and church members. This morning was no different. I thought I was going to sleep in until at least 7am but I got up at 6am and proceeded to prepare to lead worship for an 11:30am's Chapel service.

Friday, September 6, 2013

PM Kevin Rudd is Wrong on the New Testament

My one diversion from my daily tasks is reading and following politics, especially that of Australia and New Zealand. When PM Rudd was overthrown 3 years ago just before the 2010 election, I almost shed a tear or two because I liked the man, Kevin and his Mandarin speaking ability. But I shall be barracking for Tony Abbott tomorrow because PM Rudd has been disappointing even in the past couple of months since returning to power as the Australian PM. From what I know of Australian politics and history, a house divided cannot and will not stand. Australian Labour Party self-destructed over the prolonged Hawke vs. Keating struggle (early to mid 1990s) and in the past couple of years, we have the Rudd-Gillard saga played out.  At least Hawke and Keating were both charismatic figures and political titans in their own right (I have not seen a Hawke since in Australian politics) but Rudd-Gillard battle for supremacy has a lot more spice and spite but lacks weight and substance.

PM Rudd's answer to the pastor who asked him the question on his stance in respect of homosexuality was a classic spin of a tale. I have heard many times before - "But slavery is the norm in the Bible". Wrong, mate. In the New Testament, slavery is not something commanded by God that it ought to be kept or defended as if it is normative for all time. Slavery is a social condition in the 1st century AD, accepted by the apostle Paul since slaves in some urban centres could out-number the citizens and non-citizen residents who were freedmen. When the gospel was preached in these Mediterranean cities, many slaves turned to Christ and in a few letters (esp. 1 Corinthians, Ephesians & Colossians), Paul had to offer advice as to the master-slave relationship, now that in some instances both the master and the slave have become believers.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why We Call God, "Father" - Rosh Hashanah!

It is with delight that I read my esteemed colleague, Prof Simon Chan's article in Christianity Today, 'Why We Call God, "Father"' Straight-away, I forwarded the link to my NT 1 students together with New Year's Greetings - Rosh Hashanah. It is the beginning of the new year where the shofar will be sounded early tomorrow morning to mark the 1st day of Tishri, the sacred month in the Jewish Calendar where two other major holy-days are celerated - Yom Kippur (10th Tishri) and Sukkoth (15th-21st Tishri) or the Feast of Tabernacles.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling"

"In order to pray there must be a God, there must be a self plus possibility, or a self and possibility in the pregnant sense; for God is that all things are possible, and that all things are possible is God; and only the man whose being has been so shaken in spirit by understanding that all things are possible, only he has had dealings with God." pp. 173-174. quoted from Abraham! Abraham! Kierkegaard and the Hasidim on the Binding of Isaac by Jerome I. Gellman (Ashgate, 2003), p. 37.

I concluded my lectures on Mark's Gospel yesterday without reaching the theme on prayer (what a shame!) where Jesus (only in Mark) said 3 times: all things are possible with God -

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Leading Songs in Worship & Congregational Leadership

I thought I should celebrate my 2nd year as a revived blogger with my 2.0 blog by writing a third blog-post for the day. I started blogging in May 2006 but stopped about 6 months last year, a kind of sabbath from blogging. I found I needed to blog if only to keep a spiritual journal of my personal journey in the Lord. I can look back 10 years from now and remember what I am doing right now on the 28th August 2013. Two-thirds of the year is about gone and after tomorrow, there will be 7 more teaching weeks and I hope by mid-November I can get all my marking of essays and exams done and proceed to my writing project. I have decided to remain in Singapore unless there is a late minute invitation to preach over Christmas. After travelling almost every month for the first seven months of the year, I hope to take a break from flying and do some solid research and writing. What I am experiencing in the past few days and weeks has been heavenly, by the grace of God. I can say like Job that when the fellowship of God is with you, you will feel no lack and be at peace despite great pressure from work and ministry. Just leading worship and prayers in Chapel for 20 minutes in 3 weeks' time already took a lot of my energy and effort.

Worship, Reading & Faith

Late afternoon when my concentration is fading, I would worship the Lord in my office with Youtube, while reading and today I needed to do preparations for Mark's Gospel by reading Yarbro-Collins' commentary on Mark in the Hermeneia series. By worshipping the Lord, I find my strength renewed and when the Lord's presence is near, faith rises to believe the impossible - for all things are possible for those who believe (Mark 9) and then Jesus repeated that in Mark 10 (nothing is impossible for God and all things are possible for Him) and in Mark 11:24, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours", Jesus taught that when we pray we need to believe, believe that we will receive whatever we ask because we worship a God who does impossible; in fact he delights in him who believes wholehearted, to believe He would do the impossible for without faith it is impossible to please God....O Lord I live to worship You

Greek & Bible Camp

I always take courage after listening to our Chapel's sermons. After last week's Day of Prayer and today's sermons gave me a lift in my spirits. If my colleagues can preach so well, sound in doctrine, evangelical with charity that comes from genuine faith and a good conscience, there is hope and a future for the College and the churches we serve. But what I want to share is this plan I have for sometime now, that is to get school leavers, O and A levels students, perhaps after their final exams to attend a Greek and Bible Camp for 3 weeks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Uncharted Waters

I was moved in my heart yesterday in the presence of the Lord, waiting on Him and worshipping Him. God delights in those who long to see His face for God seeks after true worshippers those who will worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). I realized that by next week I shall be entering uncharted waters, never before in my life I have been in the same post or position or in one place for so long, that is beyond 5 years and 3 months.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Preparing to Lead Worship

God willing, I shall be leading worship at the College Chapel on a Monday service next month. For 20 minutes of worship and intercession, I have waited on the Lord in the past couple of days for several hours, worshipping and praying what songs I should propose to sing and how to structure the order of worship within a 35-minute service (sermon takes 15 minutes).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"None is Good except one, that is, God" (Mark 10)

It was intense but it was worthwhile to be at the presence of the Lord whenever two or three are gathered in His Name. Yesterday was our College's Day of Prayer. We prayed for about 1 hour at the most with 4 hours given to 3 sermons, sharing, 2 video clips and one sketch on persecution of Christians and an hour-long Communion service at the end. I was really challenged by the 3 sermons. Today was equally intense. I lectured right until the bell rang and stopped when I just finished on explaining the place of Psalm 110:1, The Lord says to my Lord (MT: neum Yhwh  la-adoni) and why Psalm 110 was a Messianic psalm and how Jesus despite being called the Son of David is greater than king David.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Did Jesus Pronounce the Name, YHWH in Mark 12:29?

I have spent two extra days preparing tomorrow's lectures on Mark's Gospel. I plan to give one hour to the question whether Jesus when speaking in Hebrew (citing Deut 6:4-5) in Mark 12:29-32 pronounced the sacred name, YHWH. Obviously the Greek of Mark has kyrios but that is Greek likely following LXX Deut 6:4. But Jesus probably spoke Aramaic and when citing texts from Israel's Scriptures would have used Hebrew.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Use of the Name YHWH

I came across Sean McDonough's book, YHWH at Patmos (1999) when I just began doctoral study in 2000 and it is a delight to read it again today. The second chapter, "The Use of the Name YHWH" is especially significant where McDonough conducts a historical survey on how the Name was used throughout early Judaism to the NT time up to Philo and Josephus.

Is Jesus Yahweh?

I shall be lecturing on the name of God on Thursday when I turn to Mark's Gospel which records Jesus' recitation of the Shema in Mark 12:29. The name of Israel's God, the sacred four-consonant word, yod he waw he (Yhwh) pronounced by most scholars as Yahweh is probably the most misunderstood name as far as how the New Testament writers' references to the name of God are concerned. First, the NT was written in Greek and secondly when quoting the OT, the authors mainly used the LXX which in most places translates Yhwh as kyrios (Lord).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"No Longer Working a Single Day"

Yesterday I was told of a saying (Confucius?) that "if you found the job you like you will not work a single day". I can affirm this without reservation that if you walk according to God's calling in your life, you will feel as if you are not working for a living at all but a vocation or a calling in which one finds fulfilment and satisfaction.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Preaching Season Begins

I thank the Lord that I have a mini break from preaching for 6 weeks and I shall begin preaching again this Sunday. Yesterday, I have 2 speaking engagements confirmed for next year, one Saturday seminar in KL in March and a 4-day Church Camp in Singapore in June.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Gospel of Matthew in a Nutshell

I have been in some sort of dilemma and predicament for 6th year in a row, how best to teach four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles in 14 weeks, 3 hours per week over the course of one Semester. Today I have just finished the Gospel of Matthew and I gave 3 weeks for the first Gospel.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Biblical Languages Galore

As I entered into my 6th year of teaching, I have become more insistent that students pay more attention in acquiring a proficiency in both Hebrew and Greek. The median age of students is 35 years old and unfortunately for some over 35 years, it is not ideal to start learning new languages when one is nearing 40 years old. I would want to suggest to Christian leaders and theological educators to shift in our thinking that biblical languages must be acquired by early twenties or even during high school years (Junior College).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Still on the Septuagint

I am immersed in the Septuagint today. I brought my Rahlfs' LXX version to Chapel and read LXX Genesis 15:1-10. Amazingly, it sounds so close to Paul's Romans when he spoke about Abraham being reckoned righteous by believing. On Monday, one graduating student preached an outstanding sermon and in his sermon he asked, "if a Tsunami is coming your way, what would you take? your laptop, smartphone, passport? In my mind, I saw myself taking the blue-cover, Septuagint.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Supersabbath & the Septuagint

Mark E. Biddle in his commentary on Deuteronomy in the Smyth & Helwys series calls the Feasts of Israel - supersabbaths.  Yesterday I had a supersabbath, resting without worrying about preparing for lectures but simply reading for enjoyment. I have finished reading Mogens Muller's The First Bible of the Church: A Plea for the Septuagint in three sittings over the week-end. Yes, I am a Septuagint fan.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Walking on a Tight Rope

Often times in our lives we have to juggle several things at one time, a balancing act between careers and families, work and recreation, or even catching enough sleep. I almost cancelled my trip to Perth last week because of what I knew would face me when I got back. This is my 3rd consecutive day of teaching and there are two days to go after today. In fact, I would have loved to rest for a few days since I hardly had 4 hours sleep a day in Perth over six days. The weather took a turn for worse the first day of the Conference and lo and behold from a hot and humid Singapore, I landed in a cold and wet Perth.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

1 Year Older

I have entered my Jubileeth year without much fanfare in a foreign country. Tomorrow I am heading back to work and 5 days of lectures await me. I thank God that my health held up despite the cold weather. It is winter here and it rained whole day today. I made many new friends and a few will turn to be good friends in coming years.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Going Away with Hope

It's not always that I feel I should stay when there is an exciting Conference to attend. But much work beckons when I come back put a dampener on things. I will teach my regular classes plus 3-day intensive Certificate of Mission course. It's good that the preacher preached today that we should be not held by the past but look towards the future with hope. The love of God melted my heart once again this morning - Ubah hatiku seputih hati-Mu, setulus Salib-Mu, Kasih-Mu Tuhan.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Gospel of Matthew: The Jewish Gospel

I have been reading the Gospel of Matthew for the past couple of weeks and I find that it is one priceless theological gem. No wonder the early church placed it not only as the First Gospel but also the first book of the New Testament. It truly deserves its pride of place because Jesus Christ shines through as the King of the Jews. If there is any book that promotes that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah or Jesus the Jew was the Messiah for the Jews it is the Gospel of Matthew. Only in the first Gospel you have Jesus say, "I have come only for the lost sheep of Israel" and restrained his disciples from going to the Gentiles. Jesus' mission was first and foremost to his own people, the Jews and in his life-time restricted his ministry within his own countrymen.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Introducing the New Testament (Mark Allan Powell)

I am reading Powell's Introducing the New Testament (2009) and I have done 100 pages up to the chapter on the Gospel of Matthew. It is concise but yet informative and Powell writes well without being too academic or convoluted and this is another book I would recommend for NT Introduction, especially for first year Seminary students. I have been using Gary Burge's NT in Antiquity (2009) for the past three years and I am thinking of changing textbook in the first half of 2015. Burge's textbook is excellent but after using it for a while I am looking for something fresh (for me anyway).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Teaching New Testament Introduction

After a lull of a couple of years with declining numbers, my NT Intro class this year has 38 students plus a few more auditing. So it was thrilling yesterday to see to many eager faces as we began our journey in learning the New Testament. The NT is the most important book or collection of books (Gospels and letters mainly) of the Christian church - all of our foundation doctrines are derived from the NT - The Trinity, The Salvation of Humankind through Jesus Christ, the Future Judgement, Resurrection from the Dead, Everlasting Life, etc.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Connecting with the Divine

If I heard today's sermon correctly, the preacher mentioned that it was so hard for most people to connect with the divine. That statement touched a cord in my heart as I was reflecting for some time now why so many believers seem not to be able to connect with the divine during worship. As I observed in so many worship services in various churches as the songs were sung, only a few really worshipped God in spirit and in truth. Not that there is only one way to worship God but many I saw simply could not connect with the divine. Some were holding on the bench with both hands as if they are gripped by fear or a guilty conscience while singing. Some with hands folded; some with faces as if their loved ones had just passed away, contorted and distorted; some just stood there and stared at the words on the screen emotionless and lifeless. Very few showed the radiance of God's glory in their faces.

First Chapel Service of the New Academic Year

We have this wonderful tradition at TTC that the Principal would preach at the Opening communion service (the Friday before Lectures start) and the Academic Dean would preach in our first Wednesday chapel service where all the College community gathers together for worship. Today was no exception, though I felt strangely warmed in my heart as we sang "How great Thou Art".

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Teaching Romans

It is always with a spring in the steps when the new academic year begins. It was so when I taught first up Romans yesterday, the first day of new Semester. About 15 students turned up and after some introductory remarks on the course syllabus and books/commentaries for the course, I went straight into expounding Romans 1:1-16. I did not expect more than 10 students as my elective clashed with a core course in Biblical Hebrew. When a few students asked me to change the time so that they could enrol in my course, I told them that they should enrol in Hebrew instead and take Romans when it is offered again in 2 or 3 years' time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Richard Bauckham at TTC

I just attended the second lecture by Professor Richard Bauckham at Trinity Theological College. The Trinity Lectures started last night and will continue for two more evenings, tomorrow and Thursday. If you are around in Singapore or nearby (Malaysia), do come to these excellent lectures. It is not everyday that one of the top New Testament scholars in the world speaks live to an Singaporean audience. Yesterday's lecture was on "Individualism in John's Gospel" and tonight's topic was "Divine and Human Community in John's Gospel." Prof Bauckham will be speaking on "Glory" tomorrow night and the final lecture on Thursday is on "Jesus in John's Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Preaching Season Ends: Seminars & Church Camps

I started preaching the first Sunday of the year in Singapore and yesterday I concluded the first half of the year by preaching at Kuala Lumpur. I thank God for opening doors of ministry for me to speak His Word and to instruct many unto righteousness. The week-end in KL was full of unusual encounters. First, the headlines greeted me that Kuala Lumpur had clear blue skies and yesterday it was the same. There was no haze in sight. I was told that there was another session held concurrently with the Seminar and more people were supposed to attend the Post-13th General Election forum. But many more came to my Seminar by the grace of God. Sunday was eventful. I was led to a worship hall (the church has 7 levels with multiple worship halls) and I sat there for half an hour thinking that there was the service I was supposed to preach at. The youths sang a very beautiful worship song in Malay and I thought to myself, "Wow! This is an interesting Bahasa service with so many Chinese young people." But later a youth came to me and told me it was a Chinese prayer meeting and I quickly went to the place where I was slotted to preach. As my flight back to Singapore was 3pm, I kind of preached a shorter message (30 minutes) and I left the Hall when they were doing the collection and was taken to Subang airport.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Path of the Righteous through the Haze


International The News reports: "Indonesia stepped up aerial operations on Monday to extinguish forest fires raging on Sumatra island as Malaysia remained smothered by smog and Singapore enjoyed sunny skies thanks to favourable winds." Just the night before I was due to return to Singapore (Saturday morning), the headline news were that Singapore's PSI reading has reached a record high of 401 late Friday afternoon. So I prayed to the Lord that the Lord would drive the haze away from Singapore and it would be clear when I reached the island-state.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Yahweh is One

I have had a wonderful Sunday, preaching at my homechurch. The Spirit moved powerfully throughout the service and as there were a number of events scheduled for Fathers' Day, I did not get to preach until 9:12am after an 8am start. I preached for 42 minutes until just before 9:55am and we sang a song of response from Hillsong's "Hosanna" (Hosanna Termulia) in the Malay version. The Spirit moved powerfully in the midst of the congregation and as I asked people to come forward for prayers, about 30 people came forward and we spent about 10-15 minutes praying for each one of them. The two church pastors and a few elders whom I called upon assisted me in praying. A number of them fell to the ground with wailing and tears and the deaconesses came forward and prayed for the women concerned.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Malay versions, Hebrew MT, LXX (OG), Daniel Theodotion

I have had two weeks' break from work, though one is never far away from preparing for new lectures on Romans and my forthcoming Seminar on the book of Daniel in KL. Further, at the last minute my home-church asked me to preach this Sunday. I have been praying for the last 3 days and even this morning I still had my doubts over my sermon topic and what I wanted to say in the Lord's Name.

But whatever it will be, it will be a sermon of gaining knowledge in the Word of God especially among the Malay speaking churches. I read Isaiah 28-29 for the past 3 days and I had 3 Malay versions on hand. All very different in their translations, Terjemahan Baru, the classic Indonesian version, Berita Baik, the Malaysian version and Bahasa Indonesia sehari-hari. Then I read several English versions. But nothing beats looking up the Hebrew and the LXX (Old Greek) of the Old Testament. And the Hebrew MT is not always translated as such by the LXX which means LXX could be a translation of an earlier Hebrew vorlage than the one which the MT relied upon. Further, the Qumran Hebrew texts are another and more ancient of Hebrew biblical manuscripts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Where You are, there I will be" (John 12)

I wish I could take a vacation without worrying about the papers I have yet to mark. I have been rushing like mad to get the papers graded but alas there are still a few more left on my desk. This morning, wanting a break from my office I took a stack of essays to breakfast. I managed to grade 2 essays while enjoying a croissant at Bukit Timah Plaza. I felt a bit guilty for spending S$10.00 on breakfast after reading Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography that he fasted often and survived on fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Preaching on the Trinity

Today I preached a sermon on the Trinity based on Matt 28:19, John 20:23 and Rev 1:4-7. I wanted to talk about Eph 4:7 and Phil 3:3 as well but time ran out on me. Nowadays I try to limit my preaching to 30 minutes among Singaporean churches. From Matt 28:19, I spoke about the nature of our salvation is directly related to the Trinity. Each person of the truine God is directly and completely involved in our salvation. The Father sent the Son; the Son died for our sins and the Spirit quickens us in the knowledge of God and confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. I spoke about the nature of baptism as immersion, a participation in the Godhead. We are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Greek preposition eis (into) signifies movement into something - participation in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We have our being in the Trinity; we live in God - Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Conversely, the triune God makes his dwelling in us. I spoke about the singular name in Matt 28:19, it is the name and not the names of the Trinity, showing that God is one but in three persons.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

On the Trinity

In the lectionary tomorrow it is Trinity Sunday. So I am going preach on the Trinity. I don't think I have preached on the Trinity from the pulpit before. I had conducted seminars on the Trinity but preaching on a Sunday service is a new experience. I have much time to prepare but I am not going to have anything written down. Just expound on several texts on the Trinity. First, Matt 28.19 the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then on John 20 and also Rev 1.4-7. Each passage will take about 10 minutes, making it a 35min sermon with 5min conclusion. Trinity and salvation. Trinity and mission. And Trinity and the coming Kingdom.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Celebrating 60 months in Singapore

Today I received my 60th month's salary after arriving in Singapore at the end of May 2008. I celebrated God's bounty towards me with a bit of splurging on myself. I can't remember the last time I spent so much money on myself with a measure of abandonment. Previously, I spent money on my wife and on my son. Last Christmas I bought a laptop for my son, paid the bond for his new flat, paid for his summer school and even sent him money twice when he started work full time in February. I thought perhaps for once I enjoyed freely what God has given, the fruits of my labour. I was tempted to buy the recently released Samsung Note 8-inch tablet but ended up not doing so. Perhaps another day.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Marketing & Promoting the Ministry

Often Christian leaders are hesitant to market and promote themselves and their ministry for the fear of appearing worldly, fame seeking, boasting or trumpeting one's credentials and achievements. I suppose these worldly concerns are real but there is a place where one could market and promote oneself with humility, truth and total transparency.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Lord's Mercies are Great

Despite our human weakness and sinfulness, God has a way to deal with us, chastening us betimes, healing us and making us partakers of his holiness. The root of sin is deep and firmly set in our souls; our flesh is weakened by sin and there is no power able to uproot indwelling sin except the power of the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus. Even as we sin, instead of turning away from God which is a natural reaction of shame and disgust, we should turn to God who is our salvation for who shall deliver us from this body of death? But thanks be unto God! It is through the Lord Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins and unrighteousness, our conscience is purged from lingering guilt and we stand forgiven and upright before the righteous God who has made us righteous through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. We are, therefore, clothed with Christ's righteousness through faith in Him. The Lord's mercies are great and therefore we are not consumed by the fire of his holiness. In Christ, we are sanctified and made holy and acceptable to a holy God as a living sacrifice - our bodies consecrated by the water of the word, our minds transformed by a new and living way, according to His great mercies which He has bestowed on us, God's beloved children. Behold, the love which he has given to us that we might be called the children of God.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Testament 2 Exams in Session


Trinity Theological College, Singapore
NT 2 Exams (2013): Answer 3 questions only, 1 question from each Section (Time allowed: 3 hours; open book)

Section A: Paul’s Letters (Answer 1 question only):
1.       How is the Gospel preached by Paul the apostle (Romans 1:16-17) connected with the list of vices from Romans 1:18 onwards? Discuss Paul’s view on homosexuality in Romans 1.
2.       In what ways are the Philippians called to partner Paul the apostle in the proclamation of the Gospel?
3.       How is a man or woman of God equipped for the work of the ministry according to 1 & 2 Timothy?
4.       “Paul’s boasting of his weaknesses and not his achievements” subverts his opponents’ notion of charismatic leadership. What is Paul’s theology of ministry according to 2 Corinthians?
5.       Explain the chronology of events that will precede Jesus’ parousia according to 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Romans It Is


Romans: Paul’s Inclusive Gospel
(Tony Siew)

Paul’s letter to the Romans is his magnum opus. The letter to the Romans is at once an occasional letter addressing congregational issues and at the same time Paul’s most systematic and elaborate of letters. In it, Paul discusses the nature of his gospel to the Jews and Greeks (Rom 1-8), God’s promises to Israel (Rom 9-11), and the outworking of the gospel in Church and Society (Rom 12-13). Finally, in Rom 14-15, Paul promotes an inclusive ethic for Christians that advises the Gentiles (the strong) to accommodate certain practices of the Jews (the weak) in order that all believers from diverse ethnic groups can be united in worship and in the advancement of the gospel in the world. This course will look at the above themes with particular focus to Paul’s inclusive gospel as a model for the urban church of the 21st century to embrace diverse ethnic groups as members of one church, “so that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6).

Finale

I have just handed in the final Greek 2 results to the Academic Dean's office after 5 hours of marking since the exams were completed yesterday. The final grade consists of the total marks obtained based on yesterday's final exams (45%), 5 exercises (20%), 2 Quizzes (10%) and 1 mid-Semester Test (15%).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Preaching Aftermath

A pastor in Sabah preached a couple of months ago that he would sleep for 2 full days to recover from preaching one sermon. My colleague just preached in Chapel that she would take 2 weeks to recover from all her exertions preparing for one sermon. I am always amazed by preachers of old who could preach almost everyday and sometime several times a day for many years. I read that Francis Asbury, the first Methodist Bishop in America preached a total of 16,000 sermons over a period of 40 years, an average of 400 sermons a year. My most intense preaching was the time when I served as Treasurer-General of SIB where I preached 300 sermons in 3 years in 70 villages and towns, an average of 100 sermons a year. A sermon would last anything between 50 to 60 minutes. I was in my early 30s then. Now most churches in Singapore require that I preach for 25 minutes and certainly not more than 30 minutes which works out well for me as I am not getting younger.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Preaching in the Heartlands

Every sermon is a new experience. Every time I preached I learned something new. Today as usual I got up real early for a 10.30am service. With hours to spare, I had time to grade a few NT essays before going through my sermon for a last time. I went 90 minutes early as the sun was bearing down and it's very hot by 9am in the morning. At the end I had to take off my tie and for the first time I preached without a tie in Singapore. That's something new!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Waiting for the Lord: How long, Lord?

I wish I could just focus on marking papers in the final week of the semester before graduation next Saturday. But instead, I have one meeting to attend next Monday on housing for students, 2 exams to invigilate (Greek 2 followed by NT 2) and a closing communion service on Friday. I have begun to grade my NT 2 papers and so far the students had performed better than expected. Further, I am settling on the course reader for Romans next Semester. I will list at most 7 books. I regretted listing too many for John's Gospel which probably overwhelmed some of the students. At the end, I required them to read a total of 12 articles within 13 weeks, a little bit too much considering that most students are doing 4 other courses.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Elective on Paul's Romans

It's only in my 6th year as a full-time lecturer that I dared to venture into Paul's theology and offer an elective, beginning July 2013. Not that I had not planned to offer Paul's Romans earlier or lack the love for this great theologian. As a young Christian, I have always been drawn to Paul, even before John. Galatians and Romans were the two most memorable letters in the early months as a new-born babe in Christ and then comes the Gospel of John. My favourite verse then was Romans 5:5, "the love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Planning Ahead

After 3 days in Sabah over a long week-end of election fever, I am now feeling exhausted from my travels and exertions. I was not involved in anyway with the election except to cast my vote dutifully as a citizen. I did not attend any political ceramahs/rallies when I was back in Sabah (I attended 2 political rallies in Singapore before the Singapore's GE 2 years ago), nor celebrated or commiserated with winners and losers after the election. On my way to the Kota Kinabalu International airport on Monday, I stopped over for lunch with an old friend. It has been work and more work since Monday night for me in Singapore. After yesterday's final Greek class I had to attend to other duties including marking NT 2 essays and there are many more to grade.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

University is about Teaching, not Research Papers

I read this article from Sydney Morning Herald with great interest. It was written by an exchange student from Georgetown University who is studying at Sydney University. I could not agree more, especially so in the context of theological education. It's about real-life experience and practical ministry experience that count more than research papers as far as training the next generation of Christian leaders is concerned.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Greek's Class No More

It's been my pleasure and the occasional stress that I shall be giving my last lectures in Introduction to Greek next week. I shall not miss getting up at 6am to prepare for Greek lectures, making sure I could teach to the best of my ability. As I saw one of my students taking a photo of the class yesterday, I thought for memory's sake, I will take one as well. This new academic year beginning in July, another lecturer will be teaching Greek after I have taught the subject for 5 years in a row. A welcome break! I may still offer Greek exegesis like LXX Gen 1-3 and Philippians in Greek (2015?) and a MTh module, Revelation in Greek (2016?).

Monday, April 29, 2013

Research & Publication?

Looking over some old documents in a file put away some years ago I came across my external examiner's report for my doctoral dissertation. Several weeks after receiving the report, I received a 3-page hand-written letter from the external examiner containing 5 major points of my dissertation beside several which he highlighted in the report. If I were to write another monograph on Revelation, I will certainly take these points into consideration. But alas, I am barely keeping my head above water, let alone having time for research and publication.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Return to Destiny

Today's Sunday service was one of the best I attended. The Lord woke up early and by 8:35am I reached the church in the city for its first service. The preacher was walking out when I walked in, perhaps to get himself ready for a great sermon later on. I was ready to worship the Lord. People matter. Song leaders matter.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Essay Topics on John's Gospel


Essay Topics:
1)            Pilate said to Jesus: “What is Truth?” (John 18:38). Discuss the concept of truth in the Gospel of John.
2)            Explain how irony is used to great effect in the encounters and conversations of Jesus with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman respectively in John 3-4.
3)            John’s use of the Old Testament is more subtle and nuanced beyond citations of biblical texts. Discuss the use of the OT with reference to 3 or 4 instances in the Gospel of John.
4)            How do the “I am” sayings contribute to our understanding of the person of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John?
5)            John’s Gospel depicts several groups or entities that are opposed to the work of Christ including “The Jews”, “the Pharisees,” “the world”, and “the devil”. Why was Jesus hated?
6)            Explain how John develops Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit in the Fourth Gospel.
7)            The relationship between the Father and the Son is the key to understanding the concept of God in John’s Gospel. Explain how this relationship is portrayed in the light of these two sayings of Jesus: “My Father and I are one” and “My Father is greater than I”.

I have graded some 30 essays and reviews and in the process of grading the rest of the essays on John's Gospel. I must say that I learnt from my students as much as I hope they have learnt from me by the grace of God, trusting in the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth who will guide us into all truth.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Last Lectures

By the grace of God, since the break I managed to get through 5 weeks of intense lecturing, 9 hours a week, 3 hours each for Greek, The Gospel of John and Intro to NT. I gave my last lectures on John's Gospel yesterday as next week is Labour Day, a public holiday, a well deserved rest for those who labour for the Lord. Today I spoke on 1 & 2 John and simply ran out of time for 3 John. When I reached 1 John 2:11ff on the three stages of Christian growth, I shared how 31 years ago yesterday I felt my sins to be forgiven and as a little child I came to know the Father.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"My kingdom is not of this World" (John 18:36)

I have had a long day preparing for my lectures on John 17-19. At 6pm I wrote about politics in Malaysia as a diversion, while at the same time reflecting on Jesus' answer to Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world". If Christ's kingdom is not of this world, are His followers going to be concerned about what happens in earthly governments or affairs of the State?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Preacher & Interpreter in Tandem

Some people think I simply dish out an old sermon when I preach from one church to another. But I never to do that, not when I wait on the Lord for days and weeks and there is always something fresh from the Lord for His people. Nowadays when I have a full load of teaching week-days, it means I have only the week-end to prepare my Sunday's sermon. In actual time spent, it is about 10 hours, writing up the outline and preparing the slides but another 15 hours or more meditating, reflecting on the passages concerned for a week or two before setting pen on paper.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sabah, Tanah Air-ku (My land of origin/birth)

I have been in my office since 7am. I thought I settled a few things before preparing for my lectures on John's Gospel and NT 2 on James. I have finalized the elective for next July. I may have to teach a third course for the Master of Ministry programme. Busy busy Semester coming up.

In the past several months, I could not help thinking and praying about my future ministry. My homestate, Sabah will be celebrating its 50th year independence within the federation of Malaysia on the 16th Sept 2013. I was born barely 10 months after Malaysia Day and I am a true child of Malaysia, born and bred a Sabahan. My heart often  pines for my native land - Sabah tanah air-ku negeri kita yang tercinta. But whether it's the Lord's will for me to return for good is another matter, a subject of intense prayer in the next few months. As Sabah is in its Jubilee year, I am not getting younger. Where are you, Lord for me in the next decade? I see that my strength is not like before and I know there are 10 or so good years that lay ahead of me and after that sunset years will come sooner that one would imagine.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Calvin by Willem Van't Spijker

I am burying my head in books on Calvin. In the past couple of weeks, I had taken out about 10 books on Calvin from the library. For first-timers, I would recommend Spijker's Calvin: A brief guide to his life and thought (2009). It's only about 185 pages long and within 3 or 4 sittings I have almost finished reading it. One thing that caught my eye is as early as 1537 (aged 28) Calvin already called himself as "Professor of Holy Scripture in Geneva" (p. 34, Spijker). Interestingly, Calvin had never undergone formal theological training as had Luther. Luther earned a doctorate in theology and Luther was equally proud of his title as "Doctor of Scripture."I would not begrudge Calvin for calling himself as Professor as such tender age because by then he had published the first edition of Institutes which would become the summary of the theology for the Protestant movement in the 16th century and beyond.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Burden and Inspiration of the Word

At the end of every Thursday I feel so tired that I know I need a long weekend to rest and recuperate for the new week ahead. Today I lectured on the Letter to the Hebrews in less than 2 hours. I spent 30 minutes explaining 2 Tim 3:16-17 where Paul states categorically that every or all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching..... Unless we have the right view of Scripture we will face countless problems, least of all we become judge of Scripture instead of being judged by Scripture. As Calvin so aptly put it that there is a need for a measure of docility in our approach to God's Word and we are all students in the School of Scripture with the Holy Spirit as our teacher. Isaiah the prophet has revealed that it is to those who tremble at God's Word that God is truly pleased to dwell and make his home. How can we presume to critique Scripture since the writings are breathed out by God who has no rival nor a God who is capable of error for He is perfect and there is no iniquity with him.

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