Friday, January 31, 2014

New Year with the Psalms

Yesterday I read about 10 Psalms (50-59) for breakfast and today the first day of Lunar New Year I read Psalms 60-69. Lord what would I do without your Psalms, songs of praise and songs of lament? Mixed with praise is lament of the Psalmist: "Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face. I am a stranger unto my brethren, an alien to my mother's children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." (Psa 69:7-9). It was good to start the year with songs;

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Year of the Horse

As the Year of the Horse is about to gallop to usher the Lunar New Year, I am reminded of the many good things the Lord has done in the first month of 2014 and in the past year. I had taught 4 weeks on the book of Revelation, reaching p. 66 of the textbook where I discussed Hebraic rhetorical devices in the past fortnight with last Tuesday's lectures focusing on chiasm and testing of a chiasm. For the first time in recent memory I have not preached for almost a whole month but my preaching season will begin this Sunday, at a CNY's service and this will commence another 10 weeks of non-stop preaching and teaching until 9th April. For the Chinese, the year of the Horse is one of the most auspicious years in the zodiac and I was reflecting on the meaning of the horse in biblical literature last Sunday in church.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Singapore, My Home

It's tough to decide where I shall be, come June 2014. Singapore has been my home for nearly 6 years and I have indeed grown fond of the place and her people. Except for the occasional foray into East and West Malaysia, most of my preaching revolves around the churches in Singapore. If I consider the economic aspects, Singapore will win thumbs up - just look at the Singdollar vs. Malaysian ringgit - 2.6224 today!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Are you in your right mind? A Labour of Love

I got up at 5:30am this morning. On Tuesday it was earlier and I lectured on Revelation for 3 hours. Today I lectured on the Introduction to Galatians, 1 Thes and Romans and by the time I reached Romans 7, the bell rang at 11:20am. I would have spoken for 2 hours and 30 minutes with about 25 minutes' break in between. During tea-break, my time was taken up by speaking with students on the New Perspectives on Paul. I had no rest. I was so tired that I missed the public lecture by Professor Seow of Princeton Theological Seminary. But tomorrow we have a Faculty colloquium which Prof Seow will lead on Job's Leviathan. I read Seow's paper last week and I look forward to an interesting afternoon tomorrow. Paul mentioned in 1 Thes that he was proud of the Thessalonians for their work of faith, labour of love and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. I can't find a better phrase to describe my ministry for the Lord but this - "labour of love".

Monday, January 20, 2014

Professor has its Privileges

Lest anyone is mistaken that I think that the ministry of a pastor is more valuable than a professor, I want to reiterate that a professor has many privileges and ultimately, it is not whether one should be a professor or a pastor but whether one can contribute to the greater cause of God's kingdom according to one's giftings and talents. Everyone needs to stay true to his or her calling, be it in the capacity as pastor or professor. In a previous post I rejoiced on how I felt great satisfaction in giving a lecture on Paul the apostle. Surely, churches need scholars and professors that can read books from various persuasions and schools of thought and then dissect it to its core and gamely deliver the results to the inquirers and theological students. I can't see how without great Professors of Scripture the church could grow and advance seeing that it is under attack from many quarters, from false teachings, heresies, human philosophies and factionalism beside. Hence, Luther, Calvin and Wesley were of the same minds concerning the training of clergy and preachers with first and foremost a proficiency in biblical languages from which all theology is derived since the Holy Scripture is almost entirely written in Hebrew in the OT and wholly in Greek in the NT.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

40 Days to D-Day

I had a lengthy conversation with a pastor friend yesterday whom I have not seen in 4 years. A lot of catching up to do. Invariably when I was asked what I would be doing it is difficult to hide the fact that I am moving on and so we talked and encouraged one another in the Lord. I would love to be a pastor in Singapore if that is the Lord's will for me. I could go down to the ground with my fellow pastors and minister among the grassroots. Although I have preached in 10 churches in the past 3 months, I still feel that I live in a rather cloistered environment, surrounded by books, spending hours in the library, adored by a captive audience, i.e., my students except the few that would make trouble for any lecturer whatever their perceived faults may be. It is unreal in some ways, a kind of artificial existence that finds no real traction in the real world of hard knocks.

Friday, January 17, 2014

True to your Calling

There is nothing more important for those who seek to serve the Lord to stay true to one's calling. Today we had a reading from Isaiah 48 about the prophet's calling to be God's instrument to accomplish God's will on Babylon. Most scholars think that the person prophesied in Isaiah 48 is Cyrus, the Persian king but with closer study of the text, it seems to suggest that it is one who is fully convinced of God's calling in his life as he confessed that it was "the Lord God has sent me with His Spirit" (48:16b). This verse is especially powerful in shaping my calling in the Lord. I dare not go where the Lord does not send nor would I dare to venture to do anything unless I sensed the presence of God's Spirit with me. I thank the Lord that over these almost 20 years in full-time ministry, His Spirit has worked powerfully in my life.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"My Times are in Your Hand, O Lord" (Psalm 31:15)

After listening to a wonderful sermon by a graduating student today, I was asked about the title of my sermon to be preached in April. This liturgist was a former student of mine and we spoke briefly about my departure and moving on to another phase of my life. There are three passages for the day, "Psalm 31, Isaiah 50:4-9, and Phil 2:5-11. As I meditated on these verses, I realized how pertinent they are - God knows exactly where I am and how I feel, even as the Psalmist cries out, "I trust in You, Lord. I say you are my God. My times are in Your hand." (Psa 31:14-15).

Friday, January 10, 2014

Double Meaning: First Week of College

We ended our first week back at College with Spring Cleaning. My Family Group was assigned to clean the shelves in the library and we were asked to begin at the Basement where all the commentaries are put. Normally, spring cleaning day is a hassle and routine but being in the library was God-sent. A student saw me taking a photo of a book and asked, "Are you doing research?" "I am working," I replied. When I think of it, working in that instance has double meaning for me, one cleaning the selves as part of community service and the other doing research by making sure I don't miss out on a book that I think is worth reading. Often time, the biblical text has double meaning as well.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Big 4 in New Testament Theology

In a couple of hours' time, I shall be teaching for the 6th time, New Testament 2 which serves as introduction to Paul's Letters and rest of the New Testament, a total of 22 letters in all. This is my 12th Semester of teaching and I am glad I am as excited as ever (like my first day) to meet my students for the first time in the new year. I only got 3 chapters read by yesterday from Walter J. Taylor Jr's Paul. Apostle to the Nations and had to get up early this morning to finish the 4th chapter, "What kind of person was Paul?" which I will lecture on in the second half of today's session.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's Time for Revelation

I did not expect to get up before 5am this morning. I thought perhaps I should take it easy since it will be my last Semester. Why bother working hard? But I am reminded by the verse that it is unto the Lord our Master in heaven whom we serve rather than our earthly employers. Fulfilling a calling is not a job or a career. It is never about money though money is needed for everyone to survive. God has promised to provide for our needs and not our wants and if we live in simplicity and moderation, there is no excuse not to trust God and serve wherever He leads us to.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Worship, Witness and Work

It's surreal. It's confirmed. It's my final Semester. I conducted a seminar on Revelation last Saturday for 130 people and tomorrow I will teach a MDiv class on Revelation for the last time here. God willing, there will be many more seminars on Revelation wherever the Lord may send me. Time is near. It is urgent. A participant asked me what applications do the book of Revelation have for us today and perhaps she was late to the seminar as I started by saying that there are three main themes in Revelation and they are relevant throughout the ages. These are the 3Ws or www: Worship, Witness and Work.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

100 for Revelation

I received some good cheer for New Year. 100 people have registered for my Revelation seminar at a local church this Saturday. 10 days ago, the numbers were 30 only but I pray more will actually turn up on the day. It is tough doing a 4 or 5 session long seminar on the most difficult book of the Bible. What do you include? What do you leave out? As it is New Year, it will be my 8th such seminar since 2010. There is already one more booked for March in KL and I can take one more seminar in 2014, God willing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcoming Jesus in 2014

That was the title of my Watch Night sermon last night preached at 11.30pm. I spoke from Matthew 25,31ff about welcoming strangers, feeding the hungry and by the power of love do acts of charity to reach the needy. We need to welcome and accept migrant workers in our midst and I touched on the Little India riot on 8th Dec 2013. I am most familiar with Race Course road where the riot took place having preached in a couple of churches there 10 times or so in the past 4 years. I take bus 67 often to churches further east at Geylang and Changi.

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