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.