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.