Wednesday, December 30, 2020

My New Book


It should have been out a month ago, but due to some inadvertent delay, my new book might just see another launch middle of January 2021. It is tough getting one’s books published in Kota Kinabalu. There are few good publishers and printers around. Sad to say Malaysian public is not a reading public, much less in Sabah, my home state. I just don’t feel any excitement for books, even good Christian books. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the end-time Church which lacks fervency and passion, and suffers famine not of food or drinks, but the hearing the word of the Lord.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Tough Christmas Message

It’s hard preaching on Christmas. Over 26 years in ministry I probably rested for 2 or 3 years but more than 20 years I would travel or preach in Kota Kinabalu, my city which I did over the past 5 days. I preached about Jesus being the light of the nations. It was a tough message as I called on the congregation not to focus on one’s own race but the many ethnic groups in KK. Christians have become a small minority in the capital city when one there would be at least a third of the population claiming to be practising Christians.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Three Journeys of Jesus' Family and the Magi at Jesus' Birth

 I am just beginning a series of 5 sermons in a row finishing on 3rd January, being the first Sunday of 2021. We have had a wonderful Christmas service last Sunday with 20 more turned up than the capacity allowed. In our church hall of 2.5 shop lot units, we could only sit 110 people but 130 adults showed up with 20 seated in the doorway and waiting rooms. It was quite a sight with almost everyone wearing a face mask except the preacher when he was preaching. I guess I shoulder most of the risks, but that's part of the ministry of Jesus Christ that I partake in. I spoke about the three journeys of Christmas from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. The first was Joseph's and Mary's return to Bethlehem from Nazareth when Mary was at least 7 or 8 months' pregnant and as soon as they arrived, it was time for Mary to give birth. There was no room for them, most likely referring to Joseph's relatives' homes which could not provide Joseph and Mary with a guest room.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Overcomers

 I can now understand more and more why our Lord Jesus called the believers of the seven churches in Rev 2-3 as overcomers. Much more now in challenging times, we need to be overcoming and overcoming and often, I feel that it is like fighting a battle after battle and it is never ceasing for us to overcome. I had one of the busiest days in church yesterday, hosting the SIB KK district's pastors fellowship in my church premises.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Cost of Self-Publishing

I had spent a small fortune publishing my three books within a year. I hardly recovered 25percent of what I spent before forking out another sum of money. I am in a money losing business; God’s economy is different from the world. I am here to be a blessing through my writing ministry, not only a non-profit enterprise but making a loss. But I have been heartily encouraged from the feedback (not requested) from general readers.

Friday, December 4, 2020

My New Book is Ready

After 29th time revising and re-reading I made the call this morning that it is done and will be in the printers henceforth. God willing, before Christmas my new book will be out. What a year. It has been bleak in many ways, but there is a silver lining in the clouds with the production of this concise commentary from April onwards with the months of October and November dedicated to revising and putting in into the final shape of a book. It is a small book, the length of a Masters thesis. John Calvin, the famous 16th reformer said that books needed to be concise, to the point and I trust that my commentary on the Song of Solomon is right to the point.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Ministry’s 26th Anniversary

I thank you O Lord for calling me and in Your mercy consider me faithful to be in Your service and today marks the 26th anniversary of my full-time service in the Lord’s harvest fields. What a day! The day of the gladness of his heart (SS 3:11). I celebrated the anniversary by preaching four Sunday in a row and tomorrow looking to the future I shall be conducting a Google Meet bible study with my young teenage group. During worship especially when a Dusun song was sung I felt elated and reassured of God’s purpose for me to stay and remain in Sabah, at least for the near future.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Ministry under the Movement Control Order (MCO)

I tend to get busier when the lockdown or Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) took effect almost two months ago. We started a google meet for young teenagers' class last week and tomorrow we will be continuing our study on John 5. By this Sunday I shall have preached 4 weeks non-stop which would be a first for me as a pastor since I started January 2020. But one learns many new things during this current health crisis that brought about many changes. Churches have closed down and many big or mega churches have been brought to their knees though their online services are still ongoing and can garner thousands of views. Church finances suffer as well as staff and Bible College lecturers received pay-cut or no pay at all. What is God saying in all these? I always thought perhaps by the end of the year I will preach a message entitled, "10 Reasons why God allows this Covid-19 to come upon Malaysia and its effect on Churches". If there is a lesson we have learned, it is how powerless human beings are.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Google Meet Bible Study

 I was so thrilled after completinng my first google meet bible study with my young teenagers. A total of 24 people logged in which means minus the adults there were 18 or 19 teenagers, my target group. I expounded from where we left off two months ago in the middle of ch 4 of John's Gospel. Before the class I had a few nerves as I am bit slow to technology though my table looked well set up with two laptops and a tablet and my John's commentary in Malay for reference. The kids were good although only two askee questions and a few more wrote on the chat forums. All in all it was well worth it so much so my Chairman texted and thanked me and suggested another Bible study next week same time same forum on google meet. I had fun and technology is a boon for us as a few from a far away village could follow and link up though I could see that their line was not consistent throughout. God's Word is taught and His people are blessed and that's all I prayed for and thankful to God for His gift of teaching and it went really well for 1 hour and 10 mins. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Excitement Rises

Sometimes after preaching on Sunday, I can only rest on Tuesday because on Monday I still feel the glow of the anointing that flowed throughout the preaching of God's Word. Last evening I could not rest at all, feeling the effect of the God's Word for hours. I went for afternoon tea break and at night I slept like a baby and got up at 4.30am. Excitement rises because sometime today I shall be picking up the first copies of my new book, printed for the purposes of proof-reading. I already detected several typos, and I hope if I can find two or three proof readers, my book can go into printing by end of the year. Welcoming the New Year with a new book will be icing on the cake.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A New Book

I am pleased to announce that my new manuscript is 99% complete with proof-reading and sourcing of publishers still to come. This morning I got up early and by 6am I was working to revise my book for the 20th time and worked until 10.30am. No wonder they say that the early bird catches the worms. I always find the first three hours of my morning to be the most fruitful. By 12 noon I was satisfied with my work and now I need to pray so that I could find at least two proof-readers and a good publishers.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Preaching in front of a Crew & Camera

It's been surreal or unreal in many ways. I have not gotten used to preaching in front of the multimedia crew and cameras. But I preach I shall do in the foreseeable future as the Covid-19 infections have not decreased and it will take several more weeks, or even months before things become better. Early in the MCO I told my congregation not to expect to celebrate Christmas in church. So this year we have missed all the Christian feasts, Passover in April, Pentecost at the end of May (first MCO) and now most likely we will miss Christmas in December. I will press on with my job at hand, recording and preaching online sermons to my congregation. Technology is a two-edged sword. Much good comes out of it as we can learn much, hold business meetings, listen to lectures but online services are not the assembly of the saints as where there is no gathering, then there is no church (ekklesia).

Monday, November 2, 2020

"My Times are in Your Hands" (Psalm 31:15)

Worldly timing or human planning have always thrown a spanner into the works. Jesus in John's Gospel repeatedly said that, "My time is not yet". If it is just human reckoning, I should now be taking a sabbatical since my return from Singapore more than 6 years ago. But I have to wait for a long time for ministry appointments so much so, one reader who read my book texted me and asked why that was so. Only the Lord knows the answer but I have always waited for His time. I waited 6 months before starting in Ranau in 2015, then for two months out of work when I completed my Semester as Acting Principal. Before the current pastorate, I waited 11 months, out of work for nearly a year in 2019. Who is able to do endure all these?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Emergency Averted: Power of Prayer

Could it be a coincidence? We ended our 8-day Prayer Chain (Doa Berantai) at 6pm last Friday where we prayed round the clock, one hour each with about 30 church members taking part. News began to flash that the Prime Minister of Malaysia with his entourage were heading to the King's palace in Kuantan as our current King is from the State of Pahang. So throughout the week-end we continued to pray ending with our Sunday service's intercession yesterday for the King and the nation. In just over 6 hours, we received the good news that the proposed Emergency proclamation had been averted.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

"Do not Judge before the Time"

Solon, the great ancient Greek philosopher opined that no one should be called good when he is still alive. This means one's life has to be judged when one passes away and has completed one's life on earth. Even then for Christians, we should not judge before the time as the Lord is the judge of all and He knows the hearts of men, whether good or bad (John 2:25). While living on earth, often the one motivation that drives people is "honour" and this honour is man's honour, that is honour given by his peers or fellow human beings. There is nothing wrong in that if done right, though as the weakness of the fallen human nature should remind us to be wary lest as Jesus warned that the Pharisees sought honour/glory from one another, but not the honour/glory that came from God (John 5:44). Exactly a chapter before (John 4:44), Jesus says that, "a prophet has no honour in his own country".

Monday, October 19, 2020

Faith & Financial Management

I learned my lessons young, thanks be to God! I realised in my early 20s how easy it was to spend money and how difficult it was to save or repay debts. I graduated and began work with a RM60,000.00 study loan. At first, I did not think much about it but two years into paying down the loan, I realised that it was not easy to pay off debts when one has many other financial commitments. But thanks be to God, and as a Christian I would sum up my financial management experience as "faith & worldly wisdom". It is a combination of believing and trusting in God, yet when making financial decisions, especially in taking loans or debts, a big dose of worldly wisdom is needed. So after repaying all my debts and financing my own theological education, I started full-ministry with practically nothing.

Departure Points (1994-2019)

These are the departure points since I was called into full-time ministry: "Moses recorded their starting-points in writing whenever they moved on at Yahweh's command" (Numbers 33:2)

1) Melangkap, Kota Belud (2 hours from Kota Kinabalu) 1 Year (1994-1995)

2) Wisma SIB, Guest Room (KK) 6 months (1996)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

New Zealand - Is the Lord calling?

I must say 12 years ago I would jump at the chance of going to New Zealand and serve the Lord there. So when I resigned in 2008 from my pastorate of my homechurch in KK, the first thing I did was to buy a ticket to New Zealand. My son was already there in his Year 13 (Upper Six), but it happened that I was called or re-called to Asia, to Singapore where I stayed for 6 years. When my Kiwi friend who just recently connected with me through Instagram, and he asked me where I was serving. When I told him that I was serving this new church called, SIB Indah Permai, he replied that no wonder my book was named as "Departure Points". As for my friend, he had stayed put in one ministry in one place since his graduation in 1995, all 25 years in one position. I graduated a year earlier though we entered first year at the same time, but I must have moved at least 10 times in 10 places.

Friday, October 16, 2020

A Sabbath from Preaching

It was a mighty relief once I asked to be relieved of my preaching duty this Sunday. I have been preaching three Sundays in a row which was a first time for me since becoming the pastor of the church. If I count the sermons for prayer meetings (twice) and a wake service, I have preached six times in the past 3 weeks. No wonder my mind is telling me to take a break and in fact a friend suggested as much. As preaching takes much time in preparation, reading the biblical texts, praying before the Lord for wisdom, understand the situation of the local church and the members' needs, it is spiritual burden. No wonder the priests of old were said to be ministering the burden of the congregation and it is a burden one has to bear and it can be relentless like in the past month.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Surviving the Plague

Covid-19 is a plague that has come to test humankind and nations on earth. The State of Sabah was almost clear of active Covid-19 cases until early September when the all the activities and campaigning for the State's Election took place. Twice in my sermon I had hinted strongly that I was not going to vote (it isn't compulsory to vote in Malaysia) but at the end I did. Did not Moses give up everything to suffer afflictions with His people? Last Saturday when I ministered in a wake service I realised I was taking considerable risks because of the confined space and the amount of time we spent inside the house to comfort the bereaved. Then I thought of John Calvin in the 16th century who also ministered to the sick when plague struck Geneva and he did not shy away from ministry just because of some disease. Interestingly, in Calvin's times, church services were never closed and only those infected were quarantined at home.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Double Sabbath

When you work double time, sometimes you deserve a double Sabbath. It is not that we are worthy as we are all unworthy servants and we do not look for commendation or praise from men. Yet from the MCO period which started last Wednesday, it had been one of my busiest weeks, not least in the last 48 hours leading to Sunday. I recorded a sermon for Friday, the first audio recording for about 4 months, which took me much longer than anticipated. Then, on Saturday morning I recorded my sermon for Sunday and that took two hours of my time in church but at least two or three days in preparation. I have a friend or two who thinks my work is easy or less hard than their so-called professions.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Staying at Home

It was good that today is the start of the Movement Control Order. I stayed at home whole day. It's like an enforced Sabbatical. Simple lunches and eggs on toast for dinner. And I felt more productive than usual. More time at home means more time reading the Bible, worshipping and praying. I actually suggested that this Sunday's sermon be cancelled and we all enjoy a rest since there will be so many online services to watch. Sometimes the impact of church closure is not felt if we provide online services causing the members to feel comfortable and sooner or later some will feel contented and not a few have told me they now prefer to stay at home and watch the services. But I was persuaded to carry on in view of the wishes of the majority. I will either continue my series on Ephesians or leadership. But at least today, I read through my forthcoming book and revised it a fair bit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Floods & Incessant Rain

A friend texted me and jokingly blamed me for preaching on "Ask of Me - Rain!" (Zech 10:1). Rain it did in Sabah for about 16 hours non-stop from midnight Sunday to 4pm Monday. Many areas in the West coast and Kota Kinabalu were flooded. A number of bridges that I had crossed were swept away and many villages became inaccessible as a result. I thank God that I am holding onto my 4-wheel pick-up with high ground clearance. I had paid for it cash when I bought it second hand 6 years ago. Since it is not a financial burden except for the usual maintenance, now with the floods and incessant rains for the past several weeks had convinced me to hold on to my car as long as possible.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Ask for Rain; Sheep without a Shepherd (Zechariah 10:1-2)

"Who is adequate for all these?, says Paul the apostle". Yesterday by 7.20am I was already in church for our 9am service after having about 3 or 4 hours of sleep. It was the longest 48 hours from Friday onwards with fake news and much happening around me. After my message that lasted about 32 minutes which was shorter than usual, one deacon asked me how I managed to preach and prepare my slides under the circumstances. I had to gather the leaders 10 minutes before the service started and spent about 20 minutes with them and we decided from next week we are ceasing church services once more due to the rising Covid-19 cases. In my sermon I mentioned that Sabah's cases could rise to 500 to 600 a day and just this evening we had news that Malaysia's toll now stands at 432 cases in 24 hours. Sabah's cases are not much more than yesterday but we expect the Covid-19 infections to rise in the next few days.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Last Quarter 2020

It is the last quarter of 2020. In the beginning of the year I was fired up to preach about setting and achieving our goals for the new decade and coming to this final quarter, my enthusiasm has not diminished. My young teenagers' group is still going strong. My personal goal of writing another book is coming to fruition, though I am not sure whether I can get it published at the end of the year or sometime 2021. There are many considerations going into publishing a book in Sabah. As far as my book, Departure Points is concerned, I am truly glad for the feedback thus far. Within the last 12 hours, I received news from New Zealand and also a Singaporean friend who had requested a copy.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Historic Year in Sabah

It's been a historic year in recent memory. The last we had a Snap Election was back in 1986 when there were riots on the streets of a few cities in Sabah. But this time round, thankfully it all went peacefully. I went out to vote as early as 6.15 and by 7.30am I reached the polling booth there were already long queues before the Booth opened at 7.50am. It has been a historic Election in various proportions. The sitting government is unseated with a new coalition led by the Malaysian PM's party gaining a simple majority of 38 seats in a 73-Seat State Assembly with three independents who are likely to support the winning Coalition. Th only crux that left Sabahans in suspense is the choice of the Chief Minister. DAP won big in cities and they lost only one seat. My own constituency saw the DAP candidate making history as winning with the biggest majority of more than 14,000 votes. But DAP miscalculated badly.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

War Horse (2)

I did not get to advertise the sale of my double-cab Triton, as my war horse holds much sentimental value to me. If I have it maintained, it may run up to 200,000kms and that will be another 10 years of use, since I don't drive it so often now. In the past fortnight when flash floods occurred often, it is good to know that one has a car with a higher ground clearance. With much politicking in the State, the roads are filled with many potholes and I wish the politicians just focus on their work, and give all the civil servants the necessary guidance and encouragement to get the job done. Streets are flooded everywhere because plastic bags clog up the drains and clearing of drains and maintenance thereof falls behind schedule.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Recovery & Progress

For three weeks in a row now, our Sunday services are almost full (90 adults capacity). Now we have reached half of our average attendance pre-Covid 19. It is in the process of recovery and we praise God that the finances are also recovering with members giving more generously though not a few have lost their jobs or given no-pay leave for 3 months or more. Better still, I feel there is progress in spiritual growth. Twice in recent weeks, members of the church actually clapped spontaneously when I spoke.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Teaching Teenagers

Sometimes it is good to listen to outside speakers once a while. They bring a fresh perspective on things. Even from Christian politicians. A few of my leaders and I went to listen to a Member of Parliament from Kuala Lumpur. I have already read her book so I was not that surprised with what she shared. Yet it was good to listen to her in person. The YB mentioned a few things that the Lord used to confirm what I have been doing. I am glad a few elders and deacons were also there and they could evaluate what was being spoken. The MP said that it was important to give priority to children's and teenage's ministry. In her words, "send your best pastors to teach Sunday school and teenagers." It was like an arrow from the Lord when she said that.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

My War Horse

Suddenly today the thought of selling my double-cap Triton 4 by 4 came to me so much so that I called the Borneo Post to inquire about putting up an advertisement under "Car for Sale". My car has been my war horse for nearly 6 years since November 2014. Where would I be and where have I gone or not gone if not for my war horse? I had been into at least 50 villages in the past 6 years, together with the 70 villagers which I ministered in 25 years earlier, the total now must exceed 120 villages. I realized that at least 10 villages that I had preached in had not been included in my book, "Departure Points". Well, I had always planned for a 2nd edition down the road (God willing, in 15 years' time). It will be sad if I have to part way with my car that had served me so well.

Friday, September 4, 2020

"I was cast aside in the house of God" (Psalm 83:12 LXX; MT Psalm 84)

I don't know how many times the Lord spoke to me through the LXX translation of the Old Testament. No wonder most NT authors quoted Scripture from the LXX (80% of the time) rather than the Hebrew MT. Late last night, I had a great struggle, almost in proportion to Jacob's struggle with the angel at the stream of Jabbok. I woke up several times, thinking about the events of last night and then at 4am sharp I got up for good to read my Bible and prayed. I came across Psalm 83:12 LXX, "I was cast aide in the house of God" instead of the MT "I rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God". During the beginning of PKP (MCO) I felt that the MT spoke to me as often I would go to church on my own and just prayed at its entrance when we were barred from holding public services for more than 3 months. I was like a doorkeeper in God's house. Then now back in church, the house of God I felt cast aside. It is an interesting Greek word, "pararriteisthai" quite a mouthful but it means to be thrown down.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

20 Years or 240 Months of Active Service


This month I am celebrating the completion of 240 months or 20 years in active service. I entered full-time ministry in December 1994 when I was 30 years old, four months and 5 days old, which means by this December it will be my 26th anniversary in full-time ministry. However, if I deduct the time I took for my post-grad studies and time waiting for the next appointment, it adds up to five and a half years. I waited for 10 months recently before coming into this current pastoral position. When I returned from Singapore I waited for 6 months until 1st January 2015 before taking my position as pastor in Ranau. Then even after stopping as Acting Principal, I waited for one and a half months before being reappointed as lecturer in the Bible College. All in all, I spent 49 months (7 x 7) in Ranau, travelling almost every weekend for more than 3 years up and down the Mount Kinabalu route.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Preaching Once

Suddenly I find my preaching burden cut by half as our second Sunday service met its demise due to lack of attendance. It was in the afternoon and most people are simply not used to an afternoon service with so many online services in the morning that they could follow including our own channel with live-streaming. So yesterday I gave my all since I knew I did not have to return to preach in the afternoon. My all means a total of 47 minutes of preaching with a couple of minutes' break due to a technical glitch at the beginning. I am pleased I brought my laptop with my slides on it and I proceeded to preach from it while waiting the multimedia people to fix the issue. I preached on Eph 1:11-15 and it has not been easy preaching on Paul's letter to the Ephesians since the Greek is fairly complex with long sentences. Eph 1:3-14 in Greek is one long sentence with more than 10 genitival phrases and clauses.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Penang Bookshelf

I just came across Penang Bookshelf, an online bookstore which has a good selection of local and international books including my own, "Departure Points".  But you can order direct from my Sabah's publishers, Natural History Publications (here). Or email me direct and I will send a copy to you anywhere in Malaysia for RM55.00 inclusive of postage. As for Singapore, it will be SGD25 a copy as postage cost a bit more.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Singapore's Sojourn

I was thrilled and honoured to receive an invitation to participate in the online Induction service today for the 12th Principal of Trinity Theological College, my former place of ministry and employment. It's not easy to forget 6 years of residential college community with several stints as Warden and also one Semester as Acting Dean of Students. Friendships with colleagues were especially cherished and it was not for anything that I waited for the new Principal to take up the reins of leadership before I sent a copy of my "Departure Points" to two of my former colleagues there.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Degrees & Diplomas

I am forever grateful to be a pastor because I don’t have to gown myself anymore with academic regalia during graduation ceremonies. Only today I decided to make sure I knew where to locate my degrees and diplomas. It took more than 20 minutes foraging in my store room and many boxes but then the few scrolls were located in a drawer underneath the television. I took out my diploma for my Bachelor of Theology which I did not frame (regrettably) since it was already showing signs of moulding. That degree cost me more than RM100K over two years of study in Auckland and now I am going to invest in a wooden frame of RM35.00 in order to keep it clean or in its somewhat damaged state. For both degrees, bachelor and doctoral, I did not attend the graduation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Leaders make or break the nation and the Church

Last Sunday after I had preached twice with two different sermons we went ahead with our council meeting. According to our Constitution it should be monthly but due to COVID 19 crisis, meetings have been a bit haphazard. In a way I am glad I am not the Chairman, so that I could focus on preaching and pastoral work. Last Saturday for a second time in two weeks we visited a family about 15 Kms and we drove up a steep hill overlooking the city of KK. But I realised that in times of crisis, leadership is even more critical and essential for the advancement of the Gospel and the growth of the church. Some people out of fear refuse to restart church services on a Sunday and I saw few wondering about in their shorts and T-shirt’s on a Sunday when they should be serving in church. How ironic when times were good, often we hear exhortations to attend church services, but the pandemic has hit some of the churches hard. No wonder Jesus said that when the Son of Man comes to the earth, will He find faith? Even the prayers seem to be haphazardly planned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Conferences and Revivals

It is almost three and a half years ago. Out of the blue I received a photo of me at one of the most interior places you could get to in Sabah, namely at Salarom Taka. In the middle of no where there is a huge SIB church that could seat 1,000 people but I was the preacher for 4 sessions at the Combined Youth Conference of the 9 Interior Districts. I remember that about 700 youths turned up and they told me that previous Conferences saw crowds of more than 1,000. Except for the State level Youth Conference it has been a long time since I preached before 1,000 people. Perhaps in Tongod, Kalibatangan, another interior place three hours from Telupid when I went there in 1997 to preach before 1,000 Anglican youths. It was unforgettable at Tongod as it was forgettable in Salarom Taka.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Monday Musings

I was still full of energy as the result of the anointing of the Holy Spirit when I reached home at 9.30pm last night. I taught for nearly 100 minutes with a few minutes' break in between. I pleaded with the teenagers that they should seek after the Lord and experience the Holy Spirit, as a gift from the Lord. Without the Holy Spirit, John the Baptist twice said he did not know Him. Why was that repeated? (John 1:29-34). At one level, John did not recognise Jesus at first, but like many things in the Gospel of John, there is always a deeper truth for those who seek it. John the Baptist did not know Jesus because he had not experienced the Holy Spirit that only Jesus could give. Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, no one really knows Jesus the way He is to be known. I told the 20 or so teenagers gathered last night that it is in their hands to know this Jesus, called the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). Most of these youths are third generation Christians where the grandparents or parents are Christians, from the SIB church.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

One Year & One Week: Covid-19 Musings

I caught the full moon last night on my way to buy pizza take-away. By August's full moon, I had turned another year and another week. Now I am past mid-50s and soon I will turn 60, the magical number for Chinese as 60 is a complete cycle (12 animals in the Zodiac) multiplied by 5. I had preached three Sundays in a row, all 6 full sermons. For record, on 19th July I preached on the Fulness of Times in Ephesians 1:10 in the morning and the Day of Christ in Philippians 1:1-6 in the afternoon. Then, on 26th July in Ranau, I preached on "Redeeming the Time for the Days are evil" in Eph 5:1-17 and in the second service, "Numbering our Days, O Lord" where I expound on the Psalm 90 in 30 minutes. I made several points. First, the Lord is our refuge in these times of health crisis caused by the Covid-19. Second, man is a shadow, glorious one moment and gone the next. Third, counting our days which means recognizing the times which God gives us to serve Him until we are 80 years old. I made the point that many will wake up one day and realize that they are already 75 or 80 by which time they are too old or too weak to do anything effective for God. Now is the time. And I am counting since I turned 56 in Ranau that Sunday and I still have 24 years less a week now. Fourth, in Psalm 90, the Psalmist sensed that God's anger hovered His people and that they have to atone for their sins.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Monday's Sabbath & Youtube Channel

With Sunday afternoon services now,  I need my Monday's Sabbath rest more than ever. Often I can't do much whole day, catching up on sleep or just relaxing uploading my videos unto my Youtube channel. As I preach two different Sunday sermons and I try to record both sermons, morning and afternoon I have quite a few in store for upload. Even almost half of Revelation's class was recorded and I have uploaded a few since. And I am really pleased that my subscribers have exceeded 50 and the most viewed video is reaching 100 views (Rebuilding of the Temple). "Do not despise the days of small things".

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Month that Was (July 2020)

July is named after Julius Caesar, the founder of Roman imperial dynasty. It was a month full of surprises and significant events. First, earlier in the month my younger brother was appointed Judicial  Commissioner and we have a Judge in the family. My late father would be truly proud. I also conducted my second teenage class with about 40 people in attendance, the first after the lockdown. It was an encouraging sign that teenagers or at least some of the parents who brought them showed good interest. I started a series preaching on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on 12th and 19th July. In the afternoon on 19th July I decided to preach on Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Church has returned to some form of normalcy as the first session is nearly filled to capacity given the SOP. Then on the 20th July I travelled to my former College which I left in January 2019 to accept an invitation to teach an intensive course on Revelation.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Politics in Sabah & Malaysia

Late last night Sabahans were rocked with news that there could be a change of government with the former Chief Minister returning to power with a simple majority in the State Assembly. The former CM had served for 15 years before being ousted two years ago and he was recently acquitted of multiple corruption charges. As for me, I spent some time praying to the Lord, praying for my friends especially those in politics. Only last Sunday in Ranau, I spoke with a politician friend at length and after his several requests for prayers, I prayed for him with the leaders of my former church. Whichever side he chooses, I will still be his friend for as a pastor I am apolitical in a way, though I am very much interested in politics and the State of Sabah's development.  This Ranau assemblyman has proven a great friend for many years. I very much appreciated his presence along with his wife in my 25-year anniversary in full-time ministry thanksgiving service last December. He even bought a gift for me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Dogs are Men’s Best Friends

My dream about dogs came true in a way unexpected. During the five days I was at College, none of the dogs even barked at me, all of them friendly to the point of being a bit annoying. Even when we wanted to take the class photo, two dogs came up and joined us. Perhaps in my dream I did sense the dogs in my car were friendly as one was trying to lick my face which turned me off. Only the fierce ones were outside. Is there a meaning to this? The new principal was friendly and he even asked me about the book I published on the Gospel of John which he was kind to promote on the last day (Friday) when almost all my books were already sold out. I took with me 45 books to College and sold the last 5 copies on the last day. The ten copies of Departure Points were also sold out to my surprise as I thought my English book would not have much of a demand. That meant I had none left for my former Church in the weekend and an elder bought my own copy which I sold for RM50.00. Another 20 copies of my John’s commentary were sold out in the church and there were requests for more. One politician friend even paid me in advance and asked to mail a copy of Departure Points to him. Overall the trip was an immense success as the Lord blessed and opened doors for me. On Saturday night I gave a seminar in my former church and the church was packed given the SOP, the capacity was only about 80 people. But the Q & A went on for 90 minutes which meant I stood for more than 2 hours on stage that night. And then I preached twice in Sunday and it went well. For both messages I preached a short 30 mins wanting to reserve my strength for my drive back to KK and the evening class for the young teenagers in my church.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Pack of Dogs (Psalm 59:6, 14)

I had a weird dream a couple of nights ago. I rarely had dreams but if I do I tend to forget that I'd dreamed when I get up. But this dream stays vivid for three days. I dreamed that I was approaching my Triton pick-up like going on a journey but there were fierce dogs surrounding the car. In my dream, I sensed fear (I don't like dogs), but I approached and entered my Triton, nonetheless. But inside the car several big dogs were with me, even trying to lick my face or very near me, too close for comfort. Then my dream ended. After 3 days meditating on this and asking the Lord whether the dream had any meaning, I came to the conclusion that perhaps it was due to my anxiety of returning to my former College which I had resigned from my teaching ministry at the start of 2019. It's been 18 months away and it is peaceful in Kota Kinabalu and the church that I now serve as pastor. I did not want to return to the past but there was request from the top leaders at HQ that I could not refuse, partly due to a long friendship and collegiality with the person who called. But since then, my heart is heavy and everytime I think about my forthcoming trip I felt a sense of gloom and depression.

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Lord's Supper: Private or Corporate?

I did not expect to use the word, “stress” in my sermon yesterday. Until noon I was laying down looking up the ceiling, feeling totally exhausted, almost unable to get up. My mind especially was overworked in the weekend. It was the third Sunday back from lockdown and it was our first Communion service. Normally I will take less than 5 mins for a short reflection before the emblems are distributed but yesterday I took 16 mins to explain the text of 1 Cor 11:16-32 which I read out in its entirety. I spoke about the difference meeting as church and having a meal at home as Paul made clear in the beginning and the end of the passage. Twice he advised people to eat dinner before meeting up as church to eat the Lord’s supper. The inference is that the Lords supper is only conducted in a church setting, a meeting of believers, not just a family at home, doing their own thing, taking bread and wine and pretending it to be holy communion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Village & Town

I am an urbanite through and through. Big cities like Melbourne and Singapore are my cup of tea. I think I will thrive in Auckland or London for sure. But being back in Sabah for 6 plus years now makes me wonder about my life and future. The first half of the year had sped past. Even though for 3 months I was made to stay at home but I was always busy, preparing two sermons a week and responding to the many WhatsApp’s text and the like. So yesterday for the first time this year I took time off and returned to my wife’s village. Now I am spending a couple of hours in Tambunan township and it was a pleasant change compared to the hectic pace of Kota Kinabalu. I could just relax, drink my coffee and watch the cars go past the main road in the town and there are not many.

What is the Bible?

I gave a 85-minute lecture (from 6.55pm to 8:10pm) to a group of young teenagers about the Bible. In times when people can't sit still for 15 mins or listen to a 30-min sermon, it was quite a feat for them to endure an hour and 15 minutes of the talk I gave last Sunday. At the end, I could still see smiling faces and we had a great time. During the talk I covered the history of writing - papyrus and parchment and scrolls. The main divisions of the bible, OT and NT with an acronym - TNK (Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim) and the NT with 4 main sections (Injil - Gospel), Sejarah (history, Acts), Surat (Epistles) and Apocalyptic (Revelation) with TNKISSA. I spoke about the original languages of the Bible, early manuscripts, and modern versions and at the end, the four Malay/Indonesian versions and even had time to make a comparison between the Indonesian version and Malay (Borneo) version of the Lord's Prayer.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Sabbath in Sabah

Today I tried to keep myself busy preparing for the course on eschatology which I shall be teaching at my former College in Ranau in 2 weeks’ time, God willing. Besides that I managed to sell 7 of my books, 6 on the Gospel of John and one copy of Departure Points in my former KK church today. The pastor there was very kind to reserve another 50 copies for church deacons and cell group leaders. Then I sold another two copies of my commentary on John to two other persons who were attending a children’s state level meeting. So I rejoiced in the Lord and I think my Ranau trip will also be fruitful as I could promote my books in another of my former church which I pastored in 2005. The chairman of the church knew I was coming to Ranau and invited me to preach after my course at the College. But I have yet to respond to his invitation because that Sunday evening I have to conduct a young teenage group.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Lord’s Prayer in Song

Last night was supposed to be a big event. I followed the launch of the Lord’s Prayer (Bapa kami) sung in Malay. But the Malay lyrics follow the Alkitab Versi Borneo (AVB), a Malay translation that came out about 5 years ago. The melody is not bad but I have to listen to it more to catch the tune. One really needs a melodious tune if it is to be sung in public and used in liturgy. Perhaps I will try it out in my young teenage Bible study this Sunday. I feel pangs of pain in my heart when I listened to the song. Last Sunday I preached about Ezra as an expert of the Law of Moses and how he was called to teach the people of Israel. As far as bible translation is concerned, you need Bible experts. Not so called experts or church men or careerists but real scholars acknowledged by the academia in their specific fields. Obviously if one wants a Bornean version in Malay, ideally you have Sabah and Sarawak scholars leading the project, especially those who have used the Malay/Indonesian Bible for decades. When I say scholars, I mean biblical scholars who know Hebrew and Greek and the nuances of the biblical languages and how they work in translation.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

First Sunday Service after MCO

In my second sermon during the MCO late March, I said that if the MCO went on for two or three months, we might not see the return of half the congregation when the church reopened. I hope my prophecy will remain unfulfilled. For last Sunday, first time church services resumed we saw an attendance of just over a quarter of the usual numbers before the MCO. Our capacity is now only 80 people per service as per SOP limiting to only one third of the capacity. So we hold two services to cater for our congregation which means only 160 people maximum could attend which is also below our usual attendance pre-MCO. Attendance will be affected because senior citizens and children below 12 are not permitted to attend. This impacts young families where at least one parent has to stay home to care for their children at any given time. But besides these valid reasons, I was more worried about the spiritual stagnation that comes with months of non-attendance in church. People are drilled to think that this is a new normal (a phrase I refuse to use) so that it is the Word of God that determines how we think and speak.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

"Show Yourself to the World" (John 7)

Jesus' brothers thought that Jesus was being pretentious for hiding in a small corner of Galilee, though he had moved from a small village of Nazareth to a town called Capernaum at the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Today I just turned down an invitation to teach at a seminary outside of Sabah, probably a third invitation in recent years from overseas. For one reason or another, it just did not work out. I am amazed at how little of the love for the truth in places where you would think truth is the main rationale of existence. Did not Jesus say, "Your word is truth" (John 17:17) and that "the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth" but how many people really want the truth or be led by the Spirit?. Established religion and institutions could well be working against God's purposes. Rightly, God sees into the hearts of men. Though institutions may fail or have many failings, there could still be one or two righteous individuals in it. Did not Obadiah who served the wicked Ahab said to Elijah, "Did I not hide and feed 100 of the Lord's prophets?" So we see that it was not only Elijah but Obadiah who was a government official serving an apostate administration, but could still do a lot of good for God's servants.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Study Room Set Up (2)

It is done! My study room set up is complete. All my books are put into book shelves. The first time in 14 years that I managed to accomplish such a feat. I would have done it earlier during the beginning of the MCO, but then my laptop broke down. I put on hold my purchase of book shelves thinking that I needed money to repair or buy a new computer. I did buy a new laptop, a Surface laptop first generation with only 4GB and 128GB. Half of the memory is gone to download Windows 10 Pro but I am enjoying many new features in the Office suite apps. One thing I liked is the design suggestions for power-point slides. I am mighty pleased that my study room is finally set up. I just have a few boxes of photocopy of notes and journal articles from my time at Otago University. It's been exactly 20 years ago but I am keeping them since I am beginning to write on the book of Revelation.

Friday, June 19, 2020

6 Years Ago in Singapore

From time to time, I checked the pageviews of this blog which re-started in 2012 (my first began in 2006). One stats that caught my eye is that the pageviews in Singapore are just slightly above Malaysia's. As I write it is likely the Malaysia will rise above Singapore in terms of pageviews. It does make me reflect on the fact that I was in Singapore 12 years ago and I have been back in Sabah in the past 6 years. I guess most of my readers are still from Singapore and my home country though I am pleased that USA and a number of European countries have caught up as well. Some years back (I don't remember exactly when) a French author emailed me about my book on Revelation and he told me that he had read my book more than 10 times! And he was reading it again when he wrote. No wonder, during those days, there were many French visitors who visited my blog and my guess is that this French author must have recommended my blog to his friends. One surprising thing (most won't believe this) is that I did not once refer to my blog when I wrote and published my "memoirs" late last year.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Middle of the Year

It's coming to the middle of the year and in less than a couple of weeks, we will enter into the 2nd half of the 2020. The second quarter that is about to pass us by is a blur as we are bound at home during the Movement Control Order. There is still no news when churches can operate as normal. But as for me, it is good to stay at home to focus on writing lecture notes, first for my SIB Bible College in Namaus and then for an online course starting in August. As both courses focus on the book of Revelation (one in Malay and one in English), it will be a topic of interest, especially now after almost 20 years of study, I am now ready to write a book or commentary on the book of Revelation.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Work Station

I am determined to stay put. If not my investment to refurbish my study room will be futile. So now I have a work station. This morning was the second time I sat there all morning and got work done. I am writing notes on Revelation with a view of developing it into a commentary. But the sight in my room is mixed. Outside I see two of my mango trees. My rather large study has three windows and I like it that way. I still have about 7 boxes laying on the floor and I plan to shelve them as soon as I buy another big book shelf. I looked at the 27 inch Dell monitor and wondered how I was able to write two published books on an 13 inch laptop. My fingers were crammed and my hand is still hurting. Now I bought a keyboard on which typing is a breeze and enjoyable.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Departing & Departure Points

When I promoted my book to a lawyer friend some months back, he was taken aback by the title of my book, Departure Points. But I explained briefly to him that it is about my journey and my many departures from one place to another. I am not sure whether he bought a copy after that. When I rearranged my study room yesterday I realised why it had taken me 14 years before I could sit down and work in my room. It is because I have been departing and never was in one place long enough. Since I was 13 years ago when I left home to study in Singapore and then in the past 25 years of ministry I have been departing from one place to another. In my short 4 years in Ranau I received 4 appointments; the third I turned down for 2 months before the issue of remuneration was settled and I took up my 4th appointment for 2 and a half years before departing once more from Ranau back to Kota Kinabalu at the end of January 2019. Perhaps God meant for the MCO for good.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Study Room, a Work in Progress

My study room is a work in progress. My book shelf came in good time yesterday just before I headed to church to record my Sunday sermon. I packed about 200 books into one large shelf. It was the biggest there was in the furniture shop and if I buy another one, I may just fit everything into it. I hope to clear all clutter in my study room so that I have a nice place to work in. I have realised long time ago that it would not be cheap to maintain a scholarly life. It is not a matter of buying books which I don't do often nowadays. As Scripture says, "buy the truth and sell it not". Education is not cheap and a degree anywhere in the world besides one own country can cost up to no less than $500,000 ringgit. If you take it to the doctoral level, you are easily looking at spending MYR1 million. Is it worth it? If I count it in monetary terms and rewards, then it is not worth all the money. But it is the knowledge gained that matters. A University degree may not be essential but it is a modern vessel for knowledge in the last days in the world.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Study Room Set-Up

My 300 books from Singapore had arrived home three months ago. But all of my books are still lying on the floor, mostly in opened boxes. With my books from Namaus, I think I have another 150 books more making a total of 450 books scattered throughout my room. As my study room is in such a mess, I have been using my dining table for study in the past few weeks but I need to return to my study room to make it functional and a comfortable space to work in. I think I need at least 4 or 5 big book shelves to put up my books or if I have the money I could do up one side of my study room wall of about 12 feet right up to the 9-feet tall ceiling and it will probably stock up all my books. It is tempting to say the least. But with limited budget, after listening to the online service just now, I went out and bought a big book shelf which I will put up most of Hebrew and Greek texts and a few commentaries.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Tech, Computers & Gadgets

It was exactly ten years ago when I got myself the first generation Samsung Tablet 8-inch and used it throughout the duration of my stay in Singapore for preaching. I realised then and more so now that my eyesight was not as good as when I was in my 30s or early 40s and words in a tablet could be enlarged with touch and it helped a great deal even today when I preach. Obviously tech has advanced leaps and bounds over the decade but I did not get into the Apple system until I retired from TTC in mid 2014. It was a parting gift which I bought with my SGD1,000 gratuity for my 6 years of service. Since then I had used the MacOS in Apple for the past 6 years until about 2 months ago, my Mac laptop broke down and the authorised service centre quoted me a figure of RM2,200 for the repairs. I took my computer back for a whole month, mulling over whether I should spend the money fixing my Mac or that I should buy a new laptop, perhaps returning to PC (Windows).

Thursday, June 4, 2020

6th Week in the 6th Month

I have taken the plunge. I bought a 3-year old computer demo unit for less than half the price. This is 6th week since I was out of a working computer. I needed to write notes for my lectures at the SIB Bible College at the end of the month. Without a working computer, I can't work. The pen is mightier than the sword. But the sword of the Lord is the computer now, as I write sermons, power-points, lecture notes and perhaps even a new book soon. I have been restless. For the first six weeks of the MCO, I had to preach twice a week (to myself) in audio recording. But in the past 6 weeks, I preached only alternate Sundays and all the Friday slots for prayer meetings I had allocated to be taken up by deacons. I need to take a breather and prepare for my series of lectures and in 6 days' time I shall be preaching for the next Sunday's online service.

Monday, June 1, 2020

In the Midst of Year (Habakkuk)

"In the midst of the year, O Lord show mercy". I am entering something abnormal, which some call the new normal. I have been pastoring my congregation (Lord's church) under the Control Movement Order (later conditional) now as long as I have been a pastor when things were normal. It is exactly two and a half months each way when MCO came into effect on 18th March with only 77 days before and now it is coming to the 77th day of the CMO(C). It is not an unenviable task but many lessons are learned. First, members' data and personal details, especially phone numbers. We only have about 50 members' contacts but 3/4 of them are untraceable though in recent weeks, more than 200 people viewed the online services whom I imagined to be mostly my congregation plus a few other interested parties.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pentecost Sunday & Harvest Festival

The Feast of Pentecost is a harvest festival (Lev 23:22). But this year in Sabah, Pentecost Sunday coincides with the weekend Harvest Festival of the Kadazan-Dusun and Murut (KDM) peoples of the land. As a result of the CMCO, celebrations were muted. In church online setting, I specifically requested that the worship team performed a traditional dance and they chose one of my favourite Dusun Christian song (watch here - last few minutes of the video). On Pentecost, the command of the Lord is that the people rejoice in His presence and celebrate His goodness with family, friends, Levites and foreigners (Deut 16:11). For God, God's community includes everyone, not like some countries that practice discrimination and exclude the foreigners and migrant workers as part of the community.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Ezra's Leadership of God's People (Ezra 7-10)

Ezra 1-6 must be read together with Haggai and Zechariah 1-6. These chapters concern the rebuilding of God's temple under the leadership of Zerubabel and Joshua, the high priest in 515BC. But it appears that after two generations, things in Judah began to fall apart. Again, God raised leaders to restore His people. The walls of Jerusalem fell into ruins and God sent Nehemiah to rebuild the ruins and restore the walls. But Ezra who was a contemporary of Nehemiah (450BC) took a leading role in restoring worship and spirituality of the people of God. King Artaxerxes of Persia seemed to favour Ezra a great deal as we read in Ezra 7-8. In what capacity did Ezra serve the king was not entirely clear though he could be one of the scribes or secretaries of the palace. Nevertheless, it is clear that Ezra gained favour in the eyes of the king like Nehemiah did, and both ascribed royal favour as a sign of divine favour that God's hand was upon them in all their endeavours.

Harvest Festival & Pentecost 2020

Today is Harvest Festival in Sabah, the first of two-day public holidays. It is the major festival of the majority group of the indigenous peoples of Sabah, the Kadazan-Dusuns. It coincides with Pentecost Sunday which is also a harvest festival (Lev 23:9-11) when first fruits are harvested and sheaves of wheat are gathered from the fields (Lev 23:10). It is also called the feast of Weeks (Deut 16:10) because Pentecost (as the Greek word indicates) falls on the 50th day after Passover, which is after 7 weeks (7x7) in total.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Twin Publication

This morning I came across a blogpost accessed by a reader dated 19 December 2018. In it I spoke about my plan to publish my memoirs. Little did I think that exactly a year after that on 19th December 2019 my book, Departure Points was published (see here). In the blogspot I mentioned that I had reached 83,000 words and at the end, my book exceeded 93,000 words. With small margins, my publishers managed to squeeze that into a book of less than 200 pages. Front pages alone totalled about 14 pages with maps, lists of villages and towns visited, etc. I was thrilled that one of the church leaders who bought the book mentioned that when he read the first chapters, he compared that with Hudson Southwell's Uncharted Waters (Southwell's mission work in Borneo in the 1920s to 1950s).

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Filing Tax Returns 2019

Government services in Malaysia are very efficient. One needs just an hour to renew or issue a new passport. Last week I queued up for 20 mins before entering the Income Tax office and another 20 mins at the line where I obtained a new password for my e-filing. My salary income in 2019 is less than RM5,000.00 for two months of work which ended February 2019. How did I survive? By July 2019 I was entitled to access the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and I am still drawing from it to supplement my income now. It may last another year but not much longer. Retirement is on the horizon for the priests they retire at 50. Anyhow, priests of old in Israel were taken care of from the temple fund, but I have no pension, no life insurance, and meagre EPF savings.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

One Month as a You-Tuber

Today is exactly a month since I started my You-Tube channel. I have 35 subscribers and garnered 694 views within 30 days. I never thought that I would start a You-Tube channel but when my church commenced online service 5 weeks ago, I thought I should start a channel too, at least to upload my preaching and songs onto You-Tube. This also helps to alleviate the problem of the lack of storage on my i-Pad. I can save my online preaching on You-tube and spare my computer. My MacBook which I used to write my two books broke down a month ago and I still could not decide whether I should repair it since it would cost me an arm and a leg (one month's salary) to fix it. I might just buy a new one with a year's warranty and better specs. The month of May 2020 marks 14 years since I started blogging in 2006 when I was pastor in my home church, Likas KK. But starting a you-tube channel is a new ball game for me. People are more visual rather than wordy or just hearing by the ear (though Paul says that faith comes from hearing) and if this you-tube channel could reach a few more people for Christ, I shall be content. May the name of Jesus be glorified. Last Sunday I received some encouragement from one friend from outstation who watched my sermon online. That's the advantage of social media in this day and age because You-tube is open to the public and people can access it anywhere in the world.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Pentecostal Preaching

Once I was the author of a highly rated biblical blog, so much so I was interviewed twice by popular bloggers in the United States and another interview by a Swedish blogger. I was asked whether I was a Pentecostal and my answer did not seem to satisfy anyone, let alone a true blue Pentecostal. If one defines a pentecostal as one being baptised by the Holy Spirit, then I am a pentecostal. Then my theology is that everyone ought to be baptised in the Holy Spirit, so in a sense every Christian is a Pentecostal. If one defines a Pentecostal with one who had spoken or has the gift of speaking in tongues, then I also qualified to be a pentecostal because my experience of the Spirit-baptism was followed by speaking in tongues, though it was not immediate (as I was baptised in the Holy Spirit around 3pm) but spoke in tongues in the evening about 7pm when I had gotten back to my room at varsity. But then if one insists that one must speak in tongues to be a Pentecostal, then I am a border-line pentecostal because I am not convinced by the biblical evidence that every baptism of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the speaking in tongues. God is sovereign and the Holy Spirit is sovereign as He fills whomever He wills as human hearts are cleansed by faith and repentance.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Preaching in front of a Camera

I have now preached two sermons before a camera with the assistance of a couple of crew technicians. The sermons were later uploaded to the church You-tube channel (@multimediasibip). The potential of reaching the masses is huge as there are already out of the District viewers who followed the online Sunday services. But I am under no illusions that this form of ministry will replace the face to face meeting and contact among members. When the mind is free to roam, the devil has a field day and there are many competing forums or other online services within the denomination and outside of it. The last days' teachings began with Jesus warning against false prophets and false teachers. To distinguish the truth and error is not for the simple but the knowledgeable and those gifted to discern the spirits. "Test every spirit for many false prophets have gone into the world" (1 John 4). Preaching in front of a camera is better than just sitting or standing at home speaking with a microphone into a laptop or handphone either for audio or video recording.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Church Reopening and Lack of Enthusiasm

CMCO stands for conditional movement control order. MCO started on the 18th March 2020 and soon it will be 70 days next Tuesday. Life under the MCO has changed forever. Church life has also changed. It is an irony of ironies that for some church leaders when it was business as usual before the lockdown, they were all for church services but now think reopening of churches for worship is not that urgent. Before the MCO, people encouraged others to attend church. Now with the light at the end of the tunnel, some refuse to see the light and insist, to quote, "We will wait for the Ministry of Health to inform us that Covid-19 is no longer a threat to public health". This is a defeatist statement at its worst. No government in the world can guarantee any sort of health assurance. Covid 19 may not go away and we might have to live with the threat of the viral infection for years to come. We just need to adapt and stick to the SOP as a given in our daily lives and also during public outings and gatherings as and when permitted. Ultimately, our lives are in the hands of the living God. Yet, let's look at the facts. Malaysia is probably one of the safest countries in the world with much credit going to the government for quick action in imposing MCO on 18th March which took many people by surprise. But it turned out to be a great decision when compared with UK that seemed to waver in the early weeks and now they are suffering in terms of death rate and daily new infections.

14 & 70 Years

Some numbers are spiritually significant as they contain symbolic inference and reference. The New Testament has 14 years as being a long time like what Paul mentioned in Galatians that he was not seen by Christians for 14 years before reappearing again (Gal 2:1). Then there are these 3 epochs of 14 generations spelt out by the Gospel of Matthew. I suppose 14 stands for a long time because it is double that of 7. Seven years is a complete cycle of years or a cycle where Israelites work for 6 years and then on the 7th year the land is laid fallow for a year before sowing is resumed in the 8th year. God promises to bless his people three-fold on the 6th year so that they don't have to worry about their needs on the 7th year and also the 8th year until harvest time. Then 70 years is the span of a man's life on earth (Psalm 90).

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Spirit: Leadership & the Rebuilding of God's Temple (Haggai 2 & Zech 4)

I might be preaching another long sermon this Sunday. I have already started preparations in earnest and hopefully by Thursday when the recording is done, I shall be truly prepared. I will focus on Zech 4 but like most Scripture unless you read and understand the surrounding context, it is almost impossible to understand this rather bizarre vision of Zehcariah of a lampstand with two olive trees, one standing on the left and the other one on the right side of the lampstand. The first attempt of rebuilding the fallen temple started as soon as the exiles returned to Yehud/ the province of Judah (537BC). But within months, the work was stopped by local opposition (Ezra 1-6) and it was not until the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah that the work recommenced, some 20 years later till then temple was completed in 510BC. One of Haggai's pronouncement was that, "God's Spirit is with His people" and that they should not fear but rise up to do the work of the rebuilding. It is one thing for the prophet to declare God's Word but another thing for the people to feel the impact and believe the word by the mouth of the prophet.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Teachers' Day: "Despise not the day of small things" (Zech 4)

I was surprised yesterday by two well-wishers who sent me Teachers' Day GIF. Though I'm no longer a teacher or lecturer, but as pastor I teach through my preaching and teaching especially among the young teenagers before the MCO. Several hours later I was again surprised by an invitation to teach at my former College at Namaus which I left almost a year and a half ago. I had mixed feelings to be honest but at the face of it, I did not break my promise to others now that the leadership of the College had changed hands. I know everyone there. The rhetor now used to be a Treasurer-General (after my stint and another) and when he was the Evangelism coordinator he drove me and family into the Melangkap Campus on 30th Nov 1994 to commence my full-ministry in the Lord. Even the couple of new lecturers appointed early this year are my long-time friends.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Hebrew & Greek

How much and how deep the Church at large has fallen! How little Hebrew and Greek make up the Curriculum of Bible or Theological Colleges in the region! Some may have one or two introductory courses to fulfil certain accreditation requirements or fulfil certain "spiritual" needs ((just to tell the world the College offers Hebrew or Greek), but it is at best scratching the surface when most students after 3 or 4 years of theological training know next to nothing about the two biblical languages. At best they pick out some word studies, some may even comment on them in their sermons but their knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is at best superficial. Reading church history (not to mention the first few centuries of mostly Greek theologians) is one antidote. Luther was excellent in Greek and has sufficient proficiency in Hebrew while John Calvin was master of both Hebrew and Greek where most of Calvin's commentaries were on the OT books. When Calvin lectured and taught, he first read out the Hebrew text aloud and commented on the Hebrew text and expound on it exegetically with all its theological richness either in Latin or French.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Importance of the Septuagint (Habakkuk 3:2 LXX)

In my undergraduate years I don't remember any lecturer mentioned the Septuagint, though it could be due to my lack of attention in class. But by the time of my post-graduate years, I have put the Septuagint (LXX) in the forefront of my studies, first whether John of Revelation alluded to the LXX or MT in his many allusions and echoes of Scripture. Since then in my teaching, even in the first year of OT or NT introduction courses, I would always make sure that my students know the centrality of the LXX for the study of Scripture, not just for the NT but also to the OT. First, the NT authors about 85% of the times when they cited or quoted Scripture, it was from the LXX and not the MT. Even the study of the OT cannot underestimate the importance of the LXX as it is one the most authoritative and fascinating translations of the Hebrew text (275BC) and later taken to be authoritative by the early church fathers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Preaching in Church Again

It was a recorded sermon for online service this Sunday. But I was glad when I stepped into the church, first time in 50 days since 17th March 2020. It was surreal. There were only 5 people in church but yet meeting them lifted my spirits. I thought I had to wait but my turn was up and I was asked to preach in front of the camera straight up. I did not feel anything so I asked for the worship song to be played and after listening to it for one minute I felt ready to commence my sermon. I thought it would last at least 60 minutes but I stopped when I reached 52 minutes with the closing prayer and benediction. I preached about the baptism of fire in Malay but perhaps I should preach one in English and get it uploaded or might it be easier to just put English sub-titles? I prepared 20 slides but I touched upon 18 of them over the course of 51 minutes from the preaching of John the Baptist in Luke 3:1-16 and Jesus' first sermon in Nazareth in Luke 4. I tried to explain in God's economy or salvation history, Jesus is to come to earth twice; his first coming 2,000 years was the age of grace or the year of the Lord's favour (Luke 4) but in his second coming it will be the day of vengeance when this baptism of fire plays out in full.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

"You must prophesy against many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings" (Rev 10:11)

Revelation 10:11 is a verse that I have lived with constantly since I commenced my study on the book of Revelation in 1999. But only in the past week it became clear to me that this Scripture is being fulfilled in my life and ministry. Despite the travel ban to many countries during the Covid-19, the world is connected like never before as the internet boom has been upon us for the last two decades and especially in the past 10 years where various apps and social media platforms have proliferated and each and everyone who has something to say to the world is able to do so with relative ease. As for Revelation 14:6, I wrote in a paper before that the angel flying in mid-air proclaiming the eternal gospel is a sign of global connectivity and communication through the internet that almost 2/3 the world shares at this present time.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Preacher in Borneo

I thought I could sleep last night since I ended one of the longest and most intensive ministry period in my life. It started when I received news that church closure was the order of the day even before the government so ordered under the Movement Control Order which is now in its 6th week. I have lost count of the number of sermons I preached in the past 50 days, perhaps at least 20 in all, as sometimes besides Friday and Sunday I also shared mid-week short devotions. Now I am listless and restless despite having a week off from preaching until next Sunday. Perhaps the intensity and mentally sapping times had gotten to me, psychologically I felt unsure how the times would pan out. It is simply unnatural just to speak into a microphone connected to a laptop without a soul in front. Yesterday, as I woke up early the last thing I wanted to do was to record another sermon. I thought I could not make it but God intervened and granted me strength in the midst of my anxiety and between 8:15am-9am, I preached one of the most impactful messages yet.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Working Doubly Hard

Tomorrow will be my 7th week in a row preaching twice on a Sunday and Friday's prayer meeting. It is the sixth Sunday of the MCO (movement control order). Before the MCO, I also preached on the 15th March and then on Tuesday night, 17th. Recording sermons is even tougher than preaching before a live audience in church. First, I have to record with the best equipment I have which is using a pair of earphones with microphone plucked into my MacBook. Then I airdrop it to my phone and listen to the the recording at least once, sometimes twice until I am happy with the content and delivery before uploading it to the church's WhatsApp groups and also to several individuals who have requested for the sermons.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

My Book is in Indonesia

Timing is everything. On the last Saturday before the MCO came into effect, I attended a seminar conducted by an Indonesian preacher and his team. Over lunch he came over to my table and asked whether he could purchase a copy of my commentary on John’s Gospel written in Malay. As Sabah’s or Borneo’s Malay is close to the Indonesian language, I am certain he would not have trouble understanding my Malay commentary on John’s Gospel. Even one of my proof readers said that my Malay is Indonesian-flavoured and my reply was that how could it not be since I was commenting on the Indonesian text of the Indonesian Bible and preached from it for more than 30 years (since I led a home group in 1988).

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Singapore's 10,000 Covid-19 Cases

Each day in the past week, I watched with trepidation what is happening across the South China Sea in Singapore. It was a disaster waiting to happen where migrant workers live in crowded dormitories and the infectious disease spreads like wild fire. I was sorely disappointed with the PM's speech yesterday implying that the "locals" (Singaporeans and Permanent Residents) are still fine with limited cases (less than 50 cases a day) with the majority of Covid-19 cases affecting the migrant workers. The distinction between so-called "locals" and "migrant workers" is too much to stomach and fathom in a public health crisis.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Money & Movement Control Order

In some ways money goes a long way under the Movement Control Order. Yesterday I filled up my tank with RM20.00 petrol and thought it might not reach 25% of the tank, but lo and behold the service attendant had to help me because it was too full. Petrol grade-95 now costs MYR1.25 a litre (about MYR1 less) and for a whole month I only spent RM30.00 for gas. But I only drive once in three days, going out only to buy fresh bread and meat. But I am suffering psychologically as I am a social being, love mixing with the crowds, even my two books were revised and completed mostly at MacDonald's amidst the crowds and customers. Now that instead of spending MYR300.00 per month on petrol, I save RM270.00.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Money, Crisis & the Economy

The Malaysian government two weeks ago announced one of the most generous benefactions called "Bantuan Prihatin Nasional" amounting to RM250billion which is almost 17% of the nation's annual GDP. I don't know where the money is coming from, but many citizens in need will be helped in these challenging times. Even Singapore gave SGD600.00 to most of its citizens. On the 2nd Sunday of the PKP or MCO (Movement Control Order) I preached a Sunday sermon on money and managing finances. I spoke about four principles. First, the need to save or having a safety net (emergency fund) in times of crisis or emergency. I cited the example of Joseph how he stored away 20% of the wheat's surplus for 7 years until the 7 years of famine came. The lives of Egyptians and many nations were saved due to good financial management, savings and large surpluses.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Moses Shepherded the Flock

Just a fortnight before the MCO was announced, I had reached the beginning of Exodus 3 where Moses was said to be keeping his father-in-law's sheep and goats. For all intents and purposes, Moses was a shepherd for the 40 years that he spent in the wilderness of Midian in the company of his wife and his in-laws. For a long time Moses would have thought he would breathe his last as a foreigner in a foreign land. His talents as a well-educated former adopted royal offspring seemed to have gone to waste. But God knows and it is God who chooses. When God appeared to Moses, it is clear that there is no one else who will replace Moses as His choice - "you (singular) will bring this people out of Egypt" (Exod 3:12). The inscrutability of God's choice, one may wonder. But this passage gives a lot of hope to those who think that they are forsaken by men, even perhaps by God. God never makes mistakes. Whom He calls, He equips and when His time comes, God will call again and the person will come to the fulness of God's plan and purposes for his life.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Church Closure & Exile

This is the fourth Sunday that we are facing down this Movement Control Order (MCO) as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. This is the first time in my life time that churches have to close for its holiest days, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. It is a concern that some Christians are nonchalant about what is happening and quite content with online or live-streaming services or perhaps just audio recording of sermons as what we have been doing since 18th March 2020. But all these forms of worship are a pale reflection of what the Lord requires, a meeting of believers called the church, the ekklesia. It is not a meeting of a few individuals or one single family or household but a gathering of believers from all walks of life. There is no such thing as virtual church or online church without human contact. The whole idea of church is physical human contact or the gathering of Christians in one place at any given time. Apostle Paul enjoined Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss and it is not about sending a text or two with warm wishes without meeting. Or at the very least, a warm handshake as in many cultures today pre-Covid-19.

Monday, April 6, 2020

"Work While It Is Still Day" (John 9)

We are coming to almost three weeks now since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was promulgated by the Malaysian government. In the past 3 weeks I have done nothing but to shepherd the little flock which the Lord has entrusted me. Right till the last hour, I spoke at church on 17th March before the order came into effect. And I have time for reflection in these 20 days. I imagine myself barely 6 months ago when I started in earnest in completing my books, first on Departure Points, then the Malay commentary on John's Gospel (1-12). Even at the height of Covid-19 crisis in the third week of February 2020, I went to Singapore when there was a lull of daily infections (it went down several days in a row before and after the time when I was in Singapore) with no one predicting that Singapore would be entering a "lockdown" from tomorrow for a whole month. So in less than three months, I have accomplished three things - publication of my two books (late December 2019, then mid-February 2020) and bringing my 300 books back from Singapore.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Standing in the Gap

Early last year when I came down from Ranau after ending my stint at the Bible College, God comforted me with the reading of Ezekiel whom He commanded to stay at home, in fact laying on one side for a hundred days or more and then on the other side for many more days, each day representing Israel in their transgressions. In a nutshell, Ezekiel’s prophetic act was a sign of Israel’s transgressions and now we are enjoined to stay home due to the Covid19. On the face of it, it may appear that this stay home order is brought about by a public health concern but what about the underlying spiritual causes? Has the church sinned that we can’t even openly worship the Lord and that the public places of worship are closed? Perhaps it is our transgressions and the sins of our fathers (leaders), basically so powerless, weak and unable to rise up as intercessors and that God could not find a single man or a leader to stand in the gap.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

"I have not run away from being a pastor.." (Jeremiah 17:16)

Besides Ezekiel, Jeremiah is my favourite prophet. In times of solace and uncertainty, Jeremiah speaks loud and clear. There is this verse that I read as a young Christian some 35 years ago about Jeremiah not running away from the Lord of being a pastor. In what ways Jeremiah fulfilled God's calling as pastor? Whether the Israelites liked Jeremiah or not, ultimately the words of Jeremiah proved to be the true words from the Lord. Jeremiah lamented long and hard when he said, "for more than 24 years I have spoken to you but you have not listened.." Jeremiah acted as pastor by speaking the word of the Lord to His people. Jeremiah was faithful in delivering God's Word for more than a quarter of a century before the Exile became reality. He forewarned the Israelites what was going to happen to them if they did not repent, amend their ways and turn to the Lord with their hearts. Yet this verse from Jeremiah has another clause in where the prophet said that he "did not desire the woeful day".

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Living off the Land

It's not as if we are completed isolated from the outside world. Most of my colleagues are serving in the interior of Sabah. Except for the occasional WhatsApp messages, it is more of checking each other's WhatsApp status. In a way, technology has managed to bridge the gap of social distancing. Today I saw how one of my former student who is now a pastor surviving in her village. Her village some 2 hours from Ranau is only accessible by gravel roads. It is atrocious in many ways; I had gone into the area twice - once when I was a pastor in Ranau and then in my final foray into the interior before returning to Kota Kinabalu for good. I saw them living off the land - or more specifically off the river that runs through their land.

Surviving under Movement Control Order (MCO)

I have just gone out to do some errands. I bought some meat and vegetables and then went to a supermarket to buy some fruits. I have been eating an apple a day since about 10 days ago, believing in the maxim that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I also eat an orange on alternate days. I don't take vitamin pills but I may need to, but I try to keep myself healthy by drinking warm water, green tea, do light exercises, and keeping myself occupied with my many books. Only this morning I came across another treasure, The Apostolic Fathers (Greek texts and English Translations) by Michael Holmes. I read a short passage by Ignatius to the Trallians where the bishop came to visit Ignatius in his prison cell.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

3-Day Self-Isolation

Since the Movement Control Order (MCO) came into effect a week ago I have been out to buy food twice. It has been 3 full days since I left home. I did do some exercise outside the house, using my old bicycle to good effect. Tomorrow I need to go to the market to buy meat and other necessities. I just pray that I would go to places that are not affected by the coronavirus. Staying at home is not something totally unusual for me. I was out of work for 11 months last year and there were times I could stay at home for a whole day long but never for as long as 3 days as I have done now. My books from Singapore that I received a couple of weeks ago kept me in good company. In fact I started opening the boxes last week and there are now about 4 or 5 boxes still sealed. It has been a joy to discover many old books, especially my Hebrew texts today. I am determined to use this isolation period to study the Old Testament in Hebrew, starting with the book of Exodus, the Song of Songs for its brevity and the Psalms. I also watched many youtube videos where native Hebrew speakers teach biblical texts and read in Hebrew. Today I felt I covered much ground. I still hope to keep a 10-hour day working from home now.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Reset Button

It is time for a reset. These two weeks of control movement order has given me some respite. For the past 10 or 11 weeks including the week I was in Singapore I was fully engaged in active ministry. Even in the 5-day trip to Singapore, I preached twice in two places, collected, packed and sent my books back over 2 days, and met 5 of my close friends over the weekend until I left. Last Sunday I preached twice in church and had an emergency meeting to discuss whether we should close the church premises temporarily but the very next day the decision was made for us as the Malaysian PM announced nation-wide closure of all public and business places to prevent the spread of the Covid-19  pandemic beginning 18th March. So on 17th March night, just a few hours before the Order took effect, I called for a prayer meeting. I spoke for about 40 minutes double the time I usually speak in a prayer meeting as I joked to my members that this could be our "last supper". That afternoon I met with my elders and church secretary to plan the measures and steps that we were going to take in light of the Control Movement Order.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Purim & Malaysia

Is God telling us something? Yesterday at the start of the Feast of Purim (9th-10th March/14th-15th Adar), Malaysia's 8th Prime Minister announced his line-up of cabinet ministers. This evening by the close of Purim, all the ministers and deputy ministers would have been sworn in by the King and will commence their duties forthwith. It seems that the change of government and the commencement of a new Malaysian government coincides with the Jewish Feast of Purim. Purim was installed to celebrate the victory of the Jews over Haman who wanted to kill all the Jews in Persia. He was at the height of his power, the favourite of the king but by Esther's intercession, Haman fell out of favour; Haman lost his government and (his life) and Mordecai was appointed in his place. The Feast of Purim tells us that there could be a change of government at the blink of the eye. The fortunes of God's people could change anytime, for better or for worse.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Vision 2020 Begun

Yesterday I felt I did what I thought the Lord wanted me to do. To teach the young ones, especially those under 20 for they were those who entered into the promised land in the days of Moses. I began teaching young teenagers in the 13s to 17s from Form 1 to Form 5, even one who passed her SPM joined us. Altogether 22 of them, 13 men and 9 girls. Overall I thought I did a good job using my commentary, even some pastors found it hard to read. But I thought them many things how the Gospels came about, the authorship and the uniqueness of John’s Gospel. After exactly one hour I only managed to exegete half a verse of John 1:1.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Malaysia, My Homeland

It was surreal. My 5-day trip to Singapore and back to Sabah last Monday ended with news that the ruling coalition of Pakatan Harapan had fallen and Malaysians were left without a government. For a whole week until yesterday, the political tussles for power went on with many twists and turns. But finally, the King appointed the 8th Prime Minister of Malaysia yesterday at 10.45am just as our second service was underway. I preached a sermon on Moses based on Exod 3 but not before exhorting the congregation to pray for the nation (Psalm 33; Psalm 32:10-11 LXX) and speaking about the Covid19 from Revelation 6:9 on the fourth horseman that brought pestilence and plague that affected a quarter of the earth. Then I read a verse from 1 John 2 on young people being strong because the Word of God dwells in them and they have overcome the evil one.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Short Stay in Singapore

By the grace of God, I returned to Sabah in good health after a short stay in Singapore. I was entertained by angels, God's messengers who helped his Servant who is devoted to Him. Even to the very last day, friends sought me out and I had an Italian lunch at the Central Business District before heading to the Airport. All in all a worthwhile trip with 12 boxes of books shipped back to Kota Kinabalu. I met a former classmate (Secondary 1) whom I had not seen for 43 years and we were overjoyed to be reconnected and he took me round my former School, St Patrick's Katong.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Rest in the Eye of a Storm

A few of my friends in Malaysia and Singapore were beginning to wonder why I was going to Singapore, as if going into the eye of the storm. I fear not as the Lord promises to be with me when I am on mission (Matt 28:19-20). But above all, I am going to Singapore for a rest, though I may be preaching at a couple of places there as well. Yesterday, I preached twice in consecutive weeks. The former pastor refused to preach in two consecutive services and I can fully understand why. I only had a bun between services and sat in a sofa for about 10 minutes before getting back to the 2nd service which had already started. Most church members only see their pastor during Sunday and I have to make myself available to them despite preaching twice.