Friday, March 31, 2017

Duty Bound

Although I had withdrawn from a number of speaking engagements, I shall be preaching this Sunday as part of the home group's visitation to nearby churches. I am glad I do not have to speak on Saturday night in a Men's fellowship but there is no letting up in preparing for the Sunday sermon. I spent two hours yesterday's evening reading Isaiah 33-35 as preparation. So instead of two sermons this weekend, I only have one. I am pleased that turning down speaking engagements has brought a measure of peace to me. Sometimes I wonder whether I am missing out as many Districts still have not seen me since I came back to Sabah almost 3 years ago. One District Superintendent called me last night on another matter and he mentioned that he knew me since I served in the HQ as Treasurer but had not met me since. That was more than 20 years ago! This brings to mind in a State as big as Sabah, travelling to faraway places is a given if one wants to connect with as many Districts as possible.

Monday, March 27, 2017

7 months in Restropect: Ministry Retreat

After praying for about a day after returning from Salarom Taka I took a decision to withdraw from my two forthcoming speaking engagements one in early April and the other a 4-session Good Friday Easter weekend ministry. I had decided that I needed a break and sometimes an illness is a reminder that we could not bear the burdens of ministry like before. In retrospect I realized I had not had a decent break from ministry since being reappointed as lecturer in mid August last year. That is a long 7 months plus of non stop preaching teaching and much of it involved constant traveling to faraway places.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

To the Ends of the Earth

I made my second longest journey ever since my trip to Long Pasia last June which took 7 hours. This time from 9.10am after breakfast I drove for about 5 hours with only a short break for lunch in Keningau and reaching home in KK at about 2.30pm. Even in the best of times and in the pink of health ministering in the interior is a test of endurance. It could be blazing hot during the day and temperatures could plummet during the night. Now I have achieved my two main goals within the year, that is reaching the two farthest outposts of my Church, Long Pasia and Salarom Taka. I am giving up the hope of ever reaching Pulau Bangi, the island north of Kudat because I don't travel well by boat. Suffering from a bad cold in my third and final session, I did not make any altar call but asked that those who felt called to full-time ministry to raise their hands. I would be happy if there were 4 or 5 but about 20 youths raised their hands and I prayed for them from the pulpit. The organizers were somewhat disappointed with the attendance as they expected 1,000 youths to attend but at the end about 730 turned up. Given the venue at the furthest point from nowhere, I was mighty pleased with the turn out.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Aging & Responsibility

When I celebrated my birthday last year the verse that came to me was from Psalm 102 "youth renewed like the eagle's". But when I fell ill early last month and took a while to recover I felt I had aged beyond my years. But aging is as much as in the mind as it is a physical process. In the middle of last year when I had nothing not even an appointment or ministry but I had just completed 6 months where I had responsibility for the College, the church and a busy itinerant ministry. It was the burden of ministry that was exhilarating and with that I felt my youth was renewed like the eagle's. No wonder many studies have shown how people quickly age when they retire or stop work.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Epic Journeys

One thing that characterizes my ministry is the amount of travelling I have to do, either back and forth Kota Kinabalu and Namaus or getting to places where I preach. In barely 2 years I have clocked close to 50,000kms. There is no denying that for the patriarchs of the Old Testament, travelling is part of their lives in obedience to God. They led a semi nomadic lives most times and did not settle in one place for too long. Abraham had to make the epic journey from Ur to Canaan not knowing where he was going. Jacob travelled to Haran and back in his epic journey leaving home with only a staff but returning with two companies including his two wives and many possessions. In between Isaac did not travel as much but he was not spared either for in the times of famine he had to live with the Philistines in Gerar, dug many wells from place to place until they found room for themselves. Even if our ministry does not involve much travelling, in a sense life is a series of journeys either in the discovery of self, service to God or ascending to the spiritual heights like Jacob dreaming about angels ascending and descending a ladder between heavens and earth.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Between the City and the Village

I am a thoroughly urban person. I was born in a town once the capital of Sabah and have studied in cities of New Zealand and served in Singapore. Now my ministry is mainly located in the village and 80 percent of my speaking invitations are from the rural areas. I live in a village and teach my students in a village setting and most of them will be pastors of churches in the villages. Yet there is no denying that the demographics of the church are changing fast much like the trends of the modern world. In China now there are more than 700 million people living in cities more than half of the total population.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1st Anniversary Away

Today is the first anniversary of my resignation as pastor of the Ranau church. I took my homegroup with me for worship there and I am glad that after one year away from being the church's pastor, I no longer miss it and the members have long gotten used to the pastor who replaced me. Yet the song leader honoured me by asking me to say the benediction. If I were not appointed Acting Principal early last year I wonder how long I would have stayed on as pastor. Perhaps my giftings are better utilised as Bible teacher at the moment. Without leadership responsibility I just concentrate on delivering my lectures and attending to the occasional speaking engagements. Next Sunday onwards I will get busier with an interior trip coming up on the 3rd week of March.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sitting Stunned

It's been 2 hours since I preached an 18-minute sermon in the Chapel and I am still sitting stunned by the strong hand of the Lord. I spoke from 1 John 5,14-15, James 5,17-18 and 1 Kings 17,1, 18,1, 41, 45-47 about Elijah's prayer for rain. That was my fourth sermon in 5 days, barely a week after I felt strong enough. This is besides the 3 classes a week I teach plus one extra class last week to make up for time lost. Humanly I dread that by next weekend I will begin another round of itinerant preaching that will last until the end of April. A couple of weeks ago a good friend expressed to me how impressed he was with one local Seminary professor who had published books and booklets on several Biblical topics at the rate of one book a year. I am equally impressed and praise God for this author whom I know well. But as much as I wish I could write and publish I think at this time my primary gift is still preaching to different audiences, students, church leaders and churches. Many have said to me if I write and publish it will be for posterity and one book can bless thousands and possibly millions who will read it. One sermon only touches the audience right there and then without much promise whether things learned can be retained for good.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Series of Sermons

Good things come in fours. Tomorrow I shall be preaching my fourth sermon in 5 days. After Sunday morning sermon in one of the SIB churches in KK, I drove back to Namaus late afternoon to preach at the evening service for men. It was one of the toughest rides yet as it was heavy rain most of the way with thick fog. But my mind was stayed on the sermon so I did not feel much tiredness after a 3 hour long journey. I reached Namaus at 7,30pm sharp and arrived at the Chapel 5 minutes late and the male students numbering about 35 were all ther waiting for me. Yesterday was very eventful because I only realized that I was up for preaching within the hour.