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Showing posts from 2019

Celebrations & Milestones

Yesterday I had a wonderful time of worship and fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was in a small church that I had preached 3 times this year, more than in any other church this year. When we sang the worship song before the sermon, "Kusiapkan hatiku untuk mendengar FirmanMu" my tears flowed and I had to bow my head and wipe my eyes dry several times. This song was one of my favourite some 30 years ago especially when I first started my ministry 25 years ago. The line in Malay means, "I prepare my heart to listen to Your Word". It encapsulates my life and ministry, often times waiting to hear God's Word either as preacher or worshipper before the sermon is preached. Speaking of milestones and landmarks, I had the privilege of sitting beside a senior leader of our denomination who had served as Vice President and Secretary General in the 1980s. He told me that he had been in full-time for 50 years having begun in 1969!

Blogging as Solace & Meditation

I have been at it for 12 years now. Since May 2006 when I started blogging I have found my niche. If I did not stop one year in 2011 I would have a lot more readers now. But I am content. The few that come on my site I hope that they are blessed and encouraged by what they find here. Today I saw in my daily stats that there are three countries from South America, Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia. Two from Middle East including Iraq. On occasions even from Africa. But the most frequent readers are from Asia, North America, Europe and this year more and more Australians.

Preacher & Scholar

It's hard to focus on writing when one has preaching to do. No wonder most scholars don't preach and most preachers don't write and publish. Each to his calling and gifts. Yet I know in my life things are not so simple - not so black or white. I can preach well because I am a scholar. I write well and comment on Scripture because I am a preacher. I remember that it was in Sabah in my 2nd year of my PhD when I was invited to preach a series of 7 sermons on the book of Revelation that the main thesis of doctoral study came to fruition. Writing and preaching should inform one another. In my extended Sabbatical, sometimes I wish I could just go away. Perhaps spend a fortnight in Europe, sitting and listening to papers on the Bible. Perhaps fly away to New Zealand and spend some time with my son.

European Bible Conferences

When I saw the full programme of IOSOT (International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament) I felt a tinge of regret that I withdrew my paper accepted for presentation at the said Congress in Aberdeen next month. I saw a host of scholars from all over the world and some of the big names are presenting short papers. I can still go as an attendee but not as a presenter. It's been three years since I attended an academic Conference. It was almost a perfect symmetry of sorts when I started in 2006 at Peking University where I presented a paper on Father-Son relationships in the book of Genesis: Foundations for a Harmonious Society. Then in 2010 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and in 2013 at Murdoch University, Perth for the SNTS Society of New Testament Studies. In Perth, it was most enjoyable sitting in the same seminar room as Tom Wright (yes, NT Wright) and John Collins of Yale University. And then to top it up I sat next to Prof Richard Hays (author of the famous…

Trinity Lectures 29.7.19-1.8.19

When I got the news of the Trinity lectures a couple of months ago I have been praying to the Lord to open the way to attend the said lectures. I actually had lunch with the speaker, an Oxford University Professor in Biblical Exegesis 7 years ago in his previous visit to TTC. The topic about the absence and presence of Jesus in Paul's understanding is fascinating.

Being Bilingual

I don’t have a gift for languages but I am a bilingual. To be a true bilingual one has to not just speak but write well in two languages. In Singapore I only preached thrice in Malay in my 6 years there in two Indonesian services. Now back in Sabah I have only spoken twice in English but with more than 200 sermons in Malay over 5 years. That makes me by God’s grace a true bilingual. I have written many lectures notes in Malay and have taught in seminaries in Malay for 5 years. Now I am into chapter 12 of John’s gospel commentary, all 60,000 words and counting in Malay. Last Sunday I preached in Malay as I have always preached in Sabah for 19 years. I did not miss a beat. When the anointing flowed, my Malay is as good as my English perhaps even more so because Malay is a very direct and impactful language.

Record of Documents

I tend to be a keeper of records and documents. I have 7 or 8 large files filled with documents from 20 years ago. Though I have very few documents which I kept during my time as Treasurer General except for the final two years of audited accounts which showed a 49% increase church income in 1996-1998. Even during the financial crisis of 1997-1998 the Lord poured out his blessings on His church. I often tell people that God's servants are recession proof and God's church is always protected from the economic downturns of the day. But last night and this morning I searched high and low for a document which I needed but could not find.

Preaching in Papar

I ended the first half of the year with a bang. My wife and I travelled to Papar which is exactly one hour's drive from KK but the village church took another 25 mins to reach. We were met in Papar town and the chairman and his wife were kind to invite us for breakfast and we drove to the church just after 9am. It was supposed to be 9.30 am start but the meeting started at 10am and I preached at 11.20 am.  I must have preached for 1 hour and 5 mins as I did not once look at my watch until the end. As there were a number of Mother's and Father's Day celebrations events on so the church service went up to 1.15pm and we had lunch fellowship until just past 2.10pm before we drove home. We stopped by KK city for satay and reached home at 4pm. It was 11 hours since I got up at 5am to prepare for the sermon. Nowadays as much as I try not to preach too long I try not to rush since I spent several days in preparation and hours on the road. I want to make my sermon count.

Power to Enjoy (Ecclesiastes 6:2)

A man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honour, so that he lacks nothing of all he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them; this is vanity; it is a sore affliction (Ecclesiastes 6:2). Later in the passage the preacher says that if he does not enjoy life's good things... (6:3) the Preacher thinks an untimely birth is better off than him. The book of Ecclesiastes is probably the most philosophical book in the Bible, telling us about life and all its vanities. Through its perceived pessimism the Preacher is a realist fully grounded in the world with all its joys and hardships.

Friendships & Sacrifice

I have had a fruitful 3 days where I wrote more than 3,000 words and now moving into chapter 12 of John's Gospel. I read somewhere that in one's old age, the most important thing is relationships with family and friends. I have tried my best to keep my side of the bargain with my family despite none of them is a believer except my niece. I made some effort to have dinner with my youngest brother when he came back from Australia recently and it was good time of catching up. Last night I invited an old friend to dinner. I saw them in church last Sunday and it must have been 5 or 6 years the last I met them. Since retired from teaching, they returned to West Malaysia but for all intents and purposes they are Sabahans as they had spent a good part of 30 years in the State. When I was pastor of my home church he was an influential deacon who served for several terms as Treasurer of the church. He was also a good preacher and teacher of God's Word. He holds a double degree in fi…

Restarting John’s Gospel commentary

After 19 months of stoppage I have restarted my commentary on John’s Gospel. For a long time I was stuck at John 11:5 but in the past 2 days of almost non stop writing I have reached John 11:52 and will soon proceed to John 12. I suppose there was a parallel when I last preached in my home church November 2017. After that sermon I spent almost 7 weeks without ministry interruption in writing 70,000 words and managed to lecture on the Gospel of John when the new year 2018 started.

Motorcycles & Motorcars

Between bikes and cars what do you choose? My former student who is in his final year now texted me last night and asked me to interpret Rev 12. That took me almost 3 years of research but I texted back in about 150 words and gave him short interpretive clues and answers. When I asked him how he was he told me he had an accident last week and broke his shoulder bone. Ouch! I was saddened as I often prayed for motorbike riders especially couples with children to ride in a car instead. First, it is dangerous on a bike on Malaysian and Sabah’s roads filled with potholes and unevenness.

Taking Rest in Affluence (Isaiah 32:18 LXX)

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Since I purchased my Bible translated by Nicholas King (Oxford Professor) I have been really blessed with the readings. King translated the Bible from the OG (Old Greek or LXX) for the OT and the Greek NT. I usually read NKJV or RSV for my devotions and both these versions are translated from the Hebrew MT for the OT. This morning I read several chapters of Isaiah and my eyes came upon Isaiah 32:17-18 about the effect of the works of righteousness. At the end of the verse, the LXX says that the end result of righteousness is “take their rest in affluence”. God is no miser. For those who have sacrificed their lives unto Him, He is able to care for. I just told my close friend that for 14 years of my full-time ministry (30-44 years old) I never held more than 2 or 3 months’ salary of savings, that is I never had more than RM10,000 in my account, in fact much less. As for me, the sacrifice to God is total commitment and giving up of everything to pursue what God commands, not holding ba…

Leaders as Jewels and Precious Stones

I only managed to make one point in my Sunday sermon last week. That leaders are precious stones and jewels. I used the text of Haggai where Zerubbabel is called a signet ring of the Lord. I referred to the two pillars which stood right in front of the holy place of Solomon’s temple. The two pillars are about 35 feet in height which is about the length of 5 or 6 men. The top of the pillar is an elaborate bowl of intricate designs and decorations. I used the text of Galatians to say Peter, James and John were known as pillars of the church, so also the words of Jesus that whoever overcomes will become a pillar in the house of his God. Then I went back to refer to Joshua the high priest who was given a precious stone with 7 eyes and a crown of silver and gold was made and put on his head. Why all these jewels and precious stones have to do with leaders?

Leadership Seminar & Father’s Day

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In the past couple of months I have made several forays in ministry as much as my busiest times in previous years. In my third day after my weekend ministry I am still feeling the effects physically and mentally that I need to recover. Driving back and forth Mount Kinabalu is a challenge to any mid 50s person let alone conducting a seminar from 8.40 am to 4pm. I felt so tired by 2pm that I had to walk out of the church to take a breather before restarting. Early Sunday morning I was already up and preparing for the sermon in my homechurch. I was asked how long one should preach and my answer  was according to the situation both within the preacher and the congregation.

Up the Mountains

I texted and asked “is anyone going up to the mountain with me?” I am looking for Joshuas as the namesake followed Moses up the mountain and waited for him for 40 days. Early tomorrow morning God willing I shall be driving up to Mount Kinabalu and I hope to reach the church by 8.40am in order to start at 9am. I will proceed to give two long lectures in the morning and two shorter ones in the afternoon.

Power of the Word

If I didn’t believe in the power of the Word I would have not agreed to preach this Sunday in my home church. The last time I preached in my home church was 19 months ago. What can you do with one sermon? It is like droplets of water hitting the rock without much effect or impact. But the Word of God is powerful. I have had barely 10 days to prepare and thankfully I was almost done with my day long leadership seminar this Saturday. I would have preferred a latter date but the senior pastor said that was the only available slot and I took it. God is able to cause stones to become children of Abraham.

Pressing On & Going Forward

The last couple of months have been as hectic as ever. After the Good Friday-Easter services where I preached three long sermons I have been kept busy. I thought I might just wind down and lay low for a while but I have not stopped preaching since and conducting seminars. Last Sunday I preached my second sermon on giving after the first sermon three weeks ago and it brought some fireworks in the congregation. Some leaders might have a sense of unease I went on but I told them before hand that they might not like what they were going to hear. Thank God that the chairman is good friend of 20 years and whether he agrees with what I preached or not I trust we remain friends. I told the church that fund raising dinners and faith pledges are not biblical and not God pleasing ways to raise funds.

Coffee & Community

The past several months have been really hot. Room temperatures are over 33 degrees Celsius. So to keep cool and in working condition I stay in cafes and McDonalds. Sometimes I order a coffee and sit there for 2 or 3 hours typing on my computer. It's either preparing for sermon or seminar or writing commentary on some biblical book. Coffee is where I get my inspiration. It is the ambience and social setting that keeps me going. Today I went to a Coffee shop without aircon and when I asked for the bill I was told that it was paid and some young lady waived to me across the tables. I did not go to thank her because the shop was crowded. I just waved back and smiled and said a short prayer of thanksgiving. I don't even know who she was - is she church member or someone I counselled for marriage some years ago? It reminded me of a Ranau friend who works a chef in one of the restaurants.

Woman’s Conference 2019

It must be God’s will I attended the women’s conference last night. I met a former church member who was working at a mall supermarket and she called me “pastor” and told me she went to the conference the night before and asked whether I would be going. She was a member of my Ranau church in 2015. She was only Form 2 then but now a young working adult. I duly rushed home and drove 16kms to the Conference venue in Penampang. We were only 15 minutes late (7.45pm) but we were met with a couple of ushers who I knew. One of them was a former student in Melangkap where I started my ministry in 1994. While rushing into the hall I managed to catch up and found out that she was married with one child. She must have been only 17 or 18 when we first met. Inside the Hall that could seat 5,000 people, I was ushered to the front by a young man. He seemed to know me well, perhaps from the Youth Conference where I was preacher in 2016. But there was no more seat in front but one and he insisted that …

Future & Faith

I could almost title this post as Future and Fate. As Christians we don't believe in fate but in a God who foreordains and predestines that we should be conformed into the image of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. Be a perfect man or woman, then be like Jesus Christ the man or personhood in perfection. After more than 6 months of tendering my notice of resignation and a year since informing my former College of my impending departure, my future is no less clear than it was before.

What makes a preacher?

After a busy fortnight I was glad that yesterday I could go to worship on Sunday without the care of preaching. What makes a preacher? In recent months and years I rarely come across a preacher who is anointed and powerful to move hearts and minds. John Sung, the Chinese evangelist who converted tens of thousands once said, "Unless you are filled with the Holy Spirit you should not preach!" Why so few are filled with the Holy Spirit these days?

God is Good

In the past several months I have been surviving on my savings and in many ways living by faith day by day week by week. There were and are too many coincidences. Just hours I posted my son’s photo in my updates last week I received news that he was coming back to Sabah for a few days, It was as if the Lord knew I missed him dearly. I wrote, “like Jacob and Joseph separated for a long time - 12 years”. Then I went to the bank to withdraw some money and I tried my best to live frugally now. The next day when I checked my account I realised someone had banked into my account the exact sum I withdrew. Was that a coincidence or God-incident? I rejoiced in the Lord for He is the cup of my salvation.

Travelling to Tenom

Tenom is famous for its coffee. But we didn’t buy any coffee this time. I drove to Tenom last Thursday stopping overnight in Tambunan before heading to Baru Jumpa, Tenom the next day. Baru Jumpa means (just met or just meeting now) is 28kms south of Tenom further to the southern border of Sabah with Sarawak and Kalimantan. The people here are mostly Lundayeh tribe or Lumbawang as they are called in Sarawak and many of their ancestors lived in the highlands of Borneo across the three borders of Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan, Indonesia. Many years ago people used to travel by foot up and down these mountains to visit other villages. The SIB church started in 1957 and I was introduced to the founder of the church on Sunday. He told me he was past 80 now and I replied I was coming to 55. “You are a young man” was his response. Yesterday I preached nearly an hour before a congregation of about 200 people in a church that can easily seat 1,000 people. The church is one of the biggest in the…

Serving Freely

I have always thought that if one focuses on serving the Lord, one’s needs will be taken care of. I never saw that as earning a salary or a living. Yes, it is true we live by the gospel which means by preaching the Gospel material blessings shall flow from it. So in recent times many have asked me either directly or through texts whether I have an appointment somewhere or what ministry I am currently doing. Tough to answer. Officially I am waiting for an appointment from my HQ like any other pastor who is willing to serve. But I am not tied to anything in fact I find it refreshing to serve where I want to. Tomorrow I shall be travelling into the interior again, some 28kms south of Tenom which is 4 hours drive from KK.

Digging Wells (Genesis 26)

It was one of those days. This morning I woke up listless after two days of heady ministry. I preached one of my best sermons yet yesterday in church. Words just flowed from my mouth in rapid succession, all in Malay. Readers of my blog might not realize that since my return to Sabah, 99% of my ministry is now done in Bahasa Malaysia (Malay language). It went for just over an hour and an elder commented later that he did not feel the time because of the anointing. Straightway I was invited back to preach next month. On Saturday I conducted a Revelation seminar which was my 17th End-time Seminar since 2010. About 50 people from a small church attended and the women's fellowship that organised the event was brilliant throughout. But I stood up most of the times, 6 long hours of lectures from 8.30am to 5pm in the evening. So this morning I waited on the Lord and I read Isaac's experience of living in the land. When he went to Gerar, the local inhabitants contended with him. Isaac…

True Friends

A friend loves at all times a brother is born for adversity. In the ideal world, how fortunate Christians are meant to be because all fellow Christians are supposed to be our friends and more than that brothers who would come to our aid in times of adversity.  But the book of Proverbs also tells us how human relationships are viewed, our social relationships with our neighbours and friends. I thought I needed wisdom so I read Proverbs this morning. I am sometimes too quick to trust people and sometimes feel betrayed as a result. When you think he is a friend and a brother who should behave in a certain way but then he fails it can be quite disappointing. I realised not all friends are true friends but worse they are enemies. I realised that not all brothers are true brothers because like Paul says one of the dangers he faced was false brothers.

Praying for the Nation

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of a life of prayers is in answered prayers. I thought I had been pretty slack in praying for Malaysia since the new government came into power a year ago. But I was stirred afresh on Friday night 10.5.2019 to pray for the nation, for Malaysia and Sabah, and Sandakan in particular as the East Coast town of Sabah would be facing a by-election on 11.5., the first polls after one year of Pakatan Harapan government. The government coalition has lost three by-elections in a row in West Malaysia and I thought they simply could not afford to lose another one, especially a Parliamentary seat and that would embolden the opposition even more. So I prayed earnestly for Sandakan voters the night of 10.5 which happened to be the first anniversary of the new government in power (the PM was sworn in at 10pm, 10.5.2018). We were in a meeting of all pastors and church leaders that night and for a long time I was stirred to go up the pulpit and lead …

100 Days in a City

I didn’t think that I would travel again so soon after about 100 days since my coming down from Ranau to Kota Kinabalu at the end of January. Now I find myself in a village again. Fresh air, cool at night and the stillness of everything quietens down the voices of our souls. I rose before dawn as the cocks crowed at 3.30am until daylight. It is good to be near nature where time seems to stand still. It’s one lesson I learned in these past 100 days that is not to be bound by time, not looking at my watch constantly and not asking whether I have been productive or how many hours have I worked throughout the time. Is not eternity defined as the moment when there is no time (Rev 10:6)?

Widows & Orphans

The Lord is defender of widows and orphans, so the Psalmist pronounces. We see that in the early church the widows were looked after from the church funds in Jerusalem (Acts 6) and also among Gentile churches planted by Paul in Ephesus and elsewhere (1 Tim 5). Why God cares for the humble and lowly folks? Because they can’t look after themselves and also they are blessed for being poor in spirit. God’s favour and bias is always towards the downtrodden and those who can’t fend for themselves.

A Woman’s Love

I was nearing the end of ch. 8 of the Song of Songs on the 2nd April when I was somewhat distracted by some Conference faraway that I thought I might attend. It’s been a month and I need to return to it for some finishing touches. The Shulamite woman seems unsure of herself right until the end. First, her brothers think of her as their little sister unready for love. She has to assert that she is more than ready to please her lover and that in her the king has found peace. This is a remarkable statement of a woman’s love. Does her love for her man give him peace? Here, peace is shalom, wellness in wholeness. Can a woman say that she has given her husband peace and happiness? Not just peace for the lack of strife though that is itself remarkable in a relationship but shalom, a peace and wholeness to the man’s soul.

Labour Day 2019

Those who believed have entered into the rest; they have ceased from their own labours just as God did from His (Hebrews 4:10). I find this verse extremely powerful. As soon as we become believers we have ceased from our labours. If we labour, we labour in the rest of God. If we work it is because God works in and through us and it is not us who work. We have entered into that sabbath rest and peace. If someone asked me whether I have a job, I would tell them that I have not worked for the past 25 years or jobless in that time. I have stopped working for myself but I work for Christ by the strength He powerfully inspires within me through His Holy Spirit. Today is Labour Day. I have a moment to reflect on a year which a third is now past.

Europe & Asia

I reckon my European dream will take some time yet to come to pass. Now it’s Europe 2020 and this year’s plan has been put on hold. With much uncertainty regarding my future I thought it best to sit out or wait out this period before the Lord. It could be like Isaiah walking 3 years naked or Elijah fed by ravens and a widow for 3.5 years or perhaps more like Ezekiel lying low in his house for 390 days. Speaking of Ezekiel this is my 5th month since December 2018 that I have stopped from travelling up and down Ranau. And for most of my time I am home bound. But I keep up with European news online or television. Brexit is like an intoxicating liquor that makes drunk all British politicians who touched it. There is no end in sight. Then on Holy Week Monday we saw the Notre Dame Cathedral burned for hours. When the Spire fell, was it the fall or end of Christianity in France and in Europe? God has His little flocks everywhere but as a cultural force Christianity has long been on the wane …

Alumni Connections

I was surprised by a call this morning. Normally I don’t even answer calls from unknown overseas numbers. But I saw that it was from Auckland and thought it could be my son for a moment. But he just texted me a week ago so I wasn’t expecting something so soon. It turned out to be the alumni society of Auckland University. It was from my alma mater. We chatted for 7 or 8 minutes. I managed to share my life story in those brief moments. How did you end up with doing what you are doing now? She asked, “you did something on biblical studies didn’t you? Did you go on with your career with that? Yes for sure, I answered. I am doing church work serving among the tribal peoples of Borneo.

Covenant of Levi (Malachi 2:4, 8)

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Yesterday I got up at 4am and today slightly later but still before dawn. For many it’s public holiday or the long weekend. But in seasons of Christian celebrations priests are at work and I am constantly reminded of the Lord’s calling in my life to be His priest, and uphold the covenant of Levi. The paper I wrote for IOSOT in United Kingdom is exactly on such topic. Interestingly, the five academic papers that I wrote (only one published in 2015) are in topics close to my heart, my ministry and my calling. I was given a name tag yesterday at church. I don’t why some churches are into leaders wearing name tags and now even invited speakers get to wear one.

Passover Pesach

Blessed Passover and Pesach for all my readers who celebrate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. In one sentence I have used four words or terms to describe this holiday season for Christians and Jews. Yesterday in a Passover service (Paskah in Malay) I preached a 45 min sermon and conducted the passover meal according to Luke 22:1-30. I explained why the Feast of Unleavened Bread is also called the Passover. In fact, Passover in the first day in the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrations. I used 8 slides for the first 20 mins to lay the foundation of my sermon from the four books of the Law from Exodus to Deuteronomy. I mentioned the three great feasts and showed a verse in Ezekiel 45 where when the new temple is built the Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles are still mentioned and practised.

Love is Painful

It’s been heady stuff, exegeting the Song of Songs (SS) verse by verse just I have done for John’s Gospel up to ch. 10 almost 18 months ago. It is never easy to explain every verse of the book but I believe in divine inspiration as Paul says every Scripture is God-breathed and beneficial for instruction..,etc (2 Tim 3:16-17). If I had not been on holidays it would be impossible to work on a biblical book though the last couple of weeks were taken up in polishing my paper for the IOSOT 2019 for which I am no nearer to a decision. But in the last couple of days I have been working on my first draft of the SS and revising it as I go along. Incredibly it is in the SS that we learn about love and the nature of love. I have been interpreting the SS using both the Hebrew and Greek LXX texts throughout and there are significant differences.

Baby Dedication

One of the church ceremonies that l like is the child dedication to the Lord. I was asked to conduct one such ceremony without preparation and without notice at the Sunday service today. I was thanking God for a relatively short sermon (30mins) and then the preacher and elder of the church called me and asked me to take over the dedication of a new born baby of a church member. I went up obligingly and asked the names of the parents and also whether the baby was a girl or a boy. She is a little beauty probably just one or two months old.

European Dream (2)

I have struggled mightily in prayers to discern God’s will whether I should attend the IOSOT Congress in Aberdeen. Soon I have to decide or withdraw my paper accepted for oral presentation at the said OT meeting. I thought my attendance would complete my presentation of the three sections of the OT - Law, Psalms (Writings) and the Prophets. At Peking University, Beijing in 2006 I presented a paper on Father-Son relationships based on the book of Genesis’s narratives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants (Law/Torah). Then ten years on in Seoul (2016) I presented a paper on the Psalms at Yonsei University and now if it comes to pass I will present a paper on the Prophets (Malachi 2:4, 8) based on Malachi’s mention of the covenant of Levi.

Song of Songs Commentary

I have finished the first draft of my Song of Songs commentary last week just as news of the IOSOT Congress came through. For the past several days my mind was occupied by the European trip though a decision remains elusive. So tomorrow I will forget about this Congress and write a bit more on the introduction and also the conclusion. It’s just past 21,000 words and hopefully at the end it will not be more than 30,000 words about 50 pages in all.

European Dream (IOSOT 2019)

I have a dream. I have many dreams, most of which unfulfilled to this day. I have dreamt of going to UK since I was 13 years old. My parents sent me to Singapore for secondary School in preparation to study in UK. But as fate (God) has it, I went to Australia (Year 12) and then to Christchurch for University. On the 55th day on my arrival in Christchurch (1982), I had a vision of Jesus Christ in my room and I was born again and until today a follower of Christ. When I was 19 years old, the Lord gave me numerous songs. I wrote about 6 or 7 songs from the Psalms and one from the Song of Solomon. I wrote three songs about Jerusalem, the city of the Lord (one from Matthew 23). I sang one of the Jerusalem songs with my OT colleague (President of TRAC now) at the TTC cultural night in 2009, 10 years ago. But until now Jerusalem is a distant dream. I don't know about UK as my spirit has not rested since I was told that my paper on the Law and Prophets was accepted for oral presentation a…

Celebrating Milestones

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Yesterday in my sermon, I mentioned briefly that this year marked my 25th year in full-time ministry and I gave glory to God for upholding me in His service. if I were going to hold a party to celebrate I would certainly invite my good friend, the pastor of the church to celebrate with me. He is one of my oldest friends in the ministry. It is incredible that I will reach such a milestone, a quarter of a century long in the Lord's service. I will say like Jacob of old did: Katontikatonti (I am not worthy) of all Your grace and truth. I am not worthy of all Your blessings but I can affirm the truth of God's promise - "If you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things will be added to you". I never sought financial security or material blessings in my 25-year ministry. A good friend over lunch on Saturday told me that it was financial folly (he later re-phrased that I could teach a course "financial dependence on God") in my first 1…

Preaching After 3 months

I have preached again after a nearly three months hiatus. I had a few nerves last night wondering how I would preach after such a long lay off and whether due to lack of practice the gift of preaching like many other gifts can wither away if one does not use them. But I preached a 40-minute sermon, half the length of last week’s sermon but I trust in the Lord it was twice as impactful. More than 10 members came up to me and thanked me for the message.

Sermon Preparation

I suddenly found myself with 4 sermons to preach with the first this Sunday and the next three on Good Friday and two on Resurrection Sunday. How do I prepare for sermons? After preaching 30 years I still don’t have a stock sermon. Nothing written up except brief notes here and there. Except for my TTC sermons that needed translation to Mandarin and two of 2017’s sermons for 370 SIB pastors gathered at that time. I wrote close to 4,000 words each sermon and there was food aplenty.

Sporting Greatness

I guess I can indulge once a while in writing about sports. Even apostle Paul uses quite a bit of sporting imagery in his letters. In the past weekend we have witnessed the pinnacle of sporting greatness. Roger Federer won his 100 tennis titles just 9 behind Jimmy Connors. But in the modern game Federer is without parallel though Nadal has beaten him more often in their matches. Federer holds 20 grand slam titles the most among men. But the sporting greatness that I witnessed though delayed telecast is Ronnie O’Sullivan. Without doubt he is the best snooker player in history despite Stephen Hendry winning 2 more world titles than O’Sullivan. But O’Sullivan reaches his 1,000 centuries’ breaks on Sunday in the last frame and winning the Players Champisonship against Neil Robertson who beat the inform player of the year Judd Trump in the semi final. The final clearance and the sustained applause and standing ovation afforded as he hit the second last red to make it 100 points and then to…

Godliness and Contentment (1 Tim 6:6)

Apostle Paul gave some great advice. Though he was not married he told how couples should behave and husbands to love their wives and wives should respect and submit to their husbands. In his first letter to Timothy Paul gave some advice as to how to live. Paul is not worried about housing or the lack of it. Only this morning I read that there was a glut of apartments above RM250,000 in the whole country but affordable housing is hard to come by. When you are earning RM3,000 or even RM4,000 a month with a car loan can you afford a house more than RM300K? But apostle did not mention housing at all.

“God who fed me all life long” (Genesis 48:15)

In his deathbed Jacob blessed Joseph and his sons. Having lived for more than 100 years and many years in the wilderness of Midian and then losing Joseph his favourite son for more than 20 years Jacob had lived his life to the full through plenty and want, through abundant harvests and famines. Through it all he could say to Joseph that it was God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac before whom Jacob walked and it was this God who had fed him all his life long (Gen 48:15). The use of “fed “ instead of “shepherded “ in KJV is interesting because the latter could be spiritualised that God was a shepherd of one’s soul but He was not interested in feeding His people. The life of Jacob and the lives of Israelis throughout history has seen poverty struck God’s people yet God was faithful in making sure His people survived by giving them enough food for sustenance even in the most difficult of times.

Simple delights

After several weeks of hot nights and warm mornings I woke up early at dawn with a chill at my back. Even as I am enjoying breakfast at 6.30am in Menggatal the cool breeze is still blowing strong. The seasons may change and wind blows where it wills just like our seasons of ministry may change from one form to another and from one place to another place. For a whole month of February and for the first time in 50 months I did not have to travel to Ranau or anywhere else. Mighty relieved that I turned down 3 invitations to speak that would have involved driving for more than 4 hours each time. I have time to enjoy my city Kota Kinabalu or API-API in Chinese which is the Malay word for “fire”. I pray that the fire of the Holy Ghost be cast to this city of more than 1 million people. As I wait on the Lord I am enjoying simple delights, breakfast here and lunch there. A coffee here and a latte there.

Giving & Waiting

I suppose I am well-trained in waiting. I waited for 9 months before my Ranau's pastorate came through. That's 5 years back. Now I have been waiting for about 3 months without much direction where my future may lie. Not that I am short of offers. It came in pairs. One ministry position I turned down within 24 hours and I am glad yesterday I met my superior in church and conveyed my decision to him. He was most kind to say that he would look at finding something nearer to home. I don't know whether I want to move out of Kota Kinabalu. The whole of last year the Lord laid in my heart a burden for this growing city of close to 1 million people and about 900,000 cars. Cars are a necessity here without good public transport and if there are buses, unreliable and perhaps unsafe as well.

Preaching Again

I was enjoying my satay and jendol at my favourite restaurant in KK city when I got a text inviting me to a home group meeting. It was just past 6.40pm and the home group was supposed to start at 7.30pm. I have not been to this church member’s house for at least 2 years and I somewhat lost my way but met another member who was walking towards the house and showed me the way. This friend happened to be the preacher for the night and he asked me whether I could speak when we were walking up the steps. I hesitated but agreed.

Tony's Family

I have been blogging about Jesus' family so I thought I write a bit about my family. As the only Christian in my extended family, it has been a roller-coaster ride as far as familial relations are concerned. There are ups and downs; beautiful moments and great tensions. But as I always take a submissive and humble approach I never let any disagreement or conflict goes to the point of no return. There are times I needed to stand aloof from my family until they return to me just as God spoke to Jeremiah: "Let them return to you but you do not go to them." I earn my family's respect by doing that. But I am  reminded by Jesus' saying in all four Gospels that "a prophet is not without honour except in his own country and among his family." Last night we gathered early for Chap Goh Mei (15th day of the Lunar New Year) which is supposed to be today or tonight.

“I robbed other churches..” 2 Cor 11:8

This is one of the most enigmatic verses written by the apostle Paul. Paul in his two Corinthian letters insisted on his independence and not receiving financial support from Corinth. This was no mean feat as Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months when he first evangelised the people there (Acts 18). But Paul on occasions received financial support from other churches. In 2 Cor 11:8 we can not be sure which churches he meant but in Phillipians Paul did receive money from the people of Philipi. Even Jesus had women supporting his ministry from their own pockets (Luke 8). As for me, to do what I do among the indigenous peoples is a work of faith and a labour of love.

Jesus' Family (John 20)

While I am on song, I might as well write on Jesus' family. I thank You Lord for Your revelation to me is wonderful and You are an awesome God...After Jesus rose again, He told Mary Magdalene to go tell "my brothers" (adelphous) that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17). And the next verse tells us that Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the risen Lord and that He had said these things (20:18). It is clear that Jesus' brothers were not his natural brothers but his disciples as the parallelism in John 20:17-18 indicates. Significantly, it is not recorded that Jesus calls His disciples, "brothers" until this juncture.

Jesus' Family (John 19)

This is probably my third or fourth post on this topic. I was engaged with it over the Lunar New Year as for a first time in many years, I did not celebrate it with my family in Kota Kinabalu but decided to go to Singapore instead. In fact, I did celebrate as when my brother found out I was going to Singapore, he invited me over to his place and we had a reunion dinner two days before the actual date. Everyone was there gathered together except my youngest brother who was in Australia with his son who had just enrolled at a Sydney High School. Last year at Chinese New Year I remember having 5 or 6 lunches and dinners in a row over 4 days. The last one was at my place and without a helper/maid it was tough getting dinner ready for about 20 people. But the question of family has occupied me for a while as my last four years were spent in Ranau, a rural town two hours' drive from Kota Kinabalu with the Bible College another 20 minutes away from Ranau. I have always considered my chur…

The wind blows where it wills (John 3)

My 9-day trip to Singapore came to an end. I had wondered whether I made the right decision to go to Singapore on a family matter. At the end nothing was done. On the 2nd day in Singapore I already bought my tickets home. I wanted to return to Sabah straight away but I thought I could not just go without my friend thinking why I was in such a rush. At the end I felt I would just spend a good time just relaxing and twice I managed to use the library of Singapore Bible College including yesterday just before I flew back to Sabah. Even on the flight I prayed to the Lord whether it was worth my while to trouble my friend who had let me stay in his vacant flat. I did not even want to read my Bible but as I listened to my songs in my Samsung hp the Bible app opened in John 3 and when I brought my eyes closer I read that “the wind blows as it wills so is everyone who is born of the Spirit”.

Sayonara Singapura

This is one of my more enjoyable holidays in Singapore. For once I felt the burden of my 4-year ministry lifted from my shoulders. I was able to relax but sleepless several nights as I prefer my own bed in KK. Who does not prefer home? But I was able to enjoy 9-day stay due to the hospitality of a good friend. Otherwise even well to do Malaysians think twice before coming to Singapore on account of the weak Malaysian currency. If not for this friend it is not possible to stay in Singapore beyond a couple of days. Twice I have gonc over to the library of Singapore Bible College.

Sleepy in Singapore

After a weekend of shopping and church service I was feeling weary and nonplussed. I could not do anything this morning as I was feeling sleepy. But my week-long trip to Singapore has reaffirmed several things. I have no desire to return to Singapore in the near future either for holidays or for ministry in the foreseeable future. I have no particular burden for the people of Singapore as I have for the people of Sabah. Nonetheless, it has been a good break if only to reconfirm that my heart remains in Sabah which I will return in renewed vigour. I have a few friends in Singapore but as years go by since I left Singapore 5 years ago my close friends also dwindled. As they say it is tough to keep long distance relationships alive. But somewhat I felt it was not without purpose I came to the Lion city during the Year of the Pig.

Scholars & Society

One of the things I emphasised in my last NT theology class when I lectured on anthropology was that human beings were created to live in society and designed for fellowship. We need friendships and fellowship and that is part of being a person or anthropos in the Greek. We are created to be in relationships with one another and it is always painful when relationships break down and friendship turns sour or worse into enmity. I remember in the past two months of last year I did not know who were my friends or my enemies. There was much whispering and slander here and there especially when the elections of leaders drew near.

Scholars & Research

In this quiet period of Lunar New Year (yea, the shops are open today) I have had plenty time at home watching several vlogs over Youtube. This morning I came across Dr Simon Clark, a young scientist who shared about his PhD journey. He came from a State school, entered Oxford University for his undergraduate and Masters degree and recently obtained a PhD in Atmospheric Physics at University of Exeter. Although Dr Clark's thesis is in Physics which is the opposite end of my own thesis, the processes and experience of studying for a PhD are very similar. After watching his vlogs on PhD study, I will return to the chapter of my book on my own journey in gaining a PhD and perhaps add a couple more pages in the hope that my fellow Asians especially Malaysians will consider PhD study in the Bible. As for me, studying the book of Revelation for 3 years full time was an amazing experience of end-time prophecy, deciphering symbols, and living with the Apocalypse of John for 3 years is alm…

Jesus' Family (John 2)

I suppose these series of posts on family are occasioned by my personal experience in Singapore. Staying in a flat, a kind of Housing Board Development (HDB) flats where most Singaporeans live, I could observe a number of families celebrating their Lunar New Year. I don't pry or invade people's privacy but I encountered many visitors to these flats several times. I met them at the lift, at the staircase or just along the walkway. Obviously, I tried to be friendly, moreover it is Chinese New Year. But regrettably no one even smiled at me or wished me happy new year. But three people at the counters of NTUC and the foodcourt greeted me and then I realised that as staff serving paying customers perhaps they were trained to wish their customers on such auspicious occasions. That means these greetings had some ulterior motives - hoping for good business and because you are spending money in their premises. If you are not any benefit to them, then you will be ignored. Coming back to…

Jesus' Family (Mark 3:21-24)

Chinese New Year is a good time to reflect on the nature of family. As a Christian I cannot help but see this issue through the lens of the Christian faith and Scripture. Often times, human beings are bound by one's own society, culture, traditions and upbringing. It is difficult to break free from these constraints, even for Christians as humans live within a society with its norms and values. What if the culture or tradition contradicts the Word of God? We have to take this question seriously because Jesus lambasted those who make null the Word of God for the sake of their traditions. Given that not all traditions or cultural norms are wrong or contradictory to the Bible, it is vital that our minds are renewed and shaped by Scripture, especially the teachings of Christ in the four Gospels. If you ask me what is the greatest spiritual problem among believers today, my answer would be that most Christians live a life without engaging with Scripture seriously.

Stranger in Singapore

Sirach tells us that travels to foreign countries open up minds and add to learning. It's not that going to Singapore is something new to me but I have gained new and interesting experiences each time. First, I was in Singapore for Sec 2 at a Katong Secondary School and spent 6 years teaching at a local Seminary here before returning to Sabah in 2014. It's not even the first Chinese New Year I had spent here; probably the third in Singapore. I remember clearly in my first year here I visited a colleague during the 2009's Lunar New Year. I thought I should put in some efforts to make the connection and be friendly. Two other colleagues at the TTC apartments invited me and my wife for Lunar New Year meals and gatherings and for that we are thankful. But for the first time I felt I was a stranger in Singapore.

Refuge & Jesus' Family

Jesus was a refugee. He might not remember much as it happened when he was between one to two years old but his family had to pack real quick and left Judea for Egypt to flee from Herod's wrath. There Jesus spent several years until as a kid he was back in Nazareth and later came to be known as Jesus of Nazareth. I wonder how Joseph and Mary with an infant or young child escaped at the dead of night. It is not as if they took a plane for a few hours and arrived at a safe destination. From Judea to Egypt takes a few weeks of walking or riding on a donkey or camel. Where did they sleep on the journey? Who took them in? Were there strangers like Abraham and his wife when he saw three strangers walking past and invited them in and prepared a feast for them (Genesis 18) and because of his hospitality received the promise of a son within a year? Did not James say Abraham was justified by his works and not just by faith because he acted to bring strangers into his home and fed them with …

Friends & Friendship

Now that I am back in KK for good I have plenty of time to reconnect with my friends. Friendship is a huge and complex subject but as Proverbs says "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother". A week ago I reconnected with a friend in New Zealand. We met 20 years ago when we were in the same 3rd year Greek class. I was doing my one-year postgraduate diploma and he was about to begin his MTheol thesis. When my son went to study at Otago Boys High I asked him to be a contact person and my son stayed over in his place a couple of time during term holidays. He was most kind and his lovely wife would always invite us for dinner or lunch when I visited Dunedin.

49 Months in Ranau

As I drove back to Kota Kinabalu yesterday evening down to Tamparuli hills, I felt a sense of relief and peace that I had not felt for a long time. I have concluded my Ranau ministry and it had taken 49 months to be exact from 31st December 2014 to 31st January 2019. It was on the 31st December 2014 when I drove at dawn to Ranau to begin my pastorate at a town church called Muhibbah. I arrived there at 7.30am filled with hope and it was an eventful year that was interrupted by the Ranau earthquake on 5th June 2015. When I packed my things yesterday at noon after almost 30 hours of lectures I was left alone with one student helping me.

Pitch Darkness

I thought I had become an expert in packing for a mission trip. I have been on a long mission trip, my 5th year travelling constantly. But I forgot to bring a few essential items with me. I brought back my blanket to KK two weeks ago and it is now cold and rainy season in Namaus. I took a leisurely drive yesterday arriving in the early afternoon. But my tap was dry and I had to wait for about an hour before a student came to fix the problems. My water tank at the back of my house was also empty and  there was no water in sight. In the evening I drove back to Ranau town and decided on buying a sleeping bag as my blanket since I have too many blankets in KK. At 7 pm I returned to Namaus and I wa driving no faster than 50km per hour as the road was pitch dark and I could not even see the road divider or the side of the road except when the cars coming in the opposite direction with their headlights. I felt a sense of relief turning into the campus but I realised it was darker still as we…

One Last Chapter

Within this period of 4 years I have to bid goodbye for the third time. I seem to major in moving one place to another. Lord You know my wanderings and my tears are not hidden from You. The first time was saying goodbye to my Ranau church in March 2016. Then three months later  I said goodbye to my College community after my short stint as Acting Principal before being sent back to the College in the middle of the second Semester. Now another chapter is about to be closed with a third goodbye to my College though this time I will leave without fanfare. Maybe I will just go out for lunch or dinner with my 4 students in my NT theology class.

Preaching Invitations

I can’t get a third of the Districts to vote for me in an election but at least two thirds of them are open to my ministry of God’s Word. Perhaps I am not a politician but I am God’s messenger to speak the word of the Lord to whomever wishes to listen. In the past week I received three different invitations to preach from three different districts all spread out in Sabah. Two of them requires that I drive for more than 4 hours into the interior and one is just less than 2 hours from Kota Kinabalu. I turned down two invitations already on the ground that I may be appointed church pastor soon and can’t move around so easily especially on the weekend. Then a third invitation came this evening and I was going to respond like the other two with a “no thanks” but as I tried to type a reply I sensed a check in my spirit that perhaps the Lord does want me to continue preaching from place to place without being tied to a local church.

Counting the Cost

I am not talking about the spritual notion of following Christ when Jesus challenges his disciples to give their all in order to follow Him. But it is part and parcel of following Christ nonetheless even for those who have forsaken all to follow Him because we still live in the world and the cost of living in the world will only increase during the end times before Jesus’ second coming. Knowing that I may be entering a phase of my life as semi-retired or free-lancing, I needed to count the cost literally. So from 1st December I have been noting down every ringgit I spend whether it is at the petrol pump or ta pao lunch or dinner. After more than 50 days of doing that each day and trying to keep costs down and thinking about spending money just on essential items like food and petrol.

Falling on the Stone and Broken into Pieces

This morning I read this passage from Luke 20:9-19 for devotions. It contains one of the toughest verses to interpret “those who fall onto the stone will be broken into pieces and those the stone falls upon shall be ground to dust”. Jesus spoke this parable against his enemies who plan to have him killed. God’s vineyard is rented out to tenants and when the time comes to seek out fruits from the vineyard God sends his servants one by one (prophets in the OT) and when the time comes sends His only son (Jesus) into the vineyard. One by one God’s servants was mistreated, cast out and some killed. The tenants refused to give account of the harvests of the vineyard and asserted control over it as if they were the owners or landlords.

On the Trinity

I am not talking about Augustine’s tome on the Trinity of about 500 pages long. I spoke about 3 hours  on the Trinity to a group of students between 18-20 years old school leavers waiting for their O and A levels results. There were 54 participants with 6 coordinators so I have a 60 strong audience. I thought we were having the talks in an air conditioned room at the Retreat Centre only about 12kms from where I am but it was under a shed open air, a good enough environment but a little tough on the speaker who has to endure the heat from 10am onwards. I felt comfortable in the first hour but 2nd hour and the final session were hard to get through. But I guess it was a cost savings measures so I had to endure it in order to get the message across.

Riding on the Clouds

Early this morning at 6.30am I started my journey from KK to my former place of ministry and reached the Chapel at 8.45am just as they were singing the opening worship song. I was slightly late for Sunday service because thick fog blocked my way twice, first on the way up Tamparuli Hills and then from Bundu Tuhan to Kundasang past the foot of Mount Kinabalu. When I was driving up Tamparuli Hills, I saw the clouds covering the valleys below. For a moment I was above the clouds and in the midst of the clouds. Brought along the wind or spirit within the wheels of my car I sped along as if riding on the clouds.

Work b4 Play

My wife and I are planning a vacation somewhere nice this Lunar New Year. Having escaped Christmas ministry by not accepting speaking invitations for the first or second time in my 25 year ministry I will try to escape the busyness surrounding CNY by disappearing for a little while. But before that I am occupied with two speaking engagements. Having spoken last Sunday where 50 people came forward to be prayed for, I am now preparing for a series of lectures on Trinity for a students’ Camp organised for Form 5 and 6 students waiting for their SPM and STPM results. This camp is sponsored by Full Gospel Business Men and I still have friends there who issued me the invitation. Then by the last week of January I will return to Ranau for one last time.

Travails & Triumph

Amidst my travails and uncertainty of the future, the Lord showered me with much comfort. First, I realised if the anointing to preach His Word is present that is the most important thing. Without the anointing, all is gone. No position or wealth can buy God’s power. He anoints whom He chooses to do His bidding. I am also comforted that my book continues to create waves worldwide. One recent book published by Cascade Books just a few months ago “Models of Premillennialism” cites me and my book as the torch bearer of Asian renaissance of the historical premillennialism within scholarship and especially in South Korea which has 300 NT scholars with PhD.

Languages & mother tongues

I am severely limited by the languages I know or do not know. In Singapore more than once I was embarrassed by Chinese uncles and aunties because I could not speak Mandarin well. My mother tongue is Cantonese and as a little child until Primary school I spoke only Cantonese. My mum and grandma told me that I could speak as early as 1 year old while my son started to speak after 2 years old. But my Cantonese is at best moderate and when asked to pray in Cantonese I refused. My mum is Hakka and I picked up some Hakka in my younger days as my maternal grandparents spoke only Hakka. My grandad loved me a great deal and when I was in JB for my SPM he was already in his 70s but he would drive me to and fro English College where I attended school and played sports almost every afternoon.

First Sunday 2019

I received an invitation to preach today in the Sunday service about 10 days ago. At first they did not give me the topic so I prayed and came up with what the Lord laid in my heart. So today I preached in church “the righteous man shall live by his faith” from Romans 4 and Habakkuk 2:4. I had three main points in my sermon. How we are made righteous before God so that we can approach Him in boldness and rejoice before Him. Rejoiced I did today and the Dusun song moved me to dance along. Then one of my favourite worship songs was sung. Tears flowed as I worshipped the holy God. I told the Lord that I am entering my 25th year in ministry - a quarter of a century (suku abad).

Excitement & Hope

I have started the New Year with a dose of excitement. I sang on top of my voice when I drove to the city centre for lunch with a friend. The New Year’s Eve service at my home church threw up an awkward moment. Just 15 minutes before 12 midnight I was called upon to lead prayers for the Bible College. I reluctantly went forward and announced to about 100 members gathered there that I was no longer with the College and therefore not worthy to represent the College in prayers.

Good Start

It's always good to have a good start to the New Year. My neighbour called and took me out for morning tea and knowing him I know I would be in for some drive here and there. He is a businessman and everywhere he stops he seems to know many people. After ngau chap noodles in Inanam  he took me to one of his landed properties where he built a "rumah walit" (to harvest bird nests). It was a massive 3-storey building, much bigger than those I saw in Pitas a year ago. He asked me to pray for his worker who could be in his late 50s but his face had aged due to hard labour. I was told he struggled with alcohol and his wife had just suffered a stroke. He is Hakka and I spoke to him in my halting dialect. But when I prayed I used Malay, a language which he understood as I was not proficient enough to pray in Hakka.