Sunday, July 31, 2016

Free to Worship

I am enjoying my time of break while it lasts.  I am waiting for the 2nd service of SIB SKYLINE to start. The first service is about to end and I can see about 300 people inside. Yesterday I think for the first time in 20 years I preached 3 sermons in a row, two in the morning and one at 2pm. These were long sermons, the first one went for 1 hour and 10 mins and second close to an hour but the last one only 45 mins.  It was a good time of fellowship with the Kawasan Taginambur leaders, the meetings were only for men or wira. 154 registered but the attendance was close to 200 men. Thanks be to GOD. It is not easy to get 200 men to spend the whole of Saturday from 8.30 am to 4pm and attend three long services. There was a major NGO AGM going on at the same time and rain and rained it did for a whole day.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Blade, Head and Full Grain (Luke 13:32-33; Mark 4:28-29)

In Luke 13:32-33, Jesus' cryptic saying about I must go on today, tomorrow and the next day has been a lamp post as far as my ministry is concerned. These three days represent the three phases of the Lord's ministry in Luke's Gospel - Galilee's, the journey to Jerusalem and His passion. For ordinary mortals, these three days represent the three phases of our lives and ministry in the Lord. I am entering the phase of tomorrow in my middle age, truly into my second half of life and it could last for 15 or so years. Then my final stage will be brief - a few short years and then it's quits or in a more spiritual tone, I would have run and finished my course. In Mark 4:28-29, another enigmatic parable concerning the growth of a plant - first the blade/stalk, then the head/ear and the full grain in the head - again three stages of growth as mysteriously as it is the growth of a seed buried in the soil, there are three discernible growth spurts - three stages of life for a plant.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Past 50 - Birthdays & Presents

When one is past 50, one might not want others to remember their birthdays. I read in one British survey that middle age begins only at 55 and old age does not begin until 74. Then I can consider myself still young, young in heart and by God's grace filled with His energy to soar with wings like eagles (Isaiah 40). These few weeks of rest and inactivity have done me a world of good, seeing how hectic and stressful the first half of the year had been. I have gained a couple of pounds, even when I got back from Korea I was told that I looked different from the haggard and tired Pemangku of the second quarter of the year. The third quarter of 2016 is rest and I hope in the Lord I can get back on my feet in terms of some form of ministry for the last quarter of the year. By in what form or where only God knows.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Youth Renewed like the Eagle's (Psalm 103:5)

The Lord satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's (Psalm 103:5). I give thanks to You Lord that You have fed me with good things and that my youth is renewed like the eagle's. In terms of energy level, I can testify that I do not feel anything less than what I had 10 or 15 years ago. In fact, I feel more energetic than ever. For the first time in my working life of nearly 3 decades, I held two jobs for 3 months early this year. How did I manage that unless it was the Lord who granted me strength, renewed youth and good health?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Why Good Employees Quit (Donn Carr)

“People work for people – they do not work for businesses”          – Donn Carr
This has been my mantra for as along as I can remember. The message is so simple, full of truth and direction, yet it is consistently ignored by human resource departments, managers and owners alike and they wonder why their turnover is so high or they are always having to look for new people. The problem is with the managers – and seldom the employee or the quality of the workforce. This has been proven and well documented by study after study.

Ranau & Namaus Chapters

My book tentatively titled, Memoirs of a Modern Modern has gone past 72,000 words. I am finishing my Ranau chapter, ch. 11 and the final chapter will be on my time as Acting Principal in Namaus, ch. 12. I thought 12 chapters are just about right, the number 12 being the number of the people of God and this book is meant to be read by the churches, the Church of Jesus Christ, the people of God. I don't know whether it will reach 90,000 words but I will try to keep it short and manageable. I have been writing furiously in the past couple of days when I felt inspired.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 Sundays without Preaching

When my former student texted me and wished me God's blessings on my preaching, I realized that it had been 3 Sundays since I last preached in Singapore on 26th June. My last Sunday sermon in Sabah was in a nearby church from College on 12th June. This is like an eternity without rising to the pulpit. Last night I preached an impassioned message from 1 Tim 5,17-18, Eph 4,11-14 and Jeremiah 3:15-16 to a cell group of 14 adults, most of whom are my contemporaries belonging to my homechurch in KK. I spoke about three things as pastors or elders. First, to lead or rule well and the 2nd and 3rd things are ways by which leadership or rulership of the church is carried out, namely through preaching and teaching. I shared how I rejected several job offers in Singapore when the churches only asked me to preach occasionally like once in 3 weeks compared to what I had been doing in the past 18 months that is on average preaching 3 times a week. But suddenly I am taken away from the land of the living and now dwell in darkness of non activity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

5 Old Testament Books

In my CV, I listed 5 OT books that I would like to teach - Genesis, Psalms, Song of Songs, Zechariah and Daniel. I could have included Isaiah and Ezekiel but I won't push my luck too far since people think I am an NT person and therefore should stick to NT books. My background is totally biblical. I have never divided the Bible into two Testaments, as if one can be taught apart from the other or that if you are an expert in one, God forbid that you should venture into another's domain. This is where the reformers come in handy. Luther and Calvin were biblical scholars. They would be surprised if not annoyed to see the current division between OT and NT. Luther lectured and preached from the Psalms for years and Galatians was his Katherine (Luther's wife) and Romans his crown.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Springing into Action

The time for waiting is over.  Today I just posted Psalm 130,4-5 where the Psalmist claims he waits for the Lord more than the watchmen wait for the morning. The time of waiting is over. For the past two or three months early rising and praying has done its job. Now it is time for action.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Highs & Lows

Yesterday I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. When there is a high a low will soon follow. Perhaps this is the pattern of human experience, even spiritual experience. Yesterday during worship I experienced one of the sweetest highs in my life. As the song was sung, Tuhan pasti Sanggup (God is able) I was caught up in estascy of the Lord's embrace. I had just read Jeremiah 13:11 about God's people clinging to the Lord as a linen sash clings to a man's body. I saw exactly that in a vision of the Lord. Where the Spirit is, there is freedom. I felt such a sense of liberation, not bound by anything temporal or worldly concerns but only wanting to do God's will. I remember how I worshipped the Lord as a 17-year old, my first love in Christ in the city of Christchurch and yesterday I worshipped the Lord in abandonment like before-times. O Lord there is no desire on earth besides Thee; in Your presence is fulness of joy and at Your right hand pleasures forevermore.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where is the Challenge?

Several times when it appears that there was a ministry opening I asked myself this question: "Where is the challenge?" or "What is the challenge?" The challenge for me is to remain in Sabah where hardships, sufferings and persecution will occur.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Time in the Middle of the Month

We are truly into the 2nd half of the year, more than half of July is gone. I am in the 5th day of my self enforced break from active ministry. After returning from College with my books last Monday, I rested fully for 3 days before rousing yesterday to begin planning and praying for my future. I read an old post titled 9 months and 9 days and I did not realize that my term of service had taken 18 months and 9 days until 9th July 2016 when I returned from Korea where I presented two papers in an International meeting of the SBL. Time doubled in no time and I shall be writing my last chapter of my book "Ranau & Namaus". I have already reached 70,000 words but perhaps because of the significance of these past 18 months my book will reach 100,000 words.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Exciting Times in England & the World

We are living in exciting times. It is exciting times in the United Kingdom. It is exciting times for what remains of the European Union. The doom and gloom sayers will be proven wrong. Continental Europe will only grow stronger without the British Isles. France and Germany are negotiating a common defence force, unthinkable with UK in the EU. Britain has a new PM. No matter how polished a politicIan David Cameron was, I have never been impressed with him. Few years ago Cameron's speech on interference in Libya was the last straw. He is not too dissimilar to Tony Blair rushing to war and interference. Theresa May on the other hand looks prime ministerial. I like what I see in her first hours as PM. Appointing Boris Johnson as foreign secretary was a masterstroke.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Uprooting Utterly

Sometimes we hide our feelings from others. I felt a part of me went numb when I finally uprooted myself from the College that had been my life for the past 6 months. Two days before flying off to South Korea I went up to the College to clear my room and came back to KK with a truckload of personal belongings. Two days after returning from Korea I went up again to bring my books kept in my makeshift office. A close friend accompanied me on my final trip to Namaus yesterday and we spent less than 1 hour before leaving the place for good. It was tough as I put up a smiley and cheerful exterior, as for the pain in the heart who knows? Some students caught the sight of me and when lesson ended at 11.45am came out to greet us and extended assistance to quickly move the boxes of books onto my pickup truck.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sabah, Brook of Cherith (1 Kings 17,3)

When I landed in Kota Kinabalu I had this vision of a man in linen, "shouting on top of his voice". When I arrived home I read from Psalm 66,1 "make a joyful noise to the Lord, O ye lands" (KJV). King James Version is still my favourite because oftentimes it tails in nicely with what I have been thinking. Ye lands, rather than all the earth as in many other versions. Ye lands speaks of many lands and there is one place and one land which God wants us to be at one time though we might travel to other lands for ministry or holidays. That land to me is Sabah. I felt such a joy upon reaching Sabah after a whirlwind tour of Singapore and Seoul in the past fortnight. In Singapore I met up with many friends and I was hugely encouraged by it. In Seoul I stayed as in a foreign land, no English spoken when I got lost but most Koreans were really kind as they tried to show me home in their Korean knowing that I could not understand a word.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Seoul & Sabah

My soul finds its rest in God. As there was no rest for me in Seoul it was good that for a whole week I have not thought much about my future nor the events of the past weeks. But returning to Sabah will bring back memories of recent past and my waiting period will begin afresh. I met someone at the SBL conference from Malaysia and he has been doing the same job for 30 years and he kind of sympathised with me when he heard I had left Singapore (old news) and now back in Sabah but without a ministry position. It is difficult to know where to begin if I had wanted to tell him of my experience of 18 months in Ranau and Namaus. This is an God ordained break for me. I will for sure read more of the Bible especially Hebrew and Greek versions which is always a good thing, no matter what the circumtances.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

SBL International Meeting in Seoul

At noon will be the closing ceremony of SBL international meeting. The meeting will go on until Thursday 12.3pm but there will be a closing lunch reception hosted by Yonsei University for the SBL participants. In the past couple of days I have attended about 20 lectures as most lectures are about 30 mins long or at most 40 mins.  It has been great but only a few stood out for their spiritual enlightment rather than just academic or technical. I enjoyed a textual criticism session looking at Gal 2,11-14 where if the reading is when he came rather than when they came, it would provide a clue as to the Pauline chronology of events. Anyhow, two papers really stood out one given by an Israeli professor from Haifa on angels ascending and descending on a ladder to heaven in Jacob's dream at Bethel.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Enemies Everywhere: The Psalmist's Struggle for Survival

After being a member of SBL for 10 years I finally made it to its International Meeting and presented a paper to boot. I was rather fortunate as it was the first session at 9am on the first day of the seminar proper. The room was too small since normally one does not get more than 15 people turning up. But lo and behold more and more people turned up and at the end more than 30 professors were present with 4 or 5 standing at the back. After the first two speakers I presented my paper at 10am sharp and used up my allocated 22 minutes and there were 3 questions from the floor and it all ended on time. I spoke from the Psalms, my favourite biblical book. It was a large topic as the word enemy or enemies is found 103 times in the Psalter and I examined the first 10 Davidic psalms but referred to other psalms when they come handy. I did not want it to be totally academic or overly technical. I  did not once use a Hebrew word because the Hebrew word for enemy is not in dispute. Why does the Psalmist have so many enemies?