Sunday, November 24, 2013

God of Jacob

Today I had a wonderful time worshipping the Lord together with his saints. It was a powerful experience. I experienced God's grace and glory in large measure. Lord you had mercy on me, a sinner! I had vision after vision and could not keep my eyes dry. Lord you know my wanderings and you keep my tears in a bottle. After more than 5 years in this church (though the first time in 3 months), for the first time the pastor encouraged us not just to shake hands with those sitting next to us but also asked their names. I introduced myself and prayed for a brother, Desmond. I also got to know an architect who was most friendly and we exchanged name cards. It was a message from the throne of God. How important it is that worship allows God's Spirit to have full reign in our hearts and prepare us for His Word. The speaker spoke for 1 hour 15 minutes with translation and I thought he could go on for another 10 minutes but the time showed past 1pm. The anointing flowed freely and touched many hearts. After I prayed for a brother I saw his hands half lifted to the Lord. How heavy it would be and how hard it is to lift our hands unto the Lord if our hearts are hard and our hands heavy for the lack of the Spirit's touch. Lord, you are the God of Jacob. If you read Genesis, Jacob is the real star or the central character, perhaps more than Abraham and certainly more than his illustrious son, Joseph. God is not known as the God of Joseph but the God of Jacob.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Why was the God of the Old Testament known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? It is because this God is a god for those who will entrust his life to him without reservation. What does it mean by following such a god? It is by walking in faith, trusting that this God will lead and will provide and will protect those who dare to believe in this god. Jacob did not have an easy time. He was cheated out of his wages 10 times by Laban. Even when it was clear that God was blessing Laban on account of Jacob, Laban still did not favour Jacob and at the end Jacob saw that Laban's countenance towards him was changed and Jacob knew that it was time to go. But going back home has its own problems.

Friends of Prophets

Prophets have few friends. That's why they are known as loners. But yet Scripture tells us prophets had friends and some of them took immense risks to be friends with the prophets. Jeremiah had Baruch as his scribe and Ebed-Melech rescued him from dying of hunger in the water pit. Isaiah had a small circle of disciples (Isa 8). Elijah had Obadiah who was prepared to feed the prophets who hid in caves. But some prophets are not said to have any friends. Even their wives could act wayward like Hosea's wife. Ezekiel appears to have a wife who was the delight of his eyes and his faithful companion until her death just before the Temple fell to the hands of the Babylonians.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Returning to Singapore for New Year

One of my close friends came to my office and thought I was going back to Sabah for good this Christmas. Not so fast. I am returning to Singapore to speak at a New Year's Eve's Service. Today I had such joy in serving the Lord, preaching three consecutive services in the morning. It was 312, meaning that my best sermon was the last and first one I was happy with and the second was pretty average though I received the most appreciative comments for my second sermon. It was based on Hosea 10: "A King - What can a king do for us?" (v. 3) and as I never repeat my sermon verbatim, each sermon has different illustrations. During the sermon at the 2nd service, I shared how I became a Christian in Christchurch and how I loved the Lord's church, often walking for 2 hours even during winter from Ilams' Flats to my first church in the city centre. How exciting it was and it is to love and serve the Lord. A young man led worship for the last service and I was refreshed in my spirit and that perhaps explained why I experienced the Lord's anointing in large measures. I was in full flight. I could have gone on for 50 minutes but I respected the time given to me (30 mins) but still felt free to speak for 36 minutes as that was the final service for the day.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Preparing for a Sermon on Hosea 10

I love the Prophets. I preached 3 sermons on Amos 5 & 7-8 two weeks ago. This Sunday I shall be preaching on Hosea 10. I have been reading a couple of commentaries (NICOT by J. Andrew Dearman) and the excellent small book by Hans Walter Wolff, Confrontation with Prophets. Abraham Heschel's classic on the Prophets is always on my desk for quick reference. I read again for the 4th or 5th time, G. W. Ahlstrom's essay on "Hammoreh Lisedaqah" (trans. "the teacher of righteousness") in Joel and the Temple Cult of Jerusalem (1971) even as JPS (Jewish Publication) Bible translated the Hosea 10:12 passage as "Yhwh shall give you a teacher of righteousness" instead of "rain righteousness on you", following Joel 2:23.

Going Home for Christmas

In the midst of grading papers (just finished NT 1 exams and many more essays yet to mark), I think of home. Do I have a home, Lord? For You are my dwelling place. You said, "The Son of Man has no where to lay his head" and You know Lord that I am a sojourner with you. Like Ezekiel, the refugee prophet, I am always packing and on the move, moving my baggage from one place to another. Humanly, perhaps I can comfort myself that my exile is about to end and I will return home even as You commanded Jacob after his 20 years away, "Return to your home country and your kinsmen, for I shall be with you."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

7 Stages of Life (Solon)

Reading Jerome Murphy-O'Connor's Paul: A Critical Life (1996) today was a great delight. In his first chapter on Paul's chronology, O'Connor cited Philo and Solon and how they regarded the number, 7 as defining various stages of life. According to Solon (d. 560 BCE), after a fourth seventh has passed, "his strength and vigour's in its prime", i.e. when one is 28 years old, a full grown man. "At forty-two, the wisdom's clear to shun vile deed or folly or fear....When seven times seven years, to sense Add wit and eloquence..."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Looking Forward to June 2014

I am about to finish my innings. My spell is almost over. This morning I received a beautiful 2014 calendar from the Bible Society of Singapore. It reminded me that I must forget the past and look forward and strive towards the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. For the past two years, I have had this feeling that my time is almost up. I have lived from Semester to Semester. The conclusion to another year, 2013 is already a bonus and by June 2014 I will have finished my race here. What comes after is in God's hands.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wrap Up

We had just concluded the first Semester this morning with the Closing Communion Service at Chapel. The Principal as usual preached a solid message on Resurrection with wonderful exegesis and pastoral application beside. Yesterday I invigilated the NT 1 exams for 36 students. One reported stomach-ache and had to sit for the exams in the afternoon (grace and more grace was given to the student!). On Tuesday I listened to 17 presentations from my Romans class. Excellent work by my students and almost all did extremely well with creative delivery. We had a good laugh on many occasions to the chagrin of those next door and we toned down after being ticked off. It has been a fun-filled Semester with lots of laughter and joy. Not only teaching Paul's letter to the Romans which to me was certainly the highlight (on average I wrote more than 3,000 word notes running to 40 points for each 3 hours' lectures) but NT 1's class had a certain vibrancy not felt in the past cohorts.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How do Prophets earn their Living? (Amos 7)

I was asked to preach from Amos 7-8 today. Preached I did for 50 minutes, one of my longer sermons to date in Singapore. In the context of what I had gone through in the last two days, I can only thank the Lord for his grace and mercy, again anointing me for the ministry of the Word for the building up of Christ's church. I did not prepare powerpoint as I felt that would be too restricted and once there are slides you need to follow through. Today as I saw the time running out on me, I cut short my sermon and skipped two major points. I spoke about Amos as intercessor and prophet. We need men and women that can move the heart of God so much so that God's mind is changed from wrath to mercy and from judgement to favour. I spoke about how the locust plague could devastate crops and harvests in a matter of minutes and hours over hundreds hectares of land. I spoke about the plumbline and how as a builder uses a plumbline to ensure that the wall or structure is vertical and straight, God has measured the house of Israel and found the whole edifice crooked and ripe for destruction. Jeroboam the king will fall by the sword and Israel will go into exile. Then came the key passage of Amos 7 where Amaziah confronted Amos, a contest between a priest and a prophet. Here we see what and who is a prophet - one that speaks only what he hears from the Lord, no more and no less. I referred to 1 Kings 22 where all the prophets agreed as one voice and Micaiah was put under pressure to speak the same thing, Micaiah, being the true prophet of the Lord spoke only what he heard the Lord said to him. The false prophets and priests like Amaziah served the king and the State. They earned their living from the largess of the State under the King. A prophet is no man's employee, least of all any State puppet or lackey. A prophet is the mouthpiece of the Lord for he speaks only of what the Lord speaks. He cares not for human approval or applause for the prophetic Word can only elicit a hostile reaction from those who care only for their stomachs and do not seek to exalt the Lord.