I suppose with less than 3 days before the year ends I could now afford myself some luxury to reflect on the year that was. For once it has been the most mundane and ordinary of my three years back in full time ministry in Sabah. Not that it is bad because a measure of predictability and routine is good for blood pressure and health. Speaking of health I thank the Lord that the start of the year I saw myself falling sick twice in February and then in Salarom Taka Pensiangan. No fun driving 5 hours and preached straight away in an afternoon session in a hot building with the mercury inside close to 40 degree Celsius. I got sick but there was always a silver lining behind the gloom as I visited a clinic in the interior and waited about 3 hours to get a few aspirins like the rest of the villagers in Sapulut. My pastor friend told me that she had to wait for the mobile clinic fortnightly to come calling. It was good to mix with the lowly and at the clinic the sister in charge called me pastor and asked to take a photograph with me and wife (she knew me from preaching in her village 20 years ago). I had no inkling that in the remotest of villages people recognised me. Again my faithful wife was with me. O what would I do without her by my side. She had been with me for at least 80 percent of my travels. As I had gotten sick in mid-March I decided to callthe three churches that invited me to preach Good Friday weekend and KKR early April and declined at invitation to Beluran. Sometimes ill health is a good sign so that we know our limitations and our human frailty. But praise be to God after that bout of sickness I was in the pink of health for the rest of the year, concluding my Christmas preaching without wear and tear except tiredness and sore limbs.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
I began my last sermon with a short testimony how I once stood at the Community Centre in a speech contest where all I remembered was that my knees were shaking the whole of the 10 minutes or so speech. But now more than 40 years on, coming back to Sandakan as the Lord’s servant filled with his spirit I spoke for nearly 3 hours and I could have gone on longer if I sensed the congregations were ready for more. East Coast of Sabah always holds a special place in my heart not only as my place of origins but the whole District seems to hold special promise and potential.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
As these were my last Christmas sermons for the year I gave it my all. No wonder my former church member once told me that every sermon pastor preached was like a revival sermon in KKR. I am glad when I was pastor I only preached alternate Sunday as there was no way to sustain an all out style of preaching week in and week out. But within 30 hours in Sandakan I had preached 3 long sermons, the first 55 minutes, Christmas Eve one whole hour and Christmas Day I told myself I won’t go past 45 mins but it took two extra minutes as I finished off with a testimony. On Christmas Eve I would not have preached that long if I knew after my sermon there would be 5 or 6 more presentations.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
I can't help but be moved everytime I come to the verse in John 8 where Jesus said that he was not alone but that His father was with Him. In fact around noon today I reached that verse and stopped commenting for the rest of day. I have reached 119 pages and nearly 42,000 words, the length of a Masters thesis but it is just over a third of the Gospel. And tomorrow I will start to prepare for my final series of Christmas sermons. I will be mighty pleased if I reach chapter 10 by the time College starts. Now I think I have to divide the commentary into 2 volumes. Volume 1 will be until John 12 if possible but the second volume will come later if I have to take a complete break from preaching next Christmas so be it. Why do we suffer so much loneliness? Why do we feel so lonely? And that we are alone.
Friday, December 15, 2017
It was double blessings for me as within 72 hours I found myself back in Pitas again this time preaching in an event organised by the government’s District Office and inter church committee. I knew that driving 7 hours back and forth for a 30 min sermon might not be worth the while but I was mighty pleased that I took up the challenge. I was motivated by the fact that politicians, government servants and officials needed to hear the Word of God. Plus the fact other churches besides SIB would be present and it is always good to preach to other sheep instead of just to your own flock.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Writing and preaching don’t go together. Those scholars hardly preach but those who preach hardly become or continue to be scholars. My commentary is delayed for 4 days. Yesterday I just couldn’t get myself to write. I was mentally and physically exhausted from my trip. Preaching and praying for people take a lot out of you. No wonder Jesus felt power had gone from him when a woman touched the helm of his garment from behind. Even the several lunches and dinners were taken up in answering theological questions. At least some of the church members were curious enough to ask. While driving to the seaside we spoke about whether there would be any circumstances that a divorced person may remarry.
Monday, December 11, 2017
Sunday, December 10, 2017
I have completed my ministry in the north in a small town named Pitas along the northern coastal road. The sea view north of Sabah is majestic and the bay of Pitas is known as the meeting point between the South China Sea and Sulu Sea near the Phillipines. I preached 3 times, Friday and Saturday nights and this morning. As the service started past 10am I ended up preaching until 12.11pm for about 56 minutes. It was a longish sermon where I picked my theme from Rev 2:1-8 and vs 18 onwards.
Friday, December 8, 2017
I have been on instagram for 4 months. Initially my only rationale was to connect with my son at the ends of the earth. For the first three months I only had 2 followers but in recent days suddenly 12 followers appeared. It just happened I commented on John 6 where at the end of the chapter Jesus mentioned his 12 followers. I am not into all these social media stuff.
Saturday, December 2, 2017
I was going to entitle this blogpsot "seriously writing" as I got up at 4am and started writing at 5.30am. I realized my progress has been slow and in the next few days I have to focus on my speaking engagements 3 weeks in a row. But when I comment on John 3-5, numerous times Jesus uses this formula to start his speech - "Amen Amen I say unto you". These Amen statements have taken me a whole week and I am still stuck in the middle of chapter 5 hoping to finish chapter 5 tonight and commence ch 6 tomorrow. Jesus is into serious speaking.
Friday, December 1, 2017
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Friday, November 24, 2017
I have reached John 3:16 though I think I might need a miracle to complete the commentary by year’s end. But at least I have my holidays preoccupation that is to write and to keep writing. It is interesting that as I wrote I felt the Lord revealed new things or least things I have not seen in the text. John’s Gospel is one book I have loved and studied all my life almost 35 years in all. I guess it is as close to me as the Psalms which could be my next commentary project. Wow I am getting the commentary bug. I better finish one first as they say the first one is always the hardest just as it is the hardest to forget one’s first love. First love for God means doing crazy things for the one you love.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
There are just forty days left before 2017 comes to a close. Have you borne fruits for the Lord this year? Are you satisfied that you have accomplished most of your goals which you set out early in the year? Time waits for no one. Everyone is a year older. I suppose no one who is above 40 years old wants his age creeps up quickly year after year. From 40 onwards we march on to middle age relentlessly. From 50 onwards we are right in our middle age whether they want it or not. From 60 onwards we are thinking of our retirement plans and whether we can truly enjoy the fruits of our labour in our sunset years. From 70 onwards we have reached old age and if we are strong this decade of the 70s can still be fruitful and significant. But by the time we hit 80, frailty sets in and even if we are granted long life, our dark days will be long as says the preacher in Ecclesiastes. So what have you accomplished this year for the Lord?
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Sunday, November 19, 2017
I have often appropriated God’s promise to Abraham. I will surely bless you so that you may be a blessing to the nations. I don’t doubt God’s calling for me for a moment. Sometimes even my loved ones asked why I am based in such a far away place and teach students with limited skill and knowledge. Last year after being laid off for two months when I was reappointed to the College I told my students that “I came back for you”. Well at least they don’t have to go to Singapore to get solid biblical teaching. I remember David’s 400 men. They were outcasts refugees from the law debtors and rough necks but under David’s leadership they became mighty men. Today I am elated in the Lord. The church sang the song I sang last Sunday. I even managed to read 6 chapters of Hosea in the LXX. Then I called my student who informed me that his wife had given birth early this morning at 2am.
Friday, November 17, 2017
I am excited. It dawns on me only yesterday as I started writing that it was time for me to write a proper theological treatise. Three years ago I wrote a 190-page semi-autobiographical of my life and missionary work among the peoples of Borneo but it has been 12 years since my first and only book was published based on my thesis on the book of Revelation. I would not dare to blog unless I have really started not wanting to say something before any proof is given. So I have written 9 pages, commenting on the prologue of John's Gospel from vs 1 to vs 18. If I can write 5 pages a day, in 40 days I can reach 200 pages and by the end of the holidays, the first draft of my book should be ready. I have at most 40 days before the new academic year begins since I have to travel to a couple of places for Christmas preaching. It's good that I am only going to two places this December in contrast to my almost weekly travel November and December of last year. For a commentary, 200 pages will be considered short and that's why I intend to be concise as all good commentators are according to John Calvin, the biblical commentator par excellence.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
It is now past 48 hours since I preached on Sunday. It was amazing how it turned out by the grace of God. For a full team of worship and angelic voices I just couldn't get into the mood. The church is normally warm though aircconditioned but on Sunday I felt the chill perhaps an indication of the spiritual condition of those inside. So I decided to warm things up a little before I preached. I ascended to the pulpit before being asked a rather unusual move which caused some discomfort to the song leader. The song I requested was being sung but it was sung in a way without understanding the lyrics and moving along with the Spirit. So for 5 minutes I took over as worship leader and exhorted the congregation to draw near to God and be filled with the Spirit.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
I don't know how I am going to do this. For the past week after returning from a weekend ministry in Labuan I was engaged fully with College activities until we ended our year with a 3 and a half hour long convocation ceremony yesterday. Then after lunch with invited guests I drove down to Kota Kinabalu and took a student to town who came along with me. I had about 4 hours sleep and in 2 hours I shall be preaching and I find my mind drifting back and forth from the events of the past 10 days.
Monday, November 6, 2017
I sang this song as preparation for my preaching on the 2nd night in Labuan and I felt the anointing strong. I managed to preach 3 sessions on John 17. The first session from 17:1-10; 2nd session from vv 11-21; and the third and final session from 17:21-26. At the end of the Sunday service as we stood I made an altar call and about 50 or 60 people came forward to the front. For the first time in 3 years I had preached to a crowd of over 600 people from three local SIB churches in Labuan.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Thursday, October 26, 2017
For Romans exams I have asked my students gave a 5-minute presentation on a topic of their choice from Paul's letter to the Romans. They are free to choose to comment on an issue or a verse or a passage in Romans. All in all 17 students took part and the exams took 2 hours to complete.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Monday, October 23, 2017
Sunday, October 22, 2017
I will be conducting my 5th seminar on End-time seminar and the book of Revelation in Sabah this Saturday. Only the third since I returned to Sabah (for good) three years ago. I think the pace will pick up a bit as the time draws near. We are experiencing floods as never seen before. Humanly we can say it is due to climate change. Sabah is known as the land below the wind because typhoons and strong winds only hit our northern neighbours the Philippines. Not anymore. But in recent years we have had earthquakes. Yesterday for almost 2 minutes rocks and trees and mud just came down at the side of mount Kinabalu near the Malisou village. Before the June 2015 earthquake a popular resort at Malisou was frequented by tourists but it had to be shut down after boulders as big as trucks came tumbling down. Just a couple of months before the earthquake struck I went up there to meet my Singaporean friends twice. Now the mountain starts to rumble again.
Friday, October 20, 2017
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
I purchased a couple of books earlier in the year, Paul the Apostle E.P. Sanders and then, the Shack a popular Christian novel. Now towards the end of the year, my itch for books cannot be contained. I am expecting two books from Amazon any day now, one which is about the numbering of kings and chronology - how exciting! The other is about the the hidden life of a tree from a German forester. I was attracted to this book, remembering that in 2010 I presented a paper at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, God cares for the Trees based on Revelation 9:4. Today I ordered three more books for my holidays reading in a month's time.
Friday, October 13, 2017
I thought I had one of my busiest weekends with visitors on the Saturday and preaching on Sunday. When I left the hall after service one student told me that her church leaders would be coming to the College with padi which was just harvested but not processed into rice. After lunch I thought of resting but the thought of guests turning up when I fell asleep and had to get up got me in restless mood not knowing when the visitors were arriving on one hand and not able to rest on the other hand. The church leaders arrived at just past 2.30pm and I had to welcome them as there was no other lecturer present on Campus then. Anyhow it was a church I knew from my days as chairman of the pastors' fellowship in Ranau. We fellowshipped until almost 4pm and I went back to my house to finally rest. But my mind could not rest until 5pm and O got up at 5.45pm and had my usual late afternoon coffee. As I was reading the Psalms for my evening devotions several text messages lit up my phone screen. I was told that there was a wake to attend at 7.30pm and as Chaplain I was supposed to conduct the wake which means preaching the wake sermon.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
It is a joy to serve You Lord for You are worthy O God. Today I preached in the Dining Hall of the College as when half the College community is not present on Campus we gather not in the Chapel but at the dining hall. I was surprised to see almost 30 adults turned up. It was awfully hot as I preached from 8.50am until 9.30am. I shared from John 16:20-28 with the key verse "Ask and you shall receive so that your joy may be full." Today was the 6th day in a row that I had an intense task.
Friday, October 6, 2017
I completed my lectures on the Federal Constitution of Malaysia yesterday. It has taken us 7 weeks with 2 hours per week. It has been exhilirating to say the least as I could comment on many legal and political issues of the day that are part of them major talking points across the nation. I trust my students benefited from the lectures, first time ever being offered at Bachelor level. Knowledge of the law in fact the highest laws of the land is essential if we wish to minister contextually as I was able to draw attention to these issues discussed by politicians and journalists with reference to the Federal Constitution.
Monday, October 2, 2017
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Monday, September 25, 2017
Friday, September 22, 2017
Saturday, September 16, 2017
In the ode to Wisdom the personified Christ, the voice of wisdom says, "I traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice that I may cause them who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries". Yesterday in Chapel I preached a 25 min sermon. I touched on many things in light of Malaysia Day today which is in fact our National Day when all the components came together to form the Federation of Malaysia. But my main emphasis was to encourage the College community to give thanks to God for Sabah and Sabah's place in the plan of God. As our theme for September is "all the days of the righteous" from Psalm 37,18 I spoke about how the righteous is to inherit the land, in particular the land of Sabah for the glory of God. Not in the political sense but how the State of Sabah will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the seas. I talked about the peace that the righteous possess and that to have peace in our lives material blessings are important as well.
Monday, September 11, 2017
After reaching the middle of Paul's letter to the Romans I realized I had to make a detour to Galatians. So tomorrow in 3 hours I shall be expounding on the six chapters of Galatians especially Paul's insistence that the Gentile believers do not submit to the Law of Moses represented by the circumcision rite. Galatians is an amazing letter. Everytime I read Galatians I am fired up to stand up for the truth of the Gospel and say like Paul "if I still please men I am no servant of Christ". The truth of the gospel so vehemently defended by Paul essentially is the coming together of Jews and Gentiles as one people of God with the only mark of identity being faith in Jesus Christ.
Friday, September 8, 2017
"...he [Paul] had learned a craft, he had probably been trained for ownership and management. He knew how to use a secretary...Paul knew how to organize and plan...This evidence of a relatively prosperous upbringing (what we may think of as good middle-class conditions) helps explains the degree he felt his poverty, and his previous prosperity is probably part of his laments in the Corinthian letters. This poverty, however, was voluntary, and in Paul's letters we do not hear the voice of the lowest level of Greco-Roman society, though sometimes he lived in abject conditions." Paul - The Apostle's Life, Letters, and Thought (EP Sanders, 2015), 144.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
I have been watching the NZ election campaign closely since 1st August when 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern ascended to Labour party leadership. Today's polls put her party at 43% and National with just 39% the first time National fell below 40 for many years. Ardern is also winning the Prime Minister's preference stakes over Bill English by a whisker but this gap is likely to widen after the third and final leaders' debate. What has caused the change in fortune for Labour? The short answer is leadership.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
For the past couple of days I have been struggling with the concept of sin in Romans 7. No exegete can escape the complexity of Paul's argument. Time and time again I wrestled with the Greek text looking at several English translations and penning my notes in Malay with reference to the Indonesian Bible (and occasional reference to the Bahasa Malaysia version). Teaching in a Bahasa-medium College is not easy, no less the distance one travels from the biblical text either in Hebrew or Greek and with my familiarity with the English and Malay mixed together. I am no linguist but I have to contend with these four languages almost daily in my ministry as a Bible teacher.
Friday, September 1, 2017
Monday, August 28, 2017
From the excitement of last night where I worshipped with a big crowd and today was by contrast quiet and peaceful though I did have time to run a few errands. I quickly returned home to my fortress like Ezekiel felt bound by chains due to the spiritual condition of the church. I have continual sorrows in my heart seeing that there is much I can do but powerless to carry them out. I have sorrows in the heart when I listened to sermons so low a standard that if I were the homiletics teacher I would not have passed my first year students. I have sorrows in my heart when there is so little knowledge of God and God's people busy themselves with worthless pursuits.
Friday, August 25, 2017
My car is due for service next week after 7 months since the last service. The mileage reads less than 8,000kms in 7 months only about two thirds of what I did last year within the same span of time. I have been travelling less. Only one time I travelled for 5 hours to Salarom Taka into the interior of Murut Tagal tribe. That was last March. Since then I had only preached in KK churches and a couple of rural churches.
Monday, August 21, 2017
In a month's time Kiwis will be voting in the New Zealand General Election. I was not too keen on watching this coming Election thinking that it will be between PM Bill English and Labour's Andrew Little. With the latter's abrupt resignation giving way to Jacinda Ardern as the leader of the Opposition Labour party things suddenly went into a tailspin. I don't ever remember that changing of leaders brought about 9 percentage points boost in the polls within days. Jacindamania has surely taken hold and a Labour victory so remote only 3 weeks ago is now a possibility and in another 3 weeks of campaigning could lead to a change of government, the first in 9 years.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
There were floods in various parts of Kota Kinabalu yesterday and weather in Ranau was no less severe. For three days we were out of regular pipe water and I bathed with rain water in the past few days This morning the song leader asked me to lead prayers for the floods and also for the state of Negeri Sembilan. I took about 5 minutes to explain from Job 37 why we were experiencing severe weather. It is in the hands of the Lord to send gentle or "heavy rain of His strength." Sometimes it is for correction or for his land or for mercy (Job 37,13).
Monday, August 14, 2017
I preached from Genesis 22 yesterday to one of the first SIB churches founded just after Second World War. I could see in the church four generations of Christians, the few early converts in their 90s, the leaders 2nd generation believers in their fifties or early sixties, the young adults and youths the 3rd generation Christians and the children some 80 of them of the fourth generation. I shared a message titled "God's abundant blessings for him/her who listens to God's voice.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Monday, August 7, 2017
I rumbled up to Ranau in 2 hours, delayed by heavy traffic throughout. After more than 100 drives I still find the journey an endurance test with another 20 mins to College. I hope I can rest when I get back to College after a short lunch stopover in Ranau. I need to deliver 3 hours of Romans tomorrow and another 3 hours of Hebrews on Wednesday. Before driving up I spent 2 hours in the morning getting my notes on powerpoint. I will give my best to my students despite the odds and the task of educating indigenous pastors in training.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Having ended my 10-day stretch yesterday teaching and preaching in 4 different places I am planning for the battles ahead. I have three sets of lectures from Tuesday to Thursday and then preaching in one of the Ranau churches on Sunday. So I won't be making my journey back to KK and will be focusing on rural ministry for a whole fortnight. I am starting Malaysian studies with the Federal Constitution taking about 6 weeks and will speaking on other legal, political and economic institutions as well.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
When I was mid flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu last night I felt a new surge of energy and renewed purpose. The magnitude of what I did in the past 10 hours was just beginning to sink in. I told no one what I was about to do, not even my closest friends. By noon I had burned my bridges with Singapore except the ties of friendship. Only one friend knew I was stopping over and to find a honest friend is a rare treasure. By noon today I was speeding past Mount Kinabalu towards Ranau. I could have delayed my return to College on the excuse of needing rest from my 8-day travels in three countries.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Friday, July 14, 2017
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
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
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
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
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
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
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
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
Saturday, June 24, 2017
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
Thursday, June 15, 2017
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
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
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
"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
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.
at May 26, 2017
Sunday, May 21, 2017
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.
at May 21, 2017
Saturday, May 20, 2017
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.
at May 20, 2017
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Thursday, May 11, 2017
at May 11, 2017
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
at May 10, 2017
Sunday, May 7, 2017
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.
at May 07, 2017
Friday, May 5, 2017
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).
at May 05, 2017
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
at May 02, 2017
Friday, April 28, 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Monday, March 20, 2017
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
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
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
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
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
Monday, February 20, 2017
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
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
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
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
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 http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/01/31/mild-quake-hits-ranau/). 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.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Sunday, January 29, 2017
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
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
Sunday, January 22, 2017
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
In a crowded field of scholarship, I am delighted to see my name mentioned along with 40 or more scholars by Russell Morton's Recent Res...
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 rep...
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...
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 ...