Sunday, May 31, 2015

Daily taking Delight in his Handiwork (Prov 8)

After almost a week of deep reflection accompanied by bouts of melancholy,  I felt alive again when I entered my church yesterday for rehearsals.  It was powerful and the two song leaders are the among the best there is. I was revived by the presence of the Lord nd received new strength to minister going forward.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Who am I? (1 Chr 29,14 & 2 Chr 2,6)

Both David and Solomon asked this question of themselves, "who am I?" I preached from these two texts last night at the Closing Service of the College. I told my audience that knowing the answer to this question determines our sense of mission and ultimately our fruitfulness in ministry. First, Solomon was the most unlikely candidate for kingship. David had many other sons older than Solomon and in many ways more qualified than him. Solomon was the son of Bathsheba with whom David committed adultery. Although David later took Bathsheba as wife, Solomon was born under a cloak of darkness and probably the most bitter period in the life of David as God judged him for his adultery and murder. But as 1 Chr 29,1 states Solomon was the one God chose to be king after David. Solomon was beloved of the Lord when he was born and given a name to reflect that, Jedidiah before he did anything good or bad.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rooted in Ranau

There is no greater tonic than meeting fellow pastors and students at the Bible College. The SIB College celebrated its 50th anniversary since its founding on 28th May 1965. I had much encouragement from a senior pastor who served in one church for 21 years before moving on to another church. This is extremely rare in our denomination that practices an itinerant system for pastors. He spoke a word of comfort that he thought I should be where I am in the will of the Lord. I wish I could be as certain as he was. Am I rooted in Ranau?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Blessed are the Generous for they shall receive Generosity

This will be the first time I am missing the midweek service tonight. I am resting and recuperating. a broken spirit dries up the bones. I was in great dismay on Monday even as I reflect on events of recent days. But when I opened my house door I saw a leaflet from Singapore and it came as a breath of fresh air, I am with you, I have chosen you and not cast you away. Do not be dismay for I am with you (Isaiah 41,10). But the sadness remains. Love or loving people has its consequences especially those you love do not respond accordingly. Are not the prophets the voice of God spurned by his lover, Israel, sometimes threatening retribution, sometimes regretting and forgiving. Even when I speak against you, my heart is stirred within me; how can I forsake the child I have borne and raised up? I wonder how often foreigners and foreign countries have blessed me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Learning to Stay Healthy

It has taken months for me to settle into my place of ministry in Ranau. I am not sure whether I have fully adjusted yet. After managing 2 Sunday services and chairing a council meeting until 5.30pm, I felt I was under the weather a little. It is not healthy to put 12 or 13 hours on a Sunday since I get up real early on Sunday to prepare for preaching and making sure everything is ready for the worship services. I tried to exercise every alternate day with bicycling around the block but that has not been that consistent.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Teacher's Day & Decision-Time

I have given it two months. But I only wrote one page during an hour I had on Monday morning. My schedule as pastor is beyond my control as much as I like to control what I do. Only yesterday I was asked to take over the preaching next Friday at our end of the month combined cell group meeting. This morning I preached in a Teachers' Day and Children's Ministry at the District level. The theme was "The Day draws Near" (Hari Semakin Singkat). It went better than I thought. I felt no inhibition as I spoke and I managed to deliver the message in the strength of the Lord. We ended with lunch and how often a point I made in passing became the topic of discussion. I told my audience that I joined SIB as an adult as I came to know the Lord in NZ as a 17-year old.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taking Leave & Paul's Greek in Colossians

I am entitled to 35 days annual leave but I have only taken 2 days off thus far. I am planning for a mid-year break in early June for 4 or 5 days of leave. If it happens it will be the first Sunday I will miss in church. It is hard for the pastor to leave the church even for one Sunday. 80% of the church members see their pastor only on the Sunday despite on Wednesday service we get 40 or more adults coming to the mid-week service. But that pales with the number of Sunday attendees which exceed 300 adults for 2 services. Even with the occasional encouragement from the pulpit to attend other weekly services the numbers are still discouraging. Last night most who came were leaders and we thank God for a new member and his daughter coming to the Wednesday night service. I hope my preaching was to good effect and did not turn people off. It was not easy preaching on Colossians with Greek phrases like body of flesh and circumcision of Christ which need further explication.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Panting for Pentecost

As the deer pants for the water brooks so my soul yearns for Thee, Lord. Come Holy Spirit come and fill us afresh with Your living waters. Even as the Feast of Pentecost draws near, my heart yearns for Jerusalem. I often tell my students although I have not set my foot in the Holy Land, my spirit has often been there in the visions of God. I dream of Jerusalem. I sing the songs of the Lord concerning Jerusalem. We will sing my songs with the harps in the house of the Lord (Isaiah 38,20). LORD, how I long for the courts of the Lord. Did You not promise to measure those who worship between the sanctuary and the altar? (Rev 11,2). Count me as one of your worshippers. Build Your Temple, Lord. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Keeping up with Reading

It was good to spend a restful night at home. I woke up late but felt rejuvenated for the week ahead. I went to the library of a local seminary, the best there is in Sabah. I read a few journal articles from Catholic Biblical Quarterly and New Testament Studies. When I told my wife I had an offer to write a commentary, her quick reply was, "you are a pastor now". A pastor at the edge of civilization in the wilderness where there is no access to good libraries. Alas! Woe to me the author.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Lord is my Shepherd

I preached from Psalm 23 and John 10,1-5 this morning. For a peace offering that I cancelled the plan to start an English service, I sang a song in English from Psalm 23 the Lord is my Shepherd which I composed based on the lyrics from KJV. It was the climax of my 2-week ministry since my speaking engagement at a Men's Conference in KK. It felt like 2 months' work with its intensity never letting up. Yesterday we had a 7-hour long AGM from 9am to 4pm.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Electing Leaders & Ingredients of Leadership

It was not planned. I thought I was going to have a relatively relaxed schedule this week but twice I was called upon to preach, first in the Tuesday's Prayer meeting and last night in our mid-week Wednesday service. Twice I used the occasion to preach about picking the right leaders in the context of our denomination. This year is election year and on Saturday we have our District level AGM (hosted by my church) and 26 local churches will send three representatives each to the AGM and together with the District Council of 15 members, about 93 people are entitled to vote. The most important position is obviously the District Superintendent (DS), together with his Deputy, Secretary and Treasurer make up the Executive council of the District. For pastors, the DS is our immediate superior and when I first came up to Ranau, I reported to the DS and my acceptance of the pastoral position was witnessed by him and a copy returned to our HQ.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Oil Rise or Fall Matters Not to the Poor

Crude oil price has risen slightly from its low of US$45 last January. It is now hovering at USD60.00 per barrel and Malaysia's trade surplus increases just so slightly as the country is a net exporter of petroleum. However, it matters not for the poor whether the price of crude oil falls or rises. If it falls, the price of petrol at the pump decreases but this is off-set by the increase in prices of goods given that the Ringgit has fallen more than 10% against the Greenback and it is the second worst performing currency in the region after the Indonesian Rupiah. Prices for many items have risen not only the GST 6% but at least 10 or 15%. This morning I had small plate of duck noodle and it costs RM6.00 from RM5.00 earlier. The half of a small pomelo costs RM6.50 but how can one go without fruits and fresh vegetables for good health. Perhaps I have to take up more preaching invitations from now on.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Marking the Psalms

I use two Bibles for regular scripture reading and morning devotions, RSV and KJV. Both Bibles are heavily marked, especially the Psalms. Whenever I feel the Lord speaking to me, I will put a date next to the Scripture. Today I marked several verses, "The Lord will fulfil His purpose for me." It is at times such as these that the word of the Lord rings true despite outward circumstances. I wonder whether that was how Moses felt, 40 years in the wilderness wondering whether God had a purpose for him more than his sheep keeping for his father-in-law. I realized most of my sermons are probably more suited to a mega-city dwellers rather than rural Ranau. Last Sunday, I spoke about Prof. Amy Chua who wrote a book called, "Tiger Mum" concerning her methods of raising a daughter but I didn't think it connected with the audience. I talked about capable women in politics and sports like one of my sporting icons, teenager Lydia Ko, only 18 who is women's golf no. 1 player and again none of the teenage girls were interested in golf when I asked for a show of hands, though we boast of a number of excellent golf courses in Ranau and Kundasang.

Monday, May 11, 2015

English, the Language of my Heart

The Lord saved me in New Zealand. My first church in NZ for 6 years was a Kiwi-European church. When I sing the Lord's songs via Youtube, I sing in English. English is my first language and English is the language of my heart, my heart before the Lord. Several times over I thought I would serve in an English European setting. It might be in New Zealand and it might be in Australia. It might be in England for before long there might not be a United Kingdom. I followed the outcome of the British elections like a fervent Anglophone. I never lost sight of my spiritual roots which are in English. Lord, grant me my heart's desire that I might serve You in the Anglo-Saxon world where English is the language of the soul, the language of my heart.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Giving of the Church & Pastors' Remuneration

It was exactly one week ago, I delivered my third and last sermon/talk at the Men's Conference in Kota Kinabalu. The attendance was 400 men registered and another 100 or more turned up for the night meetings. I was told that this was a two-fold increase in participation from what they had at last year's Conference. I spent several weeks preparing my notes and during the second talk, I went straight into the topic of church's economy and did not touch on the nation's economy for which I had 25 slides and another 20 that I actually used in my 63-minute delivery. I was given 90 minutes for my talk but I thought after a long day of Conference I would limit it to one hour in the night meeting.

Friday, May 8, 2015

In the Year of my Jubilee

My Jubilee will end in July. But my work-sabbath's Jubilee ends only on 31st December 2015 since I started work on the 1st January this year. By July, I am truly into the 2nd half of my life and ministry. If Jesus had 3 phases in his ministry, today, tomorrow and the next day (Luke 13), I am well into my tomorrow the middle of my 2nd phase that will last 10 years or so. After that, the final phase of the next day will be my pre-retirement phase, in my 60s and then by God's grace into my 70s, my retirement phase but yet active in ministry if health permits (itinerant & writing perhaps). I doubt I will enter my 80s seeing the kind of work I am doing currently.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

OT 1 Class Ends

Today marks the end of my OT 1 class. As per my routine after preaching last night in our mid-week meeting, I travelled early to College and taught my final class on the Writings, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and Job. All that in just under 3 hours. I thoroughly enjoyed that and with a lot of preparation I managed to get what I wanted across within the time given. Sadly, during the chat between breaks, I got the impression that students struggled even to read the biblical text let alone books, monographs and commentaries. So much for a theological education if one neglects the Bible.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Singapore-KL Fast Train

In less than 10 years from now the fast train link between KL and Singapore will have been completed. Imagine Singapore to KL in 90 mins without flying and waiting in the airport. This will be ideal for me in terms of ministry as these two cities will be the main centres of Christianity for decades to come. I regretted a little that I could not see the completion of the downtown line 2 that goes by Hillview, Upper Bukit Timah Road where my former place of employment was. Perhaps by the 2nd quarter of 2016 it will be finished and I could drop by TTC library via MRT and take the next train back to Bugis Street or Chinatown.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Leaders' Retreat

It has been quite a while since I had spoken for 4 days in a row. By the grace of God I managed to lead a leaders' retreat from 6pm yesterday to 2pm today. Altogether we had 5 sessions. The turnout was 40 leaders with a number of spouses attending and youth leaders as well. The Retreat was held in our conference room and it was fitted with a aircond for the occasion with a new set of speaker used for the first time since it was donated to the church last year.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Obeying the Government (Rom 13; 1 Pet 2)

The theme of the 4th Men's Conference was Paradigm Change For Men. The first speaker was our President and he explained well the difference between paradigm change and paradigm shift. The second speaker was on first the next morning and my turn came on at 10.30am, the 3rd session of the conference. I also spoke at the second and final night before rounding off the conference with my third session which ended just past 12 noon yesterday. I was given the task of addressing current issues in national politics, economy, social and education.