Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It's Tough Going but the Tough Gets Going

I find the going getting tougher by the week. After a hectic weekend of preaching, I had to chair the church council's meeting from 8pm until 11:15pm last night. There was much to discuss to prepare for the Retreat this coming weekend. For the past couple of days, I had been preparing for the forthcoming Retreat after sending off almost 100 slides to the organizers of the Men's Conference earlier where I shall be preaching 3 times from Friday to Saturday before heading back to Ranau for the Sunday services with the Retreat starting Sunday evening.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Leadership is not Everything but is Vital

Leadership is not everything but is critical to the success of any venture or plan. Whether in business, education or church, all things run well when the leadership inspires and has the ability to put things into action. As an invited speaker to two major meets in the District of 23 churches I was expecting more from these meetings. But I was just the speaker and not the organizing committee and there is only as much I could do to promote the events. In fact, I only asked my church to pray for me once in the Tuesday prayer meeting and once on Sunday. I am glad as pastor, at least my own church is humming along though there is much to be done. The only event I organised was a roaring success, by the grace of God, when 70 students turned up in our Conference room last month.  Leaders are visionaries, planners, organisers and implementers. And above all, spiritual leaders are prayer warriors because there are forces in the heavenly that are arrayed against the purposes of God and God's work can only be done God's way, namely by much prayers and seeking after the face of God.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hard Ground Little Fruits

I need to go back to the drawing board. I need to pray more in preparation for big meetings. The ground is hard. It is not like 15 or 20 years ago. The church was less than a quarter full when I preached yesterday afternoon. It was a graveyard session, starting a major meet in the afternoon at 2pm. Yet the crowds were smaller than I expected. Not that I was not prepared. I felt the Lord's presence when the meeting started with a dance presentation with the song "Crucified, above all you thought of me." For a moment I thought I was in Singapore as my church had not sung an English song since I started. My tears welled up that even in Ranau the Lord's eyes were upon me and he thought of me. "Who am I Lord that you think of me and the son of man you visitest?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Solitude & Service

In the midst of busyness, it is so important to have time for solitude. For one cannot operate on a high all the time, in the midst of noise and crowds. Tonight is the only time in the week that I can spend time in solitude. Tomorrow is the end of the month combined cell group, the 4th of the year and it reminds me how quick time had passed and how little I had accomplished thus far. It is an auspicious day for me as well. On Saturday I will preach at the District level meeting and the venue is the biggest church in Ranau that can sit about 800 people. We don't expect the afternoon meeting to be full but I expect at least 500 to turn up. On Sunday I will preach in the 2nd morning service and then at 2pm at the Youth District meeting and I expect at least 200 youths will turn up in our little church.

Monday, April 20, 2015

He who waters himself waters Others

I have a plant outside my front door. My wife asks me to water it everyday. If I miss watering it for one day, its leaves wither and in a couple of days the plant may die outright in the scorching heat of Ranau. That plant is our life in God. Unless we water ourselves daily our spiritual lives are in danger of withering and dying. No wonder Jesus cursed the fig tree; it had only leaves, outwardly it is alive but inwardly it is dead for it has not borne fruits. Is our life fruitful? Or are we filled with leaves, running to and fro (Dan 12:4), looking busy but there is no apparent fruit, no real spiritual vitality. Perhaps we have neglected the most basic part of our Christian life. Our life in God, our life in Christ, our life in the Spirit needs watering daily.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Drawing on the Energy of the Crowd

The glory of the King is in the multitude of his people. This morning I preached in 2 services. It was my first time doing that in 5 weeks. But I felt unprepared somewhat. I had an incredibly busy week leading to Sunday. I had attended meetings at night from Tuesday until last night. I did not have a night free except my Monday day off. It was intense. Last night I preached in  family service of about 50 people. Half of them were unchurched people and I was pleased to have shared God's Word with the family and their clan, a reputable business family in Ranau. After coming back at 9pm I could not do much except to relax and watch a bit soccer on television. I got up just before 5am and waited on the Lord. By 6.30am I opened the church door and more than 10 students were waiting outside.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Going through Economic Turbulence with God's Help

I have always believed that I am recession proof. Or else I would not be doing what I have been doing for a quarter of a century. I have seen and experienced a number of recessions in my adult life. When I returned to Sabah to work in early 1988, Malaysia was then recovering from the recession of 1985-86. Then when I was Treasurer of SIB, the 1997 recession hit hard. Prices doubled in many instances. I was earning RM1,000 per month with a young family. How did I survive? God was good and is forever good. The denomination income increased by 49% from 1996 to 1998. From 1997 to 1998 when the recession was at its worst, church income increased by more than 20%, though my pay did not increase a cent over 3 years. I could not propose a new salary scale since I was Treasurer and had to live by example of frugality and perseverance. At the end of 1998 I returned to NZ at the height of the global recession and Universities were cutting back on scholarships but at the end of 1999 I was awarded a full 3-year scholarship without which there was no way I could have done a doctorate in the book of Revelation. I thought I was seeing a pattern here that with
God there is no recession for his servants. It was confirmed how God could bless in the most adverse of circumtances as the 2008 recession hit the global economy hard. I was offered a job in Singapore in Feb 2008 and started in July 2008. Within 3 months the Singapore stocks fell by 50%.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Everything Expensive

Almost everything costs more in Sabah post-GST. The poor suffers the most. I am now entitled to BR1M (govt handout) but I did not apply for it because I strongly disagree with the policy. It is bad for the poor because it engenders dependence on handouts and I suppose the majority spend it quickly and on non-essentials. It is better to spend RM5 billion in upgrading skills of young men and women, especially English proficiency so that they are more employable and socially more confident when they can speak English well. The other day I bought some candles and they cost more with 6%GST. If the government provides reliable supply of electricity I did not have to buy candles in the first place. Thrice there were blackouts last week in Ranau. My coffee in KFC costs more. I am writing this post at KFC and tonight I will skip coffee as it costs RM3.70 per cup. I heard from my friends who had gone down to KK and the chicken rice now costs RM9.00.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In Defence of Academic Research

Today, an assistant Professor of the National University of Singapore in defence of academic research responds to the article, "Prof, no one is reading you." (See here). When I was asked whether I saw my long term ministry as Professor or Pastor, I could not really give a definitive answer. I wish more pastors are more professorial in the sense that they truly know the Bible well including exegeting it in the original languages. I wish more professors are more pastoral in the sense that they are rooted in the local church and ministry with those outside their circle of scholarship. I think the Church as a whole has not produced scholar-pastors or pastor-scholars for the past 2 centuries or so except a few exceptions.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Recent Research on Revelation

In a crowded field of scholarship, I am delighted to see my name mentioned along with 40 or more scholars by Russell Morton's Recent Research on Revelation (Sheffield Phoenix, 2014; see here). If I were earning Singapore dollars I would have no hesitation to order the book for my library. The last book I ordered was last August when I was in Singapore, also on Revelation by C. Koester (Anchor Yale, 2014) and according to google scholar my book was cited 4 or 5 times in Koester's 940 page-long commentary (in fact it was cited 7 times!). I was invited by Asian Theological Commentary series to write a commentary on Revelation and I am still sitting on the invitation for the past month, not knowing whether I could find time to write. My Monday rest is take up with catching up on sleep. I wished I had a 2-day weekend.

Friday, April 10, 2015

100 Days in Ministry: What Next?

I spent my 100th day in ministry with a group of students rehearsing for worship on Sunday. I caught a glimpse of the reason of my being here: to go about the Father's business in the Father's house. To tend Christ's flock and feed the lambs. We are just finishing chapter 4 of Matthew's Gospel where Jesus called his first disciples. Are you called to follow Christ the way the early apostles were called? They left their boats (previous professions), their father (family ties) and they followed Christ. I have been in the business of following Christ for almost 21 years since giving up my profession in 1993. The journey has been rewarding with all its challenges. It is a life of faith.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Paul's Place in God's Dispensation

Those who consider Colossians as deutero-Pauline get only half of Paul. Half of Paul is no Paul, since you need the full 13 letters to comprehend the mind and theology of Paul. I have completed ch.1 of Colossians bar the final verse which will lead me to the next fortnight's series on Colossians 2. Colossians is likely to be one of Paul's final letters since Paul can say that the gospel has been preached to every creature under heaven and and for that purpose, Paul was made a servant according to God's oikonomia (dispensation/administration).

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April Assignments

After preaching 9 times in past 11 days, my April assignments have just begun. Starting tomorrow, I shall be preaching more regularly than before. On the Colossians series, I will conclude chapter 1 with Paul's commission to make the Word of God fully known. Then the usual Sunday services, but we are now in the Holy month, Passover month when traditionally we have revival meetings or Iraus. This coincides with the ongoing harvesting of padi (rice) for indeed the fields are white (yellow) for harvest and the reapers are ready to reap.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Good Friday Weekend

We did not have too many services except for one Good Friday service and today's two services on Resurrection Sunday. The weather was no good last night and I did not get to witness the blood moon, 3rd lunar eclipse in the series of 4 eclipses falling on Passover and Tabernacles last year and repeated this year. I preached from Revelation 5-6 and when I announced the text of two chapters I reckon there must be a few in the congregation that prayed the sermon would not be too long. We are used to 30min sermons here in church but last Friday I preached a 50 min sermon and today it went for 45mins to my surprise. On Friday I preached from Mark 15,1-39 and I had about 12 points to elaborate, about 4 mins on each point. Today I entitled my sermon, "The Lamb that was Slain, the One who determines the End-Times." It sounds better in Malay, "Anak Domba yang tersembelih, Penentu Akhir Zaman."

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Malaysia Post-GST & Demographics

Malaysia moved into post-GST era and politics in the country gets more exciting with the people debating about the GST implementation and its ramifications. Further, the former Premier's critique of the current administration in his blog two days ago created more talking points in coffee shops. But I was attracted to an article in Todayonline news (see here) that by 2050, more than 7 in 10 people in Malaysia will be Muslims and it was reported in the same article that in 2010 just slightly over 62% of the population are Muslims and I suppose the two-third threshold will be met in 10 or so years from now. It is also predicted that the Christian population in Malaysia will remain constant at around 9.4% by 2050.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dying to Live

I got back from KK at 6pm yesterday and proceeded to attend the mid-week meeting. Somewhat I could not sleep last night so I got up at 3.30am to prepare more slides on the Prophets from Abraham Heschel's book of the same name. Heschel's book is still the first book I go to for an introduction to the prophets. I have not read a chapter better than Heschel's first chapter, "What manner of a man is a prophet?" This morning I spent 3 hours discussing that. As I reflect on Good Friday's message, I wept at the sight of the visions of God during the first and only song in Chapel this morning. When you are ready to worship God, you don't need a couple of songs to warm up or wake up from spiritual slumber but you can enter God's presence forthwith. I was meditating on the College's theme, "Mati untuk Hidup". In order to live one is to die. No one who does not understand this is any closer to God.