Friday, December 29, 2017

A Year that Was

I suppose with less than 3 days before the year ends I could now afford myself some luxury to reflect on  the year that was. For once it has been the most mundane and ordinary of my three years back in full time ministry in Sabah. Not that it is bad because a measure of predictability and routine is good for blood pressure and health. Speaking of health I thank the Lord that the start of the year I saw myself falling sick twice in February and then in Salarom Taka Pensiangan. No fun driving 5 hours and preached straight away in an afternoon session in a hot building with the mercury inside close to 40 degree Celsius. I got sick but there was always a silver lining behind the gloom as I visited a clinic in the interior and waited about 3 hours to get a few aspirins like the rest of the villagers in Sapulut. My pastor friend told me that she had to wait for the mobile clinic fortnightly to come calling. It was good to mix with the lowly and at the clinic the sister in charge called me pastor and asked to take a photograph with me and wife (she knew me from preaching in her village 20 years ago). I had no inkling that in the remotest of villages people recognised me. Again my faithful wife was with me. O what would I do without her by my side. She had been with me for at least 80 percent of my travels. As I had gotten sick in mid-March I decided to callthe  three churches that invited me to preach Good Friday weekend and KKR early April and declined at invitation to Beluran. Sometimes ill health is a good sign so that we know our limitations and our human frailty. But praise be to God after that bout of sickness I was in the pink of health for the rest of the year, concluding my Christmas preaching without wear and tear except tiredness and sore limbs.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

East Coast

I began my last sermon with a short testimony how I once stood at the Community Centre in a speech contest where all I remembered was that my knees were shaking the whole of the 10 minutes or so speech. But now more than 40 years on, coming back to Sandakan as the Lord’s servant filled with his spirit I spoke for nearly 3 hours and I could have gone on longer if I sensed the congregations were ready for more. East Coast of Sabah always holds a special place in my heart not only as my place of origins but the whole District seems to hold special promise and potential.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

3 Sessions in 30 Hours

As these were my last Christmas sermons for the year I gave it my all. No wonder my former church member once told me that every sermon pastor preached was like a revival sermon in KKR. I am glad when I was pastor I only preached alternate Sunday as there was no way to sustain an all out style of preaching week in and week out. But within 30 hours in Sandakan I had preached 3 long sermons, the first 55 minutes, Christmas Eve one whole hour and Christmas Day I told myself I won’t go past 45 mins but it took two extra minutes as I finished off with a testimony. On Christmas Eve I would not have preached that long if I knew after my sermon there would be 5 or 6 more presentations.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Loneliness & Alone

I can't help but be moved everytime I come to the verse in John 8 where Jesus said that he was not alone but that His father was with Him. In fact around noon today I reached that verse and stopped commenting for the rest of day. I have reached 119 pages and nearly 42,000 words, the length of a Masters thesis but it is just over a third of the Gospel. And tomorrow I will start to prepare for my final series of Christmas sermons. I will be mighty pleased if I reach chapter 10 by the time College starts. Now I think I have to divide the commentary into 2 volumes. Volume 1 will be until John 12 if possible but the second volume will come later if I have to take a complete break from preaching next Christmas so be it. Why do we suffer so much loneliness? Why do we feel so lonely? And that we are alone.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Pitas Preaching

It was double blessings for me as within 72 hours I found myself back in Pitas again this time preaching in an event organised by the government’s District Office and inter church committee. I knew that driving 7 hours back and forth for a 30 min sermon might not be worth the while but I was mighty pleased that I took up the challenge. I was motivated by the fact that politicians, government servants and officials needed to hear the Word of God. Plus the fact other churches besides SIB would be present and it is always good to preach to other sheep instead of just to your own flock.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Writing & Preaching

Writing and preaching don’t go together. Those scholars hardly preach but those who preach hardly become or continue to be scholars. My commentary is delayed for 4 days. Yesterday I just couldn’t  get myself to write. I was mentally and physically exhausted from my trip. Preaching and praying for people take a lot out of you. No wonder Jesus felt power had gone from him when a woman touched the helm of his garment from behind. Even the several lunches and dinners were taken up in answering theological questions. At least some of the church members were curious enough to ask. While driving to the seaside we spoke about whether there would be any circumstances that a divorced person may remarry.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Fishers of Men

We got home just after 6pm after driven more than 4 hours from Pitas to Kota Kinabalu. We only made one stop in Kota Marudu where I had a coffee. Pitas is a town north of Sabah located at the right ear of the Sabah map. Kudat is north at the other ear, or left ear. Pitas is famous for its ikan bilis as it is closed to the sea all round. To the left is South China Sea and to the right Sulu Sea along the North East Coast road all the way to Sandakan in the East. Preaching over 3 days was bearable but yesterday was exhausting as after Saturday night service that went past 11pm with nearly one hour of fellowship and getting up early to prepare for the Sunday morning message. And with another hour long conversation just before 2pm we made our way back to Kota Kinabalu. I was filled with joy at the work of the Lord's hands.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Between Sulu Sea and South China Sea

I have completed my ministry in the north in a small town named Pitas along the northern coastal road. The sea view north of Sabah is majestic and the bay of Pitas is known as the meeting point between the South China Sea and Sulu Sea near the Phillipines. I preached 3 times, Friday and Saturday nights and this morning. As the service started past 10am I ended up preaching until 12.11pm for about 56 minutes. It was a longish sermon where I picked my theme from Rev 2:1-8 and vs 18 onwards.

Friday, December 8, 2017

12 Followers

I have been on instagram for 4 months. Initially my only rationale was to connect with my son at the ends of the earth. For the first three months I only had 2 followers but in recent days suddenly 12 followers appeared. It just happened I commented on John 6 where at the end of the chapter Jesus mentioned his 12 followers. I am not into all these social media stuff.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Seriously Speaking

I was going to entitle this blogpsot "seriously writing" as I got up at 4am and started writing at 5.30am. I realized my progress has been slow and in the next few days I have to focus on my speaking engagements 3 weeks in a row. But when I comment on John 3-5, numerous times Jesus uses this formula to start his speech - "Amen Amen I say unto you". These Amen statements have taken me a whole week and I am still stuck in the middle of chapter 5 hoping to finish chapter 5 tonight and commence ch 6 tomorrow. Jesus is into serious speaking.

Friday, December 1, 2017

23 Years

Today I celebrate the completion of my 23 years in ministry. And I begin my 24th year in full-time ministry in the Lord. Today is historical for several reasons. Many people I had gotten to know told me they had the calling to go full-time but never did. Many people had gone full-time but they dropped out in 10 or 20 years. For me to complete 23 years is a milestone worth celebrating.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Commentary Progress

I thought I should blog for posterity’s sake since I am writing my first commentary after 12 years of my first and only monograph. At least I can report on my progress if indeed there is progress. I must say this past fortnight has been an exercise in discipline, joy of discovery and at times an endurance test of writing when one does not feel the inspiration and anointing. O Lord how I need Your anointing as You did when I despaired on finishing my dissertation 15 years ago l...now I plead for Your help so that your saints may learn of the great mysteries found in John’s Gospel. I have exceeded 20,000 words, a minor dissertation length of the Otago University’s postgrad diploma thesis.

Friday, November 24, 2017

John 3:16 & First Love

I have reached John 3:16 though I think I might need a miracle to complete the commentary by year’s end. But at least I have my holidays preoccupation that is to write and to keep writing. It is interesting that as I wrote I felt the Lord revealed new things or least things I have not seen in the text. John’s Gospel is one book I have loved and studied all my life almost 35 years in all. I guess it is as close to me as the Psalms which could be my next commentary project. Wow I am getting the commentary bug. I better finish one first as they say the first one is always the hardest just as it is the hardest to forget one’s first love. First love for God means doing crazy things for the one you love.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

40 Days Left

There are just forty days left before 2017 comes to a close. Have you borne fruits for the Lord this year? Are you satisfied that you have accomplished most of your goals which you set out early in the year? Time waits for no one. Everyone is a year older. I suppose no one who is above 40 years old wants his age creeps up quickly year after year. From 40 onwards we march on to middle age relentlessly. From 50 onwards we are right in our middle age whether they want it or not. From 60 onwards we are thinking of our retirement plans and whether we can truly enjoy the fruits of our labour in our sunset years. From 70 onwards we have reached old age and if we are strong this decade of the 70s can still be fruitful and significant. But by the time we hit 80, frailty sets in and even if we are granted long life, our dark days will be long as says the preacher in Ecclesiastes. So what have you accomplished this year for the Lord?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ongoing Commentary

After just over 5 days I have finished commenting on John 1 all 51 verses in 25 pages of 8,500 words. It is reasonable progress but I realised that writing a full commentary is no 2-month work. I needed needed to comment on almost everything including names of places, history, OT background, politics and social backgrounds of the narrative.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Blessing to the Nations

I have often appropriated God’s promise to Abraham. I will surely bless you so that you may be a blessing to the nations. I don’t doubt God’s calling for me for a moment. Sometimes even my loved ones asked why I am based in such a far away place and teach students with limited skill and knowledge. Last year after being laid off for two months when I was reappointed to the College I told my students that “I came back for you”. Well at least they don’t have to go to Singapore to get solid biblical teaching. I remember David’s 400 men. They were outcasts refugees from the law debtors and rough necks but under David’s leadership they became mighty men. Today I am elated in the Lord. The church sang the song I sang last Sunday. I even managed to read 6 chapters of Hosea in the LXX. Then I called my student who informed me that his wife had given birth early this morning at 2am.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Concise Commentary

I am excited. It dawns on me only yesterday as I started writing that it was time for me to write a proper theological treatise. Three years ago I wrote a 190-page semi-autobiographical of my life and missionary work among the peoples of Borneo but it has been 12 years since my first and only book was published based on my thesis on the book of Revelation. I would not dare to blog unless I have really started not wanting to say something before any proof is given. So I have written 9 pages, commenting on the prologue of John's Gospel from vs 1 to vs 18. If I can write 5 pages a day, in 40 days I can reach 200 pages and by the end of the holidays, the first draft of my book should be ready. I have at most 40 days before the new academic year begins since I have to travel to a couple of places for Christmas preaching. It's good that I am only going to two places this December in contrast to my almost weekly travel November and December of last year. For a commentary, 200 pages will be considered short and that's why I intend to be concise as all good commentators are according to John Calvin, the biblical commentator par excellence.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Greece & Greek

The timing was perfect. As I reached home last Saturday evening after the graduation ceremony in Ranau, three of my last books arrived from Amazon. So I have five new books to read plus a few others that I have read in parts but left unfinished. As I may be making an epic journey to Greece next year I am re-reading Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War and I will make it a point to visit Sparta, if schedule permits. Another book by Barry Strauss on The Trojan War also provides some light reading on Greek history. If it comes to pass (egeneto) this will be my first journey to Europe and it will replicate the first cross-over by the apostle Paul in answer to the Macedonian call (Acts 16). Imagine that 3 out of 7 major churches Paul wrote were found in Greece: Philippians, Corinthians, and Thessalonians (5 letters in all) and Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians (Turkey) and Romans (Italy). If one counts Titus in Crete (island of Greece), you have 6 out of 13 Pauline letters sent to Greek churches.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Preaching Struggles

It is now past 48 hours since I preached on Sunday. It was amazing how it turned out by the grace of God. For a full team of worship and angelic voices I just couldn't get into the mood. The church is normally warm though aircconditioned but on Sunday I felt the chill perhaps an indication of the spiritual condition of those inside. So I decided to warm things up a little before I preached. I ascended to the pulpit before being asked a rather unusual move which caused some discomfort to the song leader. The song I requested was being sung but it was sung in a way without understanding the lyrics and moving along with the Spirit. So for 5 minutes I took over as worship leader and exhorted the congregation to draw near to God and be filled with the Spirit.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

By the grace of God I preach

I don't know how I am going to do this. For the past week after returning from a weekend ministry in Labuan I was engaged fully with College activities until we ended our year with a 3 and a half hour long convocation ceremony yesterday. Then after lunch with invited guests I drove down to Kota Kinabalu and took a student to town who came along with me. I had about 4 hours sleep and in 2 hours I shall be preaching and I find my mind drifting back and forth from the events of the past 10 days.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Come Holy Spirit Fall on Me Now

I sang this song as preparation for my preaching on the 2nd night in Labuan and I felt the anointing strong. I managed to preach 3 sessions on John 17. The first session from 17:1-10; 2nd session from vv 11-21; and the third and final session from 17:21-26. At the end of the Sunday service as we stood I made an altar call and about 50 or 60 people came forward to the front. For the first time in 3 years I had preached to a crowd of over 600 people from three local SIB churches in Labuan.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Village Life

I would have thought by now I have adapted to village life. This morning at dawn I was awakened by the cock’s crow. I am in another village about one hour from Ranau. I looked at the rice fields in the vicinity, coconut trees and a mother hen leading her chicks from house to house. Houses here at village land reserved for those who had come to open up the lands generations or hundred years ago. As families grow and children become adults and have their own families they start building houses and here in this village almost every foot of land is taken up by a tiny but to store the harvests or houses completed or in the process of building.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

5-Minute Test Romans Exams

For Romans exams I have asked my students gave a 5-minute presentation on a topic of their choice from Paul's letter to the Romans. They are free to choose to comment on an issue or a verse or a passage in Romans. All in all 17 students took part and the exams took 2 hours to complete.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hebrews Exams

Today my fourth year class of 11 students sat for their Hebrews’ exams. I set them 5 questions and they needed to answer three within 2 hours. The questions are all in Malay but the English is as follows:

Monday, October 23, 2017

Jesus ate Fish

Fish is frequently mentioned in the four gospels. So much so in the late first century and second century the sign of the fish had become a symbol of Christianity even more popular than the cross. Jesus ate fish. At least four of his disciples were fishermen. Peter the chief apostle was a fisherman. It was as a result of a great catch of fish that Jesus issued his famous summons that "you will become fishers of men". And the Gospel of John ends with the mysterious 153 large fish caught by the disciples (photo: food at the Student Dining Hall).

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Time is Near

I will be conducting my 5th seminar on End-time seminar and the book of Revelation in Sabah this Saturday. Only the third since I returned to Sabah (for good) three years ago. I think the pace will pick up a bit as the time draws near. We are experiencing floods as never seen before. Humanly we can say it is due to climate change. Sabah is known as the land below the wind because typhoons and strong winds only hit our northern neighbours the Philippines. Not anymore. But in recent years we have had earthquakes. Yesterday for almost 2 minutes rocks and trees and mud just came down at the side of mount Kinabalu near the Malisou village. Before the June 2015 earthquake a popular resort at Malisou was frequented by tourists but it had to be shut down after boulders as big as trucks came tumbling down. Just a couple of months before the earthquake struck I went up there to meet my Singaporean friends twice. Now the mountain starts to rumble again.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mighty Torrential Rains (Job 37:6)

What would you do if it rains non-stop for days? It has been the third day raining without ceasing in Kota Kinabalu. Today that was a break from the rain at 12 noon with bright sun shine and I thought the rain would be over for good. But as soon as I got back back home at 2pm, it started raining and there is no end in sight. Imagine in the days of Noah - 40 days non-stop rain. 4 days are plentiful for me and Lord grant us sun shine once more. As I bought lunch for my wife at home, I let out a torrent of thanksgiving in my spirit. I have everything I need. Thank you Jesus I said under my breath for 5 or 6 times in quick succession. I thank You Lord for giving us food in providing for my family. For giving me a shelter from rain, a car to go from A to B and moreover a good enough car to travel to far away places for the Gospel's sake. There were many fallen trees left and right and several streams and rivers I passed by were about to burst their banks. In KK low lying areas have been flooded for days and pictures of Kota Belud, one of the main centre just an hour's north of KK has been inundated with waters. The whole town is covered by floods. The voice of the Lord is above the floods (Ps 29).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ordering Books

I purchased a couple of books earlier in the year, Paul the Apostle E.P. Sanders and then, the Shack a popular Christian novel. Now towards the end of the year, my itch for books cannot be contained. I am expecting two books from Amazon any day now, one which is about the numbering of kings and chronology - how exciting! The other is about the the hidden life of a tree from a German forester. I was attracted to this book, remembering that in 2010 I presented a paper at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, God cares for the Trees based on Revelation 9:4. Today I ordered three more books for my holidays reading in a month's time.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Short Time on Earth

I thought I had one of my busiest weekends with visitors on the Saturday and preaching on Sunday. When I left the hall after service one student told me that her church leaders would be coming to the College with padi which was just harvested but not processed into rice. After lunch I thought of resting but the thought of guests turning up when I fell asleep and had to get up got me in restless mood not knowing when the visitors were arriving on one hand and not able to rest on the other hand. The church leaders arrived at just past 2.30pm and I had to welcome them as there was no other lecturer present on Campus then. Anyhow it was a church I knew from my days as chairman of the pastors' fellowship in Ranau. We fellowshipped until almost 4pm and I went back to my house to finally rest. But my mind could not rest until 5pm and O got up at 5.45pm and had my usual late afternoon coffee. As I was reading the Psalms for my evening devotions several text messages lit up my phone screen. I was told that there was a wake to attend at 7.30pm and as Chaplain I was supposed to conduct the wake which means preaching the wake sermon.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Full Week

It is a joy to serve You Lord for You are worthy O God. Today I preached in the Dining Hall of the College as when half the College community is not present on Campus we gather not in the Chapel but at the dining hall. I was surprised to see almost 30 adults turned up. It was awfully hot as I preached from 8.50am until 9.30am. I shared from John 16:20-28 with the key verse "Ask and you shall receive so that your joy may be full." Today was the 6th day in a row that I had an intense task.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Class on Constitution

I completed my lectures on the Federal Constitution of Malaysia yesterday. It has taken us 7 weeks with 2 hours per week. It has been exhilirating to say the least as I could comment on many legal and political issues of the day that are part of them major talking points across the nation. I trust my students benefited from the lectures, first time ever being offered at Bachelor level. Knowledge of the law in fact the highest laws of the land is essential if we wish to minister contextually as I was able to draw attention to these issues discussed by politicians and journalists with reference to the Federal Constitution.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Middle Earth & Bible Apps

I am not talking about the Lord of the Rings or hobbits. I am writing about stopping over in middle earth for brunch before travelling another 50kms up to mountains to Ranau. There are several stalls selling wild boar meat and if one doesn’t have it too often it should be fine. It affords about 30mins break before continuing on the journey taking in the fresh mountain air. At KK one hour ago I packed my usual things - my tablet and smartphones in my small bag and laptop in my larger bag with the books I carry with me all the time. Now I just chuck them into the car unlike Paul the apostle travelling on foot or by sea and perhaps at most can carry a couple of scrolls like Isaiah and the Psalms.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reading God’s Word

I just posted in my College WhatsApp group an article on reading habits of successful people. I followed up with another post on an Isaiah commentary with the caption those who seek out God’s Word day and night. It is a challenge in Seminary setting to get students reading and developing a reading habit and culture. They read when they had to do to finish essays and assignments. But alas how many take reading seriously and making it a lifestyle choice to improve oneself and one’s ministry.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Romans Class

I have 17 students in my year 3 Romans class. Most of them are enthusiatic students a joy to teach. Today we had our class photo taken but two did not make it. Today I lectured on Sin from Romans 7:13-25 in the first session and Romans 8:1-25 for the next two sessions. Next week I will finish up Romans 8 and will try to launch into Romans 9-11 on Israel's place in the plan of God. I have to add one extra class as I missed one week due to another intensive course a few weeks ago. With the additional one female student who came in this Semester I have 9 female students and 8 male students.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Up the Mountains Again

After 72 hours back in KK for a public holiday and preaching I am back up on the mountains. The drive this morning was not too bad from the hills of Tamparuli to the highest peak of South East Asia in about 60 minutes. One becomes a little dizzy or perhaps it is attitude sickness. I have never been a good traveller either by air or land. Definitely not by sea unless it is no more than 45 mins ferry-ride. I felt fine on the ferry from Singapore to Batam about 50 mins but I got sick on a slightly longer journey to Bintan island about 70 mins away. But travelling by land is fine if I don't get too nervous about journeying on my own. I had preached on the journey of faith based on Hebrews 11,6 and the lives of Abraham and Moses. I told the Chinese congregation that our life is a journey of journeys as within a life journey there are many journeys like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who had to travel from one place to amother.  I started the sermon by a pun but I am not sure whether the Chinese caught it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Wandering in Mountains (Hebrews 11:38)

I did not expect to return to KK within 72 hours. After attending the biggest event organized by SIB in its history where 35,000 turned up over 2 nights in a stadium I drove back to College last Monday to prepare for my lectures on 3 consecutive days. Lecturing on Romans then Hebrews followed by the Malaysian Constitution yesterday I was feeling tired and as I drove at 1pm from Namaus to Ranau town then up Mount Kinabalu which took an hour for 40kms due to traffic I was struggling to keep awake. It is dangerous to drive while feeling sleepy and four days of exertion took its toll and the 3-hour drive back to KK only made it worse. LORD why do I toil and wander around mountains?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Inheriting Wealth" (Provide 8:21)

In the ode to Wisdom the personified Christ, the voice of wisdom says, "I traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice that I may cause them who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries". Yesterday in Chapel I preached a 25 min sermon. I touched on many things in light of Malaysia Day today which is in fact our National Day when all the components came together to form the Federation of Malaysia. But my main emphasis was to encourage the College community to give thanks to God for Sabah and Sabah's place in the plan of God. As our theme for September is "all the days of the righteous" from Psalm 37,18 I spoke about how the righteous is to inherit the land, in particular the land of Sabah for the glory of God. Not in the political sense but how the State of Sabah will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the seas. I talked about the peace that the righteous possess and that to have peace in our lives material blessings are important as well.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Romans Detour: Galatians

After reaching the middle of Paul's letter to the Romans I realized I had to make a detour to Galatians. So tomorrow in 3 hours I shall be expounding on the six chapters of Galatians especially Paul's insistence that the Gentile believers do not submit to the Law of Moses represented by the circumcision rite. Galatians is an amazing letter. Everytime I read Galatians I am fired up to stand up for the truth of the Gospel and say like Paul "if I still please men I am no servant of Christ". The truth of the gospel so vehemently defended by Paul essentially is the coming together of Jews and Gentiles as one people of God with the only mark of identity being faith in Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Paul's Upbringing

"...he [Paul] had learned a craft, he had probably been trained for ownership and management. He knew how to use a secretary...Paul knew how to organize and plan...This evidence of a relatively prosperous upbringing (what we may think of as good middle-class conditions) helps explains the degree he felt his poverty, and his previous prosperity is probably part of his laments in the Corinthian letters. This poverty, however, was voluntary, and in Paul's letters we do not hear the voice of the lowest level of Greco-Roman society, though sometimes he lived in abject conditions." Paul - The Apostle's Life, Letters, and Thought (EP Sanders, 2015), 144.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ardern's Ascent

I have been watching the NZ election campaign closely since 1st August when 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern ascended to Labour party leadership. Today's polls put her party at 43% and National with just 39% the first time National fell below 40 for many years. Ardern is also winning the Prime Minister's preference stakes over Bill English by a whisker but this gap is likely to widen after the third and final leaders' debate. What has caused the change in fortune for Labour? The short answer is leadership.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Romans & Septuagintal Studies

For the past couple of days I have been struggling with the concept of sin in Romans 7. No exegete can escape the complexity of Paul's argument. Time and time again I wrestled with the Greek text looking at several English translations and penning my notes in Malay with reference to the Indonesian Bible (and occasional reference to the Bahasa Malaysia version). Teaching in a Bahasa-medium College is not easy, no less the distance one travels from the biblical text either in Hebrew or Greek and with my familiarity with the English and Malay mixed together. I am no linguist but I have to contend with these four languages almost daily in my ministry as a Bible teacher.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Taking Delight in the Lord (Psalm 37,4)

Psalm 37 is a key Psalm in many respects. It teaches the righteous person to be patient when wicked are in power because the Lord knows the days of the righteous and their vindication will come. The Psalm also teaches that despite the bleakest of circumstances inward and outward one is to take delight in the Lord. We rejoice in the Lord in afflictions and in great difficulties. It is like Job's test...shall we serve the Lord only when things are going well and the road is smooth? Shall we not love the Lord in good and bad times?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Increased Sorrows

From the excitement of last night where I worshipped with a big crowd and today was by contrast quiet and peaceful though I did have time to run a few errands. I quickly returned home to my fortress like Ezekiel felt bound by chains due to the spiritual condition of the church. I have continual sorrows in my heart seeing that there is much I can do but powerless to carry them out. I have sorrows in the heart when I listened to sermons so low a standard that if I were the homiletics teacher I would not have passed my first year students. I have sorrows in my heart when there is so little knowledge of God and God's people busy themselves with worthless pursuits.

38th Youth Conference

Last night I attended our annual Youth Conference (38th) where more than 5,000 youths and some older adults packed the largest hall in town. My good friend preached an excellent message. I met him at the entrance and thought he was going to preach on the third and final night. But he told me he was preaching all three nights as the other invited speaker could not come until the last day's morning sessions. It was electrifying seeing 5,000 youths in worship and hunger for the Word.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Travelling Less

My car is due for service next week after 7 months since the last service. The mileage reads less than 8,000kms in 7 months only about two thirds of what I did last year within the same span of time. I have been travelling less. Only one time I travelled for 5 hours to Salarom Taka into the interior of Murut Tagal tribe. That was last March. Since then I had only preached in KK churches and a couple of rural churches.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Leaders Inspire

In a month's time Kiwis will be voting in the New Zealand General Election. I was not too keen on watching this coming Election thinking that it will be between PM Bill English and Labour's Andrew Little. With the latter's abrupt resignation giving way to Jacinda Ardern as the leader of the Opposition Labour party things suddenly went into a tailspin. I don't ever remember that changing of leaders brought about 9 percentage points boost in the polls within days. Jacindamania has surely taken hold and a Labour victory so remote only 3 weeks ago is now a possibility and in another 3 weeks of campaigning could lead to a change of government, the first in 9 years.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Severe Weather

There were floods in various parts of Kota Kinabalu yesterday and weather in Ranau was no less severe. For three days we were out of regular pipe water and I bathed with rain water in the past few days This morning the song leader asked me to lead prayers for the floods and also for the state of Negeri Sembilan. I took about 5 minutes to explain from Job 37 why we were experiencing severe weather. It is in the hands of the Lord to send gentle or "heavy rain of His strength." Sometimes it is for correction or for his land or for mercy (Job 37,13).

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sure Blessings

I preached from Genesis 22 yesterday to one of the first SIB churches founded just after Second World War. I could see in the church four generations of Christians, the few early converts in their 90s, the leaders 2nd generation believers in their fifties or early sixties, the young adults and youths the 3rd generation Christians and the children some 80 of them of the fourth generation. I shared a message titled "God's abundant blessings for him/her who listens to God's voice.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Only Yesterday

Only yesterday Usain Bolt was unbeatable. But today he fell flat and tumbled onto the track. Only yesterday Joseph Schooling was Olympic Champion for 100M fly but today Dressler is a second faster. Only yesterday I preached in a village church but today I went back there and it had been almost a year ago. Things don't stay the same. It never does. We don't stay the same. We get older and our hair greyer or thinner or both. If we don't improve others around us will. If we don't progress and move forward others will run just a bit quicker and do just a bit better and we will be left behind. If the church does not grow it is dying. If a church remains stagnant it is going backwards.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Consitutional Law

I have to travel about 17kms into Ranau township for a coffee break. After three consecutive days of lectures I thought I needed a coffee break. I was thrilled to utilize my legal knowledge and history by delivering two-hour long inaugural lectures on the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. Almost all legal and political issues today have their takes or disputes over how the Malaysian Constitution is interpreted by politicians and judges.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Singing Again

I experienced a revival of sorts this morning. One of my final year students asked me to sing the Greek song which I sang last year. So I duly obliged and sang two songs instead of one after the tea break into our third and final session. Last year my time as Acting Principal was characterised with singing. There was more lively singing in the Chapel services so I was told and I performed several songs in our special services throughout the year and sang the Greek song in my Greek class.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rumbling in Ranau

I rumbled up to Ranau in 2 hours, delayed by heavy traffic throughout. After more than 100 drives I still find the journey an endurance test with another 20 mins to College. I hope I can rest when I get back to College after a short lunch stopover in Ranau. I need to deliver 3 hours of Romans tomorrow and another 3 hours of Hebrews on Wednesday. Before driving up I spent 2 hours in the morning getting my notes on powerpoint. I will give my best to my students despite the odds and the task of educating indigenous pastors in training.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Battles Ahead

Having ended my 10-day stretch yesterday teaching and preaching in 4 different places I am planning for the battles ahead. I have three sets of lectures from Tuesday to Thursday and then preaching in one of the Ranau churches on Sunday. So I won't be making my journey back to KK and will be focusing on rural ministry for a whole fortnight. I am starting Malaysian studies with the Federal Constitution taking about 6 weeks and will speaking on other legal, political and economic institutions as well.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Theologian on the Move

If there is a name or function of what I do I would reckon being a theologian fits the bill. Not that I think of it as a title or honorific as if one must be well-known person or published author to be known as a theologian. I would think every mature Christian is a theologian as he theologizes everyday in how to apply his knowledge of God and His Word to day to day living for himself, his family and his community. The very next day after my travels to Indonesia I drove back to College and taught Hebrews on Wednesday and Romans on Thursday. On Friday I drove to Kota Belud (KB) where I preached  Friday night and twice Saturday. Just before driving to KB, I spent about 30 minutes in our official Pastors' whatsapp group and gave a summary of the theology on the treatment of foreigners in Sabah especially the many illegal immigrants that had come into the State in the past 20 years. I trust my views helped the 150 or so pastors in this one group.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sayonara Singapore

When I was mid flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu last night I felt a new surge of energy and renewed purpose. The magnitude of what I did in the past 10 hours was just beginning to sink in. I told no one what I was about to do, not even my closest friends. By noon I had burned my bridges with Singapore except the ties of friendship. Only one friend knew I was stopping over and to find a honest friend is a rare treasure. By noon today I was speeding past Mount Kinabalu towards Ranau. I could have delayed my return to College on the excuse of needing rest from my 8-day travels in three countries.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Recent Past

If there is a way to escape our past one might just not return to our familiar ways or wish for the good old days. One can hardly escape the memory of recent past where I walked the streets of gold and my eyes and my mind feasted on books to my heart's content. Today I went past and went into my favourite bookstore Kinokuniya at Orchard Road. Only three years ago I would find myself on alternate weekends browsing what I could glean, pick and buy. Three hours could pass quickly if one reads a chapter here and there from politics, history and religion.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Preaching, Leading & Theological Training

When I was Acting Principal I preached every Tuesday for 20 mins and once a month in the Chapel's Sunday services. As a leader of any institution it is important to preach regularly just like a church pastor preaching to his flock. Jesus leads his people whether a church or seminary through His Word. God's leaders will preach God's Word to make His will known to those we lead in God's name. Yesterday I preached for 22 minutes in Chapel. It was not my turn but as I shall be away on 23rd July I decided to preach, having preached only once this Semester in the Opening Service exactly a month ago. The theme for July is taken from Eccles 3,1 "there is a time for everything". I started by explaining from Gen 1,14 where a Hebrew word, moedim means appointed times and it is used in regard to feasts of the Lord as God's appointed times for His people. I said that Jesus did not die on any day but on the 14th Nisan being the Day of the Passover and the Holy Spirit did not come down on any day but on the Feast of Pentecost. Likewise we must ask what God's appointed times are for us personally and for the College.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Teaching Resumes

The third year students came back yesterday and today first up they attended my Romans class. Eleven out of 16 made it back on time after some cajoling from me through the College whatsapp group. Three students informed me they could not come back in time but I am waiting to hear from the other 2 students. Admittedly they had to travel far to return to College one of whom would take 9 hours from his place of ministry. But others took just as long but they made it back to College last night in order to attend class today.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Misty Mountains

I don't remember for a long time having so much rain since the start of the year. If it keeps raining it will be one of the wettest years on record. Yesterday I started half an hour earlier for my drive back to Ranau from KK. On the horizon over the hills of Tamparuli I saw dark clouds menacing with heavy rains to follow. As soon as I started my ascent at Tamparuli it poured cats and dogs and it rained all the way to Kundasang before it let up with intermittent showers from Kundasang to Ranau.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Triple Sevens

Today is the seventh day of the seventh month in the seventeenth year of the third millennium. If we take the Jewish year of 5777 there are many sevens though the Hebrew calendar is only the fifth month. So according to our Western calendar that is used widely around the world today we have at least three sevens. In the book of Revelation the main visionary section of the book runs from ch. 6 to ch. 16 in a triple series of seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls. So John of Revelation certainly had a penchant for numbers especially the number 7 used more than 50 times in the book of Revelation.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Theological Conferences

It is exactly a year ago that I attended the SBL meeting in Seoul. I shall be attending another Conference in a fortnight's time. One of the highlights was certainly meeting biblical scholars around the world. I shared a taxi with a Korean American Professor who taught at Harvard Divinity School. As I paid for the taxi fare about 12,000 won he bought me a latte coffee at Yonsei University cafe and we chatted. He was in his early 40s and had already published 4 monographs.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Under Authority

One of the famous passages in the Gospels is the story of the Roman centurion who told Jesus not to come to his house but that Jesus would just speak the word. The reason given is that just as the Roman centurion exercises authority over his subordinates and they carry out his commands, he reasoned that Jesus as the Messiah and Lord also possesses authority that He could command and things shall be done accordingly. I have learned to serve under authority.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Second Half

It is time to reflect on the first half of the year. The second half has just begun. What have I done for the Lord? It is good to have a report card out. Even cars need to be checked every few months or at least 6 months interval. Has my ministry caused an impact to those I serve? Sometimes it is not easy to answer but some measurements and proof of fruitfulness is called for even as Paul said let each one take pride in his own work and not the work of another (Galatians). Then how can one judge one's own work except to offer some reflections and personal assessment?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Work & Rest

This Raya weekend has been all ministry with last Friday's lectures on the Church Constitution and Sunday-Monday seminar on Church Growth. Just when I thought I deserved some rest today I have to drive back to Ranau late afternoon for my lectures tomorrow on Hebrews 2 & 3 perhaps reaching Hebrews 4 on Thursday if I add extra classes. Hebrews 4 is on rest and those who have believed are entering into God's rest.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sandakan Sunrise

I am on my final leg of my trip to Sandakan having preached yesterday morning and conducted two sessions on Church Growth last night. There are three more sessions this morning and I fly back to KK later in the afternoon. It has been a tiring but yet relaxing trip thanks to the hospitality of the hosting church that accommodated me in one of the top hotels in Sandakan at the sea side with a stunning view of the Sulu Sea from my 21st floor room and breakfast by the sea has a soothing effect to the body and soul.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Other Sheep

For the first time for a long long time I served my own denomination's major events twice in a month. But it is good to know that there are other sheep across the paddock. I am reminded that when I was in Dunedin studying for my PhD my neighbour literally kept a couple of sheep to chew on the grass and keep the backyard tidy.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Working Sunday


I did not preach yesterday but it was one of the most fruitful Sunday I had for quite some time. I visited two of my students who are on a 2-month practical field work. I got up early and just before 8am I drove some 40kms to Tenghilan a township between KK and Kota Belud. It was a small town with two rows of old wooden shops and a row of new shops with a supermarket. I reached there before 9am and my student was seated at the door of the church with the worship team in rehearsal for the 10am service. My student took me to his residence just next to the church and we spent 40mins catching up. He was due to preach so I did not want to distract him too much. The Sunday service was eventful with the Secondary school girls presenting a native dance in their traditional attire of Dusun Lotud, one of the many Dusun sub tribes.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Companion Shepherds

I did not expect to preach a fourth sermon in the first two weeks of June but last Tuesday we had an opening service for the 2nd Semester and I was asked to preach last minute. Despite having just a few hours preparation I managed to preach from Song of Solomon 1:6-7, first about looking after our vineyards and secondly about following the lead or tempo of the shepherd in v. 7. Often time, we wonder where our Lord, the good Shepherd is feeding his sheep, where He wants us to be and the lack of His presence in our lives causes a few flutters here and there. As the woman exclaims in SS 1:7 why should I be wandering with the flocks of His companions? We can't trust in men or the Lord's associate shepherds as we desire our beloved, the one and only shepherd.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

36 Hours

I rested for 36 hours after my exertions in speaking for almost 2 and a half hours over 2 sessions, the first went on for 1 hour and 20 mins and I felt the anointing strong. Today after more than 48 hours after the Pastors' Conference had ended I was still receiving text messages of thanks and encouraging feedback. One senior leader came up to me after the first session that it was time local preachers stepped up. I kind of joked as I began my first session by asking the audience not to compare me with the invited speaker the night before, one of the biggest names in the Indonesian circuit. But God was no respecter of persons as He who anointed Paul the apostle also anoints His true and faithful servants.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecostal Power

LORD I give thanks to You O Lord for You have heard my cry for mercy and empowered me to preach Your Word this morning.  I got up earlier than usual but I suppose it was normal to do so when I am preaching in a Sunday service. I have not preached for a whole month before today and I was a bit worried about being rusty and the pulpit might seem an unfamiliar place. But all my worries were gone as I worshipped the Lord this morning in the cool of dawn. I have a list of songs on MP3 and usually in the morning I plugged in my earphones so as to not disturb my neighbours or those who are still asleep. I did not preach about Pentecost despite being Pentecost Sunday partly due to an assigned topic a month back and I thought I needed to respect my leaders who invited me to preach.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sweet & Bitter

"And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter." (Rev 10:11). The English expression perhaps follows the angelic command which has the bitter first then sweet, thus the saying "bitter sweet". But my experience followed John's experience of sweetness then bitter. I had this wonderful experience this morning of completing my sermon for tomorrow's service, Pentecost Sunday. I read many passages in the OT about Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks and also about the early and latter rain. It was sweet in my mouth and in my heart for the revelation of the Word of God produces sweetness and great delight. But at the same time, I felt bitter in my stomach thinking whether God's people can receive the Word to be preached.  Can they take solid food or the prophetic Word as all the three major Feasts portend?

Friday, May 26, 2017

One Week

I am right in the middle of my Semester break and there are two weeks to go before the start of the new Semester. One week has passed quickly. Within a week, there are 7 days and the week is a basic unit in the accounting of time, even as we approach the Feast of Weeks otherwise known as Pentecost in about 10 days' time or on 30th May according to the Jewish calendar. The Feast of Weeks is also a counting of time, to be exact, 7 weeks after the Sabbath of the Passover with the weaving of the sheaves signifying harvest season is upon the people of God. From Passover (14th Nisan) when barley is harvested to Weeks (6th Sivan) when wheat is harvested we have 50 days, hence the Greek's 50 "Pentecost". Jerusalem is about to celebrate its Golden Jubilee (5-10th June 2017) but according to the Hebrew calendar it was celebrated 2 days ago on the 28th day of Iyar or the 3rd day of the 6-Day War when East Jerusalem was reunited with the rest of the city under Israeli control for the first time since Israel's founding in May 1948 or perhaps we can count further to almost 2,000 years ago in 70AD when the Romans razed the Temple of God in Jerusalem and the people of Israel and Jerusalem dispersed around the world (the diaspora) until their return to the land of Israel almost 70 years ago.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Noah Walked with God

Today we heard a sermon titled "Noah walked with God". An elder whom I had known since I joined my homechurch 28 years ago preached eloquently. He told us that the times we were living in now was even more evil than the times of Noah. Did not Jesus said the days of the Son of Man will be like in the days of Noah? As I read the text of Genesis 6 I thought to myself that there was no one else God could have spoken to except Noah. No one sought after God and no one walked with God. I saw that in my own life that it is a daily struggle to sit still before the Lord and let Him speak to our hearts and to our spirits. It is not just routinely reading His Word but quietly and expectantly wait on the Lord to speak.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Paul & Titus

It has taken me a whole week and it is only half done. I am preparing two sermons for a Pastors' Conference in two weeks' time. I am given a full hour to speak each session so I could go up to nearly 3,000 words. Since I was back in Sabah I rarely had time to write up sermons in full, preaching on average 3 times a week when I was pastor of a Ranau church in 2015 and perhaps averaging 2 sermons a week last year. Thank God in the month of May this year I have no speaking engagements and with the Semester break now I have some time to get into my sermons. I have been reading about Titus, mentioned 9 times by Paul in 2 Corinthians.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Silent Solitude

Perhaps it is a redundancy. One does not have to be in a desert to feel the silence of solitude. In the midst of a noisy crowd provided our souls are at rest with God and our spirits quietly and reverently worshipping Him we can experience silent solitude.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Time Markers

The moon is set in the sky as a witness and time marker. Every new moon in Israel was marked by the sounding of the trumpet. The first day of the month is auspicious as it begins a new month and with each passing month, a year is marked with either 12 or 13 Jewish months. Yesterday was the full moon for May also known as Flower Moon. As for me, every full moon I reflect on the month just past and plan ahead for the new month.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Closing Communion Service

I am now overseeing the Closing Communion service for the Semester 1. Exams finished at noon and the students were back for rehearsal at 2pm. Tomorrow is a rest day for third year students before they go to their field work in various parts of Sabah. Some students will be going to a sports carnival in Lawas, Sarawak and the rest will be going home to their villages for a 4-week break. On Friday I will be taking two of my students to Tuaran for their field work. As Chaplain I am also in charge of field education and I had chosen to supervise two students closer to KK. I need to overcome the mental block I suffered earlier in the year with too much travelling to far away places. During the break I hope to finish marking my papers and exams scripts within the week and then start preparing for my classes for the next Semester. I shall be teaching a year three class on Romans, a 4th year class on Hebrews and a combined third and fourth year for Malaysian Studies which will look at the Constitution and the nation's sosio-economic system.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

French Run-Off

This year is in many ways an epoch-making year. From the inauguration of the POTUS last January we will be witnessing the elections of three other great Western powers, France (today), UK (June) and Germany (September). In living memory I don't remember all four economic giants going through the installation of leaders or new leaders within a calendar year but I could be wrong. It is epochal as the President of the United States of America had never held elected office before being elected President and the same could happen to France in the early hours of tomorrow. Promotion does not come from the East nor from the West but it is God who puts one down and sets up another. With Brexit in full swing now, 2017 proves to be momentous and ground shifting as doing politics in the West will never be the same again. European Union could prove more resilient without Britain as the Franco-German axis will anchor the European project for years to come and we may yet see a more Federalist Europe taking shape and Brussels exercising more authority not less despite populism and nationalist movements across several European states.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Building Walls

How time flies. I have not preached in my home church in KK since October 2014, more than two and half years ago. I received invitations in 2015 and last year but both times clashed with my preaching schedule, so God willing I shall be preaching in the first Sunday of June. This June also marks three years since I have ended my ministry in Singapore and my two and a half years in active ministry back in Sabah. Early this morning I managed to get my sermon done for June with 10 slides on Nehemiah 2:11-18, with an interesting but difficult sermon topic "Activity & Objective" (Kegiatan & Matlamat).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May Day

Today for the 2nd time since I joined the College last year we had a short but meaningful Labour Day's appreciation for all the nine lecturers and five support staff. We took a Faculty as well as a Faculty plus staff photo. For the sermon I translated for a visiting speaker from New Zealand. The College also paid for our shirts, a kind of uniform which we wear on special occasions. I am not much into uniformity of dress but it does present unity as a team and if it is worn only two or three times a year that's fine by me. But May Day or Labour Day is special for us pastors.

Friday, April 28, 2017

End-Time Seminar

Tomorrow, God willing I shall be conducting my 13th End-time seminar. I started teaching on the book of Revelation by way of seminar in 2010 though when I was pastor I conducted a seminar once in Keningau (2005) due to the persistence of my pastor-friend there. Now after last year's hiatus (I only spoke on Revelation twice in a FGB meeting) I will be speaking in local KK church tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Crowning Kings

Today is a public holiday in Malaysia on the occasion of the coronation of the 15th Agung (king). It is also my birthday in Christ so I have a holiday to reflect on what it is to be in Christ for 35 years. Three and a half decades knowing Jesus or rather be known by Him. What a privilege, what inexpressible joy!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Naming Sons

Joseph and Moses both named their sons according to what they themselves had experienced in life. It was a monument for what God had done or was doing in their lives. Most God's servants had to overcome incredible odds, no less Joseph and Moses. Joseph was left for dead in the pit by his own brothers and when he was in Egypt he was cast into a dungeon on a false accusation. Yet he rose to be Pharoah's father and ruled over Egypt for 80 years and saved nations and his entire family during a severe famine. The infant Moses was subject to a death edict for all Hebrew boys but he was kept alive in a basket floated down the river and was brought up by Pharaoh's daughter. Even then for 40 years Moses had to run away as a fugitive and suffered the wrath of Pharaoh and the ignominy of his people's rejection. Moses at 80 years old was later sent back to Egypt to deliver Israel out of the bondage of slavery into the promised land. No wonder in their deepest struggles, crises and triumphs when given sons, Joseph and Moses named their sons to commemorate what God had done in their lives.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Love's Power

When I was going for my first theological degree in the early 90s, I remember a song that moved my soul...the power of love. Often times when I sang it I shed tears of joy as the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Love was what caused Jesus to come to earth. Love was what made God send his only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. Many things are done in the name of love and how noble and how precious these things are before God and before men. Last Sunday's journey was a breeze because of the love of Jesus in my heart. To be able to serve the Lord on the day when the Christian world celebrates Christ's resurrection was something special. Love makes one gets up in the wee hours of the morning and sings for joy unto the Lord. Love makes one sit before His feet and read His Word for an hour or two but the time spent is as if a few minutes.  It's like two lovers engage in conversation that go on for hours but it seems to them and only to them a few moments, all because of love.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Eagle's Wings

Today I felt I was borne on eagle's wings. I drove from KK at 6am and reached the College before 8am. I joked when I started preaching that I broke my record of travel time from KK to Namaus. The traffic was as smooth as it could be and the weather was as clear as the sun rose on me but shielded by clouds most of the time so the driving conditions were near perfect. When I climbed the hills of Tamparuli on the way to Mount Kinabalu I traversed valleys and mountains. In the early morning mist and clouds usually cover parts of the journey as it did this morning and my fog lights were on throughout my drive to Ranau.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Stocking Up

I have tried my best to limit what I buy to furnish my house in College. More than monetary consideration is the thought of moving out when the time comes. Nevertheless one cannot avoid buying the bare essentials to make a house habitable or a house into a home. As I don't cook often I have been using one cooker but I realised that changing the gas can is expensive so today I decided to buy an electric induction cooker so that if I get hungry I don't have to drive 17kms to Ranau town but can cook up a packet of instant noodles. As day time has become increasing hot I also bought a table fan and it will come handy when they are guests or my cell group meets. I have stocked up tuna in olive oil so if I have bread I just eat sandwich and that will save time cooking rice and washing dishes.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Passover Service

We held a Passover service, kebaktian Paskah on Wednesday at College. It was a hectic day with faculty meeting in the afternoon and preparations for the passover celebrations took several rehearsals. Thankfully despite essay deadlines the students rose to the occasion. We had a first year student carrying the cross in the Simon's cross-bearing enactment accompanied with five tambourine dancers all dressed in red in honour of Christ's shed blood.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rural Church

I read with interest Dr Michael Kruger's post on the "Rural Church" and the question whether we put too much emphasis on the city church (see here). I am encouraged by the fact that the first century's church seemed to put equal emphasis on the urban and rural mission. While Paul's missionary journeys are often associated with the great cities of the ancient Mediterranean world, it cannot be denied that Paul and his associates did not neglect the smaller towns and villages. Often times, a city church is planted in order to facilitate mission into the interior.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Passover Preparation

I wish the debates in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD resulted in the early Church retaining the Jewish Calendar where we celebrate Passover/Good Friday on the 14th Nisan instead of the current Gregorian calendar of the 6th century AD. Next Monday evening is the beginning of Passover followed by 7 days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In an unfortunate twist of history now the Jewish Passover and Christian Good Friday more often than not do not coincide in time and dates. Yet the Gospels make it clear that Jesus died on the Feast of Passover as a fulfilment that the Son of God has been designated the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. The passion narratives especially of John's Gospel set the death of Jesus in the context of Jewish Feasts where Passover and Feast of the Unleavened Bread take centre place. For instance, the Jewish leaders did not want to enter Pilate's compound lest they became unclean and rendered themselves unclean to eat the passover.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Church in the Jungle

Gereja di Hutan. Although the distance from the College is a mere 4kms but by the time we reached there it was a different world. There stood a beautiful church barely 2 years old in the midst of some dense forest. Along the way we went past just one or two huts but left and right we saw oil palm plantations and rubber trees the two main sources of agriculture in this area. Apparently for the first time I got to know an SIB church that has no resident inhabitants. All the church members come from a nearby village and only on Sunday they come together to worship in this 40 x 75 ft church that could easily seat 500 people.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Second Quarter

Time waits for no one. Until the day when time is no more (Rev 10:6-7) everyone and everything under the heaven and on earth are subject to time. Time passes us by quickly. One hour lost can so easily be one hour gained. Three months of 2017 have just gone by. Today is the start of the second quarter. Three more quarters to go and 2018 beckons. I can only thank God that this past quarter has a semblance of order and routine to it which was a nice change from 2016. I have churned out lectures week after week on John's Gospel and NT Theology. I have preached regularly without running myself to the ground. My foray into interior ministry came to an abrupt halt a week ago after suffering a minor burnout. Today I even managed to spend solid hours reading Johannine Theology by Paul Rainbow (2014). And in the early hours of the morning I almost completed my lecture notes on Paul's theology of salvation and ecclesiology based on Ephesians. Ephesians ranks high in the list of my favourite short letters. I taught an intensive on it once and would not mind doing it again. What's up for the 2nd quarter?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Duty Bound

Although I had withdrawn from a number of speaking engagements, I shall be preaching this Sunday as part of the home group's visitation to nearby churches. I am glad I do not have to speak on Saturday night in a Men's fellowship but there is no letting up in preparing for the Sunday sermon. I spent two hours yesterday's evening reading Isaiah 33-35 as preparation. So instead of two sermons this weekend, I only have one. I am pleased that turning down speaking engagements has brought a measure of peace to me. Sometimes I wonder whether I am missing out as many Districts still have not seen me since I came back to Sabah almost 3 years ago. One District Superintendent called me last night on another matter and he mentioned that he knew me since I served in the HQ as Treasurer but had not met me since. That was more than 20 years ago! This brings to mind in a State as big as Sabah, travelling to faraway places is a given if one wants to connect with as many Districts as possible.

Monday, March 27, 2017

7 months in Restropect: Ministry Retreat

After praying for about a day after returning from Salarom Taka I took a decision to withdraw from my two forthcoming speaking engagements one in early April and the other a 4-session Good Friday Easter weekend ministry. I had decided that I needed a break and sometimes an illness is a reminder that we could not bear the burdens of ministry like before. In retrospect I realized I had not had a decent break from ministry since being reappointed as lecturer in mid August last year. That is a long 7 months plus of non stop preaching teaching and much of it involved constant traveling to faraway places.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

To the Ends of the Earth

I made my second longest journey ever since my trip to Long Pasia last June which took 7 hours. This time from 9.10am after breakfast I drove for about 5 hours with only a short break for lunch in Keningau and reaching home in KK at about 2.30pm. Even in the best of times and in the pink of health ministering in the interior is a test of endurance. It could be blazing hot during the day and temperatures could plummet during the night. Now I have achieved my two main goals within the year, that is reaching the two farthest outposts of my Church, Long Pasia and Salarom Taka. I am giving up the hope of ever reaching Pulau Bangi, the island north of Kudat because I don't travel well by boat. Suffering from a bad cold in my third and final session, I did not make any altar call but asked that those who felt called to full-time ministry to raise their hands. I would be happy if there were 4 or 5 but about 20 youths raised their hands and I prayed for them from the pulpit. The organizers were somewhat disappointed with the attendance as they expected 1,000 youths to attend but at the end about 730 turned up. Given the venue at the furthest point from nowhere, I was mighty pleased with the turn out.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Aging & Responsibility

When I celebrated my birthday last year the verse that came to me was from Psalm 102 "youth renewed like the eagle's". But when I fell ill early last month and took a while to recover I felt I had aged beyond my years. But aging is as much as in the mind as it is a physical process. In the middle of last year when I had nothing not even an appointment or ministry but I had just completed 6 months where I had responsibility for the College, the church and a busy itinerant ministry. It was the burden of ministry that was exhilarating and with that I felt my youth was renewed like the eagle's. No wonder many studies have shown how people quickly age when they retire or stop work.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Epic Journeys

One thing that characterizes my ministry is the amount of travelling I have to do, either back and forth Kota Kinabalu and Namaus or getting to places where I preach. In barely 2 years I have clocked close to 50,000kms. There is no denying that for the patriarchs of the Old Testament, travelling is part of their lives in obedience to God. They led a semi nomadic lives most times and did not settle in one place for too long. Abraham had to make the epic journey from Ur to Canaan not knowing where he was going. Jacob travelled to Haran and back in his epic journey leaving home with only a staff but returning with two companies including his two wives and many possessions. In between Isaac did not travel as much but he was not spared either for in the times of famine he had to live with the Philistines in Gerar, dug many wells from place to place until they found room for themselves. Even if our ministry does not involve much travelling, in a sense life is a series of journeys either in the discovery of self, service to God or ascending to the spiritual heights like Jacob dreaming about angels ascending and descending a ladder between heavens and earth.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Between the City and the Village

I am a thoroughly urban person. I was born in a town once the capital of Sabah and have studied in cities of New Zealand and served in Singapore. Now my ministry is mainly located in the village and 80 percent of my speaking invitations are from the rural areas. I live in a village and teach my students in a village setting and most of them will be pastors of churches in the villages. Yet there is no denying that the demographics of the church are changing fast much like the trends of the modern world. In China now there are more than 700 million people living in cities more than half of the total population.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1st Anniversary Away

Today is the first anniversary of my resignation as pastor of the Ranau church. I took my homegroup with me for worship there and I am glad that after one year away from being the church's pastor, I no longer miss it and the members have long gotten used to the pastor who replaced me. Yet the song leader honoured me by asking me to say the benediction. If I were not appointed Acting Principal early last year I wonder how long I would have stayed on as pastor. Perhaps my giftings are better utilised as Bible teacher at the moment. Without leadership responsibility I just concentrate on delivering my lectures and attending to the occasional speaking engagements. Next Sunday onwards I will get busier with an interior trip coming up on the 3rd week of March.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sitting Stunned

It's been 2 hours since I preached an 18-minute sermon in the Chapel and I am still sitting stunned by the strong hand of the Lord. I spoke from 1 John 5,14-15, James 5,17-18 and 1 Kings 17,1, 18,1, 41, 45-47 about Elijah's prayer for rain. That was my fourth sermon in 5 days, barely a week after I felt strong enough. This is besides the 3 classes a week I teach plus one extra class last week to make up for time lost. Humanly I dread that by next weekend I will begin another round of itinerant preaching that will last until the end of April. A couple of weeks ago a good friend expressed to me how impressed he was with one local Seminary professor who had published books and booklets on several Biblical topics at the rate of one book a year. I am equally impressed and praise God for this author whom I know well. But as much as I wish I could write and publish I think at this time my primary gift is still preaching to different audiences, students, church leaders and churches. Many have said to me if I write and publish it will be for posterity and one book can bless thousands and possibly millions who will read it. One sermon only touches the audience right there and then without much promise whether things learned can be retained for good.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Series of Sermons

Good things come in fours. Tomorrow I shall be preaching my fourth sermon in 5 days. After Sunday morning sermon in one of the SIB churches in KK, I drove back to Namaus late afternoon to preach at the evening service for men. It was one of the toughest rides yet as it was heavy rain most of the way with thick fog. But my mind was stayed on the sermon so I did not feel much tiredness after a 3 hour long journey. I reached Namaus at 7,30pm sharp and arrived at the Chapel 5 minutes late and the male students numbering about 35 were all ther waiting for me. Yesterday was very eventful because I only realized that I was up for preaching within the hour.

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Help of my Countenance" (Psalms 42,5, 11; 43,5)

The Psalmist on occasions feels that his soul is downcast..he thirsts for God like a deer pants for the water brooks. He cries out to God day and night and wonders why he does not sense God's presence as before. He remembers days past when he went into the house of God with the multitudes and sang with a voice of joy and praise. So he encourages himself that there is yet hope that God will answer him as before and his soul be lifted up once more - the help of his countenance. God's presence beaming on him is the help of his countenance.

Friday, February 10, 2017

"My Home, the house of Yahweh"

Today I read just one Psalm, one of my favourites, Psalm 23. Very few translations can better New Jerusalem Bible for the Psalms where the first verse in Psalm 23 is translated as "Yahweh is my Shepherd I lack nothing". And also the Lord spoke mightily to me in another verse towards the end, "my home, the house of Yahweh". What does it mean for the Psalmist the house of Yahweh is his home? As for me, it means that the people whom I serve constitute my home, the house of Yahweh. Wherever I am with the Lord's people, there my home shall be. Especially as people gathered for worship. I remember telling one student who expressed surprise when I returned to College after a 2 month break at 7.45am sharp. I said, "I miss worship in Chapel" and I have reached home wherever God's people gather for worship. It does not mean I find it pleasing or easy to dwell in the house of Yahweh.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Psalmist's Sense of Guilt (Psalms 25-41)

This morning I read Psalms 15-41 for my morning devotions. The Psalms have been my refuge in times of health and of sickness. Reading seventeen psalms meditatively takes about an hour but I read it with special attention to verses that I felt spoke to me directly in my immediate context. How wonderful to know that God is there and will make our beds when we are sick. The Psalm does not deal with the reasons why we might fall sick but instead focuses on God's loving care and watch over us as we are bedridden with some illness. A latter Psalm does links the Psalmist's illness with his sins and perhaps that is how the Psalmist perceives his present condition in the sight of God. I am amazed by the number of times over several psalms that the Psalmist acknowledges his sins (25:18), confessing them (Psalm 32) and even feels in one Psalm that his sins are more than the hairs of his head (Psalm 40).

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Prayers Precede God's Works

The church is not a denomination and the denomination is not the church. But living in this world with laws and rules, it is important to have a legal entity by which a church is named or called. Today I brought my home group and two other students (10 altogether) to visit one of SIB first churches in Ranau. It is called SIB Pekan Ranau. The pastor is one of my first colleagues in ministry since 1994. Our families have been friends for over 2 decades. The church members also are not new to me since I have been a pastor of another Ranau church and we had a few combined activities during my time as pastor including the memorable all night prayer meeting on Malaysia Day 2015. Today I preached a message titled "Prayers precede the works of God" and I took the congregation to study the Gospel of Luke from chapter when the people were gathered outside the holy place in the time of prayer when the angel appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Earthquakes & Tremors

In the past two days I spoke of earthquakes, one on Sunday being one of the signs of the end time and last night I spoke about earth shaking events that would lead the wealth of nations coming into the church. I shared my experience of aftershocks and tremors in Ranau and after 3 months or so without much seismic activity, today at 3,44pm an earthquake measuring 3,4 Richter hit Ranau (see http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/01/31/mild-quake-hits-ranau/). Even for an earthquake of 5,9 that struck on 5th June 2015, tremors and aftershocks are felt for almost 20 months now and can last for several more months. It is very much like God's powerful works and when He acts, His action reverberates around the world as the Gospel mentions, the light shines and cometh into the world and darkness cannot overcome it. God's work is likened to an earthquake because its effects are felt far and wide and it works a deep work in the lives of those touched by the divine.

Isaiah 60:1-7

I think one of the greatest preaching methods is expository preaching and last night I did just that. Expository preaching does not need to be academic or dry or simply historical but it should be lively and relevant as all preaching at the end of the day seeks to edify the hearers. I was invited to preach at the 1st anniversary of a church started by a family friend, one of my first few friends when I joined my homechurch in 1989. The main leaders of my homechurch were there including the Chairman, youth pastor, and even the District Superintendent for KK district. As the service was done before dinner and started 7.10pm I was already very hungry by the time I got up to preach at 8pm sharp. I was determined to preach for no more than 30 mins and I kept up the promise but expounding on 3 or 4 points briefly from Isaiah 60,1-7.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Time of the Lord

Today I bought a new clock for my new village house. I love clocks as some of my students know and they say guru tepati waktu. Yesterday I preached a sermon entitled "the time of the Lord is near" in Malay. I have not preached a sermon in English since I got back in Sabah 30 months ago. But anointing flowed thankfully and I went for almost one hour. And a visitor came up to me and thanked me 4 or 5 times and he mentioned that it was like listening to a lecture (it may not be a compliment) as preaching is not a lecture but I think he meant it as a compliment in the sense that it was informative, interesting and uplifting. Perhaps to him a sermon or homily is usually boring and unrelated to life.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

"The Lord is with the Good" (2 Chr 19, 11)

The last part of the last verse of ch. 19 of 2 Chronicles reads thus:"Deal courageously for the Lord is with the good". Being good is favoured by the Lord and is promised His continual presence. When we see a good person, we feel blessed and no one can but be edified or uplifted by the goodness of a person. In the NT, Barnabas is said to be a good person. He is generous to a fault and does so with the goodness of heart without grudgingly. When we see goodness we recognize it from a mile. We sense the goodness of the person and drawn to the intrinsic goodness. Even Jesus once declares that only God is good which attribute is surely divine as the Son of Man reserves that to be of the Father. But humans are also good like a leader in the Gospel who is said to be good for he does charity for the Jews and built synagogues for them. Goodness is bound to be repaid with goodness. If you are a good person you are in good company for God is good and you have Him as your friend. Your goodness flows from His goodness and out of his abundance we overflow with generosity.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Conferences 2017

Last year by this time I had already purchased my tickets to Seoul with my wife for a Biblical Conference. I am thinking a bit farther this year with the SBL international meeting in Berlin (August) and what a good time to visit Martin Luther's homeland in Reformation's 500th anniversary. But there is also a tempting Society of Old Testament Study's centenary at King's College, London in mid July so if I go for both I will have a whole month in Europe. That's exciting as it will be my first trip to Christianitys cradle, though if I go there is no guarantee I will reach Rome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Unless You Speak I have nothing to say

I have been reluctant to accept speaking invitations but a few have come my way in the past week or two. But it will take some time before I could prepare my sermons. First up is 2nd day of Chinese New Year in KK. Then on Monday I shall be speaking at a church's first anniversary celebrations, also in KK. I will head back to College on Tuesday evening and things will be very busy from thence. Yesterday I taught morning and night Theology of the New Testament with the night class making up for the class I shall miss next Tuesday as I don't want to rush back to College with many of my family members gathering in KK for the CNY. Furthermore last Christmas I did not have any family time as I was in my final leg of preaching some 5 hours from KK. Today during community lunch I will lead prayers for President Donald Trump and world peace.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Prophet's Persona

Today in our Chapel's Sunday service the OT reading was Ezekiel 3:1-27. It was the whole chapter on Ezekiel's mandate as the prophet to Israel. In it I was reminded of my own calling and it did toughen me up a little after a week of turmoil. Dealing with worldly people is never an easy thing as Christians and especially as pastors. They expect you to behave impeccably and always smiling and never growling despite all kinds of untoward and unprofessional conduct on their part. The refurbishment of my College dwelling had taken a full 5 months when it was supposed to take weeks, at most one month when it began. When I expressed my disappointment to the contractor how things had panned out he was not too happy and in fact almost got angry with me. I felt bad about it for the past two days and reflected on how the devil accuses us of all kinds of things when in fact those who belong to the world need to repent and turn back from their evil ways.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Transiting & White House

As Obama ends his 8-year presidency Donald Trump is set to begin a new era in his presidency. Transition ends at 12 noon Washington DC time when the President-Elect takes the Oath of Office and becomes the 45th President of the United States.  I have gone through so many transitions that it has almost attained a permanent state. A permanent state of transition is perhaps the Christian paradox of this life on earth as we do not have a permanent place here but we look towards the city of God where God is. At least I have ended one transition tonight as I moved into my new house and for the first time will be spending the night in the new place. Last night we held our home group with my 7 students. One of them called my new house "the White House" as the ground level is painted white inside and outside and I can't help noticing the pun that today there will be a new occupant who will enter the White House half the world yonder.

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