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.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

“I robbed other churches..” 2 Cor 11:8

This is one of the most enigmatic verses written by the apostle Paul. Paul in his two Corinthian letters insisted on his independence and not receiving financial support from Corinth. This was no mean feat as Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months when he first evangelised the people there (Acts 18). But Paul on occasions received financial support from other churches. In 2 Cor 11:8 we can not be sure which churches he meant but in Phillipians Paul did receive money from the people of Philipi. Even Jesus had women supporting his ministry from their own pockets (Luke 8). As for me, to do what I do among the indigenous peoples is a work of faith and a labour of love.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jesus' Family (John 20)

While I am on song, I might as well write on Jesus' family. I thank You Lord for Your revelation to me is wonderful and You are an awesome God...After Jesus rose again, He told Mary Magdalene to go tell "my brothers" (adelphous) that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17). And the next verse tells us that Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the risen Lord and that He had said these things (20:18). It is clear that Jesus' brothers were not his natural brothers but his disciples as the parallelism in John 20:17-18 indicates. Significantly, it is not recorded that Jesus calls His disciples, "brothers" until this juncture.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Jesus' Family (John 19)

This is probably my third or fourth post on this topic. I was engaged with it over the Lunar New Year as for a first time in many years, I did not celebrate it with my family in Kota Kinabalu but decided to go to Singapore instead. In fact, I did celebrate as when my brother found out I was going to Singapore, he invited me over to his place and we had a reunion dinner two days before the actual date. Everyone was there gathered together except my youngest brother who was in Australia with his son who had just enrolled at a Sydney High School. Last year at Chinese New Year I remember having 5 or 6 lunches and dinners in a row over 4 days. The last one was at my place and without a helper/maid it was tough getting dinner ready for about 20 people. But the question of family has occupied me for a while as my last four years were spent in Ranau, a rural town two hours' drive from Kota Kinabalu with the Bible College another 20 minutes away from Ranau. I have always considered my church as my true family as Jesus clearly taught in the Gospels and also the apostles' teachings in the epistles. Even though in most churches we can't find that family atmosphere but God's Word remains true and it is up to the church leaders to create that vision of Jesus' family among his disciples. Speaking of Jesus' family, I will now discuss the text of John 19 where Jesus commits his mother to the care of his disciple. It is extremely interesting on several accounts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The wind blows where it wills (John 3)

My 9-day trip to Singapore came to an end. I had wondered whether I made the right decision to go to Singapore on a family matter. At the end nothing was done. On the 2nd day in Singapore I already bought my tickets home. I wanted to return to Sabah straight away but I thought I could not just go without my friend thinking why I was in such a rush. At the end I felt I would just spend a good time just relaxing and twice I managed to use the library of Singapore Bible College including yesterday just before I flew back to Sabah. Even on the flight I prayed to the Lord whether it was worth my while to trouble my friend who had let me stay in his vacant flat. I did not even want to read my Bible but as I listened to my songs in my Samsung hp the Bible app opened in John 3 and when I brought my eyes closer I read that “the wind blows as it wills so is everyone who is born of the Spirit”.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sayonara Singapura

This is one of my more enjoyable holidays in Singapore. For once I felt the burden of my 4-year ministry lifted from my shoulders. I was able to relax but sleepless several nights as I prefer my own bed in KK. Who does not prefer home? But I was able to enjoy 9-day stay due to the hospitality of a good friend. Otherwise even well to do Malaysians think twice before coming to Singapore on account of the weak Malaysian currency. If not for this friend it is not possible to stay in Singapore beyond a couple of days. Twice I have gonc over to the library of Singapore Bible College.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sleepy in Singapore

After a weekend of shopping and church service I was feeling weary and nonplussed. I could not do anything this morning as I was feeling sleepy. But my week-long trip to Singapore has reaffirmed several things. I have no desire to return to Singapore in the near future either for holidays or for ministry in the foreseeable future. I have no particular burden for the people of Singapore as I have for the people of Sabah. Nonetheless, it has been a good break if only to reconfirm that my heart remains in Sabah which I will return in renewed vigour. I have a few friends in Singapore but as years go by since I left Singapore 5 years ago my close friends also dwindled. As they say it is tough to keep long distance relationships alive. But somewhat I felt it was not without purpose I came to the Lion city during the Year of the Pig.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Scholars & Society

One of the things I emphasised in my last NT theology class when I lectured on anthropology was that human beings were created to live in society and designed for fellowship. We need friendships and fellowship and that is part of being a person or anthropos in the Greek. We are created to be in relationships with one another and it is always painful when relationships break down and friendship turns sour or worse into enmity. I remember in the past two months of last year I did not know who were my friends or my enemies. There was much whispering and slander here and there especially when the elections of leaders drew near.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Scholars & Research

In this quiet period of Lunar New Year (yea, the shops are open today) I have had plenty time at home watching several vlogs over Youtube. This morning I came across Dr Simon Clark, a young scientist who shared about his PhD journey. He came from a State school, entered Oxford University for his undergraduate and Masters degree and recently obtained a PhD in Atmospheric Physics at University of Exeter. Although Dr Clark's thesis is in Physics which is the opposite end of my own thesis, the processes and experience of studying for a PhD are very similar. After watching his vlogs on PhD study, I will return to the chapter of my book on my own journey in gaining a PhD and perhaps add a couple more pages in the hope that my fellow Asians especially Malaysians will consider PhD study in the Bible. As for me, studying the book of Revelation for 3 years full time was an amazing experience of end-time prophecy, deciphering symbols, and living with the Apocalypse of John for 3 years is almost a divine heavenly experience.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Jesus' Family (John 2)

I suppose these series of posts on family are occasioned by my personal experience in Singapore. Staying in a flat, a kind of Housing Board Development (HDB) flats where most Singaporeans live, I could observe a number of families celebrating their Lunar New Year. I don't pry or invade people's privacy but I encountered many visitors to these flats several times. I met them at the lift, at the staircase or just along the walkway. Obviously, I tried to be friendly, moreover it is Chinese New Year. But regrettably no one even smiled at me or wished me happy new year. But three people at the counters of NTUC and the foodcourt greeted me and then I realised that as staff serving paying customers perhaps they were trained to wish their customers on such auspicious occasions. That means these greetings had some ulterior motives - hoping for good business and because you are spending money in their premises. If you are not any benefit to them, then you will be ignored. Coming back to Jesus' family, it is interesting to see how John's Gospel portrays Jesus' relationship with his mother and brothers. Jesus' first act in the public recorded in John 2 has Jesus attending a wedding with his mother.

Jesus' Family (Mark 3:21-24)

Chinese New Year is a good time to reflect on the nature of family. As a Christian I cannot help but see this issue through the lens of the Christian faith and Scripture. Often times, human beings are bound by one's own society, culture, traditions and upbringing. It is difficult to break free from these constraints, even for Christians as humans live within a society with its norms and values. What if the culture or tradition contradicts the Word of God? We have to take this question seriously because Jesus lambasted those who make null the Word of God for the sake of their traditions. Given that not all traditions or cultural norms are wrong or contradictory to the Bible, it is vital that our minds are renewed and shaped by Scripture, especially the teachings of Christ in the four Gospels. If you ask me what is the greatest spiritual problem among believers today, my answer would be that most Christians live a life without engaging with Scripture seriously.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Stranger in Singapore

Sirach tells us that travels to foreign countries open up minds and add to learning. It's not that going to Singapore is something new to me but I have gained new and interesting experiences each time. First, I was in Singapore for Sec 2 at a Katong Secondary School and spent 6 years teaching at a local Seminary here before returning to Sabah in 2014. It's not even the first Chinese New Year I had spent here; probably the third in Singapore. I remember clearly in my first year here I visited a colleague during the 2009's Lunar New Year. I thought I should put in some efforts to make the connection and be friendly. Two other colleagues at the TTC apartments invited me and my wife for Lunar New Year meals and gatherings and for that we are thankful. But for the first time I felt I was a stranger in Singapore.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Refuge & Jesus' Family

Jesus was a refugee. He might not remember much as it happened when he was between one to two years old but his family had to pack real quick and left Judea for Egypt to flee from Herod's wrath. There Jesus spent several years until as a kid he was back in Nazareth and later came to be known as Jesus of Nazareth. I wonder how Joseph and Mary with an infant or young child escaped at the dead of night. It is not as if they took a plane for a few hours and arrived at a safe destination. From Judea to Egypt takes a few weeks of walking or riding on a donkey or camel. Where did they sleep on the journey? Who took them in? Were there strangers like Abraham and his wife when he saw three strangers walking past and invited them in and prepared a feast for them (Genesis 18) and because of his hospitality received the promise of a son within a year? Did not James say Abraham was justified by his works and not just by faith because he acted to bring strangers into his home and fed them with the best of what he had? Where did Jesus' family stay in Egypt?

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Friends & Friendship

Now that I am back in KK for good I have plenty of time to reconnect with my friends. Friendship is a huge and complex subject but as Proverbs says "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother". A week ago I reconnected with a friend in New Zealand. We met 20 years ago when we were in the same 3rd year Greek class. I was doing my one-year postgraduate diploma and he was about to begin his MTheol thesis. When my son went to study at Otago Boys High I asked him to be a contact person and my son stayed over in his place a couple of time during term holidays. He was most kind and his lovely wife would always invite us for dinner or lunch when I visited Dunedin.

Friday, February 1, 2019

49 Months in Ranau

As I drove back to Kota Kinabalu yesterday evening down to Tamparuli hills, I felt a sense of relief and peace that I had not felt for a long time. I have concluded my Ranau ministry and it had taken 49 months to be exact from 31st December 2014 to 31st January 2019. It was on the 31st December 2014 when I drove at dawn to Ranau to begin my pastorate at a town church called Muhibbah. I arrived there at 7.30am filled with hope and it was an eventful year that was interrupted by the Ranau earthquake on 5th June 2015. When I packed my things yesterday at noon after almost 30 hours of lectures I was left alone with one student helping me.