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Showing posts from 2018

European Trip

I wish I could be more decisive. I have been planning for a European trip for ages. My paper on Malachi was accepted for presentation at the IOSOT's 2007 Congress in Slovenia. My full paper was due for publication if I had presented it at the Congress. It remains unpublished until today and the forthcoming triennial IOSOT's Congress will be held in Aberdeen next Summer. Planning a European trip involves two main things - budget and places to visit. My primary aim is to visit sites of historical significance. One itinerary is to fly to Berlin and then a short trip to Magdeburg where Martin Luther went to school and later preached an impactful sermon that converted the town to Protestantism. From Berlin to Copenhagen if I have the time to visit the birthplace of Soren Kierkegaard, my favourite Christian philosopher. Then fly to Edinburgh to visit Antonine Wall built by the Roman Emperor, Antoninus Pius (my name's sake), being the northern most Roman fortress.

Rome, Marburg or Aberdeen

Barely a month after the AGM had concluded my friend mentioned to me yesterday that it would not be long before I am back in action. He is surely more optimistic than I am. I told him I was planning to take a whole year off to do some serious writing, God willing. Last few days have been busy for me. I have gone way past 91,000 words for my memoirs and I really have to wrap it up so that I can move on to another project which is the continuation of John’s commentary from Chapter 11. I would love to write a commentary on Revelation one day and as far as OT texts are concerned perhaps start with a short book like the Song of Solomon and then Ezekiel. That would occupy me for the next 5 or 7 years. Then speaking of scholarship, as 2019 beckons, I have a choice of three conferences, Rome for SBL, Germany for SNTS or the triennial OT conference in Aberdeen.

Hermit or Monk?

I came across a Russian movie about a monk who lived in a deserted island where he does penance, says his prayers and attends Communion service nightly. He is a hermit monk and he is often totally alone, crying out to God. His past sins appear to haunt him and the prayers from the
Psalms are wonderful as depicted in the movie. I pray the same often. There were two remarkable incidents. One was a divine healing on a boy whose leg was crippled.

Three Horns of Daniel 7

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Daniel 7 is one of the most enigmatic chapters in the whole of the Bible. The fourth beast that rises from the sea has ten horns and then just before a little horn rises, it appears that there are three other horns and that these three horns needed to plucked out before the rise of the final horn that is going to persecute God's holy people in the end-time. With the rise of globalism, nations that stride the world stage are to be seen for what they are. As we approach 2020, it is clear the world has become tri-polar as if there are now three great powers in the world.

Memoirs to be published?

After two weeks furiously writing up my final lectures on NT theology I have for the past week begun the final chapter of my memoirs. I wrote some 83,000 words within 2 months from September to October 2014 and then it was halted for more than 4 years. I am going to cramp everything in this final chapter of 7,000 words as I plan not to go beyond 90 thousand words in total. If the font size is right the book should be about 150 pages long. I doubt many within my circle of friends would read a book of more than 200 pages. I used to think any book less than 300 pages is too short and not sufficiently scholarly.

Christmas Celebrations

This year for the first time in 5 years I could celebrate Christmas in peace. No sermon preparation and no travelling. Today I listened to a guest preacher, an old friend a few years my senior and when I asked he told me he would be travelling to a village near Mount Kinabalu and preaching for 4 sessions next week. I am glad he was doing it and not me. We watched a short video of the birth of Jesus in church at the start of the service. I am not into this drama or video depiction of the life of Christ but something touched my heart today. The Lord of glory chose to be born into the world in a manger with animals as his companions. There was no room in an inn for his parents.

The Numbers 12, 24 and 144 in Revelation

John loves numbers. He uses many numbers in the book of Revelation. The number 7 is most popular not just representing entities like churches but also as a structural device like the series of 7 seals 7 trumpets and 7 bowls. But other numbers are important too and we will look at how John uses the number 12 as multiplication of the said number. In his famous last vision of the new Jerusalem John sees a city with 12 walls on 12 foundations. At the walls are 12 gates. The dimensions of the city are also all in 12 for it is a cube with the same height, width, breadth and length.

Beautiful month of December

There is something special about December. I don’t quite know why and it is certainly not the month long Christmas celebrations within the Christian circles that I move around. It is a combination of factors. It augurs a new start as the year is coming to an end and all failures and disappointments can be put aside and the new year brings new hopes for the future. I have certainly made many life changing decisions in December though months before I have already prayed much and pondered over many things.

Revelation & Phases of Ministry

Paul the apostle mentioned that he went to Jerusalem by revelation which means he felt a deep impression of God’s leading that he should go up to Jerusalem. I have been praying to the Lord for the next step of my ministry and I pray the Lord will reveal to me what He wants me to do and grant me the courage and strength to follow His leading. I have been in a deep reflective mood in the past week. Outwardly I keep myself busy by writing notes in Malay for my last course in New Testament Theology. Deep within I have been trying to sense what God has been saying and would say to me. “Deep calleth to the deep” even as the Spirit speaks and guides the believers in Jesus.

God’s Times

I was asked why God allows the wicked or the less righteous to rule over the ones who are more righteous. I answered that the longest reign was 55 years by King Manasseh who was considered the most wicked king ever to rule Judah. Why did God allow such a long time before Manasseh met his end? There are no simple answers except to say God’s times are inscrutable and His ways are not our ways. Habakkuk complained about this many centuries ago. Elijah thought he was the only one righteous in Israel when King Ahab reigned. Most of the prophets were written in times of great apostasy when the prophets themselves were marginalised if not persecuted out right. They rarely lived to see God’s promised restoration. Even Abraham who lived hundreds of years did not live to see the fulfilment of God’s promise to him but welcomed it as from far. Ezekiel was constantly criticised that his visions were too farsighted and a distinct illusion. But for humans whose years are at most 80 years if healthy …

On the 8th Day

On the 8th day is biblically significant because Jesus rose on the eighth day, or the first day of the week, our Sunday. Today on Sunday and the 8th day after the AGM I have had time to reflect on many things. I met with several people normally one or two people almost every day except last Monday and Tuesday I visited a home where I laid hands and prayed for the sick. The heat of the battle is waning fast. Victors taste the fruits of victory and vanquished lick their wounds as some might imagine. But I am mighty relieved in so many ways. Now I could really minister freely as freely you receive freely you give.

24 Years

Today I am celebrating the completion of my 24 years in full time ministry. I have also sent in my letter of resignation dated the same. In my resignation letter as lecturer I also asked for a position as pastor. It so happened that I met the full time workers’ coordinator in charge of placement of pastors yesterday. He was the fifth person who paid for my dinner or lunch since the AGM ended 5 days ago. “My times are in Your hand O Lord” (Psalm 31:15). So now I wait and see whether there will be a pastoral position somewhere in Sabah. I even indicated that I was willing to serve in small towns (Pekan) and interested churches should not worry about my salary.

Elijah on Retreat

The Psalmist wrote that if he had spoken thus he would offend the generation of the children of men. It is a generation that refuses to hear the word of God whose worship is merely on the lips but their hearts are far from God. If it is not so why don’t they call on God but rather trust in Egypt and Assyria? Now that my new phase of my life is truly upon me I can plan and move on. But early retirement is far from my mind. Did not some delegates note how youthful I looked and that the chance should be given to those more senior? How remarkable! Do I have to put a wig of grey hairs or a garment to deceive like the false prophets of old?

Restive & Restless

This morning before the Muslim prayers I already gotten up and by 5.45am I drove at dawn across town to the East for early breakfast. I reached there at 6.10am and the shop was only ready to serve at 6.30am. I enjoyed driving around KK last couple of days. I shopped for my pick up tyres but have not come to a firm decision what brand to buy. If it could last 3 or more years I should be happy as in the past 4 years I already changed tyres twice due to the severe conditions of up and down mountains and gravel roads. KK is a beautiful city when the traffic is less as today is a public holiday. But this afternoon I got a bit restless as an elder called and asked me about the forthcoming AGM.

Ready to Go

After almost a complete 3-day rest on returning to KK last Sunday night I am ready to go. First, to clean up my TRITON and then shop for new tires perhaps highway tires as I don’t see the need of all terrain tires that are more suited to off-road. I may still go for the occasional off road trips but I reckon in 2019 90 percent of my travel will be on paved roads. As the AGM is just one week away I have been getting texts, mostly supportive, well wishes and prayers all round. But getting over the line is humanly impossible but I believe in a God of all possibilities and that nothing is impossible with God. Lord I am the least of Your servants and if You so please to use Your servant as You know best since You are the one who calls and equips me for the task.

“I will deal well with you” says the Lord (Gen 32:9)

I received many requests for financial assistance from friends and students. I minister among the poor and often the poor need money just to get by day after day. I have no regrets telling my fellow pastors especially young pastors or those recently married to limit the number of children to just two. Today I got a call and numerous texts asking me to help buy milk for a third child of a student. But I made a firm stance as I have helped this family several times and it is time for me to tell them they can’t rely on me. Some ask money to take their drivers license. Some ask for other needs. Needs are plenty and I have advised my students and pastors to find work outside that pay more if they are constantly struggling with finances. I doubt God wants us to serve Him with worries about money all the time.

The End is just as the Beginning

It is one of the eschatological maxims - The end is just as the beginning or the beginning is just as the end. In the beginning God created the garden of Eden to fellowship with man and at the end God will dwell with men in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev 21). As for me, I could not have worked up the script for my ending any better. I ended where I began at the SIB Pekan Ranau church.

The Last Day

In less than 24 hours this present phase of ministry will end and another begins. While the present age remains we persist in doing what we are doing. On Wednesday I attended an elders committee meeting where we vetted 34 candidates’ essays and approved their ordination. It took us over 3 hours of solid work. I returned home tired yesterday and the LXX came to rescue with the verse “my soul is drowsy with exhaustion.” (Psalm 118LXX; MT 119).

Divine Coincidence

I thought my job is over when I preached my 4th session in Telupid 2 weeks ago. Little did I know that the past 5 days have been one hectic period for me. Starting last Thursday until today I was totally occupied. I preached last Thursday at my College homegroup just hours upon returning from KK. Then on Friday I met with students for my Eschatology class. The grades were given them earlier but some came to see me about their papers and exams. I also submitted grades for the several extension courses I taught earlier in the year but essays still came to my desk after 7 months. On Saturday knowing that it could be my last free Saturday I travelled one last time into the interior farther than I had ever gone before, only that I was driven this time and had another student for company.

6 Days

It is now less than a week before I leave my place of ministry and enter a new phase of life and ministry. For the 5th time I turned down an offer to preach in a Christmas service. Whatever it is I sense December will be a busy time for me and it is good to take a break from active ministry. Today I thought I was to rest from preaching but preach I did in a village about 40 mins from College.

Farewell (1)

Tonight I shall be hosting my family group at College in what is going to be a first of several farewells. It will be only for my members and one student who celebrates his birthday today. Just after 36 hours in KK running a few errands including renewing my car insurance for my two cars due middle of the month, I drove back to Ranau at noon. I also picked up farewell gifts and most will get a notebook diary which I bought from Scripture Union, a Christian bookshop in KK. I also made a T shirt for a special guest next Monday which will be my 2nd farewell also with my homegroup perhaps a few of the Student leaders as well.

Sunday Travel

I have always tried to avoid Sunday travel whether by road or flight. This morning a revelation came that Sunday travel could be an act of worship. Not that we intentionally miss Sunday services but there are times circumstances compel us to travel on a Sunday. When I was in Singapore three weeks ago I also travelled on a Sunday. I actually planned to stay in Johor Bahru but my hosts kindly offered accommodation for all the three days we were in Singapore. The original plan was to worship in JB either in an SIB or Presbyterian church. I had spoken twice in one of the biggest Presbyterian churches in JB and I thought of visiting them again.

Return & Recuperation

One of the folklores of our missionary beginnings is how Trevor White (Pendeta Asang) returned to England to recuperate for almost a year after his release from Japanese incarceration before returning to Borneo to resume his missionary endeavours after the 2nd World War. I returned to my Homebase for 3 days to recuperate from a slight flu and now fully recovered I plan to return to my mission field at Namaus. I have just over a fortnight before graduation. On Saturday night I plan to oversee the rehearsal for the convocation service - two songs before the sermon and one after when the collection is taken. It has to be supervised because everything is timed and must go according to the flow. I was told that only the organ  or keyboard is used so I have to find songs suitable for the occasion.

Good health & Energy

The work I do is the work of young men - driving alone for hours on end and preaching four long sessions in revival meetings. By the time I arrived back in Namaus it was close to 80 hours on the road, in and out of meetings, resting briefly in hotels and preparing for the next session. I did that for three years non stop when I was in my early 30s. Now more than 20 years I am still doing it but at a much relaxed schedule but no less punishing for me. These past two weeks have seen me covered close to 1,000 kms back and forth and thanks be to God for good health.

The End of Preaching Tour

I ended my preaching tour of Sabah today. I had been to the North (Kudat), South (Kemabong) and East (Telupid). At Telupid I spent a long weekend preaching 4 sessions from Friday night to Sunday morning with another session of Q&A in between. Just before I finished preaching yesterday morning  the electricity was cut off and for the next 2.5 hours I had to minister in the heat going through my sermon and another one and a half hours of answeing more than 20 questions on the End time. I love this quiet little township of Telupid where the people are very friendly. Yesterday I had fried bananas for free and today I actually had to tell the vendor not to give me too much of the same. But as I travelled alone I felt a sense of loneliness except the times when church leaders brought me for meals and the exciting times in church.

On the 3rd Day

It is the third day since I returned from Kemabong and Keningau. I only spent three hours on the podium over 2 days but after 3 days I can’t say I am well rested. Today I spent a whole day reading and commenting on a 70 page BTheol thesis on the Shema. I am glad that I insisted that the length is limited to 70 pages or 20,000 words. That’s already a minor dissertation for my postgrad Diploma in Theology at Otago though we could go up to 25,000 words. Tomorrow I am travelling back to the College.

Katonti & Radaph

I read an fascinating article this morning about rediscovering the lost art of reading biblical languages. I must confess that it was only during the University years that I was moderately good at Hebrew and I could memorise large chunks of Genesis, a few Psalms and parts of Isaiah especially for exams. My Greek was slightly better having gone through a year long course in NT Greek year 3 at Otago Univesity where we were examined on sight reading...all Greek and one translate into English to the best of our ability. Auditing one Semester of intermediate Classical Greek did wonders to my love and confidence in Greek. I got up in Dunedin autumn cold weather before 5am to prepare for my Ancient Greek classes at 9am. Then teaching Koine Greek for 5 years at TTC ensures one keeps in touch with Greek. I read that instead of “follow” one should translate the word radaph- “pursue” that the Lord will pursue his beloved with goodness and mercy all the days of his life as per Psalm 23.

Resting & Readiness

I read of Singapore Airlines’ relaunch of the 19 hour flight from Singapore to New York. Pilots get four days’ rest while cabin crew have 3 days before resuming their duties. I have had a hectic 72 hours ministry which involved driving, preaching, lecturing, praying and counselling church members and general fellowship. I sleep in budget hotels and not 5 star. I usually travel alone and eat out in hawkers stalls and fast food chains. Now I have a few days’ rest before my next trip to the East, 4 hours’ drive from KK. I will make a stop overnight at College before resuming my journey next Friday. I have with me stacks of essays, two sets from my Romans class, one each from my Revelation and Constitution classes. It will take at least two weeks to get them done but I will get started tomorrow.

Travelling, Ministry & Honorarium

It is almost 3pm as I sat down, arriving at my Homebase Kota Kinabalu. I have been on the road since 10am last Friday. This long weekend has been epic in miles covered and distance travelled and I have travelled from middle earth to the south right to the border of Kalimantan, Indonesia back to Keningau and through the Misty Crocker Range and thunderstorms in Papar - somewhat I have made back safely in KK.   I spent close to 8 hours in the car for about three hours on the podium. Two and a half hours in Kemabong and today preaching for 50mins. For all my exertions I received RM500.00 altogether from two places. I spent RM272.00 on two night hotel accommodation and I stopped three times to fill up my tank RM70 every time. Plus the five or six times I dined on my own I easily spent more than RM500.00. So this trip is a loss if money is a concern.

Eldership Seminar

It is part of my job, travelling alone. I drove for almost 2 hours from Keningau to Kemabong via Tenom before reaching the venue at 7.55am just as my session was about to start at 8am. I was encouraged by the number of participants as this place is remote but many eldership candidates came from far. I lectured forthwith for 2 hours on our denomination’s Constitution with a 10min break in between and I gave opportunity for questions twice and also at the end of my lectures for another 30 mins. When the denomination is statewide in an area 100 times larger than Singapore and roads not half as good it is not easy to hold every district or every church together with the rules and regulations so that everyone especially leaders are on the same page. This is the second time I was involved in this kind of seminar to prepare candidates for ordination as elders.

The Noble Plan Noble Things (Isaiah 32:8)

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I preached in the Chapel this morning for 25 mins, 5 mins longer than allowed but as lectures had ended we did not need to rush to end the Chapel service. It was the fourth time in 3 days that I had spoken the Word of God. I knew I was going to be busy after I returned from Singapore but this stretch of ministry takes a lot out of me. Last night I preached for 30 mins on Luke 22 where Judas betrayed Jesus for money and how the chief priests and scribes plotted to kill Jesus. Second, I spoke about how Jesus took care of all Passover preparations and we don't need to need to worry what's next for us in life and ministry because the Lord takes care of it all. It was a loving home fellowship with about 20 people present. This morning I preached about leadership based on Isaiah 32:1-8 passage. At the last few minutes I jumped to verse 8 and spoke about the need for planning.

Classes End, Itinerant Preaching Begins

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This morning over 2 hours I concluded my lectures on Romans. I spoke from the middle of chapter 15 to the end of 16 which is the concluson of Paul's magisterial letter to the Roman church almost 2 thousand years ago. Paul testified of his calling as the apostle to the Gentiles and how the fruits of his ministry are an offering pleasing unto the Lord. How Paul could boast in the Lord concerning his work in preaching the Gospel bringing many nations unto the obedience of faith. From chapter 16 I spoke about Paul's co workers and how he could connect with so many fellow workers, male and female.

Journeying the Journeys

I had this sense of foreboding and deep sadness when I journeyed back to my College this morning after a 3-day trip to Singapore. “He who increases knowledge increases sorrows” (Eccle 1:17). because one knows many things could be done better or greater things achieved for God’s glory. The journeying itself is a task, a cross that I bear willingly and at times unwillingly but pursuing God’s will in my life has led me to remote places. How else would my students learn the Bible from one trained and speak their language well? If one is not skillful in Scripture the blade is blunt and the Sword of the Spirit does not cut deep.

God's Providence

My time in Singapore is limited. I prayed often times to the Lord before my trip that I would meet the right people especially God's servants who can potentially partner with me in Christian ministry. Since my arrival on Thursday I experienced God's providence one after another. I went out to dinner late at about 9pm and bumped into my former colleague who is going to take over the reins of leadership of the College soon.

Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court?

I am writing in direct response to an NY Times article that the FBI might close their investigation on Wednesday (Thursday Malaysian time) and the Senate may vote on Friday for the confirmation of the Supreme Court nominee. If I were a Senator I would vote “no” to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. I just find his testimony last week over the top and compared to Basley Ford’s calm and respectful demeanour I would think Ford’s behaviour is much more suited to be a judge. I do not know the truth or veracity of the sexual assault allegations but if candour and facial expression count for anything I believe in Basley Ford over Kavanaugh.

A Week that Was

As they say a week is eternity in politics. But as for me, I feel just the same that this past week I have been totally engaged with many things. So I get a welcome reprieve with my upcoming trip to Singapore for a few days but upon my return to Sabah, I shall be occupied fully with various speaking engagements until the College graduation in the 2nd week of November. In the past week, I had watched the Senate judiciary committee hearings, sometimes live when Judge Kavanaugh made his response to Dr Basley Ford's allegation of sexual misconduct. I have been reading constantly since then up to an hour or two daily on different media outlets, conservative or democratic-leaning over this Supreme Court nominee. Ultimately, as far as I am concerned - is the nominee telling the truth? I will come back to that, God willing. But first my ministry for the past fortnight has taken me over 1,200 kms in all.

Paul’s Friendships in Romans

I had a plan - to finish all my lectures before I travel to Singapore later this week. But it wasn’t meant to be as my lectures were interrupted several times by visiting lecturers in the past couple of months. But we have reached the end of Romans so my final lectures will focus on Paul’s friendships in Romans 16. Chapter 16 has always been interesting. For Paul who had never visited Rome when he penned this magisterial epistle he seems to know a lot of people in Rome or associated with the Roman church. It tells us several things of the ancient capital and its nascent Christian Community. First, many Christians were well travelled.

Friends & Foes

A friendly man has many friends, so says Proverbs. But a godly man has many enemies. Two years ago at Society of Biblical Literature Conference in Seoul, South Korea I presented a paper about the Psalmist’s struggles for survival with the title “Enemies Everywhere”. I counted that there were 103 times in the book of Psalms that the word “enemy” or “enemies” is used throughout the Psalter. It appears that a big part of a righteous man’s experience of pain and affliction comes from his enemies, real or imagined. But friendship is also a great theme in the Wisdom literature wherein in times of anguish and afflictions, friends are there to console and to comfort. But Job was left without friends in his darkest hour of need and even his friends who came visiting ended up criticising Job and making him feel worse.

Sukkot & Mooncake Festival

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It was a double celebration last night. For the Chinese it is the mid-autumn festival or Mooncake festival that falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar while Sukkot falls on 15th Tishri, the 7th month in the biblical calendar. My brother texted me at 10.30 am and I was having morning tea with my Principal in Namaus some 2.5 hours from Kota Kinabalu. Forthwith I applied for leave and by 11.30 am I started my journey back to KK to have dinner with my family. I have not spoken with my mum since May and I thought it was a good time to reconnect. Familial ties with me as the only Christian in the family and my niece going to a SIB youth group could be testy at times to say the least. But whenever I have a chance to make peace or build up relationships I am all for it even for aggrieved Christian brothers.

Tip of Borneo

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I have just completed the first leg of my tour of Sabah in the next few weeks before saying goodbye to Ranau for good. We drove for 4 hours to Kudat the northern most town in Sabah via the Marakparak road. We stopped over for tea break at Kota Marudu, a growing and thriving township and at 6.15pm we reached the church that hosted us for the weekend. Early Saturday morning after I shared a devotion with my homegroup we visited the Tip of Borneo Tanjung Simpang Mengayau about 10 kms from Kudat. It was overcast but we still felt the heat from the sun. We spent nearly 2 hours there before making our way to another beach Pantai Kelambu which is just as scenic as the island with green forest is shaped like a mosquito net hence the word Kelambu in Malay.

David’s Struggles

It is often during the holidays I got up the earliest. When you are free to sleep in or get up, the freedom itself gives you that lift in the spirit to do what we want to do and for believers what God wants us to do. I spent a good hour reading the Bible first Psalm 69 slowly and meditatively and then about David’s struggles in 1 Samuel before and after he became king. As David was as talented as it comes people got jealous of him, not just his older brothers but later the king himself, perhaps seeing in David a younger version of himself when he was still anointed when God was still with Saul. Why did God depart from Saul? Saul began to please men rather than God and hence lies the downfall of many men of Gof who at first are devoted to God but when they rise to high posts or positions they begin to forget it was God who put them there in the first place.

7 Weeks

I used to plan 2 or 3 years in advance. I want to give myself at least 12 months of breathing space. But now I am ticking off week by week. Like in the book of Daniel I have 7 more weeks before the end. By the time I return from Kudat it will be 6 weeks and by the time I return from Singapore it will be less than 5 weeks. 4 weeks from Keningau visit and 3 weeks after my weekend ministry in Telupid. Then the final 3 weeks of marking exams and submitting the grades for one last time. I thought of skipping graduation altogether but for the sake of my students who have been with me for the past 3 years and some for the past 4 years I will pull all stops to attend for one last time and then the end would have come.

House of Mourning

It is better to be in the house of mourning than a house of mirth says Ecclesiastes. I attended a funeral service this afternoon in my home church for the wife of a prominent politician who passed away last Friday. She was 63 but struggled valiantly over 10 years of illness. It was also the first time I met this friend of mine in 10 years. He was an elder when I was pastor 15 years ago. I was praying whole day what  I would say to him when I saw him. At the end he started asking where I was based and I told him in Namaus and he said he would love come to visit and see what he could do for the College. I said, “Please come.” And I gave him a hug and called him “brother”.

The Week that Was

If there was a week that I packed as many things as possible it was the past week from last Saturday to Friday. I drove up to Ranau to attend the marriage solemnisation ceremony in my former Ranau church and then attended the wedding reception in the evening. I met with the two politicians who won in the recent election and spoke with both of them. He was generous enough to say it was because of my prayers that he won. Praise be to God. It was his third time lucky. On Sunday I preached an hour long sermon on walking with God. On Monday I tried my best to have all my extension programme courses marked. I only taught 4 courses from March to June but assignments are still coming in.

Meaning of Independence

For Sabahans 31st August brings a mixed bag of joy and sorrows. Joy in that we are part of Malaysia whereby Peninsular (Persekutuan tanah Melayu) achieved independence from the British 61 years ago today. But Malaysia only came about 16 days later on 16th Sept 1963 which makes it the 55th National Day for Malaysia. When we talk about a nation or National Day we talk about when Malaysia came into being or became a nation. It was not 31st August 1957 but 16th September 1963 when Malaysia became a nation known as Persekutuan Malaysia when Malaya together with Singapore, Sabah (North Borneo), Sarawak formed Malaysia and so rightly Malaysia's birthday or national day is 16th September. I was hoping this new government would correct past injustices but obviously it will take another decade or a generation longer for us East Malaysians to have our history rightly interpreted and applied.

GST or SST or SSS

Ultimately I fear SSS the most though the imposition of SST has caused me some concern. I read that toothpaste and toiletries will increase by 10percent this Saturday on 1 September. SSS is “stubbornly strong Singaporean (dollar)” as the Star newspapers put it today. It means every time I visit Singapore it will be more expensive. In fact I am one of the few in my former School’s group that argued for the retention of GST.

Preaching God's Word

I will put my main ministry as preaching God's Word and after that teaching. I am a preacher first and teacher second. I preached at College yesterday almost a month after I preached for a special service when a church came visiting pastored by a former student who served me meals for almost 2 years. It was a kind of repaying her kind deed with the ministry of God's Word. But yesterday I preached again and I know there won't be many opportunities before I call time at College.  I shared with my College community the gist of two messages I heard in KK one from a Korean Professor at the Mission church seminar and the other from a Penang pastor who spoke at our Youth Conference last week. I exhorted my College community to look beyond the four walls of the church and serve the Nation at large with the manifold ministries and talents God had given to each one of us.

Time is Nigh

I can’t believe it. When the new teaching terms begins afresh it will be only 5 weeks before my trip to Singapore. I will finish at least two courses on Eschatology and Romans and the Malaysian Constitution class has to be extended to mid October as I just got my Federal Constitution text last week. I bought the whole lot and I shall be offering to churches and church leaders weekend seminars if they want to learn about the foundational document of the country. But alas how many love knowledge as they seem contented with what they know as the saying goes ignorance is bliss. How foolish as Scriptutal text time and time again laud those who pursue knowledge and understanding.

Circling the City

In the past several days of Semester break I have been driving from one end of the city to the other. On Monday I took my cousin from France with her two lovely kids to Signal Hill’s Observatory tower and looked over the city from north to south. I will circle the city in the next few days more and in circling conquering for the Lord. I intercede in my spirit when I stop for my coffee breaks and I pray aloud and silently when I am in the car.

Best Wine is left to the Last

Sometimes the unexpected happens. We have to expect the unexpected as we serve a God most High and most powerful. If only expected things happen as expected then there is no need for a God. Last Sunday many unexpected things happened. I did not expect to preach such an impactful message as it was my third and the day before was a struggle against many things. An early drive from KK to Kota Belud reaching there at 7.15am when the meeting was supposed to start at 9am. Then there was an 9 hours wait to the evening service during which I had to endure 6 or 7 times power cut and despite the room being air conditioned there was no table or chair for me to sit and write. So at night I slept barely 4 hours after a long hard day with two intense sessions.

They will speak to you in foreign tongues

I had survived the 3-day seminar on Missional Church. For the few sessions I attended I enjoyed the most the night session on the 2nd day mostly because it was delivered in English and translated to Malay. The translator was capable but in other sessions the speakers spoke in Korean and translated by a Korean interpreter half proficient in Malay. It is difficult enough to translate Korean into Malay even for someone who has mastered both languages because theological talks are never easy with a number of theological jargon and thus the mastery of Malay expressions and idioms is simply essential to get the message across.

30 Years

I had lunch with a lawyer friend who is celebrating 30 years in legal practice this month. We were admitted to the Bar on the same day. But it was 25 years ago that I relinquished my legal practice to enter full time work in the Lord’s harvest fields. 25 years ago I was my own boss in fact I started when I was 24 years old as sole proprietor of my legal firm. It seems so long ago that I had my own future in my own hands and not rely on anyone for an income. I have been a faithful churchman as much as it is right in the sight of God and men. I am no man pleaser and I have always spoken out in open either in Malaysia or in Singapore or in New Zealand. When you are in employment and someone else is your superior or boss it is never easy to navigate between speaking one’s mind or just towing the line. I had chosen the former and it had cost me.

Keeping Track

This year I have not travelled as much but my pick up chocked up more than 10,000kms in less than 6 months. I thought I better put down on record my travels for the Lord especially those involving preaching and ministry of the Word. In recent month or two I have preached 4 times at College Chapel most times in my capacity as Chaplain. I could have assigned it to someone else or a senior student but I thought when opportunity comes my way it is important not just in class but in worship I address the College community. I can't remember what I did in the beginning of the year but during the first Semester break in March I travelled to Kiau Teburi a village just before Mount Kinabalu for a day long End time Seminar and preaching on Sunday.

Preaching Revival Meetings

It is ironic sometimes we use different terms to describe our meetings. One is this concept of revival meeting or kebangunan rohani or pembangunan rohani as it was called for the two-meeting series on Saturday, one in the morning and one at night. Sometimes the last thing one feels is revival either for the lack of turnout or response before and after the sermon. Saturday morning session is especially difficult as most people relax or go out for recreation or activity after a long week at work. Even many teachers have to return to School for extra curricular activities. So when I am scheduled to preach on a Saturday morning I have to pray especially hard for this men’s meeting (persekutuan Wira) knowing that getting 50 men to come would be a success. But praise God about 90 men turned up and at night possibly cloae to 200 men with a few women. 20 years ago I would expect double the numbers at night but this is the sign of the times when men especially men experience famine of the hear…

Pre-Dawn Breakfast

I am enjoying a predawn breakfast in Kota Kinabalu. I reached home after a hectic 4 days of ministry at Namaus. We suffered another bout of dry tap for 2 days and whole day no electricity yesterday. I led early morning prayers before the Chapel service and joked that we must pray for the new science technology and innovation minister so that she can truly deliver for Sabahans in terms of stable supply of electricity. We had commenced the 40 Day prayer and fasting on Tuesday until Malaysia Day on 16th September. I felt so fatigued after lectures yesterday and late afternoon’s drive back to KK that I slept before 10pm and got up before 4am and drove to KK city centre at 5am for some predawn breakfast. A number of shops were already open by 5.30am and there are a few 24 hour eateries around. So KK like Singapore but in a smaller version is a city that does not sleep. I read a white paper on KK transport that cited some population figures and my spirit stirred when I read that by 2020 (17…

Preaching from Leviticus

Leviticus 10 is right in the centre of the five books of Moses or better known as the Law. I preached from the first 11 verses on Friday night to the College community. We don't usually hold services on a Friday night but 20 visitors from Keningau district asked that they could worship with us. So I preached about 50mins with plenty left in the tank when I finished. The title was taken from Ezekiel 44:8 "keep charge of my holy things says the Lord". Aaron's two older sons Nadab and Abihu did something strange by offering strange fire in the tent of meeting something the Lord had not commanded. And fire came from Lord and consumed them. I spoke about how as pastors and leaders we are spiritually priests and the Lord has charged us to keep his holy things.

Last-Minute Preaching

I was asked last night at 11pm to take over from a student who was supposed to preach at today’s chapel at 7.50am. I had one of the longest days yesterday getting up early for church and then driving back to Namaus late afternoon to attend a special service celebrating parents’ and teachers’ day. Last night meeting lasted close to 3 and a half hours from 7.45pm to 11.15pm. I said the opening prayers and before that the meal prayers where the whole community gathered together. As we lost 7 students including two families the numbers looked small. Our Chapel that can easily seat 400 people was less than half full with 15 or so visitors part of the Committee that organised the fund raising dinner 3 weeks ago. I am reminded that only 7 or 8 years ago we had the vision of 100 new students each year but it is all long forgotten. Jeremiah 3:15-16 tells us that when God raises shepherds according to his heart who will shepherd his people with knowledge and understanding the people of God will…

City Ministry

Last night I caught a glimpse of the promise and potential of Kota Kinabalu city. At 11pm the parts of the city where I drove were filled with people and the cars were bumper to bumper for several kilometres and even 12kms to my house it was slow traffic. KK has changed much since I left it for Singapore 10 years ago. KK has expanded greatly in the past 4 years since I went up to Ranau a rural town and soon I will be returning to the city for good.

Amaziah and Amos

In barely a day I attended three meetings two of which I preached in one a full sermon of about 40minutes in church and yesterday morning for 22 minutes I expounded on what it is to stand in God’s council and to perceive and hear His Word? (Jeremiah 23:18). In the last 7 minutes I shared from Amos 7:14 about Amos in full irony denied that he was a prophet or son of a prophet. What he meant was he was no career church man like Amaziah who had charge of the Lord’s sanctuary but felt threatened in his position by Amos’ prophesying. I challenged my students whether they were here at College to be trained as pastors because they saw it as a career or was it truly a calling from the Lord? I told them out in the world it is hard enough to earn RM1,000 to work in a factory for 10 long hours a day six days a week. So be grateful that one has to preach one or twice in church within a week and conduct a prayer meeting once a while. I challenged them whether they had stood in the divine council a…

I shall go in the way of no Return (Job 16:22)

The Lord can speak to us in the unlikeliest of places. For instance, in Job 16:22 "and when a few years are gone, I shall go in the way of no return". That perfectly sums up my situation at present. The few years alloted to me at College are about to be gone and I shall not return there for the forseeable future, at least not as a lecturer or even visiting lecturer. A few verses before that Job laments that even his friends scorned him (16:20), perhaps avoided him, refused to contact him, or perhaps in today's HP lingo, Job is blocked😔. Perhaps too there is a time for everthing - time to be friends; time to be alone and time to be scorned and forsaken by friends.

Punishing Schedule & Biblical Studies

Paul the apostle says that we will reap if we do not lose heart and that our labours for the Lord are not in vain. Perhaps as a response to the prophetic lament in Isaiah 49 that the prophet felt that his labours were all in vain and came to nought.  Yesterday I taught my third course in three consecutive days - Wednesday (Revelation), Thursday  (Malaysian Constitution) and Friday (Romans). In the 2nd session I was feeling the heat literally and spritually and felt weak until I had to sit down most of the time in my 3rd hour. I can see that most students are enthusiastic with learning but alas they will learn little when most of them graduate at of the year with a Diploma and a few will do the extra year for BTH.  For three years they would have learned only two NT books. Last year I taught them John's Gospel and this year Romans.  Fourth year students get to learn either Hebrews or Revelation.

Leaders & Destiny

It is easier said than done. How many people in this life can say they have fulfilled life's destiny? Some people just retire from run of the mill job and fade into obscurity. From 2013 I have this strong sense that I can only fulfill life's destiny if I return to Sabah where I am now. I remember in 2013 at TTC chapel when I was leading worship and praying for the founding Prime Minister of Singapore in his 90th birthday on the day Sabah celebrated her union to form Malaysia on 16th September 1963. Yesterday uninvited I went up to the pulpit to lead prayers for the Malaysian PM who turned 93. For Malaysia it had begun a new dawn with the new government though helmed by the oldest democratically elected leader in the world.

Relentless Travels

I have been on the road for three days in a row. On Saturday I drove for 100km one way to preach in a former student’s wedding. It was a hard drive as 99 percent of the journey was on single lane. Another 100kms back to KK making it a total of 12 hours away for a 15 min wedding sermon. I would have declined if not for the student’s contribution to the College magazine 2 years ago which saw tens of thousands ringgit flowed to the College Fund. I met some former students who are pastoring churches in the Kota Belud District. Yesterday was a shorter drive 50kms one way but on village gravel roads part of the way. I lost my way several times. The journey of 1 hour took another 30 minutes and it was past 3pm when I reached KK again. And right now I am back in Ranau otw to my College in Namaus. I have clocked 55,000kms over 3 1/2 years and many of these miles are on dirt and gravel roads around the villages of Ranau and throughout Sabah.

Strategic Vision for Theological Colleges

It is not that I have not tried. If 2015 is counted as I taught part time this is my fourth year as a lecturer. But God demands fruitfulness, personal and corporate. What do we mean by College’s vision or advancement (kemajuan)? I venture to suggest that there are at least 7 criteria on which we can measure whether a theological College is progressing or regressing? First, the qualification of its lecturers. We hope for more qualified doctorates and research masters in our midst.

Open Doors

With a sense of relief and expectation I will survive the next four months though I may have endure many things with patience. The Lord has opened several doors.  I started my 5th year back in Sabah preaching in one church. I testified how I completed 3 1/2 years in ministry - 1 year and 3 months as church pastor and two and a half years as lecturer as there was some overlap earlier. Three and a half is a time of trial and tribulation. I have endured that with patience and I am moving on. This Saturday I will be preaching a wedding sermon something I have not done for 10 years since I resigned as Likas church pastor. Perhaps it is harbinger of things to come -  more wedding sermons to come since most likely I am moving back to pastoral ministry. Initially I was asked only to say the closing prayer.

Tithing & Offerings

Today I preached about tithing as requested by the church leaders. I think that was one sermon that I had not preached for a long time. Neither was it easy getting there. The Tambunan road was equally challenging like the Ranau route only that it was shorter by 20kms. But the view was glorious in the early morning sunlight. I had to sacrifice the France Argentina match as I went to bed early to ride at dawn to my destination some 2 hours away. The traffic was light and I stopped over the mountain top restaurant with the thermometer reading 16 degree Celsius cooler than Kundasang near Mount Kinabalu. I preached to a willing audience of about 100 adults and the small church was about full. It was only 2kms from Tambunan town and the new church was built 12 years ago. One elder knew me from the time I was in HQ as Treasurer and perhaps that was why they invited me to preach about giving.

55 Club

Yesterday one of my closest friends at Secondary school celebrated his 55th birthday. So our class group all wished him happy birthday and not a few welcomed him to the 55 Club. But I am one year younger than my contemporaries and this has been the story of my life, at least the first part of my adult life, I have always been younger than my fellow professionals and church leaders. When I first opened my law firm I was only 24 years old. When I was elected Treasurer general of the denomination I was 31 years old. When I was church pastor of my KK church I was only 38 years old while most of my elders are in their late 40s or 50s. But in the 2nd half of my life the reverse could hold true like Moses. Joseph and David were 30 years old when they achieved prominence. I am 54 and not only am I the lowest ranked lecturer but compelled to go into obscurity at the end of the year.

Total Surprise

Life is full of surprises. It was totally unexpected. I announced my imminent departure from the College from the pulpit yesterday after having preached a fiery sermon, sat down and rose up to respond to some comments made which led to the announcement. By night fall we had a cell group meeting in my College residence and I felt a great budern lifted. In fact for the first time during yesterday lunch I asked a student to give me a second helping of rice as my appetite returned. When a burden of 2 years is lifted, shoulders felt light and there is a spring in the steps. Even today's drive back to KK was a breeze knowing that it is just a matter of months now instead of agonising that I might be stuck in a place of barrenness for years.

Urban or Rural

I need to have a set of wheels to travel. Or a good car. The sun shone brightly this morning as I left the house at 8am to return to Ranau after an overnight delay. I am stopping at Tamparuli for breakfast and relax as much as I can before resuming my journey. It is a test of endurance more mental than physical. When the spiritual is right mental and physical stress is bearable but I have increasing doubts that the Lord wants me to do this for long. There is no more Spirit within the wheels and soon I will change for a city car rather a pickup heavy and made for off road terrains. Having tried rural ministry for 4 years it is time to return to the city.

No Spirit left in me

It is rare. I don’t remember driving back to KK having started on the journey to Ranau. But it rained heavily in the afternoon and the dark clouds hovering Mount Kinabalu afar off was no a good omen. But more than just the weather throwing a spanner in the works it is that I have no spirit left in me to make the journey north east. Perhaps like the armies of Alexander the Great it was one mountain too many for them to cross and at the end they refused to obey their king and made him turned back. As long as I have been in ministry I do not know how I managed to overcome great obstacles in my way. Every journey on road or in the air I had felt the Lord going before me.

Confluence of Circumstances

Now that I am not a pastor when I am not preaching I can attend any of the 600 SIB churches in Sabah. If one is not honoured in one church one can go to another. We are not here to seek honour but if God’s servants are not honoured neither can their ministry prosper in the church. Even prophets serve with honour for Jesus says prophets are not without honour except in their own country and their own relatives and their own house. Yesterday I received great honour in a church some 30 minutes from KK. First time there in 19 years as the Chairman told the congregation that I was the preacher for the 1st anniversary of the church and yesterday we celebrated its 20th. In his stirring speech he gave an outline of my sermon 19 years ago which I remembered nought.

Small Village Church

The Pastors’ Conference had ended on Saturday and now I am back in Ranau. Yesterday I preached in a little church near Kiulu, Tamparuli where only 20 adults gathered. I preached a full message like usual from Phil 3:1-11 and drops of sweats fell for at least 30 minutes of my sermon. It was so hot in the pulpit that the elder later apologised that there was no fan over the pulpit and that only one ceiling fan at the centre of the little church. Anyhow I enjoyed the breakfast and lunch fellowship very much and it is good not to neglect small churches that could not afford love gifts.

Women’s Conference

I attended the Women’s Conference for the first time in 3 years. Three years ago thanks to the Conference in KK we escaped the 6.0 Ranau earthquake. I was amazed at the dedication of the women’s folks. Last night’s attendance was more than 4,500 people and those registered broke records, a total of 2,500 people. Now the Women’s Conference if attendance is kept up may even exceed that of the Youth Conference which had a 15 year head start. I wasn’t surprised because in almost all the 30 plus churches I had preached in since 2014 women would make up 70percent of the congregation. Alas where are the men and young men?

Jubilee & A Life of True Freedom

Yesterday at Kota Belud I spoke about the number, 153 in John 21 - the 153 large fishes caught by Jesus' disciples. What does the number stand for? One way of looking at it is that 153 is 51x3. The number 51 is significant because it begins a new cycle of 50 years, the 50th year being Jubilee where every man is commanded to return to his own land (Lev 25) and if there is any debt accrued it must be cancelled or absolved by the creditor so that every man in Israel is free from debt and not be burdened by subjection to creditors and landowners because the debtor's inheritance/land is restored to him in the year of Jubilee.

Preaching for 1 hour

I did not realise that my sermon went for almost one hour -  58 minutes to be exact. I rose to the pulpit at 9.55 and stopped at 10.53am. With the closing prayers and short announcements the meeting lasted exactly 2 hours. I did not look at my watch once while preaching and I went with the flow and how attentive the 300 adults were. In fact they were in rapt attention except one or two who went for toilet break. It was not an easy sermon to preach over 7 points where for each point I gave a scripture and shared how we interpret it and for 4 or 5 points I shared my personal testimony of how I obeyed God’s word which I regard as having the highest authority. After service we had another 30 minutes in church talking to various people. One tambourine dancer whom I met 2 years ago as a 12 year old is now almost as tall as I am.

The Word of God as the Highest Authority

I was invited to preach tomorrow on this topic 10 days ago just as I was preparing to go to Keningau. I accepted straightaway as I thought this topic was interesting and highly relevant. Though I did not think I would need more than 10 days to prepare for this message but for the past week I have been reflecting on how to approach this topic. Now I realise I probably need a whole month to give justice to this question. What is it that we consider that the Word of God as the highest authority? I will look at it from 7 perspectives. First, the Word of God commands obedience and it is prescriptive - love your God with all your heart....or love your enemies. These commands arc things we must do. In other words, these are propositional truths. Second, God’s commands can be proscriptive. They command us not to do certain things. “do not covet” or “do not be drunk with wine” (Eph 5:18). Third, the Word of God is descriptive. Like the early church devoted itself to the teaching of the apostle…

The Month that Was

It was a month that will go down in history as epochal in changing the political landscape of the country. For the first time in my lifetime I witnessed a change of government in Malaysia whereas in my decade-long sojourn in NZ for education I had witnessed at least 4 or 5 change of governments with a total of 7 or 8 Prime Ministers. So it is historical in Malaysia and yesterday the Finance Minister announced that more than RM7 million had been donated to the Nation Hope Fund by ordinary citizens. It reminded me what John F Kennedy said half a century ago "Do not ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country". If such hope is generated by people of the world that yearned for change for the better it can be a bit discouraging to see within the church, members can still take things so easily as far as the kingdom of God is concerned.  Many want to go to church but few want to follow Christ.  Many want to go to heaven but very few are willing to pay …

Travelling for the Lord

When I read how an Argentine tennis player drove 10 hours from Barcelona to Paris to play at Roland Garros I was mightily encouraged. Yesterday I rested all day from my long weekend ministry in Keningau. For the first time I took the Kimanis to Keningau road that passes through the Crocker Range. It has some majestic sights along the way but for about 30 minutes it was mostly steep climbs and my Triton pickup slowed considerably as it climbed to 4 or 5 thousand feet above sea levels. Reaching Keningau from my home 🏠 in KK in less than 2.5 hours was a relief. It was just past noon and my class did not start until at night so I managed to get some rest in a local hotel. I taught for almost 8 hours - 2.5 hours Friday night and 5 hours on Saturday. My students took me for morning tea break which went for 45 minutes but the fellowship of the saints was what mattered. I had a late lunch on my own and returned to the hotel to prepare for the Sunday sermon. It happened that on Saturday nighi…

12 Days that Changed Malaysia

I have not been doing as much marking as I planned to do because the news got more exciting by the day and by the hour. It has been 12 days since Pakatan Harapan (Coaliton of Hope) won power in Malaysia. From the swearing in of the 7th Prime Minister on 10th May to the formation of the Cabinet of 12 ministries last night it has been an exciting 12 days. About a third of the new ministers had been jailed by the former government but how the tables have turned. Watching the new Finance Minister giving his first press conference I felt a sense of pride and elation. What a struggle for justice and truth in politics. As a son of the long enduring opposition leader, the new finance minister was an opposition politician for more than 30 years and finally reached his aim of sitting as part of the ruling party in government. With the country’s finances in dire straits with allegedly RM7 billion bailout of the 1MDB fiasco, no doubt there will be much house cleaning and getting the house in orde…

Home Sweet Home

I arrived in Ranau at 12noon after 3 weeks in Kota Kinabalu. I wasn’t planning coming back here until the new Semester starts but last minute I was called to teach an extension programme on Early Church History. I rushed to prepare 37 PowerPoint slides for a 7 hour long teaching session from 3pm to 10pm tomorrow. I hope the turn out will be good seeing that it took me 2.5 hours to drive back. But at the back of my mind I was thinking perhaps I could join my Students in the InterCollege sports in Lawas, Sarawak next Wednesday.

Forgetting my Father’s House (Genesis 41:51)

It is ironic. Joseph had come to a position of authority and power second only to Pharoah in the world power of the time. Many things were gifted him. As a foreigner and an inmate imprisoned on false charges he came out of prison and became king (Ecclesiastes 4). But more ironic was Joseph’s first born son given the name Manasseh which Joseph interpreted as God made me to forget my toils and all my Father’s house. Joseph had experienced great pains and bitterness in the hands of his brothers. 10 of them ganged up on him out of jealousy and hatred and almost had him killed. For 13 years he suffered as a slave in a foreign land. He had to forget his father’s house to move on in life and it was what he did when he assumed power without bitterness haunting him.

Malaysian Election Aftermath

For the past three days I had about 3 hours sleep each night. I am only a spectator but watch every piece of news from social media or TV. Malaysians have voted for change. 7 States in Peninsular are under the new coaliton Pakatan Harapan led by the former and now the newly appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia. I thought there might be trouble as the day after the election went on but there was no news about the swearing in of the PM-elect. The Election Commision did a lousy job this time round as final results only came in at 4.30am the next day. Apparently there were several recounts but the news were that as BN ruling party was losing badly in many States the results trickled in at snail pace. Tun Mahathir claimed victory before midnight and the losing caretaker Premier did not appear until the next day at 11.30am.

Malaysia's 14th General Election

It was a sight to behold. The power of citizenry. All lining up orderly to cast their votes. The cars lined the streets from one end to the other.  I had to walk 10 minutes to the polling booth and once I got there it was smooth. At most it took about 25 minutes as there were about 20 people in the queue for my polling station. My name was called out with my Identity Card number but I whispered to the Election official how to correctly pronounce my name. My right index finger was inked. When I showed them my right index finger I was asked for my left finger as people assumed that one is right handed.

Itinerant Preaching

I was on a mission. A good friend told me that he had visited a village 15 times in the past year for the sake of campaigning in the general Election. So I don't think my occasional travels for the Lord are any more strenuous than what politicians go through especially when the Election is near. But driving alone almost 4 hours was a test of endurance. I count the kilometres and on my way to Sipitang I only stopped at Beaufort 45kms away. But on my way back I stopped three times in Beaufort, Papar and Kota Kinabalu. I was welcome with the customary Lundayeh hospitality with afternoon tea. I reached there at 5.30pm after having satay at Sipitang Township at 4.30pm. At 6.45pm it was dinner time and the night meeting started at 8pm sharp. They only sang two songs before they handed the pulpit to me and I preached for about 45 minutes on 5 things about grace. So just after 9.10pm we ended our service but supper went for another hour before I excused myself and returned to my room at 1…

Forward Planning

For me preaching is going through a storm where one navigates all kinds of winds, opposing winds of false doctrines and political winds of the day as we draw near General Election next Wednesday. Last night I received news that I shall be preaching tonight as well as tomorrow’s Sunday service. I wish they told me earlier for better preparations and now I have to prepare mentally to preach twice instead of once. It is not something out of the ordinary but forward planning is not a forte for many people, pastors and leaders included. In class I spoke about the last minute syndrome and looking busy and important in those last hectic hours due to lack of forward planning.

Value of a PhD

There are many doctorates out there but I am talking about earned doctorate over a submission of a substantial original book-length thesis. My PhD thesis has a total of 150,000 words with 50,000 of them as footnotes. For both main text and footnotes in terms of word permissible I have reached the limits. My T & T Clark publishers basically suggested that I reduced one chapter of 40 pages but at the end without alteration or reducing any words it was published. I was a pastor then and I told my editors that I simply had not the time to make any revision let alone deciding what to take out from my thesis. But I have been reading about the worth of a PhD and not because of self doubt but due to my forthcoming 15th year anniversary of the conferment of my PhD.

”My Miles I Travelled” (Psalm 138:3LXX)

I just realised I passed another milestone in my ministry, now in the 41st month since my appointment as pastor of a Ranau church. I did not realise last Sunday on 29th April 2018 I preached two messages which ended my 40-month ministry just as I started on 31st December 2014 in the same church and place. Preaching the second service in the new church just completed last month which foundations were laid in 2015 when I was pastor there. It could be that my next 40 months could be very different at least new compared to what I have been doing in the past 3 years. My ODO meter reads 76677kms.

Labour Day

I preached an 30 min sermon on Labour Day in Chapel before teaching an 2 hour class on the Holy Spirit and then rushing home to meet the student leaders for more than an hour. It was one of the most hectic 10 day period as far as I can remember and preaching twice on Sunday in my former church took a lot out of me. But that was indeed folder for my message yesterday and I expounded the Greek text of Luke 10:7 and 1 Tim 5:17 with 5 slides. I explained the word “worker” and “work” and the word “wage” mithos in Greek. I also explained that as workers in the Lord’s harvest we should not be embarassed to be paid for our labour. In fact 1 Tim 5:17 has double honour which in the Greek includes the idea of financial remuneration based on work done and performance.

Former Church

It wasn’t easy. It was only on Friday that I was asked to preach in my former church in Ranau. It was double duty as there were two Sunday services in separate places for different congregations. So I prepared two messages and with a 7.20am drive from College I got back just after 1pm. When I reached the church I saw in the church bulletin that I was also conducting the Lord’s communion and it is our custom to say a few words of exhortation based on Scripture before the emblems were distributed and prayers said before and after. Today was especially poignant because two of the church members were standing for the 14th General Election on May 9th. In the first service I led prayers for an opposition candidate from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the second service an BN candidate. A good friend to both, perhaps closer to the BN candidate as he was a church member in my former church in KK.

Abundant Life

I lectured on John 10 a couple of weeks ago about the aim of Jesus' coming into the world so that those who believe in Him may have life and have it abundantly. There is no Scripture in the New Testament that praises the rich or that Christians will be rich in any sense of the word but there is also no Scripture to say we should boast about poverty as if it is a badge of honour in following Christ as the poor of this world. I told my students that in our denomination's context where 99% of their pastors are poor that we do well to consider Jesus' offer of abundant life which must include material blessings to survive in this world with a measure of dignity and honour. I could testify since I entered full time ministry 24 years ago, the truth of Matthew 6:33 that if you seek first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness all these things shall be added to you.

True Family

It has been a struggle all my Christian life, almost 36 years on now. Who and what is my true family? I just lectured on John's Gospel where Jesus' own brothers did not believe in Him (John 7). In fact, Jesus said that they represented the world and for the world everything is relative, no absolute truth. For the world every undertaking is an opportune time but for Jesus he had to walk to the tune of His Father's bidding. Also in the Gospel of John, Jesus rebuked his mother for trying to command him to do something which is within the purview of Jesus' Father's authority alone. If Jesus' mother and brothers caused him heartache, our own mothers and brothers can also cause us heartache, much more if they do not believe in Christ. I told my friend that one most important thing in my ministry is the sense of belonging to a community of people and to the SIB family of pastors and members specifically. Everywhere I go, I am called "pastor" not something to…

Holy Saturday

Historically, holy Saturday is celebrated with solemn reflections and prayers of lamentation and hope. With Christ dead and the disciples scattered each to his own place, what would happen to the nascent movement begun by John the Baptist and then Jesus himself manifested to Israel? After three short years at the most, it was all over with the crucifixion of the leader of the new movement. Often times, over the course of this Semester, I have lectured on John's Gospel and consistently over 10 or 11 chapters of the Gospel, Jesus spoke in conflict with the authorities of the day, especially the Jews led by the High Priest, chief priests and leading Pharisees. Often times, Jesus could only respond that it was His Father who witnessed to Him and that Jesus was sent by the Father and had come in the Father's Name.

Passover is Here

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This morning at Borneo Theological Seminary we are celebrating Passover. So quickly we have moved along to the end of March, a quarter of the year is gone.  Passover is a spring festival in Israel where grains of barley are harvested (Ruth). It is the beginning of the harvest seasons followed by wheat at Pentecost fifty days after Passover and at the Feast of Tabernacles grapes and olives. It is also called the Feast of ingathering, spritually speaking a harvesting of souls and maturing of the church at the end times.

End-Time Seminar

This College break has gone passed too quickly.  Tomorrow is my last day off before heading to the mountains to conduct an End time seminar on Saturday. It will be an 90 mins drive up the mountain just before reaching the foot of Mount Kinabalu. I hope to get there by 8.30 am to start off my 5 session seminar that will go on to 5pm. I managed to get the organisers to cancel the night meeting with the carrot that I would be preaching on Sunday. I remember this place well when more than 20 years ago they had asked me to preach times in 9 services over the Friday to Sunday revival meetings. I was in my early 30s then and generally the spiritual condition of the church was much more fervent compared to what I could see in the last 10 years.

Ready for War

I am enjoying teaching Early Church History. Finally I felt my specialty and interests besides biblical studies are being whetted. I love the Church fathers. They are my heroes. They fought against wild beasts and false prophets and they won the martyrs’ crown. They struggled against ungodliness and lukewarmness and they brought great revivals and spiritual refreshments. They were at war against fleshly lusts and most lived in relative poverty and scarcity and yet they triumphed. In some small measures I feel my past 3 years plus have been a struggle against many things. Against natural elements of heat and cold. Against village lifestyle that I am unaccustomed to. Against racial and social prejudice. Serving in a foreign culture and among the tribes. In more ways than one Singapore was more than a natural home for me, among people of the same race and educational attainments.

Teaching & Preaching

I missed Chapel today. It could be my second time missing morning Chapel in more than 2 years. Last night I taught a class until 9.45pm and stopped by at a colleague’s place to have supper. When I reached home at 10.15pm I found that the tap water restored after almost 5 days without tap water since the earthquake struck Ranau. There was a massive crack in the water pipe nearby and it took 5 days for the Water Dept to fix it. This morning I taught my third 3-hour block class from yesterday. Preaching on Sunday also took a lot of my energy as the Chapel with only zinc roof without ceiling was boiling hot by 10am.

Earthquake in Ranau (Again)

I was just getting ready to shower when the 5.2 earthquake struck at 9.06pm. I felt the walls shook for 3 or 4 seconds and then the floor shook and swayed for 2 or 3 seconds. These few seconds of tremors managed to grab our attention and caused us to pray and asked God what was happening. Perhaps we had gotten too complacent and so busy with so many things. Tomorrow we have a big do at College ground breaking (no pun intended) ceremony and God can shatter the earth anytime. One colleague was so scared that she thought Jesus was returning to earth. If only that were true Come Lord Jesus come. But these are just the signs of birth pangs, worse things will happen before Jesus returns. In about half an hour after the quake I was told that the student tasked to preach at Chapel this morning could not do so due to illness and I immediately decided to speak to address what the Lord may be saying to the College community.

Season of Seminars

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After a relatively quiet February, the month of March is going to get busy. Yesterday I was exhausted after my 2nd consecutive day of teaching that I felt asleep at noon and missed lunch before getting up for an afternoon Faculty meeting. That came at the culmination of travelling back and forth Namaus and Kota Kinabalu over 72 hours. But I needed to pace myself and prepare for the new season of ministry. After tomorrow's class on John's Gospel I plan to begin earnest preparations for the two End-time Seminars coming in the last 2 weeks of March. Before that I have a 10-hour course on Reformation History on 17th March in Kota Belud, the first time I taught about Reformation at an academic setting, a topic or a period of history close to my heart.

24 Hours

One of my favourite dramas was 24 or 24 hours, a drama of the life and exploits of a secret agent. As for God’s servants, we are also supposed to do exploits for they who know their God will do exploits (Daniel). Thus in exactly 24 hours I accomplished what I wanted to do at College and drove back to KK. Not that I enjoyed another ardous drive in the rain and mist but I must meet a friend who contacted me from England and he will be in KK for a fortnight. I thought I meet him today because for the next three weekends in a row I shall be occupied.

Three Strikes

I don’t have lectures tomorrow which means I could ask for another day’s leave and I would have gotten a long weekend in Kota Kinabalu. But I wanted to celebrate Lunar New Year with my student home group tonight and with my colleagues at Faculty Tea break tomorrow. Further it is a new month and a new theme for Chapel’s services, I needed to explain the theme I chose for March from Daniel 12:4 “knowledge shall increase”. At the end of my 24-hour Singapore trip I managed to bring 9 books with me, 7 from my collection at a local Seminary and two I bought from Takashimaya bookstore. As Proverbs says “buy the truth and sell it not..”.

Which Family?

I have been juggling with two families. My family here in Kota Kinabalu and my family in Ranau. My family in Ranau is the College community in general and my home group in particular. In fact, the home group is my direct charge should anything issue arise the lecturer in charge of the group will be told first. But as Chaplain I am looked upon as the pastor of the College so in a way the best way to shepherd the flock is regard them as my family in love and devotion just as we do so to our natural family members. Perhaps more so because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ bound by the love of the Spirit with God as the Father of us all.

23 Years (Jeremiah 25:3)

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For 23 years Jeremiah said that the Word of God came to him and he had faithfully delivered it to the people of Jerusalem. When my eyes came upon the 23 years it struck me that it has been 23 years since the Word of God came to me and I have faithfully delivered it in Sabah and in Singapore. I have preached in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and West Malaysia but a vast majority of my ministry is among the tribal peoples of Borneo except for my 6-year sojourn in Singapore. But like Jeremiah the main focus of my preaching has been repentance from evil way and evil doings.

Family Reunion

This year it is especially joyful over the Lunar New Year. Perhaps last year at the recent passing away of my father the mood was still sombre. But with an addition to the Siew family with my niece who is now 7 months old we are all rather contented. My youngest brother is returning to Australia for the son’s education and his daughter is going to England for her A levels. Whatever one can say of the Chinese as a race is that culturally we try to improve our lives generation by generation. My parents were not tertiary educated but they saw to it that all their four sons are thus. We expect our children in their generation do better but certainly not worse.

Who is my Family?

I have had several rounds of family reunion and dinners and another lunch tomorrow. But who is my family? I miss my College family. I rather be with them than with the ungodly and unbelievers. It is better one day in the Lord’s house than a thousand elsewhere. Tomorrow College’s Chapel continues for probably half the College Community that did not return to their villages for the Lunar NY weekend. I am taking another week off to be with my son who is returning to Kota Kinabalu tomorrow. I may just make a quick trip to Ranau with my son to teach my Thursday class on John’s Gospel, though officially I am on leave for about 10 days. There is nothing much for me to do in KK. My true family is in Ranau. I long to be with them.

Origen on the Holy Spirit

“Since by the Spirit’s guidance he has come to know the reasons for all things that happen, and why and how they happen, his soul can never be in any way disquieted or admit any feeling of sadness (cf. Jn 14:26-27); nor is it in anything afrighted, for it clings to God’s Word and wisdom and ‘in the Holy Spirit calls Jesus Lord’ (1 Cor 12:3)....the word ‘paraclete’ ought to be understood as ‘comforter’, because he provides comfort to souls to whom he opens and reveals a consciousness of spiritual knowledge.” On First Principles (pp. 148-149).

Time & Books

God willing, my books may be on their way home after 44 months in Singapore. It is close to the Danielic period of 1,335 days (Dan 12:12) after I moved my books to another Seminary in Singapore for safe keeping when my future is up in air. Not that my future is anymore certain now but I think it is time for my books to come home if I can call Sabah home. The books have been away too long and like my own children I miss them terribly enough for me to make a day trip to Singapore to see whether I can bring them home with me in the near future. Time is of the essence. If Daniel’s 1335 is an extension of time from 1150 days to 1290 days and then finally 1335 days, God’s time shall not be extended further. As in the days of the 7th trumpet’s 🎺 sound, time shall be no more (Rev 10:6-7).

Year of Fulfilment

You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out into rich fulfilment (Psalm 66:12). Last Christmas I preached several sermons on the theme of fulfilment. I felt it applied to my ministry at this juncture of my life. When all seems so bleak the sun might shine the brightest. Often the Israelites felt all seemed lost, the Lord granted a reversal of fortunes and they were saved by a mighty hand. Just as in the days of Esther and  Mordecai and at David's escape into the wilderness to avoid bloodshed in Jerusalem with Absalom's treachery - when it all seemed lost, victory is snatched at the jaws of defeat.  How sweet is the victory that God so allowed that his people are tested to their limits before intervening with His mighty deliverance. Call on me and I shall deliver you and you shall glorify Me says the Lord. 

Running Errands and Theological Curriculum

The week before the Lunar New Year is always the busiest time of the year. Traffic seems to double and everywhere is a crawl. I managed to service my pick up late Thursday. I will probably do some shopping before heading back to Ranau. I have three more classes to teach before the New Year and I hope I can be back in time to KK for the reunion dinner. My mother is arriving in KK today and she will be here for 2 weeks. In between these errands I am writing notes on my MacBookAir and I have Origen’s On First Principles with me all the time. Malaysians are generally not readers. Either they are staring blankly at the walls or looking down on their handphones.

Origen’s On First Principles

On First Principles is one of Origen’s famous writings. I am rereading parts of it now in preparation for Monday’s lectures on Church History. We are entering the period of the 3rd century when the action really began to heat up. Not that it was less exciting in the 2nd century AD with the Marcion’s division and canonisation of NT writings gathering pace. But with Origen you have one of the greatest church theologians of all time rivaling Augustine who was more familiar with Latin in the late 4th and early 5th century. We can say that Origen’s writings became the focus of attention and debates for the next 300 years. When someone commented last night on my blogpost on Origen more than 5 years ago I reread what I wrote and was immensely blessed by it. In it Origen commented on how one person much lesser than the other could exercise authority over one who is greater than him.

Teaching Anointing

For the past fortnight I struggled with many things. But one thing was certain for the teaching and preaching anointing. I preached one of the more powerful messages last Sunday in Chapel and taught three classes of 3 hours each within 36 hours in order to return to KK today to run some errands for CNY. One thing is certain that is the teaching anointing. Whatever heartache I felt was somewhat alleviated by my students.

24th Year

24 is a good number. There are 24 elders in heaven worshipping the Lord in Revelation. 24 is 2x12 which is double the people of God represented by the number 12. May the Lord multiply His people. 24 may stand for God’s people in the OT and NT, the OT by the 12 tribes of Israel and the NT by the 12 apostles. 24 is also 3x8 a new beginning times 3 which is represented by the number 8 for new beginning. 24 is also 6x4 where the number 6 is man or humanity and 4 the four corners of the earth.

Songs of Deliverance

I must say that spiritual songs have kept me sane not in the Saulish sense but that in times of great pressures and hardships God has given me songs of deliverance to keep me on even keels and not slide off into depression or destruction. There are times that the whole mind and body tell you just quit and find something more bearable and where you find acceptance. In this second half of my life I am determined to hear the still small voice and obey what the Spirit says even in barren and rocky places and in the wilderness until the Spirit is poured out on us.

Sun Set, What a Beautiful Name

A man goes out in the morning to work and return in the evening (Psalm 104). Now that the Sun is setting I can write about my 14-hour long day. As usual the journey back to Namaus was exhausting and coupled by the fact I lectured straightway for 3 hours upon arrival multiplied the tiredness factor. It was good to get some rest in the afternoon before starting to prepare for my Sunday sermon at Chapel. I am asking my students to sing a song named, "What a Beautiful Name" surprisingly won a Grammy for the Kiwi born singer and another songwriter.  I was singing the song several times over today while making my way up the mountains and down the valleys. What a beautiful name. What a wonderful name. What a powerful Name.

Sun Rose

The sun rose when I reached Mount Kinabalu giving it a golden glow just like when the morning sun rose on the Temple of God on Mount Zion 2000 years ago. May the Temple be built in my generation.  Then I saw dense white clouds beneath me covering Ranau as with a canopy. It is like Lord smiling on Ranau and her peoples. Perhaps it is more of the Lord showing me a sign for good that He still wants me to be in Ranau. I don’t know how long I can keep this up in my mid 50s driving before dawn and later when I reach Namaus I will lecture on NT theology.

It’s Done