Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Quiet Sunday

It was a relatively quiet Sunday. I felt a little relaxed since I was not preaching today but it is our tradition that before the Lord's communion is served there is a 5 to 10 minute exhortation before worshippers partake of the bread and wine. So I shared a short sermon on John 15 about the need to be humble and allowing God to prune us to that we can bear much fruit. In the Malay Bibles, the word, "bersih" came up a couple of times in the passage and in the 2nd service I made a passing reference to the ongoing Bersih street demonstration. But I took it as a foil to tell my church that we are all dirty in God's sight but now we are clean when we believe in him and his word. "You are clean because of the word I had spoken to you, says Jesus."  At the end of the service I led prayers for the nation in this critical juncture of its history now that we are celebrating National Day tomorrow on the 31st August. In the first service I told the congregation that if I were invited to join a street protest I would not go since I still have my doubts on the wisdom and justification for street protest demonstration from a spiritual perspective.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Family Reunion of Magnitude

In a week that I am not preaching on Sunday, I have preached three times, on Wednesday, Friday and today at a family service. Today's family gathering was a grand affair. I was invited three months ago and somewhat I honoured that invitation despite receiving an invitation to preach over 3 services in Kota Belud, a District level event. I am glad I chose this ministry as I learned much from the Dusun culture. This family had 10 siblings and 7 are still alive and out of these 10 siblings the family now has about 300 members, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Electoral Masterstroke

Politics in Singapore is no less interesting than what we witness in Malaysia though in vastly different contexts and environment. PM Lee's call for Sept 11's Polling Day is a political masterstroke. Just barely 2 weeks after SG50 celebrations and 2 days after the National Day Rally, the timing of the General Election could not be more precise. This will be considered a snap Election as the previous parliamentary term (now dissolved) has another 16 months to run. I attended two political rallies in 2011. Exciting stuff, no less. At least all political parties are given freedom to campaign in venues around Singapore plus air time on television in contrast to Malaysian elections where television broadcast is almost totally controlled by the ruling party of the day. Nevertheless, Singapore's opposition could justifiably feel hard done by the short campaign period. It is difficult for most Opposition parties except perhaps the Workers' Party to get the candidates ready let alone the requisite time to campaign in this 10-day electioneering period. But this is politics where incumbency has a decided edge.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Would you return Home? The State of Malaysia

I think when things are going well it is easy to feel patriotic and beam with national pride. Just imagine that if Singapore faces political and economic turmoil like what Malaysia is currently undergoing, would you return to Singapore and help your nation rise above the lawlessness, hopelessness and chaos? It is exactly how I felt when I returned to Malaysia October last year. I had no ministry position at that time and my future was still very much uncertain despite waiting for 6 or 7 months. I had burnt all my bridges with Singapore saved my 300 books loaned to a Singaporean Seminary and a bank account to pay for my taxes for Assessment 2015. It was a monumental journey, just past 50th year, my Golden Jubilee. In fact I went back and forth Singapore and Sabah three times in June, July and Sept 2014 before making the final journey "home" in October. The Jacob story spoke to me most. It was like Jacob uprooting himself and family to return to his homeland after a time sojourning in a foreign land. Like Jacob, his relative mistreated him and his wages changed 10 times despite God being with Jacob and even his employer-uncle, Laban acknowledged that. When I reflect on the Malaysian state of affairs, I came across several passages in the Bible which I felt relevant for Malaysian Christians.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sing Dollar vs. Ringgit Malaysia

By the time I clicked for a new posting Ringgit Malaysia had fallen from 2.99 to 3.01 to the Sing dollar. It was only 2.69 to 1SGD 3 months ago. I have reached my limits. It has gone beyond my comfort levels. I was half joking to my friends one month ago that should the US dollar reach 4MYR to the 1USD or 1 Sing dollar to 2.9MYR I will seriously consider returning to Singapore.  I did not plan to watch PM Lee's NDR speech last night but when I checked today online,  PM Lee was about 15 mins into his speech and I listened to the end. It was one of his better speeches in recent years. Less policy details and minutaes but more statesman-like, visionary, broad strokes and historical high points that connected with the audience, at least I was inspired. I had watched all NDR speeches live since 2008. Certain details caught my attention. By 2017, retirement age will rise to 67.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Baptisms in Ranau

Today I baptized 6 believers by immersion. As the trend goes, there were 5 girls and 1 boy. Our tradition sanctions baptism for 12 year old and above but today I made an exception for two 11 years old to be baptized with the rest. One teenage girl had an eye infection and it was interesting as to how to proceed. It would not be good to get her eye wet if she would go under. I asked her whether she was still keen to be baptized today and when she said yes, I told her that I would submerge her to her shoulders and neck and then pour water on her hair in the name of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Women in Ranau

We celebrated women's Day in Ranau today. I was the invited speaker and after 10 songs and several dance presentations we had a praise and worship session. I went up to preach at 10.30am and it went for 45 minutes. I was led to call for prayers and about 70 women came forward for prayers. It was an emotional time for some women and I believe the Lord strenghtened them through his Word and the supply of the Holy Spirit through prayers.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Names in Colossians

After 6 months of expository preaching I finally finished Paul's letter to the Colossians. On Wednesday I spent 40 minutes preaching concerning 7 names out of about 10 names mentioned by Paul in his concluding remarks and greetings. Amazingly there is plenty of theology to mine when looking at these co workers of Paul.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Finding a Place for the Lord

Lord, I am not David. It is difficult to suffer hardships. David sang about his experience and said, "Lord remember David and all the hardships he endured..." Hardships for what? To find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob. Why was Jacob's name invoked? Jacob suffered hardships in his many years of wanderings but God was with him and dwelt with him. Why is hardship necessary before God can secure a place for himself? This is divine-human drama of coresponsibility. Nothing comes easy. No glory without sufferings. David had to suffer hardships in order to found a place for the most high God. It did not come easy as for the best part of 10 years he was persecuted by Saul and the next 7.5 years David had to struggle against the house of Saul to gain supremacy over the house of Israel. Only when the kingdoms of the South and North were firmly in David's hands he could bring back the ark of the covenant. Even then for many years he had to contend with outside enemies to secure and extend the border of Israel. It took David the span of his reign and when he was ready to build God's house, God told him that his intentions were noble but it was not to be as David had too much blood in his hands.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Something is Happening

I can't say what it is. Last night I attended the full rehearsals of the Sunday services from 7pm to 10.30pm. I had a great sense of expectation what was going to happen on Sunday. I just got back in Ranau early yesterday morning but with my worship team I sensed Gods presence strong unlike the two major Conferences and Concert I attended in KK. God may not be with the crowds and big events but among small groups meeting to honour his Name, He is there. This morning by 7.50am all 180 seats are fully taken. We added 50 more seats with 20 seating behind the pulpit and some at the sides. The ailse was taken up with stools to make room for everyone and God's presence was felt almost tangibly throughout the two services.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Revival in Remote Rural Ranau?

If my reading of early and modern church history is right, it is only when revivals happen that one gets to preach 4 or 5 times a week. I have been averaging that for the past 3 months and there is no end in sight. If truly a revival is taking place then I should be glad and rejoice. But it is hard to say. It could be an outcome of a traditional rural church having multiple services, at least 3 or 4 times a week and when there are special services like wakes, funerals and family celebrations then it could be as many as 5 or 6 times a week. With a double Sunday service it has become a herculean task for me just to be ready to preach. How am I coping?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sun Shining on Singapore

I will have to take this opportunity tonight to wish Singapore and my Singaporean friends a blessed Golden Jubilee, SG50 anniversary. As I will be busy tomorrow with a meeting in the afternoon it is unlikely I could blog until night time. You can be sure that I will say a heart felt prayer for Singapore during my Sunday services tomorrow. Just as I happened to pray for Malaysia for her 50th Jubilee on 16th Sept 2013 when I was in Singapore. I led Chapel service that day and specifically instructed my family group member to pray for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew on his 90th birthday. Whatever you sow you reap. Give a portion to seven and scatter your bread on the waters (nations) you never know when your returns might come (Eccle). Indeed Sabah and Singapore are bound together if not for his servants having one leg in Borneo and another in the island Republic. The earthquake last June that took Singaporean and Sabahan lives should bind both States closer in sisterhood, sister States, helping one another and exchanging missions for mutual upbuilding of God's people in both lands. Singapore could proudly celebrate her 50th anniversary of independence for 5 reasons.

After the Rain, Comes the Sun

I am not into "worldly" songs. However, yesterday I came across this song sung (listen here) by the daughter of Malaysia's former DPM, a haunting yet soothing melody accompanied by a pianist on the beach and sea as the backdrop with the occasional rain drops falling on the piano making the song more poignant as a reflection of the mood of the country as a whole. It reflects the mood of Ranauians, after 3 or 4 days of rain, comes the sun this morning. I have been mourning for the country for almost 40 days now, since the disclosure of the Wall Street Journal on an 2.6 billion ringgit allegedly banked into account of the top politician in the country. Since then, many things have happened. The DPM and a few senior ministers had been sacked for speaking out on the 1MDB debt, the Ringgit had crashed into its lowest against the USD in 17 years (RM3.92 = 1USD or RM2.83 = 1SGD yesterday). With falling commodity and oil prices coupled with China's slowing economy, the worse that one could ask for is political turmoil affecting business and investment sentiment further with foreign investors taking their money out of Malaysia in the billions. That will only bear on the Ringgit's weakness further in days and weeks ahead. With all the political upheaval, Malaysia's role and influence as Chair of ASEAN this year is severely diminished, not least its moral authority among the 10-nation grouping. What should be our day in the Sun is now shrouded in controversy and clouded by multiple scandals in the country. What's in for Malaysia at this juncture of her history?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Back-to-Back Meetings

It's been more than two months since the earthquake and one immediate effect was the incessant demands for ministry. Everything seems to be doubling up and last night I had a back to back meetings in two families, both were thanksgiving and memorial services for deceased loved ones. First, I preached from Matt 22 on Jesus' dispute with the Sadducees concerning resurrection. This family had 10 adult children and it was a microcosm of Ranau community split between Christians and Muslims. While I was preaching to 6 or 7 siblings with their families and the widow who were Christian believers, their Muslim siblings politely gave way and mingled among themselves in the kitchen and rejoined us when the service was over and refreshments were served. I took the opportunity to preach Christ, and having a loud voice helped as I think everyone within the vicinity of the house heard what it meant to believe in Jesus and the Resurrection hope in Christ. It was a 5pm meeting and by 6:30pm, I rushed home for a short break before heading to another home. I preached from Matthew 15:1-9 on Jesus' command to honour our father and mother with our money including the money pledged as an offering to God should instead go to the care of our aged parents when there is a need for the latter.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Exposition on Colossians, Biblical Languages & Living Out the Faith

I have reached the final legs of Colossians last night after 6 months where on alternate Wednesday night I had expounded on Paul's letter to the Colossians. It's an average 3 sermons per chapter, on occasions four sermons to the chapter. I will wrap up Paul's letter to the Colossians in a fortnight's time with the call to vigilance in prayers and living in peace with one another. I did not touch on the political turmoil of the nation except that I said in God's Name according to Colossians 3:25, For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. No one can escape justice and judgement which is of the Lord. Nothing hidden will be hidden and all shall be revealed. It is in this fear of the Lord that we fear to sin or do any wrong that might incur God's righteous and holy wrath. I spoke at length on familial relations based on Col 3:17ff. I preached for 37 minutes which was longer than the usual Wednesday sermon of about 25-30 minutes. I spoke about doing our utmost and giving the best for Jesus' sake,  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (3:23). Before the service started I managed to share with an elder studying for his MA in theology about a few Hebrew and Greek words.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mangoes & Rambutans

My father asked me when we met last week, "What do you do beside Sunday service?" My week has just begun after my Monday sabbath. Tonight is our weekly prayer meeting and in the past weeks, there has been much to be prayed for, politicians, country and all. The Ringgit is down to 3.855 to the USD and I hope it does not breach the 3.9 mark. Less than a year ago when I was still in Singapore it was hovering at 3.1 to the dollar. That's what political turmoil does to a country's currency and economy whether the politicians acknowledge it or not. Tomorrow I will be continuing my series on Paul's Colossians after taking a break from it last Wednesday. It is up to the family and work ethics of Colossians 3 and 4, the final exhortations of Paul in his letter to the Colossian church. But before that I will chair a pastors' fellowship meeting and it will be good to meet my colleagues after our trip to the Tip of Borneo 10 days ago. I shall be letting my co-workers taste my mangoes and rambutans.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Abundant Fruits

One of Jesus' commandments in John's Gospel is for his disciples to bear fruits and fruits abundantly,  It is by bearing much fruits one is to glorify the Father. For the 1st time in my 8th month as pastor, I felt at liberty to speak about the church expansion plans before the congregation. I was distracted several times in the course of my preaching when worshippers came late and ushers had to find chairs or seats for them. Where else can you expand when every seat in the house (of the Lord) is taken? I have not seen the church so packed before. The 2nd service is not that full but it is rarely below 120 compared to double the numbers in the 1st service. When asked how many visitors were in church for the 1st time, 10 hands or so were raised? I told the church that it is not impossible for the church to grow to 500 worshippers within a year if we have a larger space, at least a double shoplot unit.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Gotong Royong in Ranau

Being part of an intentional community is probably something I cherish in this phase of my Ranau ministry, something I had not experienced in Singapore or in Kota Kinabalu. After an overnight trip to KK to see my parents late Thursday, I was back in Ranau early yesterday morning to prepare for last night's end-of-the-month service which we celebrated those who had their birthdays in the month of July. It was double celebration for me but last night's service was decidedly low key compared to the rousing welcome and party I had last Sunday night. Early this morning, my church members arrived for a gotong royong (working together hand in hand) to set up a canopy garage for the pastor's cars.