Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Convention 2015

I have much time to reflect on how best to maximise the spiritual impact of Christmas. Perhaps we can think of a Christmas Convention and Christmas 2015 seems ideal as it falls on a Friday. We could hold the convention from 24th to 26th December, Thursday night, Christmas Eve to Saturday night, altogether 7 services/sessions with two sessions in the morning and three night services. We could pick a short Pauline letter and expound on it over 7 sessions. As much as I was happy to see the biggest crowds in my homechurch on Christmas Day, it was anti-climax yesterday during the Sunday morning service. Where has the crowd gone? Only about 200 people showed up yesterday. Although it is customary for church members to return to their villages during the Christmas season, yet the Sunday after Christmas is always the most difficult for those who are ministering to keep the spirits up after the high of Christmas. What about the 400 or more visitors who came on Christmas Day? Do they all have other churches to go on an ordinary Sunday? Or are they mostly Christmas Christians who attend church once or twice a year for the sake of tradition like I used to do before being born again?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Feasting & Hangover

I skipped today's Open House at my friend's house. I have decided to rest and take time to prepare myself mentally for another round of house moving. I suggested to a friend over lunch yesterday that why can't we skip Christmas one time and donate all the money spent over this Christmas season to the needy? We would have spent RM15,000 to RM20,000 to feed almost 800 people on Christmas and other expenses besides, a record crowd for Christmas in my church. What about using the money to help the flood victims in West Malaysia? The non-stop rounds of feasting are dangerous to health. I put on some weight in December despite regular bike rides. In fact on Christmas dawn and yesterday morning I had long bike rides before attending church at 8am. In Singapore I used to walking and sometimes running to catch buses and trains at MRT stations and I had stayed slim.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Malaysia in 2015 & 2016

One of the worst natural disasters in modern history is the 2004 Tsunami where almost a quarter of a million people perished in the massive waves and torrents of waters that hit 5 or 6 countries including Malaysia in Penang and Kedah. As the year closes, half of the Peninsular Malaysian states are hit by floods with more than 100,000 people evacuated. Some States experience the worst floods in 60 years. Malaysia is ending the year with more bad news. The twin factors of falling oil prices and Ringgit currency plus the floods do not bode well for Malaysia as we enter 2015. It does not help when half the country is in crisis management mode but the PM was playing golf in Hawaii.

Monday, December 22, 2014

University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Christmas Festival


I attended UMS Pesta Krismas last night at UMS' Chancellor Hall, the first time Christmas celebrated on Campus. It was grand event. The Deputy VC attended to the guest of honour, a State cabinet minister and MP for Tuaran was also present. As it was raining heavily, the programme started late, about 8.30pm. I enjoyed it despite being my 4th event in 24 hours.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"By his Knowledge my Righteous One will Justify Many" (Isa 53,11b)

I have had a wonderful morning preparing for the Christmas sermon tonight. By no means easy. This will not be the typical Christmas sermon as I shall be taking my text from Isaiah 53,11. What a wonderful verse. Both the Bahasa versions got it wrong; the Indonesian has "by his wisdom" and the Bahasa Malaysia Berita Baik got it wrong altogether giving it a totally different sense.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Time to say Goodbye, Building a House.

It is never easy to part with what is familiar. It is never easy to say goodbye to close friends and familiar surroundings. Tonight I am having my neighbours come over. I think they will be surprised when I will say goodbye to them. Not that I see them often in the past but they thought I was back in KK for good. It has been a good run. In few days' time I will have stayed in my own house for 2 months without interruption for the first time in 7 years. I will say goodbye to my readers as well. The next chapter is in Ranau and if my book is published you will read it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sydney, a World-City

Several years I wrote a blog post titled 7 cities of the world, a kind of 21st century equivalent of the 7 cities of Revelation in the late 1st century. Sydney, Singapore, London, New York and Los Angeles were among the five listed. Whenever something happens in one of these cities, you will get global attention by the global media as we had witnessed in the Sydney siege that ended in the early hours today. I watched pictures live as gunshots were heard midnight and it was tragic that this morning I read that a Sydney lawyer and the cafe manager had perished along with the lone gun man.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Call has Come

Last night I think I had this Augustinian moment where he shared how he was caught up in some inexplicable raptures of the soul while chatting with his mother, Monica about the things of the Lord. I did not sense or experience anything unusual except that a sense of peace and serenity swept over me and that lasted over half an hour. Why am I feeling like that? I did not suddenly inherit a fortune or receive a bounty. In fact humanly speaking I should be worried. Ringgit Malaysian has fallen to its lowest in two decades. My favourite Peanut Butter will cost more next time round. But I was giving thanks to God in my heart, laying on bed thinking how good God has been. God is good. Even Jesus retorted to one who called him good "Why call me good? No one is good except God alone." Indeed it was a peace surpassing all understanding. I did not even know what to expect in Ranau. This morning when I touched base with the church chairman there and within the hour I received the call to go up to Ranau New Year's Eve and that I shall be speaking in the watch service in my own installation service as pastor.

Expository Preaching on John 3,1-16

Yesterday I preached from John 3,1-16. It was an unusual sermon, not easy preaching on born again or from above. Phrases like seeing the kingdom of God and entering the kingdom of God need some explaining. Why did John use three different ways to say essential the same thing? First, born again/above (v. 3), second born of water and Spirit (without the definite article in Greek) in v. 5 and third, born of the Spirit (v. 6). How does one explain water and spirit? Are two different things like water baptism and Spirit baptism? Or is it more likely water which is spirit, the kai in Greek does much than "and" in English? Ezekiel has a reference of water and spirit in the end of ch. 36. I think the word "water" in John 3 functions like water in John 4 where in the latter chapter water is used to signify the Holy Spirit which will come believers in Jesus. Further in John, twice Jesus mentions being born of spirit, first he who is born of the flesh is flesh, born of the spirit is spirit and do not be surprised that you must be born of the Spirit. Jesus is talking about spiritual regeneration through the water of the Spirit just as a man is born through water in her mother's womb, now spiritual rebirth is an act of God, not by the flesh or human will but by the will of God that we become children of God through believing in Jesus' Name (1,12).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Crowds

I wasn't mistaken. About 30 or 40 people from the village and about 60 adults from my homechurch. So I preached to my homechurch members as I came prepared. I just recovered from flu but my voice never great in the best circumstances was struggling throughout. But God enabled me to preach without much difficulty for about 50 mins. It was an expository type preaching from beginning to end. I preached about born again or born from above.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chrismas Sermons

This year I shall be preaching 2 Christmas sermons. Tomorrow the set text is taken from John 3,16 "the Father's love". I thought this village church only had about 30 adults but I was told to expect 100. For the second I was given a free hand and I shall be preaching from Isa 53 "by his knowledge my servant will justify many." I shall be speaking of the knowledge of God, knowledge of his ways and knowledge of Scripture. I see that in many churches that I am associated with there is not much learning of God's Word besides the Sunday sermon. Even sermons tend to be topical and jump from one title to another. My people perish for the lack of knowledge (Hos 4) and indeed there is a famine not of bread but of hearing the words of God.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Can be Meaningful

Last night I attended Christmas caroling at my friend's house. He is one of my closest friends in church and every year he will have an open house for Christmas. He would have his neighbours come over and there is food and fellowship aplenty. Last night it was no different. Around 12 families came together and we had our church youth group sang carols at 8pm sharp. When the host commended the youths for turning up on time I remember when I was pastor I had reminded the youths to be punctual even for carolling. I was called upon to pray twice, once for the carolling team and another time for the two cell groups that celebrated Christmas together last night. The newest pastor of the church preached a wonderful sermon on Immanuel (Matt 1,21-23). This new pastor is a Filipino, a new graduate of our Bible College. He was baptized during my last year as pastor in 2007 and now he is a pastor of the church. I am proud of him and in my prayers I prayed for him to be anointed by the Lord as he commenced ministry in church, reaching out to the street kids, mostly of Filipino descent. When I was pastor, there were only two Filipino families among the majority Kadazan-Dusuns and I made sure none of the Filipinos and Indonesians felt left out in the mainstream of church life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dawn & Dusk Services

Before dawn I drove to Teluk Likas and commenced my regular dawn bike ride for 8km. Last Friday I cycled for 15km with 3 friends from Rasa Ria Resort to Tuaran township. It was too much so I needed to build stamina before attempting longer bike tracks. It was good exercising at dawn and occasionally at dusk. By the time I finished biking, the sun had risen. Speaking of dawn and dusk I am planning to start dawn and dusk services in Ranau.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sunday Services

I had a wonderful Sunday yesterday. I thank God that after almost 33 years I still find much excitement going to church. "I was glad when they say, let us go up to the house of the Lord." But I was greeted by a Christmas carol and my mood for worship declined. I don't mind singing carols during caroling or on Christmas Day, but it was too early for me. It is still difficult to get readers to read Scripture in the way that honours the text and its original authors. Before the sermon, I excused myself and went to another SIB church service at 9am. Despite the church being small of about 100 members. I was welcomed with warm handshakes all round. Again, I was asked to pray twice, once after the sermon and also the benediction. I will be preaching in this church's Christmas service on 20th Dec. "Fear not little flock it is your Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom". Speaking of little flocks I am preaching in another Christmas service in a village at the outskirts of KK. My homechurch planted this fellowship and next Sunday will be the official launch of the new church building for this fellowship of about 30 adults and 20 children.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Racism in America

I have been following the news on the decisions of two grand juries to not indict the policemen that were involved in the death of two black Americans. I don't know much about the circumstances of the Ferguson shooting but the choke-hold that led to the death of a street vendor seemed irrefutable. The defenseless black man was pinned down and he repeatedly cried out "I can't breath." When President Obama was first elected there were high hopes that there would be less racism and racial discrimination. What else can you not think if Americans elected a black American (Obama's mother was white) that the President will see to it that his own people, the African Americans will be empowered and any trace of racial discrimination in America might be a thing of the past? Think again. Whenever Obama speaks on race issues especially regarding African American, he seems to be not full throttled as if something is holding him back. I am not a psychologist, but children of mixed parentage could choose one race over the other. Though in Obama's case, since he married a black American, he might lean more to the blacks as far as culture is concerned. But in American politics you need the white American votes to get elected and Obama might just feel somewhat reluctant to speak up more vigorously for black Americans lest he upsets the political elites. It is a sad day in America with a black American President but racism is still very much alive.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From 50 to 60

I think I am entering the next decade which will determine what kind of legacy I want to leave behind. Ten years are a short time. I can remember every decade of my life like it was yesterday. In the year 2025, I want to look back and see that I will have accomplished what I want to accomplish without regrets. In the short term, I will want to quickly establish myself as pastor of the church in Ranau. I will be moving to a new home which is exciting in itself. I was told that it is a large house and I trust the church members will find their pastor's house a place they can come and enjoy godly fellowship. Is it not an overseer's requirement to be hospitable?

Monday, December 1, 2014

20 Years & Counting

While stuck in a Coffee shop due to a continuous downpour I have much time to read the Prophets and to reflect on things consequential. Often we do things inconsequential, no lasting impact, let alone eternal fruits. Today I am celebrating the completion of 20 years in full-time ministry. Even the term, "full-time" can be misleading as if ordinary Christians only engage in part-time ministry. For in truth all Christians are priests and kings, engaging in full-time ministry, each according to one's calling and gifting. This is also my final month on sabbatical and by month's end I shall have enjoyed 6-month long sabbatical. As far as sabbatical is concerned it is planned as I had completed 6 years of teaching and further having achieved my golden Jubilee of 50 years. If one reads Lev 26, the Jubilee year is a rest year or sabbatical coming after the sabbatical year or 49th year, making Jubilee a double sabbath of 2 years in length. Lev 26 also makes the case that one should return to one's land in the year of Jubilee and confirmed by the Jacob's call to return to his own land after a period of working for Laban, I had ventured to follow God's leading in His Word. How can I not be influenced by God' Word having made it a habit for read it for hours each day, more so during these 5 months of rest. I have more than 50 sermons, more than 100 messages in my armoury ready to be unleashed when New Year beckons.

His God Teaches Him Aright (Isa 28,26)

One key verse in my coming to the Lord and learning His Word is this: "His God teaches him aright."  (Isa 28,26 MT) The LXX has quite a different take, "So you will be disciplined by the judgment of your God - and you will rejoice." It is by no means irreconcilable. He who is taught by the Lord is one who accepts discipline and through that discipline of bending his mind and will to the teaching, he will rejoice. For I rejoice in your Word more than the abundance of gold and silver, says the Psalmist. Whenever I approach Scripture I ask the Lord to teach me. What are the requirements of being taught? A teachable heart, a humility of spirit to listen and if granted understanding, a quickness to obey. What did David pray for his son if it was not for an obedient heart? As Ezra the scribe is said to study and research the law of the Lord and to obey it before teaching it to the people of Israel (Ezra 7,10).

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rural Communities in Sabah

One church in Singapore that approached me for a senior pastor's position had second thoughts when they saw my CV and thought I might not fit the demographics of their church. I wonder how I fit the demographics of the Ranau church, a rural indigenous community. I admired their faith and courage and I trust they will not be disappointed. On paper I am much more fitted for Singaporean Chinese English speaking community being an urban English speaking Chinese myself.  But I have learned to adapt and to be a Jew to a Jew, to be a Gentile to a Gentile, to be a Dusun to a Dusun, to be an intellectual to an intellectual,  to be a barbarian to a barbarian, to be all things to all men for Christ's sake.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Catching Up with Old Friends

Yesterday my wife and I had Lamb Masala in the Leaf, a restaurant owned and operated by TAR College. Tonight we are going to a dinner to witness the launch of a CD of songs composed and sung by church members from the church I preached last Sunday. This morning out of a sudden I went up to a dental clinic and reconnected with a friend I did not see for 10 years. We are going for Japanese dinner tomorrow night. This friend was the first SIB leader who welcomed me as a visitor and later visited me in my home in KK when I was 25 years old. I am still astounded and astonished that in my 6 years attending many churches in Singapore no one welcomed me as a visitor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Paul the Traveller

I just downloaded William Barclay's Paul the Traveller from biblicalstudies.org.uk. Paul, the greatest missionary and apostle was a traveller. For the journeys he made on foot and by sea, it was still remarkable considering that it was mainly in Turkey, Syria and Greece. Whether Paul went as far as Spain is still undetermined. But Asia Minor and Western Europe would never be the same again because of Paul. A Christianized Turkey for 600 years after Christ and with what is happening now in Turkey is worth pondering.

Monday, November 24, 2014

In a Lost World

Last night I gave a 3min testimony in my halting Hakka. It was awful but with a mix of English I managed to get the message across. Before that we sang a number of Hakka songs with Chinese lyrics which I just hummed along. I was in a lost world among Chinese speaking Chinese. I felt awfully uncomfortable throughout but for the sake of my neighbour I persevered. It was a far cry from the two meetings I spoke at in 2 SIB churches. The Malay-speaking Dusuns are my family and I felt very much at home.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Preaching Twice

I preached last night in my homechurch's combined cell groups meeting. About 55 people turned up. Quite a few members went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I spoke about the 9 beatitudes according to Jesus' sermon on the Mount. This morning I preached in a church planted by my homechurch which was declared a local SIB church last Friday. Before the main topic of my sermon I spoke about how the Lord laid in my heart to plant the church. In fact, I bought my house in the vicinity just to minister to the potential church goers. Now the church has about 100 adult members and I challenged them to grow further to reach out to the nearby housing estate and university students housed in apartments just 5 minutes away. I read from Titus 1 on the qualification of an elder and why it was important to assess all potential elders in the light of Scriptural requirements, instead on judging by worldly standards. I praised the two elders already serving there since 2009 and it was a real sacrifice on their part to do the work of the ministry in this outreach which had just became a local independent church.

Friday, November 21, 2014

By Faith Moses Refused...

Not all things are beneficial, not even material blessings and the prestige of power. It was by faith that Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharoah's daughter and chose instead to be ill-treated in company with God's people rather than to enjoy for a time the pleasures of sin (Heb 11,24). Further Moses considered the insults of the Messiah something more precious than all the treasures of Egypt. Following the Messiah is bound with the cross of the Messiah who though did no wrong was often maligned by the world. "The world cannot hate you but it hates me for I testify that its works are evil." Moses' motivation was the reward, probably the reward of God's promise that he would be deliverer and judge of Israel despite being rejected by his people in the beginning. Moses had to leave Egypt and ventured into the unknown but he was able to be resolute in the barren wilderness of Midian because he was like a man who could see the invisible (v. 27).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Those who Tremble at my Words (Isaiah 66)

I have another 6 weeks before making a move once again. This Sabbatical will last 6 months, longest I have taken thus far. I thought I was going to enjoy my own home for a while but it is fated and ordained that I should not enjoy homely comforts for too long. I have never spent longer than a year in my own house before moving out for ministry. A pilgrim I am Lord for You know where You go I will follow, even to the ends of the earth. I have no doubt for those with eyes to see, lifestyle choices speak louder than words. Prophetic signs and gestures are open to all to discern but alas how many know what God desires them to know. Indeed it is to babes and sucklings that God has revealed himself. Whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father and those whom the Father chooses to reveal the Son. The proud He knows from afar but to this one I look to, saith the Lord, to him who is broken in spirit and trembles at My Words. The engagement with Scripture can only mean one thing. Either you bow before God the Word or you choose your own way of disobedience and rebellion. God is not mocked. Let no one think that he can approach Scripture simply for the sake of knowledge or study so-called. The Word of God confronts us like a fire shut in our bones, dividing soul and spirit and revealing the intents of our heart.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunrise in Sabah

What a beautiful day. Sunrise in Kota Kinabalu. You don't have to travel 50million kms from the earth and land on a comet to see the beauty of God's creation.

Friday, November 14, 2014

10 Books & 10 Boxes

This time I will travel light. I realized during my six years of sojourn in Singapore I had accumulated too many things. Although I had thrown out or given away half my things I still had to send 10 boxes back to Sabah. I only had space for 10 books. But I will take a few boxes of books with me to Ranau. Two bags of clothings will do. I have not seen the manse or pastor's house but I was told that the office is downstairs, so I will save fuel from travelling to the office if I were in Kota Kinabalu. It is a beautiful land, one that I will soon discover by travelling to every corner of the State.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Food Necessary for Today

Yesterday I got up later than usual and I was just starting to read my Bible at 6am when I heard my neighbour called out to me and told me that his car was broken into. So I went out to talk with him and offered support. As a result my morning devotions were interrupted and I continued reading at 8.30am. By then my sense of calm and peace were lost and I felt my mind could not focus on the Lord as I was still thinking about what my neighbours went through. I realized that even for a day if we don't feed on the Lord we will go hungry for the day and things are not going to be the same just like someone who works with an empty stomach.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Spiritual Stamina

Feeling weak spiritually is something every Christian experiences now and then. Even pastor or fulltime church workers are not immune from it. It is especially crushing when one has to minister when one is feeling weak. Spiritual stamina must be stored up for the ardous journey ahead. Yet after more than 32.5 years since becoming a Christian, I have not felt more spiritually alive. This Sunday I was especially keen to go to church. Perhaps like the early church of the first 400 years, it is good to have dawn services, starting 6am. I was out and about at that time and read the Bible for a third time and still it was 2 hours before 8am service. I was in church 7.45am and joined the ushers to welcome church members coming to church. It was a good sign that the 400 buletins printed ran out by 8.20am and today there must be at least 450 adult worshippers. I went inside the sanctuary when worship started and stayed until 8.45am to go to another church service. At this church I sang for another 35 mins but it was like a breeze as the joy of the Lord was my strength.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ready to Rumble

I was woken up by the moonlight and that reminded me that one month had passed since the Feast of Tabernacles. The new moons are celebrated in Israel to mark time, especially holy times or holidays. It has been a meaningful month for me. A month ago I had no idea where the Lord was leading me and there were many twists and turns. Now I am all ready for the next phase of my ministry, my fourth.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Next Chapter

I hope to add another chapter to my book, "The Wait". I waited exactly one year to the day to find out what my future ministry will be. I think I have passed the test. Just. There were times I thought I was still needed in Singapore especially it took so long for my Sabah's position to come through. Really my life has thus far been living on faith and I have a chapter worth of story to tell in my 12-month wait. If wait for another 6 months I will have a Ranau chapter to add and the book will never end, very much like our lives before God are always filled with surprises and hopes of God's workings and mighty acts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"I Got a Head Start in an Unseemly Hour" (LXX Psalm 118)

In MT Psalm 119, there is this favourite psalm of mine about the Law and God's Word. In LXX translation there is this fascinating verse about the Psalmist waking up before dawn at an unseemly hour. I have been experiencing this lately and if not for the OG Psalm I woud have thought it was just my overactive emotions at work. I believe it is the Spirit of God. For several days since my Ranau trip, I got up at unseemly hour, before dawn at 3am or 4am. I walked downstairs so as not to disturb my wife. I read the Bible, yes the Septuagint for an hour or two and worship the Lord for an hour or so. By 6am I am ready to go and today I went to do some banking early in town to beat the rush hour traffic. Everytime I feel the Spirit stirs I know the Lord has much in store for me. Humanly, it does not make sense.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Taking a Break

I have decided not to accept preaching invitations as for now as there are so many things on my mind in anticipation of my new ministry. My spirit is already in Ranau though my body is in KK. I can't wait to meet my church members and I trust it will be an exciting time for them as it will be for me.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ranau Again?

If I accept a Christmas' preaching invitation to Ranau, it will be my 3rd time there in as many months. It is simply incredible how this township and its surrounding churches open their doors to the ministry of the Word. I very much look forward to serving the Christian community there as pastor among the Dusuns of Ranau. For my denomination, Ranau is a historic place where the Gospel found its first converts in the late 1930s when a Baptist minister by the name of Trevor White (Asang) first preached the good news among the Dusuns.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

From Singapore to Ranau

It's confirmed. I have not opened the letter yet but on the way to Ranau yesterday afternoon I got a call from my HQ that my appointment has been finalized. I will be in Ranau, a small town two hours from Kota Kinabalu, 20 minutes from Kinabalu Park where Mount Kinabalu is located. This morning at 5.30am I drove around town, surveyed and placed it under God's authority. I was moved in my spirit, my belly quivered and out of it flowed a mighty force for God's presence was here:"Return home and I shall be with you and bless you." God spoke to Jacob and he had spoken to me. When I got the news from HQ I rejoiced and the wait is over.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Twists & Turns

Just as I thought things were almost settled, there are further twists and turns. The Lord prepared me for this as I was reading Romans 8,21ff for Saturday's convocation sermon - "More than conquerors". Truly one can do all things through Christ. Nothing could unsettle one whose mind is fixed on Thee, Lord.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

O Books, Whither your Home?

Deciding where to send my books has been the greatest challenge. My home destination is not the ideal addressee neither is my current location. Thus, I sent a box full of my most precious books to my son in New Zealand in the hope that he will make use of some of them, maybe not now but in years to come. A man is only as good as his tools. A quick glance of the pastor's library will tell me whether the pastor will go far in the ministry of the Word. He must know words in order to articulate the Word. No wonder Paul was chosen to write half the New Testament because he was learned than most. No wonder he was called to be the apostle to the nations because the nations were multilingual like Paul and Paul was an expert in Greek, the lingua franca of the day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Final Reckoning


It is the finale. In the next 36 hours I have to decide what to bring with me and what goes into the recycle bin. I am sorting out my papers for the 10th time. Already gave all my notes to one former student but I still have stacks of photocopied articles. Most will be thrown out just like salt that has lost its saltiness. Perhaps I will ship my last three boxes of books or maybe I will give them away. This is the third and final time I am bringing things back with me to Sabah. One lesson I have learned through moving houses in the past months is that moving is hard and that's why very few choose to move. Perhaps a spiritual analogy why very few truly follow Christ because it involves going and moving.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cutting Ties & Burning Bridges

I may leave one place to another which in a sense is cutting ties and burning bridges. But in another sense one thing I do not do is to cut ties with friends or burn bridges with churches and institutions. My return to Kota Kinabalu is largely facilitated by friends who remember my ministry with a degree of fondness and these ties will be renewed by the will of the Lord. The bond that ties brothers together is love and when there is love ties are not broken but remain strong. Bridges that are not burnt could be traversed again, bridges of friendship and comradeship. A lot of these ties are made and strengthened over a cup of coffee in fellowship and mutual encouragement in the work of the Lord.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hope against Hope

Abraham and David are among my favourite fathers in the Old Testament. Abraham went forth without knowing where he was going. The destination was not told him until he was on the way. Just before I left Sabah on Wednesday, my future was still totally in the dark. I proceeded to cancel my credit card and close my bank accounts except one for no man can escape the tax man and until next year I will still need to pay taxes for income earned this year. This time we bought return tickets to Sabah. But all these without knowing what my future holds for me.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sleepless in Singapore

I spent a sleepless night. I thought I escaped from the heat of the battle by returning to Singapore but alas when I received news from home I did not know what to make of it. I tossed and turned, seeking the Lord per chance He will speak in His gentle voice but when I got up I was nowhere near resolving what was going through my mind whole night. So I prayed to Lord, have mercy on your church. You are the King. Let your decree concerning Your servant stand. This morning I read half of Hosea. Yesterday before the news came, I read half of Esther.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2nd Phase of Sabbatical Ends

My 6 weeks in Sabah have been times of refreshing and times of hearing and speaking the Word of God. I had preached 4 times, twice in Ranau and twice in Kota Kinabalu. It achieved its desired effect that more and more people know that I am back in Sabah. Last night out of the blue, we were invited to a dinner by a former church member. They were some of my strongest supporters when I was pastor, and it saddens me that some of my closest friends had moved to another church. We talked for 2 hours on many things but it was mutually edifying. I have learned not to count the chickens before they hatched. Nothing is sure until it is sure.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Last Sermon

I preached for 65 minutes, the longest sermon in 7 years. The text given to me was 1 Kings 17-19. Elijah and Jezebel and their conflict. I also spoke about the prophetic ministry in the New Testament from 1 Cor 12, 14 and Eph 2,20; 3,5; 4,7-16. The songs were mostly new to me but the song leader was one I worked with during my time as pastor. He is a wonderful song leader. I felt strong in the Lord as I had prepared for 10 days. Early Sunday at 4am I was already up. The Word was not easily contained as I spoke even as the oracles of God. I went on so long because I could see the church was ready for it. One visitor told me she understood little of what I said because it was in Malay. How did I learn to speak Malay? Well I told her I was Malay educated and proud to speak the national language well. I asked her whether she found the worship meaningful. She said Malay was a romantic language and the worship was touching. I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sunshine & Leadership

For the first time in 9 days I was greeted with sunshine this morning. Leaders are bringers of light as king David says when one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light (2 Sam 23,3).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Feast of Ingathering & Israel

One of the prophetic signs of sukkot is the ingathering of the nations and then salvation will reach Israel even as Paul the apostle said that when the number of the Gentiles has come in, then all Israel shall be saved (Rom 11,26). The appointed time is now. Gentiles from every nation are being gathered in and when this gathering is complete, God will turn to save His elect, the people of Israel. Evangelism should be hastened and preaching the Gospel should be given priority as we hasten the coming of the day of God.

Prophecy & Feast of Tabernacles

For Christians, the only major Feast that is left unfulfilled is sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus Christ the Lamb of God has been sacrificed on Passover and the Holy Spirit has been poured out on Pentecost, leaving Tabernacles as the prophetic Feast looking forward to the end-time. In Lev 23, a total of 7 Feasts are enumerated beginning with the Sabbath day. The 7th month lists 3 Feasts, Rosh Hashanah, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles which is the climax of the festal year. It is called the Feast of ingathering as crops and grapes and olives are gathered in the barns in late Autumn in preparation for the next year of planting and sowing. Hence, the prayer for rain, the early rain for the crops to grow and the latter rain for the crops to mature and ripen. We are into a season of the latter rain as the first Pentecost was the early rain while the end- times will see a double portion of the latter rain so that crops mature quicker and the harvest is large beyond measure. Speaking of rain, it has been raining 7 days non-stop in KK, a sign of the latter rain which the church will experience that will impact the world greater that the charismatic renewal of the 1960s and 70s.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Feast of Tabernacles & Blood Moon


Today will witness a convergence of events. The Feast of Tabernacles begins this evening, 15th Tishri (5775) and we will also witness a blood moon rising at 5.59pm Kota Kinabalu's time (Singapore about 7pm) - a total lunar eclipse, the second time this year (the first was on Passover, 14th Nisan). And it is also my 100th day in Sabbatical unto the Lord. I had stopped writing my book for a week since I had to prepare for my Atonement Day message but now today I have been writing the epilogue on "Pastoral leadership & Theological Education". It's up to 64,000 words. God's appointed Feasts are signs. Even in the Hebrew, it is God's appointed times, moed. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Return

The Bible is full of stories of people returning home after a sojourn elsewhere. The greatest example is Jesus, who as an infant spent 5 or 6 years in Egypt before returning home to Israel. Also when Naomi returned home the whole city was shaken with the news. While Naomi's fortunes took a turn for worse, Jacob returned with well earned wages in flocks of goats and sheep. Jacob became a rich man despite Laban's ill treatment. Perhaps, Jacob who cheated his brother got a taste of his own medicine as he claimed that Laban had cheated his wages 10 times. Jacob received a revelation from the Lord to return to Canaan after 20 years. And the greatest national return is the return from exile. Although 70 years were prophesied, the Israelites in fact endured about 50 years in exile from 587 BC to 538 BC. Quite likely the 50 years in exile is set as the maximum time which Israelites could be away from their own possessions according to the laws of Jubilee.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rain & Divine Love

Kota Kinabalu is extremely hot throughout the day and night. But for the past 5 days it has been raining and for the first time I had to turn on the heater for bath. The rain has been good and refreshing, showers of blessings for plants, grass and earth. If the Father takes care of the grass will He not care for us His beloved children? The love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit is the best gift to humans. Every person is looking for love.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Here I am

The song leader started worship by speaking Hebrew today and he repeated three times "hineniy", the Hebrew for "Here I" or "Here I am". Abraham answered God and the angel with hineniy, a sigh of readiness on Abraham's part to listen to the royal command. Much like the prophet Isaiah who also answered hineniy when he heard God asking "Who shall go for us?" This attitude of worshipful waiting for the royal command is especially precious as obedience is better than sacrifice. I have experienced 3 days of intense spiritual activity. On Friday I spent 12 hours in the Lord's presence before preaching for 30 minutes. Yesterday was Yom Kippur and we fasted. Today was the Lord's day and we worshipped and listened to His Word. Again I can't emphasize more the importance of preaching. If it is done well which the congregation listens to the voice of the Lord and not of man's, then God's will is done and He is exalted.

Ku kan Terbang Tinggi (I will fly high)

There is something special about Malay worship songs. Today for a while I did not feel anything until the last song. I am still humming and singing in my heart. I will fly high I will raise my hands and I surrender to You O Lord. And I prayed that the Lord would pour out his love to his children and church members gathered. "What do you want? All I want is You, Lord. My heart breaks with his love outpoured. I can't imagine anyone wanting anything else. I have no desire on earth except You Lord. After service ended I went to drinks fellowship and spoke to at least five ordinary members.

New Day & New Hope

I got up way before the Muslim call to prayers. I had gotten used to the sound of the call as my house is surrounded by two mosques. I have always thought to myself that if my co-religionists could get up early at 4:30am to pray why not Christians? So this morning  I got up before 4am and I was filled with a sense of peace which was indescribable. I was filled with a joy that transcends the many joys I had experienced before. I was filled with a sense of hope that words could not define for eyes have not seen nor ears heard nor the heart perceived what God had prepared for them that love him. What I am certain about is that a new dawn is coming, a new day which brings new hope.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Yom Kippur & Fasting

The only time fasting was enjoined on the Israelites is on the Day of Atonement. So it was fitting for my homechurch to hold a prayer and fasting day today. We broke fast at 4.30pm after we prayed from 9am. I was praying at home until noon before joining my church members. At the end, about 15 men and 7 women took part. The moment we finished prayers, there was a sudden downpour but it lasted a few minutes. We were just reading 1 Kings 17 where Elijah said that there would be no rain except at his word.

Yom Kippur & Preaching

I preached a 30 min sermon last night at 9.15pm. I was supposed to preach at 7.30pm before dinner but the meeting was delayed so the chairman announced that dinner would be served first before the sermon. First the natural then the spiritual. It was a good move since for more than an hour I was wondering how to cut short the sermon as minutes passed without most of the guests present. But I had waited in the Lord's presence since 6.30am and I was filled with power and the Spirit of the Lord when I stepped up to the podium. I preached about 3 things. First, the Day of Atonement and Jubilee based on Lev 25, 8 to vv 13. Then, the acts of God towards men who love Him based on Psalm 91,14-16. The third on team ministry as it was a men's fellowship soccer tournament. I shared why it was important to mark milestones in one's life. Jubilee is only celebrated once in one's lifetime and it is important to make it count. Interestingly it was on the day of Atonement, 10th day of Tishri that the trumpet is blown marking the year of Jubilee. In Psalm 91, there are two states of men and one action of man but God acts in 7 different ways.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Yom Kippur & A Fresh Start

That's it! I have finished my book. I added a half-page Prologue and a full-page Synopsis. I have reached 61,000 words and 144 pages. I think it is a good number, even given the formatting, etc with photos and maps, the book will be not more than 150 pages, depending on the font size. Tonight I shall be preaching at a State-level Men's Fellowship. It has been raining since last night but I pray the turnout will be good with expected 40 tables to be filled. I will preach from Lev 25:8-13 on the Day of Atonement Yom Kippur and the blowing of trumpets in Jubilee. Menandakan batu peringatan dan pelayanan berpasukan (Marking Milestones & Team Ministry). It will be a fresh start for me. I will move on to another stage of my book project, sourcing a publisher and a translator of my book from English to Malay.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Finishing Touches

I am putting the finishing touches to my book. A table of contents is being finalised with each chapter divided into 7 to 12 sections. I think when all the maps and photos are put in the book will be about 120 pages or 60,000 words. You may read it in 2 sittings.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

4th Month of my Sabbatical

I am pleased that my sabbatical has finally bore fruits. God's timing is always perfect. My friend suggested that I should write a book on 10th September and I started the next day. When he called me three days ago I was just about to finish.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Memoirs of a Modern Missionary


I thank You, Lord for You have not abandoned the works of Your hands! For the past 20 days, I was occupied with writing my memoirs and it is now finished. It may not be in the league of Nehemiah's wall completed in 52 days but originally I had thought I needed at least 3 months but I had finished the first draft in less than 3 weeks. The table of contents for the first four chapters are found below (photo - my 4-year old son in Melangkap, near Mount Kinabalu, the first place of my missionary endeavours):

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Epilogue

I thought I was going to finish my book today. It's past 52,000 words and I am into my last chapter, the Epilogue. I have decided to leave out theological reflection and retain its narrative character throughout. I thought my chapter on my sojourn in Singapore would be brief but it came up 18 pages' long. Today I spent some time with my brother and his family and then dropped off some things for my dad in my other brother's place. How blessed if brothers dwell in unity as the Psalmist declares. How blessed is my father who has four sons, like arrows in the quiver and who dare to assail him?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rosh Hashanah 5775

Blessed New Year, 5775 according to the Jewish calendar (see Times of Israel's article here). Today is the 1st of Tishri, the 7th month, the commencement of the sacred month where the two most important ceremonies will be celebrated,  Yom Kippur10th Tishri (3rd Oct evening) and Sukkoth (Tabernacles) on the 8th October. This is especially significant year for me as we enter the day of atonement, the shofar will be blown on the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25). The root word, Jubilee comes from yovel, a ram's horn (shofar). Why is the shofar blown?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ministry in Ranau

I had a 24-hour trip to Ranau,  2-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu. It was along to route to Mount Kinabalu. It was a difficult drive tailing several lorries uphill under heavy rains. I arrived at 5pm in Ranau and found it so refreshing compared to the heat in KK. It must be about 20 degrees, and temperatures could fall to 16 degrees at night. My friend called me just I parked my car and later an elder of the church came and took me to my hotel. We proceeded to dinner where another 8 church leaders turned up. It was wonderful catching up with old friends. The last time I ministered in a Ranau church was in 1998, some 16 years ago.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Writing Technology

I must now think with technology, writing is no longer the strenous process of 30 years ago with type writers, etc. Now I carry my Macbook Air, 11inch laptop with me everywhere and I will type on the keyboard whenever I feel I am in the mood to write. It is one of the lightest laptops around with 1.05 kgs.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Leadership (Good & Bad)

I think I will add a chapter on Leadership (Good & Bad), probably the most reflective of all chapters with strong biblical and theological undertones. Thus far, all completed 7 chapters are narrative, a story of events that I feel most significant and momentous in my life and ministry. I do include a verse or two here and there but 95% will be pure narrative.

I was born to be Pastor

I took a break from writing and it is now past 40,000 word mark. I watched China Insight on CCTV and I saw the jams in Beijing subways. I am glad that Singapore's MRTs are not so crowded. In the programme, a train driver spoke about his pride of achieving a safety record equivalent to the distance of 22 trips around the world. He shared how once he slowed down the train by instinct as he was turning a corner and then he saw a girl in the middle of the track. Because he had slowed down, he could stop in time. He remarked, "I was born to be a train driver." What were you born for?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Writing Begins Afresh

After a day of turmoil, I received strength to start writing again this morning. Weeping is only for a night but joys come in the morning. I have reached 35,000-word mark and the last chapter on my Singapore's ministry will be brief. I don't want to exceed 40,000 words but even my niece laughed when I told her that. I might reach 45,000-word, max and that will be it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sudden Stop

I experienced slow progress today. For the first time since I started writing last week, I felt a check on my writing. I have arrived at the 7th chapter, about my 63 months' tenure as pastor of my homechurch. I got emotional and it was too close for comfort since for the past 2 weeks I have been attending church and it was too difficult to write about something so close in my heart from so close a distance. Last Sunday I wept several times for the spiritual health of my denomination.

New Book 2/3 Done

A good book is like a tree. It stands the test of time and many people eat from the fruits of it. In my wildest hopes, I can't imagine this rate of progress when I started to write last Wesnesday. I have passed the 32,000 word mark and into the 7th chapter. A couple more chapters to go and I shall be done.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Malaysia's 51st National Day

This morning I arrived at the Likas Sports Complex where Malaysia's 51st National Day was celebrated. The Negara-Ku was sung and there was a march by the Malay Regiment in full regalia.Sabah Tanah Air-ku, negeri kita yang tercinta. What pride in Statehood and what glory when citizens lived in harmony and stand shoulder to shoulder with one another. Anyhow, I am a son of Sabah, anak Malaysia. There was much flags waving, and I waved my Malaysian flag caught up in the euphoria. I could have picked up a Sabah flag but I chose to wave the Malaysian flag, Jalur Gemilang because I believe in Sabah as part of Malaysia forever, until Jesus comes again.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

One Life. One Place.

You just have one life and you can be at one place at a time. This morning I was awakened by the Muslim call to prayers and I went down to the dining room where I normally spend quiet moments before the Lord. By 6am I had my computer turned on and I started writing until 7.30am when it was time to go church. I wrote and I wrote and for the first time since writing my thesis back in 2002, I felt a sense of real excitement putting thoughts on paper or words on screen. I typed away furiously on my Macbook Air (11inch) and now it is reaching 15,000 words and the 4th chapter. I am almost halfway through. At this rate I could finish the first draft by the end of the month.

The worship was powerful today led by two of my favourite song leaders, youth leaders, one male and one female. Even the back up singers sang extremely well. Tambourine dancers lined the stage of the church in their beautiful and elegant yellow attires and flowing robes. The preacher hit so many one-liners that I lost count. Be generous with God, be stingy with sin. The only thing that matters eternally is what you do for Jesus. He preached from Matt 26 about the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume. Give your all to Jesus. You have one life. Use it for Jesus. Be a river, don't be a dam. Jadilah sungai bukan empangan.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Time for a New Book

There is a time for everything under heaven. When asked when I was going to write my new book, I have often quoted Jesus' words to his brothers, "My time is not yet." Three days ago my good friend asked me again to consider writing a book. I was provoked to action but previous attempts have been discarded after 2 or 3 pages. I have 4 or 5 files of failed attempts in trying to write my second book.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ministry Milestones

Today is the 13th anniversary of Sept 11 2001 infamy. It was one of those moments forever etched in memory, remembering what one was doing when the two planes crashed into NY's twin towers. I was writing my doctoral thesis on Revelation. The other moment almost as emotionally wrenching was the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. I was in Melbourne, Australia. But few days ago I celebrated my 2nd milestone and this second half of 2014 is a year with several personal milestones. The first two were private but the next two I shall be celebrating with friends and church family, marking my 20th year in full-time ministry and 25 years as a member of one SIB church in Kota Kinabalu.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sunset in Borneo


I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets and the rise of the full Moon across South China Seas at Teluk Likas, Kota Kinabalu.
My friend and I biked along the 8km cycle way from Sabah Foundation to Teluk Likas, near the city centre.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Moon Festivals

Jewish feasts are mostly moon festivals. The feast of Passover falls on the 15th of Nisan and the coming feast of Tabernacles, a month from now, falls on the 15th day of Tishri. Today is the Moon Festival for the Chinese, 15th day of the 8th month, also known as the mid Autumn festival. I did not know about it until told by a friend this morning because I am a spiritual Jew more than anything else as Paul says in Roms 2 that it is the one who is inwardly circumcised who is a Jew and his praise comes from God and not men. I am excited by lunar festivals this year. Next full moon, Feast of the Tabernacles is the second blood moon, a full eclipse, part of a tetrach of eclipses for 2014 and 2015 all falling on key Jewish festivals. The Feast of Tabernacles or booths or in Hebrew, hag hasukkoth commemorates the wanderings of the Jews for forty years in the wilderness, bemidbar. Imagine that the greatest festival of the year is a festival of wanderings or time in the wilderness.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sabbath - Cessation Time

Robert Alter defines "sabbath" as "cessation time." The Five Books of Moses (p. 409). As I read Exodus 16, the principle of sabbath is reinforced by the miracle of manna, only gathered for six days with a double portion on the 6th day but a cessation on the 7th when there was no manna. It is "day of rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord (Exod 16,23). "Six days you will gather it, and on the 7th day, the sabbath, there will be none." (16,27). As usual, some Israelites refused to believe the word of the Lord through Moses and the lesson of sabbath has to be brought home repeatedly, as "they go out not from their place on the 7th day and the people ceased from work." Likewise, the principle of the sabbatical year is the same that Israelites could work their land for 6 years and then they have to rest for a whole year. This sabbath principle teaches the Israelites who their God and Master is, the lord and owner of their land, the land of Israel as a whole given to Israelites as a gift through a promise. Attached to the promise that they could retain possession of the land in perpetuity if they believe in the Lord, including the sabbath commandment, both weekly and every 7th year and a special or double sabbath on the Year of Jubilee.

Monday, September 1, 2014

"By the Blessing of the Upright a City is Exalted" (Proverbs 11:11)


The prophet Jeremiah asked the Judean exiles to seek the welfare of the city (Babylon) where they would be exiled for 70 years. A city is saved by the righteous who live in it. Sodom and Gomorrah could have been saved if there were 10 righteous men whereas Jerusalem would be spared if only one righteous man lived in it in the time of Jeremiah. No doubt the righteous play a role often unacknowledged by the powers to be. They stand in the gap and intercede for the nation. They pray for kings and those in authority (1 Tim 2). They stand in the gap when disasters come and the Lord protects the city in response to the cries of the righteous. Whether it is earthquake, plague or haze, when the righteous call on the Lord, the city is saved. The city is exalted when the righteous bless it with their prayers and petitions before the Lord most High, the king of all Nations.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Peace & Preaching


In the past few days, I have experienced great peace, a peace that surpasses understanding. Now coming to the end of 2 months of my sabbatical, I shall be preaching tomorrow, God willing. The invitation more than 1 month ago as I was attending a Preaching Conference and it happened that I chatted with 2 people from the church that I shall be preaching on Sunday. It will be my first sermon in 9 weeks, after conducting a Bible class last Sunday. Soon I will be heading back to Sabah and 4 more sermons await me, 2 in Ranau, near Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South East Asia of 13,455 ft.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Future Studies & the End-Time


A couple of days ago. Straitstimes reported on a Professor who majored in Future Studies (see link). As one who has studied prophecy, looking into the future is my "specialty". I don't predict the future but I study what the Bible teaches about the future, especially the last book of the Bible, Revelation. I must say I was intrigued with what the Professor said about Singapore's exposure to earthquakes of 8 richter scale, even if it hits Sumatra, a neighbouring island. Tall buildings especially those built on soft soil will sway and could be at risk of damage. The book of Revelation speaks much of earthquakes and Jesus in Luke's Gospel speaks of great earthquakes attending the early signs of his coming. Also in Luke and Revelation, another disaster that will befall the world is plagues, deadly diseases spreading like Ebola and before the current Ebola epidemic, we had SARS and different strains of bird flu. Climate change is also predicted, especially droughts for in the days of the prophecy of the two witnesses, there shall be no rain (Rev 11,6).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Life's Threshold & Destiny

One thing about my homestate, Sabah is that the word, "sabbath" in Hebrew sounds like sabbat. I guess I come from a place of rest and I shall be returning to my hometown in a week's time. How long I am going to be in Sabah is entirely dependent on how things pan out for me in Singapore. I may return to Singapore at the end of September and begin a new ministry. If not, possibly a short stopover and onto New Zealand for the next phase of my sabbatical. Or I will stay put in Sabah as long as the Cloud remains in the Land Below the Wind. I feel like Joshua at the edge of Jordan, at life's threshold, ready to cross over and conquer the promised Land. Where that promised land for me is entirely in God's hands. Kiergegaard, the Danish philosopher wrote some 150 years ago that we, like Abraham, serve a God of all possibilities because He is the great I AM and the I will be what I will be.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Fool's CV


This is the title of an essay given by a former colleague (still a good friend) when I first came to Singapore more than 6 years ago. What would Paul the apostle put in his CV if he were to apply for a job? I have learned from experience that I should not give out my CV too readily. CV or resume usually contains the nice or presentable parts of one's qualifications, work and experience but in the ministry for the Lord, qualities and skills needed to do the Lord's work may not be found in any CV. I know that my CV does not even pretend to tell half the story, probably 25% of my story, my history with God. What about my tears put into the Lord's bottle? Is that presentable in a CV - "I cried a lot before the Lord", but yet it is said of our Saviour that in the days of his flesh, he cried out to God with loud cries, tears and weeping.." (Hebrews). What about getting up early in the morning at 5am and wait 2 or 3 hours, apparently doing nothing except waiting on the Lord? How can you measure these things? How about a heart beating with the love of God and compassion for lost humanity? Can anyone really see into the heart except the Lord himself? "Man looks at outward appearance but God looks into the heart". What about character - love, humility, gentleness, self-control, peace...against which there is no law?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"I Stood Up, I Cried in the Congregation" (Job 30, 28)

Sometimes God can speak to us in the unlikeliest of texts, Job 30,28. As the preacher read from the ESV, I was reading from KJV and the Lord used his Word to confirm what he was showing me. I was as if caught up in the wind/spirit, caught up into his presence. I felt a sweetness and tenderness in God's presence, indeed we are nothing but little children in the arms of the heavenly Father. How great is his love for us that we should be called the children of God. Did not Jesus say, "unless you become little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God." Again, after his resurrection, Jesus called his adult disciples, "Come my children and eat".

Job goes on to experience that, "my substance is dissolved." Even as we are united to him, we melt in his presence and our substance becomes like the spirit as those who are united with the Lord is one spirit with him. It helped today that the songs we sang were some of my favourites. "All glory belongs to you" and "peace that guards my heart." He is indeed waiting for us to enter into his presence and worship him in spirit and truth.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jacob's Travails

The story of Jacob takes up the second half of the book of Genesis, sandwiched between the story of Abraham, his grandfather (Gen 12-24) and his son, Joseph (Gen 37-50). Because it overlaps with the Joseph's narrative towards the end of Genesis, we can say that the life and adventures of Jacob are given the most space in the first book of the Bible. Perhaps God knows not everyone will have the faith of Abraham and can identify with the rise to political power of Joseph but with Jacob, almost everyone can identify with him in one way or another. If you are a grieved employee, look at Jacob, twice he said his employer, Laban cheated him ten times though Jacob worked hard and Laban even acknowledged that God had blessed him on account of Jacob's presence and work. If you have family conflicts, sibling rivalry, Jacob's spat with Esau his older twin deserves much study and how at the end they are reconciled though Jacob feared for his life when he met his brother after 20 years away.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Soekarno: Malay Language as Third Language

"Soekarno" now showing at the cinemas is one of the most beautiful films I have watched for a long time. It trumps even the movie on Margaret Thatcher which I also watched 5 years ago. Maybe I am a history and politics buff with love for all things regional, which to me is the "Golden Triangle" of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Soekarno, the film is especially poignant now that President-elect Bapak Jokowi is confirmed to take office on the 20th October after the Constitutional Court last night threw out presidential candidate Bapak Prabowo's challenge to the Elections results. The movie was 2 hours 20 minutes long, just the right length for an epic on the founding President of Indonesia. In the later years of his Presidency, President Soekarno launched the Konfrontasi (Confrontation) against the newly formed Federation of Malaysia and Singapore which was then a part of Malaysia suffered when two Indonesian agents bombed Macdonald house leading to several deaths. This 50-year incident somewhat came back to live when the Indonesian Navy named a warship after the two agents, executed by the Singapore government for their role in that short time of terror.

If anyone understands Indonesian history, it is a modern miracle that the Malay archipelago (Nusantara) of 17,000 islands achieved independence in 1945 under Soekarno-Hatta leadership. What impresses me about its early history is how Indonesians achieved nationhood through a strong sense of nationalism that led to independence and patriotism that binds different peoples, tribes, languages and religions together as one nation, satu bangsa Indonesia Raya! Part of their success is due to the Pancasila, the five foundational principles of nationhood where there is no State or one official religion and that no religion dominates another though close to 80% of Indonesians are Muslims. This sense of nationhood is the strongest in Indonesia, more so than in Malaysia and Singapore. Malaysia's former premier Dr M lamented recently that Malaysia could never become bangsa Malaysia because of racial, language and religious divisions in the country. Dr M cited Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand as countries that exhibit strong national identity where citizens identify themselves as Thais, Filipinos and Indonesians as the case may be. I could go on as to the causes of division in Malaysia but I will leave it to the political analysts and academics. One thing I learn and observe is that prosperity, even shared prosperity can never really binds a nation together.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Ye Men of Little Faith"

Jesus rebuked his followers several times: "Ye men of little faith!" Should not the Father who feeds the birds in the air and clothes the grass in the field, feeds us his beloved children? Why are then many Christians behaving like the pagans, always asking what they are going to eat, what they are going to drink or cloth themselves or worry about their retirement savings? (Matt 6:33). Yesterday I went past a woman holding a child selling tissues on the streets. Normally I would walk past without a thought but this time my heart was stirred to do a good deed - I gave her $10.00 and did not take any tissues. She said, "Terimakasih" and there was good enough for me. As I was hurrying away, my heart continued to stir and heard the Lord spoke, "If you had concern for that child and you thought your $10.00 could help her, who you think I am? Am not I able to provide for you?" I moved quickly through the crowds and the voice subsided. It's rare kind of experience that many religious scholars are slow to talk about. I was encouraged by a book I am currently reading by William James, a Harvard Professor, medical doctor and psychologist, written more than one century ago, The Varieties of Religious Experience (Oxford Classics, 2012). In it, Prof James recounted a story given by George Fox, the founder of Quakers movement of how Fox travelled through Lichfield and felt the word of the Lord came to him and he had to cry out against Lichfield right in the midst of the market-place. It was only later that George Fox understood why he thought the Lord wanted him to cry out against the town because many centuries ago, 1,000 or so Christians were martyred there. How can you explain what George Fox experienced? Was his religious experience valid, contestable or simply illusory?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Retirement Savings: Is God in the Equation?

I watched the National Rally speech on Sunday from 8pm to 9.20pm, missing the last ten minutes. I thank God for PM Lee and he came across as a sincere, honest man and Singapore will do well under his stewardship and steady  hands. I have no qualms in engaging him as my financial planner if I ever needed one. There is only one statement I will take issue with - when God was mentioned as if He could do little for those in financial straits. By the grace of God, I am a living example of how God can help those who trust in Him. If I had worried about my retirement savings whether there will adequate savings for me in my old age or otherwise I would not have given up my legal practice. I would not have served the indigenous peoples of Borneo for 14 years if I did not trust God to provide for me financially. In the first 4 years of my work in church I lived on 5% of what I earned as a lawyer. Not possible humanly speaking but for every month, 48 months in all I can testify that God had provided extras for me on top of my salary. Even when I was not preaching and there was no honourarium, God used individuals to bless me financially. I once received a red-packet at my doorsteps with RM 500.00 in it and many miracles besides.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Time in Timelessness

Eternal life could be defined as time in timelessness. And Sabbath is a sign of the coming age (Hebrews 4) when we fully enter God's Rest once and for all and we cease from all our labours. Wonderfully, in Hebrews those who believe have already entered that rest and we have ceased from our labours as God who rested on the Sabbath day. Even now as we believe we are granted eternal life, a life that will not end, so time now, historical time is relativized in the light of eternity which we have already entered in through faith. John, who knows Jesus more than anyone else, for he lays on Jesus' bosom, has this to say of life eternal - to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). As God has created time and time is a creature of timelessness since God dwells in eternity, we who know God, know time in timelessness and a Sabbath is a sign of this present and future reality.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bamboo Shoots & ASEAN Theology

Bamboo shoots are a local delicacy in Myanmar, Borneo and some other Asean countries. ASEAN hope to celebrate a common market and doing away with trade barriers next year. It is a good time to be in ASEAN. For the past 6 years, I have gotten to know students from 8 Asean countries. My first MTh graduate is a Burmese who is serving in northern Myanmar. One of my best students was a Vietnamese who was in my first NT class in 2008 and I was thrilled to receive news that he would be getting married soon. Perfect excuse to visit Vietnam and meet my former students. I have only been to Thailand once for ministry and did not stop even for an hour to tour Bangkok. It was from the airport to the place of Retreat and back to Airport after the Retreat ended. My Thai visit was memorable as I watched the news of Osama's killing on a TV (I take no delight in the death of the wicked , saith the Lord) at the Bangkok airport waiting to fly back to Singapore with airport security suddenly increased considerably.

Today & Tomorrow: The Greek of Luke 13:32


If you are frequent reader of this blog, you will realize that I like to read and write about enigmatic texts of the Bible, those that you don't hear about in sermons or even by reading commentaries (though I am sure some commentaries by nature as a commentary would have something to say about it). The text I am referring to is Jesus' saying in Luke 13:32-33. The Greek is especially illuminating. "I am performing cures...today, tomorrow and on the third I shall be perfected". First, it is quite clear that Jesus is speaking metaphorically, using a kind of chronology or time-line to convey some enigmatic details about his life and ministry. Second, the word, "day" after the third is missing in the Greek, so Jesus is literally saying on the third (implied on the 3rd day) he will be perfected. The previous verse talks about his work of healing illness and diseases of all kinds and bringing relief to many. Jesus is completing today his ministry of healing and by tomorrow he will continue this work though perhaps in a different form and phase. third I shall be perfected indicates Jesus' life reaching its maximum potential and having reached it gained perfection, the crown of his life-ministry. Jesus says in John's Gospel that his food is to do the will of God and complete/finish it (John 4) and on the cross as he was dying, Jesus exalted in the fact that, "It is finished!" (John 19:30).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Whom Shall I Send?

There is this Romans passage about those who are sent out to preach in Rom 10,12-17. How are they to call on him they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?...but not all have obeyed the gospel/good news...for Isaiah says, "Lord who has believed our report?

Significantly, the role of faith or belief is crucial in this passage. For people will only call on one whom they believe. Often when we say to people God can help them and they look at you in disbelief. Why? They have yet to believe in this God and how can they call on him whom they have not believed. Paul goes on to say that the people need to hear first before they can believe which means the Gospel had to be articulated verbally to convey God's message of salvation to mankind. With this aurality, the Spirit works to convict hearts until some will believe in him.

Paul goes on to argue that people will only listen if there are those who preach the Gospel. Hence, the crucial bridge between faith and hearing the Gospel is actually a human instrument, the preacher. Note that it is in plural, those who preach the Gospel following the Isaianic verse on how beautiful are the feet of those preach the good news. Interestingly, Paul does not think everyone will believe, perhaps only few will believe by citing another Isaiah quotation, "who will believe our report?", with the rhetorical question giving a sense of discouragement and doom for few will find the good news good for them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What is Preaching?

Preaching is not a skill to be learned but a life to be lived in devotion to God who has called the preacher to His service. Preaching is a gift given to them who tremble at His Words and the fear of the Lord is his treasure. The law of God is in his heart and he is ready to preach in a moment's notice in season and out of season.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

National Day & National Language (Part 2)

I did not think that I will write on this again so soon barely 20 hours since my last post. But I just experienced or had an encounter that proved my point. I was asked by a counter sales-girl at a busy 7-Eleven to listen in her mobile and helped her made sense of the English instructions given therein. I tried to explain to her with my limited Mandarin, perhaps got through 50% of my faltering Mandarin. She could not speak a single word in English, except thank you and sorry. I have met many Chinese nationals who are now Singaporean citizens and PRs but they know little English. Perhaps I always put on my friendly persona with strangers and I got to know quite a few uncles and aunties who could not speak English but happy to put up with my broken Mandarin.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

National Day & National Language

August is an august month. It is the month where three close neighbours celebrate their National Days, beginning with Singapore today, Indonesia on 17th August and Malaysia, 31st August. The last is still being disputed by most Sabahans and Sarawakians since Malaysia's National Day should fall on 16th Sept 1963 when these two States together with Singapore formed the Federation of Malaysia. At least Singapore and Malaysia share a common history and 49 years ago today, Singapore achieved independence from Malaysia.

Perhaps the first thing I like to note about these shared histories in this region is that National Day should be called as it is or Independence Day rather than "Birthday". I always feel that something is not right when someone uses the phrase, "Happy Birthday" for nation-states. In Malay, it would be Hari Kebangsaan or Hari Kemerdekaan and it is not hari jadi.

Speaking of Malay or the Malay language, it is the national language for both Malaysia and Singapore. Indonesia would prefer that their national language be known as Bahasa Indonesia which is derived from Malay and probably 80% similar to the Malay spoken in Malaysia and Singapore.

Significantly, Indonesia by calling its national language by its nation's name shows the political discourse and wisdom of her founding fathers who thought this one national language could unite the diverse tribes and races spread across 17,000 islands over 3,000 kms. Indonesia has achieved national unity and cohesion through its national language. Though it may be weak in the use of English where it is only taught in Secondary One in most national schools, Bahasa Indonesia has given Indonesia a sense of identity not found in her much smaller neighbours, Malaysia and Singapore.

Singapore has achieved much prosperity and its GDP per capita among the top in the world, 4 times higher than Malaysia and more than 10 times Indonesia's. However, Singapore's national identity is still weak, partly due to a lack of a national language. Not many Singaporeans know that its national language is Malay because very few politicians highlight this fact and the use of Malay is limited to army commands and certain State protocols. National identity is bound with its national language and Singapore must choose.

Friday, August 8, 2014

"They have profaned my Sabbaths" (Ezek 20)

This verse from Ezekiel 20 serves as a kind of refrain why the Lord poured out his wrath on Israel leading to their desolation and exile (Ezek 20:13, 16, 20-21, 24). "They have profaned my Sabbaths." Also at the end of 2 Chronicles, a telling summary of what had happened to the Israelites for the duration of their exile in Babylon is that the land (of Israel) kept its Sabbaths (or sabbatical years) [2 Chr 36:21). Why is it so difficult for the Israelites to keep the Lord's Sabbaths from the weekly Sabbath, sabbatical year (7th year) and the two years on the 49th and 50th year? From the time of the wilderness, the Lord had already begun to teach his people to trust him for their daily provision. When on the normal days they collected too much, the manna became stale and they had to collect the manna daily for six days. But on the sixth day, double portion was allowed and it did not go stale so that Israelites could rest on the Sabbath, 7th day and ate the portion collected on the 6th day. When they went out on the Sabbath to collect manna, there was none as the Lord rested from all his works on the 7th day and did not shower the manna on the Sabbath. Similarly on the 7th year, the Lord had promised (Lev 25-26) that he would provide double portion so that when the land rests on the Sabbatical year and the Israelites rest from their labour they are provided for with the double provision of the sixth year. The commandment coupled with promise of the Lord obviously was not heeded by most Israelites. They did not trust the Lord to provide for them. They did not rest on the sabbatical year (7th year) but tilled the land yearly because they lacked trust in the Lord to provide for them. In fact, Lev 26:10 is telling - one Sabbath principle is that we clear out from the old that is to eat from what is stored and clear the old for the new ("You will be still eating from the previous year and will have to clean out what is stored from the previous year to make room for the new" NET). But most people only know to accumulate and they never stop accumulating as Ecclesiastes writes that they are some who will make much money and gather much possessions but not enjoying them and not knowing who they will leave their fortune to. How do we keep our Sabbaths now as Christians?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fruits of the Land

Whenever I conduct End-time or Revelation seminars, I would pose the question that if we should live in the last days of the Great Tribulation before Jesus returns, how will we survive? I tell my audience that we should live off the land and for most Singaporeans that would prove extremely difficult because there is no land. Singapore imports more than 95% of their daily food from neighbouring countries.. But I come from a land called the The Land below the Wind, 100 times bigger than Singapore. I grew up in my father's house surrounded by mango trees in the front and at the back. Now in my little plot of land at the backyard I have a few mango trees and I have been eating mangoes for 5 years since the trees were mature enough to bear fruits.
My wife and I have enjoyed the fruits of the land. And every time I see mangoes or rambutans or bananas about to ripen, I ask myself - Does my life also produce fruits for the Father's glory?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Famine in the Land

There is famine in the land, not a famine of food and drink since in Singapore as well as in Malaysia there is food aplenty. There is famine, a famine of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 9). When Jesus preached his inaugural sermon in Luke's Gospel, his audience was at first impressed and astonished at Jesus' teaching, but that amazement quickly turned to anger and murderous wrath. What in Jesus's sermon made him so offensive? He told his country folks two stories they knew so well. It is about the twin prophets of Elijah and Elisha. According to Jesus, in the days of drought and famine lasting 3 and a half years, Elijah was sent to minister to only one person, a foreign woman at Zarephath, in the land of Sidon and no one else in Israel benefited from Elijah's ministry.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Leadership & Healing (LXX Zech 10:2)

 

If you ask me about the three most important things in church or Christian organisations, I would say this. It is leadership first, leadership second and leadership third. This is not unlike the order of church leadership in 1 Cor 12:28; apostles first, prophets second and teachers third. Even though we may not have apostles in our midst today, we should recognise the prophets and teachers who are called to lead the church. That's why Antioch of Syria became the missionary centre for Paul and Barnabas because there were prophets and teachers in the church of Antioch, sensitive to the Holy Spirit and guiding the church to obey the Lord's leading and direction (Acts 13:1ff).

I am still reading the Septuagint every morning. Today I got up especially early, perhaps due to the stress of the past week. There are many things to do and several more emails to reply - offers of ministry opportunities, etc. I thought I were on sabbatical!

The second hour is important. I learn to stretch my quiet time into the 2nd hour. I know for some, 20 minutes a luxury. But I am on sabbatical. So in the 2nd hour today I read the LXX of Zechariah 10:2. Interesting text - instead of the Hebrew, "my people are afflicted for they are like sheep without a shepherd", the LXX has my people are afflicted and "they have no healing". Perhaps reading the Hebrew MT and LXX texts together give us the sense that a shepherd's task is to bring healing or health to the body of Christ. No leadership, no healing. Without leadership God's people will be afflicted with all kinds of spiritual travails - complacency, lethargy, false teachings, every wind of doctrine, immorality, lure of the world and worldly riches.

"Foodie" & Hospitality to Strangers

On my flight back to Sabah a couple of months ago, I sat beside a Middle Eastern man who engaged with me in conversation for almost the whole duration of the 2-hour flight. I gave him my name card and asked him to call me and I promised I would take him and family of seven (5 children and wife) to eat Laksa mee-hoon or one of the local cuisines. He did call but somewhat it was recorded on my voicemail. I tried calling the hotel but could not get the reception to locate him. On the last day of his visit, I remembered him telling me when he was flying to KL from KK, so I went to the Airport hoping to meet up with him at the 2nd Terminal, AirAsia and waited for him for nearly 2 hours. At the end I did not see him (perhaps the plane flew off from Terminal One) but while waiting I met a Singaporean friend with his family whom I knew through a Church Camp I just conducted in Malacca. I wanted to show hospitality to someone I befriended on the plane but it just did not happen.

Over the past week in Singapore, I was nearly stressed out for I had meetings with people six days in a row from last Tuesday. I attended the Preaching Conference at SBC, Tuesday and Wednesday and caught up with a number of SBC Faculty members. During the Conference I had a good time meeting with former students, fellow pastors and church leaders whom I got to know over the past 6 years in Singapore.

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