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.