Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Review of 2019

The Year 2019 is about to come to an end. It is time for a review and reflection of what 2019 has brought and what the year entails for me. The beginning of the year was filled with much uncertainty mixed with relief that I was about to leave my job at the Bible college in Namaus, Ranau where I had served for 3 years. Altogether last January brought to a close of my 49 months of ministry in Ranau after my return from Singapore in July 2014. So the beginning of 2019 was the end of my first phase of ministry back in Sabah. Waiting has been a hallmark of my ministry for 25 years as I waited for exactly 10 months until the end of November before getting my new appointment letter. So from the beginning of the year I wrote a 17 page long essay on NT theology, the subject which I taught for my last lectures in Namaus, and proceeded to write two books at the same time throughout the year. Although the impetus came late when sometime in early September, I received encouragement from my former MTheol student from Indonesia who wrote to me from USA, “Dr Siew, you are a good author; you should write books”. My part memoirs that had sat on my lap for almost 5 years got dusted and done within 2 months. On the day when President Trump got impeached 18th Dec (Malaysia’s time was 19th Dec) my book, Departure Points was finally published and received in good order.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Year 2020 Beckons

It is the time of the year. The year 2019 is less than 10 days more before it is gone. The year 2020 beckons and because it is the beginning of a new decade plus it is twenty twenty (2020), it seems to bring much promise for the new year and the new decade ahead. As for me, it might be the most important decade for me as by 2030 I shall be contemplating retirement though I hope to serve until 2040. While I have strength, may the Lord's will and purpose be fulfilled according to His righteousness. In the past days and weeks, I have been struggling mightily in prayers. Sometimes I get up before 4am and raise my hands to the Lord in supplication. Lord, where should I go? And what should I do?

Monday, December 16, 2019

My 2nd book is Finally Here

It was like Brexit. You know it was going to happen but is somewhat delayed yet the inevitable exit is near. Likewise, I have been waiting for my book for more than a month, hoping that it was going to be ready by my 25th anniversary on 1st Dec but it was somewhat delayed by the shipping across South China Sea. It is finally here in Kota Kinabalu but I am outstation after preaching over the long weekend of 4 sermons from Friday to Sunday. I can’t wait to see the 25 boxes of books on my doorstep and now I have to act to make room for them. Then with my 300 books from Singapore, I can be reasonably certain by the first quarter of next year, all my books will be with me and that they have finally found a home. Books are precious possessions because they mark the seasons of your life. What books one reads makes the man one becomes.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Returning Home & Staying Put

It’s nearly 70 months since I returned from Singapore in 2014. If I make it to the end of January 2020 it would be the first time in 14 years that I have lived in my own house for a year without interruption. It is the fulfilment of God’s promise in the Jubilee passage in Leviticus 25 that in the 50th year one is to return to one own’s possession and land. Last Sunday a church member whom I knew well but had not the chance to converse with until on Sunday asked me whether I thought of migrating to New Zealand. Perhaps he has seen me around the church on and off without much to do.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Third Stint

I have to admit that I had my reservations. It will be my third stint as a pastor if God willing, I shall start again early next year. I had been pastor twice before, the first in my home church in KK and then 5 years ago in Ranau. Just like my teaching ministry as a lecturer I had gone through three different stints, the first when I first started full time ministry in Melangkap Kota Belud, then in Singapore and the third and final stint from 2016 to January 2019 in Ranau. Everything comes round and has a ring of equilibrium to it. I never planned it that way; it just happened as God so wills it, as we are obedient to the heavenly vision and do not turn back from following hard after Him.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

“I will prolong my words...” (LXX Prov 1:24)

Last Sunday I received double portion of blessings, as I preached twice in church, once in the Sunday morning service and again at night at the 25th anniversary thanksgiving service. It was as if the Lord reaffirming the calling in my life to preach the Gospel and His Word. In the morning service, I shared how the Lord called me into His service as an 18-year, a second year University student. I said, “you can say anything about me, I will forgive you” but one thing is this “I am convinced of God’s calling in my life to be His servant”. God is in control as I received my letter of appointment at the end of the denomination’s AGM last Saturday, 30th Nov exactly a year after I resigned as lecturer of the College in Namaus, Ranau.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

25th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service

I celebrated with 30 of my closest friends and associates in ministry along with 9 of my former students from Namaus and Melangkap Campuses. I appreciated that my "first student" from Melangkap in 1994-1995 came all the way from Labuan. He was in KK for the SIB AGM and had to return to Labuan on Saturday night for Sunday morning service and after service made his way (2 hours' ferry and 3 hours' drive) to KK to attend the function. He gave a wonderful testimony of his 20-year long in ministry and our times together in Melangkap 25 years ago. My other 8 students most of whom are pastors of rural churches came from their respective churches. With their basic salary of less than RM1,000 a month (one person told me that last year in 2018, she was only paid RM200.00 per month). They must have sacrificed time and money to come all the way and most had spent the night at a motel nearby before returning to their places of ministry on Monday. When you have nothing, you truly know who your true friends are.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Long Drive

It took me 5 days to go to and fro Kota Kinabalu to preach twice in Kemabong, some 4 hours’ drive away. We stopped overnight in Tambunan before heading to Ulu Tomani, about 35kms from Tenom. When we went back, we stopped over in Tambunan for two nights as I was too tired to drive on Monday. It was a total sabbath for me after only preaching twice. I had to contend with the elements and the environment in a far away Village. There was a fan in the room but it was creaking and making weird noises all the time. And the windows can’t be shut so at night I was kept awake by mosquitoes. I am particularly sensitive to mosquito bites and I don’t know whether I had slept for 3 hours after preaching at night which service ended just before 11pm and supper fellowship for another hour.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

New Stirrings

The Spirit of God is stirring afresh in my heart. I have been getting up real early, sometimes before 4am. I sensed God’s presence strong as I wait upon Him until sunrise. By 7am I was working on my John’s Gospel commentary and editing ch. 8 with four more chapters to go after this. I hope by the end of the year I can find a publisher and print my book and it should be out by the first quarter of 2020. My other book is delayed as the printers are based in Kuala Lumpur and shipping takes at least two weeks from KL to KK after the printing is done.

Friday, November 15, 2019

My Books are Returning Home

One of my most read blogposts is “Books whither Thy Home?” which I wrote some 5 and a half years ago. But my 300 books are returning home for good. It has been a long sojourn in Singapore, separated from its owner for 5.5 years. I am grateful to the Faculty and library of BGST for keeping my books in good shape, in fact two shelves were provided for them for easy access to users to browse and borrow if they wished. Altogether by February 2020 my books would have been in Singapore for nearly 12 years. It is a long home coming. These are my best books, series of commentaries and Hebrew and Greek lexicons. I can’t wait to have them back home.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Perhaps it was right after all that I attended the College’s convocation. It was the first time many District superintendents and a few general council members saw me after the previous year’s AGM. There have been rumours whirling about my whereabouts, whether I had joined another Seminary or even a few thought I had returned to Singapore for good. So it was good to touch base with many church leaders so that they know I am still with them in heart and mind and in the struggle of faith for the advancement of God’s kingdom through SIB.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Closure at College

I drove up to my former College at 5.30am last Saturday stopping over at Tamparuli to have breakfast. I saw that the College advertised its convocation starting at 8am and I was determined to get there before that just I had for 3 full years for the 7.50am Chapel start. But somewhat not everything went according to plan as for the first time my pick up broke down just a few kilometres from Mount Kinabalu. I stopped over a shop for a while and sought help. I knocked on the door of a village shop and must have startled the owners at 7.15am. He helped check my car and determined that it was the turbo problem but I could still drive car slowly to Kundasang or Ranau to get to a workshop. So I drove about 40kms an hour for about 20kms and the engine was making strange noises every time I tried to step on the accelerator. I arrived at Ranau bustop and parked my car there at 8.15am. I had stopped by at a workshop that could fix turbo problems but the shop only opened at 9am. I wanted to attend the College’s graduation so I decided to take my chances and would return to the workshop to sort out my car after the Convocation at noon.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Departure Points again

Perhaps the Lord is telling me something. This morning I calculated the number of places the Israelites had departed and moved on to another place (Numbers 33). After 33 stops and departures, Aaron died at the age of 123 and the Israelites stopped over in 7 more places before crossing the Jordan into the promised land. A total of 40 places in 40 years, on average they moved once a year, all departures in the wilderness by the command of the Lord through Moses. By the time they reached the 40th place Moses had completed his ministry of 40 years and he also died before reaching the promised land.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sometimes a man must walk alone with his God

I rose up at 3.45am today. I did not want fall back to sleep. Perhaps the preparation yesterday wasn’t complete so I have had 5 hours this morning before the 10am service to seek the Lord and wait on Him. It was a quite morning and was dark for another 90 minutes before dawn. I preached as if borne along by the wind of the Holy Spirit today. It lasted one hour and 5 minutes. I did not look at the watch until the end. I was supposed to start off a series on Revelation and for the introduction I took about 25 minutes before the sermon proper for another half an hour from Rev 2:18-29. I only prepared 4 slides and the multimedia person asked permission to distribute to the church members. But before preaching, my spirit was uplifted by the worship and I mentioned how I preferred Malay songs to English songs most of the times, not that I don’t listen to English worship songs anymore. It is just that the Malay or Indonesian songs are so much more melodious and I was touched to the core of my soul today. I did not weep but my eyes were wet throughout as I felt God’s love poured into my heart. I felt God’s faithfulness and His amazing goodness.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Departure Points (Numbers 33:2)

That’s a strange title for a book, but on second thought it might just sum up my life and ministry thus far. In the past two months I have been putting the finishing touches on my book and God willing, it will be ready by year’s end. I have never stayed in one place for too long. In fact, my Singapore’s sojourn was the longest of 6 years followed by my pastorate in KK for 5 years and 3 months. So I have majored in departing (Greek, exodus),  both literally and metaphorically. Departing from this life means death and in fact Christians are called to die, to bear the cross and not love our lives unto death. “Departure points” is Robert Alter’s translation of Numbers 33:2. “And Moses wrote down the departure points of the Israelites, their journeyings by the word of the Lord”.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Banggi Island Expedition

I lost track of time. I have been away for 4 days. I did not know that it was public holiday in Sabah today until I went out for lunch. Last night we got back home just after 8pm after driving from the Kudat Jetty at 3.30pm. We took a ferry at 2pm from Banggi Island concluding our 3-day expedition in the island. By the 2nd night on Saturday I did not know where to find strength to preach and preach I did and prayed for about 40 people who came forward - the sick, infirmed and the anxious and they were many among folks in Banggi Island. The people of the Island are mostly improvised and most of their children looked malnourished and the women folks looked thin and gaunt. Only a few teenagers showed the vitality of life and they presented a traditional Bongi dance on Friday night. I was supposed to preach three sessions but a team that was supposed to give a seminar on Saturday did not turn up and I was roped in to lead a 2-hour session on Q & A. Some of the Banggi folks have come to Christ 25 years ago and some more recently but most were still very much bound by their culture, customs and traditions. There was much fear in the unseen or spirit world, about the dead and poverty all round.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Starting Points

There are times of health; there are times of illness. There are times one feels on top of the world; there are times one feels one can't get down any lower. In the past week of bodily weakness, I have had plenty of times to reflect on many things; perhaps in anticipation of my forthcoming 25th anniversary in the Lord's service. It is a Silver Jubilee worth celebrating, as no one is sure whether one will live to see its Golden Jubilee in another 25 years' time. Though, in all modesty, I plan to celebrate my 40th anniversary (Ruby Jubilee) in 15 years' time and perhaps one last time when I reach 75 years old, God willing. I have been reading Numbers 33 on "Starting Points" or "Departure Points" depending on what versions one might be reading.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Preparation for Sermons in Banggi Island

I don't think I have had a busier 48 hours in long time. Yesterday by noon I had settled on my book. The second book is about ready but I will put it on hold until I figure out where to store about 1,000 copies in my house or somewhere. Today was sermon preparation day. I managed to get one sermon ready for Pulau Banggi for next Friday service. I am preaching three times there, so two more sermons to go. Then this Sunday I am also preaching, so this afternoon I prepared for the Sunday message.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Blessed Sukkoth: A Festival of Huts

Robert Alter translates the usual phrase, the Feast of Tabernacles as a Festival of Huts. It is a time to build huts where all Israelites are to stay in huts or tents for 7 days throughout the Feast. Today is the Feast of Tabernacles. I attended a service last night but the preacher did not once mention the Feast, though his message was good and relevant to what I have been going through. The Feast of Tabernacles is a feast of thanksgiving for all the blessings of God throughout the year. The Israelites gather their final harvest of grapes and olives toward the end of September and early October and the Feast on 15th Tishri (7th month) is marked by full moon, a sign in heaven, a kind of reminder that God is the Creator of the universe and the Master of Time and if He is the Creator (out of nothing), He is also the provider for His people, Yhwh Jireh. I give You thanks, O Lord for all Your grace and provision over these 5 years since I have been back in Sabah. For 50 months I had laboured in the mission fields, and harvests are plenty. And I am still labouring.

Walking by Faith and not by Sight

This is one principle that is hard to abide with and harder still to obey. I am called again to walk by faith. Nothing seems to clear on the horizon. In 24 hours' time, I have to make decisions that will determine the course of my life for 2020. Starting the 3rd decade of the 21st century by faith is a good omen. Entrusting oneself to God, not knowing where one is to go (Abraham) but still obeys and follows Christ is what delights God's heart for without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11).

Friday, October 11, 2019

24 Hours

Many things could happen in 24 hours. Yesterday was one such day. I submitted two manuscripts to two publishers. I went to see one at 10am and had a phone conversation with another at 3pm. Things are almost done. I dare believe that the Commentary on John's Gospel (1-12) will be published by 1st December (my 25th anniversary in full-time service) and the memoirs on my mission work by Christmas or latest Chinese New Year 2020. Now I have to find space to store 1,000 copies of books. I will probably build new book-shelves in my study-room, which is now in a big mess with boxes and unpacked notes and books lying around. It is time to spend some money. The publications will cost a fair bit and I will probably sell each book for RM50 or to my Singaporean audience (SGD20+10postage) or international buyers (USD20+10) for delivery and postage.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Silver Jubilee

I thought about it earlier this year how I was going to celebrate two milestones in my life and ministry, but completely forgotten about the second one until late last night when a former student formed a group and suggested a reunion of my former students who had been in my College home groups over the three years that I was there. Celebrating milestones is important. It is not for nothing that it is mentioned consistently that kings reigned when they turned 30 years old like David and Solomon, and then Jesus and John the Baptist. By December which is only 7 weeks away, I shall be celebrating my 25th anniversary in full-time service (Silver Jubilee). Without friends, there is no celebration. "Come friends, eat and drink fully," says the Song of Songs.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sabbatical Next Year

I thought I was going to enjoy my sabbatical this year and do much less travelling. But travelling I will do some more towards the end of the month up north again, crossing the seas and zig zag across the island where we have planted several churches. Today I managed to edit just some 5 pages of my book before meeting a former student who called me last week and we had more than 4 hours of fellowship. It is good to mentor young pastors and it was mutual encouragement to hear him remembering my times as Acting Principal and how in those short 5 months made a difference to many students. And I now have the opportunity to go to New Zealand for a writers’ scholarship for a month next year and per chance 2020 will be a sabbatical for me.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Two Books at a Time

Suddenly, my two books are taking shape. If it is A5 size, my memoirs regarding mission work in Borneo make up 300 pages and my commentary on John's Gospel (1-12) takes up more than 250 pages. It has been slow progress as I have been working alone. Editing and formatting requires assistance from professionals but I have none. So I prayed to the Lord: "Grant me a personal assistant like You granted to Origen of Alexandria", who had 7 secretaries to write down his sermons and transcribe his commentaries. But I am pleased with my effort thus far. Perhaps, it is God's will that the first is written in English for a world-wide audience and the second on John is in Malay, for those in Malaysia and Indonesia and dare I say in Singapore where you find very few Chinese who know their national language (image: book cover for John's commentary)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Travelling Missionary

My friend told me that I earned another ascription to my job portfolio. He said I was no longer itinerant as I have been doing much travelling as of late. I remember a couple of my friends in Singapore who considered themselves itinerant preachers because they preached in local churches in Singapore and are not fixed in one church. I guess if that is the right definition of an itinerant, then I have gone beyond that. I thought in my long sabbatical I would rest more and stay put in Kota Kinabalu, perhaps reviving my writing projects. But then since June, my ministry had taken a turn into travelling. In the past two weekends, I have travelled more than 650kms on single lane roads from North to South. I had just been to a village where one can walk across to the State of Sarawak in less than half a day. The leaders told me that it was just across the hills, though the mountains look daunting to me. I drove for 4 hours to a village near Sipitang last Saturday, arrived there at 5.30pm with less than half an hour rest, preached a sermon of one hour at 9.30pm and went to sleep past midnight. Then I woke up several times because of the cold and new environment. It was fits and starts, perhaps less than 3 hours before I got up at 5am. Then I preached an hour long sermon at 10.30 to 11.30am and I did not look at my watch even once as I felt led by the Holy Ghost.

Friday, September 27, 2019

From North to South

Last night, I got lost attempting to locate a house in Putatan, KK where I was going to pray for a one-month old baby, the first child of a couple whom I knew from Kota Belud. I spoke with the father's brother whom I got to know last month in Tamu Darat. He really looked young for his age, but very mature in his conversations and actively serving the Lord. I joked with him that I prayed to the Lord a week ago why He did not send a younger man, doing all these travelling or journeying and preaching. It took me more than 2 days to recover from my 3-day ministry in Kudat last weekend. By the time I felt fully replenished in energy, last night I drove 60kms, trying to find my way in the dark. And just as I was editing my John's commentary yesterday, I have to prepare for my two sermons tomorrow night and Sunday morning. I will travel to the south, right at the Sarawak border, 17kms from Sipitang. Last week, it was the northern most town in Sabah. Imagine I might travel even further to the islands.

Monday, September 23, 2019

3 Times is Blessed (Life of Joseph)

I have now visited the Kudat church for the third time. I gave a 2-hour end-time seminar in July 2015 with the Ranau's Pastors Fellowship. Last year I led my College Family group and preached a sermon on the Feast of Tabernacles. Yesterday I completed the blessed third time (3 is the number of the Godhead - holy, holy, holy) and God is Triune and God is One. I preached a message from the book of Genesis (origins) from the life of Joseph. I started by reading Jacob's blessings in Genesis 49 where the word, "blessing or blessed" appears five times (5 is the number of grace) and in Deut 33's Moses' blessings on Joseph the word "bless" introduces the prophecy with the word, "choice or choicest" appearing 4 times. Joseph is the prince or leader among his brothers. I spoke about his long and coloured robe, pointing to Joseph's potential and future as a naturally gifted leader. He did not go to School or study in the top Universities in Egypt like Moses but God was with Joseph and blessed Joseph with the gift of leadership, administration and management from Potiphar's house to be in charge of prison and then exalted to be Pharoah's right hand man to lead Egypt, first in the times of prosperity and then, in the times of famine. Joseph went through a lot to say the least.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Journeying for Jesus

I have come to the stage of my life that I prefer to stay put in one place and not travel. I am now at Kota Belud on the way to Kudat and there is 120km to go on single lane road on the way to Kudat. I am not even a third way there but already feeling the heat literally and spiritually. I feel like Peter to whom Jesus said one day you will go where you don’t want to and I am just like that. If not for Jesus I will not want to go. Driving on Sabah roads is a chore and a challenge at the best of times.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Travelling Again

It's been almost four weeks since I travelled to Ranau for a long weekend of preaching and seminar. Tomorrow I will travel again to the north. A leisurely drive will take 3.5 hours. It is a long weekend with preaching tomorrow night and Sunday with a full day seminar on Saturday. May the Lord Jesus grant me strength to do this. In the past fortnight I have been immersed into my book and my hope of getting it to the publishers did not materialise. But I am happy what I have done and it is about ready. Interestingly, I received invitations to teach from two local seminaries as visiting lecturer next year. I have already turned one down, partly because my schedule for next year is uncertain. I have several plans in mind but may the Lord's purpose be done.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Pulau Banggi

I thought I had reached my last frontier in my interior ministry 3 years ago when I went to Long Mio and Long Pasia, near the Kalimantan Border with Sabah. Then, I had gone to Pitas up north slightly east of Kudat, being the most northern town of Sabah. But a few days ago, I received an invitation to preach a series of KKR, revival meetings in Pulau Banggi, an island north of Kudat. It is not a place I plan to go, though I have great burden for the place. As Treasurer-General of SIB 23 years ago, we started evangelising in the island, an hour ferry ride from Kudat and now we have 4 or 5 SIB churches there. My home-church supported the mission there for more than a decade and when I was pastor in KK, I hosted the pastor whom we sponsored there several times when he came down to KK from Bangi Island.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Mission Photos

For five days in a row I struggled to edit my book for publication. It is now almost ready to be submitted to my publishers. I am glad to have found (fingers-crossed) a publisher who is willing to publish my book for a fee. I basically have to pay the publishers for their services but with a publisher it means their website and retail outlets can help to promote and sell the book. Talking with the publisher yesterday and showing him my manuscript in my laptop, he quickly browsed through and the first question he asked me was, "Where are the photos of the mission?" My book is supposed to be my experience and ministry among the indigenous peoples of Borneo, now in my 20th year (6 years in Singapore).

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Editing my Book for Publication

Only yesterday I have a measure of confidence that in the next couple of months my book might see the light of day. Yesterday, being the "longest day" (9.9.19, in Chinese 9 means a long time or longevity) I worked for the longest time, about 12 hours. I did not realise my MacBook was running out of battery (5%) warning came up at 11.30pm and I turned off the computer at 11.45pm when it was down to 1%. Never once since I bought my laptop almost 2 years ago I had run out of battery. I had charged it to the full at noon and worked at a cafe since it has been so hot in the past couple of months here in KK. I was busying editing my book, which had sat on my lap for almost 5 years.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Have I found my True Calling?

Perhaps I have finally found my calling. Going where I please or spiritually speaking, where the Lord commands or leads. This morning I went to visit a church which I had not visited for 14 years, since the time I was district Superintendent in KK. I took about 30 minutes to locate the church. It was located in a shoplot but the township in Penampang had grown so much in the past decade that it was hardly recognisable. I went in late as the preacher was starting his message. When it ended the leaders came up to greet me. Even as the closing prayer was said, the Deputy Chair asked me whether I wanted to say anything to the congregation. I said no but it was a real honour for him to ask. Apparently, he attended the eldership seminar where I spoke in Tenom last May. Later two pastors who serve in the church joined us for morning drinks before the 2nd service. I went back up the Hall as I told the church leaders that I would only attend the worship segment as I had already heard the sermon in the first service. When I went home, I realised that I still retain much goodwill among KK churches and many interior churches.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

"Your time is always right but my time is not yet" (John 7)

Jesus said that to his brothers who asked him why he had not yet gone into Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. In the past few months, friends and brothers in Christ have asked me many times why I had not applied for a new ministry or job if there is nothing here in Sabah for me. I thank them for their good intentions and prayers but it is hard for anyone to understand that like Ezekiel and Elijah that there are times we just need to wait it out and wait until it is the right time for move on or move again. Like the Tabernacle of wilderness that stayed put when the cloud hovered over it and only when the pillar of cloud moved to another place the tabernacle followed. Isn't that a beautiful picture that the people of God or the church should wait on the Lord and trust in His leading?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

New Lease of Life

What a difference one day could make. Yesterday for almost a whole day I was listless: "O my soul why are thou downcast? Praise Him. There is still hope in God". Perhaps two consecutive weeks of ministry and travelling had caught up with me. Now it is not just one day for recovery but sometimes like two or three days before I could get back on my feet and my mind regains equilibrium. Now I have more than 2 weeks break before my Kudat trip and after that another preaching engagement to attend to. But last night I was given a new lease of life.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Double Work & Double Joy

I was exhausted when I reached home at 3pm yesterday after preaching twice on Saturday night and Sunday morning service. It was double work, double the preparation - different messages for each service. As Saturday happened to be Independence Day (Malaya in 1957) I spoke briefly about some current national issues and how Christians were to respond accordingly with gentleness, wisdom and full of conviction as we testify to Jesus Christ as Lord and God.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Without a Teaching Priest (2 Chr 15:3)

Tonight I will be preaching on the above text. It has been a struggle whole week even up to last night I wasn't sure what I wanted to speak on. But early this morning it came through - thanks be unto God. A freedom to serve where you want to go is indeed a blessing; not dependent on anyone or any church- to prove one is indeed God's servant and not of men. As Paul says twice in Galatians and 1 Thes that he was called to please God and not men and that it is God who tests our hearts. Why is 2 Chr 15 so important?

Friday, August 30, 2019

Building the Church & Buildings

Tomorrow I shall be travelling again. Not so far compared to last week but it will be about 90mins' drive on reasonably good roads. The church that invited me is one of the few churches in Sabah that invited me to speak during my time in Singapore. I can say that I am close to several church leaders there. Having started in the Taginambur District of Kota Belud I am no stranger to many churches in this area. It is one of our denomination's strongholds with about 100 churches in a cluster of 4 Districts. Some of these churches are big that can seat close to 1,000 people.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Proroguing Parliament: Brexit

I rarely venture into politics in my blog but in the past couple of months I have been following the process of Brexit closely. I like Boris Johnson if only because he was a graduate of "the greats" (Classics) from Oxford University. I tend to admire people with a classical education especially those who can read Ancient Greek and quote from Pericles. And I wish Boris Johnson well in his latest decision in suspending parliament or proroguing the House of Commons. I am interested in Constitutional Law; in fact I taught the Federal Constitution of Malaysia for two years (2017-2018). But Britain does not have a written constitution though most commonwealth Constitutions are derived from British conventions, customs, rule of law, an independent judiciary, democratic principles and parliamentary sovereignty to name a few. It is a fascinating clash between Leavers and Remainers. Leavers (Johnson's cabinet) will contend that what they had done was within constitutional framework of democracy. Parliament had been in session for more than 3 years and it is time for a refresh with a new government and the Queen's Speech on the 14th October 2019 will set the tone for the domestic (and foreign) agenda of the Johnson's government for the next 3 years before the next General Election.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Glorious Weekend

For the first time I recorded in video for about 2 minutes my journey to Kiau Nuluh, a village about 20 mins from the main road from KK to Ranau. I did not realise it was that far into the foot of Mount Kinabalu. But the Superintendent was very gracious and he said I was on time though I was late for 15 minutes. We started forthwith and I spent about 5 hours in all to explain Matthew 24 on Jesus’ teaching about the End time.  If I had 8 or 10 hours I might try the book of Revelation, so there could be another seminar  next year in the same District. About 150 people turned up, double more than I expected and the glorious thing was that there were 40 youths or so with many women and men as well. At 4pm I was sent forth with blessings of rice, vegetables, pineapples, and several kinds of fruits. My truck at the back was filled with the good gifts of the Lord through his people.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Charisma of Leadership

Now secluded in my house for more than half a year (Ezekiel's 390 days bound-up are still a way to go), I looked up some old photos 3 or 4 years ago. If there is anything I am convinced of after almost 25 years in ministry is that any organization or movement needs a leader or leadership to get it going or achieves its potential and vision. Now nearing Malaysia's National Day on 16th September 2019 (31st August is Malaya's Independence Day), I saw a dimly shot photo of me leading an all night prayer's meeting. In fact it was a first time I went through praying from 9pm to 6am the next day. I was senior pastor of a Ranau church and the chairman of pastors' fellowship. We had 18 pastors in our fellowship with about 10 more churches in Ranau district without a pastor. I initiated and together with a fellow pastor went round the villages promoting the event and drop flyers in about 10 villages. The response was overwhelming as 340 people gathered that night at the SIB Pekan Ranau church and we began our National Day's prayers at 9pm, 15th Sept 2015.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New Man, New Purpose

As I was driving down to KK city centre this morning, I felt a sense of exhilaration in my car as I was listening to spiritual songs and worshipping the Lord. I felt a sense of newness - a new man in Christ (2 Cor 5) and a sense of renewed purpose and mission. My 2nd hand Triton just clocked 90,000 kms since I bought it 5 years ago at 25,000kms. I did about 51,000kms in my 49 months in Ranau & Namaus Bible College. Now from this week onwards I shall be travelling into the interior again; first to Kinabalu to conduct an end time seminar and then the following week to Kota Belud. In the third week of September I shall be heading north (Rungus & Dusuns of Kudat) before turning south in the last week of the month preaching among the Lundayehs and Muruts of Sipitang.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Commentary on John 1-12

I know I have been procrastinating since I got back from Singapore almost 3 weeks ago. A sermon on 11th August took some time to prepare but it is not an excuse not to keep working. So for the past week or so, I had managed to complete the commentary on John 12. Writing on John 11-12 took me almost half a year since I resigned from the Bible College. And also in the past 6 months I also wrote a short commentary on the Song of Songs (22,000 words). I wrote the commentary on John 1-10 over 2 months non-stop at the end of 2017 during which time I only took two Christmas speaking engagements, one in KK and then preached 3 times at the Sandakan's Community Town Hall.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Enjoying All Good Things (Ecclesiastes)

I have lived with frugality almost all my life. Except in my late teens when I did not have a clue how to manage money, I blew away my savings from my scholarship from which I learned a big lesson. Spending money is easy but earning money is difficult. Borrowing money is easy but repaying debts is difficult. I try to live as frugally as possible. In my recent trip to Singapore to attend Trinity Lectures I only spent SGD10.00 to buy a Bible for my fellow pastor in Sabah. I resisted the temptation to visit my favourite bookstores at Ngee Ann City. In my six years in Singapore I hardly spent on anything except the day to day expenses. I was concerned how to get my son through University and all my six years' salary was used to support his studies first at Otago Boys' High School and then at Otago University.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Famine at the Hearing of the Words of the Lord (Amos 8:11)

I struggled much for a whole week before delivering the message yesterday at a church’s 20th anniversary. I was invited because when they first started as an official local church 15 years ago I was the District Superintendent and basically helped the leaders to establish a proper functioning church council and I also conducted a leadership seminar at a retreat for them. It’s been a while though I had preached in their 2017 Christmas service. I preached about ecclesiology, about what a mature church should look like or ought to be doing. I preached mostly from 1 Corinthians 11-14. I told the audience that the church is the body of Christ but with many members, members from every tribe and nation. I quoted Paul’s exhortation to the Roman church to accept everyone and not be too scrupulous about inconsequential things like drinks, foods, and sabbaths. Then I said every member is spiritually gifted and a mature church will recognise these gifts and get everyone working together for the common good.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Many will fall away (apostasy)

This is a generation of apostasy. Paul the apostle says in 2 Thes that there will be these two signs before Jesus’ coming. First, many will fall away and then the man of lawlessness will be revealed. The word “fall away” comes from the Greek word apostasia which in English is apostasy. Only true believers call fall away. If a person has never believed then he is not a believer in the first place. I see apostasy happening among Christians.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Reading Revelation in Greek

In the past two days I have been reading the book of Revelation in Greek using the UBS 5th edition. I also have the Nestle-Aland 28th edition but the latter is on the shelf and used also occasionally as it is bulkier with giant print. But the book of Revelation is an amazing book, the only one that comes with a blessing just by reading it (Rev 1:1-3). But I am reading it for a refresher and also as preparation for two end-time seminars that I shall be conducting this month and next. The organisers for the Sept seminar had texted and reminded me to give the titles of my talks. That Kudat trip will see me preaching twice on Friday night and Sunday morning service before heading back to KK. Energy wise I am not sure whether I am up to it with all the travelling and driving alone is not the most ideal form of journeying for Christ as the early disciples went out two by two.

Friday, August 2, 2019

What is Hospitality? (Part 2)

I must have inadvertently pressed "publish" instead of "save" in my previous post on hospitality. Lot was prepared to risk the virginity of his daughters because of the sacrosanct oriental culture of hospitality. People whom one receives at home comes under the host's protection and Lot was not prepared to break this cultural dictate even for his daughters. We may debate on the wisdom of Lot's offer to the Sodomites but we could not but be impressed with his defence of hospitality that he has afforded his guests. It means that Lot did not bail out on his guests to leave early or worse chased out of the house. Perhaps it is one reason that the messengers of God were touched by Lot's hospitality that they acceded to his request to run to a small place near the city instead of the one demanded by the angels. Oftentimes we have to consider whether the offer of hospitality is sincere or love-driven instead of being hypocritical.

What is hospitality?

The letter to the Hebrews has this interesting verse that we should never slack in hospitality because one could entertain angels unaware. Perhaps it is a reference to Genesis 18 where Abraham ran and persuaded the three strangers to come and rest a while at his tent. The Greek word “angel” means messenger and sometimes it is not clear whether it is heavenly messenger or human messenger. By the time of Isaiah 44 and Haggai, prophets are seen as “angels” or “messengers” of God. That means by showing hospitality to strangers one might welcome a prophet of God and he can speak a word of truth or wisdom to the person showing hospitality just like Abraham received the promise of a son with Sarah or that Lot was saved from destruction of Sodom by the hospitality shown to the two messengers of God. What is hospitality? Hospitality is kindness in action and involves welcoming and accepting a person into our personal space either into our lives, our homes and our possessions. It is not mere words. How are you? Or good to see you means near to nothing if not followed by action. If that person is not even worth an offering of a drink or cup of water then greeting him means nothing or it is showing lack of hospitality.  Abraham ran to meet the three men. Abraham showed great imitative. He did not wait for people to come to him but he made an effort to meet the needs of others, especially travellers and foreigners as God’s Word repeatedly emphasises in the law of Moses. Show hospitality to strangers even as you were strangers in Egypt, says the Lord. Hospitality means welcoming the person into your personal space. One has to take time to receive others and oftentimes it means at least a meal is offered before the stranger goes on his way. Sometimes it involves staying overnight as in the case of Lot’s offer to the two men whom he saw in the city square. Welcoming someone especially strangers into one’s home involves a degree of risk. It involves a degree of vulnerability on the part of the host. It involves efforts and actions to meet the needs of those who come into our dwelling for a least a night or two. Abraham commanded Sarah to prepare the best meal for his visitors. He was not stingy in hospitality and set out a sumptuous meal for his guests. Lot risked the wrath of local inhabitants when he took in the two messengers of God. He was prepared to risk his own daughters

Bible & Hospitality

My former student who is currently doing a PhD asked me whether I would attending next year’s Conference on the Bible & Hospitality. As it will be in Kuala Lumpur, costs should not be a problem though the schedule of ministry will determine whether I will make it or not. Hospitality is an important theme in the whole Bible. From Abraham and Lot in Genesis to Exodus and Numbers, God reminds His people that showing hospitality, not just to friends but also to strangers is part of knowing Him. God judges nations that refused to show hospitality to Israel in their wilderness wandering. When I travel I am a recipient of hospitality of those whom I visit. I thank God for friends and if there was anything I took from my Singaporean trip it was that from the first evening, then breakfast and lunch, friends came by and hosted me. One friend even offered to take me from the hotel to attend the Trinity lectures on both nights but seeing how far he had to travel from Jurong East, I turned down his offer for the second night. Taking the MRT from my hotel to the College took 40 minutes.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Day After

Sometimes it is good to have some time to mull over things. It’s just been 24 hours but my momentous occasion has passed and gone. I received a couple of messages that warmed my heart today. Perhaps a sign that I am now a senior myself I was invited to preach in two revival meetings down south at the end of next month organized by the men’s or seniors’ fellowship. It will be just a week after my trip north to preach twice and also a whole day seminar. What does it have to do with my happy occasion? I rejoice in the Lord because doors of ministry have opened up more and more. Some people who don’t have my number called the HQ to connect with me. Who is my mother? Who is my brother and who is my sister? Are they not those who listen to God’s Word and do the Father’s will?

It’s Done!

Several times in the book of Revelation these words appear, “it’s done!” God seems to have a sense of finality when He observes how His will and plans are carried in the end time. I have crossed a threshold of sorts yesterday. Three friends including a couple from New Zealand shared a lunch with me. I met them in 1994 in Auckland when he was on Sabbatical while I was in my finals at Auckland University. It was good to have a time of fellowship and we adjourned for coffee and buns in the another place. Now I am on a sort of sabbatical. I told my friend that I was in semi retirement but he was shocked because according to him I looked younger than him. Perhaps I have retired from my previous form of ministry but the Lord calls and recommissions me to another ministry.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Paul and his Friends

Paul the apostle must be a friendly person. He greeted more than 30 people at the end of his letter to the Roman church. I used that this morning as I shared lunch with 7 of my former students. It happened that they were in town for a course. Two of the first names of Romans 16 are women, Phoebe and then Priscilla and her husband. Interesting that in a patriarchal society of the 1st century Paul actually mentioned two women first and then men. He went on to name another 8 women making a total of 10 women whose names are now enshrined in Scripture.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The End is Near

The day is nearer than you think, so says Paul the apostle. Last Friday I witnessed the launch of the neuralink technology where chips could be implanted to the brain to create a symbiosis between machine and man. It's scary stuff and we are nearer to the day when the number of 666 will be implanted or stamped in the foreheads or at the right hands (Rev 13:18). So it serves as a spur for me to conduct end-time seminars perhaps instead of twice a year, three or four times a year. It's likely that I will doing exactly that next month and also in September in two different Districts, one at the foot of Mount Kinabalu and one in the far north. It also confirms what I mentioned to the pastor and elders of the church on Sunday that as long as the doors of ministry are open for me, I will hang around. The spiritual malaise of today is not just in Sabah or Borneo but worldwide. As Amos prophesied there will be times, not famine of food or drink but of hearing the word of the Lord.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Something must be Right

It was the fourth time in a row that straight after I preached I was invited back. Last night I received confirmation that the place I went to conduct a leadership seminar last month wanted me to conduct an End-Time seminar next month in another church but in the same District. Yesterday I was invited to conduct a seminar on how to preach. It was affirmation when people heard you preach and asked that they be taught the art of preaching. I never think much about it. If I boast I boast in the Lord that it is the gift and anointing operating fully when I deliver God's Word. God sees the heart and God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows He has called us to bear fruits, fruits that last and fruits that are everlasting. "God does not make mistakes".

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Revival Sermons

I read in several books about the church in China that they expect the preacher to preach for at least 2 hours and sometimes for 3 hours. I think these are revival sermons where expectancy and faith are high and people hunger for the Word. This morning I preached for 1 hour and 15 mins and I wished I could go on for 20 more minutes. I got 21 slides but stopped at slide no. 15. Basically two third of the sermon done. I experienced that in Papar and also in Likas my home church when both times I had to cut short my sermon as I sensed it may be a bit long for some. I felt the anointing strong speaking on the theme Jesus is Lord; first the nature of Jesus’ lordship, his deity and his relationship with God the Father.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Celebrations & Milestones

Yesterday I had a wonderful time of worship and fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was in a small church that I had preached 3 times this year, more than in any other church this year. When we sang the worship song before the sermon, "Kusiapkan hatiku untuk mendengar FirmanMu" my tears flowed and I had to bow my head and wipe my eyes dry several times. This song was one of my favourite some 30 years ago especially when I first started my ministry 25 years ago. The line in Malay means, "I prepare my heart to listen to Your Word". It encapsulates my life and ministry, often times waiting to hear God's Word either as preacher or worshipper before the sermon is preached. Speaking of milestones and landmarks, I had the privilege of sitting beside a senior leader of our denomination who had served as Vice President and Secretary General in the 1980s. He told me that he had been in full-time for 50 years having begun in 1969!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Blogging as Solace & Meditation

I have been at it for 12 years now. Since May 2006 when I started blogging I have found my niche. If I did not stop one year in 2011 I would have a lot more readers now. But I am content. The few that come on my site I hope that they are blessed and encouraged by what they find here. Today I saw in my daily stats that there are three countries from South America, Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia. Two from Middle East including Iraq. On occasions even from Africa. But the most frequent readers are from Asia, North America, Europe and this year more and more Australians.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Preacher & Scholar

It's hard to focus on writing when one has preaching to do. No wonder most scholars don't preach and most preachers don't write and publish. Each to his calling and gifts. Yet I know in my life things are not so simple - not so black or white. I can preach well because I am a scholar. I write well and comment on Scripture because I am a preacher. I remember that it was in Sabah in my 2nd year of my PhD when I was invited to preach a series of 7 sermons on the book of Revelation that the main thesis of doctoral study came to fruition. Writing and preaching should inform one another. In my extended Sabbatical, sometimes I wish I could just go away. Perhaps spend a fortnight in Europe, sitting and listening to papers on the Bible. Perhaps fly away to New Zealand and spend some time with my son.

Monday, July 8, 2019

European Bible Conferences

When I saw the full programme of IOSOT (International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament) I felt a tinge of regret that I withdrew my paper accepted for presentation at the said Congress in Aberdeen next month. I saw a host of scholars from all over the world and some of the big names are presenting short papers. I can still go as an attendee but not as a presenter. It's been three years since I attended an academic Conference. It was almost a perfect symmetry of sorts when I started in 2006 at Peking University where I presented a paper on Father-Son relationships in the book of Genesis: Foundations for a Harmonious Society. Then in 2010 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and in 2013 at Murdoch University, Perth for the SNTS Society of New Testament Studies. In Perth, it was most enjoyable sitting in the same seminar room as Tom Wright (yes, NT Wright) and John Collins of Yale University. And then to top it up I sat next to Prof Richard Hays (author of the famous text, "Echoes of Scriptures in Paul") on a bus to the venue.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Trinity Lectures 29.7.19-1.8.19

When I got the news of the Trinity lectures a couple of months ago I have been praying to the Lord to open the way to attend the said lectures. I actually had lunch with the speaker, an Oxford University Professor in Biblical Exegesis 7 years ago in his previous visit to TTC. The topic about the absence and presence of Jesus in Paul's understanding is fascinating.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Being Bilingual

I don’t have a gift for languages but I am a bilingual. To be a true bilingual one has to not just speak but write well in two languages. In Singapore I only preached thrice in Malay in my 6 years there in two Indonesian services. Now back in Sabah I have only spoken twice in English but with more than 200 sermons in Malay over 5 years. That makes me by God’s grace a true bilingual. I have written many lectures notes in Malay and have taught in seminaries in Malay for 5 years. Now I am into chapter 12 of John’s gospel commentary, all 60,000 words and counting in Malay. Last Sunday I preached in Malay as I have always preached in Sabah for 19 years. I did not miss a beat. When the anointing flowed, my Malay is as good as my English perhaps even more so because Malay is a very direct and impactful language.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Record of Documents

I tend to be a keeper of records and documents. I have 7 or 8 large files filled with documents from 20 years ago. Though I have very few documents which I kept during my time as Treasurer General except for the final two years of audited accounts which showed a 49% increase church income in 1996-1998. Even during the financial crisis of 1997-1998 the Lord poured out his blessings on His church. I often tell people that God's servants are recession proof and God's church is always protected from the economic downturns of the day. But last night and this morning I searched high and low for a document which I needed but could not find.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Preaching in Papar

I ended the first half of the year with a bang. My wife and I travelled to Papar which is exactly one hour's drive from KK but the village church took another 25 mins to reach. We were met in Papar town and the chairman and his wife were kind to invite us for breakfast and we drove to the church just after 9am. It was supposed to be 9.30 am start but the meeting started at 10am and I preached at 11.20 am.  I must have preached for 1 hour and 5 mins as I did not once look at my watch until the end. As there were a number of Mother's and Father's Day celebrations events on so the church service went up to 1.15pm and we had lunch fellowship until just past 2.10pm before we drove home. We stopped by KK city for satay and reached home at 4pm. It was 11 hours since I got up at 5am to prepare for the sermon. Nowadays as much as I try not to preach too long I try not to rush since I spent several days in preparation and hours on the road. I want to make my sermon count.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Power to Enjoy (Ecclesiastes 6:2)

A man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honour, so that he lacks nothing of all he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them; this is vanity; it is a sore affliction (Ecclesiastes 6:2). Later in the passage the preacher says that if he does not enjoy life's good things... (6:3) the Preacher thinks an untimely birth is better off than him. The book of Ecclesiastes is probably the most philosophical book in the Bible, telling us about life and all its vanities. Through its perceived pessimism the Preacher is a realist fully grounded in the world with all its joys and hardships.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Friendships & Sacrifice

I have had a fruitful 3 days where I wrote more than 3,000 words and now moving into chapter 12 of John's Gospel. I read somewhere that in one's old age, the most important thing is relationships with family and friends. I have tried my best to keep my side of the bargain with my family despite none of them is a believer except my niece. I made some effort to have dinner with my youngest brother when he came back from Australia recently and it was good time of catching up. Last night I invited an old friend to dinner. I saw them in church last Sunday and it must have been 5 or 6 years the last I met them. Since retired from teaching, they returned to West Malaysia but for all intents and purposes they are Sabahans as they had spent a good part of 30 years in the State. When I was pastor of my home church he was an influential deacon who served for several terms as Treasurer of the church. He was also a good preacher and teacher of God's Word. He holds a double degree in finance and management.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Restarting John’s Gospel commentary

After 19 months of stoppage I have restarted my commentary on John’s Gospel. For a long time I was stuck at John 11:5 but in the past 2 days of almost non stop writing I have reached John 11:52 and will soon proceed to John 12. I suppose there was a parallel when I last preached in my home church November 2017. After that sermon I spent almost 7 weeks without ministry interruption in writing 70,000 words and managed to lecture on the Gospel of John when the new year 2018 started.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Motorcycles & Motorcars

Between bikes and cars what do you choose? My former student who is in his final year now texted me last night and asked me to interpret Rev 12. That took me almost 3 years of research but I texted back in about 150 words and gave him short interpretive clues and answers. When I asked him how he was he told me he had an accident last week and broke his shoulder bone. Ouch! I was saddened as I often prayed for motorbike riders especially couples with children to ride in a car instead. First, it is dangerous on a bike on Malaysian and Sabah’s roads filled with potholes and unevenness.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Taking Rest in Affluence (Isaiah 32:18 LXX)

Since I purchased my Bible translated by Nicholas King (Oxford Professor) I have been really blessed with the readings. King translated the Bible from the OG (Old Greek or LXX) for the OT and the Greek NT. I usually read NKJV or RSV for my devotions and both these versions are translated from the Hebrew MT for the OT. This morning I read several chapters of Isaiah and my eyes came upon Isaiah 32:17-18 about the effect of the works of righteousness. At the end of the verse, the LXX says that the end result of righteousness is “take their rest in affluence”. God is no miser. For those who have sacrificed their lives unto Him, He is able to care for. I just told my close friend that for 14 years of my full-time ministry (30-44 years old) I never held more than 2 or 3 months’ salary of savings, that is I never had more than RM10,000 in my account, in fact much less. As for me, the sacrifice to God is total commitment and giving up of everything to pursue what God commands, not holding back but to leave everything and follow Christ.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Leaders as Jewels and Precious Stones

I only managed to make one point in my Sunday sermon last week. That leaders are precious stones and jewels. I used the text of Haggai where Zerubbabel is called a signet ring of the Lord. I referred to the two pillars which stood right in front of the holy place of Solomon’s temple. The two pillars are about 35 feet in height which is about the length of 5 or 6 men. The top of the pillar is an elaborate bowl of intricate designs and decorations. I used the text of Galatians to say Peter, James and John were known as pillars of the church, so also the words of Jesus that whoever overcomes will become a pillar in the house of his God. Then I went back to refer to Joshua the high priest who was given a precious stone with 7 eyes and a crown of silver and gold was made and put on his head. Why all these jewels and precious stones have to do with leaders?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Leadership Seminar & Father’s Day

In the past couple of months I have made several forays in ministry as much as my busiest times in previous years. In my third day after my weekend ministry I am still feeling the effects physically and mentally that I need to recover. Driving back and forth Mount Kinabalu is a challenge to any mid 50s person let alone conducting a seminar from 8.40 am to 4pm. I felt so tired by 2pm that I had to walk out of the church to take a breather before restarting. Early Sunday morning I was already up and preparing for the sermon in my homechurch. I was asked how long one should preach and my answer  was according to the situation both within the preacher and the congregation.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Up the Mountains

I texted and asked “is anyone going up to the mountain with me?” I am looking for Joshuas as the namesake followed Moses up the mountain and waited for him for 40 days. Early tomorrow morning God willing I shall be driving up to Mount Kinabalu and I hope to reach the church by 8.40am in order to start at 9am. I will proceed to give two long lectures in the morning and two shorter ones in the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Power of the Word

If I didn’t believe in the power of the Word I would have not agreed to preach this Sunday in my home church. The last time I preached in my home church was 19 months ago. What can you do with one sermon? It is like droplets of water hitting the rock without much effect or impact. But the Word of God is powerful. I have had barely 10 days to prepare and thankfully I was almost done with my day long leadership seminar this Saturday. I would have preferred a latter date but the senior pastor said that was the only available slot and I took it. God is able to cause stones to become children of Abraham.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Pressing On & Going Forward

The last couple of months have been as hectic as ever. After the Good Friday-Easter services where I preached three long sermons I have been kept busy. I thought I might just wind down and lay low for a while but I have not stopped preaching since and conducting seminars. Last Sunday I preached my second sermon on giving after the first sermon three weeks ago and it brought some fireworks in the congregation. Some leaders might have a sense of unease I went on but I told them before hand that they might not like what they were going to hear. Thank God that the chairman is good friend of 20 years and whether he agrees with what I preached or not I trust we remain friends. I told the church that fund raising dinners and faith pledges are not biblical and not God pleasing ways to raise funds.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Coffee & Community

The past several months have been really hot. Room temperatures are over 33 degrees Celsius. So to keep cool and in working condition I stay in cafes and McDonalds. Sometimes I order a coffee and sit there for 2 or 3 hours typing on my computer. It's either preparing for sermon or seminar or writing commentary on some biblical book. Coffee is where I get my inspiration. It is the ambience and social setting that keeps me going. Today I went to a Coffee shop without aircon and when I asked for the bill I was told that it was paid and some young lady waived to me across the tables. I did not go to thank her because the shop was crowded. I just waved back and smiled and said a short prayer of thanksgiving. I don't even know who she was - is she church member or someone I counselled for marriage some years ago? It reminded me of a Ranau friend who works a chef in one of the restaurants.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Woman’s Conference 2019

It must be God’s will I attended the women’s conference last night. I met a former church member who was working at a mall supermarket and she called me “pastor” and told me she went to the conference the night before and asked whether I would be going. She was a member of my Ranau church in 2015. She was only Form 2 then but now a young working adult. I duly rushed home and drove 16kms to the Conference venue in Penampang. We were only 15 minutes late (7.45pm) but we were met with a couple of ushers who I knew. One of them was a former student in Melangkap where I started my ministry in 1994. While rushing into the hall I managed to catch up and found out that she was married with one child. She must have been only 17 or 18 when we first met. Inside the Hall that could seat 5,000 people, I was ushered to the front by a young man. He seemed to know me well, perhaps from the Youth Conference where I was preacher in 2016. But there was no more seat in front but one and he insisted that I seat right there with our Vice President. I was embarrassed to say the least since I have no titles or positions. When I sat down I whispered to my Vice President that if the President turned up I would move back and vacate my seat.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Future & Faith

I could almost title this post as Future and Fate. As Christians we don't believe in fate but in a God who foreordains and predestines that we should be conformed into the image of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. Be a perfect man or woman, then be like Jesus Christ the man or personhood in perfection. After more than 6 months of tendering my notice of resignation and a year since informing my former College of my impending departure, my future is no less clear than it was before.

Monday, June 3, 2019

What makes a preacher?

After a busy fortnight I was glad that yesterday I could go to worship on Sunday without the care of preaching. What makes a preacher? In recent months and years I rarely come across a preacher who is anointed and powerful to move hearts and minds. John Sung, the Chinese evangelist who converted tens of thousands once said, "Unless you are filled with the Holy Spirit you should not preach!" Why so few are filled with the Holy Spirit these days?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

God is Good

In the past several months I have been surviving on my savings and in many ways living by faith day by day week by week. There were and are too many coincidences. Just hours I posted my son’s photo in my updates last week I received news that he was coming back to Sabah for a few days, It was as if the Lord knew I missed him dearly. I wrote, “like Jacob and Joseph separated for a long time - 12 years”. Then I went to the bank to withdraw some money and I tried my best to live frugally now. The next day when I checked my account I realised someone had banked into my account the exact sum I withdrew. Was that a coincidence or God-incident? I rejoiced in the Lord for He is the cup of my salvation.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Travelling to Tenom

Tenom is famous for its coffee. But we didn’t buy any coffee this time. I drove to Tenom last Thursday stopping overnight in Tambunan before heading to Baru Jumpa, Tenom the next day. Baru Jumpa means (just met or just meeting now) is 28kms south of Tenom further to the southern border of Sabah with Sarawak and Kalimantan. The people here are mostly Lundayeh tribe or Lumbawang as they are called in Sarawak and many of their ancestors lived in the highlands of Borneo across the three borders of Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan, Indonesia. Many years ago people used to travel by foot up and down these mountains to visit other villages. The SIB church started in 1957 and I was introduced to the founder of the church on Sunday. He told me he was past 80 now and I replied I was coming to 55. “You are a young man” was his response. Yesterday I preached nearly an hour before a congregation of about 200 people in a church that can easily seat 1,000 people. The church is one of the biggest in the State and the pulpit is about 50 feet from the front rows.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Serving Freely

I have always thought that if one focuses on serving the Lord, one’s needs will be taken care of. I never saw that as earning a salary or a living. Yes, it is true we live by the gospel which means by preaching the Gospel material blessings shall flow from it. So in recent times many have asked me either directly or through texts whether I have an appointment somewhere or what ministry I am currently doing. Tough to answer. Officially I am waiting for an appointment from my HQ like any other pastor who is willing to serve. But I am not tied to anything in fact I find it refreshing to serve where I want to. Tomorrow I shall be travelling into the interior again, some 28kms south of Tenom which is 4 hours drive from KK.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Digging Wells (Genesis 26)

It was one of those days. This morning I woke up listless after two days of heady ministry. I preached one of my best sermons yet yesterday in church. Words just flowed from my mouth in rapid succession, all in Malay. Readers of my blog might not realize that since my return to Sabah, 99% of my ministry is now done in Bahasa Malaysia (Malay language). It went for just over an hour and an elder commented later that he did not feel the time because of the anointing. Straightway I was invited back to preach next month. On Saturday I conducted a Revelation seminar which was my 17th End-time Seminar since 2010. About 50 people from a small church attended and the women's fellowship that organised the event was brilliant throughout. But I stood up most of the times, 6 long hours of lectures from 8.30am to 5pm in the evening. So this morning I waited on the Lord and I read Isaac's experience of living in the land. When he went to Gerar, the local inhabitants contended with him. Isaac's men dug wells but one after another, Isaac's neighbours closed them and he had to move until such time when he dug a well and there was no longer contention.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

True Friends

A friend loves at all times a brother is born for adversity. In the ideal world, how fortunate Christians are meant to be because all fellow Christians are supposed to be our friends and more than that brothers who would come to our aid in times of adversity.  But the book of Proverbs also tells us how human relationships are viewed, our social relationships with our neighbours and friends. I thought I needed wisdom so I read Proverbs this morning. I am sometimes too quick to trust people and sometimes feel betrayed as a result. When you think he is a friend and a brother who should behave in a certain way but then he fails it can be quite disappointing. I realised not all friends are true friends but worse they are enemies. I realised that not all brothers are true brothers because like Paul says one of the dangers he faced was false brothers.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Praying for the Nation

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of a life of prayers is in answered prayers. I thought I had been pretty slack in praying for Malaysia since the new government came into power a year ago. But I was stirred afresh on Friday night 10.5.2019 to pray for the nation, for Malaysia and Sabah, and Sandakan in particular as the East Coast town of Sabah would be facing a by-election on 11.5., the first polls after one year of Pakatan Harapan government. The government coalition has lost three by-elections in a row in West Malaysia and I thought they simply could not afford to lose another one, especially a Parliamentary seat and that would embolden the opposition even more. So I prayed earnestly for Sandakan voters the night of 10.5 which happened to be the first anniversary of the new government in power (the PM was sworn in at 10pm, 10.5.2018). We were in a meeting of all pastors and church leaders that night and for a long time I was stirred to go up the pulpit and lead prayers for the nations.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

100 Days in a City

I didn’t think that I would travel again so soon after about 100 days since my coming down from Ranau to Kota Kinabalu at the end of January. Now I find myself in a village again. Fresh air, cool at night and the stillness of everything quietens down the voices of our souls. I rose before dawn as the cocks crowed at 3.30am until daylight. It is good to be near nature where time seems to stand still. It’s one lesson I learned in these past 100 days that is not to be bound by time, not looking at my watch constantly and not asking whether I have been productive or how many hours have I worked throughout the time. Is not eternity defined as the moment when there is no time (Rev 10:6)?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Widows & Orphans

The Lord is defender of widows and orphans, so the Psalmist pronounces. We see that in the early church the widows were looked after from the church funds in Jerusalem (Acts 6) and also among Gentile churches planted by Paul in Ephesus and elsewhere (1 Tim 5). Why God cares for the humble and lowly folks? Because they can’t look after themselves and also they are blessed for being poor in spirit. God’s favour and bias is always towards the downtrodden and those who can’t fend for themselves.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Woman’s Love

I was nearing the end of ch. 8 of the Song of Songs on the 2nd April when I was somewhat distracted by some Conference faraway that I thought I might attend. It’s been a month and I need to return to it for some finishing touches. The Shulamite woman seems unsure of herself right until the end. First, her brothers think of her as their little sister unready for love. She has to assert that she is more than ready to please her lover and that in her the king has found peace. This is a remarkable statement of a woman’s love. Does her love for her man give him peace? Here, peace is shalom, wellness in wholeness. Can a woman say that she has given her husband peace and happiness? Not just peace for the lack of strife though that is itself remarkable in a relationship but shalom, a peace and wholeness to the man’s soul.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Labour Day 2019

Those who believed have entered into the rest; they have ceased from their own labours just as God did from His (Hebrews 4:10). I find this verse extremely powerful. As soon as we become believers we have ceased from our labours. If we labour, we labour in the rest of God. If we work it is because God works in and through us and it is not us who work. We have entered into that sabbath rest and peace. If someone asked me whether I have a job, I would tell them that I have not worked for the past 25 years or jobless in that time. I have stopped working for myself but I work for Christ by the strength He powerfully inspires within me through His Holy Spirit. Today is Labour Day. I have a moment to reflect on a year which a third is now past.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Europe & Asia

I reckon my European dream will take some time yet to come to pass. Now it’s Europe 2020 and this year’s plan has been put on hold. With much uncertainty regarding my future I thought it best to sit out or wait out this period before the Lord. It could be like Isaiah walking 3 years naked or Elijah fed by ravens and a widow for 3.5 years or perhaps more like Ezekiel lying low in his house for 390 days. Speaking of Ezekiel this is my 5th month since December 2018 that I have stopped from travelling up and down Ranau. And for most of my time I am home bound. But I keep up with European news online or television. Brexit is like an intoxicating liquor that makes drunk all British politicians who touched it. There is no end in sight. Then on Holy Week Monday we saw the Notre Dame Cathedral burned for hours. When the Spire fell, was it the fall or end of Christianity in France and in Europe? God has His little flocks everywhere but as a cultural force Christianity has long been on the wane in Europe perhaps in its dying throes.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Alumni Connections

I was surprised by a call this morning. Normally I don’t even answer calls from unknown overseas numbers. But I saw that it was from Auckland and thought it could be my son for a moment. But he just texted me a week ago so I wasn’t expecting something so soon. It turned out to be the alumni society of Auckland University. It was from my alma mater. We chatted for 7 or 8 minutes. I managed to share my life story in those brief moments. How did you end up with doing what you are doing now? She asked, “you did something on biblical studies didn’t you? Did you go on with your career with that? Yes for sure, I answered. I am doing church work serving among the tribal peoples of Borneo.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Covenant of Levi (Malachi 2:4, 8)

Yesterday I got up at 4am and today slightly later but still before dawn. For many it’s public holiday or the long weekend. But in seasons of Christian celebrations priests are at work and I am constantly reminded of the Lord’s calling in my life to be His priest, and uphold the covenant of Levi. The paper I wrote for IOSOT in United Kingdom is exactly on such topic. Interestingly, the five academic papers that I wrote (only one published in 2015) are in topics close to my heart, my ministry and my calling. I was given a name tag yesterday at church. I don’t why some churches are into leaders wearing name tags and now even invited speakers get to wear one.

Passover Pesach

Blessed Passover and Pesach for all my readers who celebrate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. In one sentence I have used four words or terms to describe this holiday season for Christians and Jews. Yesterday in a Passover service (Paskah in Malay) I preached a 45 min sermon and conducted the passover meal according to Luke 22:1-30. I explained why the Feast of Unleavened Bread is also called the Passover. In fact, Passover in the first day in the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrations. I used 8 slides for the first 20 mins to lay the foundation of my sermon from the four books of the Law from Exodus to Deuteronomy. I mentioned the three great feasts and showed a verse in Ezekiel 45 where when the new temple is built the Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles are still mentioned and practised.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Love is Painful

It’s been heady stuff, exegeting the Song of Songs (SS) verse by verse just I have done for John’s Gospel up to ch. 10 almost 18 months ago. It is never easy to explain every verse of the book but I believe in divine inspiration as Paul says every Scripture is God-breathed and beneficial for instruction..,etc (2 Tim 3:16-17). If I had not been on holidays it would be impossible to work on a biblical book though the last couple of weeks were taken up in polishing my paper for the IOSOT 2019 for which I am no nearer to a decision. But in the last couple of days I have been working on my first draft of the SS and revising it as I go along. Incredibly it is in the SS that we learn about love and the nature of love. I have been interpreting the SS using both the Hebrew and Greek LXX texts throughout and there are significant differences.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Baby Dedication

One of the church ceremonies that l like is the child dedication to the Lord. I was asked to conduct one such ceremony without preparation and without notice at the Sunday service today. I was thanking God for a relatively short sermon (30mins) and then the preacher and elder of the church called me and asked me to take over the dedication of a new born baby of a church member. I went up obligingly and asked the names of the parents and also whether the baby was a girl or a boy. She is a little beauty probably just one or two months old.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

European Dream (2)

I have struggled mightily in prayers to discern God’s will whether I should attend the IOSOT Congress in Aberdeen. Soon I have to decide or withdraw my paper accepted for oral presentation at the said OT meeting. I thought my attendance would complete my presentation of the three sections of the OT - Law, Psalms (Writings) and the Prophets. At Peking University, Beijing in 2006 I presented a paper on Father-Son relationships based on the book of Genesis’s narratives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants (Law/Torah). Then ten years on in Seoul (2016) I presented a paper on the Psalms at Yonsei University and now if it comes to pass I will present a paper on the Prophets (Malachi 2:4, 8) based on Malachi’s mention of the covenant of Levi.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Song of Songs Commentary

I have finished the first draft of my Song of Songs commentary last week just as news of the IOSOT Congress came through. For the past several days my mind was occupied by the European trip though a decision remains elusive. So tomorrow I will forget about this Congress and write a bit more on the introduction and also the conclusion. It’s just past 21,000 words and hopefully at the end it will not be more than 30,000 words about 50 pages in all.

Friday, April 5, 2019

European Dream (IOSOT 2019)

I have a dream. I have many dreams, most of which unfulfilled to this day. I have dreamt of going to UK since I was 13 years old. My parents sent me to Singapore for secondary School in preparation to study in UK. But as fate (God) has it, I went to Australia (Year 12) and then to Christchurch for University. On the 55th day on my arrival in Christchurch (1982), I had a vision of Jesus Christ in my room and I was born again and until today a follower of Christ. When I was 19 years old, the Lord gave me numerous songs. I wrote about 6 or 7 songs from the Psalms and one from the Song of Solomon. I wrote three songs about Jerusalem, the city of the Lord (one from Matthew 23). I sang one of the Jerusalem songs with my OT colleague (President of TRAC now) at the TTC cultural night in 2009, 10 years ago. But until now Jerusalem is a distant dream. I don't know about UK as my spirit has not rested since I was told that my paper on the Law and Prophets was accepted for oral presentation at the International Organisation for the Study of the Old Testament's 23rd Congress held in the University of Aberdeen.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Celebrating Milestones

Yesterday in my sermon, I mentioned briefly that this year marked my 25th year in full-time ministry and I gave glory to God for upholding me in His service. if I were going to hold a party to celebrate I would certainly invite my good friend, the pastor of the church to celebrate with me. He is one of my oldest friends in the ministry. It is incredible that I will reach such a milestone, a quarter of a century long in the Lord's service. I will say like Jacob of old did: Katonti katonti (I am not worthy) of all Your grace and truth. I am not worthy of all Your blessings but I can affirm the truth of God's promise - "If you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things will be added to you". I never sought financial security or material blessings in my 25-year ministry. A good friend over lunch on Saturday told me that it was financial folly (he later re-phrased that I could teach a course "financial dependence on God") in my first 15 years of ministry when I had less than 2 months' salary savings in my bank account.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Preaching After 3 months

I have preached again after a nearly three months hiatus. I had a few nerves last night wondering how I would preach after such a long lay off and whether due to lack of practice the gift of preaching like many other gifts can wither away if one does not use them. But I preached a 40-minute sermon, half the length of last week’s sermon but I trust in the Lord it was twice as impactful. More than 10 members came up to me and thanked me for the message.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sermon Preparation

I suddenly found myself with 4 sermons to preach with the first this Sunday and the next three on Good Friday and two on Resurrection Sunday. How do I prepare for sermons? After preaching 30 years I still don’t have a stock sermon. Nothing written up except brief notes here and there. Except for my TTC sermons that needed translation to Mandarin and two of 2017’s sermons for 370 SIB pastors gathered at that time. I wrote close to 4,000 words each sermon and there was food aplenty.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sporting Greatness

I guess I can indulge once a while in writing about sports. Even apostle Paul uses quite a bit of sporting imagery in his letters. In the past weekend we have witnessed the pinnacle of sporting greatness. Roger Federer won his 100 tennis titles just 9 behind Jimmy Connors. But in the modern game Federer is without parallel though Nadal has beaten him more often in their matches. Federer holds 20 grand slam titles the most among men. But the sporting greatness that I witnessed though delayed telecast is Ronnie O’Sullivan. Without doubt he is the best snooker player in history despite Stephen Hendry winning 2 more world titles than O’Sullivan. But O’Sullivan reaches his 1,000 centuries’ breaks on Sunday in the last frame and winning the Players Champisonship against Neil Robertson who beat the inform player of the year Judd Trump in the semi final. The final clearance and the sustained applause and standing ovation afforded as he hit the second last red to make it 100 points and then total clearance including the cue ball entering after the black was a fairy tale end and it was indeed sporting greatness.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Godliness and Contentment (1 Tim 6:6)

Apostle Paul gave some great advice. Though he was not married he told how couples should behave and husbands to love their wives and wives should respect and submit to their husbands. In his first letter to Timothy Paul gave some advice as to how to live. Paul is not worried about housing or the lack of it. Only this morning I read that there was a glut of apartments above RM250,000 in the whole country but affordable housing is hard to come by. When you are earning RM3,000 or even RM4,000 a month with a car loan can you afford a house more than RM300K? But apostle did not mention housing at all.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

“God who fed me all life long” (Genesis 48:15)

In his deathbed Jacob blessed Joseph and his sons. Having lived for more than 100 years and many years in the wilderness of Midian and then losing Joseph his favourite son for more than 20 years Jacob had lived his life to the full through plenty and want, through abundant harvests and famines. Through it all he could say to Joseph that it was God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac before whom Jacob walked and it was this God who had fed him all his life long (Gen 48:15). The use of “fed “ instead of “shepherded “ in KJV is interesting because the latter could be spiritualised that God was a shepherd of one’s soul but He was not interested in feeding His people. The life of Jacob and the lives of Israelis throughout history has seen poverty struck God’s people yet God was faithful in making sure His people survived by giving them enough food for sustenance even in the most difficult of times.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Simple delights

After several weeks of hot nights and warm mornings I woke up early at dawn with a chill at my back. Even as I am enjoying breakfast at 6.30am in Menggatal the cool breeze is still blowing strong. The seasons may change and wind blows where it wills just like our seasons of ministry may change from one form to another and from one place to another place. For a whole month of February and for the first time in 50 months I did not have to travel to Ranau or anywhere else. Mighty relieved that I turned down 3 invitations to speak that would have involved driving for more than 4 hours each time. I have time to enjoy my city Kota Kinabalu or API-API in Chinese which is the Malay word for “fire”. I pray that the fire of the Holy Ghost be cast to this city of more than 1 million people. As I wait on the Lord I am enjoying simple delights, breakfast here and lunch there. A coffee here and a latte there.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Giving & Waiting

I suppose I am well-trained in waiting. I waited for 9 months before my Ranau's pastorate came through. That's 5 years back. Now I have been waiting for about 3 months without much direction where my future may lie. Not that I am short of offers. It came in pairs. One ministry position I turned down within 24 hours and I am glad yesterday I met my superior in church and conveyed my decision to him. He was most kind to say that he would look at finding something nearer to home. I don't know whether I want to move out of Kota Kinabalu. The whole of last year the Lord laid in my heart a burden for this growing city of close to 1 million people and about 900,000 cars. Cars are a necessity here without good public transport and if there are buses, unreliable and perhaps unsafe as well.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Preaching Again

I was enjoying my satay and jendol at my favourite restaurant in KK city when I got a text inviting me to a home group meeting. It was just past 6.40pm and the home group was supposed to start at 7.30pm. I have not been to this church member’s house for at least 2 years and I somewhat lost my way but met another member who was walking towards the house and showed me the way. This friend happened to be the preacher for the night and he asked me whether I could speak when we were walking up the steps. I hesitated but agreed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tony's Family

I have been blogging about Jesus' family so I thought I write a bit about my family. As the only Christian in my extended family, it has been a roller-coaster ride as far as familial relations are concerned. There are ups and downs; beautiful moments and great tensions. But as I always take a submissive and humble approach I never let any disagreement or conflict goes to the point of no return. There are times I needed to stand aloof from my family until they return to me just as God spoke to Jeremiah: "Let them return to you but you do not go to them." I earn my family's respect by doing that. But I am  reminded by Jesus' saying in all four Gospels that "a prophet is not without honour except in his own country and among his family." Last night we gathered early for Chap Goh Mei (15th day of the Lunar New Year) which is supposed to be today or tonight.