Friday, October 30, 2015

Worship Team in Worship Mode

I was reluctant to give my go-ahead when my worship team asked that they meet every alternate Thursday for worship and mutual encouragement. I told the deacon in charge of the worship ministry that I have only Thursday off and it will be difficult to attend another meeting in the week. But I relented somewhat and the worship team started their meeting late last month. I went for the first time last night and shared a devotion on the 63rd Psalm. I noticed several things happening during last night's meeting. The attendance was about 40 people, mostly youths about the same numbers with our mid-week service of mostly adults. Second, the structure of the meeting was extremely innovative. The meeting started with an ice-breaker/game and those caught up were asked to share their testimonies. How nice. For once I got to listen to my members' testimonies though I had encouraged them to come forward on a Sunday but being a bit shy, none had taken up the offer. Yesterday I heard four youths sharing how the Lord blessed them during the week.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Gospel for all Nations

We pride ourselves as a great commission church. Our motto is "make disciples of all nations..." but an overwhelming majority of my church members comes from one ethnic group. Even in Ranau we have many ethnic groups or "nations" (ethne). Last night I preached one of the toughest messages to date. I am sure I made a few people uncomfortable. I preached from Eph 2,11-19 and Romans 14-15. I knew I had to cover that in about 30 minutes and at the end I preached for about 40 mins. Midweek sermons are normally short and soft, but last night I challenged the church to ask itself why the church is not as multiracial as it should be? Second, is it because of the system, leadership structure and how we do ministry (pendekatan pelayanan)? What do we need changing if we want to see other races and tribes come into our church? Sometimes our lingo is so mono-cultural that other groups will have no idea what we are on about. Several times, Paul used the key phrase, "both parties into one" in the Ephesians 2 passage. Jews and non-Jews (nations) brought together as one people, one church by the blood of Christ. In fact, Paul says "to create a new man out of the two..." as if a new humanity is formed when Jews and Gentiles sit together and worship in one accord.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Clear Blue Skies & Pauline Theology

It's sometimes hoped that the journey of our lives will be like a bed of roses. But rarely it turns out to be clear blue skies all the times. The haze had reached Ranau last Saturday though it had not gotten past into the unhealthy range of psi 100 and above. So for the past few days the clear blue skies over our heads are a welcome sight. Often we take the good things of nature for granted, sunshine and rain in their seasons. In the end time when climate change is a major challenge, Christians like everyone else will have to face up to an uncertain future and an increasing unpredictable weather. This will include haze from neighbouring countries. As much as we want to help them change their ways, it is unlikely to happen unless change comes from within.

"Direct Communion with the Divine Being"

"The religion of the Jews from its first beginning to its fullest development in Christianity was founded on the belief that human nature can, in certain cases, at certain moments in the life of certain individuals, come into direct communion with the Divine Being, and can thus learn the purpose and will of God. In other words, God occasionally reveals Himself to man." William Ramsay, Pauline Studies, p. 3.

"The issue was that he did become the recipient of revela- tion, and that his life was profoundly affected, and his views revolutionised thereby. He repeatedly described himself, or is described by others, as having both seen the Lord and heard His voice.

Now what do we understand by this? The question cannot and ought not to be evaded. Paul's words are too clear and strong to be passed over as inexact or unim- portant. He declared emphatically that the revelations made to him, the words spoken to him, and the sights granted to his eyes, were his greatest privilege and honour, constituted the motive power of all his action, and sup- plied the whole spirit and essence of his life. Those re- velations, and especially the first of them, when he saw Jesus on the way, as he was now nigh unto Damascus, were in his view the most real events of his life. In com- parison with them, all else was mere shadow and semblance; in those moments he had come in contact with the truth of the world, the Divine reality. He had been permitted to become aware of the omnipresent God who is everywhere around us and in us." (p. 9).

Monday, October 26, 2015

Belated Blessings

Have you wondered why sometimes God delays in answering our prayers? One is to teach us to patiently wait for something we long for, Second, it could be that God knows exactly when we need the blessings or answers to our prayers. Yesterday, I preached on prayers in the first service from the Sermon on the Mount. I did not realize that I had preached for 30 mins until I saw the clock ticked 9.30am our scheduled end. But announcements took 15 mins and I knew from early on we were in trouble since we had holy communion and with a packed church of about 290 people it took a while before everyone was served. Normally we would mobilize 4 deacons but yesterday we had 6 deacons serving the emblems. So I only took to the pulpit to preach when the clock was showing 9am. Ask, and you shall receive seek and you shall find and knock and the door shall be opened unto you.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Lord is Present

I don't need fancy worship teams. We don't have a full band. Our stage is only 15ft x 7. It was so crammed today that 5 musicians squeezed behind the pulpit. I was reminded of the movie Antman when I saw how many people were on stage this morning. It was not the greatest of worship sessions today. But the students did a good job. I did not need to exhort people to give money. In fact I mildly rebuked the song leader for asking the congregation whether they had given their offerings. We don't do that. It is a competely free will offering. People can give and people can choose not to give. No questions asked. No mini sermon before the collection bags are passed round. Just a brief prayer to ask God to bless his people who give and bless those who can't give so that they are financially provided for. I don't need fancy church programmes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Pastor's Wife (Revelation 2:20)

Any serious reader of the book of Revelation knows that Codex Alexandrinus (Codex A, early 5th century AD) is considered the most reliable of the ancient manuscripts for the Greek text of John's Revelation. Without some basic Hebrew and Greek, many important points will be missed in exegesis and interpretation of the Bible. One reading in Codex A for Revelation 2:20 is that instead "you allow the woman, Jezebel to teach..." we have the reading, "You allow your woman (wife), Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants..." The Greek word, "sou" (your) is found in Codex A and other manuscripts (esp. important is 046) but usually Bible translators chose not to follow the reading of Codex A in this instance for they think (wrongly) angels could not have wives. But if angels of Rev 2-3 are human messengers, then the preferred reading of Codex A should not be dismissed so easily.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sad Day 4 Singaporean Churches

I just received news that the six accused in the City Harvest Church's breach of trust case that occupied prime news for the past 2 years have been found guilty. Sentencing will be on a later date. When my Singaporean visitors told me about the case a few days ago, I told them that they would likely be found guilty but the appeal process could go on for years. Further, with the amount involved (SG50 million), the jail term for the senior pastor could be as long as 5 or 6 years or even more. It is a sad day for Singaporean churches. I was right in the thick of action when the case commenced in 2012 with many Christians asking for my opinion or talking about the case. I tried to avoid being personal and looked straight into the issues involved. First, the China Wine video was shown to me in 2007, a year before I went to Singapore in 2008 and my homechurch member asked my opinion whether Christians should sing and dance like that.

Monday, October 19, 2015

An International Service

It was a truly international service yesterday. We had a medley of 4 songs, three in Malay and one in English. Then the worship song was Agnus Dei in English and Malay as we had two guests from Singapore in our midst. We didn't want them to feel left out but at least could worship together when we sang the English songs. To make it a truly indigenous service the offering song was in Dusun, the language of my church members, the majority tribe of Sabah. It was accompanied by a beautiful dance by 4 young ladies of the church. It was a memorable service. I preached from Matthew 's Gospel on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus saying on "do not give what is holy to the dogs, do not give pearls to the pigs lest they trample on you..."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Truly Indigenous Service?

In my 26 years as an SIB member, it was my first time experiencing an entire praise and worship in Dusun songs with one song in Murut. So for 45 mins I stood and clapped and occasionally danced to tunes and lyrics that I understood not. My friend and principal of the Bible College perhaps took pity on me and interpreted a stanza or two. I prayed for the gift of interpretation of tongues but none was forthcoming.  I was bemused why the song leader chose all Dusun songs since the guest of honour for the night was none other than our Vice President from the Lundayeh tribe. He probably knew more Dusun than me but not much more. As one of the main speakers of the seminar that day, in fact I opened the seminar with a key note lecture on the Function, Duty and Responsibility of Elders in the Church to 87 elders and deacons.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Alfred Plummer's Pastoral Epistles

"There are huge masses of evil in the world, which seem to defy the good influences that from time to time are brought to bear upon them. Humanly speaking, there seems to be only one hope of overcoming these strongholds of Satan,-and that is by the combined efforts of many enthusiasts. "This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith." It will be a grievous prospect for mankind, if faith in God, in ourselves, and in our fellow-men becomes so unfashionable as to be impossible. And this is the faith which makes enthusiasts. If we have not this faith ourselves, we can at least respect it in others. If we cannot play the part of Timothy, and go forth with glowing hearts to whatever difficult and distasteful work may be placed before us, we can at least avoid chilling and disheartening others ; and sometimes at least we may so far follow in the footsteps of St. Paul as to protect from the world's cynicism those who, with hearts more warm perhaps than wise, are labouring manfully to leave the world purer and happier than they found it." (p. 31, Timothy, the Beloved Disciple of St. Paul)

Monday, October 12, 2015

On the Divine Name

I have this long-standing interest in doing some research on the name of God. But today I came across the video posted by BibleEx of Mark Futato's 9min lecture. It is an excellent introduction (see here). I asked Professor Richard Bauckham during his visit to TTC in 2013 whether Jesus referred to or pronounced the name of God.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Every Ounce of my Energy

Man shall not live by rice alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt 4,4). Today despite preaching twice over two services, I preached a longish sermon expounding on Deuteronomy 10,12-22. Eleven verses to explicate and if 4 mins are given to one verse, something of an impossibility, I would have taken 44 mins. But the sermon went for 50 mins from 10.30 to 11.20am. By then, I had spent every ounce of my energy and after a freshening up back home I went for lunch with my guitarist, a man in his late 30s and the only person in church whom I could speak English with. What a relief! We talked for more than an hour until 1.30pm and I went home to rest.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Spreading Wings

My year of hiatus in flying is about to be over. It was on the 24th October last year I flew for the last time making my final trip back to Sabah. Despite several invitations to teach outside of Sabah this year I told myself I was not going to fly for at least a year. I expect to travel next year, if not this December to attend a former student's wedding in Singapore. Sing dollar dropped just so slightly in the past couple of days. If not, I have a confirmed invitation to teach in KL after Chinese New Year in mid February 2016. After making 7 trips in 2013 and 6 trips in 2014, it is wonderful feeling that I don't have to board a plane in 2015.

Friday, October 9, 2015

9 Months & 9 Days

I have survived.  The number 9 in Chinese symbolises longevity and in the beginning of my current pastorate I seriously doubt I could last 6 months. More so after the June 5th earthquake when difficulties multiplied in terms of locating water and clean water for drinking. Electricity was intermittent at best and the constant aftershocks were a reminder that this world is passing away and all things are being shaken, literally and spiritually. I looked at some of the photos in the past 9 months and how the Lord in His inscrutable ways makes His will known to his unworthy servant. I looked at my congregation that I have grown to love and now very much part of my family literally and spiritually since none of my family members except my wife and son are in Christ as yet.

Monday, October 5, 2015

He who Thirsts let him Come to Me and Drink!

It was purely God's grace that I could preach two full sermons after a hectic weekend of Friday sermon and Saturday's end-time seminar. During the first song of the first service I was ushered into God's presence by His mercy and I had a vision. My inner being was stirred and out of it flowed mighty currents of God's Spirit. I was at the point of giving up and sought the Lord's counsel as to my future. Do you really want me to pastor this church? Do you want me to remain in Ranau? The Lord did not give me answers to my anxiety but He allowed me to see that He was the shepherd of the flock and He was holding my hand as I pastor the church. Lord, if You are the shepherd then all things will be well. I can't afford to allow a couple of individuals to cause trouble and hinder the work of God. Manifestly, it was the Lord's doing that He had added to the numbers of the congregation.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Love is Strong as Death

Cinta kuat seperti muat  (song of songs 8,5). I preached on this verse in the first service this morning to about 280 people. Every seat was taken, there was no more aisle and for the first time we had to put chairs outside the door. Those who sat outside actually met with me after service and they said they could hear me loud and clear. With one aircon down we had to bear with heat but most kampung folks know hardship and they did not complain. I spoke about love and falling in love and what true love meant. I shared 3 things about love.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

12th End-Time Seminar: Earthquakes and Haze

My holding of an end-time seminar on Saturday in another church almost caused some misunderstanding among my church leaders why I was not holding one in my own church. Maybe I have not explained to them that my own homechurch, a church I pastored from 2003 to 2008 had to wait 10 years before I held a seminar there in 2013 on invitation when I was still in Singapore. I have particular requirements or rules before I conduct any end time seminar. The church must prove to be worthy and they must be really keen to have me do the seminar with them. The book of Revelation is not every one's cup of tea. The book of Revelation is God's secrets revealed to those who truly desire His coming. They overcome and they are conquerors. They are not nominal Christians or Sunday Christians. For those who genuinely seek to know, God's mystery will be revealed.

John, His Gospel and Jesus

I read a couple of blogs on Stan Porter's forthcoming book on John's Gospel. It is the only book I taught twice as a day-time MDiv course at TTC, Singapore. It is a Gospel more than the book of Revelation or any other biblical book that holds my interest and admiration. Only in John you have two cryptic numbers, 153 large fishes in the Gospel and 666 in Revelation. Last night I preached about Jesus going up to the Feast of Tabernacles from John 7. In the midst of the Feast (7:14), Jesus went up to the Temple and taught there. I guess John the beloved disciple recorded many of Jesus' teachings in the Jerusalem Temple during Feast Days that were not found in the Synoptic Gospels. One simple explanation is that Jesus often took his three closest disciples on his journeys, Peter, James and John. John, who laid at Jesus' bosom at the Last Supper probably knew the heart of Jesus more than any disciple, Peter included. Jesus would have in private conversations told John many things now recorded as part of the fourth Gospel. I would not blink an eye to purchase when I come across books like Porter's (only USD30.00) but converted to Ringgit plus postage it will be close to RM250.00. That's half a month's salary for many of my fellow pastors here in Sabah. But last night I preached a powerful message on John 7. I think I made some people felt uncomfortable. Sometimes it is good to stir things a little instead of feel-good sermons and therapeutic messages. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged word. It cuts both ways.