Monday, March 30, 2015

Achieving Life's Full Potential

In the packed sitting of 250 people of mostly youths, I preached a message about how we could achieve life's full potential. I started by referring to an article I read some years back that the brain of each unborn child has more than 1 billion neurons and only about 5% of the brain is used throughout adult's life. I ventured to speculate that the 95% is reserved for those born of the Spirit, having minds transformed, enabled to understand spiritual truths and to communicate with God. In each baby is life's full potential given with the hope that each person could reach his or her full potential in their adult life. I told them about genetic mapping and how one geneticist found that all human beings whatever their race or continent of origin share the same DNA structure to at least 99.99% similarity.

Monday Joys

I started last Monday expecting a normal week with 2 sermons (midweek and Sunday), chairing a leaders' meeting and sharing during Saturday gathering of secondary students. But by Tuesday, two elders pulled out of preaching and my load immediately doubled. As I can't repeat my sermons, I have to prepare 4 different sermons. On Saturday I had a full day's work and fun with the students and I was about to rest late afternoon when an elder told me that a church member's father had just passed away and I was needed to conduct the wake at night. I managed to catch about an hour's sleep before getting on my bike for a 30-min exercise around the block. By 7.30pm I was ready to go and I preached a wake sermon of about 15 mins.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Secondary School Students

Today we had a wonderful time with 66 Secondary school students who attended our welcoming of students' gathering in our church meeting room. It was amazing to see that more than 70 people could fit into our Conference room meant for 40. When the event ended, I took one last trip to take them back to the Hostel and they looked a happy lot as they got off my pickup.
I wanted to gather them, first to welcome them as members of the church family and this was the first time something like this was done since the church started 7 years ago. As none of them knew where the pastor's house-cum-office is, I wanted them to see for themselves the church house and the sanctuary we are building adjacent to it. I also wanted the students' feedback on my plan to start an English service. We discussed the time and day of the planned service. I also told them that beyond the Sunday sermon they needed to study the Bible and for that I am going to plan for a fortnightly Bible Study. I read a verse from Acts 2,17 where during the first Pentecost after Jesus's resurrection, the Spirit is said to be poured out on young people, young men and women, teenagers and youths and they are going to see visions just as the old men will dream dreams. It was a day of dreams as by God's grace the event was a fun time for the students to get to know one another.

Friday, March 27, 2015

It's Friday Again

I can't help feeling deflated every Thursday afternoon and the sense of lethargy could continue Friday morning. After preaching Wednesday night and teaching 3 hours Thursday morning, my energy levels need to be replenished quickly. I thought I only had 2 sermons this week but the two elders appointed to preach tonight and 2nd service Sunday asked me to replace them. That is the beauty of a sole pastor. I dare not accept the title senior pastor because that would normally mean I have 2 or 3 pastors working alongside me but I am the sole pastor. Tonight I will preach a sermon entitled, "A life well-lived" as we celebrate members' birthdays born in March. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew will figure large in the sermon and we can learn from a man who dedicated his life to a singular mission.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Lord does not call back his Words (Isa 31,2)

I have not commented on other blogs for a long time and I received the occasional comment in my blog and I like it that way. This is a far cry from my early days of blogging when commenters could get personal and heated exchanges ensued so much so I stopped blogging for almost a year in 2011. But in the past couple of days I had commented on the Anglican Down Under (Notes on 1 Timothy), a blog I followed from time to time for news down under and you can read my comments and counter-comments there.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lord Send me!

I preached one of my best sermons to date. Only six people plus two of my companions were there to hear it. We went to a church about 5kms away, up a steep hill. We had to go through some bushes to get there but nothing too out of the ordinary except that the church was once filled with people but now most of the early converts had fallen away.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hudud in Kelantan: Malaysia at Crossroads

I read Kelantan Chief Minister's Malay speech on the tabling of the Hudud bill in full as reported in Utusan Malaysia. The adoption of Hudud or Islamic Criminal Code and Punishments in Kelantan two days ago is a watershed moment in Malaysia's 51 years' history.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Overdrive No More

I found myself running on the overdrive for 11 weeks and suddenly I eased off and have little to do this week except for one sermon outside my church in a nearby village this Sunday and meeting the youth leaders of my church this Saturday. The full moon has long passed and the new moon (solar eclipse) is upon the earth. Last night a deacon preached a 15 min sermon on 1 Pet 2,7 "Have respect for all men, love the brothers, fear the Lord and honour the king." As it is our prayer month I led prayers after the sermon for the nation's security forces, the army and the Royal Police force. It is not easy praying for the police when everything in the country seems to be politicised, from the arrest of several prominent opposition leaders for sedition and many other issues besides. But pray we should, for according to 1 Tim 2 that we need to uphold our nation's leaders and those in authority at all times especially in these challenging times.

World Politics: A Round Up

Israel's elections saw Netanyahu returned as PM for the fourth term and will head one of the most nationalist-religious coalitions ever in Israeli modern history. Will we see the 3rd Temple rebuilt in the near future? Significantly, Netanyahu's first public appearance after the elections was praying at the Wailing wall, the only remaining structure of the Second Temple razed by the Romans in 70AD. The 2-State solution is practically dead as Netanyahu distanced himself from it a couple of days before election day to win over the right-wing camps. Israel will face increasing pressure from EU and US if another Democrat becomes the next President in 2016. The war between Israel and Iran cannot be ruled out though Netanyahu has been warning the world about Iran's nuclear ambitions for the past 5 or 6 years. With ISIS gaining ground and the Syrian civil war in its fifth year, the Middle East is getting more restive and a larger regional war could be on the horizons if the Israel-Iran nuclear standoff does not come to some resolution. Europe is also facing its economic crisis and Greece's troubles are no where resolved and the Euro will face increasing scrutiny as to its sustainability and viability for the whole of Western Europe.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Reading Reports

I have been reading stacks of reports produced by our many AGMs. This is one quick way to learn about the church as most ministries would write two kinds of reports, one for the ministry carried out throughout the year and the other financial report. Multiplied by 5, I have 10 reports on my desk. Reading financial and budget reports can be illuminating to the state of the church, to say the least. Not that we can equate a spiritually healthy church as one that is wealthy and if that is the case 90% of Singaporean churches would be experiencing revivals at present. Reading Revelation tells us that Jesus praised two churches in Asia Minor and both happened to be poor and rebuked a rich church for being poor spiritually and wretched.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rest & Reflection

Monday is my rest day. I catch up on sleep. I am well rested for the Lord grants his beloved sleep. "Rest here a while (in Ranau)." It has been a non-stop 2 and a half months. At least the AGMs are over for my church and we will begin real work soon enough. Yesterday I took over as Chairman of the church council, another added responsibility and burden. Now the ball is in my court. I will have to take it up and run with it. The leaders look to me for leadership. We have 7 elders, only two of them are younger than me, and one is already 70 years old. Most of them come from the generation that experienced the early 70s revival in Ranau and Taginambur, two of SIB strongholds. They are the second generation leaders, most of whom hold senior positions in the General Council and Executive Council today are from the second generation. Most of them are getting on in years and it is a matter of time the third generation takes over, those who came through the late 80s revivals as youths and they are now in their 40s.

In the Presence of the Lord

O Lord in the morning thou dost hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch (Psalm 5,3). In the cool of the morning at 6am I felt the breeze of Ranau caressing my face. It is hot season now over a month but morning temperatures hover about 20 or 21 degrees. I looked around me across the town with several 4-wheel drive rumbling through the empty streets. A few souls joined me for breakfast and I reflected on God's Word from Daniel 10.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Seasons 4 Meetings

The season for meetings and AGMs is almost over. The church's AGM went for 6 hours from 10.10am to 4.10pm today. That was the fifth and last AGM after four AGMs within 6 weeks for the four ministry wings, children's, youths', men's and women's fellowships. There were meetings in preparation of the meeting.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sermon Preparation & Worship Rehearsal

Lord I wait on you. Lord I wait on your Word. As I sit and enjoy the worship rehearsal, I go through my Sunday sermon in the presence of the Lord. The song leader has an angelic voice and she is an angel coming all the way from KK, taking time off her university study to serve the Lord over the weekend.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pressure Preparing 4 Preaching

Yesterday an elder asked to take over one cell group tonight which means I shall be preparing a message based on a book we used for teaching. A few days ago I thought I was going to rest this Sunday from preaching but the elder who was allotted to preach told me that on the AGM Sunday the pastor should be doing the preaching. So instead of a quieter week, I found myself preparing for 3 messages, one for yesterday at College, one for tonight and one for Sunday.

Joshua's Leadership Credentials

I preached a longer sermon than expected for the College's devotions yesterday. Usually it is an 15 min homily but yesterday I preached for 25 mins and continued after the bell rang for class. I was only asked to preach the day before and my instant reaction was to turn it down but after a short prayer in my heart I accepted the invitation. It had been 2 months since I preached at College during the orientation and I felt I needed to address a few issues concerning leadership since it is election year for our denomination.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Series on Colossians

I have started preaching on Paul's letter to the Colossians a fortnight ago. As I preach alternate Wednesday during our mid-week service, I thought a shorter letter of Paul will do fine since I am preaching on Matthew's Gospel and the Psalms on two Sunday services. I have just covered 5 Psalms and we had just finished Jesus' temptation in the wilderness last Sunday (Matt 4,1-11). I preach expositorily and whenever application is required I don't shy away from drawing lessons from the text for the contemporary church.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Interview with ATA (Asia Theological Association)

My turn came late despite turning up early Monday to welcome the Vet Team from ATA. It was a good start as the leader of the group knew me from my days in Singapore. I had graded a MTh thesis from her school. I was asked to comment on the thesis writing manual for BTh and report on the quality of two theses which I managed to read through quickly yesterday. I also translated for the Academic Dean and chatted with the ATA team before being excused. Hopefully after lunch ATA will make a statement as to our application for accreditation.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Highs of Preaching & the Discipline of Fasting

With so many highs within the week, it is difficult to maintain a balance between body and spirit. Today after preaching twice, we consecrated the rest of the day for prayer and fasting. My energy level was at its lowest at 12 noon, 20 minutes after the 2nd service concluded and the fasting began. I did not know I managed to get through another 4 hours without food but it was good to pummel the body and bring it under subjection. I preached from Matt 4,1-11 where Jesus fasted 40 days and forty nights. Surely fasting for half a day is possible but the flesh is weak though the spirit is willing. Over the course of the afternoon, I felt surges of energy when I needed it to lead prayers especially when the church Treasurer asked me to pray for the ongoing church building project.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I Love the Place where Your Glory Dwells

The Lord dwells in our hearts. He dwells among his people, those who worship him in spirit and truth. He makes his glory known among those who love his name. LORD I love the Place where your glory dwells. Christ among us the hope of glory. Being the servant of God's house is an honour, always to be at the Father's presence, waiting upon him and hearing his voice. Let your glory shine upon us O Lord. Saturday evenings are our rehearsal times, two services on Sunday. And tonight we have a meeting to prepare for the church's AGM next Sunday. In fact I am going to have some rest next week. The AGM takes place at 10am hand our 2nd service makes way for the AGM once a year.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Prayer Conference (2)

It was intense. I slept the whole afternoon yesterday, recuperating from the just concluded Prayer Conference. I woke up at 3.30am each morning to pray for an hour before attending the 5am dawn prayers for another hour of prayers. I went to the Conference with mixed feelings. I was just back in KK last week and I did not want to make another trip. The Prayer coordinator in the HQ is a good friend. It was mostly because wanting to support him that I went. He called me 3 weeks ago and asked me whether I could speak at the 2nd and final night of the Conference. I did not expect a large turnout as the notice for the Conference came late. Many pastors were saying they could not get leave from the church to attend the Conference. Normally, pastors would ask the elders for leave and if approved there would be a travel allowance given. I told my elders verbally and when I chaired the elders' meeting last Sunday I did not receive the notice until after the meeting via a fax. I wonder with modern communication with smartphones and emails why contacts were so difficult to make. The first session at night was the launch of our Prayer and Fasting month until Easter Sunday. We don't normally keep Lent, not in our tradition but it is good that there is one whole month of prayer. There is a booklet with set prayers and again we were asked to take back and sell to our church members for RM2.00 a copy, but it is way too late. The booklets should have been out at least one month before the prayer month. At the end, only 189 pastors turned up out of 362 pastors, slightly over 50%. The night meetings saw 400 adults each night but the turnout could be better since there are 30 SIB churches in KK. Last Christmas we had about 800 people crammed into the church, perhaps a free Christmas lunch was the attraction. But the low turnout was probably due to Conference fatigue.

Third Moon Begins

When I left my house it was still dark and the moon shone brightly. It marked the end of Lunar New Year. It was my 3rd moon back in ministry even as the moon marks seasons and is a sign from the Lord. The next moon will be a total lunar eclipse called the blood moon falling on Passover, 3rd April, the third lunar eclipse in 12 months.
As I drove up to the mountains passing Tamparuli, about 30 kms from KK I had a sense of heaven and I looked down the valley below and the whole plain and hills were shrouded by white clouds and heavy mist. I felt I was in heaven even as I prayed thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Prayer Conference

We had 5am dawn prayer meetings on consecutive days during our ongoing Prayer Conference. For the second time, I had the honour of speaking before all our pastors and senior leaders. It was good to be back in the fold. I spoke about all things are possible for him who believes (Mark 10,27) and another two passages from Mark 9 and 14. I challenged our leaders to have faith in God and not in men. Mark's Gospel being the shortest of all Gospels contains 3 sayings that with God there is nothing impossible. I shared how I built a ministry centre purely by faith through prayers. I spoke against fund raising dinners instead we should pray and fast. I spoke against faith pledges and against asking for men's help. For there is nothing impossible with God. I spoke about giving up everything for Jesus like Peter and beware of riches for how hard it is for those with riches enter the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10,26-27). I spoke about following Christ in his sufferings though it was possible for God to take away the cup of sufferings Jesus embraced the cross because he knew it was God's will.

Monday, March 2, 2015

7 Fat Years & 7 Lean Years

We have just finished reading the book of Genesis yesterday as part of Scripture reading for worship. It had taken the church almost a whole year. For the past couple of months we saw how Egypt experienced 7 fat years and 7 lean years under the stewardship of Joseph. I had experienced 7 fat years mostly in Singapore but spiritually it was one of the leanest times of my ministry.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

Paul's familiar ascription of the Father as God and Jesus as Lord was the topic of my sermon today. I took the text from 2 Tim 1,3 and expounded this one verse over 45 minutes. I explained the use of God in reference to the Father and Lord in reference to the Son. In Indonesian or Malay, the word is Allah for the Father and Tuhan for Jesus. How does Allah relate to Tuhan? Do Christians worship two or three Gods as some allege? I spoke about the Shema in Deut 6,4 and explained the meaning of Yhwh as I am that I am or I will be what I will be. Then I explained the relationship between Father and Son and how Jesus was begotten in eternity or as Origen put it the eternal generation of the Son. I explained how the Word existed in the beginning just as the Father existed in the beginning based on John 1,1.