Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Last Book

The book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible. Craig Koester's commentary on Revelation that I ordered online early September 2014 has finally arrived, after more than 12 months in waiting. I had practically given up hope that the book would ever reach me. I wrote patiently to the online vendor and the person in charge was good most times to reply to my queries. When I bought the book at USD120 plus another 19USD in postage, altogether it cost USD139. One year ago at about 3.1 Ringgit to the Dollar, it was RM430.00. At today's rate, my book is now RM615.00 (4.43RM to the Dollar). The Ringgit has fallen 30% against the USD in just over a year. That's why I called it my last book because at the current exchange rate, it is simply unaffordable to purchase books from the USA.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Weekend Round-Up: Blood Moon & Mooncakes

There is much ado with the moon. The moon, says the Psalmist, is a sign from God who dwells in heaven (Psalm 89). It signifies God's intentions for the world. Jewish and Chinese calendars are lunar calendars. Every major Jewish feast day falls on a full moon. Yesterday was a convergence of several astronomical signs and major festivals. It was the 4th blood moon in 2 years, each of the 4 total lunar eclipses falling on consecutive Passover and Tabernacles (2014 & 2015). For the Chinese, the largest group in the world of some 1.5 billion people, Mooncake or mid-autumn festival was celebrated yesterday. Even a member of my Dusun church in Ranau gave me a box of mooncakes and my kind neighbour in KK as well. But I am more interested in the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, the third and final major Feast in Israel. It is also called the Feast of ingathering, where at the end of the year harvests are brought in and celebrated before the Lord.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I am not Alone

Jesus said that twice in John's Gospel: "I am not alone". It is one of the many paradoxical statements in the fourth Gospel. Jesus as usual is at his ironical self. He knows how lonely he is but asserts he is not alone. Speaking God's Word and seeking God's glory is a lonely job. There is no love lost for many hearers as many more often than not reject the Word of God and the glory that is God's alone.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pastors, Elders and Learning of God's Word

The king's heart is like rivers of waters, you turn it at will. This is another verse from the Psalms or is it Proverbs? I have many things planned one day but the next after some reflection it might be just wishful thinking when reality hits, it can draw one away even from one's strongest ideals. I was reading on Nehemiah's reforms this morning and how when it comes to the law he allowed the expert to take over and Ezra it was who gave the rendition of the reading of the Law on the 7th month. As we enter now into the month of Tishri, the 7th month, just a few days before the feast of Tabernacles, it does us good to reflect the way we do church. Does the ministry and learning of God's Word have central place in the life of the congregation? It was to Ezra, the heads of the clans and families came to learn the Law on the 2nd day of the 7th month (Neh 8,13). Moses had enjoined that on the 7th year in the 7th month, on the Feast of Tabernacles, Israelites are to come together in Jerusalem, the place where the Lord would choose and listen to the exposition of the Law. The problem today is this.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Scrolls, Codices & Bible Knowledge

The Hebrew Bible books were written on papyrus, leather/parchment or copper rolls. Even apostle Paul asked Timothy not to forget to bring the scrolls and parchments to him in prison. Apparently prison was a good place to study and refresh oneself in Scripture before the heat of ministry outside. Today we have tens of thousands tools, books, Internet, apps aplenty but increasing biblical illiteracy. I am astonished but greatly saddeed. No wonder as Ecclesiastes put it, those who have knowledge will grief or mourn more seeing how the ignorant goes on their way without knowledge and truth.

I am excited with what I am doing with young teenagers. You need to start them young.  Once late teens or early twenties, their minds are pretty set and difficult to learn or unlearn anything that hinders true knowledge and wisdom.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Origins of the Bible

The Bible is the best attested ancient literature in the world. Copies of the Bible date to the time of Christ or 100 years before Christ. The Bible of the early Christians, the Septuagint was written in 280BC under the patronage of Ptolemy of the Seleciud empire. The Qumran or Dead Sea scrolls, mostly in Hebrew and contained fragments of almost every book of the Hebrew Bible (later Christian OT). Scrolls of the book of Isaiah, Deuteronomy and Daniel were intact. When one compares with the Masoretic text of the Leningrad scroll of early 11th century AD, the two most ancient copies of the Hebrew Bibles are almost identical in content though slight variants exist. This is remarkable considering more than 1,000 years separates the DSS and the MT. It tells the incredible precision in copying of the scribes at work making sure the biblical text word by word remains exactly as it is written in the beginning. The Greek New Testament as it was more recent comparatively speaking, is even better attested.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Changing Flags & Governments Down Under

I am relishing my holidays while it lasts. I have some free time to follow my other passions, news from Down Under while at the same time resetting my schedule for the next couple of weeks. After the public holiday on Thursday I shall be back to work. First up, on Saturday two lectures in a Youth Conference on "The Origins of the Bible." I will be preaching on Sunday and next Wednesday. I am chairing a leaders' meeting on Sunday, probably deciding then whether we are taking the next door unit for church expansion. The rent is a bit high but without space, we can't grow any further. This will be followed by an End-time Seminar in Bundu Tuhan (near Kinabalu Parks) on 3rd October. On the next public holiday on 14th October I will lecturing on "The Role and Function of Elders" and "Holy Communion" for a Church Sacrament Seminar held by Ranau District. We are expecting 150 participants, pastors (18), elders (30) and deacons (100) to turn up from all 26 local churches. In the past few days, I have been following news from Down Under. First, Aussie Jason Day becoming World no.1 Golfer. With Lydia Ko, a New Zealander becoming the youngest female major golf winner and youngest ever world no. 1 before going down to no. 2 at present, You can only be amazed at how two small countries (Australia is a big country but small in population of 22 million) can produce world champions.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ministry within Ministry

During the All Night Prayer meeting, we had 6 sessions of one hour long prayer with 3 breaks in between. Together with dinner and breakfast we had had 5 breaks during which time I rested not but fielded questions from eager secondary students.

First Sunday Away

I worshipped in my homechurch in KK today. It is my first Sunday away from my Ranau church. I felt a bit distance from everything. I needed time and space for rest and reflection after the intensity of ministry since the June earthquake. I needed breathing space to regather my thoughts for battles ahead.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Accumulation of Stuff

History sometimes repeats itself. I have accumulated various things in my six years in Singapore. When I had to leave, half my things I had to give away or throw away. Now in my 9th month in Ranau, I fear I am beginning to accumulate stuff again. After six months I bought a microwave. I have a bigger one in KK. I have several kettles in KK but I bought another small kettle the other day for the purpose. Sometimes when my wife goes back to KK, I only need to boil water for one person. Now I have two sets of almost everything. Ironically I am not sure how long I will be staying in Ranau. I can't say the thought of moving back to KK or Singapore has not crossed my mind. What about my things in Ranau?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Blogging as Spiritual Journaling

I guess due to time constraints my blog has evolved into a kind of spiritual journaling.  I don't have much time to write on biblical or theological matters except that I hope my blog posts will always be biblical and theologically grounded and I hope it is helpful to those in leadership and ministry. With two weeks' time in organizing the All Night Prayer Meeting and almost 400 people turning up at 10pm, I reckon it was a qualified success. This morning I read of King Hezekiah's reforms in 2 Chr 29-31. He sent letters of invitation to the north, Ephraim and Manasseh to come to Jerusalem for Passover and his messengers were mocked and ridiculed. Although I did not face a similar fate, I realized getting the 26 churches to work together is a herculean task.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

All Night Prayer on Malaysia Day

It's now 36 hours since we concluded our All Night Prayer Meeting. Those who heeded my call to prayer came. About 100 secondary students from my church came. The hosting church took 9 trips to fetch the students from their hostels. Without them, I would think the prayer meet would be less exciting. It is exciting to see young people focused on prayer. They stayed up whole night until the end. Their voices rose to the heavens and the Lord heard our cries from unfeigned lips. There were a few notable firsts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Praying All Night

First time in my life I stayed up all night till morning came. I was struggling with sleepiness by 4.30am and the last 2 hours of an endurance test trying not to doze off and kept praying. I am glad at the end of the all night prayer meeting more than 200 had stayed up and reached the finish line. We stopped praying at 6.40am followed by breakfast.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Malaysia Day's All Night Prayer

If you live in the vicinity of Ranau, I would like to extend an invitation for you to attend the all night prayer meeting on the eve of Malaysia Day, beginning at sunset today to sunrise tomorrow. It is also the close of the 2-day Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana (Lev 23:23-25) where trumpets are blown throughout the land. It is poignant that we should blow the trumpet of prayer so that our nation, Malaysia rise up from its present gloom and doom. Ranau residents in particular have much to pray for in the light of the June earthquake and ongoing tremors (about 5 tremors above RS3 in the past fortnight alone) and one strong tremor struck Ranau as recent as three days ago. It's also Malaysia Day, our National Day proper since before 16th September 1963, Malaysia did not yet exist.

Monday, September 14, 2015

From Sunday to Sunday

I was yawning all the way feeling not a little anxious when all the preliminaries be done with and I would get up the pulpit to preach. It was about 9.30pm when the call came and I duly preached a 30 min sermon. It was my 7th sermon in 8 days and praise be to God for it could only be the power of the Holy Spirit that I could still preach after a day which started at 5.30am with no rest the whole day. By the time I reached the church at 7.15 am there were already 50 students gathered at the stairs and by 7.45am the church was filled up. For a second week running all seats were taken and there was no room to move except the small stage which we put 5 chairs last Sunday.  There must be at least 250 people crowded into a 1,000 Sq ft. Space.  I thought there would be less people in the 2nd service as I took out two rows of chairs in front so that I did not have to sit right at the edge of the stage and strained my neck to look up the screen in front. But lo and behold by 10.20 am,  most seats were taken up and we had to put a row of chairs in front and I moved up accordingly. I preached a fairly lengthy message of 45 mins on the theme 100 days after the earthquake and it so happened that last evening was the start of the Jewish new year Rosh Hashana, the first day of Tishri, the 7th month.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Singapore's General Election: PAP's Masterclass

I woke up at 2am to check on news of the polling results of Singapore's GE. Ten minutes later, a strong tremor hit Ranau and my house shook twice for a few seconds. Political happenings are earth-shattering events. And Singapore's ruling party, PAP experienced a revival from 2011's slumber and crushed the opposition with a 9.8% swing. It was PAP's masterclass in electioneering and winning votes. My earlier predictions in "Electoral Masterstroke" all came true. PAP increased its popular votes (though I was way off the margin as I thought it would increase only by 3%), WP retained most of its seats (6 out 7) and other opposition parties were obliterated. Though in the last couple of days before polling I thought there could be just a chance for WP to wrest a couple more seats and just that slim chance that SDP could cause a major upset in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. Dr Chee is an accomplished public speaker, the best of all really but it will take time for Singaporeans to forget his past failures and failings (real or otherwise) knowing that Singaporeans are ever so cautious and slow to accept anything or anyone except that the person is spanky clean and useful to them. Why did PAP score such a resounding victory?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Polling Day in Singapore

I can't wait until 10pm when preliminary results will be telecast live. I hope Astro Awani (501) brings the Singapore's GE results live. I have the most basic TV package (Njoi) without Channel News Asia (my favourite channel in Singapore) and other live feeds. I thought since I am out most nights anyway and come back exhausted there is not much time for TV. But tonight will be a different story. I remember well in the 2011's GE, the returning officer was the star of the night with his straight-faced and dead-panned manner as he announced the results one by one as they came in. I wonder why in such a modern IT society like Singapore, all results are still not known by 2am or 3am the next morning.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Village Churches in Ranau (2)

I didn't realize that last night I had preached my 4th sermon in 4 days. It was the last thing that I wanted to do after a 4-hour trip to 5 villages followed by a joint meeting for the whole night prayer meeting from 5pm to 7pm. I rushed home to take a shower and by 7.45pm I was back in church to start the Wednesday evening service. I am glad that the song leader was anointed last night and it made the difference. I sensed an empowering of the Lord as I worshipped and the word of the Lord that came to me was "The joy of the Lord is our strength" (Nehemiah). I was refreshed in the presence of the Lord. I spoke powerfully for 30 minutes on Unity in Prayer and Leadership based on Acts 1. Our church is in the process of renting a larger space to cater for growth in numbers, but there are times that I felt I was all alone in leading and getting things done, hence the call for leaders to buck up and unite in prayers. My trip to these 5 villages yesterday was a welcome break from the grind of sermon preparation though even while driving it was never far from my mind about what I was going to preach.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Village Churches in Ranau

I went on a loop with my fellow pastor to carry letters of invitations to the Whole night prayer meeting next week on Malaysia Day.  I felt a bit like in ancient times when letters of apostles are carried by hand by letter couriers, trusted friends of the apostle-letter writers. If we had sent by post it will be a bit too late as most village churches either have a mailbox in Ranau's post office and often leaders from these villages pick up their letters once a fortnight. So this morning I had a wonder drive on a 4x4, which makes the trip a lot more comfortable than in a sedan or worse in a motorcycle. My fellow pastor who accompanied related to me how he met with 3 accidents on a motorcycle or scooter in the course of ministry. On these village dirt and rocky roads, the most common form of transport for not so well to do pastors is the scooter.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I am 4 Minimum Wage

Taking a break from the intensity of ministry for me is reading and following politics, especially those that interest me like Singapore's GE this Friday. One issue that has been raised by several opposition parties is a minimum wage for workers and Workers' Party went as far to suggest that it should be S$1,000.00 per month. I read counter-arguments written by several experts, economists and politicians but I am not convinced that imposition of a minimum wage will put a dampener on a country's economy. I cite this post from Singaporedaily (see here) and I will try to answer his/her arguments against minimum wage.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Red Chairs & Records

My fellow elder whispered to me that before the church started the 2nd service 2 years ago, the numbers that attended Sunday service once exceeded 300 adults.  Today we broke records and the red chairs which had never been used since I came had to be cleaned to provide seats for those standing at the stairs waiting outside to come in. Twice I was interrupted in my sermon to allow movement of late comers to find seats around me. So my prayer for a larger space took on added urgency and lo and behold as soon as I reached home my phone rang and the church Treasurer told me that the landlord next door was prapared to let us view his shop unit.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Preaching Cycle

I can't imagine at the start of my pastorate that I would be preaching as much as I am doing now. Ironically, I have sole charge of the pulpit ministry in church. It has been my principle not to preach more than twice a week but more often than not, this plan does not seem to work. So I am adapting to my preaching cycle of rest and preach. Yesterday I got up at 5am after an overnight trip in KK to head back to Ranau by 8.30am. I had a full day of work including planning for a whole night prayer on Malaysia Day, 15th to 16th September.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Managing the House of the Lord

What is the house of the Lord? Obviously in the New Testament it is the people, the believers that make up the church, the body of Christ. But people live in space and time (one of my Masters students did a thesis on this). Early church met in homes of believers. By 4th century basilicas and cathedrals were built. Today most believers meet in buildings designated for worship. Usually when Christians call church, it is the building where we worship the Lord. The church building is normally managed by church leaders. At the church office the head is usually the pastor or senior pastor if he has a few pastors working with him. So the pastor is the manager of the house of the Lord. Most churches have church offices, often in the same building or adjacent to the worship hall. Sometimes, it is some distance away from the church, where the pastor and his staff work in the office when there are no services in church.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Merdeka Meeting

It was a bleak National Day. It is difficult to feel joyful with so many unresolved political issues and the economy is facing a downturn with the free fall of the Ringgit. National leaders cannot expect blind loyalty from its citizens unless they gain respect by serving the public good. They need to be credible in the eyes of its rakyat and they can't presume on support if they fail to live up to their pledges of integrity and goodwill. I had a Merdeka meeting with University students from my church with two sixth formers turning up as well. I need to encourage this young generation per chance they could also influence the church for good and through the church society at large.