Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Gift of Reading

Search in the book of the Lord and read....(Isaiah 34:16). Today I preached from this verse of the prophet Isaiah to the College community. Today was my first Sunday at the College Sunday service. After 10 mins into the sermon, the electricity supply went down and I continued preaching uninterrupted as I had a loud and clear voice and about 100 people today heard God's message. I spoke about three things, the habit and culture of reading. I bemoaned how in Malaysia this habit of reading is hardly evident. I spoke about spending time in airports and few Asians would be reading but many Europeans and Westerners would have a book in their hands and they read. I spoke about reading God's Word, the Bible. I spoke about the privilege of having in our possession, Scripture, the inspired Word of God. Heavens and earth shall pass away but my words will stand forever... I spoke about the gift of reading and I shared how I discovered that I had the gift of reading when I was pastor of my home church more than 10 years ago. I could read fast. I could read a book or two in a couple of days.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

"There is no Joy to the Ungodly" (LXX Isaiah 48:22)

As I was reflecting on last night's message where a deacon of my church preached about "joy" as one quality that characterized Christians. I can't agree more. As his message was brief as usual only 15 mins I saw the clock showing 8:40pm, I decided to share a brief testimony on joy. I experienced great joy last Sunday during the worship of the first service. I was leaping for joy and a sense of exhilarating joy swept over me again and again. I was caught up in visions of the Lord and sensed the joy of the Lord over those who are righteous and obedient to His will. I spoke about the worship song concerning one thing I asked of You and told my congregation that I asked the Lord for one thing, that is to do His will and be found in the centre of His will.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Faith & Truth

I preached from 1 Tim 2,1-7 this morning. Normally for morning Chapel 3rd and 4th year students preach but after consultation wth colleagues I decided to give myself a slot on Tuesdays,  pesanan dari pemangku. I explained 3 verses, the first couple of verses on praying for the nation and its leaders given the Malaysian political and economic situation caused by numerous scandals in the past year. Second and significantly I preached on verse 7 that Paul claimed that he was a preacher and teacher to the Gentiles in faith and truth. I told the COLLEGE community that every servant of God must be one who has faith in God and in Jesus Christ and in his power and grace to save those who come to Him. How else can we preach faith if we ourselves had not experienced the wonder working power of God? I challenged the students to rely on God and not men. I told them that I had never asked anything for myself in ministry even for ministry needs or theological education.

Monday, February 22, 2016

My Greek Class

I had to make a pitch for the Year 3 and Year 4 students to have another go at Greek. After 3 weeks of John 1, verse by verse I had to revert to Wenham's textbook starting from lesson 2. It will be  thorough revision for some but for most it could be the first time they learn Greek properly. I decided I had to start from the beginning because most students simply could not cope with some of the elementary Greek grammar. It's like rebuidling the walls of Jerusalem.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Discipleship Workshop

It's been a tough couple of days filled with activities organized by the Ranau Pastors' Fellowship. Thankfully, all these were accompanied with joy of the Holy Spirit and it was evident as we ended the workshop for photo taking session. Sixty pastors including a few elders from 5 surrounding SIB Districts attended the discipleship workshop conducted by a Singaporean church elder who specialized in discipleship and education in general. His many tertiary qualifications include a Masters of Education from Harvard University. Twice we had to increase the lunch budget to cater for double the numbers we anticipated.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Short & Sweet

Compared to my previous resignation as pastor, this time round my notice was short. Last time I gave 5 months' notice but it is only 2 months this time. I have learnt my lesson that it would be good for both sides not to have too long a period when a pastor is about to leave the church while he still preaches in the meantime. Today I've preached my final double whamper. There is hardly any more difficult task than to preach twice consecutively in high octane with fire and brimstone messages.  I preached from 2 Tim 3,1-17 but picked on several parts over 35 mins. In the 2nd service,  I continued to ch. 4 and preached from the first 8 verses over 30 mins. The theme is the function of God's Word. As 2 Tim is considered Paul's swansong or farewell address, I tried to link that with my impending departure. Although I attempted to hide my sadness over my departure, several of the testimonies were given to place my ministry in a broader context of pastoring this church for nearly 14 months today.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Liminality & Wilderness

Liminality is the word that denotes a "threshold", a quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete (Wikipedia). Many God's chosen servants have to go through such processes and rituals of liminality before they reach their full potential and fulfill what God has ordained for them. Even John the Baptist, a transitional figure lived in the wilderness or at the edge of the wilderness when crowds had to leave their cities and towns in order to hear John preached in wilderness of Judea. Jesus himself went through 40-day test in the wilderness before he returned to the cities and villages filled with the Holy Spirit to preach the coming kingdom of God. Jesus would from time to time return to the wilderness to take a break from ministry and then returned to the cities.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

MTS Magazine Launched

This morning at Chapel we launched the College magazine with faculty and editorial committee members each getting a free copy. I thank a good friend from Singapore for footing a large part of the printing costs. We hope this magazine will promote Maktab Teologi Sabah (Sabah Theological College) among our friends near and far. There are several needs highlighted in the Magazine. The collection of books in the library and also family quarters in the College require urgent refurbishment and renovation. The training of the indigneous pastors from the tribal peoples of Borneo remains the college's main focus plus tribes from Orang Asli in West Malaysia. We will find an opportune time to launch BOAS (Bangi Orang Asli Scholarship Fund) to encourage students from these two communities to study at MTS.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Near Namaus, the Wilderness

The Lord spoke to me from the most unlikely of Scriptural text. Oftentimes we think that geographical details in the Bible are just asides or narrative markers but they are just as much as part of inspired Scripture. When I was thinking about giving up my pastorate a couple of weeks ago I came across this verse in John 11,54, Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness and there he stayed with his disciples. Ranau might not be one of the biggest towns in Sabah but it is still a town but after 13 months, I realized the Lord was leading me further from town into the country side, near the wilderness of Namaus where the Bible College is located.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Enemies Everywhere

Korea,  here I come. If the Lord wills, I will be heading to Seoul this July, straight after my term expires at College. I shall be attending the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature from 3rd to 7th July and also the Society of Asian Biblical Studies meet a day earlier.  I hope to spend a couple of days in Seoul after the Congress to see for myself the beauty of Korea. If accepted, I will present a paper on the Psalms, "Enemies Everywhere: The Psalmist's Struggle for Survival".

Monday, February 8, 2016

First & Last

Today was a happy day. Yesterday was a sad day as the church council officially accepted my resignation and committed me to serve full time at the College. But new year brought new hope and with a few church friends and a colleague from College we celebrated Lunar New Year at my house in Ranau. For the first time, I had so many guests over for lunch though once or twice before family members had stayed with us. One elder came at 10am and we spoke heart to heart for more than 2 hours before others arrived.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Putting a Smile on the Face

One of the tasks of leadership is putting a smile on the face of those we lead. Yesterday, despite the Lunar New Year holidays, I decided to cut short my KK trip and return to Ranau. As I arrived in Ranau at 5pm, I turned on my phone and saw the message that one of the students was hospitalized due to appendicitis.  My wife and I visited her at the Ranau hospital. I was glad to see another student caring for her College mate in need. I spoke briefly with the student in some discomfort after the operation but she was holding up well.

Friday, February 5, 2016

One Month On

One would think that one month on things would be more settled but it is far from it. On the home front, my new home at the Bible College, things are moving along smoothly. We just made the decision to transfer a staff to become the new librarian since she has a degree in Library and Information Management. What a waste if it is not put to use. There are two most things about a theological College. First, the strength of the faculty and a close second would be library resources. Get these two things right we are on the way of becoming an institution of repute. But there are many things to do. We have many old buildings and some need urgent repairs, refurbishment and some perhaps demolition. My twin focus for the first month was my colleagues and students. I need to win them over. I already chaired 4 faculty meetings and there are a sleuth of new measures and initiatives.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Following God's Leading

Following Jesus is perhaps the major theme in all four Gospels, including the spiritual Gospel, which is John's. Jesus said, "If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; where I am, there my servant shall be" (John 12:26). Only after 48 hours since I announced to my church that I was leaving the church as pastor, many doors are being opened. If we cling on former things, new things cannot come to pass. It was not without risk that I let go. My church has given me a steady income for the past 13 months while there is no guarantee there is an income from the College though supposedly I hold the reins of leadership.