Sunday, July 23, 2017

Recent Past

If there is a way to escape our past one might just not return to our familiar ways or wish for the good old days. One can hardly escape the memory of recent past where I walked the streets of gold and my eyes and my mind feasted on books to my heart's content. Today I went past and went into my favourite bookstore Kinokuniya at Orchard Road. Only three years ago I would find myself on alternate weekends browsing what I could glean, pick and buy. Three hours could pass quickly if one reads a chapter here and there from politics, history and religion.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Preaching, Leading & Theological Training

When I was Acting Principal I preached every Tuesday for 20 mins and once a month in the Chapel's Sunday services. As a leader of any institution it is important to preach regularly just like a church pastor preaching to his flock. Jesus leads his people whether a church or seminary through His Word. God's leaders will preach God's Word to make His will known to those we lead in God's name. Yesterday I preached for 22 minutes in Chapel. It was not my turn but as I shall be away on 23rd July I decided to preach, having preached only once this Semester in the Opening Service exactly a month ago. The theme for July is taken from Eccles 3,1 "there is a time for everything". I started by explaining from Gen 1,14 where a Hebrew word, moedim means appointed times and it is used in regard to feasts of the Lord as God's appointed times for His people. I said that Jesus did not die on any day but on the 14th Nisan being the Day of the Passover and the Holy Spirit did not come down on any day but on the Feast of Pentecost. Likewise we must ask what God's appointed times are for us personally and for the College.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Teaching Resumes

The third year students came back yesterday and today first up they attended my Romans class. Eleven out of 16 made it back on time after some cajoling from me through the College whatsapp group. Three students informed me they could not come back in time but I am waiting to hear from the other 2 students. Admittedly they had to travel far to return to College one of whom would take 9 hours from his place of ministry. But others took just as long but they made it back to College last night in order to attend class today.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Misty Mountains

I don't remember for a long time having so much rain since the start of the year. If it keeps raining it will be one of the wettest years on record. Yesterday I started half an hour earlier for my drive back to Ranau from KK. On the horizon over the hills of Tamparuli I saw dark clouds menacing with heavy rains to follow. As soon as I started my ascent at Tamparuli it poured cats and dogs and it rained all the way to Kundasang before it let up with intermittent showers from Kundasang to Ranau.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Triple Sevens

Today is the seventh day of the seventh month in the seventeenth year of the third millennium. If we take the Jewish year of 5777 there are many sevens though the Hebrew calendar is only the fifth month. So according to our Western calendar that is used widely around the world today we have at least three sevens. In the book of Revelation the main visionary section of the book runs from ch. 6 to ch. 16 in a triple series of seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls. So John of Revelation certainly had a penchant for numbers especially the number 7 used more than 50 times in the book of Revelation.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Theological Conferences

It is exactly a year ago that I attended the SBL meeting in Seoul. I shall be attending another Conference in a fortnight's time. One of the highlights was certainly meeting biblical scholars around the world. I shared a taxi with a Korean American Professor who taught at Harvard Divinity School. As I paid for the taxi fare about 12,000 won he bought me a latte coffee at Yonsei University cafe and we chatted. He was in his early 40s and had already published 4 monographs.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Under Authority

One of the famous passages in the Gospels is the story of the Roman centurion who told Jesus not to come to his house but that Jesus would just speak the word. The reason given is that just as the Roman centurion exercises authority over his subordinates and they carry out his commands, he reasoned that Jesus as the Messiah and Lord also possesses authority that He could command and things shall be done accordingly. I have learned to serve under authority.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Second Half

It is time to reflect on the first half of the year. The second half has just begun. What have I done for the Lord? It is good to have a report card out. Even cars need to be checked every few months or at least 6 months interval. Has my ministry caused an impact to those I serve? Sometimes it is not easy to answer but some measurements and proof of fruitfulness is called for even as Paul said let each one take pride in his own work and not the work of another (Galatians). Then how can one judge one's own work except to offer some reflections and personal assessment?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Work & Rest

This Raya weekend has been all ministry with last Friday's lectures on the Church Constitution and Sunday-Monday seminar on Church Growth. Just when I thought I deserved some rest today I have to drive back to Ranau late afternoon for my lectures tomorrow on Hebrews 2 & 3 perhaps reaching Hebrews 4 on Thursday if I add extra classes. Hebrews 4 is on rest and those who have believed are entering into God's rest.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sandakan Sunrise

I am on my final leg of my trip to Sandakan having preached yesterday morning and conducted two sessions on Church Growth last night. There are three more sessions this morning and I fly back to KK later in the afternoon. It has been a tiring but yet relaxing trip thanks to the hospitality of the hosting church that accommodated me in one of the top hotels in Sandakan at the sea side with a stunning view of the Sulu Sea from my 21st floor room and breakfast by the sea has a soothing effect to the body and soul.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Other Sheep

For the first time for a long long time I served my own denomination's major events twice in a month. But it is good to know that there are other sheep across the paddock. I am reminded that when I was in Dunedin studying for my PhD my neighbour literally kept a couple of sheep to chew on the grass and keep the backyard tidy.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Working Sunday

I did not preach yesterday but it was one of the most fruitful Sunday I had for quite some time. I visited two of my students who are on a 2-month practical field work. I got up early and just before 8am I drove some 40kms to Tenghilan a township between KK and Kota Belud. It was a small town with two rows of old wooden shops and a row of new shops with a supermarket. I reached there before 9am and my student was seated at the door of the church with the worship team in rehearsal for the 10am service. My student took me to his residence just next to the church and we spent 40mins catching up. He was due to preach so I did not want to distract him too much. The Sunday service was eventful with the Secondary school girls presenting a native dance in their traditional attire of Dusun Lotud, one of the many Dusun sub tribes.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Companion Shepherds

I did not expect to preach a fourth sermon in the first two weeks of June but last Tuesday we had an opening service for the 2nd Semester and I was asked to preach last minute. Despite having just a few hours preparation I managed to preach from Song of Solomon 1:6-7, first about looking after our vineyards and secondly about following the lead or tempo of the shepherd in v. 7. Often time, we wonder where our Lord, the good Shepherd is feeding his sheep, where He wants us to be and the lack of His presence in our lives causes a few flutters here and there. As the woman exclaims in SS 1:7 why should I be wandering with the flocks of His companions? We can't trust in men or the Lord's associate shepherds as we desire our beloved, the one and only shepherd.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

36 Hours

I rested for 36 hours after my exertions in speaking for almost 2 and a half hours over 2 sessions, the first went on for 1 hour and 20 mins and I felt the anointing strong. Today after more than 48 hours after the Pastors' Conference had ended I was still receiving text messages of thanks and encouraging feedback. One senior leader came up to me after the first session that it was time local preachers stepped up. I kind of joked as I began my first session by asking the audience not to compare me with the invited speaker the night before, one of the biggest names in the Indonesian circuit. But God was no respecter of persons as He who anointed Paul the apostle also anoints His true and faithful servants.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecostal Power

LORD I give thanks to You O Lord for You have heard my cry for mercy and empowered me to preach Your Word this morning.  I got up earlier than usual but I suppose it was normal to do so when I am preaching in a Sunday service. I have not preached for a whole month before today and I was a bit worried about being rusty and the pulpit might seem an unfamiliar place. But all my worries were gone as I worshipped the Lord this morning in the cool of dawn. I have a list of songs on MP3 and usually in the morning I plugged in my earphones so as to not disturb my neighbours or those who are still asleep. I did not preach about Pentecost despite being Pentecost Sunday partly due to an assigned topic a month back and I thought I needed to respect my leaders who invited me to preach.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sweet & Bitter

"And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter." (Rev 10:11). The English expression perhaps follows the angelic command which has the bitter first then sweet, thus the saying "bitter sweet". But my experience followed John's experience of sweetness then bitter. I had this wonderful experience this morning of completing my sermon for tomorrow's service, Pentecost Sunday. I read many passages in the OT about Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks and also about the early and latter rain. It was sweet in my mouth and in my heart for the revelation of the Word of God produces sweetness and great delight. But at the same time, I felt bitter in my stomach thinking whether God's people can receive the Word to be preached.  Can they take solid food or the prophetic Word as all the three major Feasts portend?

Friday, May 26, 2017

One Week

I am right in the middle of my Semester break and there are two weeks to go before the start of the new Semester. One week has passed quickly. Within a week, there are 7 days and the week is a basic unit in the accounting of time, even as we approach the Feast of Weeks otherwise known as Pentecost in about 10 days' time or on 30th May according to the Jewish calendar. The Feast of Weeks is also a counting of time, to be exact, 7 weeks after the Sabbath of the Passover with the weaving of the sheaves signifying harvest season is upon the people of God. From Passover (14th Nisan) when barley is harvested to Weeks (6th Sivan) when wheat is harvested we have 50 days, hence the Greek's 50 "Pentecost". Jerusalem is about to celebrate its Golden Jubilee (5-10th June 2017) but according to the Hebrew calendar it was celebrated 2 days ago on the 28th day of Iyar or the 3rd day of the 6-Day War when East Jerusalem was reunited with the rest of the city under Israeli control for the first time since Israel's founding in May 1948 or perhaps we can count further to almost 2,000 years ago in 70AD when the Romans razed the Temple of God in Jerusalem and the people of Israel and Jerusalem dispersed around the world (the diaspora) until their return to the land of Israel almost 70 years ago.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Noah Walked with God

Today we heard a sermon titled "Noah walked with God". An elder whom I had known since I joined my homechurch 28 years ago preached eloquently. He told us that the times we were living in now was even more evil than the times of Noah. Did not Jesus said the days of the Son of Man will be like in the days of Noah? As I read the text of Genesis 6 I thought to myself that there was no one else God could have spoken to except Noah. No one sought after God and no one walked with God. I saw that in my own life that it is a daily struggle to sit still before the Lord and let Him speak to our hearts and to our spirits. It is not just routinely reading His Word but quietly and expectantly wait on the Lord to speak.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Paul & Titus

It has taken me a whole week and it is only half done. I am preparing two sermons for a Pastors' Conference in two weeks' time. I am given a full hour to speak each session so I could go up to nearly 3,000 words. Since I was back in Sabah I rarely had time to write up sermons in full, preaching on average 3 times a week when I was pastor of a Ranau church in 2015 and perhaps averaging 2 sermons a week last year. Thank God in the month of May this year I have no speaking engagements and with the Semester break now I have some time to get into my sermons. I have been reading about Titus, mentioned 9 times by Paul in 2 Corinthians.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Silent Solitude

Perhaps it is a redundancy. One does not have to be in a desert to feel the silence of solitude. In the midst of a noisy crowd provided our souls are at rest with God and our spirits quietly and reverently worshipping Him we can experience silent solitude.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Time Markers

The moon is set in the sky as a witness and time marker. Every new moon in Israel was marked by the sounding of the trumpet. The first day of the month is auspicious as it begins a new month and with each passing month, a year is marked with either 12 or 13 Jewish months. Yesterday was the full moon for May also known as Flower Moon. As for me, every full moon I reflect on the month just past and plan ahead for the new month.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Closing Communion Service

I am now overseeing the Closing Communion service for the Semester 1. Exams finished at noon and the students were back for rehearsal at 2pm. Tomorrow is a rest day for third year students before they go to their field work in various parts of Sabah. Some students will be going to a sports carnival in Lawas, Sarawak and the rest will be going home to their villages for a 4-week break. On Friday I will be taking two of my students to Tuaran for their field work. As Chaplain I am also in charge of field education and I had chosen to supervise two students closer to KK. I need to overcome the mental block I suffered earlier in the year with too much travelling to far away places. During the break I hope to finish marking my papers and exams scripts within the week and then start preparing for my classes for the next Semester. I shall be teaching a year three class on Romans, a 4th year class on Hebrews and a combined third and fourth year for Malaysian Studies which will look at the Constitution and the nation's sosio-economic system.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

French Run-Off

This year is in many ways an epoch-making year. From the inauguration of the POTUS last January we will be witnessing the elections of three other great Western powers, France (today), UK (June) and Germany (September). In living memory I don't remember all four economic giants going through the installation of leaders or new leaders within a calendar year but I could be wrong. It is epochal as the President of the United States of America had never held elected office before being elected President and the same could happen to France in the early hours of tomorrow. Promotion does not come from the East nor from the West but it is God who puts one down and sets up another. With Brexit in full swing now, 2017 proves to be momentous and ground shifting as doing politics in the West will never be the same again. European Union could prove more resilient without Britain as the Franco-German axis will anchor the European project for years to come and we may yet see a more Federalist Europe taking shape and Brussels exercising more authority not less despite populism and nationalist movements across several European states.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Building Walls

How time flies. I have not preached in my home church in KK since October 2014, more than two and half years ago. I received invitations in 2015 and last year but both times clashed with my preaching schedule, so God willing I shall be preaching in the first Sunday of June. This June also marks three years since I have ended my ministry in Singapore and my two and a half years in active ministry back in Sabah. Early this morning I managed to get my sermon done for June with 10 slides on Nehemiah 2:11-18, with an interesting but difficult sermon topic "Activity & Objective" (Kegiatan & Matlamat).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May Day

Today for the 2nd time since I joined the College last year we had a short but meaningful Labour Day's appreciation for all the nine lecturers and five support staff. We took a Faculty as well as a Faculty plus staff photo. For the sermon I translated for a visiting speaker from New Zealand. The College also paid for our shirts, a kind of uniform which we wear on special occasions. I am not much into uniformity of dress but it does present unity as a team and if it is worn only two or three times a year that's fine by me. But May Day or Labour Day is special for us pastors.

Friday, April 28, 2017

End-Time Seminar

Tomorrow, God willing I shall be conducting my 13th End-time seminar. I started teaching on the book of Revelation by way of seminar in 2010 though when I was pastor I conducted a seminar once in Keningau (2005) due to the persistence of my pastor-friend there. Now after last year's hiatus (I only spoke on Revelation twice in a FGB meeting) I will be speaking in local KK church tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Crowning Kings

Today is a public holiday in Malaysia on the occasion of the coronation of the 15th Agung (king). It is also my birthday in Christ so I have a holiday to reflect on what it is to be in Christ for 35 years. Three and a half decades knowing Jesus or rather be known by Him. What a privilege, what inexpressible joy!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Naming Sons

Joseph and Moses both named their sons according to what they themselves had experienced in life. It was a monument for what God had done or was doing in their lives. Most God's servants had to overcome incredible odds, no less Joseph and Moses. Joseph was left for dead in the pit by his own brothers and when he was in Egypt he was cast into a dungeon on a false accusation. Yet he rose to be Pharoah's father and ruled over Egypt for 80 years and saved nations and his entire family during a severe famine. The infant Moses was subject to a death edict for all Hebrew boys but he was kept alive in a basket floated down the river and was brought up by Pharaoh's daughter. Even then for 40 years Moses had to run away as a fugitive and suffered the wrath of Pharaoh and the ignominy of his people's rejection. Moses at 80 years old was later sent back to Egypt to deliver Israel out of the bondage of slavery into the promised land. No wonder in their deepest struggles, crises and triumphs when given sons, Joseph and Moses named their sons to commemorate what God had done in their lives.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Love's Power

When I was going for my first theological degree in the early 90s, I remember a song that moved my soul...the power of love. Often times when I sang it I shed tears of joy as the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Love was what caused Jesus to come to earth. Love was what made God send his only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. Many things are done in the name of love and how noble and how precious these things are before God and before men. Last Sunday's journey was a breeze because of the love of Jesus in my heart. To be able to serve the Lord on the day when the Christian world celebrates Christ's resurrection was something special. Love makes one gets up in the wee hours of the morning and sings for joy unto the Lord. Love makes one sit before His feet and read His Word for an hour or two but the time spent is as if a few minutes.  It's like two lovers engage in conversation that go on for hours but it seems to them and only to them a few moments, all because of love.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Eagle's Wings

Today I felt I was borne on eagle's wings. I drove from KK at 6am and reached the College before 8am. I joked when I started preaching that I broke my record of travel time from KK to Namaus. The traffic was as smooth as it could be and the weather was as clear as the sun rose on me but shielded by clouds most of the time so the driving conditions were near perfect. When I climbed the hills of Tamparuli on the way to Mount Kinabalu I traversed valleys and mountains. In the early morning mist and clouds usually cover parts of the journey as it did this morning and my fog lights were on throughout my drive to Ranau.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Stocking Up

I have tried my best to limit what I buy to furnish my house in College. More than monetary consideration is the thought of moving out when the time comes. Nevertheless one cannot avoid buying the bare essentials to make a house habitable or a house into a home. As I don't cook often I have been using one cooker but I realised that changing the gas can is expensive so today I decided to buy an electric induction cooker so that if I get hungry I don't have to drive 17kms to Ranau town but can cook up a packet of instant noodles. As day time has become increasing hot I also bought a table fan and it will come handy when they are guests or my cell group meets. I have stocked up tuna in olive oil so if I have bread I just eat sandwich and that will save time cooking rice and washing dishes.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Passover Service

We held a Passover service, kebaktian Paskah on Wednesday at College. It was a hectic day with faculty meeting in the afternoon and preparations for the passover celebrations took several rehearsals. Thankfully despite essay deadlines the students rose to the occasion. We had a first year student carrying the cross in the Simon's cross-bearing enactment accompanied with five tambourine dancers all dressed in red in honour of Christ's shed blood.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rural Church

I read with interest Dr Michael Kruger's post on the "Rural Church" and the question whether we put too much emphasis on the city church (see here). I am encouraged by the fact that the first century's church seemed to put equal emphasis on the urban and rural mission. While Paul's missionary journeys are often associated with the great cities of the ancient Mediterranean world, it cannot be denied that Paul and his associates did not neglect the smaller towns and villages. Often times, a city church is planted in order to facilitate mission into the interior.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Passover Preparation

I wish the debates in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD resulted in the early Church retaining the Jewish Calendar where we celebrate Passover/Good Friday on the 14th Nisan instead of the current Gregorian calendar of the 6th century AD. Next Monday evening is the beginning of Passover followed by 7 days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In an unfortunate twist of history now the Jewish Passover and Christian Good Friday more often than not do not coincide in time and dates. Yet the Gospels make it clear that Jesus died on the Feast of Passover as a fulfilment that the Son of God has been designated the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. The passion narratives especially of John's Gospel set the death of Jesus in the context of Jewish Feasts where Passover and Feast of the Unleavened Bread take centre place. For instance, the Jewish leaders did not want to enter Pilate's compound lest they became unclean and rendered themselves unclean to eat the passover.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Church in the Jungle

Gereja di Hutan. Although the distance from the College is a mere 4kms but by the time we reached there it was a different world. There stood a beautiful church barely 2 years old in the midst of some dense forest. Along the way we went past just one or two huts but left and right we saw oil palm plantations and rubber trees the two main sources of agriculture in this area. Apparently for the first time I got to know an SIB church that has no resident inhabitants. All the church members come from a nearby village and only on Sunday they come together to worship in this 40 x 75 ft church that could easily seat 500 people.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Second Quarter

Time waits for no one. Until the day when time is no more (Rev 10:6-7) everyone and everything under the heaven and on earth are subject to time. Time passes us by quickly. One hour lost can so easily be one hour gained. Three months of 2017 have just gone by. Today is the start of the second quarter. Three more quarters to go and 2018 beckons. I can only thank God that this past quarter has a semblance of order and routine to it which was a nice change from 2016. I have churned out lectures week after week on John's Gospel and NT Theology. I have preached regularly without running myself to the ground. My foray into interior ministry came to an abrupt halt a week ago after suffering a minor burnout. Today I even managed to spend solid hours reading Johannine Theology by Paul Rainbow (2014). And in the early hours of the morning I almost completed my lecture notes on Paul's theology of salvation and ecclesiology based on Ephesians. Ephesians ranks high in the list of my favourite short letters. I taught an intensive on it once and would not mind doing it again. What's up for the 2nd quarter?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Duty Bound

Although I had withdrawn from a number of speaking engagements, I shall be preaching this Sunday as part of the home group's visitation to nearby churches. I am glad I do not have to speak on Saturday night in a Men's fellowship but there is no letting up in preparing for the Sunday sermon. I spent two hours yesterday's evening reading Isaiah 33-35 as preparation. So instead of two sermons this weekend, I only have one. I am pleased that turning down speaking engagements has brought a measure of peace to me. Sometimes I wonder whether I am missing out as many Districts still have not seen me since I came back to Sabah almost 3 years ago. One District Superintendent called me last night on another matter and he mentioned that he knew me since I served in the HQ as Treasurer but had not met me since. That was more than 20 years ago! This brings to mind in a State as big as Sabah, travelling to faraway places is a given if one wants to connect with as many Districts as possible.

Monday, March 27, 2017

7 months in Restropect: Ministry Retreat

After praying for about a day after returning from Salarom Taka I took a decision to withdraw from my two forthcoming speaking engagements one in early April and the other a 4-session Good Friday Easter weekend ministry. I had decided that I needed a break and sometimes an illness is a reminder that we could not bear the burdens of ministry like before. In retrospect I realized I had not had a decent break from ministry since being reappointed as lecturer in mid August last year. That is a long 7 months plus of non stop preaching teaching and much of it involved constant traveling to faraway places.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

To the Ends of the Earth

I made my second longest journey ever since my trip to Long Pasia last June which took 7 hours. This time from 9.10am after breakfast I drove for about 5 hours with only a short break for lunch in Keningau and reaching home in KK at about 2.30pm. Even in the best of times and in the pink of health ministering in the interior is a test of endurance. It could be blazing hot during the day and temperatures could plummet during the night. Now I have achieved my two main goals within the year, that is reaching the two farthest outposts of my Church, Long Pasia and Salarom Taka. I am giving up the hope of ever reaching Pulau Bangi, the island north of Kudat because I don't travel well by boat. Suffering from a bad cold in my third and final session, I did not make any altar call but asked that those who felt called to full-time ministry to raise their hands. I would be happy if there were 4 or 5 but about 20 youths raised their hands and I prayed for them from the pulpit. The organizers were somewhat disappointed with the attendance as they expected 1,000 youths to attend but at the end about 730 turned up. Given the venue at the furthest point from nowhere, I was mighty pleased with the turn out.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Aging & Responsibility

When I celebrated my birthday last year the verse that came to me was from Psalm 102 "youth renewed like the eagle's". But when I fell ill early last month and took a while to recover I felt I had aged beyond my years. But aging is as much as in the mind as it is a physical process. In the middle of last year when I had nothing not even an appointment or ministry but I had just completed 6 months where I had responsibility for the College, the church and a busy itinerant ministry. It was the burden of ministry that was exhilarating and with that I felt my youth was renewed like the eagle's. No wonder many studies have shown how people quickly age when they retire or stop work.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Epic Journeys

One thing that characterizes my ministry is the amount of travelling I have to do, either back and forth Kota Kinabalu and Namaus or getting to places where I preach. In barely 2 years I have clocked close to 50,000kms. There is no denying that for the patriarchs of the Old Testament, travelling is part of their lives in obedience to God. They led a semi nomadic lives most times and did not settle in one place for too long. Abraham had to make the epic journey from Ur to Canaan not knowing where he was going. Jacob travelled to Haran and back in his epic journey leaving home with only a staff but returning with two companies including his two wives and many possessions. In between Isaac did not travel as much but he was not spared either for in the times of famine he had to live with the Philistines in Gerar, dug many wells from place to place until they found room for themselves. Even if our ministry does not involve much travelling, in a sense life is a series of journeys either in the discovery of self, service to God or ascending to the spiritual heights like Jacob dreaming about angels ascending and descending a ladder between heavens and earth.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Between the City and the Village

I am a thoroughly urban person. I was born in a town once the capital of Sabah and have studied in cities of New Zealand and served in Singapore. Now my ministry is mainly located in the village and 80 percent of my speaking invitations are from the rural areas. I live in a village and teach my students in a village setting and most of them will be pastors of churches in the villages. Yet there is no denying that the demographics of the church are changing fast much like the trends of the modern world. In China now there are more than 700 million people living in cities more than half of the total population.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1st Anniversary Away

Today is the first anniversary of my resignation as pastor of the Ranau church. I took my homegroup with me for worship there and I am glad that after one year away from being the church's pastor, I no longer miss it and the members have long gotten used to the pastor who replaced me. Yet the song leader honoured me by asking me to say the benediction. If I were not appointed Acting Principal early last year I wonder how long I would have stayed on as pastor. Perhaps my giftings are better utilised as Bible teacher at the moment. Without leadership responsibility I just concentrate on delivering my lectures and attending to the occasional speaking engagements. Next Sunday onwards I will get busier with an interior trip coming up on the 3rd week of March.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sitting Stunned

It's been 2 hours since I preached an 18-minute sermon in the Chapel and I am still sitting stunned by the strong hand of the Lord. I spoke from 1 John 5,14-15, James 5,17-18 and 1 Kings 17,1, 18,1, 41, 45-47 about Elijah's prayer for rain. That was my fourth sermon in 5 days, barely a week after I felt strong enough. This is besides the 3 classes a week I teach plus one extra class last week to make up for time lost. Humanly I dread that by next weekend I will begin another round of itinerant preaching that will last until the end of April. A couple of weeks ago a good friend expressed to me how impressed he was with one local Seminary professor who had published books and booklets on several Biblical topics at the rate of one book a year. I am equally impressed and praise God for this author whom I know well. But as much as I wish I could write and publish I think at this time my primary gift is still preaching to different audiences, students, church leaders and churches. Many have said to me if I write and publish it will be for posterity and one book can bless thousands and possibly millions who will read it. One sermon only touches the audience right there and then without much promise whether things learned can be retained for good.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Series of Sermons

Good things come in fours. Tomorrow I shall be preaching my fourth sermon in 5 days. After Sunday morning sermon in one of the SIB churches in KK, I drove back to Namaus late afternoon to preach at the evening service for men. It was one of the toughest rides yet as it was heavy rain most of the way with thick fog. But my mind was stayed on the sermon so I did not feel much tiredness after a 3 hour long journey. I reached Namaus at 7,30pm sharp and arrived at the Chapel 5 minutes late and the male students numbering about 35 were all ther waiting for me. Yesterday was very eventful because I only realized that I was up for preaching within the hour.

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Help of my Countenance" (Psalms 42,5, 11; 43,5)

The Psalmist on occasions feels that his soul is downcast..he thirsts for God like a deer pants for the water brooks. He cries out to God day and night and wonders why he does not sense God's presence as before. He remembers days past when he went into the house of God with the multitudes and sang with a voice of joy and praise. So he encourages himself that there is yet hope that God will answer him as before and his soul be lifted up once more - the help of his countenance. God's presence beaming on him is the help of his countenance.

Friday, February 10, 2017

"My Home, the house of Yahweh"

Today I read just one Psalm, one of my favourites, Psalm 23. Very few translations can better New Jerusalem Bible for the Psalms where the first verse in Psalm 23 is translated as "Yahweh is my Shepherd I lack nothing". And also the Lord spoke mightily to me in another verse towards the end, "my home, the house of Yahweh". What does it mean for the Psalmist the house of Yahweh is his home? As for me, it means that the people whom I serve constitute my home, the house of Yahweh. Wherever I am with the Lord's people, there my home shall be. Especially as people gathered for worship. I remember telling one student who expressed surprise when I returned to College after a 2 month break at 7.45am sharp. I said, "I miss worship in Chapel" and I have reached home wherever God's people gather for worship. It does not mean I find it pleasing or easy to dwell in the house of Yahweh.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Psalmist's Sense of Guilt (Psalms 25-41)

This morning I read Psalms 15-41 for my morning devotions. The Psalms have been my refuge in times of health and of sickness. Reading seventeen psalms meditatively takes about an hour but I read it with special attention to verses that I felt spoke to me directly in my immediate context. How wonderful to know that God is there and will make our beds when we are sick. The Psalm does not deal with the reasons why we might fall sick but instead focuses on God's loving care and watch over us as we are bedridden with some illness. A latter Psalm does links the Psalmist's illness with his sins and perhaps that is how the Psalmist perceives his present condition in the sight of God. I am amazed by the number of times over several psalms that the Psalmist acknowledges his sins (25:18), confessing them (Psalm 32) and even feels in one Psalm that his sins are more than the hairs of his head (Psalm 40).

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Prayers Precede God's Works

The church is not a denomination and the denomination is not the church. But living in this world with laws and rules, it is important to have a legal entity by which a church is named or called. Today I brought my home group and two other students (10 altogether) to visit one of SIB first churches in Ranau. It is called SIB Pekan Ranau. The pastor is one of my first colleagues in ministry since 1994. Our families have been friends for over 2 decades. The church members also are not new to me since I have been a pastor of another Ranau church and we had a few combined activities during my time as pastor including the memorable all night prayer meeting on Malaysia Day 2015. Today I preached a message titled "Prayers precede the works of God" and I took the congregation to study the Gospel of Luke from chapter when the people were gathered outside the holy place in the time of prayer when the angel appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Earthquakes & Tremors

In the past two days I spoke of earthquakes, one on Sunday being one of the signs of the end time and last night I spoke about earth shaking events that would lead the wealth of nations coming into the church. I shared my experience of aftershocks and tremors in Ranau and after 3 months or so without much seismic activity, today at 3,44pm an earthquake measuring 3,4 Richter hit Ranau (see Even for an earthquake of 5,9 that struck on 5th June 2015, tremors and aftershocks are felt for almost 20 months now and can last for several more months. It is very much like God's powerful works and when He acts, His action reverberates around the world as the Gospel mentions, the light shines and cometh into the world and darkness cannot overcome it. God's work is likened to an earthquake because its effects are felt far and wide and it works a deep work in the lives of those touched by the divine.

Isaiah 60:1-7

I think one of the greatest preaching methods is expository preaching and last night I did just that. Expository preaching does not need to be academic or dry or simply historical but it should be lively and relevant as all preaching at the end of the day seeks to edify the hearers. I was invited to preach at the 1st anniversary of a church started by a family friend, one of my first few friends when I joined my homechurch in 1989. The main leaders of my homechurch were there including the Chairman, youth pastor, and even the District Superintendent for KK district. As the service was done before dinner and started 7.10pm I was already very hungry by the time I got up to preach at 8pm sharp. I was determined to preach for no more than 30 mins and I kept up the promise but expounding on 3 or 4 points briefly from Isaiah 60,1-7.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Time of the Lord

Today I bought a new clock for my new village house. I love clocks as some of my students know and they say guru tepati waktu. Yesterday I preached a sermon entitled "the time of the Lord is near" in Malay. I have not preached a sermon in English since I got back in Sabah 30 months ago. But anointing flowed thankfully and I went for almost one hour. And a visitor came up to me and thanked me 4 or 5 times and he mentioned that it was like listening to a lecture (it may not be a compliment) as preaching is not a lecture but I think he meant it as a compliment in the sense that it was informative, interesting and uplifting. Perhaps to him a sermon or homily is usually boring and unrelated to life.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

"The Lord is with the Good" (2 Chr 19, 11)

The last part of the last verse of ch. 19 of 2 Chronicles reads thus:"Deal courageously for the Lord is with the good". Being good is favoured by the Lord and is promised His continual presence. When we see a good person, we feel blessed and no one can but be edified or uplifted by the goodness of a person. In the NT, Barnabas is said to be a good person. He is generous to a fault and does so with the goodness of heart without grudgingly. When we see goodness we recognize it from a mile. We sense the goodness of the person and drawn to the intrinsic goodness. Even Jesus once declares that only God is good which attribute is surely divine as the Son of Man reserves that to be of the Father. But humans are also good like a leader in the Gospel who is said to be good for he does charity for the Jews and built synagogues for them. Goodness is bound to be repaid with goodness. If you are a good person you are in good company for God is good and you have Him as your friend. Your goodness flows from His goodness and out of his abundance we overflow with generosity.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Conferences 2017

Last year by this time I had already purchased my tickets to Seoul with my wife for a Biblical Conference. I am thinking a bit farther this year with the SBL international meeting in Berlin (August) and what a good time to visit Martin Luther's homeland in Reformation's 500th anniversary. But there is also a tempting Society of Old Testament Study's centenary at King's College, London in mid July so if I go for both I will have a whole month in Europe. That's exciting as it will be my first trip to Christianitys cradle, though if I go there is no guarantee I will reach Rome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Unless You Speak I have nothing to say

I have been reluctant to accept speaking invitations but a few have come my way in the past week or two. But it will take some time before I could prepare my sermons. First up is 2nd day of Chinese New Year in KK. Then on Monday I shall be speaking at a church's first anniversary celebrations, also in KK. I will head back to College on Tuesday evening and things will be very busy from thence. Yesterday I taught morning and night Theology of the New Testament with the night class making up for the class I shall miss next Tuesday as I don't want to rush back to College with many of my family members gathering in KK for the CNY. Furthermore last Christmas I did not have any family time as I was in my final leg of preaching some 5 hours from KK. Today during community lunch I will lead prayers for President Donald Trump and world peace.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Prophet's Persona

Today in our Chapel's Sunday service the OT reading was Ezekiel 3:1-27. It was the whole chapter on Ezekiel's mandate as the prophet to Israel. In it I was reminded of my own calling and it did toughen me up a little after a week of turmoil. Dealing with worldly people is never an easy thing as Christians and especially as pastors. They expect you to behave impeccably and always smiling and never growling despite all kinds of untoward and unprofessional conduct on their part. The refurbishment of my College dwelling had taken a full 5 months when it was supposed to take weeks, at most one month when it began. When I expressed my disappointment to the contractor how things had panned out he was not too happy and in fact almost got angry with me. I felt bad about it for the past two days and reflected on how the devil accuses us of all kinds of things when in fact those who belong to the world need to repent and turn back from their evil ways.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Transiting & White House

As Obama ends his 8-year presidency Donald Trump is set to begin a new era in his presidency. Transition ends at 12 noon Washington DC time when the President-Elect takes the Oath of Office and becomes the 45th President of the United States.  I have gone through so many transitions that it has almost attained a permanent state. A permanent state of transition is perhaps the Christian paradox of this life on earth as we do not have a permanent place here but we look towards the city of God where God is. At least I have ended one transition tonight as I moved into my new house and for the first time will be spending the night in the new place. Last night we held our home group with my 7 students. One of them called my new house "the White House" as the ground level is painted white inside and outside and I can't help noticing the pun that today there will be a new occupant who will enter the White House half the world yonder.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Into the Interior

When the invitation came a week ago for a Youth Conference in Nabawan/Pensiangan one of the last frontier interior Districts, my initial reaction was "not again". My Christmas travels had dealt a psychological blow not least mentally and also physically. As per the norm I asked for 2 or 3 days before deciding on the invitation and I did pray everyday and asked the Lord but perhaps due to the intensity of the orientation week, my prayers were short and not as fervent. So after three days feeling that I should not let the organizers wait too long for an answer I texted him that I could not accept the invitation. I told him that I felt no urging to go and speak at the Conference. Almost immediately I felt a tinge of regret but I cast it aside as human feelings and not be too bothered about turning down one invitation. But the Conference invitation kept tugging and nudging my heart and on Saturday I read Psalm 29,10 that the Lord is enthroned over the flood and straightway I remember my last visit to Nabawan during one of the worst natural disasters to hit Sabah where more than 200 people perished due to floods and strong currents sweeping houses built on riverbanks during Christmas night and early 26th December. I witnessed first hand what it became known as Greg Storm when we drove from Nabawan to Keningau and I saw many people died and not a few clinging on dear life on rooftops and climbed to the top of the trees. I realized I must go back to the place and see for myself how the church is doing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

College's Chaplain

Since I arrived back at College last Friday I had worked non-stop to get everything ready as College's Chaplain.  We are right in the middle of orientation now with six revival meetings (3 more to go) which I have to personally organise, direct and supervise. Thankfully the student council is very efficient and the committee in charge of spirituality is helping me this week and for the rest of the year. As we are a fully residential College, we have Sunday services as well and weekday morning Chapel throughout the week except Wednesdays. On Wednesday we have alternate Faculty morning fellowship and personal devotions and a weekly community lunch with a short prayer together after the community meal. All these fall on the Chaplain to organize, implement and supervise. Whenever a person, faculty or student cannot take his or her assigned duty, the Chaplain stands in and is ever ready.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Resident Alien in a Foreign Land

Today I tried to keep up with my personal goals for 2017. I read 6 chapters of the Greek OT (Torah), the first chapter of each of the five books of Moses. The sixth chapter was the 2nd chapter of Exodus which I just read on in light of the remarkable story of the birth of Moses and his escape to Midian. In it, I came across Moses' marriage and the birth of his first born, Gershom for Moses thought to himself, "Because I am a resident alien in a foreign land." (Exod. 2:22) Tomorrow is the official opening of the new academic year of our Bible College, MTS in Namaus. I will be driving up early (onwards and upwards to Mount Kinabalu, down to Ranau and then another 20 minutes to Namaus/Bongkod village). I will try to get my room cleaned up. I hope to stay in my room for just another week before moving to my new place.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Setting Goals 2017

I did not have much energy to plan for 2017 at the end of last year. After much travelling, comes weariness of the flesh and the mind and it took more than a week for me to get up and running and by the time I am awoken it is already 2017 and counting. I thought every year one must set goals and at the end of it reflect and evaluate how these goals are achieved or have fallen short. This year is no different. Last year I could only set short-term goals as I was involved in three different appointments or ministries. It was mostly out of my hand and I had to react the best I can. But this year I hope to settle into a more stable kind of ministry, teaching full-time at College and that means putting time and efforts into delivering lectures on three subjects. Unfortunately I won't be teaching Greek this year as in terms of priority at College now, English is more important than Greek.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Year Ahead & Year Just Past

It is certainly not without trepidation that I look toward the year ahead. With Russia and China flexing their military might and the new incoming President of the United States, and the state of terrorism in the last few days of 2016 remind us that the world we live in is getting unstable by the year or even by the month. This year's general elections in Germany and France will see how much populism and nationalism have again taken roots and in fact flourish in national and continental politics that will have regional and global repercussions. In Malaysia, the year ended with the currency lowest in 19 years, at RM3.1 to 1SGD. I celebrated New Year's Eve gathering in my homechurch in KK, the first time I attended the church in several months. I wanted to show myself and connect with my church members some of whom I have known fof 28 years and a church I had pastored for more than 5 years. When asked to give year's end testimony, I stood up and proceeded to share for about 12 minutes and testified to God's goodness in three matters. For what God had done in my life and ministry last year I could have spoken for 2 hours. So to make it short and not take up time so that others could also participate, I only shared three things. First God's work in my ministry as pastor of my Ranau church in the first quarter of 2016 and how the church grew solidly and we were looking for a double unit to cater for increased membership over 2 Sunday services when I resigned.

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