Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Convention 2015

I have much time to reflect on how best to maximise the spiritual impact of Christmas. Perhaps we can think of a Christmas Convention and Christmas 2015 seems ideal as it falls on a Friday. We could hold the convention from 24th to 26th December, Thursday night, Christmas Eve to Saturday night, altogether 7 services/sessions with two sessions in the morning and three night services. We could pick a short Pauline letter and expound on it over 7 sessions. As much as I was happy to see the biggest crowds in my homechurch on Christmas Day, it was anti-climax yesterday during the Sunday morning service. Where has the crowd gone? Only about 200 people showed up yesterday. Although it is customary for church members to return to their villages during the Christmas season, yet the Sunday after Christmas is always the most difficult for those who are ministering to keep the spirits up after the high of Christmas. What about the 400 or more visitors who came on Christmas Day? Do they all have other churches to go on an ordinary Sunday? Or are they mostly Christmas Christians who attend church once or twice a year for the sake of tradition like I used to do before being born again?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Feasting & Hangover

I skipped today's Open House at my friend's house. I have decided to rest and take time to prepare myself mentally for another round of house moving. I suggested to a friend over lunch yesterday that why can't we skip Christmas one time and donate all the money spent over this Christmas season to the needy? We would have spent RM15,000 to RM20,000 to feed almost 800 people on Christmas and other expenses besides, a record crowd for Christmas in my church. What about using the money to help the flood victims in West Malaysia? The non-stop rounds of feasting are dangerous to health. I put on some weight in December despite regular bike rides. In fact on Christmas dawn and yesterday morning I had long bike rides before attending church at 8am. In Singapore I used to walking and sometimes running to catch buses and trains at MRT stations and I had stayed slim.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Malaysia in 2015 & 2016

One of the worst natural disasters in modern history is the 2004 Tsunami where almost a quarter of a million people perished in the massive waves and torrents of waters that hit 5 or 6 countries including Malaysia in Penang and Kedah. As the year closes, half of the Peninsular Malaysian states are hit by floods with more than 100,000 people evacuated. Some States experience the worst floods in 60 years. Malaysia is ending the year with more bad news. The twin factors of falling oil prices and Ringgit currency plus the floods do not bode well for Malaysia as we enter 2015. It does not help when half the country is in crisis management mode but the PM was playing golf in Hawaii.

Monday, December 22, 2014

University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Christmas Festival

I attended UMS Pesta Krismas last night at UMS' Chancellor Hall, the first time Christmas celebrated on Campus. It was grand event. The Deputy VC attended to the guest of honour, a State cabinet minister and MP for Tuaran was also present. As it was raining heavily, the programme started late, about 8.30pm. I enjoyed it despite being my 4th event in 24 hours.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"By his Knowledge my Righteous One will Justify Many" (Isa 53,11b)

I have had a wonderful morning preparing for the Christmas sermon tonight. By no means easy. This will not be the typical Christmas sermon as I shall be taking my text from Isaiah 53,11. What a wonderful verse. Both the Bahasa versions got it wrong; the Indonesian has "by his wisdom" and the Bahasa Malaysia Berita Baik got it wrong altogether giving it a totally different sense.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Time to say Goodbye, Building a House.

It is never easy to part with what is familiar. It is never easy to say goodbye to close friends and familiar surroundings. Tonight I am having my neighbours come over. I think they will be surprised when I will say goodbye to them. Not that I see them often in the past but they thought I was back in KK for good. It has been a good run. In few days' time I will have stayed in my own house for 2 months without interruption for the first time in 7 years. I will say goodbye to my readers as well. The next chapter is in Ranau and if my book is published you will read it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sydney, a World-City

Several years I wrote a blog post titled 7 cities of the world, a kind of 21st century equivalent of the 7 cities of Revelation in the late 1st century. Sydney, Singapore, London, New York and Los Angeles were among the five listed. Whenever something happens in one of these cities, you will get global attention by the global media as we had witnessed in the Sydney siege that ended in the early hours today. I watched pictures live as gunshots were heard midnight and it was tragic that this morning I read that a Sydney lawyer and the cafe manager had perished along with the lone gun man.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Call has Come

Last night I think I had this Augustinian moment where he shared how he was caught up in some inexplicable raptures of the soul while chatting with his mother, Monica about the things of the Lord. I did not sense or experience anything unusual except that a sense of peace and serenity swept over me and that lasted over half an hour. Why am I feeling like that? I did not suddenly inherit a fortune or receive a bounty. In fact humanly speaking I should be worried. Ringgit Malaysian has fallen to its lowest in two decades. My favourite Peanut Butter will cost more next time round. But I was giving thanks to God in my heart, laying on bed thinking how good God has been. God is good. Even Jesus retorted to one who called him good "Why call me good? No one is good except God alone." Indeed it was a peace surpassing all understanding. I did not even know what to expect in Ranau. This morning when I touched base with the church chairman there and within the hour I received the call to go up to Ranau New Year's Eve and that I shall be speaking in the watch service in my own installation service as pastor.

Expository Preaching on John 3,1-16

Yesterday I preached from John 3,1-16. It was an unusual sermon, not easy preaching on born again or from above. Phrases like seeing the kingdom of God and entering the kingdom of God need some explaining. Why did John use three different ways to say essential the same thing? First, born again/above (v. 3), second born of water and Spirit (without the definite article in Greek) in v. 5 and third, born of the Spirit (v. 6). How does one explain water and spirit? Are two different things like water baptism and Spirit baptism? Or is it more likely water which is spirit, the kai in Greek does much than "and" in English? Ezekiel has a reference of water and spirit in the end of ch. 36. I think the word "water" in John 3 functions like water in John 4 where in the latter chapter water is used to signify the Holy Spirit which will come believers in Jesus. Further in John, twice Jesus mentions being born of spirit, first he who is born of the flesh is flesh, born of the spirit is spirit and do not be surprised that you must be born of the Spirit. Jesus is talking about spiritual regeneration through the water of the Spirit just as a man is born through water in her mother's womb, now spiritual rebirth is an act of God, not by the flesh or human will but by the will of God that we become children of God through believing in Jesus' Name (1,12).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Crowds

I wasn't mistaken. About 30 or 40 people from the village and about 60 adults from my homechurch. So I preached to my homechurch members as I came prepared. I just recovered from flu but my voice never great in the best circumstances was struggling throughout. But God enabled me to preach without much difficulty for about 50 mins. It was an expository type preaching from beginning to end. I preached about born again or born from above.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chrismas Sermons

This year I shall be preaching 2 Christmas sermons. Tomorrow the set text is taken from John 3,16 "the Father's love". I thought this village church only had about 30 adults but I was told to expect 100. For the second I was given a free hand and I shall be preaching from Isa 53 "by his knowledge my servant will justify many." I shall be speaking of the knowledge of God, knowledge of his ways and knowledge of Scripture. I see that in many churches that I am associated with there is not much learning of God's Word besides the Sunday sermon. Even sermons tend to be topical and jump from one title to another. My people perish for the lack of knowledge (Hos 4) and indeed there is a famine not of bread but of hearing the words of God.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Can be Meaningful

Last night I attended Christmas caroling at my friend's house. He is one of my closest friends in church and every year he will have an open house for Christmas. He would have his neighbours come over and there is food and fellowship aplenty. Last night it was no different. Around 12 families came together and we had our church youth group sang carols at 8pm sharp. When the host commended the youths for turning up on time I remember when I was pastor I had reminded the youths to be punctual even for carolling. I was called upon to pray twice, once for the carolling team and another time for the two cell groups that celebrated Christmas together last night. The newest pastor of the church preached a wonderful sermon on Immanuel (Matt 1,21-23). This new pastor is a Filipino, a new graduate of our Bible College. He was baptized during my last year as pastor in 2007 and now he is a pastor of the church. I am proud of him and in my prayers I prayed for him to be anointed by the Lord as he commenced ministry in church, reaching out to the street kids, mostly of Filipino descent. When I was pastor, there were only two Filipino families among the majority Kadazan-Dusuns and I made sure none of the Filipinos and Indonesians felt left out in the mainstream of church life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dawn & Dusk Services

Before dawn I drove to Teluk Likas and commenced my regular dawn bike ride for 8km. Last Friday I cycled for 15km with 3 friends from Rasa Ria Resort to Tuaran township. It was too much so I needed to build stamina before attempting longer bike tracks. It was good exercising at dawn and occasionally at dusk. By the time I finished biking, the sun had risen. Speaking of dawn and dusk I am planning to start dawn and dusk services in Ranau.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sunday Services

I had a wonderful Sunday yesterday. I thank God that after almost 33 years I still find much excitement going to church. "I was glad when they say, let us go up to the house of the Lord." But I was greeted by a Christmas carol and my mood for worship declined. I don't mind singing carols during caroling or on Christmas Day, but it was too early for me. It is still difficult to get readers to read Scripture in the way that honours the text and its original authors. Before the sermon, I excused myself and went to another SIB church service at 9am. Despite the church being small of about 100 members. I was welcomed with warm handshakes all round. Again, I was asked to pray twice, once after the sermon and also the benediction. I will be preaching in this church's Christmas service on 20th Dec. "Fear not little flock it is your Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom". Speaking of little flocks I am preaching in another Christmas service in a village at the outskirts of KK. My homechurch planted this fellowship and next Sunday will be the official launch of the new church building for this fellowship of about 30 adults and 20 children.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Racism in America

I have been following the news on the decisions of two grand juries to not indict the policemen that were involved in the death of two black Americans. I don't know much about the circumstances of the Ferguson shooting but the choke-hold that led to the death of a street vendor seemed irrefutable. The defenseless black man was pinned down and he repeatedly cried out "I can't breath." When President Obama was first elected there were high hopes that there would be less racism and racial discrimination. What else can you not think if Americans elected a black American (Obama's mother was white) that the President will see to it that his own people, the African Americans will be empowered and any trace of racial discrimination in America might be a thing of the past? Think again. Whenever Obama speaks on race issues especially regarding African American, he seems to be not full throttled as if something is holding him back. I am not a psychologist, but children of mixed parentage could choose one race over the other. Though in Obama's case, since he married a black American, he might lean more to the blacks as far as culture is concerned. But in American politics you need the white American votes to get elected and Obama might just feel somewhat reluctant to speak up more vigorously for black Americans lest he upsets the political elites. It is a sad day in America with a black American President but racism is still very much alive.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From 50 to 60

I think I am entering the next decade which will determine what kind of legacy I want to leave behind. Ten years are a short time. I can remember every decade of my life like it was yesterday. In the year 2025, I want to look back and see that I will have accomplished what I want to accomplish without regrets. In the short term, I will want to quickly establish myself as pastor of the church in Ranau. I will be moving to a new home which is exciting in itself. I was told that it is a large house and I trust the church members will find their pastor's house a place they can come and enjoy godly fellowship. Is it not an overseer's requirement to be hospitable?

Monday, December 1, 2014

20 Years & Counting

While stuck in a Coffee shop due to a continuous downpour I have much time to read the Prophets and to reflect on things consequential. Often we do things inconsequential, no lasting impact, let alone eternal fruits. Today I am celebrating the completion of 20 years in full-time ministry. Even the term, "full-time" can be misleading as if ordinary Christians only engage in part-time ministry. For in truth all Christians are priests and kings, engaging in full-time ministry, each according to one's calling and gifting. This is also my final month on sabbatical and by month's end I shall have enjoyed 6-month long sabbatical. As far as sabbatical is concerned it is planned as I had completed 6 years of teaching and further having achieved my golden Jubilee of 50 years. If one reads Lev 26, the Jubilee year is a rest year or sabbatical coming after the sabbatical year or 49th year, making Jubilee a double sabbath of 2 years in length. Lev 26 also makes the case that one should return to one's land in the year of Jubilee and confirmed by the Jacob's call to return to his own land after a period of working for Laban, I had ventured to follow God's leading in His Word. How can I not be influenced by God' Word having made it a habit for read it for hours each day, more so during these 5 months of rest. I have more than 50 sermons, more than 100 messages in my armoury ready to be unleashed when New Year beckons.

His God Teaches Him Aright (Isa 28,26)

One key verse in my coming to the Lord and learning His Word is this: "His God teaches him aright."  (Isa 28,26 MT) The LXX has quite a different take, "So you will be disciplined by the judgment of your God - and you will rejoice." It is by no means irreconcilable. He who is taught by the Lord is one who accepts discipline and through that discipline of bending his mind and will to the teaching, he will rejoice. For I rejoice in your Word more than the abundance of gold and silver, says the Psalmist. Whenever I approach Scripture I ask the Lord to teach me. What are the requirements of being taught? A teachable heart, a humility of spirit to listen and if granted understanding, a quickness to obey. What did David pray for his son if it was not for an obedient heart? As Ezra the scribe is said to study and research the law of the Lord and to obey it before teaching it to the people of Israel (Ezra 7,10).