Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sermonette & Sermon

Today my time was occupied in preparing a sermonette and discussing my forthcoming sermon with my Chinese interpreter. When I went to sleep last night, I did not know what to share with the College's staff at this morning's 9am devotions. I would usually speak for 10 or 12 minutes but today I spoke for 15 minutes since it would be my last time sharing with the staff. I thank the Lord that He is ever faithful, even as I reflected on the text of Isaiah 50:4a, "morning by morning he arouses my ear to hear." This morning at about 7:15am, I heard from the Lord and was pretty sure he wanted me to share from Eccle 7:15-22:

"In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness. 16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise-- why destroy yourself? 17 Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool-- why die before your time? 18 It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes. 19 Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city. 20 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. 21 Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you-- 22 for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Preaching Gains

I would not have titled this blogpost as preaching gains if not for tonight's encounter with three friends of a church which I had gone preaching recently. Today I preached in a church that I was familiar with. Preached there last month for 25 minutes but today I preached a longish sermon of 45 minutes (by mainline standard anyway) on Matthew 3.1-12. It was expository preaching from v. 1 to . 12. I explained the concept of God's kingdom based on Dan 2 & 7 and about the excitement caused by John the Baptist's preaching in the wilderness. I explained what it meant by "all" Judea, not every person, infant or elderly but vast numbers of Jews must have come from Judea and Jerusalem to listen to John preached. I explained that encountering this kingdom means we need to behave or act in a certain way, namely repent. I spoke of the awe of the Anglican tradition that asked members to kneel to confess our sins, the true meaning of baptism.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Leadership, the Critical Element

Whatever it is, whatever the outcome, someone is behind an event or incident. We are not accidents of determinism or fatalism. The forces of history are created by men and men are not mere labels or insignificant pawns driven by the forces of history. Leaders make history. They put their personal stamp on history. Biblical history is full of such leaders. Abraham was one man when God called him out of Ur and he became father of many nations and his descendants are uncountable like the stars in heaven. What if he did not obey? Moses encountered God in the burning bush. What if he succumed to his perceived inferiority? David was a shepherd boy. What if he did not take up the challenge to fight Goliath? Leaders are men who obey God. They stepped out in faith and the course of history is forever changed.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Baghdad, the Worst City?

It is not a surprise that one survey ranks Baghdad as the worst city in this world (see here). It is now in its 12th year of turmoil since the American invasion in March 2003. Baghdad used to be the model city in the 1970s. It was one of the most significant cultural centres in Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East for many centuries. It was a biblical city, near Ur, Abraham's hometown. It is an eschatological city as the river Euphrates flows through Iraq and will be the focus of end-time events as is mentioned by John in Revelation (the sixth trumpet and the sixth bowl, Rev 9, 16) [map from]

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review of Alan Segal's Paul the Convert

I thought I could finish marking the 35 reviews of Segal's book within 3 days but until now there is no end in sight. Of course, since the holidays started on 8th March, I had conducted a seminar on Revelation and then prepared a sermon for Chapel, but otherwise I have been occupied marking papers of my NT 2 class. Segal's Paul the Convert is one book I would recommend all NT students to read as it contains many interesting and new perspectives not found in the more traditional biographies or studies on Paul.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's Finished!

My last sermon (a kind of farewell discourse) is finally done! It is about 1,450 words long (30 minutes with translation). I spent more than 3 months in reflection and study of the three passages given as set texts for the day. Yesterday, I started to put my thoughts on paper (computer) and today it took me another 2 hours to revise until I am satisfied with it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Targums of Isaiah 50.4

As I was preparing my sermon for Chapel based on the assigned text of Isaiah 50.4, I had a look at how the Targums of Isaiah had translated Isa 50.4. In the Targums, the text reads as follows: "The Lord God has given me a tongue to teach, to give knowledge, to instruct the righteous with wisdom, those who weary themselves with the Law..."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Places and Cities of Spiritual Influence

After 2 days of fairly intense study of Hebrew, I began to read a couple of monographs and commentaries on Isaiah 40-66. I was given the text, Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 31:14-19; Phil 2:5-9 to preach in next month's Chapel, about three and a half weeks from now. Surprisingly, these texts have been a real comfort to me as I seek the Lord for my future and reflect on my 6 years of teaching ministry. I read about the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and how her father, a Lutheran pastor decided to go to East Germany under Communist Rule while everyone else was heading to the more prosperous West Germany. Merkel's father must have known something about downward mobility or forsaking safety for the sake of Christ, very much like the Christ's hymn of Phil 2.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Principles of Hebrew Phonology

I am up to chapter 7. of Brettler's Biblical Hebrew for Students of Modern Hebrew. This morning I did chs. 5 & 6. This has been a luxury, a quiet morning doing Hebrew and nothing else. I hope to make it ch. 10 before my week-long break ends. I have been reading LXX and Theodotion of Daniel lately for my seminars on End-time. It is a kind of disciplined way to refresh one's Greek and Hebrew and you work with the primary sources and pay less attention to secondary sources.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Keeping Up with Hebrew & LXX Greek

In the midst of marking papers for NT 2, these two weeks' break give relief in terms having time to revise my Hebrew and keep up with reading of Septuagint Greek. I am currently using Marc Zvi Brettler's Biblical Hebrew for Students of Modern Israeli Hebrew and I have with me, T. Muraoka's A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint which I use regularly to look up words. For instance, Daniel 12:4, LXX has this unusual word, apomanosin from mainomai (to become insane) which gives the reading as "many will become insane and wickedness will multiply" whereas the Theodotion has "many shall be taught and knowledge will multiply" and the Hebrew MT has "many shall go to and fro and knowledge will multiply."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Working after SABBATH

Adam was created on the 6th day and the very next day he rested on God's sabbath. Man was created to rest with God, enjoying his unbroken communion without the worry of working. The sabbatical year for the land also applies the same principle. First, during the wilderness wanderings Israelites were to collect what they needed daily and the 6th day there was always double portion to tie over the sabbath before collecting again on the 8th day or beginning of a new week. When the land is tilled for 6 years, Israelites were enjoined to let the land lays fallowed for a whole year, the 7th year. Thus there will be no work, sowing and reaping except that they are free to harvest what grows of itself in the 7th year. How are they going to eat in the 7th and 8th year? The answer is that God will provide a double portion in the 6th year and there will be bountiful harvest until the reaping of the 8th year. Incredibly, the Jubilee year, the 50th year after 7 × 7 years' cycle comes after a normal sabbatical year and hence in the year of Jubilee the land is to lie fallowed for 2 years, 2 years of rest from sowing and planting. Again God promises to bless the Israelites with triple portion on the 48th year, so that they can rest and enjoy two years of sabbath on the 49th and 50th year. Does the sabbatical year principle apply today?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Many shall roam about" (Daniel 12.4)

As I was speaking about Daniel 12.4 "many shall go to and fro" and how easy it was to fly to various places, the news of the Malaysian airlines plane gone missing came through. We prayed for the passengers, their families and rescue efforts before the start of the 2nd session. My seminar on the End-time attracted 120 people.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Seeking for Prayers at Chapel's Service

My Family Group led Chapel's service for the last time (for me anyway) at College just before the Semester break. I thank the Lord for answering our prayers that everything went smoothly and without hiccups. Yesterday's rehearsal gave me some worry as I felt we were so unprepared. But my FG members pulled together, everyone playing his or her part for God's glory. I prayed a couple of times, one last night and also in the morning so that Lord direct everything we say, sing and do during the Chapel's service. I was led to share a prayer item on the name of God issue in Malaysia where the Federal Court had postponed indefinitely the hearing of the church's appeal.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ephesians & Colossians: Deutero-Pauline?

When you have 2 and a half hours to cover Ephesians and Colossians how much time can you afford to spend on questions of authorship? As this is crucial in Ephesians and Colossians, almost reaching a near consensus about them being, not Pauline or not authored by the apostle Paul, hence, the term, "deutero-pauline", I thought it was important to deal squarely with these issues. It was tough going, knowing that some students might not be interested at all with such questions but for those who are interested, 30 minutes given to travess the grounds of either Pauline or non-Pauline camps are simply not sufficient to do justice to the arguments involved. I took the first hour going through Ephesians and got some interesting discussion going when I noted Pauline ascription of God as the God of the Lord Jesus Christ and in another place "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". With such phrases, I explained that the God we proclaim or Paul proclaimed is forever defined by Christ and any other understanding of God that rejects the centrality of Christ, the Son of God is no god, not least not the Christian God.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Waiting is not Easy

I have waited for 45 days and today is Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Good Friday & Resurrection Sunday. I am still waiting, quietly and confidently before the Lord. The Lord is my sun and shield. Lord I take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. The Lord has the best for everyone who waits on Him for heart has not perceived nor eyes have seen what the Lord prepares for those who love and wait for Him. He knows our needs. He knows what we will do for Him if we are obedient. Often it will take faith to obey for by faith Abraham obeyed (Heb 11) and all our forefathers did.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tired Eyes

The photographer told me I had tired eyes and that my individual shot as a faculty member did not turn out well. I guess it is not surprising when you got up at 5am and lectured for 3 hours on the book of books, the prophecy of all prophecies, it could be a bit energy sapping.

Academic Regalia & Robes

Today for the second last time, I shall be putting on my academic gowns. It's photo-taking day here at College. I attended my LLB graduation in Christchurch with full academic regalia but for my theological degrees, I have not bothered with them much as far as ceremonies or graduations were concerned. As soon as the exams finished at the end of 1994, I went back to Malaysia and began serving. I missed the May graduation in Auckland the following year.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Seminar on Revelation (no. 9)

It was a good time for revelation. I started out at 7.15am thinking that I could get a seat on the 190 bus to Bible House where the seminar was held. It was again packed to the full but I got there in good time, the first to arrive at 8.30am for the 9am Seminar. We had 5 sessions, 3 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon with a final 30 minutes Q & A.
Six other participants came from different churches from the host church and it was a wonderful time. I did not feel the strain while speaking in the afternoon and I felt fresh right to the end, almost 6 hours of teaching. We ended at 5pm sharp and had fellowship for another 15 minutes.