Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Persecutions & Tribulations

Two days ago at the Guardian UK newpapers it was reported that global persecution against Christians has become worse in recent years. In fact, almost half the world's nations place some form of restrictions against the practice of Christianity and there are at least 50 nations that persecute Christians simply for their faith. This astounding article from a respected English newspaper raises alarming questions of whether Christians around the world will suffer more persecutions in the coming years and decades. With the rise of religious extremism that singles out Jews and Christians as targets of hatred and murder, more and more Christians are killed everywhere simply because they believe in Jesus Christ. Last Saturday, I expounded on Jesus' warning of the end-time when Christians will be hated by all nations for Jesus' sake (Matt 24:9). Since the US Supreme Court's decision granting rights to gays and lesbians to marriage, this prophecy is fast becoming a reality.

Monday, July 27, 2015

There is no Place like Home

My birthday celebrations ended with a bang. Exactly 10 minutes into my 51st year, a tremor hit Ranau with the force of 4.7 Richter scale. It jolted me from my sleep made sweet by the events of the day or the previous night. I rushed back to Ranau from Kudat, a trip of some 3 hours to attend the Women's Fellowship night at church. When I arrived at the church at 8pm already 30 minutes late the church was filled with 100 people and I knew something was on. I quickly apologized for being late at the start of my 15min sermon, saying that it is not right for the sheep to wait for the shepherd but for the shepherd to wait for the sheep. I think the congregation forgave me in no time seeing that I am usually the first to arrive in church for any activity or service. I preached from Mark 3:21 to the end of the chapter about Jesus' family and his conflict with the experts of the law.

Trip to the Tip of Borneo

Our trip to Kudat, the northern most city in Sabah and in Borneo as a whole was most eventful. I led a team of nine pastors and four of them took their families to a Retreat in Sorinsim, Kota Marudu and onwards to Kudat for weekend ministry at the SIB Bandar Kudat church. I could not have asked for more as the Lord Jesus led us from start to finish. We had a convoy of 4 cars and usually I had to stop and wait for my colleagues. We had durians on the way to the Retreat centre and the place of retreat is simply ideal with a clean and clear river and beautiful surroundings. We stayed in one big house with 4 rooms and double decked beds. Before reaching Kudat, we stopped by tip of Borneo, Simpang Mengayau. It was my first time there and I was stunned by its beautiful white beaches and seas.
We took many photos and spent an entire hour there. By 12.30pm we reached Kudat and were taken straight to church. After a sumptuous lunch I was asked to conduct the short seminar on end time based on Matthew 24. As most of us rose up before dawn, I was intent on ending the seminar by 4pm and after drinks we reached our place of accommodation at 5pm. We were hosted in a new house of 3 rooms but as there were three married couples with kids and one pastor brought his teenage daughter, so we had a bit of trouble figuring out how to share the rooms. As my colleagues are hardy persons, having grown accustomed to simple living, a few offered to sleep on concrete floors with no mattresses and pillows. At the end I thought we should get a good night rest to prepare for the Sunday service, so four of us proceeded to check into a hotel with twin share. It was a happy arrangement as I told my group that one room would be paid from the Pastors' fund but I would pay for my room.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Long Road Ahead

Despite the insistence in the New Testament that Jesus could come anytime at his second coming and hence the urgency and immediacy of ministry, yet the reality of it is a long road ahead. I have been in full-time ministry for nearly 21 years and if health holds, I think I may have another 21 years ahead of me before I meet my Maker or call it quits. As aging affects everyone perhaps in different ways, but very few have been able to do it in their late 70s. I know of a friend who is going on strong in his early 80s but this is an exception to the rule. Knowing my own body and its frailties I shall be pleased if the Lord should grant me another 15 years of active ministry. That's makes it 36 years in the Lord's work something I could not have imagined myself doing when I received the call to ministry as an 18 year old. At that time my thoughts of ministry were short term, explosive and going out in a blaze of glory.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Very Long Weekend

If I don't record what I had gone through in the past few days it is very likely I will forget much of it within weeks. It has been a very long weekend but a very fulfilling one. After preaching on consecutive days on Tuesday and Wednesday, my long holiday weekend became more interesting. First, my youths were all geared up to serve in the District level Conference and they had several sessions of practice in church and in our meeting hall. As some of our youths are tertiary students on holidays it was fun meeting and getting to know them instead of the secondary school students that attend our church. With their dance routine that took them many hours of practice I saw how our youths put their energy and enthusiasm into what they do. At the end, it was the loudness of the music that spoilt the worship time but the dance routine went perfectly well. It was good to see several 20 years old university students gaining confidence in song leading and as pastor I could only feel pride for them. When I saw Dr Douglas Moo's video on Oak Hill College website, I felt confirmed in my calling as pastor and not professor. Dr Moo, one of my favourite commentators said early on he realized he was not going to be a pastor as he was not a people's person.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Post-baptism Class

After several months' delay, I have finally commenced a post-baptism class for those baptised last year. Last Sunday we began a baptismal class for new candidates for baptism but I thought it important as part of discipleship and Christian education there should be follow up classes for those newly baptised. Praise God at the start of the second half of the year, a few programmes have been implemented.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Malaysia's Travails

I don't think in my 51 years I have seen the politics and economy of the country facing such immense national travails as in the past couple of months.  In my blogpost last December, I wrote as follows: "come 2nd half of 2015 Malaysia will see its economy facing its greatest challenge..." Is this prophetic or just shrewd observation of a concerned citizen that follows the ups and downs of a country he loves? I also warned my fellow Malaysian Christians in the Men's Conference last April that Malaysia's economy would go into troubled waters towards the end of the year and things will only get worse in 2016.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Europe without Greece?

Two Sundays ago, I led a prayer and intercession for Greece as the country held its referendum to accept or decline eurozone bailout terms. Oxi No! was the result but this morning's agreement appears to be harsher than the one Greece said no to. The turn of political fortunes at least kept me interested in Eurozone happenings.  Can you imagine a Europe without Greece? Classicists and New Testament scholars must be lamenting to see the fall and fall of Greece after leading the world in democracy and liberal values. The speech of Pericles is something I know as well as my favourite NT passages.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Night in Ranau

Lord I thank Thee for hearing me for you never forsake the righteous and those for trust in you. My 36 hours ended without much fanfare except a joyful spirit and a wearied body. I think for a 50plus person to rush here and there (lari sini sana) is no longer sustainable and not good for health. I needed time to settle myself in the midst of teaching 6 candidates for baptism. We practise adult baptism only for those 12 years and above. I had one who was only 11 and on occasions we made an exception for that. I was surprised that all except one knew anything about the Bible, even creation and the fall were unknown to them.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday in Ranau

Despite mounting challenges without and within, I had a sense of peace as I cruised along the beaten paths of Ranau township this morning. Mount Kinabalu is still standing tall at the background though shorn of its former glory after the earthquake. I had this serene feeling in my heart as I looked around the town with people going about their business, some selling their wares in the Saturday market (tamu), some on the pathways, not a few peddling from shop to shop carrying their goods and produce. Saturday morning is the only time I can somewhat relax before the busyness of the weekend sets in.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Horses and Donkeys can't run together

Why does a marriage take place? In most modern societies, it is because both man and woman agree to live as husband and wife, at least prior to the US supreme court decision which now grants as a matter of right under the American constitution for same sex couples to marry just as the heterosexual couples do. In essense, there must be agreement and consent from two parties to give it a most solemn effort to be together for life if it is at all possible. What about a pastor and a church?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mourning for Malaysia (Prov 29:4)

On Sunday and during last night's prayer meeting, I led prayers for truth and justice to prevail in the nation. Lord, I mourn for the sins of its leaders. As I waited on the Lord, the word that came forth to me (the LXX helps), "A righteous king raises up a country, but a lawless man undermines it" (Prov 29:4) (Septuagint, New English Translation, Oxford). In Hebrew, the second line goes to say that "a king who receives/exacts gifts overthrows/ruins it" (KJV/ESV Prov 29:4). The Ringgit has fallen to 2.82 to the Sing dollar and 3.81 to the USD worse than the time of economic recession in 1998.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Community Centre Meeting

I suppose when you are open to what comes to you, you learn new things and savour new experiences. This afternoon before 4pm I headed to a nearby village up a steep hill with some amazing scenery. My wife, an elder and two others came with me in my pick up. We were given the honour of leading the service, a combined service of two main denominations in the village. There was a large turnout with almost 40 families turning up with their children. Initially it was not easy to preach without a rostrum and with kids running around in the hall but within minutes I managed to focus on preaching and I preached an evangelistic sermon on being born again and drinking the water of life given by Jesus. I summarised the two conversations of Jesus with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman in John 3 and 4 and the unifying theme being water and Spirit in both chapters. I started by relating how water is a most basic necessity for life but yet when it is available it is taken for granted and rarely appreciated. But now we are facing our 2nd water crisis in a fortnight.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Praise & Worship Seminar

Despite being the weekend when most secondary school students return to their villages, the turnout for the seminar was better than expected. Unfortunately with the water shortage especially in affected schools, it was difficult to plan an event when we are not sure the students would be asked to return to their villages as it was the case today. Nonetheless, a total of 95 people registered and the seminar started at 9.10am in the morning. The only hiccup was lunch being 30 minutes late, with the women's folks cooking for 100 people and only 4 or 5 women were doing everything they could in the church kitchen before the packets of lunches were sent to the church. I wonder whether it was worth the effort to save a couple of hundred ringgit. It was a lot of work cooking for 100 people, though the food was certainly delicious with soup and fruits beside.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Composing Spiritual Songs

I have given myself 3 sessions out of 5 for tomorrow's Praise and Worship seminar. I have no gift in song leading but as a worshipper of the Lord I have observed how worship is conducted for good or bad for more than 33 years. But I am looking forward to giving a session on composing spiritual songs. I will probably sing a couple of songs I composed in the Lord and how music and songs play a huge part in my Christian growth.  Until now, sometimes like Elisha I needed the music of the harpist to wait on the Lord and hear his voice (2 Kings 3).

Thursday, July 2, 2015

3 Days & 3 Nights

It was good to have a mid-year break for 3 days and 3 nights, the longest I have been in KK since making a move to Ranau 6 months ago. To start the 2nd half of the year reasonably refreshed for battles ahead, since we war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and forces in dark places in the spiritual realm. Preparing to preach is an act of war itself, battle against laziness and lethargy and battle against the flesh and the mind. The Spirit has to win and conquer the flesh for the flesh profits nothing but the Spirit gives life. On Saturday there will be a full day seminar and I have planned for a guest preacher to take the pulpit so I could rest on Sunday but I was called to preach in an afternoon inter-denominational service in a nearby village. On Monday another family service beckons which I welcome. When church members invite you to their homes, it is a kind of a vote of confidence in their pastor. Pastoring is relentless, and unless I disappear in KK or take a holidays overseas, it will be work and more work.